Vol. 73; No. 6; December 15, 1996
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Meditation: Herman Hoeksema
Editorial - Prof. David J. Engelsma
In His Fear - Rev. Arie denHartog
Go Ye Into All the World - Rev. Allen J Brummel
Search the Scriptures - Rev. Mitchell C. Dick
Bring the Books
Taking Heed to the Doctrine - Rev. Steven R. Key
Day of Shadows - Homer C. Hoeksema
News From Our Churches - Mr. Benjamin Wigger
We publish an excerpt from a defense of God's eternal decree of election and reprobation by John Calvin. The defense was originally written in the late 1550s. It was published in English translation in 1579 as an appendix to a series of sermons by Calvin on predestination. The book was never again reprinted until this year, when Old Paths Publications published it in an unabridged, but modernized edition. The excerpt is taken from this new edition of Sermons on Election & Reprobation by John Calvin.
Except for the scholars who have access to Calvin's works in the original languages and the rare person living near a library that contains the 1579 work, no one has been able to read this defense. Indeed, few even know about it.
For all practical purposes, it is now available for the first time.
There are interesting references to "Chastalio" (Castellio), Beza, and Melanchthon.
This defense of predestination by the Reformer himself, although brief, is powerful. The excerpt is long enough to show its power.
It exposes the attacks in our day by professedly Reformed theologians upon confessional "double predestination" as the very same as those made against Calvin's doctrine by its avowed enemies.
The defense also reveals with stark clarity that the arguments put forward today in supposedly Calvinistic circles on behalf of the "well-meant gospel offer" are exactly the same arguments that were raised in Calvin's day against Calvin's doctrine of predestination.
There is an explanation.
Arguments for the "well-meant offer" are arguments against predestination.
Read, no doubt for the first time, "An Answer to certain slanders," in "Bring the Books."
(Herman Hoeksema was the first editor of the Standard Bearer.)
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Rom. 1:18
My text is intended to be an added reason for the statement of the apostle in verse 16. There the apostle says: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I am not ashamed to preach it, to represent it, to preach it wherever the Lord sends me, even in Rome."
The first reason for this statement, the apostle gives in verses 16, 17: "for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed." Therefore, he is not ashamed of it. No one needs to be ashamed of a power that accomplishes such an effect. The gospel is no philosophy. It is not a human word. But it is a power.
The other reason why the apostle is not ashamed to preach the gospel is expressed in my text. It might be that, although the gospel is such a power, men have no need of it. It might be that, although the gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God which is by faith, men are not in need of that righteousness. But the apostle in the text tells us the opposite.
Men need that righteousness, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, that is, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.
In order not to be ashamed of a thing that we represent, three things are necessary. In the first place, the thing must do what it is supposed to do; it must do what we claim it will do. In the second place, the thing that we represent must actually be needed. In the third place, that particular thing which we represent must not only be needed, but must also be unexcelled, so that nothing can take its place. This, the apostle means to say in the context. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it serves its purpose; it is an efficacious power. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is needed, the world being full of unrighteousness. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is unexcelled. No human wisdom has ever effected what the gospel effects."
For the wrath of God is still revealed from heaven.
In this light we must look at the text. The text in itself is negative. The purpose of the text lies not in itself. The purpose of the text lies in the gospel. The purpose of the text is to show that our need lies in the gospel and to create the feeling that we need the righteousness of that gospel.
The wrath of God is emphatically the wrath of God. That wrath of God is revealed, the apostle says. God's wrath is the constant reaction of His holiness against all that refuses to seek and acknowledge Him as the highest good. It becomes active in the will and the power to curse. That is God's wrath.
God is holy. God's holiness is probably His most distinct divine attribute. When Scripture says that God is holy, it sometimes means almost the same thing as that God is God. God's holiness not only means that He is separated from all sin and corruption and unrighteousness, but it also means that He is separated from all creatures. God's holiness is that virtue in God by which He is entirely other from any creature. The distinctive virtue of God by which He is entirely other from the creature is this, that God is always motivated by the will to seek Himself. God is always motivated by the will to seek Himself because He is the highest good. Because God is the highest good He must seek Himself. What is sin in us, namely, to seek ourselves, is virtue in God. God has His purpose in Himself in all that He wills and does. That is God's active holiness.
In the second place, because of that fact His holiness reveals itself in a twofold way according as it comes into contact with different objects. God's holiness is mercy when it comes into contact with them that seek Him. That is the action of that holiness. That same holiness becomes wrath, that is, divine displeasure, the will to curse, unto them who refuse to seek and acknowledge Him. This is the meaning of the apostle when he says that the wrath of God is revealed. The divine anger, the divine displeasure, the will to curse, is revealed.
We must be careful when we speak of the wrath of God that we have in mind the wrath of God. The wrath of God is not like the wrath of man. The wrath of God is not a sudden, passing passion. God does not flare up in anger. God's wrath is constant. It never changes. It does not increase or decrease. God's wrath is not a sudden passion, which soon passes and for which He is then sorry. No, God's wrath is constant. It is as constant as His holiness.
In the second place, this wrath of God has all the attributes of the divine being. It is the wrath of God. This means that it is omnipresent. It is everywhere. God is everywhere. God touches you; He besets you; He pursues you; He surrounds you. God is omnipresent. So also is God's wrath.
In the third place, the wrath of God is absolutely efficacious. That is, it cannot be resisted. It does what it wills. And it wills to curse. Therefore, if we would understand the reality of the text, we must understand that the apostle means to say that there is in this world, in this night of darkness in which we live, an operation of the wrath of God in everything. There is an operation of the wrath of God around you and within you. There is in this world a divine "no" to the sin of man. God says "no" always, constantly, eternally, in the world, everywhere. God says "no" to the sin of man. That God says "no" does not mean that He forbids it. When God speaks there is power in that "no." There is power in that "no" to curse. That "no" does curse, and from it there is no escape.
This "no" is constantly provoked by what men do in the world. The apostle speaks reality. He is speaking of the world. He is speaking of the world as it really is. He is speaking of the cultured, the civilized world. He is not speaking of men in the wilds of Africa. He is speaking of Rome. He is speaking of men who stood at the pinnacle of culture. He is not ashamed to preach the gospel at Rome, for there the wrath of God is revealed. This wrath is revealed today, as it was then. I know, men also hold this truth down in unrighteousness. But the apostle says that there is an actual operation of wrath in the world, because the world provokes it. By what? The apostle says: by ungodliness, unrighteousness, and the wicked attempt to hold down the truth in unrighteousness. The apostle does not mean to say that this wrath is revealed wherever there is unrighteousness and ungodliness and wherever the truth is held down in unrighteousness. Rather, the apostle means that all men hold the truth down in unrighteousness. Men of learning, philosophers, men of culture, men for whom you take off your hat, all men in every station of life hold down the truth in unrighteousness. This is the reality of the world. By this reality it provokes from heaven God's "no."
What is this provocation? Ungodliness, the apostle says. Ungodliness is the opposite of the fear of God. The fear of God, springing from the love of God, is godliness. If you love God - not a god, not a god that is nice and loving, not a god for whom you can do something, for whom you can work, to whom you can give a dollar in the collection plate. That God is just as much an idol as the heathen gods of wood and stone in Paul's day. That is not God. No, but God! If you know who God is, the wholly other, whom you must always fear, whom you must always love, whom you must always obey, whose will you must always do, whose honor you must always seek, and if then you love Him in reverent fear, then there is godliness in the heart.
Ungodliness is just the opposite. Ungodliness is that you do not love Him, do not fear Him, do not care about Him, never reckon with Him, and act as if He never was there. Ungodliness does not mean that you curse and swear. That is hardly decent. But ungodliness is that God is not in all your thoughts. Ungodliness is that you breathe His air, eat His bread, drink His water, and partake of His bounties, and never say, "Thank you." That is ungodliness. Ungodly also is modern philosophy (I mean philosophy that throws God away for the pleasure of saying that it cannot find Him). Philosophy is ungodliness.
In the second place, the apostle says that it is unrighteousness that provokes God's wrath. Unrighteousness follows from ungodliness. Unrighteousness in the heart and in the walk is to be contrary to the will of God. Not to will what God wills, that is unrighteousness. The apostle means to say that the whole world is characterized by this ungodliness and unrighteousness. No matter how cultured, how refined, how civilized that world may be, the natural man is ungodly and unrighteous. This is exactly what you and I are by nature. And over against this ungodliness and unrighteousness is God's terrible "no." It pursues you; it curses you; it drags you down; and you cannot escape it.
Why do men do this?
Why do men provoke the wrath of God, so that it pursues them and curses them at every step?
Do they not know?
Yes, the apostle says in the third description which he gives of the world, they hold down the truth in unrighteousness. This is an ethical principle. This is the dominating principle in the life of natural man: he holds down the truth in unrighteousness. Not a truth. Men seek after truth, as, for example, the truth that two times two is four. But the truth, they hold down in unrighteousness.
What is the truth? The truth is God. The revelation of God, God as He is, God in His righteousness, in His holiness, in all His divine perfections, this truth, the apostle says, men know. This is what he says in the following verses. Men know this truth. That is why they say that there is no God. That is why we have atheists. Atheism is not ignorance. Do not be deceived by what people call a difference of opinion, or an honest error, when it comes to the truth. When it comes to the truth of God, men hold this truth down; they suppress it in unrighteousness.
What does this mean? It means that men want to live in unrighteousness. They love unrighteousness and hate righteousness. Now comes the truth. As the apostle explains in the following verses "that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them. They know God." When this truth comes to men, whether they be white, black, yellow, or brown, whether this truth comes to them from creation or from Scripture, or when it comes to them in the very body of His Son, they say, "There is no God." Why? Because they hold down the truth in unrighteousness. And if the truth persists, as it persisted in Christ, they crucify Him. That is the world. That is you and I.
