Vol. 77; No. 15; May 1, 2001
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Table of Contents:
Meditation - Rev. James Slopsema
News from Our Churches - Mr. Benjamin Wigger
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34We find this passage in Jesus' beautiful Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus instructs us in this sermon to take no thought for, i.e., not to worry about, what we shall eat or drink or wear. There is good reason for this. Our heavenly Father knows that we have need of these things. Besides, our heavenly Father clothes the grass of the field and feeds the birds of the air. Are not we much better than they? Instead of seeking such material things as food, drink, or clothing, we must rather seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that God will add all these material things to us.
This important instruction is now summarized by our Lord.
Take no thought for the morrow, i.e., do not worry about the future.
For this admonition Jesus gives two reasons. First, the morrow will take thought for the things of itself. Second, sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
How valuable this instruction of Jesus is. We are so often given to worry. Here we are taught that there is no need to worry. Neither does any good come from worry.
Let us now hear this instruction of our Lord.
Take no thought for the morrow.
What is there about tomorrow or the future that people fear? The answer is supplied by the last part of this passage: evil. Evil refers to that which may hurt us or bring disaster. This hurt may come from something that happens, or it may come from a person in our life. Evils are present every day of our lives. Every day we confront situations that could bring hurt and even disaster. This inclines people to worry about the future. What might happen tomorrow? What evil lurks in the future?
What are these evils that might conceivably befall us and that bring worry to our souls?
Jesus had just spoken of the possibility of not having the necessities of life. For many in the world, this is a great and legitimate concern. They live every day on the brink of poverty. Others live in prosperity. Yet there is the real possibility of losing one's job, having to lower one's standard of living, or even going bankrupt. This can certainly generate a great deal of worry.
But there are other evils as well. There is the ever-present threat of sickness. Some families have histories of cancer or heart disease. Who in the family will be struck next? Others have a daily struggle with sickness that threatens to bring disability or an early death. What worry this brings. And then there is the approaching loss of a loved one through death. There is the evil that awaits a loved one, often a child, who lives in sin. In some countries there is the constant threat of war. To one degree or another there is always the evil of persecution for Christ's sake. All these things tend to generate worry and anxiety.
In all these things we are instructed to take no thought, i.e., not to worry.
This does not mean, of course, that we exercise no care for the future. Jesus' instruction must be understood in the context of faithful labor. In this same sermon Jesus speaks of sowing seed, reaping, and gathering into barns. He also speaks of making cloth for our raiment. The book of Proverbs instructs us to learn from the ant, which provides meat in the summer and gathers food in the harvest (Prov. 6:6-8). We are also warned against stealing from our neighbor by our laziness and are admonished rather to work with our hands the thing that is good that we may even have to give to him that is in need (Eph. 4:28). And those who will not work should not eat (II Thess. 3:10). In all this labor we are admonished to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). This means that in all our labors and laying up for future need, we seek to attain the righteousness of God provided in Jesus Christ and thus enter into the kingdom of God to enjoy its blessings.
It's in the context of that care and industry that Jesus instructs us not to worry about the morrow. What he means is that we are not to be anxious. One is anxious about the future when he is preoccupied with the evil that may befall him. He begins to dread the future. He wakes up every day with a sense of dread. Worry can rob someone of his appetite for food and his sleep at night. It can even make one physically ill.
Instead of this worry, we must be at peace about the future. We must be content, secure, confident, even though we know that evils will come.
*** *** ***
We may well ask for a reason for this instruction. Look at the evils that have befallen us in the past. Look at the present evils with which we must deal every day. Can't we expect the same in the future? And doesn't that give us every reason to worry?
Jesus gives us two good reasons not to worry for tomorrow.
First, the morrow will take care of the things of itself.
Yes, there will be evils tomorrow and in the many tomorrows of the future. And these evils will bring with them the potential of injury and disaster. Nevertheless, tomorrow will look out for these evils and take care of them so that the disaster they threaten will not come and all will be well.
Just how is this to be understood?
We have an obvious case of personification, i.e., ascribing to inanimate objects the qualities of a person. Here tomorrow is viewed as a person who will bring with it the same God whom it brought today and yesterday, and who will take care of all the evils that await us so that we are safe and secure.
Who is this God?
Jesus calls Him our heavenly Father (v. 32). In Jesus Christ, God has become our Father. He has become our Father, first of all, by adopting us has His children for Christ's sake. But He has also become our Father by a spiritual rebirth in Christ. As our Father, God loves us, cares for us, and provides for us all things. He is not only willing to do this as faithful Father, but He is also able, being almighty God.
That God is present today, providing for all our needs, averting all evil or turning it to our profit. Tomorrow that same God will be present to do the same.
How foolish, then, to worry about tomorrow! Most things that we worry about for the morrow never materialize. And that which does take place will be cared for by the God that the morrow will bring.
But there is another reason not to worry about tomorrow. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
This means that there is enough evil to handle for each day. Each day brings with it its own evils with the potential for hurt, whether it be sickness, wounded relationships, emptiness, loneliness, poverty, war, or whatever. By the guidance of our heavenly Father there is never more than we can endure. He limits the evils that befall us on any given day. And He upholds us in His grace so that we can carry them and are not crushed. On the other hand, whatever evils God places upon us on any given day are also sufficient. It is enough to carry. We really are not able to carry any more. We can carry the burdens of today's evils only by the grace of God; and God gives us this grace one day at a time. God does not provide us with grace today to cope with the evils of tomorrow. We receive grace only for today.
So we must not worry about tomorrow. Those who worry about tomorrow take upon themselves tomorrow's burdens. They carry both today's burdens and tomorrow's. But they have grace only for today's burdens. So tomorrow's burdens cripple them. Worry over tomorrow doesn't solve tomorrow's problems. Worry only cripples one so that he cannot deal with today's evils effectively. And it often leaves him incapable of dealing with tomorrow's evils when they come. Much better that we leave tomorrow's evils to the hand of our heavenly Father and deal with today's problems in the grace of God.
*** *** ***
O ye of little faith.
This is what Jesus says to those who worry (v. 30).
The Word of God is clear. God is our Father in Jesus Christ. As our Father He will care for us day by day. His mercies are new every morning.
The question is whether we have the faith to believe His Word. Those who are strong in faith do not worry about tomorrow but leave tomorrow in the hand of God. It is only when faith falters that we begin to worry.
So we must grow in our faith and maintain a strong faith in God's promises. A strong faith comes from knowing the Word of God and meditating on it. Faith becomes strong also through prayer. And don't forget the fellowship of the saints. Don't ever worry alone. Always bring your worries to a fellow saint, so that he may assure you from God's Word and help you view your problems realistically.
Doing this we will take no thought for the morrow. Each day we will deal only with today's evils and burdens. And by the grace of God we will serve Him effectively, joyfully, and confidently.
I refer to the annual society meeting of Covenant Christian High School in Western Michigan.
There was a solid slate of nominees for the board.
There was a good spirit. Obviously, the men were pleased with our Protestant Reformed high school in Western Michigan. Adoption of the budget was unanimous and without dispute.
The agenda informed the society that the board will be hiring a special education teacher for the coming school-year. The purpose is to teach certain covenant young people with special needs. This is right.
The Covenant Christian High School Foundation reported a sizable and growing fund of money. This is to supplement the income from tuition and, thus, in part, keep the tuition as low as possible. The Foundation urged that all consider including the Foundation in their will, surely good stewardship of God's goods.
Although the tuition had to be raised to $4,300 per student, it is by no means out-of-line with tuition in other Christian high schools. The next day the Grand Rapids Press reported that tuition this coming year at Grand Rapids Christian High School will be $5,300 per student.
The attendance was impressive. More than 140 men filled the music room, to do the business of the covenant.
But there were very few older and old men at the meeting-men whose last child has graduated from Covenant, grandfathers, great grandfathers.
This is the subject of my modest proposal. (Lest anyone suspect that I pat myself on the back for attending, and, therefore, discount my proposal, I note that I have a child attending Covenant this coming year. My presence was unexceptional. It was required.)
I suppose that this characteristic of Covenant's meeting may also be true of the society meetings of other Christian schools throughout North America. My proposal will be of interest, therefore, to the other schools as well.
Probably, we take for granted that the old men do not any longer attend the society meetings. Perhaps, we have become accustomed to it, that a man attends his last society meeting the year that his youngest child graduates from the school.
Nevertheless, this is surprising. The school is a covenant institution. It is a vitally important covenant institution. Its concern is God's name-Jesus the Christ-in God's creation. The students, who by their learning are to know, bear, and honor this name, are the children of the church. The entire church benefits from the school's faithfulness, as the entire church will suffer for the school's unfaithfulness.
My modest proposal is that men continue to attend the society meetings after their own children graduate. Thus, they will demonstrate their lively interest in the school. This will be encouragement to the younger men. The mere presence of the older and old may discourage rash ventures, just as the presence of younger men may overcome the tendency of age to stagnant conservatism. Like the church, the school needs young and old.
By attending, the older men make themselves available to serve on the board. The older should have a presence on the board, as indeed they do at Covenant. They should be willing to serve. Their zeal for Christian education does not end with the dying strains of the postlude at the graduation exercises of their youngest child. Their experience over many years counts for much in the ongoing cause of covenant, Christian education. The wisdom of the older is useful to the school.
