Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

News from the PRC and Sister-Churches for the Week of October 28, 2018 *(Updated)

Rom3 24 1On this forty-third Lord's Day of 2018, October 28, we provide the following news and information concerning PRC congregations, the Seminary, mission fields, and sister churches.

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS:

  • This morning Rev. N. Decker will be installed as Grandville PRC's fourth pastor (in her history). Rev. K Koole will lead the morning worship service for Rev. Decker's installation. Rev. Decker will lead the evening worship service preaching his inaugural sermon.

  • The Council of Immanuel PRC (Lacombe, AB) has formed a new trio from which to call a pastor: Revs. Joshua Engelsma (Doon, IA), Erik Guichelaar (Randolph, WI), and Martin VanderWal (Wingham, ON).  *The congregation voted to call Rev. J. Engelsma.

  • The Council of Trinity PRC has announced the following trio from which to call her next pastor:  Rev. Josh Engelsma (Doon, IA), Rev. B. Huizinga (Hope, Redlands, CA), and Rev. W. Langerak (Southeast, GR). *The congregation voted to call Rev. B. Huizinga.

  • On October 7 Rev. W. Langerak (SE-GR PRC) received the call through Grandville PRC to serve as minister on loan to Covenant Evangelical Church in Singapore. He plans to answer by Nov.4.

  • We also congratulate Rev. W. Bruinsma and his wife Mary (currently pastor of Pittsburgh PRC) as he marks 40 years in the ministry this month. He was ordained in Faith PRC in October of 1978. We thank the Lord for His goodness to them and to us in giving him 40 years of faithful service to the churches and our mission work. May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen him for the work that remains. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!' (Romans 10:15)

  • Having recently sold and vacated her former church building, Southeast PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) is currently worshiping Adams Christian School in Wyoming, MI.

Reformation General 2

  • This being Reformation remembrance month, these churches still have Reformation lectures approaching. If you are in the area of one of them, you are cordially invited and encouraged to attend:
    • Crete PRC (Crete, IL): This year, Professor Kuiper will be speaking on “Controversy Regarding Sovereign Grace:  The Synod of Dordt and its Relevance for Today.”  The lecture will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at Crete PRC at 7:30PM.  The event will be live-streamed on our website  www.prccrete.org.
    • Covenant PRC (Spokane, WA): This year’s Reformation Lecture, by Rev. R. Kleyn, will be on the subject, “The Canons of Dort: Defending and Defining Grace.” We’ve chosen this topic in connection with the 400 year anniversary of the Great Synod of Dort at which the Canons were written and adopted. The lecture will be on Friday November 9 at 7 PM.

 DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

 sem sign moon set oct 2018 2

PRC Seminary News:

  • Seminary is now in its tenth week of classses in this first semester. Classes resume Tuesday (Oct.30) after a two-day reading recess (Oct.25,26). Continue to pray for the professors, students, and staff as they busy themselves in the work of training men for the gospel ministry.

  • The internships of Seminarians Matt Kortus and Jacob Maatman began July 1. Sem. Kortus is interning at Trinity PRC under Rev. N. Decker and the Council there. Sem. Maatman is interning at Hudsonville PRC under Rev. G. Eriks and his Council. The internship program runs from July 1 to December 31.

  • The PRC Synod 2018 took a decision urging “the churches and the pastors in particular in their public prayers to pray the Lord of the harvest for able, faithful, and devoted pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11) for us and our children, as well as for the gathering of the elect out of the nations (Matthew 28:19).” A number of ministers are nearing the age of emeritation, and the number of students in the seminary at this time will not be sufficient to fill the upcoming needs of our churches either in our own congregations or in the work of missions. Please remember this urgent need in your prayers and encourage young men whom you observe to have the gifts to consider the ministry.

  • The Seminary faculty along with Trinity PRC Evangelism Committee are working on plans for a Spring 2019 conference to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the great Synod of Dordt, 1618/19-2018/19. The following updates are being given:
    Dordt 400: Did you know November 13 1618, 400 years ago, the Synod of Dordt began and didn’t conclude until nearly 6 months and 154 meetings later?! Are you familiar with the preceding history that led to this lengthy meeting? Do you know the week by week events that happened during the Great Synod? Follow that history and join the blog at Dordt400.org to view the weekly events  Synod of Dordt. Stay up to speed in light of Seminary's conference April 25-27 2019.

    Dordt 400 Writing contest:  Don’t forget that the conference also includes a writing contest with great prizes!  Sign up and submit your essay by January 15 at the conference website Dordt400.org

ProvidentChristianChurch 2014 
*The Provident Christian Church in Marikina, the Philippines, one of the congregations with whom the PRCA now has sister-church relation. Missionary-pastor D. Holstege is focusing his labors in this church.

SISTER-CHURCH NEWS:

  • *The PRC now has an official sister-church relationship with the PRC in the Philippines, confirmed at this year's synod! We rejoice in this evidence of the Lord's blessing on the work in the Philippines and of the unity of Christ's church, which He gathers from all nations, tribes, and tongues. May the Lord grant us a mutually edifying and God-honoring relationship.

  • Concerning our sister church in Ballymena, N. Ireland, Covenant PRC, we may note the following:
  • Concerning our sister church in Singapore, Covenant ERC, we may note the following items (from her bulletin today):
    • From the CERC bulletin today:

"This Lord’s Day is the last Lord’s day Rev Joseph Holstege, his wife Lisa and their son, Jacob will be with us. They will be flying off on Monday 6.30am back to the States. We again are thankful to God that we could receive the word of God through the faithful preaching from the pulpit."

"This week we also welcome Rev den Hartog and Shirley back in our midst. We are thankful that they are back to assist us again. Rev den Hartog, besides assisting us with the pulpit supplies, catechism and pre-confession class teaching for the next six weeks, he will also be the speaker for the Reformation Day Conference on 3rd November 2018."

    • Rev. W. Langerak (SE-GR PRC) has received the call (Oct.7)  through Grandville PRC to serve as minister on loan to Covenant Evangelical Church of Singapore.

    • Her latest newsletter (AUGUST 2018) - Reformed News Asia - was recently posted and may be found on this page.

    • The latest young peoples' magazine, Salt Shakers, was received and posted recently (September 2018 - cf. image above). Check that out on this page.
  • The PRC also has a "corresponding relationship" with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Australia. We remember these brothers and sisters in our prayers and labors too.

the church today DJE
What will you "take up and read" this month in connection with the celebration of the great Reformation of the 16th century? We have plenty of pamphlets and articles available! (*see below)

SPECIAL NOTICES:

  • *If you are in need of some pamphlets published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing, visit the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church. That also includes many items related to the Reformation of the 16th century. Visit these pages for more information.
  • Looking for Reformed literature and a solid Reformed and biblical magazine to read? Visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association's website (www.rfpa.org), where you will find information on books in all major Christian categories, as well as on the bi-monthly periodical, *the Standard Bearer.

  • Have you visited the Reformed Book Outlet in downtown Hudsonville, MI recently? If you or a friend are interested in spiritually edifying music, as well as in Bibles (and Bible study materials!)  and other Reformed literature, do so, or visit their website.

RWH logo 1

  • Don't forget to listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday (on radio or on the Internet)! Today Rev. W. Bruinsma (pastor of Pittsburgh PRC) continues his four-month service on the program. The title of today's special Reformation message is "The Scripture: God's Word" based on 2 Pet.1:20-21.

  • The RWH has a new, updated website! Please visit reformedwitnesshour.org to watch our introduction video, view pictures and audio from our history, and read and listen to almost 20 years of past radio broadcasts! If you haven’t visited the RWH website recently, now is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with this important radio-internet ministry of the PRC.

  • A new Spanish edition of the RWH is being produced and may be found on this YouTube channel (PRC Espanol). Look for new messages each week - and help spread the word!

 psalm 119 9

ESPECIALLY FOR PRC YP and YA:

  • The annual young people’s Thanksgiving Mass Meeting will be held at First PRC on November 11, from 2 to 3 PM, with a speech given by Rev. C. Griess.  Young people are encouraged to attend for a good time of fellowship! Refreshments will follow the meeting.

  • Are YOU a subscriber to the PR Young People's magazine, the Beacon Lights? Visit the website and find out why you ought to be.

  • The latest young peoples' magazine of Covenant ERC in Singapore, Salt Shakers, was received and posted recently (September 2018 - cf. image above). Check that out on this page.

