Articles

The Reformed Worldview ("Standard Bearer" Series) (9)

A series of Standard Bearer articles penned by Rev.Steven Key of Loveland PRC (CO) from Jan.1, 2015 (in progress).

The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (1)

The Reformed Worldview (The Standard Bearer - January 1, 2013)

Rev. Steven Key

Truth and its Consequences (1)

Introduction

    With this new rubric in the Standard Bearer we take up a study of the Reformed worldview, using as the subtitle, Truth and Its Consequences. 

    In the past several years there have been a multitude of books written concerning a Christian worldview. 

    My first introduction to the concept of a Christian worldview probably occurred in the 1970s, when the writings and video presentations of Dr. Francis Schaeffer were making the rounds in evangelical circles, including Reformed churches. 

    Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984), a Presbyterian pastor and missionary in Europe—some would add Christian philosopher—was perhaps the most influential figure in the late twentieth century in attempting to develop somewhat systematically a Christian worldview.  Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, moved to Switzerland in 1947 to work as missionaries for the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.  In 1955 in Huémoz-sur-Ollon, Switzerland they founded L’Abri (French for “the Shelter”) as a mission outreach primarily to students to discuss philosophical and religious beliefs and to demonstrate the application of biblical teaching to all of life.

    Since then many who came under Schaeffer’s influence have continued to pursue the development of a Christian worldview or cultural engagement, including Os Guinness, James Sire, Nancy Pearcey, and the late Chuck Colson.  Schaeffer’s books were influential not only in broader evangelical circles, but in Reformed and Presbyterian circles as well.  The titles The God Who Is There; How Should We Then Live?; and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? attempted to demonstrate that Christianity is more than an intellectual set of propositions, it must incorporate all of life. 

    One of the reasons for Schaeffer’s resolve to develop a Christian worldview was what he observed as a rejection of biblical truth, the outworking of the higher critical views of Scripture over the preceding century and the advance of apostasy in much of the church world by the late twentieth century. 

   As the development of sin continues with remarkable strides in our day and as the relevance of Christianity has been called into question and even rejected in much of Western civilization, many others have written books attempting to set forth a Christian worldview.  Sometimes those books attempt to demonstrate the difference between a Christian worldview and a worldview of the non-Christian religions or other philosophies such as secular humanism or postmodernism.  Other worldview books are written with specific application to politics and particular social issues, sometimes with application to the arts, and sometimes with broader application to culture, including such subjects as economics and labor, history and psychology, philosophy and ethics, literature and other subjects. 

    The fact is, however, that even while Francis Schaeffer and others in our lifetime may have made worldview thinking more popular, the idea of a Christian worldview did not originate with Schaeffer.  I intend to demonstrate that a Christian worldview has been the concern of Reformed theologians going all the way back to John Calvin. 

    Apart from that history, however, it is especially my purpose to consider the Reformed worldview.

    The Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) have been blessed by God during their history with a steadfast adherence to the truth of God’s sovereign particular grace and a development in the doctrine of God’s covenant with its many practical implications, not only in the doctrine of the church, but also in the areas of education and marriage and family life. 

    For the past several years I have thought that the PRC lacked one area of development fitting with its rich theology.  There has been a lack of a systematic development of a Reformed worldview as an unfolding of the treasures that God has entrusted to our churches. 

    That is different from saying that a Reformed worldview has been lacking in the PRC. 

    In the preaching of the gospel there has often been rich application to the daily lives of God’s people, an application often put into practice by faithful people of God living their Christian lives in the various callings God has given them. 

    A Reformed worldview is also evident in many of the writings of Protestant Reformed men through the decades of the existence of these churches.  There have been particular developments in the application of a Reformed worldview to marriage, to mention one notable example.  In the schools established by Protestant Reformed parents there has been, to varying degrees, the application of the truth of the covenant to the various subjects of study.  There have also been efforts in some of our high schools to teach a course on different worldviews and the importance of a Reformed worldview. 

    But a developed treatment of the Reformed worldview has been lacking.  When I began laying the groundwork for this rubric, I discovered only two brief treatments of this subject found in Protestant Reformed writings.

    Herman Hoeksema’s The Christian and Culture was originally a lecture delivered in 1940 at First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The lecture, given at the request of the Young Men’s Society of that congregation, indicated an interest in the subject at that time among the PRC.  After Rev. Hoeksema spoke on the topic, there were many requests to publish the speech, the result of which was the publication of the aforementioned pamphlet. 

    Some 65 years later, David J. Engelsma wrote The Reformed Worldview on Behalf of a Godly Culture, an article that first appeared in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, and soon after was published in booklet form by the Evangelism Committees of the Faith (Jenison, MI) and Grandville (MI) Protestant Reformed Churches. 

    To my joy, as I have been working on this subject and prior to the publication of this first article, the British Reformed Fellowship saw to the publication of The Word of God for Our Generation:  The Reformed Worldview.  This 142-page book began as six lectures given by David J. Engelsma and Herman Hanko given at the biennial British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference held in 2010.  This book is a noteworthy beginning of a more developed treatment of the Reformed worldview.[1] 

    The Reformed churches historically and the Protestant Reformed Churches in particular have a solid foundation upon which to develop a biblical worldview.  Indeed, the foundation laid in our Reformed confessions is essential to such a worldview!  Without a consistent biblical doctrine of creation, including the creation of man, as well as the doctrines of the fall and redemption; without the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and His providential government of the universe, a Christian worldview is emasculated.  Add to that the doctrine of the covenant that we are blessed to enjoy as Protestant Reformed churches, and we have a solid and rich foundation upon which to develop a distinctive Reformed worldview. 

    Such development is important.  

    Our own history as churches demands it. 

    It was the common grace controversy that gave rise to the PRC after its leaders were ousted from the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).  In the midst of that controversy and before the formation of the PRC, the rejection of an unbiblical doctrine of common grace by Herman Hoeksema and Henry Danhof brought upon them the charge that they were Anabaptist—not that they called for a denial of infant baptism, but anabaptist in the sense of being sectarian and promoting world-flight, a withdrawal from the world.[2] 

    The charge was not true.  Henry Danhof and Herman Hoeksema responded to the charge in an undated booklet in the Dutch language entitled Niet Doopersch Maar Gereformeerd (Not Anabaptist but Reformed).[3]  In that booklet is found a detailed rejection of the charge of teaching world-flight.  “The charge of Anabaptism must not be thrown any longer.  In the last few years people have been much too eager to fling this mud.”[4] 

    Part of what Danhof and Hoeksema wrote directly addresses the subject that we consider:  

...where have you ever heard us say that we want to go out of the world?  And we will even tell you frankly that you will exert yourself in vain if you look for something resembling that in anything that has appeared from our hand.  Where have you ever heard us claim that we must avoid all kinds of civic institutions, that we must not occupy any governmental office, or that we may not wage any war?

      ... the brother can be assured that this is absolutely not our view.  Our position is just the opposite.  We do not want to go out of the world at all.  It is exactly our intention not to abandon any area of life.  We have called God’s people to occupy the entirety of life.  However, we want this people of the Lord, His covenant people, not to forsake or deny her God in one single domain.  His people are called to live out of grace in every domain, out of the one grace through which they were incorporated into Christ and through which they love God, so that they keep His commandments. 

      This is what we have written and preached.  And Van Baalen could certainly have known this.  In fact, already in the Banner of June 12, 1919 we wrote:

      “Also, the child of the kingdom does not go along with this identification with the world as he strives to manifest himself in every domain of the life of that world.  This is indeed his clear calling.  In industry and commerce, in science and art, in state and society the citizen of the kingdom may never fail to manifest himself by drawing back into the closer sphere of the church as such.  Then he would have to go out of the world whereas it is his calling to be in the midst of it.”

      “World flight,” therefore, does not apply to us....  If you take “world” in the sense of “nature,” then you will certainly see that we do not separate nature and grace, but wish to live everywhere out of grace.  And if you take “world” in the sense of the wicked, then we do not take flight, but we fight the good fight unto the very end so that no one may take our crown.[5] m



[1]  The main distributors of this book are Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, Northern Ireland (website:  www.cprc.co.uk); Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Redlands, CA (website:  www.hopeprc.org); and the Reformed Witness Committee (website:  www.reformedwitness.org). 