How many older men in Western Michigan could be lively members of Covenant's society? 100? 200? More? What a powerful furthering of Christian education it would be, if the society meeting had to spill out of the music room into the gymnasium.
My modest proposal, however, includes more than the attendance of the older men. It is modest, but not that modest. Let these older men, without children in the school and, therefore, relieved of the responsibility of tuition, commit themselves to an annual contribution to the budget of the school. Membership in the society for them would include this annual contribution. The board could figure on these contributions in preparing the budget. Suppose that 100 in this special category were to give $200 a year. $20,000 would go either toward lowering the tuition or toward raising the salary of the teachers. Suppose that 200 older men pledged $300 a year each, not an unreasonable amount. The society would have $60,000, to keep tuition down and to increase teachers' salaries.
The idea is not novel, or utopian. It has kept at least one of our Christian schools in existence for many years. Older men and others in the congregation without children are depended on for support, including fixed financial support.
*** *** ***
As I was walking to the meeting across Covenant's parking lot, I met another who was also on his way to the meeting. He is an old man, well up in his 80s. I could not refrain from telling him how glad I was to see him attending the meeting and how important it is that men like him attend.
He turned to me an uncomprehending face.
"Why?" he asked.
"I belong here."
"This is my school."
"Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13)In two articles, in the November 15 and December 1, 2000 issues of the Standard Bearer, I introduced the great subject of the kingdom of God. The first article established that "the kingdom of God that is central in the gospel of the Scriptures is God's reign of grace by the Spirit and Word of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Son of God." It is "God's reign of grace in Christ," in distinction from God's rule over all things by His almighty power.
The second article contended that "the basic idea of the kingdom is the rule of God-the living, actual, liberating, saving, blessed rule of God in Jesus Christ." Although the kingdom includes a realm, has citizens (including the children of believers), and provides benefits, it is the rule of God in Christ. The kingdom of God is simply God the king and His kingship. This article concluded by promising a study of the relation of the kingdom of God and the church. The present editorial begins to fulfill this promise.
I state the fundamental truth concerning the relation of the kingdom and the church as clearly, sharply, and succinctly as possible: The kingdom of God in our present, New Testament age is the church.
Some may disagree, but no one can fail to understand.
This simple, basic truth about the kingdom is, first, the teaching of the Bible. Second, it is the historical and confessional position of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches, indeed, of the Reformation churches generally.
It is also a truth that needs to be taught and defended everywhere in the world. The reason is that this truth is widely challenged. Under the pressure of teachings that make the kingdom of God something different from the church, professing Christians are doubtful about the identification of the kingdom and the church. One practical (and fatal) result is disparagement, if not contempt, for the church, including lively membership in the true church.
We must be clear as to our terms. By "kingdom of God," we mean the rule of God in Christ. This rule forms a realm within which Christ's reign on God's behalf holds sway. In closest connection with this realm is the populace, the citizenry, and then not as so many regenerated individuals but as a united, well-ordered "commonwealth," or nation. Within the realm, the citizens enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of God.
By the church, every Reformed Christian will understand the universal body of Jesus Christ made up of all the elect out of all nations and manifesting itself in the true, local, instituted congregation. Recalling Jesus' teaching that at His first coming the kingdom was "nigh," we shall have in mind the New Testament, fulfilled, mature form of the church. Old Testament Israel was the church all right, but as Paul teaches in Galatians 4:1ff. only in an immature, undeveloped form.
The kingdom of God is the church. The living reign of God in Christ by the Word and Spirit is the church. The realm is the sphere of the church. The citizens are the members of the church. The blessings of the kingdom are poured out on and enjoyed in the church.
There is a truth about the kingdom of God that is basic to the confession that the kingdom of God is the church. This is the truth that the kingdom of God is spiritual. Spirituality is an essential quality of the kingdom of God. Knowledge of the spiritual nature of the kingdom is essential to the right belief about the kingdom. The great errors about the kingdom that are afoot today have this in common, that they view the kingdom as earthly, as political, as carnal. This is the gross, wicked error of dispensationalism, that makes the kingdom of God an earthly Jewish world-power. This is the gross, wicked error of the liberals, that makes the kingdom an earthly, one-world government, which will satisfy all the fleshly desires of godless mankind: plenty to eat and drink; the gratification of every perverse sexual lust; the elimination of all inconvenient persons-unborn babies, old people, sick people, and, eventually, orthodox Christians; and the eradication of war and social strife.
Viewing the kingdom as carnal is also the error of those who suppose that the most important realization of the kingdom of God will be an earthly, political, visibly glorious Christian empire that Christ will rear up in the world before His second coming. Yes, they will agree, somewhat impatiently, the church is a manifestation of the kingdom at present. But the superior manifestation of the kingdom of God, the Messianic kingdom in its best and fullest form, the kingdom that finally fulfills the prophecy of the Old Testament in Psalm 72 and similar passages will be that future, earthly world-power that will have Christianized all nations.
Against these errors and on behalf of the right understanding of the kingdom of God, we must believe and confess that the kingdom of God is spiritual.
In his book, Thy Kingdom Come, Rousas J. Rushdoony, father of the Christian Reconstruction movement, says this: "The reduction of the kingdom of God to a spiritual realm is in effect a denial of the kingdom" (p. 178). I appreciate that Rushdoony sees the fundamental issue concerning the kingdom and states this issue bluntly. But in flat contradiction to this statement, I maintain that Scripture teaches that the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ is essentially and entirely a spiritual realm. I maintain further that every denial of the spirituality of the kingdom is a denial of the kingdom of God.
It is significant that Rushdoony utters this denial, that the kingdom is spiritual, in the context of his denialthat the church is to be identified with the kingdom: "The church ... is not to be identified as the kingdom of God, but simply as a part of the kingdom" (p. 178). Mr. Rushdoony practiced what he preached. Writing in 1991, fellow Christian Reconstructionist Gary North informed the world that "Rushdoony does not belong to a local church, nor has he taken communion in two decades, except when he is on the road, speaking at a church that has a policy of open communion or is unaware of his non-member status" (West-minster's Confession, p. 80).
In explanation of the spirituality of the kingdom of God, negatively, the kingdom is not earthly in nature. It does not consist of dominion by physical force-the sword and its terror. It does not promise or provide earthly blessings and goods-earthly peace and material prosperity. It does not claim any earthly country for its territory - Palestine, North Amer-ica, Scotland, or the Netherlands. It does not possess or display any earthly glory-power, weapons, numbers, size, or impressive leader (the Christ of the biblical gospel of the cross is not impressive to the natural man). Indeed, its citizens are not citizens by virtue of any earthly characteristic, whether race, sex, nationality, status, or achievement.
In keeping with its unearthly nature, the kingdom of God cannot be known by man's physical senses. This is literally what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Christ taught the same thing in Luke 17:20 when, in response to the Pharisees' question, when the kingdom of God should come, He said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." The kingdom comes without "observation" in that the manner of its coming is invisible.
The kingdom of God, therefore, is unlike every other (human) kingdom. It is radically unlike all other kingdoms. It is unlike all other kingdoms in quality, in its essential nature. It is another kind of kingdom from that of Babylon, Rome, the British Empire, Germany, modern Israel, or the United States.
(to be continued)
The English congregation contained many sound Reformers, 48 of them being listed in the National Dictionary of Biography. Bro.Kuiper's statement that Knox fell out with them because of 'vestments, ceremonies, and the use of the English Prayer Book' is incorrect. The Non-conformist members were far less High Church than Knox and were shocked when he sought to ban congregational participation in the service and the public reading of Scripture. They abhorred vestments, crossings, crucifixes, and the like and, unlike Knox, they refused to elect Superintendents and Bishops, electing one or more pastors and several preachers. Though Knox left Frankfurt in March 1555 for Scotland, he did not return and become pastor of the English church in Geneva until the late summer of 1556, and found the church using a similar order to the one he had refused at Frankfurt. Incidentally, when Knox was asked by the Scottish Lords to establish the Reformation in Scotland, it was on the basis of the Edwardian Prayer Book which was used in the Scottish Reformed Church for a good many more years.
George M. Ella
In the fourth article, in the February 15, 2001 issue, you state that "Preaching creates life out of nothing in men as really as the voice of God in creation brought forth plants and animals out of nothing. Preaching raises from the dead as really as the voice of Christ brought Lazarus from the grave." This incorrectly ascribes the work of regeneration to preaching. Regeneration is a work of the Spirit alone. The Spirit alone gives life. The preaching nourishes this life.
In The Triple Knowledge, vol. II, p. 424, Herman Hoeksema states that "even as creation is an immediate work of God, as the resurrection effected by the almighty power of God without any human means, so also the origin of the new life, which is called regeneration or the rebirth, is accomplished directly by the power of God alone, and not through the preaching of the gospel."
Hoeksema goes on to prove this from both Scripture and the Canons of Dordt. One of the proof texts he cites is John 3:3: "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "This implies without a doubt that the grace of regeneration is first and must necessarily have the precedence over any other work of grace wrought by the Holy Spirit in the heart of man" (p. 428).
Dave and Joan Hanko
Grand Rapids, MI
But we may speak of the preaching creating life out of nothing, even in born-again believers, in the same sense that we speak of God creating "out of nothing" on the second or third day of creation-even though it was creation out of something at that point. We know what we mean. Those who are born again even ask God to create a clean heart in them.
