Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Domestic Missions

revaspriensma 1With the organization of the Pittsburgh PR Fellowship into an established congregation in 2016 and the calling of missionary-pastor W. Bruinsma to serve as her pastor, the PRC appointed Byron Center PRC to be the calling church for a new home missionary. In September of 2017 Rev. Aud Spriensma accepted the call to serve this position.

Pastor Spriensma works out of the West Michigan area, where he assists Byron Center PRC's evangelism efforts (for example, the bi-weekly Bible study on the gospel of John held at Dorr Public Library on Thursdays) and other PRCs in the area in their evangelism work. But he is also involved in preaching, presenting mission/evangelism programs, and following up on contacts wherever requested and needed - in the PRCA and beyond.

If you are interested in having the home missionary contact you, please visit this page.

May the Lord of the harvest continue to bless these home mission labors of the PRC and her missionary.

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Who Is Jesus?

Would you like to know who Jesus is and why He is the only Savior of sinners?

Pastor Spriensma has developed a series of brief, basic gospel tracts and podcasts explaining who Jesus is as set forth in the gospel according to John. The entire series may be found on this page and here (podcasts). The individual tracts and podcasts are also listed here with the link (with a printable pdf also attached).

1. Who is Jesus? The Word Made Flesh (podcast)

2. Who is Jesus? The Lamb of God (podcast)

3. Who is Jesus? The Bread of Life (podcast)

4. Who is Jesus? The Light of the World (podcast)

5. Who is Jesus? The Door of the Sheep (podcast)

6. Who is Jesus? The Good Shepherd (podcast)

7. Who Is Jesus? The Resurrection and the Life (podcast)

8. Who is Jesus? The Way, the Truth, and the Life (podcast)

9. Who is Jesus? The True Vine (podcast)

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Below you will find some of our home missionary's recent reports on his labors.

Secretary for Domestic Mission Committee: 

Rev. James Slopsema: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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What Are We Doing?

Report from PRC Home Missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma

[This report was also published in the September 1, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer.]

Notice the title of the article, “What are we doing?”  Missions is the work of the church.  In the year 2001, we had three home missionaries, working in three different declared fields with church plants:  Northern Ireland, the eastern United States, and the Western United States.  The calling of the church was to pray for our missionaries and, of course, financially support the work with their offerings.

In the year of our Lord, 2019, we have one home missionary, with no declared field of labor, except of course, the whole of the United States and Canada.  Are we doing anything?  Is it the case that eighteen years ago the PRC was considerably more involved with domestic mission work than we are today?  Have we lost our mission-mindedness?

First of all, the Domestic Mission Committee (DMC) does not jump in today and start a church plant immediately when we receive a call to “come over and help us.”  When we received these requests in the past year, the DMC sent their home missionary and others to investigate whether it was feasible to begin a church plant in those areas.

Second, the DMC, with diminished requests “to come over and help us,” is working with a new approach to establish a definite field of labor.  In this model, our congregations are more involved in starting evangelistic Bible studies in their communities and their outlying areas.  To date, we have or have had nine of our congregations busy establishing these outreach Bible studies in various areas along with teaching men in correctional facilities.  Our congregations are developing contacts that they can pursue or refer to our missionary to labor with.

Is this not the labor of home missions?  The congregations are doing the work of missions, not only praying for and financially supporting the work of paid missionaries.  The PRC, I believe, is becoming more evangelistic and energetic in this labor.  Mission work is a very important calling from Christ to His church, for He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt. 28:19).  In the Canons of Dordt we have a beautiful statement:  “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom He will and at what time He pleaseth; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified” (Canons I, Art. 3).  Again, in the Canons, we read, “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons II, Art. 5).

How important this work is, especially for rather isolated churches!  The apostle Paul on his missionary travels preached, and the Holy Spirit established churches that were geographically close to one another:  Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  These churches could encourage and labor together as the churches of Asia Minor.  In the Philippines, our missionaries labor not only with the first church that was organized, but with pastors and churches that are near the first congregation, so that we now have a federation of churches laboring together.  How important this work is for small churches that have been dependent upon synodical subsidy for many years. It is easy for an organized church, whether large or small, to be content with their church life, not bothering to go and seek to save the lost in the communities around them.  It is through missions that the Lord is pleased to add to His church such as should be saved.

You might ask, “Why have Bible studies in our areas when we already have Bible studies within our churches?  Why go out into the communities when others can come to our worship services?”  There are a number of reasons.  First, one cannot expect those who have little or no church affiliation to travel long distances to come to our churches.  It just will not happen.  Second, these community members would not feel comfortable in many of our church societies or services.  Many of them know little of our Reformed terminology or even Bible history that we take for granted and use.  Third, they do not know anyone else that goes to our church and who often huddle in small groups afterwards.  These people from the neighborhood are often intimidated.

The church and her members must obey Jesus’ command to “Go!”  As we live in different neighborhoods, work in the world’s workplaces, shop in their stores, and eat in their restaurants, we must be friendly, approachable, caring about and listening to our fellow human beings and their life situations.  As the Canons teach, “As to others, who have not yet been called, it is our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not, as if they were.  But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ” (Canons III/IV, Art. 15).  One way to reach those in our communities is to set up Bible studies and personally invite folks to join us in seeking the truth from the Scriptures.