Do not say, "Yes, but there is common grace." There is no common grace. Do not try to light an oil lamp in our night. Our night is just as dark as the night in which Paul preached. Do not try to fix it up. Do not say, "I don't agree with you." That is not the question. It is the Word of God. The Word of God tells us that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness. There is no outlet. You cannot change it.
In this night the wrath of God is revealed. The apostle says that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. We cannot see Him. If we could see God as the text pictures Him, the world would not have the peace that it seemingly has. But God is in heaven. We cannot see Him. But He frowns from heaven. We cannot see Him. He is in heaven. That is, His face is in heaven. But the apostle means to say that in the world this wrath of God, this "no" of God, this will to curse is revealed. This does not mean that God tells the world about it. But it means that this wrath is operating. It is plainly visible. We can plainly see God's anger. We can see it in its operation. It is plainly evident that God curses. It is revealed everywhere that God curses. Curses what? Sin? No, men! Men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
This is evident in many things. The apostle in the following verses merely points to the general line in which this wrath is revealed. The apostle draws this line. The wrath of God takes hold of man and forces him, giving him over from corruption to corruption. We can easily see what is the end of that pursuing wrath of God. The end is nothing less than hell. The wrath of God takes hold of the human race. It takes hold of you and me as soon as we become a part of that human race. And it brings the human race from corruption to corruption until the end comes, and the end is hell.
You can see it develop in an individual life, in family life, and in the life of society. You can easily see this in our American family: the wrath of God is sweeping it on and bringing it from corruption to corruption. You can see it today in our economical world, how the wrath of God is bringing it from corruption to corruption, so that today the whole world is crying for an economic savior.1 The general line of the development of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness, is the way of destruction. There is no way out. We must go on. There is no escape from this wrath of God. It pursues us every step of the way.
Is there no way out? Yes, in this night God declared the gospel concerning His Son. He declared the gospel concerning His Son, who became flesh. He took upon Himself our sin. He said: "It is my delight to do thy will, O God." And God raised Him from the dead.
What does this mean? It means that God said, "I stop saying 'no' right here. There is no more wrath. I poured it out upon the head of My Son, and My wrath has been burned out in Him. He that believeth in Me shall no more see the wrath of God." What does this mean? It means that he who says, "There is no hope for me," and says, "Be merciful to me a sinner," and seeks his righteousness in the risen Lord, will no more taste the wrath of God. Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.
[1. Hoeksema preached this sermon in the late 1930s, when the United States and other nations were suffering from severe economic depression - Ed.]
The gross error of postmillennialism is that it misconceives the victory of Christ in history as carnal rather than spiritual. Gary North is wrong when he says, "It's not a question of 'dominion vs. no dominion'; it's a question of whose dominion" (Unconditional Surrender, ICE, 1988, p. 317).
It is emphatically not a question of "whose dominion."
Jesus Christ has dominion.
Jesus Christ has dominion in the world in history.
Jesus Christ has dominion now.
Not only does Jesus Christ now have dominion over all creatures, including His enemies, by His power, but also He now has dominion in His church by His Spirit and Word.
The question is not, "Whose dominion?"
But the question is, "What kind of dominion?"
Specifically, the question is, "Carnal dominion or spiritual dominion?"
Carnal dominion is earthly victory. It is victory according to the thinking of man. It consists of numbers - the conversion of a majority of humans; of physical force - a Christian police force and army; of control of culture -godly television, radio, and newspapers; of deliverance from worldly cares and natural miseries - the virtual eradication of poverty, sickness, and war; and of material prosperity - jobs, money, houses, and long life.
This is the dominion of Christ that is proclaimed by postmillennialism, especially by Christian Reconstructionism. This is supposed to be the victory of Christ in history, the flourishing of the Messianic kingdom.
It is a carnal dominion.
The victory heralded by Reformed amillennialism is spiritual. It is real victory. It is real victory here and now. But it is victory according to the thinking of God. It is contrary to human standards of victory. It makes all natural human thinking about victory, including that of Christian Reconstructionism, foolishness. No eye can see this victory, just as no eye can see the kingdom that is established by this victory (John 3:3). The victory and kingdom of Christ can only be known by faith.
The true victory of Christ in history is His saving of the elect church from sin. It is His empowering that church to confess His name. It is His preservation of the church in holiness of life unto life eternal. To this saving of the church belongs Christ's institution of true churches that preach the gospel purely, administer the sacraments properly, and exercise Christian discipline rightly.
The conquering Christ gathers the elect church out of all nations and institutes true churches in all nations. Thus, the nations are saved and discipled, as Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19. In the salvation and obedience of the elect among them, the nations are saved and discipled, regardless of the numbers, whether many or few. The postmillennial notion that the salvation of a nation requires the conversion of a majority of the population is unbiblical. Just as the elect remnant in Israel was the real nation of Israel, even though they were the small minority (Rom. 9:6), so also the elect Chinese are the real China, the elect Dutch are the real Netherlands, and the elect English are the real England. If the victory of Christ is a matter of sheer numbers, Christ is the loser in history, since He saves fewer humans than perished in Adam, as even the most optimistic postmillennialist must admit.
Christ's victory in history is the gathering of the church out of the nations. This gathering includes that the church is faithful to her calling to confess Jesus Christ. He Himself said that building the church is His work in history (Matt. 16:18, 19). The church is His glorious and indestructible kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 72, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches in Lord's Day 48 when it explains the petition, "Thy kingdom come," as meaning, "Preserve and increase thy church."
Since the church is made up of her elect members, the dominion of Christ is also His reign in the heart and life of each of His chosen people. The Heidelberg Catechism begins its explanation of the victorious kingdom of Christ here: "Rule us so by thy Word and Spirit that we may submit ourselves more and more to thee." The victory of Christ in history is the faith, confession, battle against sin, warfare against the world, obedience to the law, repentance, and endurance to the end of every elect, redeemed, and regenerated child of God.
The victory of Christ is progressive. The perfection of it, as regards the church, the individual elect, and the creation, will be realized by Christ Himself personally at His coming. The perfection of His victory is not to be within history, but as the end of history (I Cor. 15:22-28; Rev. 21; Rom. 8:18-23). There is good reason for this. It must be demonstrated, so that none can doubt or gainsay, that Christ, Christ personally, is Savior and Lord to the glory of God.
The King accomplishes this victory by the gospel (Mark 16:15; II Cor. 10:3-5).
To mock this spiritual victory of Christ is unbelief.
To be dissatisfied with it is ingratitude.
To underestimate its awesome power and wondrous glory is folly.
To be oblivious to it because one has his heart set on a carnal victory and earthly kingdom of the Messiah is "Jewish dreams."
Only the spiritual nature of the victory of Christ in history harmonizes with the teaching of the Bible that the church in the world is a church that is always reproached and persecuted - a church "under the cross" (Matt. 24:9, 10, 21-31; John 15:18-16:4; John 16:33; II Thess., 1:4-10; II Tim. 3; I Pet. 4:12-14; Rev.).
Only the spiritual character of Christ's victory in each elect believer explains the fact that the man or woman who, according to Romans 8:37, is conqueror in history, indeed, "more than conqueror," is at the same time, and all the while, "killed all the day long ... accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (v.36).
At the same time, victorious and persecuted! Christian Reconstruction cannot understand this, does not know what to make of this. Only the spiritual mind, the mind of Christ, understands this. The natural mind supposes that the victorious party does the persecuting.
Blinded by its assumption that the victory of Christ in history is carnal, postmillennialism stumbles into other, glaring errors. For one thing, a Loraine Boettner can cheerily announce that the world is getting better right along. Chapter 7 of his The Millennium (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958) is entitled, "The World is Growing Better." This, in a century that has witnessed the horrors of Nazi Germany; the atrocities of Stalin's Soviet Union; the slaughters of Mao's China; the killings of Pol Pot's Cambodia; the cruelties of the Africans at the present time; and the butcheries of their own offspring by the United States.
This, in a century that has seen the "Christian" West sink into the depths of approving homosexuality.
For another thing, the dream of earthly victory arouses the desire to bring it about, quickly. This demands numbers and political power. Since Calvinists are few, and Christian Reconstructionists still fewer, the Christian Reconstructionists make alliances with the more numerous charismatics in order to realize the dominion of Messiah (see Bruce Barron, Heaven on Earth? The Social & Political Agendas of Dominion Theology, Zondervan, 1992 and Michael G. Moriarty, "The Dominion Pursuit: Will the Church Christianize the World?" in The New Charismatics, Zondervan, 1992). The dream of an earthly kingdom of Christ always produces strange bedfellows.
Worst of all, postmillennialism, in fact, charges Christ with being a weak and defeated King in history. At least, up to the present time. For as yet His kingdom has not been victorious in history, as postmillennialism counts victory. For almost 2,000 years Christ has failed to "Christianize" the world. So far, He has been a "loser." In addition, the leading postmillennialists attribute the failure of Christ to achieve victory to the weakness and faithlessness of His church. The Commander has poor troops. J. Marcellus Kik has written:
Unfortunately the Church of today does not realize the power that Christ has given her. Christ has placed in her hands the chain by which she can bind Satan. She can restrain his influence over the nations. But today the Church bemoans the fact that evil is becoming stronger and stronger. She bemoans the fact that the world is coming more and more under the control of the Devil. Whose fault is that? It is the Church. She has the chain and does not have the faith to bind Satan even more firmly. Satan is bound and the Church knows it not! Satan can be bound more firmly and the Church does it not! (An Eschatology of Victory, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971, p.196)
Gary North agrees: "The only thing that is holding up the victory of God's home guard is the home guard's lack of confidence, lack of training, and lack of tactics" (Unconditional Surrender, p. 366).
This is a reflection on Jesus Christ. For, as North declares, Jesus is the "Supreme Allied Commander" (p.365). If only He had better troops, that is, a stronger church! But why doesn't He? Has He been unable now for 2,000 years to create men and women who are strong and faithful enough to do His will and bring about His earthly kingdom?