[2]  The charge was leveled by a colleague in the ministry of the CRC, Rev. Jan Karel Van Baalen, who had written a pamphlet entitled De Loochening der Gemeene Gratie: Gereformeerd of Dooperish? (The Denial of Common Grace: Reformed or Anabaptistic?).

[3]  H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, Niet Doopersch Maar Gereformeerd: Voorloopig Bescheid aan Ds. Jan Karel Van Baalen Betreffende De Loochening der Gemeene Gratie, Grand Rapids Printing Co., ca. 1923.

[4]  H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, Not Anabaptist, But Reformed.  English translation in the Standard Bearer, vol. 83, p. 423.

[5]  H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, Not Anabaptist, But Reformed.  English translation in the Standard Bearer, vol. 85, p. 285-286.

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (2)

The Reformed Worldview (The Standard Bearer - March 1, 2013)

Rev. Steven Key

Truth and Its Consequences (2)

Introduction

    We have seen that our own history as Protestant Reformed Churches demands the development of the Reformed worldview.  That is necessary in light of the false accusation often brought against us that we hold to a world-flight mentality that would cause us to withdraw from any active engagement with the world in which we live. 

    Our own history demands development of the Reformed worldview, secondly, because the erroneous idea of common grace underlies much of what is purported to be a Reformed worldview. 

    There is one man who has been especially influential in this common grace mentality.  Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s philosophical (not biblical and exegetical) development of his doctrine of common grace had a profound effect upon the thinking of many in Reformed churches. 

    Many in the nominally Reformed camp seem to think that the only alternative to a world-flight mentality is to embrace the idea of God’s common grace. 

    Because of the breadth of Kuyper’s influence, my intention is to treat more carefully Kuyper’s view as I develop in future articles the history of the concept worldview

    In the words of Abraham Kuyper himself, “in the world we should realize the potencies of God’s common grace.”[1]  He explains that, besides a particular grace that works salvation, there is “also a common grace by which God, maintaining the life of the world, relaxes the curse which rests upon it, arrests its process of corruption, and thus allows the untrammelled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator.”[2]

    What governs our relationship to the world, therefore, is “the recognition that in the whole world the curse is restrained by grace, that the life of the world is to be honored in its independence, and that we must, in every domain, discover the treasures and develop the potencies hidden by God in nature and in human life.”[3]  Thus Calvinism is “to claim for itself the glory of possessing a well-defined principle and an all-embracing life-system.”[4]

    Peter Heslam, in his examination of Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, makes the considered judgment that “Kuyper’s treatment of traditional Reformed doctrine amounted to a radical reinterpretation and reapplication of its central tenets....  Thus the doctrine of common grace, which is not a major element in traditional Calvinistic theology, became, under the influence of Kuyper’s objectives, a doctrine of overriding and central importance.”[5]

    Heslam goes on to explain:

...Kuyper held to the radical distinction between God’s work in Christ and the work of human beings in culture.  Together with his pietistic contemporaries, he held that the whole of creation, including human nature, are fallen and perverted, but he opposed their attempts to advocate cultural withdrawal, claiming that Christianity (particularly in its most advanced, Calvinistic form) was the very means by which culture could be transformed according to God’s ordinances.  Common grace served as the theological justification for this argument, providing as it did the necessary bridge across the gap created by the antithesis between the world corrupted by sin and Christ’s work of re-creation.[6]

      ...The doctrine of common grace, which stood in close association with belief in the cosmic scope of creation, fall, and redemption, provided him with the only sound solution to the problem of Christianity and culture, and supplied an incentive and justification for active Christian pursuit of cultural renewal.[7]

    Given the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches, therefore, it belongs to our calling not only to point out the errors of common grace—which have colossal significance in one’s perspective of the world and how to live in relationship to the world—but also, as those who reject that unbiblical teaching, to develop positively a biblical and Reformed worldview. 

    But not only is it true that our own history demands development of the Reformed worldview; it is also important, especially in light of the continual development of sin in the world, that we understand our calling as God’s people. 

    The world is increasingly moved by the spirit of antichrist.  The lives of God’s people are more and more challenged.  As Scripture makes clear, we are involved in a spiritual warfare. 

    The question “How then shall we live?” becomes an increasingly urgent question for us to face.  It is a question that demands an answer with application to every aspect of life.  Because the simple fact is—as Arthur F. Holmes points out in his foreword to David K. Naugle’s book Worldview:  The History of a Concept— “...Western civilization has become thoroughly secularized; Christianity is regarded as largely irrelevant (or ought to be) to culture and science and learning, reduced to a private and inward affair.”[8] 

    It is critically important that we understand the deeply anti-Christian nature of the world in which we live, lest we ourselves be swept away by the deceitfulness of the world.  When John writes in I John 5:19 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” that has to affect the way in which we view that world.  And when Paul writes (Col. 2:8), “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” he is warning us that there is a particular perspective that we must have, guided by the rudiments or the fundamental principles of Christ, lest we be consumed by the rudiments of the world. 

    Our God-rejecting and Christ-denying culture, led by the prince of this world, Satan, the great adversary of the church, would silence us.  But our lives as Christians may not be brought to silence.  Our faith must not be reduced to an inward “spirituality,” or a simple Sunday observance of religious practices.  Because we are those who represent Christ and whose lives are in Him, His glory must be seen in us.  We have been recreated to show forth His praise.  That which marked the early New Testament church as standing out in stark contrast to the world out of which they had been called must also be seen in us. 

What Is a Worldview?

    As we approach this study of the Reformed worldview, considering the truth and its consequences, defining our terms is important.

    While I intend to include in future articles an overview of the historical development of the concept, I will define worldview simply as a comprehensive view of the world and how we ought to live in and relate to this world. 

    A worldview, therefore, is always guided by a particular way of thinking.  Abraham Kuyper’s worldview was guided by what I referred to as his “common grace mentality.”  The worldview of many unbelievers is guided by their exaltation of the human mind, even of science falsely so called (I Tim. 6:20).  And in the evangelical church community, many would be guided by a very simplistic and less than comprehensive “what would Jesus do.” 

    When we expand upon the term worldview and add the adjective Reformed, we are speaking about the worldview that is informed by the wisdom of Reformed theology—which is the truth of the Word of God—and therefore guided by and consistent with Reformed thought. 

    To the Protestant Reformed believer there is another important element we must not overlook. 

    The truth of God’s covenant, and a proper understanding of covenant theology, is important to an informed and proper Reformed worldview.  We regard the truth of the covenant as having a central place in Scripture and as basic to the Reformed faith as pertains to both doctrine and life.  As the doctrine of election is the heart of the church, and the cross (the truth of Christ’s atonement) is the heart of the gospel, so a proper understanding of the covenant is the heart of all true religion. 

    For that reason, when we consider the necessary foundation of the Reformed worldview, we have to understand the place of the doctrine of the covenant in that Reformed worldview.

Our Approach

    The proliferation of books in the past 25 years treating a Christian worldview shows a wide diversity in approach and content.  In taking up this subject for the Standard Bearer, probably the most difficult task I face is trying to decide what to treat under this heading. 

    Although in the development of the Reformed worldview other views must be taken into account, it is not my purpose to critique in any depth other philosophical worldviews, whether those of post-modernism, secular humanism, naturalism, nihilism, or Islamic theism.  There are other books that do so, even if not from a Reformed position, including David A. Noebel’s Understanding the Times and James W. Sire’s The Universe Next Door. 

    I will have enough just to develop positively the biblical perspective that must define our Christian calling.  In our pluralistic culture it would take volumes to address all the various errors.  We live in an age not unlike the period of the Judges, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes.  The result is the moral confusion and even chaos seen today in every aspect of society, among both rich and poor. 

    We must face the question, standing before God, His Word, and our Reformed confessions, “How are we to live?” 

    Especially important it is that we face that question when we realize that Satan himself seeks to seize the minds of men and women.  The clash of worldviews is simply an expression of the ongoing historical and spiritual battle of Genesis 3:15. 

    It is my intention, after this introduction, to treat the following:

    1. The historical development of the concept of a worldview. 

    2. The necessary foundation of the Reformed worldview, including the importance of Reformed doctrine, the doctrine of the covenant, the doctrine of the antithesis, and the development of sin.