I would caution you not to do injustice to the preaching by saying that it only nourishes the life of regeneration. It does more.Our Heidelberg Catechism teaches that the sacraments nourish faith, but the preaching gives (works) faith. It does so, because it is the very voice of Jesus Christ to His people. Please do not underestimate the power of God's voice in the preaching.
You are interested in Herman Hoeksema's opinion on this matter. Please read also his explanation of the preaching in his God's Eternal Good Pleasure. Without denying what he said in Triple Knowledge, he teaches regarding the efficacious calling which comes through the preaching:
And this calling is absolutely efficacious. It performs what it says. For it is the calling of the living God, of Him Who quickeneth the dead and calleth the things which are not as if they were. God's Word is powerful. It is creative. When in the beginning He said, "Let there be light," He did not send out an invitation…. When Christ stood at the open grave of Lazarus and called, "Lazarus, come forth!" the divine, creative Word went out unto the dead; and he was quickened. Nor is it any different when God calls the sinner who is in himself dead in sin and trespasses…. But just as God called the light into being in the beginning by the Word of His power, and just as His divine, irresistible, quickening Word went forth into Lazarus' grave, so He sends His own, almighty, quickening, illuminating Word into the heart and mind and will of the sinner, by nature in death and darkness, when He performs that marvelous work of grace to which the apostle refers in our text when he writes, "Even us, whom he hath called…"
This calling comes to the sinner always through the Word, the Scriptures, the preaching of the gospel (pp. 92,93; emphasis in this quotation is mine-BG).
- (Pastor) Barry Gritters
In our last article we introduced the subject of mysticism in the Middle Ages by describing the life of Thomas à Kempis, a late medieval mystic from Germany, who spent most of his life in the Netherlands. We also spoke of his most famous book, The Imitation of Christ, a book that continues to be read and appreciated to the present.
In this article and following ones we shall discuss the characteristics of mysticism and why it constitutes such a threat to the church of Christ.
The Prevalence of Mysticism
I mentioned in my last article that there is scarcely a period in the history of the church when the church was free from all forms of mysticism. Already in the early church, the Montanists, to which Tertullian joined himself late in life, represented this mystical tendency to which many in the church were inclined.
The Medieval Period of church history was filled with mystics, individuals and communities. In the years just prior to the Reformation, many communities of mystics were crowded into the Rhine Valley in Germany and the Netherlands. Mysticism flourished in these fog-shrouded valleys.
Mysticism did not stop with the Reformation. Very early in the history of Luther's Reformation, Luther was confronted by the Zwickau Prophets in particular and the Anabaptists in general, who possessed their own brands of mysticism.
Charles Wesley was heavily influenced by medieval mysticism, translated books of the mystics, and infused Methodism with his mysticism. (See Robert G. Tuttle, Mysticism in the Wesleyan Tradition.)
In the Netherlands the gezel-schappen, or conventicles, which arose during the Later Reformation were often characterized by a mystical tendency, a tendency from which the Dutch churches never completely escaped.
Mysticism has reached new heights in the modern day Charismatic Movement.
Characteristics of Mysticism
Searching around for a general definition of mysticism, especially that of the medieval church, I found the following paragraph in the book of Tuttle referred to above. He writes:
Perhaps as good a definition as any could begin with the statement that mysticism is anything that gets one in touch with reality beyond the physical senses. Furthermore, mysticism embraces a "right brain" awareness of God and all mystics stress (more or less) the essential unity of God, nature, and humankind; therefore, union with God can be achieved (more or less) through the mystical contemplation of the unity. More specifically, mysticism is in essence that "deep sense of union with God in the inmost depths of the soul," an immediate awareness of a unique relationship with God. "It is religion in its most acute, intense, and living state."A bit further on, the same author writes:
Several characteristics have been listed as common to all mystical experience. First of all, mysticism defies expression, and its ineffable character makes it virtually impossible for mystics to describe their experiences adequately. Another characteristic of mysticism lies in its "noetic quality." To understand mysticism one must experience mysticism. Its thoroughly esoteric nature plunges the soul into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. The mystical experience is also transitory because the mystical heights cannot be sustained for long, but this is not to imply that no growth has taken place. Ideally, after each experience the mystic returns to a level of devotion even higher than before. In fact, these "mystical heights" are nonessential to mysticism and can be justified only if the mystic returns to the senses with a higher level of devotion.It is easy to understand how mysticism in many cases began to emphasize dreams, visions, and other forms of revelation which one would receive directly from God apart from the Scriptures. When the Zwickau Prophets boasted of the revelations they had received from the Holy Spirit, Martin Luther responded, "I hit your holy spirit on the snout." Luther's point was that the Holy Spirit speaks only through the objective Scriptures.
It is also easy to see how in many instances some sort of mystical experience was considered the decisive determination of the Christian life.
The Explanation of Mysticism
We can find, I think, an explanation for mysticism and its constant attractiveness. In a sense, mysticism is an effort of the church to pay her unpaid bills. Mysticism arises when the church does not preach the full gospel of Jesus Christ, or, at least, does not live fully the gospel which she preaches.
Man is created by God as a creature with a soul. The soul includes mind and will. And the will, in turn, includes the powers of choice and the powers of emotions. God has determined that fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ includes the whole man in body and soul, in mind and will. My only comfort is that I, with body and soul, am not my own, but belong to Jesus. A true religion which is undefiled satisfies the whole man in body and soul. Basically that means that a true religion satisfies man's mind and will - both. It brings the whole man into fellowship with God.
But the church has had trouble maintaining that proper balance. When Montanism arose and Tertullian chose to become a part of it, the reason was partly because, during a period of rest from persecution, the church had become worldly. Eusebius makes that point in his History of the Church; and Eusebius was a contemporary of Nicea in the early part of the fourth century.
In the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church developed a religion in which the worship of God was reduced to outward liturgical forms and actions. The inward worship of the heart was ignored. One needed only to go through the motions of ecclesiastically prescribed liturgy; that was enough. When scholasticism was in favor, the appeal of religion was to the intellect, and the one able to make the subtlest distinctions, the most difficult analyses of intellectual propositions, was the one hailed as being the most religious. No passion, no intensity of feeling, no emotional content, no concern for godly living. Religion was in externals or intellectual attainment.
And so mysticism flourished as a reaction to what was often a cold, formal religion without heart. Man is more than a head which thinks. He is also a soul which feels, loves, hates, grieves, sings; and this part of man has to be caught up in his religion.
Then again, when mysticism flourishes and religion is reduced to feeling and emotion, the mind is left empty. The child of God has nothing to chew on with his mind, nothing to think about, nothing to remember, nothing to learn. How does he feel? Does his religion make him feel good? Those are the only questions that count.
The pendulum in the church swings back and forth. It swings towards mysticism during periods of worldliness and dead orthodoxy. And it swings towards intellectualism when religion is reduced to feeling. But both are reactions. Mysticism is the swing of the pendulum towards feeling.
Mysticism also takes on other characteristics. It often arises out of a genuine concern about a life of godliness and piety, especially when worldliness and carnal mindedness capture the church. Especially when dead orthodoxy is present, many within the church worry that religion is only outward. People go to church, but worship in spirit and in truth is often lacking. People have their confessions, but know almost nothing about them. People claim to have the truth, but seem unwilling to defend it, or perhaps unable as they perish for lack of knowledge.
What counts, therefore, is not these outward forms of religion, but the true religion of the heart. True piety, true godliness, a genuine devotional life - that is what counts. And so mysticism is concerned about the cultivation of the devotional life, the development of piety and holiness, the life of prayer and meditation. These are hailed as the true marks of Christianity. This was the mysticism of Thomas à Kempis. This was the mysticism so prevalent among the mystics of the Rhine River Valley.
But this too develops along a certain line. The church is composed of many people. Many are only outwardly religious. Who are the truly religious? That is (and this is the form such a question inevitably takes), who are truly godly, truly pious, truly holy? That is, who are true believers? How can one tell? How can one tell for others? How can one tell for himself?
So often, precisely here, questions which could be proper, necessary, and important become the bridge to mysticism in its worst forms. It is not wrong to be concerned for piety and godliness. It is not wrong to cultivate inner piety. These are necessary parts of what religion is all about. But the next step is dangerous. True piety and true religion are, after all, close fellowship with God. But how does one know whether he truly has fellowship with God? This knowledge comes by way of mystical experiences of closest and most intimate contact with the divine being in which there is indescribable and yet overwhelmingly sweet communion. Dreams, visions, revelations, overwhelming joy, feelings that transport one beyond life, all these are part of that sort of fellowship with God which marks genuine piety and which is, finally, the mark of the true believer.
2. But, second, the pastor must
look to the position in which he stands, as the leader of public prayer,
to determine the manner of its performance. He is the organ of the people;
not of himself, save as he is one among them. He speaks the mind of the
aggregate church in that place. He is to pray in behalf of the church,
then, as the church should pray for itself. If a Christian could be found
who was the fair type of what his brethren in that place should be, the
pastor should speak just as that representative man would, only changing
individual expressions into public and common, and the singular member
into the plural. How, then, does a soul properly speak of itself to its
God? Does it dream of fine language? Does it think of artificial terms
of expression? Does it deem that ornaments of style have any place? You
well know that if you overheard that man in his secret prayer, and found
him employing such ambitious verbiage, you would conclude at once that
he was insincere. So, just as soon as the minister introduces any
rhetorical artifice, he betrays the fact that he is speaking to creatures
and not to God. He has forgotten what he professes to be about, and is
mocking the Searcher of hearts!1
The first requirement, then, is that the language of prayer must be
wholly unambitious, unaffected, and simple. It must be, not such as is proper from a teacher speaking to his congregation, but just such as is appropriate for an accepted sinner speaking to his God.