  • *Girls Conference at Georgetown PRC:  "Shine as Lights in the World" (Grades 9-Post High/College) Nov. 10, 2018.  Good Speakers - Music - Q&A Panel.  Be inspired to live for Jesus boldly by shining His light!  Take a friend or two!  Register: https://shineaslights2018.eventbrite.com   

GrtCommissionMap

MISSION NEWS:

  • Dorr library 2Remember in prayer our home missionary, Rev. A. Spriensma, who continues to labor in the West Michigan area and beyond. In that connection we find this note in Byron Center PRC's bulletin of today: "The Dorr Bible Study meets this Thursday, November 1, at 7:30 PM. We resume our discussion at John 3:14, with Jesus' speaking to Nicodemus. All are welcome to join us at the library and bring friends and neighbors."

  • Limerick Reformed Fellowship News:
    • The August 2018 newsletter of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship mission station is now posted on this page.

  • To read Rev. Titus' most recent report on the work going on in Myanmar (May 2018), visit this page.

  • The latest Philippines mission newsletter was received and recently posted (July 2018) and may be found on this PRC webpage.
  • Don't forget to follow the Kleyn's blog on life and activities in the Philippines. And that also includes the Holstege's! And don't miss out on the Smits once again too!

  • From this Sunday's bulletins of the Provident Christian Church in Marikina and the Maranatha PRC in Valenzuela, the Philippines we find the following notes concerning their pastors as well as concerning our missionaries and their labors today and in this coming week:

    • Provident CC:
      • Rev. Holstege will preach both times today at PCC. He will preach next Sunday too, Lord willing. After the first service, we will begin Lesson 6, “The Holy Trinity,” in the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine class.

      • This Saturday at 10 am, the children’s catechism class will meet, DV. The students should learn Lesson 8 in NT History for Juniors and do the written work.

    • Maranatha PRC:
      • Rev. D. Kleyn will lead us in both services and after the second service he will teach the Belgic Confession Class Articles 15 and the following.

      • Rev. L. Trinidad will teach the Children’s Catechism. The Consistory will meet this afternoon.
      • The Classis will meet this Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 9:00 in the morning and the venue is at MPRC, Valenzuela City.

Let us continue in prayer to the Lord for the fulfillment of the needs of these busy pastors and missionaries in the Philippines. May the Lord of the harvest give them grace to be faithful and encouraged in all their labors.

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Covenant Reformed News - October 2018

 
 

Covenant Reformed News


October 2018 • Volume XVII, Issue 6



The Christian’s Wisdom

Fearing the Lord is the repeated definition of wisdom in the Old Testament wisdom literature: “the fear of the Lord ... is wisdom” (Job 28:28; cf. Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10). The great reality is Jehovah, the Creator, Lord, Saviour and Judge who is revealed in sacred Scripture. We must adapt all of our thinking and behaviour so that it is in accordance with Him. He must be the end and goal of our existence!
Let us consider how this applies to the Christian home. God sees and judges all that goes on. Therefore, we must fear Him and change our ways where necessary. The husband is the head of the house, who must rule in the love of Christ and according to God’s Word. Thus there must be no bullying or lording! The wife is to submit to her husband in the Lord, without manipulating him to get her own way. Covenant children must honour their parents and obey them in the Lord, without answering back. James 3:17 describes “the wisdom that is from above,” which must be exercised in our homes and elsewhere, as being “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”
What is it to be wise on the Lord’s day? It is to adapt all things in the light of the reality of Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the first day of the week. It is our wisdom to keep God’s law out of gratitude (Deut. 4:6), including the fourth commandment. We must come to both the services of a faithful church, as those who are prepared spiritually to hear and obey God’s Word. We train our children to do this in wisdom too! We must be wise, building our Lord’s days upon the rock of Christ’s words and not upon the sand of worldly pleasures (cf. Matt. 7:24-27). For example, the believer does not book flights that schedule him to be in an airport or flying on the first day of the week.
Proverbs speaks of three major ways of identifying a fool. First, he caves in to peer pressure (e.g., 1:10-19; 2:12-15; 4:14-17). This involves getting in with a “bad crowd” and joining them in their sin. This is not adapting oneself to God and His Word (wisdom); this is adapting oneself to ungodly people and ways (folly).
Second, he is seduced by women (e.g., 2:16-19; 5:3-23; 6:23-35; 7:4-27; 9:13-18). Going the way of fornication and adultery leads to everlasting hell. Likewise, there are silly women who are deceived by lustful men who tell them what they want to hear, namely, that they are beautiful and wonderful, merely in order to get them into bed.
Third, he does not listen to (godly) parents. Frequently God addresses us in Proverbs as “My son” (or daughter) and commands us to “hear” Him (1:8) or something similar (e.g., 2:1; 3:1, 11, 21; 4:20; 5:1). Our earthly fathers and mothers speak to us after the same fashion. Not heeding those who love us dearly and those to whom God has (ordinarily) granted greater wisdom is the way of disaster.
Proverbs has a lot to say about rightly receiving godly rebukes (e.g., 9:7-9; 24:25; 27:5-6; 28:23). It is wisdom to hearken to the brotherly admonition of church office-bearers. How often do we become angry when rebuked or even huff like little children!
Our need for wisdom touches upon so many different areas of our lives. First, wisdom is necessary for the right use of our tongues. When we utter foolish, hurtful words behind the backs of others or on Facebook or in the church or in our families, our tongues are “set on fire of hell” and that fire can spread quickly (James 3:5-6). How difficult it is to “tame” our tongues (7-8)! “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (1:19-20).
Second, we need wisdom with regard to discipline. Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us how we must understand and receive discipline at God’s hand: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” In the light of God’s wise and beneficial discipline of us, we discipline our children: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (22:15).
Third, wisdom enables us rightly to work and rise from sleep. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Prov. 6:6-11).
Fourth, we need wisdom to avoid the foolishness of comparing ourselves with others: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (II Cor. 10:12).
The book of Proverbs especially calls young men (and women) to grow in wisdom. Why? Because ordinarily they have a greater lack of wisdom than they think. Because young people must make big decisions as regards friendships, education and work, courtship and marriage, church, etc. Because often they reckon that they can make these decisions alone, especially without the advice or even approval of faithful parents.
Let us all confess our foolish sins and receive forgiveness in Christ crucified. Let us pray for wisdom: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Let us cry out for it “as silver” or “hid treasures” with all our hearts (Prov. 2:3-4). Rev. Stewart
 

