This article first appeared as a meditation in the July 1951 issue of the Standard Bearer and was penned by Rev. Cornelius Hanko
My Redeemer Liveth
“I know that my Redeemer liveth. . .” Job 19:25
I know that my Redeemer liveth!
As a challenge over against every foe, as a shout of triumph when sufferings threatened to swallow her up, as a confident declaration of victory even when all flesh would despair, the church of Jesus Christ throughout the ages has always taken this word upon her lips.
When the adversary pressed relentlessly day and night, when a thousand fears beset his soul, when the night seemed utterly dark, without a ray of hope, the individual believer still sang in his heart and confessed with his lips: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
We have the “cloud of witnesses” referred to in the Scriptures, men and women who lived and died in this assurance. Think of Abel and Enoch and Noah. Call to mind Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson and Samuel. Pause a moment to consider Daniel and his three friends who spurned the wrath of the king and faced death rather than deny their God.
We have the words of Job, a man who suffered unspeakable trials and afflictions. He lost all his possessions and was made childless in a moment. He was afflicted with a dread disease that brought him utmost misery. And in all that he was plagued by those who called themselves his friends. Yet out of the midst of his miseries arises the confident testimony of faith: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.
A redeemer is, first of all, one who mediates for another, takes up his cause for him to help him. Moreover he pays the price of redemption. He is both able and willing to do this. And finally, he thereby vindicates his cause and delivers him from all his trouble. The very word suggests a rightful bondage, an obligation that cannot be met, a price that cannot be paid.
It implies that Job cannot meet the obligation. He cannot redeem himself. Except there be a talisman, an advocate, his cause is hopeless. But he has found such a man, one who is willing and able to take up his cause for him, to pay the ransom, to deliver him and to vindicate him. He refers, beyond a doubt, to the bondage of sin and death under the righteous judgment of God. He knows that he deserves God’s curse and condemnation, so that God has just reason to condemn him to eternal woe of hell. But he knows of one who has paid the price of his redemption, has atoned for his sins, has delivered him from the bondage of sin and death, and assures him of eternal blessedness in glory with God.
He speaks of the promised Christ, the only possible Savior, the perfect and eternal Redeemer! “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34).
Job spoke of Him as he saw Him in prophecy, as the one that was still to come. He did not know the Christ in that full revelation in which He is revealed to us today. The promise was not yet realized. The Word had not yet become flesh. The Son of God had not yet borne the burden of sin and guilt by His death on the cross, and had not yet risen from the dead. Therefore Job could not see these things as clearly as we see them now. He still longed to see His day. In hope he witnessed with the saints of old: “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord!”
But that does not mean that Job was less convinced of his salvation than we are. It was just as real, just as sure and vital to him as to the saints of the new dispensation. In that same full conviction of heart and mind he could confess: My Redeemer lives.
His Redeemer, even as ours, is Jehovah, the almighty, unchangeable, sovereign God. God established His eternal covenant with His servant Job, God had said concerning him, ‘’This is my servant, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil.” How could the Lord ever say that of him unless He had taken Job into His covenant. Was there ever a person born who by nature possesses these sterling qualities? Has ever yet even one individual been found of whom it could be said that he is perfect according to the standards of God’s law? Is there any who never sins, never transgresses, not even in the secret recesses of his heart, but is always righteous, spotless before the God Who judges all men righteously? Is there any at all who is wholeheartedly a friend of God and an enemy of Satan, hating all evil perfectly? Anyone who knows the Scriptures and his own heart knows that this is impossible.
We are all conceived and born in sin. There is none that doeth good, not a single one. We have all departed from the way. We are become altogether corrupt. Before God’s holy law no man is justified. This is equally true of Job. Yet God does not regard His servant Job as he is by nature, but rather as He knew him and loved him and chose him in Christ, even from eternity. God has eternally engraven His saints in the palm of His hands. He has made them His peculiar possession. Therefore, before Him they are holy and righteous, redeemed and sanctified in Christ. God sees no iniquity in Jacob and no transgression in Israel, for they are His royal priesthood, fitted to tell His praises forever. God sovereignly knows His servant Job as a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.
Thus Jehovah also came to establish His covenant with Job. He dwelt by His Spirit in Job’s heart, renewing him and turning him from death into life, from sin into the service of the living God. Job was made deeply conscious of his sin and guilt. He knew the depravity of his own heart. He was aware that he could only increase his sin and guilt continually. But he confessed his sin and obtained pardon. He experienced the blessedness of those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. His whole delight was in the law of God, according to the inward man. He loved God and hated evil. This was evident even at that moment when he was suddenly made destitute and childless. He rises, he rends his mantle, shaves his head, falls down upon the ground and worships. Humbly he confesses, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked I return thither. Jehovah gave, Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the Name of Jehovah.” Upon which the Scriptures add this remarkable testimony, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Surely here was a servant of God, perfect and upright, fearing God and eschewing evil, since God had taken him into His covenant by a wonder of grace.
It is in this consciousness that the servant of God can say: It is God who justifies. Who is the condemner?
