Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Belgic Confession, Article 24 - Evil Motives in the Unjustified: Fear of Damnation

Belgic Confession, Article 24: Evil Motives in the Unjustified: Fear of Damnation 

Rev. Martyn McGeown

Article 24 of the Belgic Confession:

We believe that this true faith being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith that worketh by love, which excites man to the practice of those works, which God has commanded in his Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by his grace: howbeit they are of no account towards our justification. For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself is good. Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them, (for what can they merit?) nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Let us therefore attend to what is written: when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus then we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.

I Kings 21:27: “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.

There are many in the church today who are impressed by the lives of some unbelievers. They conclude—wrongly—that unbelievers are able to do genuinely good works. One evil motive of unbelievers is self-love. The second evil motive of unbelievers is fear, especially the fear of damnation.

Not all unbelievers sin in the same way. Not all unbelievers are murderers, for example. But all unbelievers are murderers at heart—and so are we (Matt. 5:21-22). One reason why many, who are murderers at heart, do not commit the act of murder is fear of being caught and punished. The same is true with respect to many other crimes. It is not that people would not like to commit certain crimes, but that they dare not risk being caught—the shame, the court appearance, and the prison sentence are active deterrents. But that is not the Christian motivation for doing good works or for avoiding sin.

Others do not commit sins—at least not outwardly—because they are afraid of God’s judgment, which is so much greater than man’s judgment. Fear of hell keeps many people religious, and acts as a bridle for many sinners. Pope Gregory I summed up the position of the medieval church thus: “the holy church … mingles hope and fear, in order that they may never incautiously trust in His mercy nor in despair fear His righteousness.”  The message of Rome was to keep the people guessing, not to give assurance, to keep them “on their toes.” 

King Ahab in I Kings 21 was afraid of the judgment of God. Elijah the prophet had declared that God would “bring evil” upon Ahab and “cut off” Ahab’s house. In response, Ahab did not repent, but put on sackcloth. When Ahab—the worst of Israel’s kings—wore sackcloth and appeared to repent, he did not perform a good work pleasing to God. Ahab had already rejected God by marrying the heathen Jezebel and worshipping Baal. He was guilty of murder and theft, as well as many other sins. He thought a show of humility and sackcloth would turn away God’s anger. But Ahab was not sorry for his sin, merely for the evil consequences of his sin. Ahab would have gladly sinned further if he could have escaped punishment. There was no love for God in Ahab’s heart—he acted out of self-love and fear of damnation.

Self-love and fear of damnation are the only motivations of the wicked with respect to God. That is why unbelievers cannot understand the motivation of the Christian, which is love. The unbeliever who does not know the love of God never acts out of love for God, but the believer who knows God’s love lives out of thankfulness. That is why the believer does not need to be threatened with hell and damnation. The heart of the Christian melts because of love!

These are two very different motives. One is the motivation of a slave. A slave obeys the master because he fears his master’s wrath, but he does not love his master. He only obeys out of necessity. The other is the motivation of a son who obeys his father out of love. A son does not serve his father because he fears being beaten and even disowned as a son if he does not perform well enough as a son. A son serves his father because he loves his father, and because he is thankful for all the good things that his father has given to him.

Thus it is with us. We keep God’s commandments and we perform good works, because we are filled with thanksgiving. That is the Christian’s true motivation. Is it yours?

Read more...

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)

Read more...

PRC and Sister-Church News Highlights for October 18, 2020

Psa 104 24The following are special highlights of PRC and sister-church news for this Sunday, October 18, 2020, the forty-second Lord's Day of this year.
  • Today it was announced that Rev. J. Engelsma (Doon PRC) declined the call from Hudsonville PRC. May the Lord continue to care for this flock and supply all their needs while they wait for the Great Shepherd to give them another undershepherd.

  • Rev. C. Spronk (Faith PRC) is considering the call to Wingham PRC (received Sept.28). He plans to answer by next Sunday, October 25.

  • The Consistory of Cornerstone PRC (Dyer, IN) has formed a new trio from which to call a pastor. It consists of Revs. J. Smidstra (First PRC, Holland), A. Spriensma (PRC home missionary), and C. Spronk (Faith PRC).

  • Classical appointments and pulpit supply for today in the vacant PRCs: Rev. J. Smidstra in Cornerstone PRC; Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. W. Langerak in Hudsonville PRC; Prof. R.Dykstra and Rev. G.Eriks  in Kalamazoo PRC; Prof. B.Gritters and Rev. D.Noorman in Providence PRC. What a blessing that our PRC federation gives such help to these churches! May we also bring to the throne of grace the needs of these vacant congregations, including Wingham PRC, which cannot have pulpit supply from the U.S. at this time (pandemic travel restrictions).