From the same position I deduce the rule that the preacher, in intercessions which he represents the people as offering for himself, should indulge in no affected excesses of humility. This would be in reality to have the people tell God in their pastor's presence, how great a sinner they thought he was! The pastor may presume that his people respond to the apostolic request: "Brethren, pray for us," but in giving voice to their prayer for himself, he should put into their mouths no other language than they would use, if interceding for him in his presence. Even in doing this he should avoid the appearance of egotism.
From the same point of view I infer that the pastor should be chary of introducing personal details into his public devotions. He represents his church as a whole: neither he nor his family, nor any other individual or family, should monopolize that access to the throne of grace which is common to all. Even when a single person is under such peculiar trials as to entitle him to the special prayers of the church, the pastor should not dwell too long upon his particular conditions.
Once more, true prayer is the language of faith. None really pray except those who have begun to feel the quickening grace of God; hence it is unnatural that any one should pray habitually and still remain an entire stranger to the filial affections and hopes of the Christian. Prayer, then, is usually the language of God's children, not of his enemies. The pastor is the organ of the body of penitent believers, not of the impenitent. He should use language suitable to a sinner turning from his ways; for this is always appropriate, not only to the awakened sinner, but to the imperfect and penitent child who is continually renewing his "first works." But his strain should be prevalently filial, believing, and hopeful, as becomes God's reconciled children.
Since it is God to whom you speak, and not man, your prayers should not be didactic. Doctrinal truths and the facts of redemption are, indeed, the grounds, arguments, and guides of our petitions. This will justify such allusion to them, especially in our pleadings, as founds our request on their proper reasons; but our reference must be subordinate and brief, lest we should seem to preach to God instead of praying to him. There is a painful absurdity in our going about formally to instruct God of his doctrinal truths: it is his part to inform us of these; it is our wants and praises which he invites us to tell him.
3. It is of radical importance that the leader of the church's prayers shall present distinct and definite petitions, and these not numerous at one time. One of the constant sins of our prayers is that we are vague, and therefore feeble, in our desires. We scarcely remember precisely what we asked of God; we do not watch and work for the answer. The pastor should conscientiously avoid fostering this wretched vice of the people's devotions: he should put into their mouths always distinct objects of desire. Prayer is the professed language of want; but want is always definite: he who wants, wants some thing - a distinct thing. The leader of prayer should therefore speak as one who has an errand at the throne, a point to press with God. He should eschew loose generalities of petition, and all that stream of indefinite, goodish talk with which so many prayers are filled, which really expresses nothing save a slumbering faith and a heart void of desire. Nor should the emotions and memories of the people be burdened with many points in the same prayer. Sincere devotion is the most arduous exercise of the soul: it should therefore not be too much taxed at the same time. Ardent desire is, moreover, expulsive in its nature: it claims, for the once, the whole heart for its object. No man is strongly exercised concerning many diverse and remote objects at once; hence a few appropriate topics of petition, handled in an orderly manner and enlarged with judicious amplification, until the mind is fixed and the heart engaged by them, constitute the most edifying prayers.
4. He who leads the devotions of others must study appropriateness of matter. He should ask himself what would be uppermost in the hearts of Christians at that time, if they were supposed to be in a suitable temper. Let that be his topic. It is due from the judgment of charity that he shall credit God's children with that right temper; and he should desire, at any rate, to foster it in them, by leading them to the expression of those desires which it should prompt. He must remember that he is the mouthpiece of the church. What right, then, has he to put into her mouth words which she is not rightfully inclined to utter? If the children of God have one thing upon their hearts, and you force a different one into their petitions, you do them a grievous wrong. Assume, then, that the things which ought to be especially appropriate to the time and circumstances are the things which the Holy Spirit has put into the desires of the people, and give tongue to these. Every prayer should be studied with reference to the present wants of the church: this will also secure variety in your public devotions. When the soul of the people is pressed with particular wants, do not consume their time with the usual routine of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, to the exclusion of their chief errand at the throne of grace, but either abbreviate those parts, or borrow their thoughts from the same pressing objects.
5. "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few."2 The language of prayer should be well-ordered and considerate. He who speaks to the Searcher of hearts should beware how he indulges any exaggeration of words, lest his tongue should be found to have outrun his mind, and to have "offered the sacrifice of fools." Both the words and the utterances should express profound but affectionate reverence. The enunciation of prayer should be softer, more level, less marked by ictus, less vehement, more subdued. Every one should breathe tenderness and supplication. There are ministers whose inflections, modulated upon the pensive, minor key, are the native voice of contrite desire. Study to make these tones your own. It is difficult to say which is most unsuitable to this sacred exercise - a hurried, perfunctory utterance, as of one who reads some tiresome or trivial matter, a violent and declamatory manner, as though one had ventured upon objurgation of his Maker, or a headlong and confused enunciation.
6. Above all should the minister enrich his prayers with the language of Scripture. Not everything in the Scripture is appropriate to express devotion, as some pedantic minds seem to imagine, but the language of its spiritual and devotional parts. Besides its inimitable beauty and simplicity, it is hallowed and sweet to every pious heart by a thousand associations. It satisfies the taste of all; its use effectually protects us against improprieties; it was doubtless given by the Holy Spirit to be a model for our devotions. Let it then abound in our prayers. The young minister should store his memory richly with these noble strains, fixing in his mind the very words of the English version. He should memorize perfectly the finest passages from the Psalms, the Prophets, the Evangelists, and the Apostles, and study to make them the apt vehicles of his worship. But let him shun those fantastic and perverse applications of the language of the Bible in which certain classes of preachers so much delight, which wrest figurative or tropical expressions to some quaint sense they were not intended to bear. This has grown, in some, to an odious pedantry: the more strange and farfetched their applications, the better they are pleased. Such a mannerism can only mystify or else amuse the hearer, and it is therefore glaringly out of place in prayer.
Great beauty, variety, and solemnity are gained by employing the numerous descriptive and attributive phrases which are found in the Scriptures for addressing the persons of the Trinity. These forms of speech should be selected with reference to the particular topic of thanksgiving, confession, or petition which was to be introduced; for example, either a request or a thanksgiving for temporal good may be begun: Thou, Father, "which openest thy hand, and satisfieth the desires of every living thing."3 A prayer for aid in self-examination may appropriately begin: "Thou who searchest the hearts, and triest the reins" of the children of men.4 A prayer for rulers, or against powerful assailants, may address God as "Judge of all the earth,"5 or as "King of kings and Lord of lords."6 Prayer for deliverance from war and confusion naturally appeals to the "Prince of peace."7 Those passages in our prayers which express adoration, or exalted, spiritual emotion, may be best composed of the varied and inimitable forms of doxology contained in the Scriptures. What formula of human invention can ever equal this? "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever, amen!" Or this: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."8 So, the formulary known as the Lord's Prayer should not only be a guide to the matter of our prayers, but it should, on suitable occasions, be recited in the words of the Gospels. And it is especially adapted to form the close of a prayer of human composition.
In fine, public prayer must never be prolix or tedious. The soul cannot long sustain properly so elevated an exercise. After weariness supervenes, all that remains is a ministration of formalism.
From all this, young gentlemen, you will readily comprehend that this duty will require of you careful and special preparation. The young minister should no more venture into the pulpit with an impromptu prayer, than with an impromptu sermon. And the prayer after sermon, although usually short, should no more be left to the chance suggestions of a moment of exhaustion, than the longer. Every pastor should practise frequently the art of devotional composition. He will do this, not so much to recite these written prayers in the pulpit, as to train his own taste, and to gather a store of devotional language. He should also prepare himself regularly for his duty by noting suitable subjects of prayer and praise with careful deliberation and by preparing acceptable words. And, above all, he should seek to have his own soul in a right frame by fervent, secret prayer.
Let me, in conclusion, recommend to you the little work of Dr. Samuel Miller on Public Prayer. You will find that most of the advices I have given you are borrowed from it. It is a manual of the highest merit for its piety and excellent taste.
2 Eccles. V. 2.
3 Psalm cxiv. 16.
4 Jer. xvii. 10.
5 Gen. xviii. 25.
6 Rev. xvii. 14.
7 Isa. Ix. 6.
8 1 Tim. I. 17; Rev. v. 12. And the following: Rom. xi. 33-36; xvi. 27; Jude xxv; Rev. iv. 8, 11; Rev. vii. 12; Isa. vi. 3; Dan. ix. 4; Ps. viii. 1; c. 5; lxxii. 18 to the end.
Under tort law principles, a person who consents to another's conduct cannot bring a tort claim for the harm that follows from that conduct. This is because no wrong is done to one who consents. Because the plaintiff consented to the church's practices, and his active engagement with the church indicated his continuing consent, the church's actions disciplining the plaintiff were not unlawful.
Smith v. Calvary Christian Church, Michigan Supreme Court (2000).May a disgruntled former member bring suit against his church which publicly announced his sins during church disciplinary proceedings shortly after he resigned his membership? This was the issue confronting the Michigan Supreme Court recently, which decided unanimously to bar tort suits against churches for allegedly wrongful disciplinary proceedings where it is clear that the member previously consented to church discipline.