    3. Specific applications of the Reformed worldview, treating such topics as education, the Christian view of labor, the Christian view of personal finance (stewardship), the Christian view of government, the Christian view of war—to mention a sample. 

    All, God willing.   m



[1]  Kuyper, Abraham, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,  1931), 31.

[2]  Ibid., 30.

[3]  Ibid., 31.

[4]  Ibid., 32.

[5]  Heslam, Peter S., Creating a Christian Worldview, Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 259-260.

[6]  Ibid., 268-269.

[7]  Ibid., 270.

[8]  Naugle, David K., Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), xiv.

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (3)

The Reformed Worldview (The Standard Bearer, August 2013)

Rev. Steven Key

Truth and Its Consequences (3)

The History of the Concept Worldview

    I have defined worldview simply as a comprehensive view of the world and how we ought to live in and relate to this world. 

    As we give our attention to the historical development of the concept of a worldview, we can acknowledge that there has been some attention given this subject—though not called worldview—throughout the history of the church. 

    We should not overlook the fact that already in the Old Testament, God’s people were set apart as a peculiar people, holy unto the Lord their God.  “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deut. 14:2).  This was rooted in God’s eternal decree of election in Christ, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). 

    The way in which God would have His people express their holiness is seen in the significant truth of the antithesis. 

    We do not hear much in today’s church world about the antithesis.  The very life of the antithesis has been lost in churches overcome by worldliness.  But so important has been that truth that God set it before Adam immediately in the first paradise.  No less important is that truth today. 

    Only by a clear understanding of the truth and the significance of the antithesis, and a will to live it, are the waves of worldly corruption kept out of the church and our own families.  If we deny our antithetical calling either in doctrine or life, then worldliness will sweep over us, engulfing and destroying us.

    What is meant by the word antithesis?  While not a biblical word, it expresses a biblical truth.  The word antithesis comes from two words—anti which means against, and thesis or that which is set forth.  The antithesis, therefore, is a contrasting position, one characterized by holiness unto the Lord over against all that which would oppose Him. 

    Already in the first paradise God set apart two trees (Gen. 2:9), placing them before Adam and proclaiming that those trees—the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—demonstrated a fundamental truth of man’s life.  Our life and calling in the midst of this world is to be characterized by a sharp contrast in positions. 

    The positive side of Adam’s existence was to eat of the tree of life, to enjoy the life and fellowship of Jehovah God.  He was to live as God’s king-servant in the midst of God’s creation, subduing the earth and exercising dominion over all things and in all relationships of life to God’s glory and in God’s service.  Living in obedience to the calling God had given him, Adam would enjoy the favor of His covenant God.  That favor was signified in a special way in the tree of life.  As a sign of God’s favor, the tree of life was at the same time a sign of that higher aspect of Adam’s life that consisted in the knowledge of and enjoyment of God’s love and fellowship. 

    Life for Adam implied the favor and fellowship of God his Creator.  But the holiness of God requires that for man to enjoy God’s favor, man must faithfully obey God.  That truth, with application to the tree of life, is set before us in a different context in the very last chapter of the Bible.  We read in Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  Adam had to know the contrast between life and death.  Life is to abide under the favor and in the fellowship of the living God. 

    To emphasize that truth, and to demonstrate the reality that to live apart from God is death, God also placed the contrasting tree in the midst of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Concerning that tree God said to Adam, “This tree is off limits to you.”  “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:  for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”—or literally, dying thou shalt die (Gen. 2:17). 

    That tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented to Adam this aspect of his calling, that there is always a negative side that sets man’s positive calling in clear contrast.  Man must not only positively carry out the calling God has given him, saying “yes” to God; but man must also say “no” to what God forbids. 

    God has revealed Himself as the God of light, in whom is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).  In revealing Himself to Adam as man’s covenant God, taking Adam into His own fellowship and bestowing His love upon him, God determined to reveal Himself as He is—the God of infinite perfections, of perfect holiness.  But God also determined that the revelation of His glorious Being would best be shown against the background of darkness, even the darkness of sin and death.  Man must understand that life cannot be sustained but by the Word of God’s particular grace, the Word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Deut. 8:3), the voice that proclaims His love and fellowship. 

    So God would have His people learn to express that antithesis in all their life.  We must learn to live antithetically, the life of pilgrims and strangers, even while carrying out our daily callings.  That truth is expressed this way in I Peter 2:9:  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

    That antithesis has become much more sharp and much more difficult to maintain in this world that comes under the consequences of Adam’s fall and our guilt and sin.  But from the time of the placement of the two trees in the garden, through the giving of the law to His people, and through all His dealings with His people in the Old Testament, God made clear to them that they were to be a people “set apart.”  Their entire worldview was to be distinctive, different from those around them.  It was to be distinctive because the entire perspective of God’s people was to be God-centered.  Life itself is to be found in God’s fellowship, the fellowship of God’s own covenant life.  In that light the people of God would confess with the psalmist, “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee” (Ps. 63:3).  Knowing God in that way is to see that all of life falls under God’s authority.  Every aspect of life is to be carried out in His service and to His glory.  That is the privilege of being numbered with His people! 

    But that fellowship with God and the joy of living to His glory would be possible in only one way.  The Messiah, Jesus Christ, had to come to reconcile unto God those who had been hopelessly separated from Him by the fall.  So God also gave the law as the schoolmaster to bring His people to Christ (Gal. 3:24).  The law made clear to the church of the Old Testament that fellowship with the Holy One could not come by human works.  It could not come by obedience to the law, even though the requirements of the law stood.  The total depravity that consumed man as a consequence of the fall meant that salvation could come only by One, the Messiah, Jesus Christ the Righteous, God become flesh to save His people from their sins. 

    The life of the antithesis, therefore, will be seen only in those who have been made holy in Christ, who have been made new creatures (II Cor. 5:17).  So it was seen throughout the Old Testament that only those who laid hold of the promised Messiah by faith, only those who were the true children of Abraham, brought to expression the life of the antithesis. 

    That was exemplified in the many saints named in Hebrews chapter 11.  For even while they carried out their wide variety of daily callings in faithfulness to God, they “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).  They lived, striving to walk in faithfulness to God according to the law that He had given them.  That law, while pointing them to their need for Christ, also set before them exactly how holiness was to come to expression in every aspect of life.  By the law the Old Testament children of God were taught, not that religion is a separate part of life involving the worship of Jehovah, but that all of life is religious.  They were to testify, “Jehovah, He is God.  He is the Creator.  He is also Lord over all things.”  They were to testify of that truth even in their eating and drinking.  What God spelled out explicitly for His Old Testament church, He would spell out for His Spirit-filled New Testament church this way:  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).   

    The worldview of the Old Testament saints, therefore, not only took into account the instruction of God for their relationships, work, daily callings, moral behavior, civil life, legal matters and economic transactions, and so on.  But their worldview was guided by the promise of God that pointed them to the Messiah.  And through the Messiah God pointed them to the city that has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God (Heb. 11:10).  For that they looked.  For that they longed—even while living as God’s servants in this temporary dwelling place.   m

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (4)

The Reformed Worldview (The Standard Bearer, October 1, 2013)

Rev. Steven Key

Truth and Its Consequences (4)

The History of the Concept Worldview

    The worldview that had been embraced by the Old Testament saints, and that was unfolded in God’s revelation as recorded for us in the Old Testament Scriptures, was brought into a clearer light with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of time.

    The New Testament clearly reveals the church as the continuation and fulfillment of Old Testament Israel, the one body of Jesus Christ, the true seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16, 29).  For that reason the worldview we derive from the New Testament is not new.  Rather, the glorious light of the gospel more clearly reveals the foundational principles already established in the Old Testament. 

    The gospel comes into focus in the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

    It is especially the Epistle to the Hebrews that extols the riches of Christ’s coming and His work as the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament.  By accomplishing salvation for those given Him by the Father (John 10:14-16, 26-29; Eph. 1:3-7) through the one sacrifice of His own body, He prepared for us “a new and living way” (Heb. 10:20). 