The Salt of the Earth

A reader asks about Matthew 5:13: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
The most common view is that the salt refers to Christians who bring about the day in which all believe in the Lord Jesus so that the kingdom of God is established here on earth. One way to do this is to Christianize all the institutions of life (the home, the church, the schools, the state, the work place and marriage). This is the postmillennial interpretation of the text. If God’s people do what they can to make this world Christian, they will bring about the kingdom of heaven here in this world.
It is, of course, a ridiculous idea that we can bring about the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. As one man said to my grandson who was applying for studies in a Christian college, “I am building the kingdom with my chain saw.” He probably meant that he was using his chain saw to rebuild houses destroyed by a hurricane.
Jesus smashes that interpretation with His statement that the kingdom of heaven comes not with observation, for the kingdom is within God’s people (Luke 17:20-21).
I have no interest in an earthly kingdom for in such a kingdom its citizens are still sinners, including me. I want and need and look forward to a kingdom where I will be forever beyond and free from sin to worship the Lord. This is a spiritual kingdom which will come only “within” me, worked by the Holy Spirit who applies to all the elect the blessings of the cross of Jesus Christ. A chain saw or any other earthly tool will not build the kingdom of heaven, no matter how well it is wielded.
Salt is necessary for animals and human beings to live and function properly. That is why huge tribes of barbarians at the beginning of the medieval period would travel long distances for salt. That is not the idea of Matthew 5:13, however, for it speaks of “the salt of the earth.”
Looking elsewhere for the meaning, we note that for many ages salt has been used to preserve many things, chiefly meat, especially before refrigeration. While salt is not intended to preserve meat for a long period of time, it worked well for a while.
Jesus calls His elect people “the salt of the earth” near the start of His Sermon on the Mount and immediately after the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), which define the nature of the true citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The citizens of Christ’s kingdom are not characterized by building houses with chain saws; they are defined as those who are poor, meek, spiritually hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted. These are strange characteristics of citizens of an earthly kingdom but they perfectly fit these citizens because the kingdom of God is spiritual.
Jesus goes on to say that, because the citizens of the kingdom of heaven possess these characteristics, they are able to be the salt of the earth. Their presence on the earth is the only reason why the world continues to exist. If it were not for the presence in God’s creation of these elect citizens of the kingdom of heaven, the world would be destroyed. Salt preserves things and so the citizens of the kingdom of heaven are essential for the preservation of this present creation until all the elect are saved.
Remember, first, that God’s elect are not a mob from which some may be taken or some added without doing any damage to the whole. God’s people are the body of Christ (I Cor. 12), an organic whole in which each member is necessary for the whole and has his or her individual place, a place different from that of every other saint.
Second, each elect member is preserved and cannot be lost (John 10:28-30). The world has to last until the last elect is born and brought to faith in Christ.
Third, the world and every creature is formed by God for the salvation of His elect. That is why Holy Writ can say that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Reprobation is necessary for election and manifests the strict justice of God.
Remember when God told Abraham that He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Abraham knew that righteous Lot lived in Sodom and he wondered whether a just man would also be destroyed with the wicked. Fearful of calling into question the purposes of the mighty God, Abraham asked indirectly for Lot’s salvation, pleading for the sparing of the cities. God assured Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom even if there were only ten righteous people there (Gen. 18:17-33).
II Peter 3:9 is another such passage, though it is often twisted in support of the heresy of an ineffectual divine desire to save the reprobate. The church of Peter’s day was being persecuted. Because the Lord did not return immediately to save His church, His promised second coming seemed to have failed. Peter reminds the saints that God is not slow in fulfilling His promise but rather that all the elect must be saved before Christ can come again. If Jesus had returned when the saints wanted Him to come, we would never have been saved! But God is longsuffering toward us, and Christ will not come until all the elect are born and brought to saving faith. Are absolutely all men the objects of the divine longsuffering? No! God’s longsuffering saves (II Pet. 3:15)!
Finally, we ourselves also wonder why heaven does not burst open so that the holy wrath of God drives the wicked into hell. The world is full of people who ignore Him, deny Him and blaspheme His name with terrible curses. They openly deride the Scriptures and walk in the most horrible sins, often while working to make these sins enshrined in civil law. About 125,000 unborn babies are murdered every day in our world; homosexuality is openly practised before the very face of God. Our world not only does these things but it takes pleasure in those that do them (Rom. 1:32). Wickedness is made legal so that to call these things sin may be opening oneself to punishment by the state.
To sum it all up, God loves His elect and gave Christ for them only. He cannot destroy all the wicked until the last elect is saved. Somewhere in our corrupt world is the God-fearing couple from whom that last elect will be born.
When persecution comes and God’s people are hard-pressed by the hatred of the wicked, and we wonder why Christ does not come to rescue them, let us remember that He will come but that the whole church must be born and born again first. Prof. Hanko

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: www.cprc.co.uk • Live broadcast: www.cprf.co.uk/live.html
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.www.youtube.com/cprcniwww.facebook.com/CovenantPRC
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CPRC Reformation Day Lecture

Two Men From Trier:
Karl Marx (and Communism) and Caspar Olevianus (and the Heidelberg Catechism)


2018 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx from Trier, NW Germany. Trier is also the city of Caspar Olevianus, one of the principal authors of the Heidelberg Catechism. This speech will compare and contrast these two men from Trier: their lives, their main works, their ideas and the results of their ideas. Key issues in the clash of worldviews between Marx’s communism and Olevianus’ Reformed faith include origins, alienation, work, private property, class struggle, the good life, marriage, history and the end times!

Speaker: Rev. Angus Stewart

Date: Friday, 26 October, at 7:30 PM

at Covenant Protestant
Reformed Church

(83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR)

All are welcome! 

www.cprc.co.uk


Unable to join us in Ballymena? The lecture will be streamed live at http://www.cprf.co.uk/live.html

South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 22 November
 7:15 PM


Speaker:
Rev. Angus Stewart


Subject:
Two Men From Trier:
Karl Marx (and Communism) and Caspar Olevianus (and the Heidelberg Catechism)


Venue:
Margam Community Centre

Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

www.cprf.co.uk/swales.htm
 
 
Grace & Assurance:
The Message of the Canons of Dordt

by Martyn McGeown
(384 pp., hardback)


In 1618-1619, the great Synod of Dordt met to counter the Arminian error that was threatening the peace and welfare of Christ’s churches in the Netherlands. The fruit of their deliberations was the Canons of Dordt, which set forth the scriptural truth of unconditional election (and reprobation), limited (or particular) atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints.

This accessible commentary on the Canons leads readers through the biblical and comforting message of the creed: being wholly saved by God’s efficacious grace, we have the steadfast assurance of our eternal election and blessed glorification.
Only £19.80 (inc. P&P)

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!

Zechariah’s Burden Upon Israel

9 sermons from Zechariah 12-14
on CD or DVD in an attractive box set


Powerful prophecies of the Messiah, the gracious pouring out of the Spirit, the preservation and unity of the church, the climax of the holy 
war, the fulfilment of the feast of tabernacles, the entire sanctification of the whole world—without any hint of premillennialism! 

(1) God’s Preservation of Besieged Jerusalem (12:1-9)
(2) The Pierced One and the Spirit of Grace (12:10-14)
(3) A Fountain Opened (13:1)
(4) The Departure of the False Prophets (13:2-6)
(5) The Sword Awakening Against God’s Shepherd (13:7-9)
(6) Zechariah’s Day of the Lord (14:1-15)
(7) Jehovah’s Gracious Kingship Universally Affirmed (14:1-15)
(8) All Nations Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (14:16-19)
(9) Holiness Unto the Lord! (14:20-21)

£8/box set
(inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line
or order from the
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!
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Reformation Lecture on "Sola Scriptura" This Friday, Oct.26 at SW PRC, Wyoming, MI

SouthwestPRCSouthwest PRC (Wyoming, MI) will be hosting her Fall Reformation lecture THIS COMING FRIDAY, Oct.26:

Rev. Andrew Lanning (pastor of Byron Center PRC) will be speaking on the topic "The Reformation's Defense of Scripture's Authority."

Join us at 7:30pm on October 26 at Southwest Protestant Reformed Church.

If you are unable to attend, we encourage you to watch or listen to the live-stream via the link at southwestprc.org or on our SermonAudio webpage.

SW PRC 2018LectureFlyer Page 1 2

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Much Increase With the Ox (1)

Much Increase With the Ox (1)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School

Proverbs 14:4: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

Proverbs is a book of wisdom. God blessed the author of Proverbs, Solomon, with more wisdom than He had given to any other man. Proverbs is not a short book. The instruction Solomon gives us covers many topics. Where did Solomon get his many ideas for writing Proverbs? Of course, God inspired Solomon but that does not mean that Solomon wrote Proverbs as though he were unconscious or a robot. God uses means.

There are times while reading Proverbs when I think Solomon travelled through different parts of his kingdom, and observed the people and the land around him. Because God gave Solomon wisdom, Solomon was able to see things an ordinary person simply passed over. Many would see things but not understand them. Solomon could observe the world and the people around him and understand spiritual truth. This is an aspect of the creation around us. When we view creation with the eyes of faith, we can learn about God and His truth. Creation teaches us about its Creator.

Many Israelites in Solomon’s day were farmers. The king had the opportunity to see many farms during his life. Solomon could tell which farms were fruitful and well run, and which farms were not. We also can walk through our neighbourhoods and pick out the houses which are maintained better than others. Perhaps there are houses in your neighbourhood which have nobody living in them. After a while, you can tell that the house is vacant and nobody is there to take care of the property. The lawn doesn’t look nice. The plants in the landscaping look overgrown. The property would benefit from some cleaning, raking or painting. Solomon could notice the same things about farms. Solomon could notice which farms were more productive than others.

When Solomon tells us, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox,” he is using a visible fact to teach us a spiritual truth. Let’s notice some things about the farm Solomon observed.

Solomon saw a farm with a clean crib. Most of us are of Dutch heritage, so we can certainly appreciate something that is clean. A crib in a farmyard is not something a baby sleeps in. A crib is a container for the farm animals’ food. Cribs could come in different sizes depending on the number and size of the animals which needed to be fed. Most often the crib would be filled with straw or grain. When the farmer noticed that the crib was growing empty, he would fill it with more food for his animals.

A crib filled with animal feed could appear messy. It isn’t clean. There might be straw sticking out of it at some crazy angles. Little piles of loose grain would be littered around on the ground as the animals pulled at it with their mouths. Animals would visit the crib often. Animals that feed by grazing, such as oxen, spend much of their day eating. Farm animals are not neat and tidy. We would notice droppings in the area of the crib which would be somewhat unpleasant to the eye and even more unpleasant for the nose. A crib on a busy, fruitful farm would not be clean.