And we might then ask, what is our missionary doing?  Your missionary seeks to encourage and inspire our churches in this work by preaching ‘mission sermons’ and doing mission presentations.  The missionary is also available to help the churches set up these Bible studies and pick material to be used. We are also writing material or tracts that will be more easily understood by those with a limited knowledge of the Bible.  Just finished is a series of nine tracts on the subject of the person of Jesus Christ.  It is entitled, “Who is Jesus?”  And when contacts come in to the missionary and the DMC, the New Fields Committee does investigative work to determine if this is where the Lord is opening up a door for us to labor.  The missionary then goes to such contacts and begins a Bible study there.

May the Lord Jesus be pleased to continue to cause His church to love the truth that we have been given and to love our neighbors as ourselves, to seek and to save the lost.  This is our work in home missions.

A Thanksgiving Meditation: Satisfied!

thanksgiving Ps107

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

A Thanksgiving Meditation: Satisfied!

Meditation on Psalm 65: 4, 11

Blessed is the man whom thou chooseth, and causeth to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even thy holy temple. ...Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

This year we have seen the bounties of God’s earth. The corn and soybean fields have just been harvested. Already fields are prepared and green for next year with wheat and rye planted. The mighty power of the Creator and the goodness of God’s providence in watering and producing crops teach us that the best gift of all is closeness to God. My mother taught me this when growing up on the farm. In the morning mother would be looking out the window, praying to God for rain for the corn, and dry sunny days for the baling up of the hay.

The Giver is greater than the gifts. Therefore, the greatest benefits in the universe belong to the person whom God chooses, draws near to Himself by the Holy Spirit, and redeems with the precious blood of our Lord Jesus. Oh, how satisfied we are with God’s goodness and holiness! There is nothing sweeter than the sovereign grace of God in Christ Jesus. Sad to say, nothing is more common than for people to enjoy the gifts of creation and providence but have no desire for God. In our gratitude, we must look beyond earthly things to the Giver of earthly and spiritual blessings. Nearness to God is the greatest blessing. The Psalmist says, “we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.”

What does it mean to be satisfied? It means to be full. We have not only a little bit or a taste, but a great abundance so that we are full to the rim. My wife always prepares extra food when we have the children over. After everyone has filled their plate and eaten, we ask, “Would you like to have seconds?” Sometimes the answer comes, “No, I am good!” To which I answer, “No, only God is good. We are depraved.” The children learned quickly to answer, “I am satisfied. I am content. I have had sufficient so that I can have no more.”

Let me apply this to spiritual things. Now I am speaking not about bellies, but spiritual satisfaction that we have with God and the goodness of His house. My heart and soul are full. The opposite is pain and the poverty of sin, being empty spiritually. One who willingly walks in sin is barren and empty. The psalmist says, “Iniquities prevail against me” (vs. 3). These sins overcome me, a multitude of sin from morning to evening. The sins that I repented of yesterday are the sins I find myself falling into again today. The child of God who willingly walks in sin has the experience of the absence of God. God withdraws the experience of His presence for a while. Think of David, after his terrible sin of adultery and murder. His sins unconfessed, David said, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:3,4). The alternative to satisfaction is the emptiness of sin.

God is His mercy fills our souls. Psalm 65:3 and 4 explains our salvation. “Blessed is the man thou choosest and causeth to approach unto thee.” By His sovereign election, God draws His children to Himself. He forgives all their sins. David writes, “as for our transgressions, thou wilt purge them away” (vs, 3). By His Spirit, He draws us to Himself through the powerful and effectual calling of the gospel. Drawn near, we dwell in His house. This is not merely to church. This dwelling in His house is not only what happens in heaven after our earthly sojourn is over and we see Jesus face to face. What a wonderful day that will be. But now already as we gather as His church on Sunday and for religious holidays and we worship and hear his Word proclaimed. But every day as we live with Him by faith, we walk and talk, and He speaks to us in His Word that lives in our hearts. We know Him day by day. The life that flows in Him flows to us by faith. Already we dwell in heaven because our head, Christ, is there. Dwelling in His courts, we are filled with His goodness: God Himself, His Son, Christ Jesus, and all the blessings of salvation. May the earthly abundance in the field and on the table be to us a picture of the abundance and fatness of our life in Christ Jesus. There is so much spiritual good that our souls are fat with health.

It is not the abundance of the earth that satisfies our need. Our satisfaction is not pinned to our circumstances of life. With the psalmist, we are satisfied with God’s goodness all of our lives, even in hardships, difficulties, set-backs, failures, sickness, and death. We are still satisfied because God has raised our hearts to heaven, He has filled our hearts with himself and our salvation in Christ Jesus. The fruit of this salvation is that we are thankful! Praise waiteth for God in Zion.

Are you satisfied: not only today but every day and in every circumstance? This means that we not only tolerate and put up with our circumstances, but we are glad and full in those days too. Our souls are filled up, and there is no room for more. We have enough with God’s goodness in Christ Jesus! Even as God in creation gives an abundant harvest, God gives us life, abundant life in Christ!