    This way is new because it ushers us into the covenant fellowship of God Himself in a way that was closed to God’s people in the Old Testament.  Throughout the Old Testament the testimony to God’s people was that the way into the holiest place was closed.  The veil stood between them and the glory of God’s fellowship in the holy of holies of the temple.  But at the moment salvation was accomplished by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the veil was torn from top to bottom to symbolize that the way into God’s covenant fellowship is now open for all who are in Christ Jesus.[1]

    This is also the living way, as contrasted to the way of the law in the Old Testament, which law was “the ministration of death” or “the ministration of condemnation” (II Cor. 3:7, 9).  For that law established by God through Moses could only serve to show that the way of holiness required by God, the only way into fellowship with God, was closed to our works.  The law only exposed our guilt.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight:  for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).

    During the Old Testament, when—according to Galatians 3:24—the law served as the schoolmaster to lead God’s people to Christ, that law spelled out every detail of life, condemning everyone who failed to perform every single work of the law.  If you failed in one thing, you stood condemned.  And therefore everyone stood condemned!  In that way the law pointed them to their need for Christ, their Messiah, who alone could perform the whole law in perfect obedience to God, and doing so on their behalf would free them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them (Gal. 3:13). 

    “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Rom. 3:21-22a).  The law, therefore, “was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24-25).  The law pointed to the coming Messiah as the realization of God’s covenant, the One who alone could give life to us by reconciling us unto God and establishing us as new creatures, adopted children of our heavenly Father.  In that fellowship with God is life.  In that fellowship with God, as partakers of His covenant life, there is also the understanding of what it is to live in the full assurance of faith. 

    But that also points to the distinct difference from the Old Testament, which Christ ushered in by His fulfillment of the Old Testament law and the prophets.  Colossians 3:14 explains what was involved in that work of Christ by which we have been forgiven and given life in God’s covenant fellowship. 

    He has forgiven us, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” 

    Those ordinances, mind you, were against us!  Ordinances, as such, always are.  They stand as a reminder of our failure by nature to walk in obedience to God.  But from that point of view, ordinances also condemn us.

    You must understand that I speak of those ordinances as understood properly in the light of Scripture.  If you look at the law superficially, as did the Pharisees for example; if you do not penetrate to the spiritual essence of the law, which is our calling to love God, then you might never see any condemnation in the law.  You might even be able to add ordinance upon ordinance and think you are a fine Christian because you obey them all.  Then you deceive yourself, and the truth is not in you. 

    Every one of those ordinances of the Old Testament law, all being bathed in blood as it were, pointed to the fact that every one of us deserved to die because of our failure to obey “all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10).  But Christ has now blotted out the handwriting of those ordinances.  He took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross. 

    Which means that you and I have been acquitted of our guilt and set free—free to serve the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind, in love—love that, as Colossians 3:14 states it, is the bond of perfectness.  And to establish that truth, at the moment Christ accomplished that blotting out of those ordinances, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom, in order that all for whom Christ died might understand that their sins were forgiven and that they were set free from all the burden and yoke of the law. 

    No longer in bondage, we have been given the joy of Christ’s life, the freedom of living in loving fellowship with God, in His covenant!  What astounding treasures are ours in Christ Jesus!

    That brings to the fore a very important truth when it comes to the Reformed worldview in light of New Testament teaching.  Not only is the Christian life to be one of holiness, as was emphasized in the Old Testament.  But the Christian life is to be a matter of living out of biblical principles, guided by loving thankfulness for the life that God has given us in His own fellowship and divine family. 

    The Christian life, therefore, that life that has its focus on Christ, is a life of perfect balance, avoiding the errors that are as prevalent in our day as they were in the lifetime of the apostles. 

    The apostle Paul in particular had often to address in his epistles the errors that were devastating to a biblical worldview. 

    Those errors by which our adversary the devil would constantly attempt to knock us off the balance beam of biblical Christianity or the Reformed faith are legalism on the one hand and on the other hand—what is far more prevalent in the evangelical church world today—a form of antinomianism, with its total disregard of God’s precepts and the antithesis, and with its failure to live in true thankfulness to God and to integrate biblical truth into godly living. 

    It is interesting, however, that in Paul’s experience in the early New Testament church it was not antinomianism that brought the greatest threat to the church, but rather legalism. That legalism came to expression by either an improper application of Old Testament law or the intrusion of new laws and ordinances that had no biblical foundation. 

    While there were those antinomians who lived out in its most vile form the attitude, “Let us sin that grace may abound,” Paul addressed that error in Romans 6:2 when he responded, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  The one who is truly a partaker of Christ cannot live in sin with the attitude, “It doesn’t really matter; God will save me anyway.”  That’s impossible!  The man who doesn’t care how he lives is a man who has not known Christ!  The man who lives in blatant disregard of God’s Word is one who expresses his hatred of God! 

    But what we find in Paul’s epistles is the need to confront the failure to live with a Christ-centered focus, which failure comes to expression in legalism.  That error is addressed especially in the epistles to the churches in Galatia and in Colosse. 

    Legalism would rob us of the riches of Christ’s work and subject us once again not merely to the Old Testament law, but to human additions to that law as well. 

    Among the Colossians, that legalism took the specific form of a compulsory return to the dietary laws of the Old Testament, as well as observance of certain feast days or other special days even added to those days observed in the Old Testament.  Those Old Testament laws had served a good purpose in their time—even though that purpose was often subverted and corrupted by the unbelieving in Israel. 

    But again, those laws were just a shadow.  Christ has come as the fulfillment.  And because He must have the preeminence, He has abolished those ordinances that were against us.  

    Yet there were those in Colosse, as there are those in the church today, who would subject us to the shadows again either by restoring those Old Testament ordinances or by establishing new ordinances without any divine basis or establishment.  They would subject Christ’s bride to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men, thus bringing that glorious bride into slavery. 

    That legalism would rob us of the treasures of Christ by making our religion one of externals and placing the focus on what we do rather than on who we are—children of the kingdom of our Father.   



[1]  The word new in Hebrews 10:20 is from a Greek word, prosphatos, used only once in the Bible, and alludes to Christ’s sacrifice as ushering in this way.  For the word speaks of something freshly killed. 

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (5)

The Reformed Worldview (The Standard Bearer, October 15, 2013)

Rev. Steven Key

Truth and Its Consequences (5)

The History of the Concept Worldview

    In considering the transition from the Old to the New Testament, we have seen the glory that the light of Christ shines upon our way of living as God’s people.

    Having been redeemed by Christ, we have been made children of our heavenly Father, taken into the very fellowship of God Himself, His own covenant life.  With joy we confess with the apostle in I John 3:1, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”

    To live in that covenant relationship with the Holy One, to live as the bride of Christ, is to live in the liberty with which Christ has made us free.  With the perfect law of liberty written in our hearts, we are free to serve God in thankfulness for our relationship to Him and for the treasures that are ours in Christ Jesus. 

    The New Testament, therefore, with its clearer light of revelation, points us to Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament ordinances and inveighs against the children of God being brought into bondage again to the law or to the commandments and doctrines of men. 

    Legalism would rob us of the treasures of Christ by making our religion one of externals and placing the focus on what we do rather than on who we are—children of the kingdom of our Father.

    If we are to lay hold of the Reformed worldview, it is important that we understand this error.

    From a certain point of view, legalism is appealing to us.  If there were not an attractiveness to legalism, this would not be a threat to us, and the Holy Spirit would not have had to give us warning through the inspired apostle.  To our sinful flesh there is a certain appeal in legalism, even a strong attraction—especially when we don’t want to come to grips with our personal spiritual deficiencies and sins.

    To keep the focus on that which cannot be seen, to look to Christ, not only in what we believe but in our life’s practice, is not easy for us who are so earthly-minded.  To put off the old man, to guard our tongues, to live in love one for another, to walk in holiness—those are difficult for us, indeed impossible, when we are not holding to the preeminence of Christ. 

    Much easier it is to make religion a mere outward expression of what we think it ought to be.  Much easier to set the standards as low as following this rule and that rule, than it is to strive after God’s standard of love.

    And so legalism produces a surface religion, with its adherents emphasizing things that have no basis in the Bible or that are not important, while at the same time ignoring the deep things of God, even the proper place of the law in the life of the Christian. 