Disclosure of Sin and Dismissal
David Smith began attending Calvary Christian Church, a small independent church, in 1985 and became a member a year later. Shortly thereafter, David requested a meeting with his pastor, at which time he voluntarily disclosed that he had previously frequented prostitutes. David apparently believed this disclosure would be kept confidential.
Later, in 1991, David was formally removed from the church's membership, not because of the former disclosure, but because he was causing division in the church by challenging church leaders over religious doctrine. At his request David was later reinstated, but only after he was forced to confess his sins (including his past indiscretions with prostitutes) to the church board and to his wife. The board then warned him that if he did not end his divisive conduct, he would again be subject to church discipline.
Despite the warning, David continued to cause division within the church. Consequently, the board decided to "mark" him according to Matthew 18:15-17, which involves singling out a person involved in sin and causing division, and detailing the person's sins before the congregation.
The pastor advised David's wife and family that he would be marked on December 8, 1996, and cautioned them against attending services that day. By that time David had submitted a letter withdrawing his formal membership; however, he remained involved with the church, and was present at the church on the day chosen for his marking, apparently to dispute the pastor over religious doctrine. Later in the service, the pastor announced to the congregation that David had formerly visited prostitutes.
Former Member Files Suit
On the basis of the pastor's public revelation regarding the prostitutes, David filed suit against the church, alleging various causes of action, including invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. David's suit contended that the pastor's disclosure was not motivated by religious doctrine, but by the pastor's personal spite in his attempt to humiliate David and cause dissension in his family. The trial court summarily dismissed all of David's claims on legal grounds. On appeal, the Michigan court of appeals reversed the trial court, and held that only if David was no longer a member of the church when he was "marked" would he have the opportunity to proceed to trial to prove his damages.
On appeal from the appellate court, the Michigan Supreme Court held that David's case must be dismissed, even if he had resigned his membership prior to the disciplinary "marking" and announcement to the congregation of his prior sins. David's suit is barred or precluded, the Supreme Court held, because he had both explicitly and implicitly consented to the church's established disciplinary procedures.
Religious Freedom Defense
The church first asserted that David's tort claims were barred by the First Amendment religion clauses ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"). The church cited several landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases that established what is known as the "ecclesiastical abstention doctrine," which holds that civil courts must abstain from interfering in ecclesiastical decisions. For example, one federal case held that "civil courts may not re-determine the correctness of an interpretation of a canonical text or some decision relating to government of the religious body; civil courts shall not disturb the ecclesiastical body's decision."
The Michigan Supreme Court, however, held that these First Amendment religious freedom defenses were not germane to this case:
Although these [religious freedom] claims present interesting and complex constitutional issues, we do not believe that resolving them is necessary to decide this case. Instead, we can simply assume without deciding that the plaintiff Smith is correct that these defenses do not apply.Consent to Discipline
But the court went on to hold that, even assuming the church's ecclesiastical abstention and religious freedom defenses were not applicable, David Smith's case must nonetheless be summarily dismissed without a trial. The court concluded that it was not necessary to decide the constitutional religious freedom issues because David's claims against the pastor and the church were barred by his continuing consent to the church's disciplinary procedures:
David manifested his consent to the church's practices in several ways. First he became actively engaged in the church … and shortly after, he explicitly consented in writing to obey the church's law, and to accept the church's discipline "with a free, humble, and thankful heart." Thus David can be taken to have impliedly consented by his active engagement and participation in the church, or to have expressly consented through his writing. Any doubt whether David appreciated the scope of his consent by his active engagement is certainly resolved by the explicit writing. Further, as the U.S. Supreme Court stated over 130 years ago, "[a]ll who unite themselves to such a body do so with an implied consent to this [church] government, and are bound to submit to it." Watson v. Jones, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 679 (1871).David's Resignation
Smith argued, however, that he had resigned his membership prior to the "marking" service when his sexual sins were announced. Smith relied on an earlier Oklahoma Supreme Court decision (Guinn v. Church of Christ) which held that church members who resign their church membership thereby "withdraw their consent" to be disciplined pursuant to church rules. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed:
We disagree with David's argument because church membership alone is not dispositive of whether [he] consented to the church's practices. For example, a person may be a full participant in a church, fully aware of and actively engaged in all of its practices, without ever having become a formal church member. Through knowledge and actions, a person so engaged with the church would indicate consent to the church's practices although the person never became a church "member." Further, "membership" is an amorphous concept. Indeed, many faiths do not include a concept of "membership" at all, and do not require membership for adherents to participate in the faith's formalities and customs. Therefore, we reject the proposition that whether a person is a member of the church or religious organization that allegedly invaded the person's right is alone determinative of whether the person may bring an intentional tort claim against the alleged [wrongdoer].
Instead, consent is the relevant consideration. As discussed, David consented to the church's practices, and specifically consented to accept discipline. His claim that he revoked consent by terminating membership is belied by his continued involvement with the church. Even after David resigned his formal church membership, he remained actively engaged in the church. Particularly, he was present and participating in a doctrinal dispute in the church on the day he was marked. In the same vein, David is in a different position than the plaintiff in Guinn. There, the plaintiff not only resigned her church membership, but she "expressed no interest in continuing her association with the [church]." Further, she "posed no threat of continued adverse influence on any [church] congregation." Although David did resign his formal church membership, he continued an active association with the church, and specifically attempted to influence the church's congregation, even on the very day he was being marked.In conclusion, we hold that because reasonable minds cannot disagree that David consented to the church's practices, and manifested his continuing consent by remaining actively engaged with the church, his intentional tort claims against the church and its pastor fail as a matter of tort law. Because tort law disposes of his claim, we need not consider the constitutional defenses the church presented."
Although the Smith decision is technically binding only in Michigan, this is an important case regarding church discipline that will undoubtedly be followed by many other jurisdictions. Several principles can be gleaned from this case to guide churches when disciplining and dismissing members.
First, churches can be reassured that the civil courts are still loath to interfere in ecclesiastical matters, including disputes concerning discipline and expulsion of recalcitrant members. Although the Michigan Supreme Court found it inapplicable to the Smith case, it is clear that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine is alive and well.
Secondly, to take advantage of the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, which has its origin in First Amendment religious freedoms, the church must carefully adhere to its own rules and procedures in a particular discipline case. In other words, a former member may conceivably prevail in a tort suit if the pastor and church deviated from or ignored its published procedures regarding discipline and excommunication of members.
Thirdly, the Smith case underlines the importance of consent. Every church admitting members should insist that the new members promise orally or in writing that he or she will submit and consent to church discipline. Moreover, membership should not be an "amorphous concept," but rather a defined status according to established church guidelines.
Finally, churches, pastors, and consistories should be extremely reluctant to initiate or continue discipline after a member resigns because, notwithstanding the Smith case, most courts will hold that resignation is tantamount to a withdrawal of consent. This Smith case is somewhat of an exception because Smith apparently continued to be actively involved in the church after his resignation, continuing his ongoing dispute with the church and pastor over doctrinal matters. But where a parishioner resigns or withdraws membership and thereafter demonstrates no interest in continuing association with the church, ongoing discipline may expose the church to civil liability since the important defense of consent would no longer be available.
Best we begin by making clear what the covenant is not. The covenant of God is not an alliance or pact between God and His people in Christ on the one hand, allied against Satan and the ungodly on the other hand. Nor is God's covenant an agreement between two parties in which God agrees to be the God of His people and to save them in Christ, and in which God's people agree to love and serve the Lord thankfully for His blessings. Nor is God's covenant to be understood as consisting of a promise, a condition, and a blessing or penalty. According to this idea, God promises salvation to all baptized infants of believers, provided those infants, upon arriving at years of discretion, fulfill the condition of believing or accepting the promise. Those who fail to accept God's promised (offered) salvation incur the penalty of death.
The reader will notice that all of the above views regard the covenant as a means to an end. The end is salvation from sin and death, and life with God in Christ. The means to reach that end is the covenant, either as an alliance, an agreement, or by way of accepting a promise.
Positively, the covenant of God is a relationship of friendship and fellowship between God and His people in Christ. This friendship/fellowship is first of all in God Himself. God, in Genesis 17:7, speaks of establishing "My covenant" (emphasis mine, RDD). God said to Abraham, "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." God speaks of "my" covenant because God is the covenant God! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit fellowship together in the perfect union of the divine being. The Father begets the Son, the Son is the only begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father.
This means that when God establishes His covenant with us, He takes us into His fellowship. We are made God's friends in Christ Jesus. So intimate is that friendship/fellowship that Scripture in II Peter 1:3, 4 speaks of the fact that we are made "partakers of the divine nature…." Psalm 25:14 speaks of the covenant which God makes "them that fear him" know as "the secret of the Lord." That Hebrew word translated "secret" means familiar or intimate acquaintance or friendship. Similarly Genesis 17:7 teaches us that when God establishes His covenant between Himself and Abraham and his seed, it is "to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee." God is Abraham's God and Father for Jesus' sake. The absolutely sovereign God, the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth and all that is in them, that one, true, and living God is Abraham's Friend and Father. This means that God is able to bless Abraham and his children, since He is Almighty. And God is willing to bless Abraham and His children, since He is their Father.