O, the weak Jesus Christ of Christian Reconstructionism!
The Jesus who depends upon men and who is evidently unable to make His men dependable is a defeated Jesus.
North admits this: "Christ is waiting for His church to surround Satan's last outpost. Christ is waiting for the work of the leaven to replace Satan's leaven in the dough of creation" (Unconditional Surrender, p.332; the emphasis is North's).
What is the difference between a Jesus who is helplessly waiting for men to get busy finally to bring about His kingdom and the Jesus of Arminianism who is helplessly waiting for men to let Him reign in their hearts?
Neither of them is the Jesus Christ of Reformed amillennialism.
Our Jesus is Lord.
He conquered in His cross and resurrection.
He has been conquering in the gospel from Pentecost to this moment.
His Messianic kingdom has come in its prophesied power, peace, riches, and glory. Worldwide!
Faithful, zealous, energetic "troops," made willing in this the day of His power, serve Him, doing all that He commands them to do, although not perfectly. These are the living members of the true, Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the world.
Jesus is victor.
A spiritual victor.
(Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.)
For some time already now, the Young Adults' Fellowship at our church has been studying the book of Proverbs. We have been amazed time and again by the treasures of practical spiritual wisdom which this book contains.
One of the outstanding chapters of Proverbs is chapter seven. Studying it again I was deeply impressed by the powerful warning this chapter contains for the young (really for the young and the old) regarding the enticement of the sin of immorality and the dreadful consequences this sin has for those who fall into it. Because today's society is so saturated with this awful sin, and because temptations to it are present on every hand, I decided to direct the attention of our readers to the extremely effective and relevant parable of Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived. Perhaps before reading this article you should take time to read Proverbs 7. I will try to give a brief summary of the main teaching of this chapter of God's Word.
My prayer is that the power of this parable will come across to you and that it will have its intended effect.
I remind you that throughout the book of Proverbs the inspired writer is addressing his spiritual son whom he loves very dearly. No counselor of the youth ever loved his patients as this spiritual counselor does. He cares for their deepest welfare. He loves them so much that he earnestly warns them about sin and its dreadful consequences. His fervent desire is to teach his young patients the perfect and absolute wisdom of God.
Some commentators are of the opinion that we must understand Proverbs 7 as a kind of allegory. They find not only a warning in this chapter against sexual sin, but a more general description of the seductive power of sin. Perhaps this is true. There is certainly application of this parable to other sins in the world. However, we believe the main purpose of this passage is to warn about the sin of immorality. Such warning is so necessary and so urgent in our day.
Chapter seven of Proverbs, as we said, is a parable. There are, in the main, two characters in this parable.
The one is a young man. Some have called him a farmer's son because he seems naive about the dangers of the wicked life of the city. Such naiveté does not of course exist today among farmers' sons. The young man in the parable may have been a single young man. He may even have been a young married man, who sins grievously against the wife of his youth.
The other character in the parable is a scandalous adulteress. She is a married woman. She symbolizes the epitome of the sin of adultery.
The reason why the second character is a married woman is not because the sin of fornication (sexual relationships between unmarried young people) is not as serious a sin. Rather, the sin of immorality is compounded when it violates one's own and someone else's marriage. In chapter six Solomon has seriously warned: "Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; but if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts" (Prov. 6:30-35).
In the parable Solomon speaks of looking through the lattice of the window of his house and observing a foolish young man in the streets of the city in the dark hours of the night. One commentator interprets the window through which the unnamed observer witnesses the tragic scene which unfolds in the parable to be "the window of the Word of God." The young man in the parable is said to be among the "simple ones." He is described as one "void of understanding." Though the inspired writer of this parable loves God's covenant youth very dearly, he minces no words in calling this young man "void of understanding." He is tragically foolish. He is sinfully foolish. He is woefully ignorant of the great dangers that lurk in the way that he is going. He is however willingly and inexcusably ignorant, for this young man was one born in a covenant home. He belonged to the nation of Israel, where the law of God was taught to young people from childhood on.
The foolish young man is pictured as passing through the street near the corner of the house of a known adulteress. It is in "the twilight in the evening, in the black and dark night." We can easily understand these details of the parable, can we not? Much evil is committed in the darkness of the night. Foolish men imagine that the darkness of the night covers up sin, so that no one sees it being committed. By doing their sin in the night they expect to avoid detection. They forget, however, that before God, the righteous judge of heaven and earth, the darkness and the light are both alike. The darkness does not hide us from God.
The young man purposely wanders into areas where temptation lurks. He enjoys the thrill and excitement of temptation. Perhaps he does not at this time have the express intention in his heart to follow after the sin of the deed of adultery. However, he already has adultery in his heart, and in his imaginations. Maybe he still thinks that he is strong enough that he can enjoy the thrill of the arousal of his sinful nature without falling into the gross sin of the deed of adultery. The foolish young man dwells by the corner of the house of the harlot (that is really who the woman of the parable is, though she may seem to all appearances at times to be a faithful and respectable wife to her husband). The young man dwells near the corner of the harlot's house. He is hoping to get a glimpse of her, just enough for a little excitement.
Already at this point in the sordid drama this young man is extremely foolish. The Christian young man (and young woman) is exhorted in Scripture to "flee youthful lust." They are not to flirt with temptations. They are to know the extreme dangers of the temptations of the world and stay as far from them as possible. The church, in earnest love and concern for her youth, must warn them regarding the places of worldly entertainment, the dance and the theater, the disco, even the ribald worldly parties of our day. What church today loves its youth enough to do that anymore?
We continue to follow the vivid picture painted by the inspired writer of Proverbs, but even in this we must do so with the Spirit of sanctification in our hearts lest we are stirred up in sinful excitement by this picture. This is an awful picture of the temptation of sin. This showing of the bitter fruits of sin, the judgment of God, is not Hollywood's portrayal of the excitement of sin. The parable is intended to portray the reality of temptation in order to warn us finally of the dreadful consequences of the sin and the judgment of God that follows upon it.
The second main character of the parable suddenly appears on the scene. "And behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart." We must not imagine that this woman is a picture only of those engaged in the vile occupation of harlotry. There are many who would not "stoop so low" as to visit the abode of a harlot. Yet they commit adultery as contemptible and with as disastrous consequences as those who consort with the harlot. Furthermore, the women today who profess to be Christians but "freely sleep around" with one man after another who is not their husband are in fact harlots before God.
The harlot in the parable is wearing her attire. She is dressed in such a way that she will attract the adulterous eye of evil men. She finds great pleasure in doing this kind of thing. She prides herself in seeing one man after another give her the look over. She is shameless in her sin. She has made sin the profession of her life. Solomon describes her as subtle of heart. The point of this description is that with her enticements she will offer that which will bring great sinful pleasure. She promises what she pretends to be good, but she has a selfish and desperately evil purpose in her heart. She is seeking her own selfish pleasure and glory and at the same time the ruin and complete destruction of those who are attracted by her.
"She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house." In our modern world such women are actually glamorized. They are constantly being featured on the front pages of the world's magazines. They are the movie stars who gain great attention and fame. They sometimes make millions through the promotion of their life of sin. Solomon wants us to know that such women are the total opposite of modesty and godliness. They are the opposite of the God-fearing woman who is the keeper of the house, who is characterized by the godly virtues of a meek and quiet spirit. The adulterous women of the world promise a life of pleasure and excitement, but they will in fact bring misery, shame, and destruction to those who fall prey to their temptations. Solomon wants us all to know how terribly ungodly these women are, and how extremely dangerous it is to have anything to do with them.
This woman is further said to be without and in the streets. She lieth in wait at every corner. The meaning of this again is obvious. The temptation of this sin is everywhere. It is perhaps hard to believe that this evil was already so prevalent in Solomon's day. What a proof of the fact that there is "nothing new under the sun." The world has always been engulfed by the sins of immorality. Yet all of it is so much more graphic with the availability of pornography and blatantly immoral movies and videos in our modern-day world.
There follows in the parable the description of the scandalousness and brazen wickedness of this woman. "So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I paid my vows." That she has paid her vows could mean one of several things. Some give the meaning to be that this woman has with her the portion of the thank offering which those who offered in the temple were allowed to keep for themselves. The devout Israelite would take this home for a formal religious ceremony in his own home. This woman boasted of having this portion in her hands because she wanted to invite the young man she was tempting to come to her house for a feast.
Others have interpreted this part of the parable to be a shocking indication of this evil woman's attempt to "sanitize her sin." She professes to having done her religious duty. She has made her offering in the temple. She is not really such an evil person. Consorting with her will not be that bad. Even professing Christians engage now and then in the sin of immorality. It is not all that bad. Everyone is doing it. Make your offering in the temple and your sin will all be washed away again and you can go on in your life of sin without pangs of conscience.
The woman in the parable further entices the young man by telling him the lie that she has come forth specifically to meet him. She has been diligently looking for him. He is exactly what she always wanted. She pretends to have genuine love and great interest in the young man. He is very attractive to her. She wants him very badly. She wants especially him and only him, no one else.
Finally she gives an irresistible, graphic, and sensual description of the pleasures of sin that await the young man if only he will come to her house. "I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us make our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves."
What foolish young man driven by sinful passions could ever resist such temptation? What extreme pleasures are promised.
But it must be remembered that the reason why this has gone so far is that this young man began by dwelling in the streets in the night by the corners of the house of the harlot. This man will soon go to his slaughter like an ox. This young man is going the way of hell. He is going down to the chambers of death. Be warned!
We shall continue our consideration of this parable next time.
(Rev. Brummel is the pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota.)
After more than 20 years of correspondence and visits, the way has been opened by God for our churches to involve themselves in a difficult and intimidating work. This is a work which could well take as many more years to establish. When by God's grace it becomes established it will be a work that will require much manpower and financial sacrifice. Out of love for God and His truth we face the challenge with confident hope. That challenge is establishing a mission in Ghana, Africa.