However, Solomon saw a crib which was clean. There wasn’t any feed in it. There weren’t stray clumps of straw littering the ground. The area around the crib was not messy looking or bad smelling. It was clean.

Solomon continued to observe this farm until he understood why the crib was clean. He realized this farm had no oxen on it. Oxen were very important for the farmers of biblical days. They used oxen for many of the same purposes today’s farmers use tractors. Just as it is difficult for us to imagine a modern farmer without a tractor, farmers of long ago had oxen. Farmers ploughed their fields using oxen as they prepared to sow their seed. Oxen pulled wagons or carried heavy things as the farmers cleaned and maintained their fields. When it was time for harvest, the oxen would tread the grain.

Solomon saw a farmer who believed his life would be easier without oxen. He wouldn’t have the hassle of constantly seeing to it that the crib had feed in it. Having no oxen meant so unpleasant smell insulted his nose. He wouldn’t have to devote a certain portion of his grain to feed oxen. Whatever grain he harvested could be used solely for himself and his family. This “ox-less” farmer would find his chores decreased and experience an easier life. This farmer did not have the burden of taking care of oxen.

At least that is what this farmer thought. Solomon, however, being blessed with wisdom, realized something else. A farmer with no oxen to tend might have an easier life but, as Solomon instructs us, “much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Having oxen increases the farmer’s work but the oxen pay him back with an increased harvest. An increased harvest meant more food on the family table or, if there were enough crops left over, extra cash brought in because of increased sales of the surplus. Yes, part of the harvest would have to go to feeding the oxen but the strength of the oxen provided a much larger harvest. Oxen were worth it.

Who can plough and use more land for raising crops, the farmer with a hoe in his hands or the farmer with a plough and a team of oxen? Who could clean up more rocks and other debris from the field, a farmer with his own two hands and a small basket or a farmer with oxen which could pull a large, loaded wagon? Who would have a larger harvest, the farmer who would have to roll the ears of grain in his own hands or the farmer who used oxen and a threshing floor? to be continued ...

 
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News from the PRC and Sister-Churches for the Week of October 21, 2018

Romans 1 17On this forty-second Lord's Day of 2018, October 21, we provide the following news and information concerning PRC congregations, the Seminary, mission fields, and sister churches.

CONGREGATIONAL NEWS:

  • On October 14 Rev. N. Langerak (Crete PRC) declined the call from Immanuel PRC (Lacombe, AB).

  • On October 7 Rev. W. Langerak (SE-GR PRC) received the call through Grandville PRC to serve as minister on loan to Covenant Evangelical Church in Singapore. He plans to answer by Nov.4.

  • The Council of Trinity PRC has announced the following trio from which to call her next pastor:  Rev. Josh Engelsma (Doon, IA), Rev. B. Huizinga (Hope, Redlands, CA), and Rev. W. Langerak (Southeast, GR).

  • From Grandvile PRC's bulletin comes this update on her new pastor-to-be: Rev. N. Decker's installation: Lord willing, on Sunday, October 28, Rev. Koole will lead our morning worship service for Rev. Decker's installation. Rev. Decker will lead us in worship preaching his inaugural sermon Sunday evening."

  • Having recently sold and vacated her former building, Southeast PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) is currently worshiping Adams Christian School in Wyoming, MI.

Reformation General 2

  • This being Reformation remembrance month, these churches and organizations have Reformation lectures approaching. If you are in the area of one of them, you are cordially invited and encouraged to attend:
    • Lynden (WA) PRC Fall Lecture: The Lynden PRC Evangelism Committee is excited to announce that they will be hosting a lecture on Friday, October 26 at 7:00.  Professor Dykstra will be speaking on “The Believer’s Assurance in the Canons of Dordt.”  All are welcome to attend. Invite your friends and family!

    • Fall Reformation lecture (Grand Rapids, MI): Rev. Andrew Lanning will be speaking on the topic "The Reformation's Defense of Scripture's Authority."  Join us at 7:30 PM on Friday, October 26 at Southwest Protestant Reformed Church.  If you are unable to attend, we encourage you to live stream via the link at southwestprc.org or on our Sermonaudio webpage.

    • From our Hope congregation in Redlands, CA: On Friday, October 26th at 7 p.m.(PST) Prof. B. Gritters will be speaking on "Evangelicals and Catholics Together? Reconciling the Unreconcilable."  Please invite friends, family and acquaintances for an online live viewing on our website hopeprc.org.  Even better if you can attend in person!
    • The Reformed Witness Committee’s fall lecture has been scheduled for Friday, October 26, at 7:30 PM in Hull (IA) PRC. Prof. Doug Kuiper will speak on the topic “The Controversy Regarding Sovereign Grace: The Synod of Dordt and its Relevance for Today.”

    • On October 26 and 27 Prof. D. Engelsma will be participating in a conference hosted by Reforming America Ministries.  This year’s conference will develop the theme “The Doctrine of Justification defined and defended against heresies taught by John Piper, the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul.”  The Event will be held in a suburb of Nashville, TN.  The event will also be livestreamed on Reforming America Ministries’ Facebook page.  Professor Engelsma will be speaking on Oct. 26 at 6:00 and again on Oct. 27 at 3:30PM (central time).  This is an exciting opportunity for our churches to promote the truth of the gospel!

 DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

 Sem front Oct 2018

PRC Seminary News:

  • Seminary is now in its ninth week of classses in this first semester. This week a two-day reading recess is scheduled (Oct.25,26), in part so that our professors can travel to deliver Reformation Day lectures in the churches (cf. the Reformation lectures noted above). Continue to pray for the professors, students, and staff as they busy themselves in the work of training men for the gospel ministry.

  • The internships of Seminarians Matt Kortus and Jacob Maatman began July 1. Sem. Kortus is interning at Trinity PRC under Rev. N. Decker and the Council there. Sem. Maatman is interning at Hudsonville PRC under Rev. G. Eriks and his Council. The internship program runs from July 1 to December 31.

  • The PRC Synod 2018 took a decision urging “the churches and the pastors in particular in their public prayers to pray the Lord of the harvest for able, faithful, and devoted pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11) for us and our children, as well as for the gathering of the elect out of the nations (Matthew 28:19).” A number of ministers are nearing the age of emeritation, and the number of students in the seminary at this time will not be sufficient to fill the upcoming needs of our churches either in our own congregations or in the work of missions. Please remember this urgent need in your prayers and encourage young men whom you observe to have the gifts to consider the ministry.

  • The Seminary faculty along with Trinity PRC Evangelism Committee are working on plans for a Spring 2019 conference to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the great Synod of Dordt, 1618-19-2018-19. The following details have been announced:

    This November marks the beginning of the synod of Dordt, 400 years ago. Although the lengthy meeting gets much attention, there were many events in the years and months prior to the synod that led to such an event. In light of seminary’s conference in April and to gain an appreciation of the preceding history visit the conference web site. https://dordt400.org/category/historical-forward/?order=asc  

    Dordt 400: On behalf of the PRC Seminary, Trinity PRC is hosting a 3-day conference for the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dordt on April 25-27.   Mark your calendars and visit our website at dordt400.org

    The Dordt 400 Conference includes a Writing Contest with great prizes.  If you are looking for a way to use your writing skills, visit our website at dordt400.org and start working on your essay.

1stRefdBulacan2012 
*The PRC in Bulacan, the Philippines, one of the congregations with whom the PRCA now has sister-church relation; pastored by Rev. J. Flores

SISTER-CHURCH NEWS:

  • Concerning our sister church in Ballymena, N. Ireland, Covenant PRC, we may note the following:
  • Concerning our sister church in Singapore, Covenant ERC, we may note the following items (from her bulletin today):
    • Rev. Joseph Holstege (Zion PRC) continues to serve the CERC with preaching and teaching this month.

    • Rev. W. Langerak (SE-GR PRC) has received the call (Oct.7)  through Grandville PRC to serve as minister on loan to Covenant Evangelical Church of Singapore.

    • Her latest newsletter (AUGUST 2018) - Reformed News Asia - was recently posted and may be found on this page.

    • The latest young peoples' magazine, Salt Shakers, was received and posted recently (September 2018 - cf. image above). Check that out on this page.
  • *The PRC now has an official sister-church relationship with the PRC in the Philippines, confirmed at this year's synod! We rejoice in this evidence of the Lord's blessing on the work in the Philippines and of the unity of Christ's church, which He gathers from all nations, tribes, and tongues. May the Lord grant us a mutually edifying and God-honoring relationship.
  • The PRC also has a "corresponding relationship" with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Australia. We remember these brothers and sisters in our prayers and labors too.