The lovingkindness of my God is more than life to me; So I will bless thee while I live and lift my prayer to thee. In thee my soul is satisfied, my darkness turns to light, And joyful meditations fill the watches of the night.

My Saviour, neath thy sheltering wings my soul delights to dwell; Still closer to thy side I press, for near thee all is well. My soul shall conquer every foe, upholden by thy hand; thy people shall rejoice in God, thy saints in glory stand. (George Stebbins, Psalter #163, based on Psalm 63)

 

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A Mystery Revealed! (Meditation on Eph.3:3-6)

 This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

A Mystery Revealed!

Meditation on Ephesians 3:3-6

How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.

In Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul used the word “mystery” four times. He used it already in Chapter 1, speaking of “the mystery of God’s will”, namely to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ (vs. 9-10). Paul will use this word again in chapter 5:32, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” But it is mainly in chapter 3 that he develops this doctrine.

What is a mystery? This word is used today in contemporary English as “something that is unknown.” But this is not the way it was used in Paul’s day. In Greek, the word mysterion refers to something known only to the initiated. It is not that the thing itself is unknown. It is known, but only to those to whom it is revealed. Paul used this word to describe something that was unknown before the coming of Christ but is now revealed fully. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and share together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

So in our pericope, the word mystery is used three times, and then again in verse 9-11. “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Quite clearly, the mystery is that the Gentiles should be made partakers along with the Jews of God’s great blessings in the church.

But is this really new? Did not God promise to Abraham that all nations and peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3)? Does not the Psalmist worship God saying, “Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the peoples righteously, and govern the nations upon the earth. Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee” (Ps. 67: 3-5)? But before the coming of Christ, this could only happen as the Gentiles became Jews through proselytizing. A Gentile could approach the God of Israel , but only as an Israelite. He had to become a member of the covenant people through the rite of circumcision. The new thing revealed to Paul is that this approach was no longer necessary. God in Christ had broken down the wall, making one new people out of two previously divided people. Now both Jew and Gentile approach God equally on that new basis.

What the Holy Spirit says about the mystery of God’s creating one new people in Christ is that Jew and Gentile hold their salvation blessings jointly in Christ’s church. Paul does this in verse 6 using three times a Greek prefix ‘syn’ which means ‘together with’. The NIV translation of the Bible probably brings this out the most effectively because it repeats the word ‘together’. It says, “heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promises in Christ Jesus.” The Philips translation says: “equal heirs with his chosen people, equal members and equal partners in God’s promise.”

What a rich concept was revealed: equal or heirs together of all that a person receives or will receive in salvation. There are not two different groups of people that are saved and blessed as premillennialists teach. Jews are not first-rate people, and Gentiles second-rate. They are made one and inherit salvation blessings jointly.

Jew and Gentile are members together of one body, the church. Christ is the head, and all true believers are His body, mystically united to Christ and to one another. This is something into which the people of God must grow and toward one another strive. How is this to happen? It is to happen only as we grow in the love and knowledge of the One who has brought us together. We are equally sinners. We have been equally brought to the same Savior. We have the same salvation.

We share together in the promise in Christ Jesus. While we have many promises, in our text the word ‘promise ‘ is singular. It refers to the promise of redemption made to our first parents Adam and Eve, and repeated over and over in greater clarity in the Old Testament predictions.

This mystery was revealed to the Apostle Paul, and Paul in his preaching and writings makes this mystery known to God’s people. As the Apostle Paul did, may the church today continue to share it with a great variety of races, peoples, and cultures. We are to make it known to the world. Jesus saves!

We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land, Climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward! ‘tis our Lord’s command, Jesus saves! Jesus saves! (William Kirkpatrick)

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The House of God Being Built (Meditation on Eph.2:19-22)

 This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

The House of God Being Built

Meditation on Ephesians 2:19-22

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

A major theme of Ephesians is the church. What glorious images of the church are presented to us in our pericope! There is the kingdom of which we are citizens. The second picture is of a family, “ye are…of the household of God.” The third picture is the most carefully developed, a building which turns out to be the temple: “in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Later in the letter Paul develops the images of the church as Christ’s body (chapters 4 and 5), and still later as a well-equipped army (ch. 6)

What a rich imagery the first picture was. The kingdom of God is where God rules. Since God rules over all life and over all worldly kingdoms, there is a sense in which the whole world is God’s kingdom. His kingdom prevails. What a comfort that is in the midst of this world’s chaotic conflicts and changes: Covid-19, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, fires, the election turnout, and the tumult on the streets and in the church. Those who confess God’s kingship are comforted in the midst of all these changes. We are not to be alarmed by them. God is sovereign! God rules over the world in His power. The kingdoms of this world rise and fall. But God’s kingdom is everlasting, established by Jesus Christ. By grace we are citizens together of this spiritual kingdom which is still coming. No longer strangers and foreigners, but now instead the Ephesians believers and we are fellowcitizens of the saints! We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. God rules us in His grace!