    Legalism would limit us to a shallow self-righteousness, ignoring such deadly sins as gossiping and coveting, bitterness and hatred, slandering and refusing to forgive.  And, as is evident from Colossians 2:16, legalism breeds a certain judgmental attitude that is not grounded in biblical principle, but is rather a wretched, soul-destroying expression of pride.  Those who don’t abide by those self-determined ordinances of the legalist are judged to be lesser Christians, if they are Christians at all.

    No greater threat is there to joyful Christianity, to peace in the church, to joyful living in covenant fellowship with the God who made us free.  No greater threat is there to the Reformed worldview than that of legalism. 

    To be brought back into bondage, to be held to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men, is to be led into a form of Christianity—and it is only a form—that is without joy, that is oppressive, that will certainly drive the youth of the church away.  God forbid we succumb to such foolishness, as attractive as the devil might make it to our flesh! 

    The reason for guarding the treasures of the Christian faith and soundly rejecting every form of legalism is that we and our children must live in the consciousness of the glory of our Redeemer.  That must guide our life.  The glory of our Redeemer and our life in Him must be the foundation of the Reformed worldview.

    With “the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16) we view all things, including our calling in the midst of this world.  In the light of His Word we bring to expression the mind of Christ, seeking to do the will of our heavenly Father. 

    So we also understand the warning of the apostle against legalism in Colossians 2:20:  “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?” 

    The apostle is not denying the place of God’s ordinances in our lives.  He is rejecting and telling the members of the church in Colosse to reject those ordinances that would bind us “after the commandments and doctrines of men” (v. 22). 

    We love the ordinances that Christ has established.  We yet sing with the psalmist, “O, how love I Thy law.”  That Word of God is the rule for us as we long to express our thankfulness to God for these great treasures that are ours in Christ Jesus.  To walk in the light of the Word, in obedience to the God of our salvation, is our delight as those who love Him with all our heart and soul and mind.  Indeed, that law is written upon our hearts (Heb. 8:10). 

    But Paul sounds a clear warning against those who would make our Christian life one of externals, who would bind us to practices and ordinances that rob us of the joy of living in fellowship with our Redeemer, who would take our minds off the preeminent Christ and His glory.

    Christ alone is the One to whom the entire church owes her spiritual growth. 

    In Christ alone the entire body is supported and held together.

    In Christ alone we have our life, and by His Holy Spirit our sanctification. 

    To live, therefore, with the exalted Christ before our minds is foundational to the Reformed worldview.   

    Apart from Christ, apart from living in the consciousness of the treasures that are ours in Him, our spiritual life will deteriorate, our perspective will be clouded, and our purpose will be corrupted. 

    A church so affected can only disintegrate. 

    In Christ we have been made full.  In Christ we have been given the calling to live to His glory, seeking the things above, and putting all earthly things to the service of that end.  In the fellowship of Christ alone is the fullness of joy (I John 1:4). 

    We can easily fall into legalism and its accompanying self-righteousness, fault-finding, and joylessness.

    We can easily succumb to a proud, elitist spirit that contributes nothing to the welfare of the congregation or Christ’s church. 

    We can easily fall before those errors because the sinfulness of our nature is inclined to such proud rebellion against God. 

    The answer to legalism is the continual focus upon the riches of Christ. 

    Let us understand the profound nature of our salvation. 

    Let us live with our consciences free from the bondage of ordinances that are against us.

    Let us know that in Christ all is ours, and we are God’s—to the glory of His name. 

    Let our gaze as penitent sinners be upon the preeminent Christ, as we look up to Him from the foot of the cross.  In Him is our joy, and the joy of our children. 

    That comes to expression even in our life in the midst of this world. 

            In the words of Colossians 3:1, it comes to expression especially in seeking the things above. 

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (6)

The Reformed Worldview:  Truth and Its Consequences (6)
The Standard Bearer
, January 15, 2014

The History of the Concept Worldview

In considering the light that the New Testament sheds on the concept of the Reformed, that is, Christian, worldview, one of the passages that must be taken into account is Colossians 3:1, 2:  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

    Only in seeking the things above will we also have a proper understanding and perspective when it comes to our calling in this world. 

    The conditional statement “If ye then be risen with Christ” is what grammarians call a condition of fact—something we often find with conditional statements used in Scripture.  The meaning is, “You are risen with Christ,” but the apostle uses a condition of fact to emphasize what follows.  Being risen with Christ and seeking the things above always go hand in hand. 

    So we have in Colossians 3:1 an exhortation, an admonition, to bring to expression who you are—those who are risen with Christ.  Live in that consciousness!  Then you will live out your faith in the proper way.  Then you will teach your children to live out their faith in the proper way—seeking the things above.

    When you look at the first two verses of Colossians 3, you might well ask the question:  “Why even consider the Reformed worldview?”  It might appear that the earthly is not even to be our concern.

    The contrast in verse 2—“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth”—is so sharp that many don’t know what to do with it. 

    Some would downplay the contrast.  Not understanding how to bring this to expression in their own lives, they take the position that Paul doesn’t mean we can’t seek the things of this earth, but rather that we must not seek them excessively.  “Seek the things on earth; but more especially the things above.  Do not let the things of this earth be such an object of focus that you have no time for heavenly things.”

    Such is how some would interpret this text.  But to do so is to make a separation between the things above and the things of this earth.  Not seeing the relationship between the two, they do not understand the relationship of their own salvation to their place in this earthly realm. 

    But the inspired apostle does not say, “Seek the things above more than the things on the earth.”  He says, Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” 

    Others, also failing to understand the relationship between the heavenly life that is ours and the fact that we live on the earth, have taken this text to mean that things earthly are sinful in themselves, and therefore the Christian must separate himself physically, as much as possible, from earthly things.  That can come to the more extreme expression of the strict Amish, who form their own separate communities without electricity, gas-powered equipment, and the like; or that can come to expression in a lesser form by those who would view as sinful the use of a certain product—the computer, for example—that the wicked might use for very evil purposes.  The same error might come to expression by shutting oneself up in a monastery or convent, as if that particular place is holy, or by declaring that a priest cannot marry, because marriage itself detracts from a life of holiness.

    That those interpretations of this text are erroneous is evident from the fact that Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, explicitly condemns the same, concluding in I Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  Even in the last part of Colossians, chapter 2, the apostle warned the Colossians not to pay attention to those who came with their own ordinances, “Touch not; taste not; handle not.” 

    So the question remains:  How then are we to interpret this sharp contrast between the things above and the things on earth? 

    To answer that question we have to remember the way God created all things. 

    At the beginning there was no such contrast between the things above and the things below.  All earthly things were created good.  John was even given to express in Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  Nothing, therefore, has to be avoided as evil in itself. 

    In the midst of that good creation of earthly things God placed Adam.  Adam, being made out of the dust of the ground and formed body and soul with a physical and spiritual aspect to his life, was given by God the calling to exercise dominion over all earthly things.  He stood in royal majesty over all that God had made, ruling and using all things to the glory of God.  Adam knew God also in the things that God had made.  That was man’s blessing!

    But sin came and destroyed this healthy relationship between the things above and the things on earth.

    It is not that those good things that God created became sinful.  It is not that they lost their sacred nature and that they are no longer pleasurable to God—to use the language of Revelation 4:11. 

    But rather man turned his mind away from God and forsook his calling to rule over and to use all things earthly to God’s glory.  He no longer sought the things of this earth for God’s sake.  He no longer consecrated those things to God’s glory. 

    With his mind turned away from God, fallen man would use everything to serve self.  And so he broke the God-given relationship between the things above and the things on the earth.  Those good gifts of God (whether material things such as silver and gold, iron and brass, or the things formed out of the good things of God’s creation as expressions of man’s mind, like the buildings made by man, instruments of music, and, much later, the automobile, the computer, and so on—many things that are not themselves sinful) these all have been embraced by man for his own possession and enjoyment, and in some cases to use in wickedness. 

    So the things earthly have been abused and seized for an entirely different perspective and purpose than that which God ordained and to which He called man. 

    To seek the things above, therefore, has to do with a proper perspective of the Christian life.

    The things above are all defined by what it means that Christ sits at God’s right hand.  The things above all are defined by the victory that is ours in the risen Savior. 