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What will you "take up and read" this month in connection with the celebration of the great Reformation of the 16th century? We have plenty of pamphlets and articles available! (*see below)

SPECIAL NOTICES:

  • *If you are in need of some pamphlets published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing, visit the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church. That also includes many items related to the Reformation of the 16th century. Visit these pages for more information.
  • Looking for Reformed literature and a solid Reformed and biblical magazine to read? Visit the Reformed Free Publishing Association's website (www.rfpa.org), where you will find information on books in all major Christian categories, as well as on the bi-monthly periodical, *the Standard Bearer.

  • Have you visited the Reformed Book Outlet in downtown Hudsonville, MI recently? If you or a friend are interested in spiritually edifying music, as well as in Bibles (and Bible study materials!)  and other Reformed literature, do so, or visit their website.

RWH logo 1

  • Don't forget to listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday (on radio or on the Internet)! Today Rev. W. Bruinsma (pastor of Pittsburgh PRC) continues his four-month service on the program. The title of today's message is "Abraham Offers Up Isaac" based on Hebrews 11:17-19.

  • The RWH has a new, updated website! Please visit reformedwitnesshour.org to watch our introduction video, view pictures and audio from our history, and read and listen to almost 20 years of past radio broadcasts! If you haven’t visited the RWH website recently, now is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with this important radio-internet ministry of the PRC.

  • A new Spanish edition of the RWH is being produced and may be found on this YouTube channel (PRC Espanol). Look for new messages each week - and help spread the word!

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ESPECIALLY FOR PRC YP and YA:

  • Young Calvinists is holding another Talking Points! Rev. C. Griess will be speaking on the topic of music and how it impacts and influences our lives. Trinity PRC Young People will be hosting this event on October 23 @ 7:00PM. This event is designed for Young People and Young Adults. Plan on attending and bring a friend!

  • The annual young people’s Thanksgiving Mass Meeting will be held at First PRC on November 11, from 2 to 3 PM, with a speech given by Rev. C. Griess.  Young people are encouraged to attend for a good time of fellowship! Refreshments will follow the meeting.

  • Are YOU a subscriber to the PR Young People's magazine, the Beacon Lights? Visit the website and find out why you ought to be.

  • The latest young peoples' magazine of Covenant ERC in Singapore, Salt Shakers, was received and posted recently (September 2018 - cf. image above). Check that out on this page.

  • *Girls Conference at Georgetown PRC:  "Shine as Lights in the World" (Grades 9-Post High/College) Nov. 10, 2018.  Good Speakers - Music - Q&A Panel.  Be inspired to live for Jesus boldly by shining His light!  Take a friend or two!  Register: https://shineaslights2018.eventbrite.com   

Gospel to all nations

MISSION NEWS:

  • Remember in prayer our home missionary, Rev. A. Spriensma, who continues to labor in the West Michigan area and beyond.

  • *From Byron Center PRC's bulletin last week we learn about her pastor's upcoming trip to India and work there: "Rev. Lanning will depart this Thursday for Kolkata, India in order to deliver seven sermons and speeches for the annual church camp on the mission field in Kolkata. He will be staying with Rev. Emmanuel Singh, missionary to Kolkata of our sister church in Singapore. Rev. Lanning will return late on October 20, Lord willing. Let us remember our Bengali-speaking brothers and sisters in Christ as the Lord gathers his church in Kolkata."

  • Limerick Reformed Fellowship News:
    • Rev. K Koole is ministering the Word in Limerick, Ireland today.
    • The August 2018 newsletter of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship mission station is now posted on this page.

  • To read Rev. Titus' most recent report on the work going on in Myanmar (May 2018), visit this page.

  • The latest Philippines mission newsletter was received and recently posted (July 2018) and may be found on this PRC webpage.
  • Don't forget to follow the Kleyn's blog on life and activities in the Philippines. And that also includes the Holstege's! And don't miss out on the Smits once again too!

  • From this Sunday's bulletins of the Provident Christian Church in Marikina and the Maranatha PRC in Valenzuela, the Philippines we find the following notes concerning their pastors as well as concerning our missionaries and their labors today and in this coming week:

    • Provident CC:
      • Rev. Smit will preach both times today at PCC. Rev. Kleyn will preach for the Bearers of Light Community Church in Guiguinto, Bulacan today. Next week, D.V., Rev. Holstege will preach both times at PCC.

      • After the first worship service today, Rev. Holstege will continue to teach Lesson 5, “The Communicable Attributes of God,” in the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine class. We will have merienda at 11:00.

      • The Wednesday night class will meet this week, at 7:30, DV. Rev. Holstege will continue to teach Hermeneutics. We will consider the proper way to interpret “symbols.” See you on Wednesday!

      • This week, Revs. Kleyn and Smit will travel to Negros Occidental for the monthly pastors’ classes in Sipalay. May the Lord bless their travels and teaching there.

    • Maranatha PRC:
      • Our Pastor, Rev. L. Trinidad will lead us in both services and teach Eschatology after the Second Service.
      • The Classis will meet on October 31, 2018 at 9:00 in the morning and the venue is at MPRC, Valenzuela City.

Let us continue in prayer to the Lord for the fulfillment of the needs of these busy pastors and missionaries in the Philippines. May the Lord of the harvest give them grace to be faithful and encouraged in all their labors.

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Justification by Faith Alone: The Article of the Standing or Falling Church

Justification by Faith Alone: The Article of the Standing or Falling Church

 This article first appeared in the special Reformation issue of the November 1, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer.

Q. 70 What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which He pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in His sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Q. 71 How is justification an act of His free grace?

A. Although Christ, by His obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety, which He might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, His own only Son, imputing His righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is His gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

Q. 72 What is justifying faith?

A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and His righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Q. 73 How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and His righteousness.1

Five hundred years! On the 31st October 1517, in an attempt to have the issue of indulgences openly debated, Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses or propositions to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, under the title “Disputation to Explain the Virtue of Indulgences.” According to the Church of Rome, the church and specifically the pope had the power to dispense forgiveness or pardon from the punishment of sin. Such forgiveness was made available to sinners by way of the sale of indulgences. The purchase of indulgences was said to enable sinners to buy their way out of purgatory into heaven. It was not so much the concept of indulgences that initially agitated Luther, but it was the abuse of indulgences that led Luther to act in October 1517. Though it was not his intention, Luther’s ninety-five theses set in motion the sixteenth-century Reformation. However, it ought to be noted that the issue of indulgences was not the central issue of the Reformation. Underlying and connected to the issue of indulgences was the more fundamental and, ultimately, more distinguishing doctrinal issue of the Reformation, namely, justification by faith alone.

Indisputably, justification by faith alone was the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation. It was this doctrine that led to the fragmentation of the Christian church as it then existed; a fragmentation that not only has continued, but which has expanded in the intervening years. Why such a serious fragmentation? Because what was and what is at stake is the gospel itself! At issue in the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the very basis of our salvation.

Justification by faith alone was a doctrine that Luther himself had already embraced prior to the events in Wittenberg in October 1517. It was a truth that Luther came to after a bitter internal struggle. Initially, Luther was of the view that he could earn his salvation through the keeping of the law of God. However, try as he might, he found no peace in his many pious exercises. In fact, the more he strove to keep the law of God, the greater he felt the weight of his sin. He could not escape altogether his anger, his envy, his hatred, and his pride. Luther identified with Paul’s words, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). At that time, he had yet to learn to add with Paul, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25).

In particular, Luther struggled to make sense of Paul’s words in Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Here is Luther’s own description of his struggle:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that He was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with His righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately on Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. 2

Luther had thought that “the righteousness of God” referred to the righteous demands that the law of God imposed upon sinners. By the grace of God, he came to realize that by the phrase “the righteousness of God” Paul was not referring to the righteous demands of the law, but to the righteousness that God had provided. To Luther’s relief, he discovered that “the righteousness of God” referred to the righteousness that God had freely and graciously provided in His Son! It was not a righteousness that any man could attain to by means of his own exertion and merit, but it was a righteousness that God freely granted to sinners on the basis of Christ’s merits and that sinners received by means of faith. Luther wrote,

I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before ‘the righteousness of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.