Paul’s second picture was of the church as a family. We are members of God’s household. Wonderful as the relationship of a citizen to a strong, benevolent state may be, family ties are more intimate, the bonds tighter. One is either born into or adopted into it. We dwell in God’s house. We have communion with God and intimate fellowship. We are the family of God. How is this possible? Jesus’s teaching to Nicodemus was: “you must be born again” (John 3:7). Peter wrote in his first letter, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (I Pet. 1:23). Being a member of God’s household brings privileges with it. We have the support from our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the oversight of elders and deacons. We have the prayers and fellowship of the saints. We have the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. We have the assurance that God will hear and receive us, and answer our requests out of His mercy. Do you love the church?

The most extensive picture of the church in these verses is that of a temple (vs. 21). It is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone! The strength and durability of a building rests upon its foundation, and that is true of the church also. Jesus is the foundation. The apostles and prophets were the appointed and inspired witnesses to Christ in the first generation, and the word they brought forth is still the foundation of what we believe and confess. We are an apostolic church. Isaiah wrote of the coming of Jesus Christ in these terms: Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16). Peter writes in I Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” The stones placed into this great structure are chosen and shaped for their position by God. It is His temple: He is the architect. The stones are placed into position in relationship to Jesus Christ, attached to Him. If not, they are not part of this building. The stones are of different size, shape and color, employed for different functions. This brings out the rich diversity in the one church of Christ. The stones are linked together and contribute to a great building in which God is pleased to dwell. These stones keep on being added until all the elect are born and saved. What a great process this is!

There is this amazing truth for us to contemplate: by grace I have been chosen by God and am shaped by God to be a part of this great building. And even greater is the truth that God is pleased to dwell in His church. The Church is the habitation of God! Shall we not sing the following songs?

I love thy kingdom Lord! The house of thine abode, The church our blest Redeemer saved With his own precious blood. I love thy Church O God! Her walls before thee stand, Dear as the apple of thine eye And graven on thy hand. Beyond my highest joy, I prize her heavenly ways, Her sweet communion, solemn vows, Her hymns of love and praise.” (Aaron Williams)

The church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is his new creation By water and the Word: from heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; With his own blood he bought her, And for her life he died. Mid toil and tribulation And tumult of her war, She waits the consummation Of peace forever more; till with the vision glorious Her longing eyes are blest, and the great church victorious Shall be the church at rest. (Samuel Wesley)

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Drawn Near by the Triune God! (Meditation on Ephesians 2:18)

 This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

Drawn Near by the Triune God!

Meditation on Ephesians 2:18

 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Look at what the Lord Jesus Christ has done! In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death, we read, “behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matt. 27:51). That the curtain of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom indicates that, as the result of Jesus’ death, sin has been removed as a barrier between God and His elect people. Reconciliation has been achieved, and the way is now open for them to approach God. This is by faith in Jesus Christ and His work. We read in vs. 15 and 16 that Jew and Gentile believers have peace with God and with each other, reconciled to God through the cross.

What is this reconciliation? First, it is a change from a hostile to a friendly relationship. Second, it means that Jew and Gentile are reunited or reconnected. As we are reunited to God through the cross, so also all believers are reunited. There is no more enmity or hostility but complete unity, love, and peace. God has done this through the cross. Because of sin, humanity hated God and hated his neighbor. But as the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom, so reconciliation comes down from above. Before this great work, we were estranged and alienated from God and fellow man. From our end, the situation was entirely hopeless. We could not make reconciliation. Even worse, we would never desire to. But God made reconciliation. God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the full punishment due to us for our sin. He bore it away in His own body by dying on the cross. He came to preach peace: peace with God and peace with fellow believers, those who were afar off and those who were near. He preached peace, that through Him we both have access in one Spirit unto the Father.

Notice, we have the entire Trinity mentioned in our text. In verse 18 we read, “For through him…” This refers to Christ, the Son of God. The access that we have is in the Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. That access is to the Father. Now of course, “the Father” in verse 18 refers to God as Father and as our Father in Jesus Christ our Lord. And that is also in the Holy Spirit. It is to the Triune God we have access. Access means that we can approach God, come near to Him so that we can have fellowship with Him. We have access toward the Father. This results in and has its final purpose in our being near to God and having fellowship with Him. This is the truth of the covenant!

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ received by Him in His ascension. He is the Spirit that was poured out on the church at Pentecost, poured out on Jew and Gentile Christian. Both have the same Spirit. This is what Peter experienced when he was called to go to the house of Cornelius. The Holy Spirit came upon that house, so there was nothing Peter could do but baptize his household (Acts 10:44-48). This Spirit dwells in all believers. Without that Spirit, we could have no access to the Father. That Spirit is the regenerating Spirit, creating in us new life. That new life is the life of love, love to God and love to one another. It is by that one Spirit that we are inclined to seek access to God. It is by that Spirit that we are enabled to seek access and to accomplish that access unto the Father. What sweet communion we enjoy! Sing then and rejoice with great joy! We are drawn near to God by God Himself, the Triune God. How we need greater love to God! How we need greater love for one another!

All nations are one at the foot of the cross. Despite our tendency to exalt ourselves and judge others based on race or culture, all believers are one and Christ is all. Let us therefore repent of our arrogance and welcome one another! Yes, the gospel demands humility. What have we to boast? Our salvation is entirely due to God’s grace alone. Let us come in meekness before the Lord Jesus, and give all the glory to God! What a story we have to tell to the nations.