    Christ arose, not just from the grave, but from the earth, in His ascension.  And in doing so, the Scriptures tell us (Eph. 4:8 as quoting Ps. 68), “He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

    Victorious over sin and death, the devil and his hosts, Christ seized us as His own! 

    Having redeemed us, He led us into the treasure house of all those spiritual and heavenly blessings that are His, and that He now bestows upon us by His Holy Spirit.  Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption are ours in Him—never apart from Him.  Fellowship with God in the covenant communion of His rich life and love is ours as those risen with Christ!  His love has been shed abroad in our hearts! 

    And therefore, with the source of our life now in heaven, our whole perspective of the things of this earth has changed. 

    The things above and the things of this earth are not to be separated, but rather united in such a way that the things of this earth are totally dedicated to the things above, and more particularly to Him who has reconciled all things unto Himself (Col. 1:20).  The unity of the things earthly and the things heavenly has been restored in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

    He who became flesh and dwelt among us became the last Adam.  He came as the Head of the covenant, the covenant that not only embraces the elect race, but the whole creation.  The world that God loves, the entire cosmos with the elect church at its core, must be saved.  That is the reason, according to John 3:17, for which God sent His Son into the world.  So Romans 8:21 tells us that “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  

    Which means, then, that with our minds set on things above, we must rule the things on earth as the stewards that God has made us, in the callings that God has given us. 

    Our perspective of earthly things must be entirely controlled by our seeking the things above.

    In our home life, in our marriages and child-rearing and the exercise of our calling as husbands or our calling as wives; in our life as an individual at work; in the handling of our finances; in our various relationships; in our use of the things of this creation—our entire perspective must be controlled by that focus on the things above. 

    That is possible only by being in Christ, risen with Him who sits at God’s right hand.  Through His Spirit He has delivered us from sin and death, which would not only bind us to things earthly, but would also use those earthly things to consume us.  In Christ we are given to see Him who came to establish the new heavens and the new earth, where all are united perfectly.  It is to that heavenly perspective that we are called as those who are “risen with Christ.” 

    To seek the things above, therefore, is to live, first of all, in the recognition of the spiritual tension within our own lives personally.  There is no escape from that spiritual tension.  Given the sinfulness of our natures, the devil and the world aggressively pressure us, attempting to remove from us a biblical, spiritual perspective.  So we are naturally inclined to find our pleasures, our standards, our goals, our mind-set, our opinions, formed by an earthly perspective. 

    The things of this earth are very much alive in our way of thinking. 

    The world in the bondage of sin cannot stand it when someone thinks contrary to its accepted opinions.  The world will not view things spiritually through the teachings of the Word of God. 

    The world would have me believe that “it’s all about me.”  And so that temptation is always before us—and it takes only a mild pressure for us in weakness to conform—to think that what counts is what we have in our bank account, and what we have in our closets, and what we have in our garages, and what we have in our houses and property, and what pleasures we can find to consume our time. 

    But God says that what counts is those things that are above.  What counts is the treasure you have in heaven.  What counts is the hidden beauty of the heart, and the wisdom that seeks to look at all things in the light of the Word and that knows how to subject us and all things to the glory of God. 

    God would have us realize that what counts is that we live in the consciousness of belonging to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. 

    What counts is that we receive all earthly things as His good gifts and use them as our servants on the pathway to heaven.  That is what it means, to use the language of verse 2, to “set your affection on things above.”  It is to form your mind around the things above, to fix your thoughts on that which is heavenly, established by the Word of God, and not things on the earth. 

    This seeking is the positive expression of being risen with Christ.  The new life of Christ in us now defines who we are and how we live! 

    Then in Colossians 3:3 the apostle makes that profound statement that is on a par with that which we read in II Peter 1:4, where the inspired apostle speaks of our being “partakers of the divine nature.”  Here Paul says, “your life is hid with Christ in God.” 

    God has taken you into the fellowship of His own life!  He has taken you into the covenant fellowship of His own triune Being! 

            That is the essence of all true religion, the heart of the Christian life.  To know that your life is hid with Christ in God, to live in the consciousness of that union with the risen Christ, is the fountain of all godliness, the fountain of wisdom and therefore of a proper spiritual perspective as guided by God’s Word.  

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (7)

The Reformed Worldview:  Truth and Its Consequences (7)
The Standard Bearer, March 1, 2014

The History of the Concept Worldview

While considering the New Testament perspective of the Christian life, we have seen that this new life that is ours in Christ Jesus is the foundation for a life of thankfulness to God.  That underlies our entire perspective as Christians in relationship to this world. 

    To belong to Jesus Christ is not merely to look to Him as our example.  It is to live in a covenant union with Him, being in Him.  The expression “in Christ” or “in Him” is in fact the most succinct definition of being a Christian.  He is the Vine; we are the branches (John 15:1-5).  He is the Head; we are the body and members of the body (Eph. 4:15-16; I Cor. 12:12-27). 

    The New Testament, therefore, reveals our Christian life in this world not as a matter of fulfilling laws, let alone accomplishing great things on God’s behalf or bringing the world into subjection to Him, but as a vibrant expression of our Christianity, our life in Christ.  It is the life of Christ that comes to expression in us also when it comes to the Reformed worldview. 

    That means, for one thing, that we know Christ as He reveals Himself in Holy Scripture (John 17:3).  It is impossible to have a Reformed worldview, a biblically-grounded worldview, if we do not know Christ in truth. 

    That also means that the Reformed worldview recognizes with gratitude the exalted Christ’s Lordship.  “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool” (Heb. 10:12-13). 

    Philippians 2:9-11 expresses it this way:  “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

    Our worldview is governed by the fact that Christ is Lord over us in every aspect of life.  As Reformed believers we confess in the first Lord’s Day of our Heidelberg Catechism that even our bodies belong to our Lord and Savior.  He has a power over us, even a right to our bodies and souls, that no one else has.  He owns us!  He owns us whom He has redeemed with His precious blood. 

    Moreover, all power has been given Him for the sake of His church.  To Christ alone belongs all dominion.  That is why Scripture refers to Him as Lord of lords and King of kings.  He rules over all the world. 

    The manner in which He rules over all things must be carefully distinguished according to Scripture.  Christ rules over His church in His grace and by His Word and Spirit.  By that grace Christ writes His law in the inmost hearts of His people, so that it becomes their delight to do His will. 

    But He rules also over the whole world by the power of His might, accomplishing His purpose in all things.  As we are told in Ephesians 1:22, all things are subjected under His feet, for the sake of the church.

    There are some astounding examples of this in Scripture. 

    One of those examples is Pharaoh, of whom God said, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared through all the earth” (Rom. 9:17).

    Another example of God ruling the world by the power of His providential government is found in His raising up Cyrus, king of Persia, for the explicit purpose of issuing the decree for the children of Israel to return to the promised land from their Babylonian captivity.  We read in Ezra 1:1, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom....”  That proclamation was the decree that the children of Israel return to the promised land to rebuild the house of God.  What is even more amazing is the fact that Scripture tells us that Cyrus issued that decree without knowing Jehovah, that is, without knowing Him with the knowledge of true faith.  History confirms that this action of Cyrus was done out of political expediency. 

    These are but two examples confirming the truth of Proverbs 21:1:  “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water:  he turneth it whithersoever he will.” 

    So God rules over all things by His exalted Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Everything, therefore, must focus upon Jesus Christ.  Everything in our lives as Christians must flow from gratitude for the riches that are ours in Him.  Our entire walk, our direction in life, all the decisions we make as we stand before the various choices in life, are to be made according to the dictates and will of Him who is higher than we. 

    There are profound implications with this truth. 

    For one thing, our worldview is governed by the truth that Christ is Lord alone.  We do not look to derive benefits from all different religions and to apply them to our daily lives.  True Christianity is not one religion among many.  We do not recognize the legitimacy of Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam or Judaism as religions on equal footings with Christianity.  We refuse to give legitimacy even to those sects that call themselves Christian, but that deny the unique lordship of Jesus Christ, the only true God.  Christ alone is Lord! 

    This confession came to expression in the early New Testament church. 