In grasping the truth of justification by faith alone, Luther was delivered from the bondage of self-inflicted penance and enabled to drink in the fresh air of the grace of God. The doctrine of justification by faith alone was for Luther the sum and substance of the gospel, the core of his theology, the central truth of Christianity, the article of the standing or falling church, a truth never to “be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed.”3

Luther was not alone in his unswerving advocacy of justification by faith alone. In fact, there was no significant difference among the leading sixteenth-century Reformers as to the essential understanding of this doctrine. Like Luther, John Calvin maintained the centrality and importance of justification by faith alone. Calvin described the doctrine as “the main hinge on which religion turns.”

Why was this doctrine so important to Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers? Why was it so central to the Reformation? Why ought it to be of the utmost interest to the church today? Because this doctrine deals with how the guilt of our sins can be removed and how we can receive the forgiveness of God. This doctrine reveals the only way that sinners can be reconciled to God and how we can be viewed as righteous in His sight. These issues are intensely personal and go to the heart of our salvation. It should be appreciated that the controversy of the sixteenth-century Reformation over justification by faith alone concerned such fundamental and eternally important questions as: How can I be saved? How can I, as a sinner, possibly be reconciled to a holy and righteous God? How can I be declared righteous before God? On what basis will God pardon or declare a sinner such as me to be righteous in His sight?

This doctrine was central to the Reformation not only because of the fundamental importance of the subject, but also because of the sharp difference of views between the Reformers and the Church of Rome. In many respects, the difference of views was encapsulated in two different words, infusion and imputation.4

The essence of the charge that the Reformers levelled against the Church of Rome was that while she proclaimed accurately who Jesus Christ was and what He had accomplished with respect to the salvation of sinners, nonetheless she perverted the grace of God by maintaining erroneous views of the grounds on which and the process through which the blessings that Jesus Christ procured on the cross were conveyed to sinners. At issue was whether justification was wholly attributable to the grace of God and to the work of Jesus Christ, or whether it was proper to ascribe to men and to their endeavors an active and contributory role in salvation.

For the Church of Rome, the meaning of justification was bound up in the Latin root of the word. The word “justification” comes from the Latin verb, justificare. Justificare itself is derived from two other Latin words, justus meaning “justice” or “righteousness” and ficare meaning “to make” or “to do.” So justificare means literally “to make just” or “to make righteous.”5 Influenced by the etymology of the word, the Church of Rome viewed justification as the act of making a person to be just. Hence, the justification of a sinner was declared by Council of Trent (1543-1563) to be “not only the remission of sin, but also sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend that he may be an heir according to hope of everlasting life.”6

This view led that same Council to enact, among other things, the following canons:

If any one says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.7

These statements and declarations remain the position of the Church of Rome today.

The Church of Rome views justification as requiring an unjust person to be changed and to be made righteous. Rome acknowledges that men are fallen, and that they do not have the power within themselves to attain unto righteousness. In order for that to happen, Rome contends that men must be the recipients of grace, grace that they receive through the sacrament of baptism.

R. C. Sproul helpfully outlines Rome’s view: In baptism, the grace of justification, sometimes called the grace of the righteousness of Christ, is poured into the soul. This is called infusion. Without the assistance of the grace of justification, a person cannot be saved. Roman Catholicism teaches that you need to have the righteousness of Christ infused into your soul in order to be saved.8

Furthermore, as Sproul goes on to note,

…[I]n order to be saved, several things have to happen. First, you must cooperate with and assent to this grace to such a degree that righteousness truly inheres within you. This grace is necessary, but its presence alone is not enough for salvation. You must cooperate with it, agree to it, and work with it to such a degree that righteousness is truly in you. When that happens, you are placed in a state of justification before God. You remain in that state as long as you do not commit mortal sin.9

Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers repudiated Rome’s view of justification, identifying it as essentially the false doctrine of justification by the works of the law that Paul anathematized in Galatians 3-5. The Reformers viewed justification as a man’s legal or forensic state before God. It was to be declared righteous in the sight of God. They rejected Rome’s teaching of an infused righteousness and of grace working in the sinner in order that the sinner may attain unto justification. For the Reformers, justification was not an act of God that made the sinner to be holy. It was not concerned with the change of the sinner’s actual spiritual condition. Rather, it involved the righteousness of Christ being imputed to the sinner, Christ’s perfect righteousness being put to the sinner’s account. The righteousness by which a man is justified, as Luther put it, was a foreign righteousness. It was not his own righteousness; rather, it was the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This is the view that is found in all the major Protestant Creeds. One may consult the Augsburg Confession, 1530, Article IV; the French Confession, 1559, Article XVIII; the Belgic Confession, 1561, Articles XXII & XXIII; the Heidelberg Catechism, 1563, Q & A, 60, 61; the Second Helvetic Confession, 1566, chapter XV; and the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1643, chapter XI.

John Murray rightly declares,

Justification by faith alone is the jubilee trumpet of the gospel because it proclaims the gospel to the poor and destitute whose only door of hope is to roll themselves in total helplessness upon the grace and power and righteousness of the Redeemer of the lost.10

Too many churches that once stood squarely on the truth of justification by faith alone have fallen or are falling away from this fundamental doctrine of the Word of God. The front on which the warfare over this doctrine is being fought is expanding. No longer is the battle only against Rome’s false conception of justification by faith, but now the battle extends to those who propound the error of the Federal Vision.

Five hundred years on there remains a desperate need for Reformed believers to know the Scriptures and their confessional standards in order that they may defend this doctrine. The relevance and urgency of this doctrine cannot be overstated. Justification by faith alone must be confessed. Luther declared that justification by faith was, “the article by which the church stands or falls.” It is also true to say that justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which all shall personally stand or fall before the judgment seat of Christ.

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1 Westminster Larger Catechism, Q/As 70-73.

2 Luther’s Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Muhlenburg Press, 1960), 34:336, 337.

3 Luther, Smalcald Articles (Part 2, Art. 1), in the Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. and trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 292.

4 R. C. Sproul, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith, (P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 2007), 2:41.

5 Sproul, Truths We Confess, 41.

6 John H. Leith ed., Creeds of the Churches (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1982), 411.

7 Leith, Creeds, Canon 9 and 11, 421.

8 Sproul, 42.

9 Sproul, 42.

10 Collected Writings of John Murray (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1977), 2:217.

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The Five Solas of the Reformation

The Five Solas of the Reformation

This article first appeared in the special Reformation issu eof the November 1, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer.

In the end, one little word divided the churches of the Reformation and the Roman Catholic of the sixteenth century. To borrow Luther’s language in his great Reformation hymn, “one little word felled” the corrupt Roman Catholic institute of his day. That one little word was “only,” or as it is in Latin, sola. The Reformers said “only” or “alone,” while Rome consistently said “and.” The Reformers included the word “only” in especially five important doctrines that they taught. These five statements gradually became known as the “five solas.

The Reformers said that the authority in the church is sola Scriptura, that is, Scripture alone. Rome said that the authority in the church is Scripture and tradition. The Reformers said that Christ is our only Mediator, solus Christus. Rome said that men have many mediators: Christ and angels, saints, and the Virgin Mary. The Reformers said that we are saved by grace alone, sola gratia. Rome said that we are saved by grace and on account of human merit. The Reformers said that we are saved by faith only, sola fide. Rome said that we are saved by faith and by our own works and free will. The Reformers said soli Deo gloria, to God alone be the glory. Rome said, in effect, that the glory for salvation is partly due to the grace of God and partly due to the sinner. Throughout, Rome insisted not on “only” or “alone,” but on “and.”

Still today, this is the one little word that distinguishes the churches that are faithful to the Reformation from the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, this is an indicator that a church has departed, as well as the degree to which it has departed, from the Reformed faith. Is it maintaining the word “only” in the same areas and with the same tenacity as the Reformers did? If not, it has not only departed from its Reformation heritage, but it is on the slippery slope that leads back to Rome. So serious a matter are the five solas!

The five solas encapsulate the Reformation. They demonstrate what the Reformation was about and why the Reformation was necessary. From five points of view, they summarize the gospel that was restored to the church through the Reformation. And they provide the rationale for the Reformation. They account for the tremendous sacrifices that Reformed believers then and now are willing to make, even “letting goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.” So highly did the Reformers and the churches of the Reformation value these five doctrines and the pivotal place they occupied in the life of the church. Do we value them as highly as they did?

Sola Scriptura

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (II Tim. 3:16, 17).

The first of the five solas is sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. The Reformers taught that Scripture alone is the final authority. No one and nothing are above Scripture, nor may be placed as an authority alongside of Scripture. Scripture is the authority for the individual believer, as well as for the church as a whole. It is the authority over faith, what we believe, and it is the authority over practice, how we live our daily lives. Scripture is also determinative for the worship of the church, so that every element of worship is to be derived from Scripture.