The covenant bond of friendship and fellowship is also, according to Genesis 17:7, an unbreakable covenant. God describes His covenant as an "everlasting" covenant. The fact that the covenant is everlasting is another reason why it cannot be a means to an end. Means are never everlasting. Once the end is reached, there is no need for the means! When, e.g., the end of all things shall have come and we are in the glory of the new creation, we will no longer have need of the means of grace, preaching and the sacraments. God's covenant is an everlasting bond of friendship and fellowship which He establishes between Himself and Abraham and His seed in their generations.
The all-important question becomes, "With whom does God establish His covenant?" Genesis 17:7 and Acts 2:39, two of the most important texts on the doctrine of the covenant, make clear that God establishes His covenant with believers and their children, the elect in Christ out of all nations.
In Genesis 17:7 the Lord says, "I will establish my covenant between me," this is God Himself, "and thee," this is Abraham. This, by the way, is why Abraham is called "the friend of God" (James 2:23). "And," the Lord continues, "thy seed after thee," these are the children of Abraham. "In their generations," the Lord says, meaning not just Abraham's children, but his grandchildren and great grandchildren, his descendants. In Acts 2:39 the Scripture says, "The promise is to you," i.e., those pricked in their hearts by Peter's Pentecost sermon. Peter continues, "and to your children," i.e., the children of the believers. "And," Peter says, "to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call," i.e., the elect called out of all nations.
With whom then does God establish His covenant? Not with everyone or all men, but with Abraham and with Abraham's children and with their generations after them. Abraham and his children in their generations are Israel in the Old Testament era.
But more needs to be said. God did not establish His covenant with all of Abraham's children. He did not establish His covenant with Ishmael. God emphasized to Abraham in Genesis 17 that Sarah would have a son and his name would be Isaac. God said that He would make a great nation of Ishmael and bless him, but God's covenant would be established with Isaac!
Romans 9:8, 9 makes clear that the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. That seed can be traced from the fall of mankind all the way to Christ. It is not the seed of the serpent, but it is the seed of the woman. This seed of the woman is Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem (with Japheth dwelling in his tents), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, Judah, David, and David's Son, Jesus. Galatians 3:14-29 teaches that this seed is not many, but one seed,viz.,Jesus Christ and all who are in Him by faith: Jew, Gentile, bond, free, male, female. These are the one seed of Abraham, the father of believers. The children of the promise who are counted for the seed, according to Romans 9, are those whom God loved from eternity in Christ, the elect in Christ. Acts 2:39 designates these as the called: "all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
This does not mean that all of our children are elect and saved in Christ. Isaac had a Jacob whom God loved, but he also had an Esau whom God hated. There are some covenant parents today too who, in spite of their best efforts in rearing their children, have a son or a daughter who, upon arriving at years of discretion, rejects the faith. We have no guarantee that all of our children will be elect in Christ and saved by Him.
What this precious truth does mean is that God calls His children out of our children and children's children. Think of this! What a blessed privilege it is for covenant parents to be used by God to bring His church into the world! Is it any wonder that covenant parents who fervently pray for children, who bear and raise those children (yes, sometimes with a great deal of anxiety and not a few tears), confess with the apostle John, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth"? The psalmist speaks of the joy experienced by God-fearing parents in this way, "The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel" (Ps. 128:5, 6). When the very last of those children of believers has been born into the covenant of God and gathered by Christ out of the nations, the end of all things will come! Then the church, a multitude which no man can number, will live in perfect fellowship with God in Christ in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 7:9-17).
God, the Scriptures make abundantly plain, establishes His covenant with believers and their children. These are they which have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. In Christ these have redemption through His blood. These are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. And all of this is "to the praise of the glory of his (God's) grace" (Eph. 1:3-14).
Grace life is just for that-"the grace life." The articles of Grace Life will aim to promote the life of conscious fellowship with God-the life conceived and nurtured by the Holy Spirit and grace of God, and characterized by grace's work and fruit.
Grace Life is written with Christian youth-say those 15 to 25-in mind. Anybody who has been one, or who knows one, might profit too. But especially for youth, the ones we call "young people" and then "young adults," is Grace Life. It is to equip them to grow in and live out of their faith fully and joyfully. It is for them to meet head-on, and with the least breakage, the challenges peculiar to youth. It is for them to make youth's many decisions wisely. It is to nip bad habits in their ugly buds before they take over the garden of a young and then old life. It is for youth's encouragement, guidance, affirmation, and sometimes, I suppose, restraint. And it is for living a grace life today-living among and relating or not relating to ideas and things and people that have shaped and are shaping our culture, people's values, and what we eat at Alice's restaurant. Like Dale Earnhardt (who races on). Tommy Hilfeger. Britney Spears and company. The open God. The laughing church. Bungee jumping. Dead Man Walking. And pierced whatever.
Perhaps a helpful way to begin to ponder just what is that true grace life we aim to promote is to consider the opposite of this grace life. That would be, of course, the "graceless death." This is no empty theory we would ponder! We are not saying, "Now just suppose there were the opposite of a grace life. Let's just call it 'graceless death.' Let's just imagine it were on earth." Fact is, there is graceless death, and all that comes with it: sin, hatred, sighing, crying, fear, war, divorce, despair, rigor mortis, the Roman Catholic Church, bells, smells, and hell. For the graceless death is nothing different than the life of all human beings conceived and born of woman.
Believe me, this death-life is not because of woman. Name all the hurricanes you want after her, but the death problem is really because of one man, Adam-the first human father of the human race. For Adam, you know, was made by God the head of the human race. When Adam rebelled against God, God punished him and the humanity represented in him ( Rom. 5 and I Cor. 15). This was exactly the death God had threatened in the garden (Gen. 2:17).
What death? Dissociation from God. Adam and his posterity were cast out of the fellowship of God. This was a killing off of the very soul of the man made to live with God, the true vitality of whose life depends entirely on the favor and nearness of God. Contrary to strange and popular opinions, we humans are different from and more than rocks and apes. Give a rock a resting place and it is happy. Feed an ape a banana, and give it lots of space, and it will leave you alone. But we need God and His love. Our resting place is God. Our food and strength is God. We need to hear from God and to talk to God. We need the society of God. We need direction from God. We need hope that only God can give. But since the Fall of Adam and Mankind in him our life is killed, for we are cut off from the source of our life. God has said: Out of my presence! Die!
What death? Death in sins - as the inspired apostle implies is the situation of all, unless they be saved by grace (Eph. 2:1-10). Sins keeping us out of the fellowship of God. Sins to which sinners are chained. Sins enticing and ruling men so that all they want to do and can do is sin. What death? Death of the body. God lets the dead run around on earth only so long. One day also the body of man must go. The fists which shake their hatred hatred hatred, the mouths which scream their rage rage rage, and the sexual organs which copulate and copulate and copulate in defiance of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost must and will in just judgment be buried and go back to the dust dust dust. What death? Eternal hell death. Just wages for the Man who thought it no little thing to commit treason against the Most High King of the universe.
All this death. The grim message of the wrath of God upon sinners. Revealed from heaven. Testified in the consciences of men. And one Preacher, even Jesus, preached about it more than all.
You see it, don't you? And you step in it sometimes, don't you? And you feel it too, no? This graceless death is ubiquitous. Wherever you go on this planet - to the universities, to the shops, to the homes, and to Hollywood, there is death. Whomever you consider-the youth, the elderly, the good, the bad, and the ugly…everybody and his brother is dead! Oh, people still breathe. They still move about. They still think things and do things which show that man once was the image of God and near to God. They try vainly to substitute a life and "get" a life of significance and immortality apart from God. They philosophize about first principles. They preach eloquent sermons in venerable cathedrals. They write poetry. They do sculpture. They bring you orange juice and prevent your heart attacks. They save whales. And all that. But, for all that, mankind is outside the fellowship and favor of God, cut off from the source of life and thus dead.
Everybody. Even the youth. You know, the ones whom people like to say are born "little angels." The ones who, as they get older, show so much potential. The ones with high SAT's. The innocent ones. The beautiful virgins. The ones who swim like Thorpedos…. But dead. Born dead. Sinful. Then as youth among the graceless dead they show they are no more alive than their parents. They even have a peculiar way of showing death. Growing pink hair. Twenty-three holes in their bodies. "No fear." "In your face." Killing in Columbine. Hacking into and up somebody else's computer files. Burning down the post office in Lacombe. Singing of love, groping for love, madly in love, passions gone wildebeest. Supposed to rejoice in God, preferring a beer or ten. It's all death. Young rebels all. Noisy. Unrefined. On their way to adult desperation and grown-up death.
*** *** ***
But you…! I am going to figure that you youth who read this are different.
Because I believe in grace. And I believe you do too.
We believe God has shown love to sinners, love to dead people, love to young who-were-dead people just like you were. We believe God has chosen us from before the foundations of the world, and before the Fall of Adam to be taken into His fellowship out of sin and death to the praise and glory of His grace. We believe that God has so loved us that He has sent His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to die for the sins even of youth on the cross. We believe in the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit given to us for our second birth, for our holiness, and comfort and learning of the Lord Jesus in the midst of a monstrous world of screwtapes and wormwoods and ghoulish men who reach up and out of their ads, and sing their songs and make their programs to makeespecially the Christian young people, members of Christ's Church, and the future of the Church … just like the dead … unholy … unhappy … and students of Satan.