Where is Ghana? What is life like in Ghana? How much money does an average Ghanaian make? What challenges do we as churches face in establishing a mission there? These are questions which are being asked after Synod 1996 of the Protestant Reformed Churches approved calling a missionary to labor in Accra, Ghana.
Ghana, a country of about 18 million people, is located about 5,000 miles away from us on the southern coast of West Africa. The rectangular country compares to the state of Missouri in size. The widest distance from east to west measures about 310 miles, while it is 445 miles long from north to south.
Southern Ghana has two wet seasons and two dry seasons. It is difficult to predict when one or the other is to begin. Generally the most rain, between 30 and 45 inches, falls between March and July and between September and November. The month of August as well as the period from December to February is dry. The hot, dry winds howl across the Sahara from December to February, blowing down not only the heat but also the sand from the Sahara desert. The average year-round temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The country of Ghana has a rich history and an important place in West Africa. Known from an early time for its wealth of gold, Ghana was named "El Mina" by the Portuguese, meaning "the mine." French explorers called the district the "Gold Coast," which remained its name throughout the colonial era until independence in 1957 when it became known as Ghana. Ghana still has an estimated 126,000,000 pounds of gold waiting to be dug from the ground.
Many European nations envied the Portuguese control of the African coast, and the Dutch, English, French, Danes, Swedes, and Germans began to flock to the Gold Coast. Disputes and wars abounded over who would control not only the gold market, but also the slave trade which was becoming increasingly popular. Europeans traded linen, silk, beads, copper, brass, guns, gunpowder, and alcohol for the gold and the slaves. Many locals grew rich by working alongside the Europeans or by demanding bribes. The port cities of the Gold Coast became powerful commercial centers. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished by Britain. Raw materials such as palm oil and cocoa began to be exported in the place of slaves, and the country retained its commercial importance.
In the late 1800s, due to the greed for new colonies and the lack of raw materials, Britain invaded the Gold Coast and overthrew the existing king. From 1901 until 1956 the Gold Coast was ruled by the British, but its people increasingly chafed under the unfairness of the colonial system. The country finally gained independence in 1957, and in 1960 Ghana, with its new name, became a republic. Harsh, power-hungry rulers and corrupt politics brought Ghana into a bad economic state throughout the 1970s. Government overspending, mismanagement, corruption, uncontrolled inflation, and drought reduced this once prosperous country to poverty. In 1982 the economy collapsed almost completely. Under new leadership, the country has seen steady economic recovery since 1984 at approximately 5% per year. Still the average yearly income per person is only $400.
Children are supposed to go to school for at least 10 years after they turn six years old. The government provides free schooling throughout the country. Students are required to study English, which is the official language of the country. Students can apply for admission to one of the three universities in Ghana if they do well in school.
There are six major language and cultural divisions in Ghana. The country has made remarkable progress in uniting these various ethnic groups without tension. One contributing factor has been making English the official language. Although English is the official language, one or more of the other languages would have to be learned by the missionary who goes to Ghana. The literacy rate, though improving and one of the highest in Africa, is only 53%.
The government of Ghana, though formerly hostile to Christianity, now provides its citizens with religious freedom.
As early as the mid-1800s many missionary societies began to establish themselves in Ghana. Hundreds of schools were built by the missionary societies, and many of the Ghanaians became not only Christian, but also highly educated, desiring to become more "European." Christianity had a profound effect on the culture and society, but did not spread far beyond the coastal regions of the country.
Between 60% and 70% of southern Ghanaians profess to be Christian. Of these, about 30% are Protestant, 20% Roman Catholic, and 20% part of other sects and groups including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Church of the 12 Apostles, and others. Although 40% of southern Ghanaians profess to be affiliated with a church, less than 15% attend church regularly. Throughout the entire country the percentages are approximately: 45% traditional beliefs, 43% Christianity of some kind, and 12% Muslim.
Currently all religions are tolerated in Ghana, resulting often in a mixture between traditional spirit and ancestor worship and Christianity. Pagan world-views and practices have been tolerated and placed alongside Christian practices. Membership in charismatic churches, offering excitement and miracles, is growing by the thousands.
Northern Ghana contains over four million people who have never heard the gospel. It is estimated that another two million northerners have moved to the south and have not yet been reached by missionaries. Many of these individuals are being easily swayed to Islam. Along with the nominal Christians, there remain over five million adherents of Islam and traditional religions throughout the southern half of the country.2
A favorite dish in Ghana is black bean stew, which contains vegetables, fish, and meat. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and various varieties of meat, especially fish, are enjoyed by the Ghanaians.
Housing varies greatly between the different areas of the country. In the city of Accra modern housing and conveniences are available. In Accra, the missionary will have ready access to telephone services, including access to the Internet. Within the more remote villages the houses are generally rectangular homes with mud walls and thatch or tin roofs. A central well is situated in the middle of a group of homes, and all the residents are dependent upon it for their water. Few villages have electricity or access to telephone.
The chief means of transportation is the public bus system. Private transportation is also common. Due to the inefficiency and unreliability of the busing system, synod approved purchasing a used, rugged vehicle for our missionary.
Although a high percentage of the southern Ghanaians profess to be Christians, many have not heard the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Enamored by a desire to be like the Europeans, many Ghanaians outwardly profess Christianity, but continue to practice their traditional religions. The truth of the gospel which demands reform in every area of life must be preached. Worship which reverences God must be promoted. Toward that end, synod decided that our churches should begin their own indigenous work. Although we have much contact with other groups of believers, especially the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana, synod deemed it wiser to begin an independent work. Uncompromising, biblical worship must be promoted from the beginning.
Our missionary will need to be polemic in his teaching. Out of love for the truth we must sharply defend the truth so that the Ghanaians may learn to discern the truth from the error. They must be equipped to defend the truth of the gospel against Pentecostalism, Roman Catholicism, and Islam.
Our additional goal is to bring the gospel into the remote northern regions of Ghana. In order to accomplish that goal, the missionary will labor through preaching and teaching to establish a church in Accra. The Lord willing, once a church in Accra is established, further outreach will be facilitated to the villages through the agency and help of that church. Families who move to the cities and become Christians have relatives and family in the rural areas to whom they would naturally desire to bring the truth. Depending on how God prospers the work, more missionaries might need to be called to labor in this country.
The life of the missionary will involve sacrifice. He and his family, along with the volunteer helpers, will live far below the standards of our country. Most modern conveniences are available in Accra, but our missionary will not find there the affluent life-style we take for granted in America. Besides, the laws, customs, and values of the culture will be different.
The learning of another language well enough to preach it will take years of hard work. Experienced missionaries have written that it often takes two or three years of hard work for a missionary to be proficient enough in a new language to communicate, and four or five years before he may be able to preach effectively.
The challenge of educating the children, not only of the missionary but also of the believers whom God in His grace brings to our mission, will demand much wisdom.
God is sovereign over all mission work, including this work in Ghana. We are encouraged that He has already moved more than five individuals and three couples to express willingness to accompany the missionary as volunteer helpers. He will raise up the man of His choosing to labor as missionary. God will produce fruit upon the faithful preaching of the gospel. He will use us to gather His precious church not only from those who are nominal Christians, but also from the unreached peoples of the world. This is His promise: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). May He lead us to those whom He in His sovereign good pleasure has determined to gather to Himself. We confess: "And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom he wills at what time he pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified" (Canons of Dordt, First Head, Art. 3). Our prayer is that God will be pleased to use our churches for this great work. We firmly believe that He will bless that work which is done to His honor and glory.
2. All statistical information is gleaned from Patrick Johnstone, Operation World (OM Publishing: Singapore; 1993), pp. 241-244, and Larry Vanderaa, A Survey for Christian Reformed World Missions of Missions and Churches in West Africa (Christian Reformed World Missions: Grand Rapids; 1991), pp. 18-23.
(Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan. )
Amazing Teacher, this Jesus of Nazareth!
What other teacher lectures about Himself? What other teacher speaks with such authority? Whose words besides His not only inform, but save? Who may teach, besides Him, and demand for Himself the worship of those who sit at His feet?
Who else might say, would say, could say: "I am the light of the world"?
Was Jesus drawing the attention of the people away from the burning torches of the Feast of Tabernacles which had recently been shedding their glow all over Jerusalem to Himself, the true light of the Feast? (Cf. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, p. 337.) Was Jesus' claim to be "the light" a reference to His having exposed the moral darkness of the scribes and Pharisees who had brought to Him a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11)?
Maybe a combination of these things. Whatever connection Jesus was making between Himself as Light and recent events, the Pharisees recognize at least some of the ramifications of what He says, and therefore seek to discredit Him. They debate about the credibility of Jesus' testimony (vv. 12-20). They show they are from beneath (v.23). They are proven to be exactly what the light exposes them to be: the children of the devil (v. 44).
But Jesus shines. In the passage before us He boldly declares His authority and its heavenly origin (vv. 12-29). He shows He is the light who is the Truth who sets free (vv. 30ff.). And then, in confirmation of His words, the Light shines upon a man blind from his birth so that he sees (9:1-5)! Jesus, the light of the world! Truly in Him the Sun of righteousness is arisen with healing in His wings!
For Study, Meditation, and Discussion
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God!
Jesus' declaration that He is the light of the world is the second of the great "I Am" statements in John. The others are in John 6:35; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:5.
What is Jesus saying in each one?
How does each relate to the other? The concept "light" in Scripture signifies many things, all of them good. It signifies things like truth, purity, knowledge, and salvation. Its opposite, darkness, signifies falsehood, impurity, ignorance, and damnation. Point out from Scripture various texts which mention these important concepts. (Hint: start with I John 1:5!)
Just how is Jesus "light"? In Himself? For us? Confer these and other passages: Exodus 13:21, 22; Psalm 27:1; 36:9; 119:105; Isaiah 49:6; 60:19-22; Revelation 21:23, 24. If Jesus is the Savior of His people only, and that He indeed is, how then is He the light of the world? Confer John 1:4, 5, 7, 9. How does light in creation testify of the true light, Jesus?