Dwell in me, O blessed Spirit! How I need thy help divine! In the way of life eternal, keep, O keep this heart of mine! Round the cross where thou hast led me, let my purest feelings twine. With the blood from sin that cleansed me, seal anew this heart of mine. Let me feel thy sacred presence; then my faith will ne’er decline. Comfort thou and help me onward; fill with love this heart of mine. Dwell in me, O blessed Spirit! Gracious Teacher, Friend divine! For the home of bliss that waits me, O prepare this heart of mine. (G. Berky)

I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice, and it told thy love to me; But I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to thee. Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine; Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in thine. O the pure delight of a single hour that before thy throne I spend, when I kneel in prayer with thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend. Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died; draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, to thy precious bleeding side. (Fanny Crosby)

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And the Walls Came Tumbling Down! (Meditation on Ephesians 2:14-19)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down!

Meditation on Ephesians 2:14-19

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.

The wall has been broken down! No, we are not talking about the house that the foolish man built upon the sand. Nor are we speaking about the Berlin wall that was torn down. And we are not referring to the wall that President Trump is building on our southern border with Mexico. The subject is God. God has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The Apostle Paul wrote about the wall of hostility that existed between the Jews and Gentiles. This was not a literal wall. Paul used a figure of speech. He was describing the Gentile believers in Ephesus. They were once afar off and called the Uncircumcision. They had been without Christ, and were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. But they have been brought near. There is in Christ no separation between Jew and Gentile. The Gentiles were no longer strangers to the covenants of promise. The barrier between Jew and Gentile was erased by the blood of Christ Jesus!

The wall of separation was a wall of enmity. The Gentiles hated Israel when Israel was in the land of Canaan. Think of the many battles of Israel against the Philistines, the Moabites, Amorites, Canaanites, Assyrians, and Babylonians. Oh, there is still bitter enmity. It is not of Gentiles against Israel, but the world against the church of Jesus Christ. This is a enmity that God created after Adam’s fall into sin (Gen. 3:15).

In the Old Testament, God chose to save His people from the line of Seth, and later the line of Abraham. God had a relationship of love and grace only with the descendants of Jacob. Salvation, adoption, glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises pertained to the Israelites (Rom. 9:4,5). Jesus Christ in His human nature, especially on the cross put to naught the law of commandments. In His entire life and especially on the cross He took away the curse of the law. Jew and Gentile had been under the curse of the law because of their sin.

By breaking down the wall of partition, the wall of hostility, God brought peace between the Jews and the Gentiles. The purpose of God was to make one out of the two, to create of the two in Himself one new man, making peace. It is the union of Israel and the Gentiles. The separation between Israel and the Gentiles has ceased, and they have become one. After the blood of the cross, the separation has been taken away. For Christ Himself is our peace. Christ is our peace in relation to God. But that is not the idea of the apostle in our text. Christ has of Jew and Gentile made one new man, so making peace. “One new man” refers to the union of Israel and the Gentiles. They are one in their salvation. As Paul put it in Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abrahams’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” So Christ in Himself is the principle of the union between Jew and Gentile, making peace, forming out of the two His church. Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God in one body through the cross.

What does this mean? First, that all people are in the state of guilt. Second, it means that we were under the wrath of God and must be punished. Third, there is only one way in which our state of guilt can be changed into a state of righteousness and favor. Fourth, we could never do that ourselves. Only Jesus Christ could bear our guilt and punishment willingly and in love to God. He did that all of His life, but especially on the cross. What a Savior! Bearing the terrible wrath of God in behalf of His people, He reconciled us to God. The cross is the means.

What does Christ now do? He preaches peace to us. This preaching of Christ takes place after His death and resurrection. He came by His Spirit and through the apostles in the ministry of the Word. And this is how He still comes today, preaching peace. How precious then are our worship services in which the preaching of the gospel is central. The subject of the preaching is always Christ Jesus. This is the reason why the church today must do missions. God has His people in every tribe, nation, and culture. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19). Are you excited as you behold Christ gathering and building His church from Jew and Gentile?

We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right, A story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and right, For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noon-day bright, And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, The Kingdom of love and light.

e’ve a Savior to show to the nations who the path of sorrow hath trod, That all of the world’s great peoples might come to the truth of God. For the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noon-day bright, And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, The Kingdom of love and light. H. Ernest Nichol

Far and near the fields are teeming, With the sheaves of ripened grain. Far and near their gold is gleaming O’er the sunny slope and plain. Lord of harvest, send forth reapers! Hear us Lord, to thee we cry; Send them now the sheaves to gather. Ere the harvest times pass by.  James Thompson

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Once Far Away, Now Brought Near! (Meditation on Eph.2:11-13)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Eph2 13

Once Far Away, Now Brought Near!

Meditation on Ephesians 2:11-13

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made with hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

The Apostle Paul was writing to believers in Ephesus where the majority of them were Gentiles. Verses 11-13 belong together. They are two sentences and express one idea. This idea is first put forth negatively and then positively. Our text begins with the word, “Wherefore.” Paul linked this phrase to what went before, namely, that we are saved by grace alone. All the work of salvation is of mere grace, so that there is nothing left for us except to show forth the fruit of that grace. So no one can boast in himself, but only in God! Paul emphasized this truth by drawing attention to what these believers were in the past and what they are now in the present. He says, “Remember…” Constantly bear this in mind! Our salvation is all of God, even our walking in good works is proof of the grace and lovingkindness of God. Therefore, we must walk in love before God and to His glory.