No, the confession is much more personal than that. God is my justifier. Who is my condemner?
My Redeemer lives!
These words were spoken in one of the most bitter hours of all his anguish. Destitute and childless, afflicted with painful sores, a gruesome spectacle to those who formerly highly esteemed him, he complains, “Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with a net. Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and He hath set darkness in my paths. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and my hope hath He removed like a tree. He hath also kindled His wrath against me, and He counteth me unto Him as one of His enemies. His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle. He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintances are verily estranged from me. . . . All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.” How true this complaint was, for the very friends who came to comfort him turn against him, accusing him of grievous sin which has brought this wrath and visitation of the Lord upon him.
What can Job answer? What can he offer in his own defense? Can he plead sinlessness? Can he justify himself on the basis of his own righteousness? He knows he cannot! He would be forced to silent despair, if it were not for the fact that there is one who mediates for him, one who takes up his cause even now, one who justifies, vindicates, and ultimately gives him the victory.
“I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
He is the Almighty, unchangeable Jehovah, who keeps covenant with His people forever. He sovereignly rules over all things, so that not a hair can fall from our heads except by His will. He has the storms in His hands, the lightning that took Job’s sheep, the wind that destroyed his children. Even the wrath of men shall praise Him, for devils, and Sabeans, and Chaldeans, and all wicked men are but instruments in His hand to carry out His counsel. His grace abideth ever. He will not always chide, neither will He keep His anger forever. His anger lasts a moment, His favor all the day. For He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.
He lives! Jehovah, the God of our salvation lives.
How much richer these words are for us now, since the cross and the resurrection have become a historical reality. The Son of God came into our flesh, suffered, died and was buried. For a moment even the disciples despaired, so that they hid themselves in bitter sorrow.
Their master had been taken from them. The one whom they professed to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, had perished in the hands of wicked men, and His body was laid away in the grave. They failed to understand the cross, and therefore all looked so utterly dark and hopeless. Yet that one flame of faith and hope within their souls never entirely faded out. On the contrary, it suddenly flared up to shine forth in glorious brilliancy.
Jesus arose as victor over death. He had paid the ransom for sin. He had satisfied God’s justice. And God raised Him up to exalt Him to power and glory in the highest heavens. We now see Jesus with an eye of faith, crowned with glory and honor, living and reigning with God forever! “He arose, a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign.”
He lives! Yes, we know He lives, for He has come to dwell with us in the Spirit. He lives even now within our hearts.
I know! That is the testimony of faith.
The assurance of faith is always personal. Faith says: I know. Faith speaks of my Redeemer. Faith testifies: I know that my Redeemer liveth.
No one can actually know God without knowing that this God is his God, the God of his eternal salvation. No one can know Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners without knowing that this Jesus is also his personal Savior. No one can believe in God and in Jesus Christ without putting all his trust in them. He who confesses God with a sincere heart also says: My God. And he who confesses Jesus to be the Christ also adds the personal assurance: My Lord and my God.
Not as if this assurance is not frequently and sorely tried. The believer is beset with many fiery trials from day to day, for the Lord is purging him, even as silver is purified by fire. There are, first of all, the many temptations that beset us. Our salvation is heavenly, but we are earthly. The world and its lusts still appeal to our sinful flesh. The scorn and sneer of the world still fill us with dread and terror. The devil still goes about as a roaring lion, seeking to devour us, even coming at times in sheep’s clothing and as an angel of light. Secondly, there is our old nature with all its sinfulness. Constantly we must still complain that even while we will the good we do the evil, for in our flesh dwells no good. If God should mark transgression, none of us could stand in His judgment.
And finally, there are the sufferings that we must bear. Often it seems as if wicked men prosper, while suffering is the constant lot of God’s people. Disappointments, adversities, pains and distresses crowd, in upon our lives. We are inclined to wonder why, yet we find no answer. Seemingly all these things are against us. If God loves us, has mercy upon us, and blesses us, why should these things be. His hand seems heavy on us, our soul finds no relief. With the psalmist we are inclined to complain: “Will God cast off forever? and will He be favorable no more? Is His mercy clean gone forever? Doth His promise fail forevermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
Yet through it all the triumph of faith is: I know! I know that my Redeemer liveth.
You ask, how is this possible? The answer is, that God has spoken to us in the Scriptures. He has revealed His eternal love for His people. He has made known His pardoning grace and saving mercies for those who are in Christ Jesus. He has promised the ultimate victory in the glorious inheritance which He has prepared for His saints. But how do we know that these gifts are also for us? What would it avail us if we knew that they were for others, but that we have no part in them? The Spirit assures us of all these benefits by a personal testimony within our own hearts. By means of the Word, the Holy Scriptures, and the preaching of that Word, He convicts of sin, but He also speaks of pardon through the blood of the cross. He makes weary, but He also assures of rest. He casts down in bitter anguish of soul, but He also lifts up and delivers. He makes hungry and He feeds the hungry. He makes thirsty and He causes the thirsty to drink of the streams of living water. He promises blessedness to those who trust in Him, but He also gives grace to trust in Him. He approves of those who fear Him and turn away from evil, but they experience that this is only the fruit of His love in them.