    Satan himself, recognizing the significance of this confession of Christ’s exclusive lordship, intensified his attacks upon the church in the attempt to destroy that confession.  Many Christians in the early church were placed before the choice of saying, “Jesus is Lord; but Caesar also is Lord,” or being executed.  Satan does not want an exclusive Christianity.  A worldview with that foundational principle he would fight against!  He strives to bring about a false Christianity, one not only destructive to a Reformed worldview, but one that is anti-Christ.

    So children of God were told, “You may confess that Jesus is Lord, so long as you also confess that Caesar is Lord.”  Their refusal to make that compromise meant for some of them that they were burned at the stake, for others that they were thrown to the lions, for others that they were roasted alive in burning oil. 

    By faith they walked the way of death, rather than deny the unique and only lordship, which belongs to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. 

    Talk about a worldview with conviction! 

    Another implication of this truth of Christ’s lordship is that, when we call Jesus Christ our Lord, we are not talking about Him being a lord for one day of the week, or part of that one day. 

    The Reformed worldview insists that the lordship of Christ presses upon every aspect of our lives, bringing us into willing subjection to the Lord of glory.  He who owns us also lives in us!  He rules over us—not by force, but by the impelling power of His love.  His is a rule of grace in us who belong to Him. 

    For that reason His lordship embraces us in our marriages and in our families, at home and in the workplace, at church and in the schools, with all our life and all our possessions. 

            When we live in the consciousness of Christ’s lordship, it is our earnest desire and endeavor to obey His precepts and to seek out His will in every aspect of our lives.  

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (8): The History of the Concept Worldview

This article first appeared in the July 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer (Vol.91, #18).

We last saw that the Reformed worldview is one that has us living in willing subjection to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He who has purchased us with His precious blood also owns us body and soul. There is not an aspect of our lives that falls outside the scope of His Lordship.

But it is His work of grace in our hearts that brings us into willing subjection to Him. The Lord of glory who owns us also lives in us! He rules over us—not by force, but by the impelling power of His love as His Holy Spirit sheds that love abroad in our hearts. Christ’s rule, therefore, is a rule of grace in us who are His.

That life of Christ in us brings a profound change. The power of the gospel in the hearts of God’s people brought such profound change that Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

By “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6), the perspective of the children of God is changed in every respect. Their worldview is completely changed under the influence of the gospel of their salvation in Christ Jesus. Their understanding of God has changed. Their view of themselves has radically changed, as has their view of the world and their own relationship to the world. To use the language of Acts 19:20, the Word of God will be seen prevailing over the thoughts that once had governed us and the behavior that characterized our lives apart from the gospel.

This is seen in several specific examples in the New Testament.

To confine ourselves to just three examples of this new worldview formed by the Spirit’s work in those who are united to Christ, we give our attention to the church at Ephesus, and the power of the gospel as it took root under the blessing of the Spirit of Christ through the preaching of the apostle Paul.

Two such examples are found in Acts 19.

Ephesus was a prominent city in the Roman Empire, the most important city in the province of Asia, and was located on the western shore of Asia Minor, what today is the country of Turkey.

Ephesus was a large commercial center for that entire region and, as becomes evident in Acts 19, a city well-known for its worship of the goddess Diana. Diana was her Roman name, known among the Greeks as the goddess Artemis. Her worship had gone on for centuries, and a spectacular temple had been built in Ephesus for the worship of Diana, a temple noted as one of the seven wonders of the world at that time.

If Islam is the dominant idolatry in that part of the world today, the worship of Diana was in the days of Paul. While the idolatry of Artemis or Diana was widespread throughout the Greek and then the Roman world, Ephesus was the noted center of that worship. I use the term worship in the broad sense of the word. The worship of Diana was worship, the form of which also contributed widely to the economic life of the region, and which was woven into the political and cultural identity of the city of Ephesus.

We might have difficulty understanding the influence of this idolatry if we confine ourselves to the thoughts of a stone idol and its associated images and temple worship. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Singapore and other parts of Asia would have a better understanding of this, because they are surrounded yet with this same type of idolatry.

But idolatry takes on many forms. If we, for example, just wrap our minds around the idolatry of entertainment in our culture, along with the worship of pleasure, and the far-reaching economics involved with the entertainment industry, including professional and even certain collegiate sports, then we might better understand how Paul’s labors fit into that culture.

When Paul came to Ephesus, he had to expect very difficult labors, as he had found elsewhere, including Philippi, where he and Silas had been imprisoned, as well as in the cities he visited after Philippi, being driven from every one of them by those who would kill them. But so precious was the gospel to Paul, such a treasure did he find it, that he would press on in his calling to preach that gospel.

Upon arriving at Ephesus, the apostle found a few believers, twelve men, and began with them, teaching them the fullness of the gospel in a way that they had not yet heard.

But Paul did not stop with them. He went to the synagogue, to those who in the history of their generations had been entrusted with the Word of God. There also he proclaimed, as he stated in Acts 20:27, “all the counsel of God” (emphasis added). Which is to say, Paul unfolded to them Jesus Christ as the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes.

We are reminded also in Acts 19 that the preaching of the gospel always has a twofold effect.

Our focus is on the positive effect that salvation has upon the Christian’s entire perspective and life. But it is impossible to overlook the fact that the same power of the Word of God brings confusion and confirms the rejection of those who are enemies of the gospel. According to the sovereign determination of God that gospel not only saves, but also hardens (II Cor. 2:15-17).

Verse 9 of Acts 19 gives expression to a truth revealed in a number of passages throughout Scripture, when it says that “divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way.” That term “way” refers to the way of the Lord, the gospel that Paul preached, namely, Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. When those who rejected that gospel spoke evil of that “way,” they spoke evil also of those who followed that “way.”

Noteworthy is the fact that this was the response from the Jews, the natural children of Abraham.

The apostle was preaching in the synagogue. He was preaching to those who were familiar with the Scriptures, and yet who were in bondage to the law. Having failed to see the wonder to which the law pointed, that of salvation in Jesus Christ alone by grace alone, the Jews clung to their own corrupted view of religion, a view focused on an earthly perspective of the kingdom and that, being man-centered and legalistic, fueled the pride of the human heart.

Whereas their own religion enabled them readily to overlook the issues of the heart and the summary of the law taught by Jesus, thereby giving them ample opportunity to look down upon others and to think of themselves quite highly because they were religious, these people had no need nor desire to look to Christ as their only salvation, let alone to listen to the apostle point to Him as Lord over our whole life. Too proud to be taught, they stood in their opinions, showing themselves as hard-hearted and as hard-headed as their fathers before them, who had killed the prophets.

They proved that by their reaction to the apostle’s preaching. They began to find fault with that preaching. They criticized the apostle’s doctrine, his approach to the Scriptures, his pointing to Christ as the fulfillment of the law. They criticized those who followed that “way.” To use the language of the text, they spoke evil, spreading their pernicious opposition to Christ, until God Himself removed that gospel from them.

But the opposition that Paul faced came not just from the Jews. Among the Gentiles in Ephesus Paul would find the same opposition that he had found in Philippi and many other cities he visited.

These things indicate that God will have our Christian worldview come to expression against the background and in the face of opposition and even persecution, both from within the instituted church and from the unchurched—a truth demonstrated repeatedly in the book of Acts.

But the power of that Word of God, the Word preached by the apostle, was also the power of God unto salvation in all those who believed.

Those who believed followed the apostle as he left his labors at the synagogue and began setting forth the Word of truth among the Gentiles.

Paul found an opportunity to teach daily in a lecture hall of a man named Tyrannus. We learn that part of the day Paul would work in the tent-making trade to support himself, and part of the day he would open the Scriptures to teach (Acts 20:34; Acts 18:3). This went on for about two years, verse 10 tells us. But the power of that Word unto salvation is seen in the rest of what verse 10 reveals: “And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”

In this center of idolatry and magic, in this prominent world trade center, the fame of Paul’s miracles and the Word that he preached spread far and wide. Not only tradesmen who traveled to Ephesus, but also those who came to the city to pay homage to their goddess Diana, were intrigued by the reports concerning this man, and were led by God to him, that they might hear the gospel which Paul unashamedly proclaimed.