This applies to you and me who are also Gentiles. What is our past and what is our present status as believers? It is a terrible past. The Jews before their conversion were, like the Gentile believers, “dead in trespasses and sins.” But the condition of the Gentiles was even worse. The Gentile believers were heathens in the flesh, separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world (vs. 12).They did not have the Jews’ unique advantages. What was their present status? “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”(vs. 13). Once, before saved by grace, they were simply heathen in the flesh and did nothing but else but sin. They were called the Uncircumcision, meaning that they were not in and under the sphere of the covenant. Circumcision, done by hands, was the sign given to Israel. It meant that they belonged to the covenant of God. That was the outward sign. That, of course, does not mean that all of the Jews were circumcised spiritually, a circumcision of the heart!

The Gentiles were not raised in the sphere of the covenant. They did not have the instruction of the prophets nor the promise of the covenant. They did not have believing parents. They did not have all the types and shadows of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. They were outside of Christ. They had no part with Him. They did not know Him. They had no part with His sacrifice and resurrection. They were strangers, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. They did not know nor participate in the one covenant of God as it developed starting with Adam in Paradise, with Noah after the flood, with Abraham and his seed, and the covenant with David, finally ending in Christ. They were without hope and were without God! What a dreary past!

But now in Christ Jesus, those who were afar off have been drawn near in the blood of Christ! “Drawn near” does not mean that they were almost in the covenant. Rather, they now had fellowship and belonged to the covenant of God and the covenants of the promise. How? It is only in the blood of Christ Jesus. Paul was talking about being brought near to God as a result of Christ’s atonement. Without the blood of Christ there is no possibility of being near to God.

What a difference there is in our past and now the present! Paul indicates a change in the situation as a result of God’s intervention. No longer cut off from Christ but as believers, we are now united to Christ. Yes, as the Apostle Paul wrote in vs. 4,5: “But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” Now we are “of God’s household…built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone” (vs. 19-20).

The apostle used the word “remember” twice in this section. We too must remember. If we forget how God drew us near to Him, we can become insensitive to God’s great grace to us. We also become insensitive to those who are lost in sin around us. We then become insensitive to God’s ability to bring others to Himself as he did with us. Remember “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” With whom are you going to share what the Lord has done for you?

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound – That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see. (John Newton, 1725-1807)

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We Are God's Workmanship! (Meditation on Eph.2:10)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

Eph 2 10

We Are God's Workmanship!

Meditation on Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The Reformed Church has insisted that justification is by grace through faith and not by human works. Does this mean that our good works have no place in our salvation? The answer is, “No!” Sound Reformed theology insists on works that follow justification as a consequence and evidence of it. The same Spirit who assures us that we are justified also works our sanctification. Sanctification is, as you know, a part of the ‘ordo salutis’, the work of the Holy Spirit applying the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection to believers. There is also an unsound Protestant understanding that eliminates the necessity of works altogether.

Where do good works fit in our salvation?

God has prepared our good works. God has prepared them from before the foundation of the world in His eternal decree. He has prepared every one of our good works, not only in general, but definitely. He prepared good works for the whole church and for every individual believer. These good works manifest the complete glory of God in Christ. He not only prepared the good works, but He prepared us for the good works. (Each human author in the Bible was prepared by God for the writing of the Bible so that in their own style, background, and personality they could infallibly write God’s Word.) So each one of us as believers is being prepared by God for the work He has in mind for us. The purpose is that we should walk in good works. To walk in good works means that we live with our whole heart, soul mind, and strength according to the counsel of God for His glory and the benefit of others.

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. This is not a reference to our original creation in Adam, but to our formation as God’s people in Christ. What a wonderful new creation it is! The original creation was out of nothing. This creation is not simply out of nothing or even of unfit material. It is out of material that was the very opposite of the thing that was formed from it. We were in sin and guilt. We were corrupt. There was no human possibility that we could do good works. But God in Christ Jesus made us His workmanship. God recreated us in Christ! From children who shared the likeness of Satan through the Fall, God made us children of God. From those who were dead in trespasses and sin, we were made alive, prepared to do good works to the glory of His name. By nature, we were enemies of God, Now we are friends and servants of God. Christ merited all things that were required to made us new creatures. In Christ’s ascension into heaven, He received the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ. That Spirit He poured out upon His church. Through that Spirit we are created as new creatures who love God and are careful to seek to please the God of our salvation. Let us sing with our children:

Kids under construction, the Lord is not finished with me.

He’s still working on me, To make me what I need to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth, and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be, ‘Cause He’s still working on me. There really ought to be a sign upon my heart. Don’t judge Him yet, there’s an unfinished part. But I’ll be better just according to His plan, fashioned by the Master’s loving hands. In the mirror of His Word, reflections that I see, make me wonder why He never gave up on me. But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray. Remember He’s the potter, I’m the clay. He’s still working on me, to make me what I need to be. (Gaither music)

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Saved by Grace Alone! (Meditation on Ephesians 2:8,9)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

Saved by Grace Alone!