In the passage which follows Jesus' declaration that He is the light of the world, Jesus proves that His testimony is authentic. That is, He shows that what He has said is true, genuine, and authoritative. The Savior does this in response to the Pharisees' objection that since Jesus bore record of Himself, His record could not be true (8:13). In fact, Jesus Himself had said that if He bore witness of Himself His witness would not be true (John 5:31ff.). What is wrong with bearing witness of oneself (cf. 8:17; Deut. 17:6)? Strikingly, in John 8:14 Jesus declares that though He bears record of Himself yet His record is true! How can this be, and not be in contradiction to what Jesus had said in John 5:31?
Jesus confirms His testimony that He is the light of the world, in a threefold way (cf. W. Hendriksen's commentary on John).
In the first place Jesus points to His heavenly origin and destination. In verse 14b Jesus declares: "I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go." Show how Jesus teaches His heavenly origin in verses 16, 18, 23, 26, and 29. How does this fact of Jesus' heavenly origin (and destination) authenticate Himself and His testimony? Find other verses in John where Jesus points to the same thing about Himself (for example, 3:11-13).
Another way Jesus authenticates His testimony is by claiming for Himself an intimate union with the Father in heaven. He speaks, for example, of the fact that He is not alone, but with the Father (v. 16; cf. also v. 29). Find other phrases in this passage which show the intimacy of Father and Son.
In close connection with the above, Jesus confirms His testimony by asserting that there is perfect harmony between what He says, and what the Father testifies. He speaks, for example, of the dual testimony of Himself and the Father - each bearing witness of Jesus! Show how verses 26, 28, and 29 also teach this. What does Jesus' intimacy and harmony with the Father say of the Lord Jesus? Reflect, in this connection, on John 1:14, 18; 10:30; 17:5 and other relevant passages.
That Ye Might Believe!
Jesus speaks of him "that followeth me" (v.12) as one who is blessed by the light of the world. What is it to "follow" Jesus? Confer texts such as Matthew 16:24; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; John 10:4, 5, 27. How is this "following Jesus" related to "thirsting" after God? "Seeking" the kingdom? Other similar expressions? How do we show in our lives that we are followers of the Lord Jesus? Those who follow Jesus are declared to be those who do not walk in darkness (v. 12). Is the "not walking in darkness" here a blessing which the believer enjoys, or a "way of life," that is, a description of the believer's moral conduct (cf. Ps. 27:1; Eph. 5:8ff.)? Are all who follow Jesus true believers (cf. John 6:2, 66)?
The Pharisees were "anti-disciples." That is, they were the opposite of disciples of Jesus, and also opposed to true disciples and discipleship. They show this by not believing in Jesus (v.24). They show this too by not being able to understand that of which Jesus speaks (vv. 19, 25, 27). They show this by refusing to listen to Jesus' condemnation of themselves. They show this by attempting to trap Jesus, and destroy His credibility. In connection with this, Jesus blames the Pharisees for judging "after the flesh" (v.15). What does Jesus mean by judgment when He describes them as being "from beneath" (or "below"), and "of this world" (v.23)? Is Jesus saying that these religious leaders are from hell? Do we see this kind of anti-Christian leadership in the world today?
In verses 14-29 Jesus authenticates His testimony. Critics might argue that Jesus engages here in circular reasoning. For one might summarize Jesus' argument thus: My record is true because I say so. And because I (and my Father) say so, my record is true! Now this is not all that Jesus says. But it is essentially what Jesus says. This type of reasoning might not hold up in a court of law. Nor will it ever satisfy proud critics of the Lord Jesus. But Jesus' testimony is enough! He testifies of Himself! And the Father bears witness of Him! People ought ever to take Jesus, the Son of God, at His Word! Comment in this connection on the following: some people think that we can and ought to use "evidence," scientific or otherwise, to defend our faith and the claims of the Lord Jesus. These people are called "evidentialists." In light of Jesus' method of apologetics (the defense of the truth), are evidentialists right? How do such apologetics of the Savior bear upon the preaching (i.e., is it sufficient)? Upon dancing, story-telling, and dramatizations in the worship services? Upon looking for Noah's ark? What of Paul's preaching to the philosophers on Mars' hill (Acts 17:16-32)? What is the relation between faith and understanding?
Having Life Through His Name!
Closely related to the concept "light" is the concept "life." This is what Jesus alludes to when He says that whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (8:12). In fact, in the opening verses of John, where Jesus, the Word, is already introduced as the light, He is also said to be the "life" of men (1:4, 9). So John elsewhere speaks of Jesus as the life, and source of life: 5:26; 6:48, 53; 11:25; 17:3. From the above texts and all of Scripture try to give a definition of this mysterious truth called "life." What is the relation between light and life? And the covenant of grace? How is Jesus our life?
Jesus again announces the doom of the unbelieving Jews in verse 21 (cf. 7:33, 34). Those who do not believe the light of the world shall not have life. They shall die in their sins. They will go on seeking Messiah, but not in repentance and faith. They will continue to go about seeking to establish their own righteousness, but they shall have no blood of the Lamb to cover them. How is the blood of the Lord Jesus that which cleanses us from all sin, and the only sure ground of our life? Do babies have the right to life?
Jesus is the light of the world. But also we, the church, believers, are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16). How is this possible?
How are we this in the preaching in the congregation? In our personal witness? On the mission field?
In verse 20 is a comment regarding the fact that no man laid hands on Jesus "for his hour was not yet come." This speaks of the fact that God was/is in complete control of all the history of Jesus' ministry on earth; God so guided everything that nothing could prevent Messiah from doing the Father's will of being the light of the world and saving His elect church! Where else in John and all of Scripture do we find confirmation of the fact that God is always in control - that is, that He is always the sovereign King? How is this same God in control now, ruling over all things for the good of those who love Him until the eternal day dawn in heaven?
An Answer to certain slanders and blasphemies, wherewith certain evil disposed persons have gone about to bring the doctrine of God's everlasting Predestination into hatred.
This is an excerpt from the book, Sermons on Election and Reprobation by John Calvin, reviewed elsewhere in this issue of the Standard Bearer. The excerpt is Calvin's defense of biblical predestination against attacks upon it by its enemies. The excerpt is taken from the "appendix" that concludes the book of sermons. Only the first part of Calvin's defense is reprinted here, with permission from the publisher.
O man who art thou that pleadest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Romans 9:20
Dearly Beloved Brethren,
We must not be amazed if the article of the everlasting predestination to God, be so assaulted and fought against by Satan's maintainers, seeing it is the foundation of our salvation, and also serveth for the better magnifying of the free goodness of God towards us. On the other side those Dogs which bark against it thinking to have a good and favorable cause are therein more hardy: as in very truth there is nothing more contrary to man's understanding, than to place the cause of our salvation in the good will of God, in saying, that it belongeth to him alone to choose us: without finding of anything in us wherefore he should choose us: and after he hath chosen us, to give us faith through which we should be justified. But what? Inasmuch as he is not bound to the person, it is good reason that he be left in his mere liberty to give grace unto whom he will, and to leave the rest in his perdition. But I defer myself to entreat more largely of this matter, because you may have large discourse thereof in those Books which are imprinted: which ought to content you. Concerning the writing which was scattered about, to abolish this article of our faith, in very truth it deserveth no answer: being on the one side so full of ignorance and beastliness, that everyone ought easily to judge thereof: and on the other side so full of impudence, that it is a wonder how these troublecoasts and shameless deceivers, abusing so villainously the holy Scriptures should be hearkened unto: notwithstanding because I have understood that there are yet some simple and weak ones that are troubled therewith, I therefore thought good to take the pain to show them that will show themselves teachable: how they ought to resolve themselves, to the end they might be no more deceived by these deceivers.
In the first place, he that hath made that writing, were it Sebastian Chastalio or some such like: to show that God hath created all the world to be saved, he allegeth that he laboreth to draw unto him all that went astray: the which I confess in respect of the doctrine of faith and repentance, the which he propoundeth to all in general: be it to draw his elect unto him, or to make other inexcusable. God then calleth everyone to repentance and promiseth all those that return unto him, to receive them to mercy. But this meaneth not that he toucheth to the quick by his holy spirit, all those to whom he speaketh: as it is said by I say in the fifty-third chapter 1, His arm is not revealed to all those that hear. To which agreeth the sentence of our Lord Jesus Christ 2, None can come unto me, except my father draw him. And the holy scripture showeth throughout, that conversion is a special gift of God. And indeed the place of Ezechiel 3, whereof this troublecoast maketh his buckler, very well confirmeth my saying. For the Prophet having said, "that God will not have pleasure in the death of a sinner", addeth, "but rather will that he return and live." Whereby he signifieth that God biddeth and exhorteth all which are gone astray to return to the right way. But not that indeed he leadeth them all to himself by the power of his spirit. The which he promiseth not, but to a certain number, which appeareth as well in the thirty-first chapter of Jeremy 4, as in the thirty-seventh of Ezechiel and in the eleventh 5 and throughout the whole scripture.
The second reason of this writing is, that all men are created to the image of GOD, the which he saith not to have been abolished but only subjected to evil. As though it behooved man at adventure to believe his simple saying. But contrariwise the Scripture showeth, that albeit there remain yet some trace of the image of God in us, yet that the whole is disfigured, so as reason is blind, and the heart perverse: wherefore by nature we are wholly accursed. We see therefore at the least, that by the will and decree of God, we have been all subject to everlasting damnation through the fall of one man. Concerning that which this troublecoast addeth, that if we believe, we are delivered through Christ by the power of the gospel, and of the holy ghost: that serves for nothing, but to confirm our doctrine. For it behooveth that we always come thither, that none believe, unless those which are ordained to salvation. Acts thirteen 6 and all the scripture is full thereof. Wherefore this is as much, as if he should say, that the elect of God are delivered from that common damnation through faith.