You love grace, don't you? So uncommon. So heavenly. It has made your young life a special kind of young life. And that is what we are going to be talking about and aiming at with these articles: a special kind of young life. The life from God. Gracious. Christ-like.
Not to say, of course, that we want you old. For young people and young adults we realize that there will always be some sort of hip-hop and teeny-bop and Jordache and sitting down to a small snack of seven hotdogs and three liters of Coke before dinner and an hour and a half in the bathroom and hair today gone tomorrow and otherwise doing and saying things it seems young people invariably end up saying and doing. Such comes with the territory-youth. Babies will be babies and cry and eat strange things from the carpet. Older people will be old and tell us again how they walked to and from school in the snow three miles and uphill both ways. Young people and young adults will be growing and testing and becoming and raising their parents' eyebrows and wanting to play hockey at one in the morning.
But this life we want to discuss, ponder, and live!
The life from above.
The life set free.
The life of faith.
The life by truth.
The life of conquering.
Rich life. Abundant life.
The life of true beauty, and true strength.
The life of purpose, and true happiness, and living hope.
The life for you and for your relationships.
The life for church, school, and state, and work, and play.
Life for sinners who still seem to love to play out-of-bounds, who have blown it, sown sin, and reaped whirlwinds.
The life that brings you back. To God.
Grace Life, for that life.
So young people, young adults, children of God who live and will live the uncommon holy grace life, the beautiful, joyous life of thankful service in honor of your only God and best Friend….
Grace Life…for your grace life!
We ask the question for three reasons. First, because God requires His church to nominate for or vote into the diaconate only those who are properly qualified, we must know in detail what the qualifications are. Second, those who are currently deacons must know what kind of persons God expects them to be, and must strive to live up to these qualifications. Third, the whole church must encourage their officebearers to live up to these qualifications, and to pray that God may continue to qualify them. So we must know what the qualifications are.
In this article, we begin to answer the question by stressing two things: first, deacons must be the recipients of God's grace; and second, they must be males. These are the two broadest qualifications for the office. They take into account basic categories into which God has divided the human race - that of gender and that of spiritual relationship to God.
One does find other basic divisions among mankind: rich and poor, free men and slaves (manifested today as employers and employees), old and young. These divisions most emphatically play no role in determining who may be deacons. It would be our nature to put into the diaconate men of high social standing - the rich employers, as opposed to the lowly and menial laborers; or the men who hold prestigious jobs, such as politicians, lawyers, or doctors. We might think that those whose everyday work is in the business or banking sector would be suited for the office better than those whose work is in other areas.
However, none of the qualifications given in Scripture give us any reason to justify such thinking. God is not concerned with one's outward or social standing, but with one's heart and life. He requires deacons to be not ungodly unbelievers, but godly believers, recipients of spiritual graces. And He requires them to be not women, but men.
In two places in Scripture God requires deacons to be men who are the recipients of spiritual graces. In Acts 6:3 we read that the apostles directed the church to look out men "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom," in response to which they chose, among others, Stephen, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 6:5). And Paul, in I Timothy 3:8, says that deacons must "be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre" - which no man can truly be, except God bestow spiritual grace on him. But the passage in I Timothy 3 which is especially pertinent for our purpose now is verse 9, "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
From Acts 6:3, 5 and I Timothy 3:9 we find three things that must characterize a deacon.
First, he must be the recipient of divine grace - that is, he must be a saved child of God, possessing the Holy Ghost, wisdom, faith, and a pure (clean) conscience. That he must be a saved child of God means that he must be united to Christ by a true and living faith, and receive by faith all the gifts and blessings of which salvation is comprised: forgiveness of sin and Christ's imputed righteousness, by which his conscience is cleaned; sanctifying power to be restored to Christ's image; grace to persevere in faith and godliness; and the hope of the resurrection of his body and of life everlasting. It means that the Spirit must work in him, and the Spirit's fruit be seen in him. That is, rather than giving himself over to the flesh, he must possess "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22-23). He must be one whom Christ has joined to His body, who has received the sacrament of baptism as a sign and seal of his entrance into the covenant, and who is therefore a member of the church of Jesus Christ as manifest on earth. And he must have wisdom to know God's will and to direct his life to obeying God's law, and to God's glory.
None would deny that all these characteristics must be true of a deacon. To serve the church of Christ in special office, one must be a member of the church. Even the world would see the wisdom of this; one may not represent a state in either the state or federal legislature who does not live in that state. Even more, inasmuch as Christ bestows spiritual graces through the deacons, the deacon must be one who has received such graces personally.
Second, he must be the recipient of a special measure of divine grace, not just having the Holy Ghost and wisdom, but being full of, thoroughly permeated with, the Holy Ghost and wisdom. In every aspect of his life - his thoughts, desires, words, and actions - it must be evident that the Spirit lives and works in him. Deacons must be not merely Christians, but strong Christians, "above average in the development of their spiritual life." 1 The following quotation from Peter Y. DeJong is also pertinent: "Especially are we to think in this connection of a special measure of those virtues which are necessary to the faithful and fruitful discharge of their office. Thus in sympathy, kindliness, loving interest, hospitality and helpfulness they should be above reproach, since they are to represent the solicitude (concern, or care, DJK) of the Savior for all who are in need." 2
So not merely any man who has received God's grace may serve in the office. For at least two reasons, the leaders of the church must not be taken from the weaker element, but the stronger element. First, the strength of the leaders of the church will largely determine the strength of the church itself. Second, those who must deal with the people of God in their weaknesses and infirmities must themselves be strong, able to bring a word of comfort and to assure the people of God's loving care for them.
Thirdly, these passages show that the deacon must be conscious that he has received such grace, and show this consciousness by holding (literally, "having," but in the sense of conscious possession of and guarding) the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. He must then know the Scriptures and the confessions and Reformed doctrine, and not dissent from the Reformed faith in any way. He must be able, without reservation, to sign the "Formula of Subscription," in which he declares "sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord" that he heartily believes and is "persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism" and Canons of Dordt "do fully agree with the Word of God." He promises, moreover, "diligently to teach and faithfully to defend" these doctrines, and not to contradict them in any way; and he declares that he rejects all the errors which the confessions reject, particularly Arminianism, and that he is "disposed to refute and contradict" these errors, ready to teach the truth, and to do his part to keep "the Church free from such errors." 3 To promise all of this, he must know these truths!
Not only must he know all of this, but he must also love the truth, confessing his faith with mouth and heart, and showing by how he lives that he is truly convinced of the truth of the Scriptures and Reformed faith.He must hold the mystery of the faith "in a pure conscience" - objectively pure, being cleansed from guilt by Christ's blood, and subjectively pure, experiencing forgiveness of sins in the way of genuine sorrow for them, and striving to do nothing which would defile his conscience.
All these ideas are implied in the deacon's being a recipient of the graceof God. Not merely does he claim to have received God's grace, but his life demonstrates the truth of his claim in such a way that all can see.
Such grace God works in men and women alike. This is what Paul meant when he said in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
But the office of deacon is closed to women. A deacon must be a man.
Churches have spent much time and energy debating whether or not the offices are open to women, and many have violated the Word of God by trying to use Scripture to justify putting women in the special offices. One passage they violate in this way is I Timothy 3:11, which reads in the KJV, "Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things." The argument is that "wives" should actually be translated "women," and refer to women deacons. Now we grant that the word translated "wives" can and often does mean "woman"; the KJV (in the New Testament) translates this Greek word "wives" 92 times and "woman" 129 times.
Nevertheless, the text does not teach that women may be deacons.
That it cannot be used to support women holding the office of deacon is clear from the passage itself. A deacon must be the husband of one wife, according to verse 12. Although we will explain this requirement in more detail in a later article, for now we must note two things. First, in verse 12 the word "wife," the same word in the Greek as in verse 11, clearly means "wife" and not "woman." One sound principle of interpreting Scripture is that when the same word is used in the same context, it must have the same meaning, unless it is absolutely clear that the meaning must be different. Using this principle, we must conclude that if in verse 12 (the clearer verse) the word is "wives," then in verse 11 (the more questionable verse, therefore governed by the clearer verse) the word is "wives," and not women. Second, verse 12 does not merely say that a deacon must have one spouse, leaving open the possibility that the deacon is a woman, but says that deacons must be "husbands" of one wife. The word translated "husbands" clearly refers to a male. A woman cannot be a husband. So Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, explicitly teaches that a deacon must be a male. If verse 11 allows for women deacons, Paul contradicts himself, and the Spirit contradicts Himself. Besides, if women were permitted to be deacons, there is no good reason why a special list of extra qualifications have to be given just for them.There is good reason, however, why the wives of deacons must meet certain criteria. What this reason is we will see when we treat this requirement in more detail.
Three more reasons can be put forth in support of the argument that God does not permit women to be deacons. First, remembering that the diaconate is the New Testament counterpart of the office of priest in the Old Testament, we note that only men were permitted to be priests in Old Testament Israel. Arguing that Deborah and Huldah were prophetesses does not help anyone's cause here; no woman was ever a priest, or could ever be a priest, in Israel. God's law required that Aaron and his sons minister in that office.
Second, when the New Testament office of deacon was instituted, the apostles told the church to find seven "men" (Acts 6:3). The word translated "men" is not the general word which means "human beings" but the specific word which means "male human beings." The early church understood very clearly that one qualification for office was that these be men, and chose accordingly. The fact that not one of the first seven deacons was a woman was not due to any cultural view of men and women, or to any practical reason, but to the clear understanding on the part of the church that women were not even to be considered.