The Reformers rejected Rome’s elevation of other authorities alongside the authority of Holy Scripture. Rome taught that the Bible is an authority in the church, in fact, a very important authority in the church. But the Bible is not the only authority. The authority in the church is the Bible and tradition, which tradition includes the writings of the church fathers, the decisions of the churches councils, the decrees of the pope, and the writings that the Roman Catholic Church added to the Bible known as the Apocrypha.

When the Reformers insisted that the Bible alone is the final authority in the church, they did not reject tradition altogether. In fact, the Reformers had the highest regard for church tradition, as well as for the decisions of many past church councils, like Nicea and Chalcedon. But they honored tradition only in so far as tradition agreed with Scripture.

The Reformers honored Scripture as the highest authority because they believed the Bible to be the divinely inspired Word of God. Scripture is the authority in the church because Scripture alone is the very Word of God. Thus, it is capable of functioning as the supreme authority in the church.

Sola Scriptura is the first sola for good reason. All the other solas depend on the first sola. They are all derived from sola Scriptura. Scripture teaches that Christ is the only Savior. Scripture teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone. And Scripture teaches that to God alone must be all the glory. If Scripture is not the only authority, the other four solas fall to the ground.

I am bound by the Scriptures and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me. Amen. (Martin Luther, “Luther at the Diet of Worms,” in Luther’s Works: The Career of the Reformer, 32:112-3.)

Solus Christus

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Tim. 2:5).

The Reformers insisted that Scripture proclaims Christ as the only Savior of sinners. As one with the Father, the very Son of God, He does everything that is necessary for our salvation. Jesus leaves nothing undone or partially done, so that we need other saviors and additional mediators alongside of Him. Christ’s saving work was complete and effectual. He accomplished everything on account of which He had been sent into the world by the Father.

Because Jesus is the only Savior, who has fully accomplished all of our salvation, the Reformers objected to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the mass as a perpetual re-sacrificing of Jesus, and the doctrine of transubstantiation, which was necessary for the re-sacrificing of the body and blood of Jesus. Such a sacrifice is not only unnecessary, but is a blasphemous denial of the finished work of Christ and an accursed idolatry. Thus the Reformers swept away not only the mass, but the whole Romish priesthood, which priesthood was necessary for the re-sacrificing of the body and blood of Jesus. The finished work of Christ, our great and only High Priest, fulfilled all the sacrifices of the Old Testament and eliminated any further need for a priesthood. Rome’s priesthood, with its sacrifice of the mass, is a perpetual and public denial that Christ alone is our Savior.

Jesus’ merits are the only propitiatory merits that take away both the guilt and the punishment of our sins. Rome taught that the merits of the saints, and especially the merits of the Virgin Mary—merits that had accumulated through their works of supererogation—are merits that are at the disposal of the church. The church distributes these merits through the purchase of indulgences. Or there were indulgences to be earned simply by paying to observe all kinds of relics of the saints, collections of which could be found in every major city throughout Europe in the sixteenth century. The Reformation demolished the whole system of indulgences on the basis of the truth that Jesus is the only Savior. His merits alone, no other merits, are the basis for our salvation.

In short, whoever wraps up two kinds of righteousness [Christ’s and our own] in order that miserable souls may not repose wholly in God’s mere mercy, crowns Christ in mockery with a wreath of thorns. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. by John T. McNeill, 3.11.13; 1:743.)

Sola gratia

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8, 9).

The Reformation, like the gospel, proclaimed the grace of God. Salvation is by grace, has its source in grace, and is the ultimate expression of God’s grace. God saves those who are undeserving of salvation and unable to accomplish their salvation. Salvation is from beginning to end the work of God alone. Sinners are saved, are the passive recipients of salvation, and receive salvation from God. Salvation is not earned, but is a gift of God that is freely given.

That salvation is by grace is due to the fact that the source of salvation is in the eternal will of God. Not the free will of the sinner, but the sovereign will of God is the cause of salvation. That is the ultimate reason on account of which salvation is by grace. The Reformers taught the truth of predestination—double predestination, both election and reprobation. Although a number of early church fathers taught predestination, over time prominent Roman Catholic theologians had buried the doctrine; some even openly opposed it. Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers restored to the church the truth of sovereign predestination. Because salvation has its source in God’s everlasting counsel, salvation is clearly gracious.

Over against the teaching of sola gratia, Rome taught that the salvation of sinners is due, at least in part, to merit. We are saved by grace, but not by grace alone. The grace of God cooperates with man, so that salvation is due partly to the grace of God and partly to human merit. That may be the sinner’s own merit or the merits of the saints, which merits are available through purchase from the church. The Reformers rejected this teaching. They asserted that salvation is monergistic, not synergistic; it is the work of God alone, not God and man.

They who assert free will are denying Christ. For if it is by my own effort that I obtain the grace of God, what need have I of the grace of Christ in order to receive it? Or what do I lack when I have the grace of God? (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, in Luther’s Works: The Career of the Reformer, 33:279.)

Sola fide

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28).

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone. Faith is the instrument, the “alone instrument,” to use the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF, 11.2). The righteousness on account of which we are righteous before God is not an innate righteousness. The righteousness on account of which we are righteous before God is not an acquired righteousness. But the righteousness on account of which we are righteous before God is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. That righteousness is ours by faith and by faith alone.

Rome taught that we are righteous before God partly by faith. Righteousness is ours by faith and by the works of faith. Faith and the good works that faith produces together constitute our righteousness before God. The Reformers rejected Rome’s teaching about faith and insisted that we are righteous by faith alone. Well known is the controversy that Luther raised when his German translation of the Bible appeared in print. Luther translated Romans 3:28 by adding an “alone” that is not in the original text. His translation was: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone, without the deeds of the law.” Luther knew very well that “alone” was not found in the original and that his insertion could not be justified by an appeal to the text. At the same time, although he had transgressed the boundaries of a faithful Bible translator, there is good reason for Luther’s insertion because of the sense of the passage. As Luther pointed out, by contrasting as he does faith and the deeds of the law, and by insisting that we are righteous by faith and not by the deeds of the law, Paul is teaching justification by faith alone.

What underscores the truth that we are righteous by faith alone and not by our own works is the truth that even the faith by means of which we are justified is the gift of God. He gives and He works faith in the elect. That is grace!

You farther see how faith and the merits of works are contrasted, as things altogether contrary to each other. As then trust in works is the chief hindrance, by which our way to obtain righteousness is closed up, it is necessary that we should wholly renounce it, in order that we may depend on God’s goodness alone. (John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Comments on Romans 9:32.)

Soli Deo gloria!

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36)

The Reformers taught Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, and faith alone because they had a zeal for the glory of God alonesoli Deo gloria! They understood this to be the overarching teaching of Scripture. They saw this to be the great goal of the saving work of Christ. And they were convinced that this was the purpose of salvation by grace and through faith, that God, and not any man, must be glorified—God alone!

For this reason they objected to Rome’s teaching of merit and works-righteousness. It gave the glory for salvation, at least in part, to the sinner himself. For this reason, they objected to the papacy. Not so much that it introduced hierarchy into the church, although it did. But more seriously, the papacy attributed to man the glory that is due to God alone.

God is to be glorified for salvation, not only by performing certain rituals and rites, but by an entire life lived to the glory of God. The apostle says in II Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” That is the Christian life and the Reformed view of the Christian life: soli Deo gloria!

The Gospel proclaims the glory of God alone. It follows that we are foolish and lost sinners, because the glory of God is not set forth unless we ourselves are confounded. The papists do not want this confounding, yea, they ascribe a part of righteousness to their own glory, and therefore they cannot bear the Gospel. It is the office of an evangelical preacher to proclaim the glory of God alone. (Martin Luther, “Lecture on Isaiah 49:3,” in Luther’s Works: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66, 17:172.)   

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Semper Reformanda: “Reformed and always being reformed”

This article first appeared in the special Reformation issue of the November 1, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer.

Semper Reformanda: “Reformed and always being reformed”

One of the less familiar treasures—and yet a great treasure—of our Reformation heritage is expressed in the theme, “Reformed and always being reformed.” Abbreviated in Latin, the expression is Semper Reformanda.1 Even if it is less familiar than some other themes like Sola Scriptura or Sola Gratia, “Always being reformed” is a fundamental aspect of our Reformation heritage. But the expression is less familiar because it did not develop until after the Reformation. Yet, without it we are not fully or genuinely Reformed.