The third article containeth an horrible blasphemy that if God have created men to damn them, his will and the Devil's is all one. They that speak so, show plainly enough that they are altogether mockers of God, and despisers of all religion. It pleased God that Job should be robbed and spoiled: to be short, all that is there attributed to the Devil, and to those thieves and robbers, it is said plainly, that it came not to pass but by the good pleasure of God. Must we therefore conclude that God's will and the Devil's are all one? But they that know that the judgments of God are bottomless, and shall have once known their own weakness, will adore them with all reverence and humility and know well to put a difference, although that GOD willeth the same thing that the devil doth, yet that this is indeed in divers respects. And so, that he deserveth always to be acknowledged righteous, although that his counsel be incomprehensible unto us.
Afterwards to abolish the Election of GOD, seeming as though he would confess it, he answereth that God hath not created nor predestinated any man not to believe, seeing he calleth everyone. Wherein he showed that he never yet learned the ABC of Christians, seeing he knoweth not how to distinguish between the outward preaching, which is done by the mouth of men, and the secret calling of God whereby he toucheth the hearts within. Now when it is commanded in the last of Mark 7, to preach the Gospel to all, this importeth not that God therefore worketh in all by the power of his spirit: and when it is said in the second Chapter of the first to Timothy 8, "that God would all men to be saved," the solution is added by and by, "that come to the knowledge of his truth." Wherefore then is it, that he himself would not at that present time, that the gospel should be preached to all? so far off is it that he hath enlightened all the world in the faith. It is marvelous that this shameless forehead, is not ashamed to allege for himself the tenth to the Romans 9, where the text expressly setteth forth that all believe not the Gospel, because that I say saith, "that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all." Also the sixth chapter of Saint John 10 where Jesus Christ expressly pronounceth, "that all that are given him of his father come unto him." And touching that, that he saith, "that all shall be taught of God:" it is a special promise made to the Church: as also the Lord Jesus Christ was a faithful expositor thereof, saying 11: "He therefore that hath heard and learned of my father, shall come unto me. Whereby he showeth, that all are not inwardly called. According as a little after 12 also he confirmeth the same. "Therefore I have said unto you, that none can come unto me, unless it be given him from God my father." Notwithstanding this Rustic imagineth he hath well escaped, having spoken a word of predestination, without making any semblance of the text 13 so expressly set forth, where it is said, "that God will have mercy, upon him on whom he will have mercy, and that our salvation is of the same mercy: and not of the willer nor of the runner, and that before the two twins were born, when they had neither done good nor evil: to the end the purpose of his election might stand sure, he had chosen the one and rejected the other." Also when we believe that this proceedeth of that, that God hath chosen us: Thereupon it followeth, that the rest of the world remaineth blind. But because it would be too long to allege all, consider those places which are gathered in a little book that our brother master Beza hath made thereof, and you shall be fully satisfied therein.
1. Isaiah 53:1
2. John 6:44
3. Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11
4. Jeremiah 31
5. Ezekiel 11 & 37
6. Acts 13:48
7. Mark 16:15
8. I Timothy 2:4
9. Romans 10:16, 20
10. John 6:37
11. John 6:45
12. John 6:65
13. Romans 9:11-18
(Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.)
You will notice that the title of this article contains a question mark.
Having considered what the Bible teaches concerning man's devastating depravity, as well as the development of sin, we are left with a question. We have shown from Scripture that sin develops according to the sovereign purpose of God, and even as the manifestation of His just judgment against the sinful race (Rom. 1:18-32). But isn't it also true that there is a certain restraint of sin?
Before we answer this question, we would like to respond with another question: What do we mean by a restraint of sin? Sin, after all, is not merely in the outward actions of man, but in the heart and in the corrupt nature. The question, then, is this: does God restrain sin by some sort of inward operation upon the heart of the sinner, or does He do so only by outward compulsion and constraints?
This is an important question. If all that is meant by the concept "restraint of sin" is an outward restraint brought about by the consequences of man's actions and by the works of God's providence, we agree wholeheartedly that there is such a restraint of sin's expression. The difficulty, however, comes when one teaches a restraint of sin caused by certain inward workings of the Holy Spirit in the sinner.
This question is of no little historical importance to the Protestant Reformed Churches. It brings us back to the very origin of our churches and the controversy involving common grace, which controversy resulted in three ministers and numerous officebearers being expelled from their offices in the Christian Reformed Church.
The Christian Reformed Church, at the Synod of 1924, adopted an official position concerning the restraint of sin. They taught not only that there is a restraint of sin, but that there is a restraint of sin brought about by a gracious inward operation of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men. This work of the Spirit, though not renewing the heart unto repentance and salvation, nevertheless puts a check on the development of sin.
The "second point" of the infamous Three Points of 1924 taught specifically "that God by the general operations of His Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, restrains the unimpeded breaking out of sin, by which human life in society remains possible." This restraint of sin is a work of "common grace."
Furthermore, as the "third point" goes on to make clear, this work of common grace not only restrains sin, but also enables the unregenerate man to do good works, if only in the realm of society. The second and third points go hand in hand. As a result of this restraining influence of God's common grace, and by virtue of a positive influence of God upon him for good, the unregenerate man is able to do good works in the sphere of things natural and civil, even though he remains incapable of doing any saving good.
An examination of this idea will show that it is a denial of the fundamental truth of man's total depravity, which truth we have previously discussed.
If we speak of the restraint of sin, we have to remember that sin involves not only the outward actions of man, but also his inward thoughts and desires. Still more, sin can also refer to the condition of his nature. The pollution of man's nature is the punishment of God upon man because of his guilt. It belongs to that death that is ours in Adam. That is what the apostle Paul refers to in Ephesians 2:1 when he describes all men as "dead in trespasses and sins." That death is a spiritual corruption of the nature, the result of which is that man is incapable of doing any good and inclined to all wickedness, except he is regenerated by the Spirit of God.
The defenders of that restraint of sin which is maintained in the theory of common grace hold, on the one hand, that the Holy Spirit works in the natural man in such a way that his sinful actions are restrained. But they mean more than this. They also mean that there is an inward restraint upon the heart of man which in some way changes man's corrupt nature. By "common grace" the Spirit works a change in the heart of man, which is not a saving change, but which nevertheless alters the heart enough so that man is not as wicked as he would otherwise be. And as a result of that change in his nature, the natural man is capable of performing good works. They are not works that merit. They are not saving works. But they are works that God judges good, which are performed in the realm of society for the benefit of other creatures.
At issue here is exactly the truth of total depravity.
Such a description of the restraint of sin is a denial of the biblical doctrine of total depravity as historically recognized by the Reformed churches and as taught in our confessions.
If one speaks merely about the sinful actions of men being restrained by God's providence, we have no quarrel. Such outward restraint, as we shall see, can be and is exercised by God without any change in the nature of man. Man remains totally corrupt, incapable of doing any good and inclined to all wickedness. Man's conduct can be restrained without any change whatsoever in man's nature.
A likeness can be seen in ourselves and our own children. It is clearly seen that there are times when we are compelled to do things that we don't like to do. We sometimes observe in our children a very bad attitude (a reflection of our own sinful natures, don't forget). They are told to do something, and they grumble and complain, and perhaps even say they will not. But when they are reminded of the consequences of disobedience, they carry out the act, even though the attitude of their heart has not changed one iota.
But when one goes beyond the truth of outward compulsion or restraint, and speaks of an inner work of the Holy Spirit operating upon the heart of the sinner in a positive, though non-saving way, he speaks of something very different. With the Spirit's work upon the heart, there is a fundamental change in man's very nature, so that he is no longer as depraved as he could be. One may insist that there is no saving benefit from this work of the Spirit, and that the unregenerated man will eventually go to hell, but he is nevertheless a man whose nature has been changed by the Holy Spirit in such a way that he is now able to do good works. Total depravity becomes partial depravity. There is good in the wicked, even a basis for fellowship.
This theory of common grace is wrong. It is a poison to the Reformed faith. It is death to the antithetical calling of the Christian life.
There is only one correct way to speak of the restraint of sin, and that is as an outward restraint upon the outward expression of sin, which restraint is worked by the providence of God.
Remember that God's providence is all-encompassing. Providence is God's sovereign execution of His own counsel with regard to all things. It is His upholding and governing all things with one primary purpose in view, namely, that He Himself may be glorified in Christ through the salvation of His church.1
God does indeed restrain sin, but only by the influence of God's providence upon the sinner.
We would prefer another word than "restraint." We would rather speak of God "controlling" or "steering" the actions of men according to His purpose. That seems to fit better with the idea of "governing" that is a well-known element in the definition of providence. But we will grant the use of the term "restraint," so long as the whole idea of the restraint of sin is defined in these terms - the outward influence of God's providence upon the sinner.
God's providence, then, restrains sin in the lives of individual people by determining all the circumstances of their lives.
The time in which a man lives will determine in a measure how his sin is restrained. The sins which are committed in our licentious society could not have been as readily committed 50 years ago. In that sense, under God's providence, men were restrained from certain outward actions because of the very time in which they lived. One hundred years ago, for example, a woman could become pregnant by fornication, but she would not have been able to murder her unborn child by an abortion.
Whether a man is born into great riches, or into poverty, will also govern his sinful actions.
This, too, is under the providence of God. A child brought into this world and raised on a ranch in the state of Wyoming will not find himself in the circumstances of the child raised in the fast life of New York City. The expression of his totally depraved nature will necessarily be different therefore. And while all men are equally corrupt in their nature, the activity of that corrupt nature will be quite different depending on the circumstances in which God places them.
The consequences of sin, which consequences also occur by God's government, themselves serve as a restraint upon man's self-expression of sin. To this end also the institution of government serves to restrain sin in society. Government was instituted by God as the natural development of the family, to punish the evildoer and maintain order in society. It is an instrument in God's hand to govern society for the sake of His church.
But this providential restraint or governing of sin must be clearly understood as the work of God, the work of God by which He governs also the development of sin.