Meditation on Ephesians 2:8,9

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

These verses are one of the most well-known passages of the Bible. Our text has three parts. The first part tells how it is that God saves. “It is by grace.” The second part speaks of the channel through which this grace of God comes to us. “It is “through faith.” The last part, which is a contrast, tells how God does not save us, and it explains why. It is “not of works, lest any man should boast.”

We had this first clause already in verse 6. Literally, it reads, “By means of grace ye are saved.” It is the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Grace is, first of all, beauty. God is beautiful in Himself. He is gracious. Then it is also grace bestowed upon us. It is grace that is imputed to us. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us by grace. It is also grace in the sense that it is the principle of grace wrought in our hearts. We have that grace and experience it. What is that grace that we experience? It is the work of the Holy Spirit as He has given us new life. We are called out of darkness and given faith. How wonderful when the Spirit causes us to know that we are justified! But the work of the Spirit is not done. He continues to work in us sanctification so that we may live godly lives, saying no to sin and yes to the will of God. The Spirit preserves us so that we do not fall away from God and our faith.

The salvation that is given to us is a present possession that we already have in our hearts and lives, and we are conscious of it. The Spirit is applying to us all the blessings earned for us by our Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are saved by grace “through faith.” The apostle selects faith out of “the order of salvation” because faith is the means whereby we are united with Christ. Through faith we become one with Him. Therefore, through faith we receive all the benefits of salvation from Christ. If one is not united to Christ, they cannot be saved. All the blessings of salvation are in Christ Jesus. So faith is the channel or means of our salvation.

The apostle continues to say that this salvation, this salvation by grace, and this salvation through faith is not of our selves; it is the gift of God. From beginning to end, salvation is of God. He chose us in eternity and gave us to Jesus Christ. God the Son accomplished this salvation by redeeming us from our sin by His death on the cross. God the Holy Spirit applies this salvation to each of God’s children. So salvation is all of God and therefore a gift of God. The emphasis is on God.

The apostle emphasizes once more that salvation is entirely God’s work by adding, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Our salvation is from God, and the works that we are called to perform are the fruit of that salvation. In being saved in Christ and through the Holy Spirit we naturally bear fruit as the apostle explains in the next verse. All of our salvation is a gift and work of God so that no person may boast of what they have done. One cannot help but think of the lyrics of many songs: “I have decided to follow Jesus.” “I came to Jesus as I was…” “The Savior is waiting for you to open your heart. Won’t you please let him come in?” But there is no boasting whatsoever in ourselves or glorying in self. All of our salvation is of God and in Christ Jesus and through faith. Therefore, in all humility because of our own depravity and God’s rich grace, we shall boast only in God. Oh, how the glory and beauty of God is revealed in our salvation! Are you ready to sing of God’s marvelous grace?

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured_ There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace. Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within: Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.” ~ Daniel Towner 1850-1919

 

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The Great Divine Intervention (Meditation on Eph.2:4-6)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma. 

The Great Divine Intervention

Meditation on Ephesians 2: 4-6

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where-with he loved us, even we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

“But God…” These two words in and of themselves contain the whole gospel! They tell us what God has done in what was otherwise a hopeless and helpless situation. The word “but” looks back at the situation described in verses 1-3. What a deplorable, desperate, and heinous condition. “But God…” This is the intervention that makes all the difference. We are now united to Christ and enjoy a wonderful, powerful Christian life. Ours is not the hope that the world will get better; it will not! It is not the case that with more education people will progress in their lives. Nor can a change come because we are willing to change. “But God” is the subject for the whole sentence that began in verse 1, “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins.” What a wonderful and beautiful contrast is set forth before us by divine intervention!

The Author of this great work is God. There are so many wrong ideas about God. God is seen as a benevolent but nevertheless basically weak being who would like to help, but cannot unless we are willing. God, then, is limited by evil and controlled by circumstances. Others see God as powerful but rather distant and austere; He could help but does not care. Over against these false notions, God is sovereign. He is in control of His creation and also in the work of salvation. He has determined all things and has determined the destiny of all the angels as well of all humanity. God is holy, not indifferent to issues of right and wrong, justice or injustice, righteousness or sin. He is opposed to sin and will punish it with death. That is why our sinfulness is so frightful! It is terrible to fall into the hands of an angry God.

“But God” is the subject of the sentence and the predicate is found in verse 5 and 6: “hath quickened us…hath raised us up…and made us to sit in heavenly places.” Apart from God’s intervention, we were hopeless and helpless; “dead in trespasses and sins.” God by His Spirit quickened us in regeneration. God raised us up with Christ. This means that when God raised His Son from the dead, we were in Christ and were raised with Him to new life! Why? As we once were in Adam as our head and representative, God gave His Son to be our new head and representative. What is Christ’s is ours! As Christ ascended into heaven, so His church is also spiritually in heaven. That is where our citizenship is. This will be fully realized at our death. Our souls go up to heaven to rule with Christ. When Christ comes against, they bodily we will ascend up into the new heavens and new earth.