It is the church’s well-known victory song that has re-echoed down the ages, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rev. Cornelius Hanko was born to Herman and Jennie (nee Burmania) Hanko on May 19, 1907 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He received his heartfelt desire when the Lord in His mercy took him to glory on Monday, March 14, in the year of our Lord 2005.
Rev. Hanko was baptized in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church. During the common grace controversy in the 1920s the Hanko family followed Rev. Herman Hoeksema and the majority of the consistory of Eastern Avenue in their polemic against common grace and their advocacy of one, sovereign grace of God for the elect in Christ Jesus. The Hankos thus became charter members of the First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan when the Eastern Avenue Protesting Christian Reformed Church, her pastor and consistory, were cast out of the CRC in 1926. Rev. Hanko, therefore, was the last of the PRC clergy (and perhaps of the entire membership of the PRC) to have had direct, personal contact with the events of 1924–1926 that led to the formation of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Already in his teenage years Rev. Hanko had his eye on the ministry. His first inclination was to be a missionary. That never happened, because the Lord called him to the pastoral ministry for his entire career. Rev. Hanko began his studies for the ministry under Revs. H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema, and G. M. Ophoff. He graduated from the seminary in 1929 with five other men (four of whom left the PRC in the split of 1953 and one of whom left the PRC in the early 1960s. All five of these eventually became ministers in the CRC).
After graduation from the seminary Rev. Hanko and his bride Jennie (nee Griffioen) made their way to Hull, Iowa PRC, in which church Rev. Hanko was ordained a minister of the Word and Sacraments in the PRC. God blessed Rev. and Mrs. Hanko with four children, all of whom are members of the PRC: Rev. Herman C. (married to Wilma Knoper), Professor Emeritus of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary; Fred (married to Ruth Miersma), who gave his working life to the Protestant Reformed Christian Schools (Adams Street in Grand Rapids, where he was my ninth grade teacher, Northwest Iowa in Doon, where he taught with my wife, and Hope, Walker, Michigan); Elaine, widow of Richard Bos; and Alice, who cared for her father in his later years.
In addition to the Hull PRC, Rev. and Mrs. Hanko served in the following Protestant Reformed Churches: Oaklawn, Illinois (1935); Manhattan, Montana (1945); First, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1948); Hope, Redlands, California (1964); and Hudsonville, Michigan (1971). After becoming emeritus in 1977, Rev. Hanko remained active for a number of years, preaching and teaching in the churches and preaching two services per Sunday in Florida during the winter seasons.
His years in First Church were difficult ones for Rev. Hanko because of the controversy that resulted in the split in First and in the denomination in June of 1953. The controversy involved the doctrine of the covenant. The majority of the congregation of First and of the members and clergy of the denomination embraced the covenant view of Dr. Klaas Schilder (conceiving of the essence of the covenant as consisting of a conditional promise made by God to every baptized child). These left our churches. During these years, while never compromising the truth of an unconditional covenant of grace and friendship established unilaterally by God with His elect in Christ Jesus, Rev. Hanko never lost a certain healthy balance in his preaching and teaching in First Church. He simply did his work by the grace of God, preaching, teaching, and caring for the flock of God as best he was able.
During his years in First Church, which numbered more than five hundred families before the split in 1953 and ca. 200 families after the split, Rev. Hanko had my father as one of his co-laborers in the consistory. They became good friends. The Hankos and the Deckers regularly visited together. It was through this contact that I got to know Rev. Hanko on a personal basis. It was during Rev. Hanko’s years as pastor of First that I was a student at Calvin College, then located on Franklin Street in Grand Rapids just a short block away from the parsonage occupied by the Hankos. Not infrequently, I would walk from class at Calvin to the parsonage with my questions. Rev. Hanko patiently answered these questions from Scripture and the confessions and would then offer prayer. Rev. Hanko was used by God, together with my parents to keep me in the PRC as a member and later as one of the churches’ pastors. I also had the blessed privilege after October 1, 1965, the date of my ordination as pastor of the Doon, Iowa congregation, to labor for a few years with Rev. Hanko as a colleague. We younger pastors in Classis West leaned heavily on our older, experienced, and competent colleague, learning much from his godly example.
During his pastorate in Hudsonville, Michigan the Lord delivered his beloved Jennie from her suffering into glory. I remember sitting with Rev. Hanko in the ICU waiting-room at the hospital, when he remarked, “Part of me is dying in there.” Now Rev. Hanko, having died in the Lord, enjoys God’s fellowship in Jesus in glory as well.
We thank God for giving our churches this gifted and faithful servant and for using him for the edification of the churches for the years of his lengthy ministry among our Protestant Reformed Churches. That in the years to come these churches may follow the example of our beloved brother, Cornelius Hanko, and “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints…” is our fervent prayer (Jude : 3b).
Soli Deo Gloria! (Written by Rev.Gise Van Baren)