Speak of restraint. But don't forget, the sinfulness of the human race continues to develop. The cup of iniquity is being filled according to God's sovereign purpose. He is giving men over to their sin. Soon that cup of iniquity will be filled. And Christ shall return in judgment. And we shall be saved.
1. New readers or those interested in reviewing the truth of God's providence may refer back to the previous volume of the Standard Bearer, vol. 72, pp. 181, 227, 259.
(The late Homer Hoeksema was professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.)
We must remember, however, that the real personality, the subject speaking through the serpent in the temptation of Adam and Eve, was Satan, the devil.
It is rather striking that the devil is not directly mentioned in the narrative in Genesis 3. He is not mentioned in the account of the temptation, nor is he mentioned in the curse that is pronounced after the Fall. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that Genesis simply narrates the events as they took place and as they might have been perceived by the senses had we been present in Paradise at the time. Then we might have perceived the serpent speaking to Eve as recorded in Genesis 3.
Nevertheless, it is plain from all the rest of Scripture that the real subject in the temptation was not merely a serpent, but the devil, Satan himself.
We may note that this is already suggested very clearly in the Genesis record. The contents of the tempter's speech in Genesis 3 reveal very plainly that the subject of that speech is not a mere animal, but a moral, rational subject. It suggests, too, that this rational, moral subject is a wicked subject, lying against and slandering God, and contradicting God's word. This moral, rational, lying, slandering subject in the temptation is, in the light of all Scripture, the devil.
This is plain, in the first place, from the fact that always the devil appears in Scripture as the tempter and as the accuser of the brethren and as the opponent of God and of God's cause in the world. Thus the devil appears in the history of Job. He appears there as Job's accuser when he asks the question, "Doth Job fear God for nought?" He appears also as Job's tempter. The Lord gives him the power to tempt Job, first by putting all that Job possesses in Satan's power, and later by giving Satan power to touch Job's bone and his flesh. Satan's intent is to make Job curse God (cf. Job 1:9, 12; 2:4-6).
Also in the prophecy of Zachariah the devil, Satan, is pictured as the adversary of God's people: "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him" (Zech. 3:1).
In the Parable of the Sower, it is the devil who is represented as snatching away the good seed, the seed of the Word, as soon as it is sown.
In the Parable of Tares, it is the devil who is represented as sowing the tares, the evil seed, in the field.
Moreover, it is the devil who tempts our Lord Jesus Christ at the beginning of His public ministry with a threefold temptation, and who tempts Him during His entire ministry.
At the end of our Lord's earthly sojourn, it is the devil who entered into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer.
Hence, the role of the devil throughout Scripture is that of the tempter and the accuser of the brethren and the opponent of God's cause, and it is not difficult to recognize the operation of that same devil in the temptation of our first parents.
In the second place, we may note that Scripture always posits a very close relationship between the evil words and works of men and the world of evil spirits of which the devil is chief. It is the devil who is the prince of this world, who rules this world in the ethical sense of the word, though not sovereignly (John 12:31). In Ephesians 2:2 it is said of men who are dead in trespasses and sins that they walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, that is, the devil. As is well known, Scripture tells us that the battle of the people of God is against this devil: "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:11, 12). This situation points to an originally formed alliance between the world of evil spirits and the world of men, an alliance that operates throughout the ages of the old dispensation and of the new.
Principally that alliance is overcome by our Lord Jesus Christ. At the death and exaltation of the Lord Jesus, the devil is cast out of heaven, so that he can accuse the brethren no more before the face of God. But even thereafter he harasses the church on earth, furiously persecuting the seed of the woman. Finally, for a short time he gives his power to the Antichristian beast that is pictured in Revelation 13. That alliance, which is finally destroyed when the devil is cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10), was originally established in the beginning, when sin was introduced into the world of men in Paradise.
There can be no question about it, therefore, that while the serpent was the instrument employed in the temptation, Satan was the rational, moral subject of the temptation, who employed the serpent as his instrument.
As to the identity of Satan, we learn from Scripture that he is a fallen angel.
This presupposes the creation of the angels and the introduction of sin into the realm of the heavenly spirits and the fall of part of them. While the Bible tells us very little in detail as to the creation of the angels or the fall of the angels, but rather presupposes these facts throughout, there are certain facts which may definitely be established in the light of Scripture.
1) Scripture always presents the angels, both good and evil, as very real and as very really functioning among men and in the history of the church and the world. They were originally created as heavenly spirits. As such both angels and devils are invisible to our earthly eyes, but they are nonetheless real and may be perceived by their functions. The good angels are so many ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). The evil angels always function among fallen humanity in pride and rebellion against God.
2) Satan was originally a prince among the heavenly hosts. In fact, it is not impossible that originally he stood at the head of the entire angel world, although this cannot be established with certainty. But that he was a prince among the angels is plain from the fact that he is still called the prince of the devils (Matt. 12:24), as well as the prince of this world (John 12:31). It is plain, too, from the fact that according to Jude 9 even Michael, the archangel, considered it presumptuous to bring a railing accusation against Satan when they were disputing about the body of Moses. From Revelation 12:7 we know that Satan still has his angels, fallen with him, over whom he is prince and whom he leads in the battle against God's people.
3) We know also that the devil and his angels, who constituted a large part of the original host of angels, had already fallen at the time of the temptation and fall of man. It is not at all necessary to assume that he fell before the end of the creation-process; it is rather proper to think that he fell soon after the seventh day. Nor does Scripture inform us as to exactly how sin was introduced into the angel-world. The reason for this is that it is not necessary for us to know: the Bible is not concerned about this, but rather about the introduction of sin into the world of mankind, and that only with a view to the revelation of the work of God's grace whereby He saves His covenant people from sin and death.
4) But about the nature of the sin of the angels there can be no question in the light of Scripture. That sin was pride and rebellion against God, the sinful desire and attempt to dethrone God and to be God in the place of God. The fallen angels, originally powerful and glorious creatures, are described in Jude 6 as not having kept their first estate and as having left their own habitation. Moreover, the reference to the sin of the devil is clear in a passage like I Timothy 3:6. There the apostle lays down the requirement that an elder be not a novice, "lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." If we put these references of Scripture together with a description of the devil's lie in Genesis 3:5, where he tempts our first parents that they shall be like God, it is plain that the fall of Satan consisted in the sin of pride and presumption, the desire and the attempt to usurp the place of God Himself. His sin was an attack upon the very sovereignty of God!
In this light we can understand the names which Scripture uses to describe him. They express what he is. He is the devil, that is, the mudslinger, the slanderer, the liar. He is Satan, that is, the opponent, or adversary. This describes what he is in relation to God. He is the slanderer of God Himself, and the adversary of the living God and of His cause.
This explains Satan's coming to Paradise. He is the adversary of the living God. But he cannot directly attack and oppose God Himself. For the devil is but a creature, with all the limitations which characterize a creature, and God is the sovereign Creator. Satan, therefore, if he would attack God, must attack God in His works and in His Name, His revelation, and His Word. Having succeeded in fomenting rebellion among the heavenly spirits, he aims to usurp God's place in the earthly creation and to form an alliance with man, the king of the earthly creation, against the living God, whose servant man was created to be. This is his evil purpose as he comes to Adam and Eve in the garden.
But let us remember that someone else was very really present in this scene. There was Eve, and Adam, and the serpent, and the devil. But God was also there! And certainly we must remember that what took place in Paradise did not take place apart from, but according to the sovereign counsel of the Lord of heaven and earth. No devil could invade Paradise; no Satan could employ the serpent as his instrument; and no tempter could reach Adam and Eve, but by the sovereign counsel and providence of the Lord our God. Remember that! All creatures, including the devil - for the devil is also only a mere creature - all creatures are so in God's hand, the hand of our heavenly Father, that without His will they cannot so much as move.
Hence, apart from the devil's reason for the temptation, there is still the question: why did the Lord our God will? This question we can view from a moral viewpoint.
Then the answer is, negatively, that our God is not in any sense the author of sin. God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man (James 4:13). That is true of us; that was true of Adam in Paradise. God was not the author of Adam's temptation; the devil was the author. But the devil was not sovereign! It was exactly his temptation that he wanted to get man to acknowledge him as sovereign instead of God. But God is the eternally sovereign Lord, and the devil does not usurp that sovereignty even temporarily.
Positively, the answer is, from a moral viewpoint, that God's will was that man should keep the garden, should be God's friend-servant, should be of the party of the living God. That will was plainly expressed in the command God gave Adam. The very premise of that command is the sovereignty of the good God. He alone has the right to impose His will upon His own creature. Hence, man's calling was: curse that serpent, and say "No" to his temptation. It makes no difference whether Eve or Adam had any clear knowledge of the devil. The serpent spoke plain language, and that language was the language of enmity against God. Man was king, called to exercise dominion in God's Name. His calling was plain.
That same question, however, we may ask from the point of view of God's eternal counsel and purpose: why did the devil come to Paradise, and why did God so decree and providentially direct? Then the answer of Scripture is that God willed a greater glory than that of the first creation. He willed a greater and higher revelation of His own infinite glory. He willed a greater glory for His people. That glory was to be revealed and achieved only in the antithetical way of sin and grace.
It is this purpose that the devil serves according to the sovereign decree and providence of the Lord of heaven and earth. There is no dualism in history. There is no fight between God and the devil. The God of our salvation is the God who from moment to moment performs all His good pleasure, even in and through the very opposition of the devil and the power of darkness. All creatures, good and evil, are subject unto Him and execute His will, even in spite of themselves. According to God's sovereign good pleasure, the devil, though purposing opposition and rebellion against the living God, nevertheless must needs serve God's purpose. He must serve to create that opposition and rebellion against God only to show ultimately how all will be defeated that oppose God, and only to serve the revelation of God's marvelous grace in Christ Jesus, whereby He saves His people from sin and death and delivers them from the power of the devil and raises them, through Christ, unto the glory of heavenly perfection.