Why would God intervene like this for wretched sinners like you and me? What motivates God to do so? We are told in our text (vs.4) that it is God’s love. The first aspect of that love is His mercy. Mercy is God’s love to those who are in misery. We were in misery because we were dead in sin. God took pity on us and stooped to help us (like the good Samaritan who took pity on the man who was beaten and lying on the side of the road). Notice that God is rich in mercy. That means that He is so filled with mercy like an overflowing river, plenteous (Ps. 103:8). He is able, capable of pitying us although we were rebels and would have nothing of Him. He changes our state from being dead to being made alive in Christ.

God intervenes for us in “his great love where-with he loved us.” As God is rich in mercy, so is He also great in His love. He loved us so much from eternity. He loved us without limit. He loved us with His whole being. He loved us even though we were dead in trespasses. He loved us from everlasting. He loved us eternally. In His eternal counsel He loved us while He saw that we were sinners. Obviously, as is mentioned parenthetically, in His grace. I will not say much about that now, but wait until we get to verses 7-9.

God has quickened, raised us up to life, and makes us to sit in heavenly places all in Christ. How great is God’s love! It was manifested in the giving of His own Son to the death on the cross, so that we could have new life. It is in Christ alone that we have hope, help, and life eternal. We who were children of wrath, children of disobedience are made children of God, servants of the most-high God! How humbling this truth is. How thankful we must be. We look to and depend upon him for all things. We were dead but, praise God, He has made us alive in Christ Jesus! May we say with the songwriter, “Two wonders I confess: the wonder of His wondrous love, and my unworthiness.”

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” (John Newton)

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Our Dark Past - What We Were (Meditation on Eph.2:1-3)

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Our Dark Past - What We Were

Meditation on Ephesians 2:1-3

 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

There really is no subject or predicate in these verses. The words, “hath he quickened” are supplied. The subject of this sentence is finally in verse 4, and the predicate in verse 5. We have in these three verses what the Ephesian Christians were and what all Christians were by nature: totally depraved. This is important to know and realize. How can we have a true conception and appreciation of the greatness of God’s power in salvation? The answer is that we measure it by the depth of sin from which we have been saved. The greatness of salvation is seen and understood only on the backdrop of the depth of sin and death that we were in by nature. We have here an example of how to tell the story with the greatest effect.

Your little boy runs in and says, “Our team won the game, even though key members were sick. It was a close game; the other team was ahead the whole game, etc. etc.” Or your little boy comes in and tells you of the disadvantages, difficulties, hardships, and only then when he had painted the bleak, bleak picture, he finally announces the startling fact, “But our team won!”

The Apostle Paul , by the Holy Spirit, instructs the Ephesian believers in the wonder and power of God in their salvation by painting the dread dark picture, “and you being dead by your trespasses and sins.” This spoke of the whole congregation in Ephesus. Each and every one of them had been dead. But not only they, but we also: all Christians who read this letter. This was all the churches in Asia Minor and is the church today!

We were “dead in trespasses and sins”. The word “trespasses” emphasizes that one has stepped over the boundaries of God’s law. The other term emphasizes that we have “missed the mark.” It is not that we almost made it, but we have missed it. There is not a lot of difference in the two terms, but both terms emphasize our actual sins. We were dead, as is evident from our trespasses and sins. Here we have the very heart, awfulness, and hopelessness of our state and condition, apart from the grace of God. Each and every one of us performed sinful acts, not in ignorance but willingly, knowingly, defiantly, and in rebellion against God.

Dead in sin does not mean that we were inactive. Sinful man is very active. It means that we were not only separated from God but also stand in opposition against God. Sin bears more sin. It is endless. This was true of Abel as well as Cain. It was true of each of us. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I am carnal, sold under sin. I find in my flesh no good thing. Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:14-24)? Our death was revealed in that we walked and lived in these sins. This puts away any self-righteousness, pretended goodness and virtue, hypocrisy, and Phariseeism! Do you know this of yourself? This is not very flattering, is it?

The standard of our life and walk is found in the course of this evil world and the prince of this world. In other words, we were no different from all others who are sold under sin. It is so easy to speak of the fallen human race, but you and I are part of that human race by nature. Apart from the grace of God, we too would have developed in sin and rebellion. The ruler of this world is Satan, an opponent to God and a liar who always lies. Satan is a ruler or leader of a host of demons who live in the air. These demons all seek the same thing, namely, the downfall of the church. Satan and demons work in the sons of disobedience. It is not the case that man is basically good. Mankind is sinful, opposed to God. We had our walk among them. We lived like them. What a horrible walk! It is a death walk! Do you see yourself there? By nature, we are children of wrath. God’s wrath is expressed in punishment: death!

You ask how this is possibly true of Christians. The answer is that, by nature, Adam’s fall and disobedience were imputed to us. We were children of wrath. By our actual sins we give evidence of this. What an awful picture! We were “even as others” (vs.3), dead in trespasses and sins.

I cannot end this meditation on this hopeless condition. Paul goes from the past tense in these verses to the present tense. We were dead, once walked in sin, and were by nature children of wrath. “But God…hath quickened us together with Christ” (verses 4 and 5). This is the gospel! This truth of our depravity must humble us and make us extremely thankful that God did not leave us in our sins. In my next meditation, I plan to speak more about this phrase, “But God…”

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