The historical origin of the motto is unclear. An otherwise obscure preacher, the Dutchman Jocodus van Lodenstein, is thought to be the first to have used it. Van Lodenstein was a “Second Reformation” preacher whose emphasis was on the reformation of personal piety. This “Second Reformation” (from about the time of the Synod of Dordt till about 1750) is sometimes referred to as the “Further Reformation” because it was an effort to apply the principles of the sixteenth-century Reformation further—now to the personal lives of the church members. The Reformation went far, these leaders believed, but not far enough. The church was reformed; now Christian lives must be reformed. Emphasis must be given to piety. According to one view, then, “always reforming” refers to the progress Christians must make in personal sanctification.

Important as private piety is, “always being reformed” refers not to personal reform but to church reformation. The expression, which was not popularized until the 1900s, has come to be phrased: the Reformed church must continue to be re-formed by the Word of God. Not necessarily to the extent of the sixteenth-century Reformation in which wholesale changes were required and radical reforms took place. But reformation where necessary.

And Reformed believers agree that reformation is always necessary. Always in Latin is semper. Over the course of generations, there is always deformation, which calls for constant reformation. Agreeing with this enables one to say that, if a church is unwilling to subject herself to reform—that is, examine herself constantly according to the Word of God, and regularly conform her faith and life to that Word; that is, always “be re-formed”—she is unworthy of the name Reformed.

A mandate from where?

Interestingly, the church receives no explicit warrant for constant reformation from the confessions. Indeed, in the confessions is repeated exhortation to personal reformation, correction, and change that must always be “more and more.” But the confessions do not call the church to a constant self-examination and correction according to the Scripture. At least not explicitly as we might want. Which makes sense, because the confessions are not a reflection on the process of church reformation.

Yet the biblical warrant for such activity is clear.

Bible history is unmistakable: the natural inclination of the church was to depart, decline, degenerate, apostatize, become unfaithful. Usually this took place gradually; at times in only a generation or two, as in the days of the judges. But the cycle is clear: a generation arose that knew not the Lord; the Lord sent His judgments to chasten the church; the Lord sent a deliverer to restore and reform them. So it went in the days of Israel’s kings. And so it was in the days of the Lord’s earthly ministry. The church had once more deformed. So Jesus battled His entire ministry against the Pharisees, who had so badly corrupted the church that she was hardly recognizable. And so it went in the time of the Middle Ages, until the Roman Catholic Church had become the false church and reformation was again necessary.

Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation remind us of this tendency to atrophy. Sardis, “the dead church with the dead minister” as Herman Hoeksema described it, is but one of seven churches whose letters give strong warning about church deformation. The weaknesses and departures of these churches are found in every generation.

Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 5:20-22) can be read with this in mind. The King James Version reads: “Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” A legitimate way to interpret the passage is to paraphrase it thus: “Do not despise all preaching (‘prophesyings’) because of error in some of it. Rather, test (‘prove’) all of the preaching by the Word of God. Hold fast to what is truth in it. Reject (‘abstain from’) every form (‘appearance’) of evil in it.”

What Paul mandates in Thessalonians is what we understand by the expression Semper Reformanda. The church always engages in self-examination in the light of Scripture. As she does, she holds fast to her confessions, practices, and traditions that are biblical, and corrects and changes what has become corrupt. Only, of course, according to the infallible standard of Holy Scripture. Thus, the Reformation theme Sola Scriptura.

Resisting reformation

Because of our sinful tendencies, we do not like to examine ourselves ecclesiastically any more than a husband likes to examine himself with regard to his care of his wife. And if husbands bristle when a suggestion for correction and improvement is made, it is not surprising that churches, especially church leaders, become angry when confronted with the possibility that they have failed or must be corrected.

But also that is the story of church history. What age ever underwent reformation without greatest struggle? Who ever was able to be God’s instrument of reform except he was resisted, at times violently? Think of the times of the judges and of the kings. What happened to the prophets who called for reform? Observe Jesus’ ministry among the Pharisees, the ‘conservatives’ in His day. Remember the threats against Luther. Violence exalts itself against this reforming work of God (see the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 48).

But rather than looking outward at this point, wondering who out there will resist our efforts to reform them, let us ask ourselves whether we are willing and able to engage in this important exercise of self-examination according to God’s Word. Are we willing to submit to painful corrections? If we are not willing, then someday 95 theses may be nailed on our church door, or someone may enter our sanctuary and turn our tables upside down. Will we be like the masses who considered Luther and Calvin innovators, but were completely unaware that innovations had been taking place incrementally in their own church for generations, and that Luther and Calvin were God’s instruments to bring the church back to her origins?

So what unhealthy signs may be found among us? Are we offended when even a question is asked about current practices? Is it thought a sign of impiety or weakness to scrutinize any tradition for correction or improvement? Is all change considered departure? A proposal that in a certain area of teaching or practice there could be improvement, even correction, is met with what kind of angry resistance? Let us examine ourselves regarding a willingness to be reformed. Semper Reformanda.

Always changing?

How the resistance appears is predictable: “You only want change. You always want change! You are tempting the church to abandon the traditions and walk on new paths. You are leading the church astray.”

Of course, this response carries some weight in our hearts because there is another danger churches face—the sentiment in the church that always craves change and fancies change for the sake of change. The church must not always want change.

At this point, the full expression of the slogan Semper Reformanda helps. “The church that is Reformed is always in need of being re-formed according to the Word of God.” The believer starts with being Reformed. The right to the name Reformed belongs to those holding the historic Reformed confessions, maintaining historic Reformed church government, Reformation worship practices, and the old Reformed view of the Christian life. Being Reformed is to start with the traditions and to resist the penchant to start from scratch in every new generation. Being Reformed is to battle those spirits who ignore the foundations built by our fathers. We start there. Reformed with a capital “R.”

Never changing? (We are not ‘conservatives’!)

We start with being Reformed. But we do not stop there. And there is the problem for the others. They want to stop with what we have, are satisfied with the status quo.

So pastors and elders must teach their flocks that not every change is the first step to complete apostasy. They must train a generation of young people not to assume that, with the first hint of change, the sky must be falling. The healthy generation is wary of change, but not unwilling to reform. We must raise a company of believers willing to do the hard work of examining the church, in every generation, to see if there be “any wicked way in her.” We pray for a generation with a discerning eye, able to distinguish between biblical tradition and mere custom. They must be able to know the difference between the old paths as Jeremiah called us to walk in, and old paths that are not so old after all, but a digression from the right way that started, maybe, a hundred or so years ago.

If the Lord does not give us such a generation of Reformed believers, the church will slowly lose the Reformation motto Semper Reformanda and adopt, without thinking, the Roman Catholic motto Semper Eadem— always the same—a motto not only erroneous, but ruinous. The poor people in the Roman Catholic Church! They naively supposed that Rome was the same as she had always been from the apostolic age. They trusted their leaders who were “conservative.” But they were conserving the wrong traditions.

We do not want to be known as ‘conservatives.’ Remember the old wit who said, “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” We are not Conservatives. We are, and want to be known as, Reformed. Semper Reformanda.

Read history

The remedy for the unwillingness to be re-formed is the knowledge of history. And not only knowledge of history, but interest in studying history. And not merely the history of the last two generations, or of one’s own denomination, but of the catholic Christian church world-wide for the last 2,000 years.

The generation that arose in the days of the judges did not know the Lord because they did not know history, that is, “the works which he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). The followers of the Scribes and Pharisees did not know history, so had to learn from Jesus that “from the beginning it was not so.” When God used Luther and Calvin to reform the church, He did so by leading these men to history, to the sources, ad fontes! Their knowledge of the church fathers, their appeals to Augustine and others in the ancient church, were powerful weapons in their struggle for reformation.

The church today ought to be profoundly thankful for every faithful school teacher of church history, who not only teaches the young people the facts of history, but instills in them a hunger for reading and studying.

Then, some day, when these knowledgeable and, by then, mature adults examine our church with the Word of God, and conclude that they must propose correction, improvement, development, change, we meet them not with an alarmist fear, but a sober desire to follow the good old tradition of a willingness to be re-formed. “Reformed and always being re-formed.” Semper Reformanda.


1 The reader will notice that, in this article, I use Reformed with a capital “R” to give a name to churches of a particular heritage; and reformed with a lower case “r” to refer to an action performed upon that church. Thus, ‘Reformed and always being reformed’ means: a Reformed church must always submit herself to reform. To make this clear, at times I will hyphenate the word re-formed to emphasize the action performed upon a church.  

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