This is revealed in Christ. The Son of God comes in the likeness of sinful flesh. He crushes the serpent's head. He makes all things new. He delivers His people unto greater salvation. And, in and through Him, all who believe on His Name are victors, more than conquerors.
Toward the revelation of that Christ all history, from the very beginning, moves.
Audubon, New Jersey: Old Paths Publications, 1996. 317 pp. plus subject and scriptural text indexes. $36.95 (hardcover). [Reviewed by the editor.]
These sermons by John Calvin on God's election of Jacob and reprobation of Esau were published in English for the first time in 1579. Never again reprinted until now, they have been unavailable to, and virtually unknown by, English-speaking people for more than 400 years. They were originally part of Calvin's series on the book of Genesis. Calvin began the series in September, 1559. The sermons represent, therefore, the reformer's well-developed exegetical abilities and mature theological position. It should be remembered that the sermons on Genesis are different from Calvin's earlier commentary on Genesis.
The sermons that make up the content of this book cover Genesis 25:12 - 27:38.
With this reprint, Old Paths Publications makes a very valuable work of Calvin available in English for the first time in more than 400 years. Preachers and other scholars will want to study it for its contribution to the knowledge both of Calvin's method of preaching and of Calvin's doctrine of predestination.
But the book will also be welcomed by the ordinary church member, especially the Reformed and Presbyterian church member. Calvin preached to the people of God. He used language that they would understand and that would bring the Word home to them. In the sermon on Genesis 27:31 - 38, Calvin explains that "Esau cried out, yea by yelling and roaring, and that he howled as it were a wild beast."
The publisher has made the book reader-friendly. This reprint is not a mere photolithographed facsimile of the original 1579 edition, as is often the case with the reprinting of Calvin's sermons. The text has been newly typeset, so that the forms of letters and the spelling are modern. Also, archaic words are immediately explained in brackets by their contemporary equivalent. For example: "...to wit, these Dotards (foolish talkers, imbeciles)" (p. 202).
Nevertheless, the original work was left complete and unabridged. We have in this volume the sermons preached by Calvin in Geneva as the notable scribe, Denis Raguenier, took them down and as the English translator, John Field, rendered the original French into English.
The content is rich: God's sovereignty in the predestination of men, not as an abstract treatise but in the form of faithful exposition of Old Testament Scripture. Commenting in the second sermon on God's deliberate government of the birth of the twins so that Esau was born first and Jacob, second, Calvin explained:
And why doth God then pull him (Jacob) back, and make him inferior to his brother, as touching the law of nature, and afterwards setteth him (Jacob) above him (Esau)? In this we see that God would shut out all glory of man, that he would that all height should be thrown down, and that men should bring nothing of their own: to the end to say: I have attained such or such a good thing. I have gotten it by mine own industry. We see then that which I have already touched: that is to say, that we have here a glass, wherein we may behold, that all they that are of the church, are not advanced thereto by their own virtue, and that they have not obtained this favor by their merits: but that God hath chosen them before they were born (pp. 31, 32).
Not only do the sermons make clear what predestination is for Calvin, but also the importance of the doctrine for the Christian faith. Predestination is an eternal, sovereign decree that determines the everlasting destiny of every human. It is a decree that distinguishes between the natural children of believing parents.
The significance of election is that it is the source of every Christian virtue, the ground of the assurance of salvation, and the truth that attributes "the whole praise of our salvation to him (God)."
Calvin was not the slick, smiling, positive preacher who is the curse of much of contemporary evangelicalism, indeed, of much of nominally Reformed Christianity. His preaching pointed out and condemned the errors opposed to predestination. The enemies could be distinguished as "dogs" and "hogs." The dogs were the theologians who spoke and wrote against predestination. The hogs were those who professed to believe the doctrine, claiming to be elect, but whose unholy lives brought shame upon the truth that they professed.
Regarding those who opposed predestination by teaching that election depends upon foreseen faith, Calvin declared that they "have no drop of the fear of God."
Predestination is by no means the only doctrine treated in the book. The chapters in Genesis covered by these sermons contain many doctrines, including instruction for the Christian life. Calvin found them all. The tenth sermon, on Isaac's dealings with Abimelech, is a powerful exhortation to the Christian to purify himself "of all bitterness, hatred, and rancor, of all desire to revenge."
Adding to the value of an already invaluable work - Calvin! Calvin's sermons! Calvin's sermons on predestination! - is an intriguing "appendix": "An Answer to certain slanders and blasphemies, wherewith certain evil disposed persons have gone about to bring the doctrine of God's everlasting Predestination into hatred."
This is a little-known, succinct defense of predestination by Calvin himself against certain attacks on the doctrine, evidently about the time that Calvin was preaching on the doctrine out of Genesis.
From this "Answer" it is apparent that not only were the arguments against the doctrine of predestination the very same as those still raised today, but also they were the very same as the arguments being raised today in defense of the "well-meant offer." In Calvin's day, "Sebastian Chastalio or some such like" argued against predestination, that God "laboreth to draw unto him all that went astray"; that Ezekiel 18:32 and 33:11 teach that God desires to save all; that "God hath not created nor predestinated any man not to believe, seeing he calleth everyone"; and that Jesus' call to the heavy laden in Matthew 11:28 proves that "grace is given equally to all."
In our day, the Christian Reformed Church; John Murray and Ned Stonehouse; lain Murray and the Banner of Truth; and others who profess Calvinism, adopt exactly the same arguments in their attack upon sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel, according to predestination.
Now the entire English-speaking world can read Calvin's rejection and refutation of these perennial arguments against divine predestination.
The book includes a foreword of some length by the editor of the Standard Bearer.
There is also an index of texts and an index of topics.
Not to be overlooked is that the book is a handsome, gold-on-burgundy, hardcover volume. The publisher has done it right.
To order, write Old Paths Publications, 223 Princeton Rd., Audubon, New Jersey 08106 USA. The telephone and fax number is (609) 546-1501.
(Mr. Wigger is a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.)
The young people of the Hudsonville, MI PRC continue to be busy with plans for next year's Young People's Convention, scheduled for August 18-22 at Camp Miniwanca on the east shore of Lake Michigan near Shelby, MI. Since our last update, Hudsonville's young people have chosen a convention theme, "Knowing My God," based on John 17:3, with Psalter 64:2 being their theme song. They have also asked the Revs. Ron Cammenga, Doug Kuiper, and Carl Haak to speak at their convention.
At their November 17th meeting, the Young People's Society of the Bethel PRC in Itasca, IL was able to hear Seminarian Daniel Kleyn speak on "The Reformed Faith in Australia," a subject he knows something about, having been born and raised in Tasmania.
We mentioned last time that many of our churches were busy this past Reformation Day with lectures commemorating the event. So before we move too far away from October, let me include just one more.
The First PRC in Edmonton, AB, Canada hosted a lecture on October 31 with Rev. M. DeVries, their pastor, speaking on the theme, "Contending for the Faith in an Age of Tolerance." Rev. DeVries writes that there was an excellent turnout for this lecture. They did extensive advertising, and, especially due to the fact that the local Orthodox Reformed Church encouraged their members to attend, First had a church full. There were 60-70 in attendance from outside our PRC. Very encouraging.
On Sunday, October 27, the First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI commemorated the Protestant Reformation in both their services. Their Evangelism Committee advertised these services by means of an insert in a local paper. Their congregation was also encouraged to invite friends and neighbors.
We lift the following, written by Rev. J. Kortering in Singapore, from a recent bulletin of the Loveland, CO PRC.
Rev. Kortering writes in part, "I preached in C.E.R.C. last evening and they told me that they had a man from the Netherlands who attended because he learned about their presence on your homepage. They didn't know how he learned about your homepage in the first place, but at least we had a guest who came to church because he learned about us on the Net." Interesting that a Netherlander learned about Singapore churches via Loveland, CO. The world is truly getting smaller.
We have learned that Rev. Moore, pastor of the Hull, IA PRC, also maintains a homepage on the Internet. Interested? He can be reached at http:/ /www.mtcnet.net./revmo/
Two of our congregations have enjoyed significant growth this past year, making it necessary to add additional elders to their consistory. Our Hope PRC in Redlands, CA added one elder at their congregational meeting this December, bringing their total to five. Also, the Hudsonville, MI PRC added two elders, bringing their total to eleven.
We also pass along our congratulations to Mr. John C. Lubbers, a longtime member of our Hudsonville PRC, who this fall began his 61st year as a member of Hudsonville's Men's Society. The occasion was marked with an extra special lunch after society provided by Hudsonville's Ladies' Society, who meet the same night. May Mr. Lubbers and all the older members of our churches continue to be a faithful witness and an encouragement to all of us.
With the agreement of First PRC in Holland, MI, it was decided that Rev. C. Terpstra, who accepted the call to serve as pastor at First, would continue to serve at the South Holland, IL PRC as far into December as possible, for the sake of the internship of Daniel Klein. Rev. Terpstra will therefore give his farewell sermon on Sunday morning, December 22, D.V.
The search continues to go on for a suitable building site for the Georgetown PRC in Bauer, MI. Georgetown's Council had presented a proposal to their congregation to purchase ten acres north of Hudsonville. But before their scheduled congregational meeting in early November, the council rescinded that proposal when further investigation revealed that the additional cost of preparing the property for building made the total cost too expensive for consideration.
A new Women's Bible Study Group has begun meeting Thursday mornings in the First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI. For this year they have been studying a book entitled, Women of the Bible.
The Hull, IA PRC hosted this year's Fall Ladies' League Meeting on October 21. Rev. R. Moore spoke on the theme, "Answering Him That Reproacheth," and Rev. A. Brummel answered some previously prepared questions.
Rev. S. Key, pastor of the Randolph, WI PRC, has declined the call he received to serve as pastor of the Hope PRC in Walker, MI.
Food for Thought
"The Preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes all hell shake." - C.H. Spurgeon