We do well to remember that the signs and wonders given the apostles were given them by Christ exactly for the purpose of confirming the divine authority of the Word that they preached, a fact stated explicitly in Mark 16:20 and confirmed in Hebrews 2:1-4. Then we understand that the emphasis in the labors of the apostles was always on the Word preached and on the power of that gospel unto salvation by the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus Acts 19:20 testifies, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Christ was at work by His Spirit, and that through the Word of His gospel.

Acts 19:19, therefore, records an event that testifies of the power of the Word of God, not only as it works faith, but also as it brings to expression the life of Christ in those who are His.

A new perspective, a new worldview, marks those who are new creatures in Christ. So verse 19 records, “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

That we have here evidence of true conversion is demonstrated in verse 18. The faith worked in them by the Word of God brought the conviction of sin to their hearts. They were given to see the nature of the sin in which they had been involved—it was idolatry. They saw it as the offense against God that it was. They knew that the kingdom of God was closed to any ensnared in idolatry, and that the only salvation was through the Christ whom Paul preached. The Lord Jesus, sent from God to pay the price for the guilt and sins of His people, the Lord Jesus who now was victorious, exalted at God’s right hand, working powerfully by His Holy Spirit through the Word, even as confirmed by the signs and wonders they had seen.

Thus, we read, they “came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.” Willingly, in heartfelt repentance, they proved the honesty of their sorrow of heart by confessing their sins. They acknowledged the folly to which they had given themselves. They grieved their wickedness and devoted themselves to renouncing it forever.

But their repentance was not mere words. They took all the instruments of their sin, the books in which they had invested great sums of money and time, and made a bonfire out of them. The text tells us that this was an act of great cost. “Fifty thousand pieces of silver” was the value of those books. No matter how you count that silver, whether the Roman denarius or the Jewish shekel, it amounted to thousands of dollars’ worth of books going up in flames.

Added to the price of the books was the cost of their reputation in the eyes of their neighbors. After all, “magic and sorcery, witchcraft and superstition, charms and incantations, ‘portents’ and the interpretation of dreams were deeply woven into the tissue of Roman life.”1 These new Christians, by their actions, were marking themselves in the eyes of their peers as lunatics, crazy extremists.

But that cost was little in their eyes compared to the price that Jesus paid for them.

Consider the testimony that these actions gave in that city where so much value was given to magic and superstition and the worship of Diana.

“What are you doing? Those books are valuable!”

“No, they’re not valuable to us anymore. We have seen the folly of them. We now belong to Him who alone has power over death, and who alone holds the future in His hands. His name is Jesus. Let us tell you about Him.”

The importance of this Word of God for us is found in the effects that the gospel of salvation has in the lives of those who are saved.


1 Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1972, 388.

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The Reformed Worldview: Truth and Its Consequences (9): The History of the Concept Worldview

This article first appeared in the August 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer  (Vol.91, #19).

While the book burning of Acts 19:19 gives one example of how the gospel changed the perspective and worldview of the newly saved saints in Ephesus, there is a second example found in that same chapter.

These examples show that the exclusive nature of Christianity can be observed in the lives of God’s people. It is observed especially in their rejection of the idolatry prevalent in their culture.

Having seen that Ephesus was a known center for the worship of Diana, and that the worship of Diana had great economic as well as cultural influence in that city, we find in verses 23 and following of Acts 19 that the effects of the gospel in the lives of those whom God had called out of darkness were readily seen in Ephesus. Those effects were cultural. They were felt among the unbelieving in that city.

Those effects were observed not in some great efforts by the church to redeem society or to press some sort of positive cultural influence upon the city. Rather, those effects were observed simply in the way the gospel itself and the power of God’s grace in saving His people brought a change in their lives. The perspective of God’s people—the way they thought, the way they lived, the way they spent their money—was powerfully affected by their new Christian faith. It was affected in such a way that the life of Christ in them, evidenced by true repentance, could not be hidden from their neighbors.

Especially notable in Ephesus was that these new Christians put away all expressions of their past idolatrous practices. That included everything associated with their former worship of Diana, as well as their superstitions and practice of magic.

This sudden break from all their former idolatrous worship practices, this refusal to spend money on those things that previously had marked a significant part of their expenditures, had a detrimental effect economically in the city of Ephesus. This new Christian worldview brought about a decline in business in Ephesus. It was not a widespread economic decline brought about by these new believers, but a decline in business activity associated with the idolatry of Diana, the goddess of the Ephesians.

That is explained in Acts 19:24-27.

For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

Demetrius and various craftsmen and workmen, all involved in different ways supplying the market with images and other instruments of their idolatrous worship, were not barely eking out an existence in their trade. They had become wealthy, literally, were living in euphoria. They could not ask for more!

But now the effects of Christianity were destroying their wealth.

That was the result of the gospel and its power unto salvation in those who believed. The gospel works repentance, a change of the mind as well as of the actions.

We have to realize that the gospel is just as powerful in our day as it was in the days of the apostle. When the Holy Spirit works by that Word in our hearts, when He seals to us that gospel of our salvation, the result in our own lives will be one of heartfelt sorrow for our sins and humble repentance toward God. When the Holy Spirit works in us as He did in Ephesus, then we no longer cling to our idols. We no longer say, “But just a few of those books, Lord; just a few remnants of my idols. I’ll give up most; but if I hold on to a few, then they’re not really idols, are they?”

Sin is powerful. Idols promise us much, even when they deliver nothing.

The man who has to struggle against the sin of drunkenness, who is inclined to drinking to excess, or the man who clings to his addiction to pornography, might like to tell himself, “Just a little, Lord.” But in doing so, he clings to his idol.

The joy of salvation, the power of new life in Christ, is the only power that can break that bondage.

If an intelligent young woman, having been persuaded by her smooth-talking college professors of opinions contrary to the Word of God, or having been brought up in a non-Christian home and taught to tolerate all people and behaviors, comes under the power of the gospel, she does not continue to cleave to unbiblical opinions and teachings. She renounces them as foolishness and brings her mind into subjection to the will of God.

If a young man has been ensnared in the idolatry of pleasure-seeking, and in self-love has been rebellious to his parents, it does not matter how powerfully those sins have held him and how long he has been addicted to them, the power of the gospel will break that bondage and bring a change that no man can explain.

It is the power of God that alone breaks the hard heart and softens the stubborn will. When the gospel does its work, which is to say, when the Holy Spirit does His work by that Word, then the effect in our hearts is this: No matter what it may cost us, we will rest content with nothing in our lives that grieves the Holy Spirit.

It is that new life that marks a child of God as different, even a pilgrim and stranger in the world.

It is the power of the gospel in the lives of the children of God that presses upon unbelievers in ways that we often do not even realize, sometimes making them extremely uncomfortable, sometimes making them angry, but sometimes also compelling them to ask of us the reason for the hope that lives within us.

So the Christian worldview is not one that sets out to change the world. The Christian worldview is an expression of the Christian life, lived by a child of God to the glory of his or her Redeemer. It is an expression of the life of Christ in us, and therefore a life set apart.

The apostle Paul would later shed light upon these events recorded in Acts 19 and the effects of gospel preaching, when he testified of what was seen among the saints in Thessalonica. They also were converts to the Christian faith.

We are told in the first chapter of I Thessalonians that the apostle observed in the church at Thessalonica something that thrilled his soul. He observed among those who had been saved a clear evidence of the power of the gospel in their lives.

He does not unfold in any detail how those effects were seen. In fact, Paul speaks in very little depth how the Christian life is to come to expression. But what he observed, with heartfelt thanks to God, was their “work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).

Concerning those effects Paul points to the One who alone deserves our praise, when he says in verse 5, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.”

So powerfully did the Spirit work in them by that gos pel, that Paul said, “ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.”

He returns to this thought in the next chapter, when he says in I Thessalonians 2:13, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”

The Word is the power of God unto salvation.

The Holy Spirit, by that Word, works in us the radical change necessary to live in fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit, by that gospel, brings us to true conversion, moving us to godly repentance, including the complete putting away of our idolatries.

He does that, as He did in Ephesus, by opening our eyes to the exceeding sinfulness of our sins, by pointing us to the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, and by filling our hearts with the desire to live in wholehearted devotion to the God of our salvation.

But while the two examples just considered were rather isolated incidents, the new worldview ushered in by the gospel had a profound and far-reaching affect in marriage and family life.

... to be continued.

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