Thirdly, the reason why no woman may serve in office in the church is clearly taught in Scripture. I Timothy 2:12-14, the context immediately preceding the passage in which the qualifications of elders and deacons are given, reads: "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." The historical facts set forth - namely, that Adam and not Eve was first created, and that Eve and not Adam was deceived by the serpent in the Garden - are unchanging facts. The consequence is unchanging also: women may not serve in office in the church. They may not teach! Then not only may they not hold the office of pastor, but neither may they hold the office of elder or deacon, for both of these offices involve teaching to some degree. Furthermore, they may not usurp authority over the man! This excludes them from holding special office in the church, for all authority in the church is given to men!
God will not permit a woman to hold the office of deacon, ever. It is necessary that deacons in the churches of Christ be men.
We will not take the time to anticipate objections to this position, that one's gender is a factor in knowing whether one is qualified for the office. We assert that obedience to God's Word in this matter does not slight the place of women in the church, and does not deprive them of using their God-given gifts for the good of the church. Such arguments from the opposing camp hold no weight. The issue is whether God permits women to serve in that office, or not. To argue that Scripture allows them to serve in it requires one to twist Scripture.
Male recipients of God's grace! That, generally, is God's requirement for deacons. We will begin to look at the specifics in the next article, the Lord willing.
1. Peter Y. DeJong, The Ministry of Mercy for Today (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963), page 93.
2. Ibid., page 93.
3. All words in quotation marks are taken directly from this formula, which can be found in the back of any edition of the Psalter, published by Eerdmans of Grand Rapids, 1927 copyright.
Charismatic Confusion, by William Goode. Trelawnyd, North Wales: K & M Books, Publisher, 2000. Pp. 400. $30.00US which includes postage. [Reviewed by Herman C. Hanko.]
William Goode was an early nineteenth century theologian in the Church of England. He wrote this book in its original form as a response to, what the editor calls, the Irvingite delusion, which was a forerunner of the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movement. The sub-title of the book explains its contents: "The Modern Claims to the Possession of the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit Stated and Examined." K & M Books has given us a reprint of the second edition of Goode's book, which contains an appendix in which Irving's doctrinal errors are pointed out, chiefly his error of denying the sinlessness of our Lord's human nature. In this appendix Goode shows that this vicious error of Irving, who was so closely associated with the entire charismatic movement, is destructive of the entire Christian faith.
William Goode has written a book which is surprisingly relevant to our modern times when the charismatic movement has made its inroads into most denominations throughout the world. It is, therefore, a valuable book to have, to read, to study, and to use in the church's ongoing apologetic against the charismatic movement.
The book contains a brief biography of William Goode and a history of the Irvingite Movement. Although Irving is considered the father of all Pentecostalism, the book reminds us that we ought to remember that his views were condemned by the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and that he is branded for all time as a heretic.
The material of the book, however, is given over to a description of the movement which Irving founded. It gives careful descriptions of what is meant by speaking in tongues, ecstasies, prophecies, and miracles. These claims of the Charismatics are carefully refuted. They are shown to be contrary to scriptural teaching. The arguments that the evidences of the Holy Spirit ceased soon after the apostolic age is made in a convincing way. It is demonstrated that Pentecostal teaching is closely associated with extra-biblical revelation. And the book demonstrates how the entire charismatic movement has been plagued by false doctrine.
On the other hand, these phenomena, such as tongue speaking, are explained as being partly psychological phenomena, and the possibility is opened that these phenomena are, at least partly, Satanic.
Probably the greatest value of the book is its historical material. Goode traces history carefully as he points out that the phenomena of the charismatic movement began in the early church and reappeared over and over again throughout the ages. In every instance, however, these movements stood outside the orthodox church of Christ and were condemned by the decisions of the church and the writings of orthodox theologians. From early Montanism, through medieval mysticism, on into Reformation and post-Reformation Anabaptism, the church has stood solidly opposed to every form of it. All the data which the author has collected are bolstered with copious quotes from contemporary sources. This material alone makes the book worth the price.
What is particularly interesting is that the similarity between the charismatic movement and revivalism is brought out by the book. The bizarre behavior and ecstasies of those under the influence of the Holy Spirit at the time of revival are little different from the same strange phenomena in the charismatic movement.
This similarity is especially brought out in the third appendix, in which the author charges Martyn Lloyd-Jones with opening the door to Pentecostalism with his own emphasis on and longing for revival.
The appendices are excellent additions to the book. The first appendix was added by William Goode himself in the second edition of his book. It is an important description of the error of Mr. Irving, who taught that Christ took on a sinful nature.
The last three appendices were added by Nick Needham, who also wrote the introduction to William Goode, and Alan Howe. These are also interesting and valuable. The first of these traces the modern charismatic movement from its roots in the holiness movement of Methodism and its roots in the doctrine of divine healing to the Azusa St. "outpouring of the Spirit," which is supposed to be the real beginning of modern Pentecostalism. The path this movement took is followed to the Latter Rain Movement and the Toronto Blessing, more recent manifestations of the same thing. It is filled with valuable information. The second appendix of these last three gives brief biographies of many men who opposed the charismatic movement, along with some of their arguments. And the third of these last appendices describes the spread of the movement, the role of Martyn Lloyd-Jones in this spread, and its relation to revivalism.
All in all, K & M Books has given us a valuable addition to the literature on the charismatic movement.
It is hoped that many of our readers will buy the book. It can be obtained from
Plas Wyn, Trelawnyd LL18 6DT
e-mail address: MRKimmitt@aol.com
The Lynden, WA PRC has extended a call to Rev. R. VanOverloop, pastor of the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI, to serve as their next under-shepherd. Rev. W. Bruinsma, pastor of the Kalamazoo, MI PRC has received the call to serve as the next pastor of the vacant Randolph, WI PRC. Seminarian Angus Stewart was in Northern Ireland for three Sundays, beginning April 1, to minister to the congregation of our sister church there, the Covenant PRC of Northern Ireland.
Sunday evening, March 18, the choir of the Hudsonville, MI PRC presented their annual spring concert. This program also marked the official "retirement" of Hudsonville's long-time director, Mr. Gerry Kuiper, who by his own account has been directing church choirs for over 40 years, beginning at age 18. Hudsonville marked this special event with a special number with all present and past choir members joining to sing Psalter #27 and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." In addition, the choir also provided refreshments after the program to give everyone an opportunity to express their personal thanks to Mr. Kuiper.
The choir of the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI presented their spring concert on Sunday evening, March 25.
Members of the Bethel PRC in Roselle, IL were encouraged to take a look at the updates on their church web page - www. bethelpr.org. In the month of February they had 330 unique hits to the site. In March they had 324 (through March 25).
The Evangelism Committee of the First PRC in Holland, MI recently received a new reprint of the Spanish translation of "Our Only Comfort," by Rev. C. Haak. Based on L.D. 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism, this pamphlet has proved to be a wonderful tool to use in bringing the gospel to Hispanic people.
The Evangelism Committees of both our First and Southeast PRCs in Grand Rapids, MI sponsored a series of lectures the evenings of March 16, 23, and 29. Speakers were Prof. D. Engelsma, Rev. W. Bruinsma, and Rev. C. Terpstra on the topic, "Pentecostalism-Spirit-filled Blessing or a Dangerous Heresy?"
At the annual association meet-ing of the soon-to-be-opened PR high school in the Chicago, IL area, the new name chosen for the school was Heritage Christian High School.
The Choir of Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, MI presented a concert Sunday, March 25, at the Grandville, MI PRC. This was an excellent opportunity for parents and supporters of Covenant to enjoy an evening of praise presented by some of our covenant young people.
The Men's Societies of the Doon and Hull, Iowa PRCs, along with the Men's Society of the Edgerton, MN PRC, met in a combined meeting in Doon on March 26. Bible discussion centered in Revelation 9:13 ff., and Edgerton men introduced the topic of "Proper Prayer" for their after-recess discussion.
On Sunday evening, February 25, at the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI, and again one week later, March 4, in the First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI, our Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir presented their annual Spring Concert. What a blessed way to conclude a Lord's Day, by proclaiming the praises of our great God. The audience was encouraged to follow along in their Psalters and join in on various numbers.
Young Adult Activities
I thank Paul Hoekstra for providing me with the following information. "This year's Young Adult Spring Retreat was held from March 26-29 at our Loveland, CO PRC. Despite the fact that this year's retreat did not land on any major university's spring break, there was still a large gathering of about 60 young adults there. This year's topic was "The Antithesis," with speeches by Revs. Haak and Eriks. Rev. Haak spoke about antithetical living for individuals in the church, while Rev. Eriks' speech concerned what the antithesis means for the church as an organic whole. These speeches were also well attended by members of the Loveland PRC. Also included in this retreat were discussions given by groups of retreaters on four major errors. These were the errors of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, the Arminians, and the Seventh Day Adventists. Interspersed throughout the retreat were activities such as snow shoeing, shopping, hiking, and skiing the Saturday before. Thanks to the retreat committee in Colorado for their work, to the people who opened their homes to us, to the retreaters for showing the antithesis throughout the week, and especially to our heavenly Father for granting His blessing."
Food for Thought
"Perfect conformity to the will of God is the sole sovereign and complete liberty."
- Jean D'Aubigne
Last modified: 02-May-2001