  • Let us not forget to pray for the needs of Rev. J. Marcus, who awaits a call to the churches; of Rev. M. McGeown, who awaits permission to enter the States to be installed in Providence PRC; and of Covenant ERC, our sister church in Singapore, as she awaits both pulpit supply from the PRC and a call for minister-on-loan through Grandville PRC - both on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
     
  • For those who may still be limited to house worship, whether completely or partially, we invite you to visit the PR churches page and follow the links to the websites where the churches' livestream may be found. Or you may visit the selected audio sermon page and listen to one of your choice there.

  • Did you know that:
    • Missionary-pastor D.Holstege marked 10 years in the ministry this past week? This from Doon PRC's bulletin today: This past week marked 10 years of our missionary, Rev. Holstege, serving in the gospel ministry. He was ordained into the ministry on October 14, 2010, as pastor of the Holland PRC congregation in Zeeland, MI, and was installed as our missionary to the Philippines on July 1, 2016. We give thanks to Jehovah for His covenant faithfulness and grace in the life and ministry of Rev. Holstege, and pray that He would give to Rev. Holstege many more years of faithful service in the churches, if it be His will. To that, we add our hearty Amen!
    • Hope PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) continues to work with pastor Titus with regard to the work in Myanmar and is hoping for a delegation to go in the early part of 2021? This from her bulletin today: Each month there is a video conference with Rev. Titus by the men on the Myanmar committee. Plans for the trip in January, as well as alternate plans, are being discussed. International travel is still restricted. The committee is working on long-term planning and intends to work closely with Rev. Titus in finalizing goals. Let's not forget to pray for this labor also!

PRC DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

  • 2020 edition of the Church Order: The 2020 edition of the ring-bound Church Order book is now available and may be ordered through the PRC Seminary (616-531-1490). As per synodical decision, these books are updated every five years to incorporate new synodical decisions affecting them. In addition to the Church Order, this book also contains such things as the Constitutions of all synodical committees, the Rules of Synodical Procedure, the Explanation of the Rules for Protests/Appeals/Overtures and the denomination's Articles of Incorporation and By-laws. All these are of most practical use to the office bearers. But, all of our families would do well to cultivate a knowledge of and interest in Protestant Reformed church polity. If you already have the six-ring green binder, you need only order the new inserts ($4.00). The inserts with the binder with the 2020 edition is $10.00. Payment can be made to the PRCA after you receive your materials.

Sem rear Oct 2020
A view of the back of seminary this past week - beautiful fall colors abound!

Special PRC Seminary Notices:

  • Seminary has now completed eight weeks of its first semester - just past the half way point of the semester. Remember in prayer the professors, students, and staff as they labor for the task of training men for the ministry of the Word. And remember to petition the Lord of the harvest to send us more men who heed to call to serve as His ambassadors.
  • The first round of practice preaching was completed this past week. The next round is scheduled for Nov.16 and 23. Pray for the students as they prepare for this vital part of their training.
  • The Fall issue of the PRTS Journal is being planned and prepared. In the meantime the Spring issue may be found at the link provided, with plenty of good reading material in it.
  • For several years, the seminary faculty have permitted auditors to audit some classes. The presence and input of the auditors has been appreciated. With regret, because of COVID restrictions, the faculty is not inviting any auditors this semester. This decision will be reviewed at the end of the semester with a view to Interim 2021 and the second semester.
  • For the latest seminary news and information, visit the seminary's website.

ephesians 4 3

SISTER-CHURCH/MISSIONS NEWS:

  • Covenant ERC, Singapore: 
    • From today's "Pastoral Voice" in her bulletin: For the past few Sunday morning services, we are thankful to God for providing Prof. Dykstra to lead us in the worship services and preached the Word of God through online live-streaming. We are also thankful for the technical support from our Audio Teams and Seminarian Marcus Wee in USA to make this online service possible. We can continue to receive the preaching of the word of God this and subsequent Lord’s days.
    • And concerning her missionary and his work in Kolkata, India, the CERC's bulletin today has this note: Continue to remember our brothers and sisters in CERC Kolkata Fellowship. We have heard from Pastor Emmanuel that they are presently negotiating to rent a place, close to previous place, for worship. This place is much bigger than previous one. Pray that the Lord will help them to secure this place. Do continue to remember our Missionary Pastor in your prayer as he cares for the saints in Kolkata.
    • The last issue of "Reformed News Asia" is the August 2020 one, #61). Read that issue here.
  • Covenant PRC, N. Ireland:
    • Rev. A. Stewart continues to minister the Word to the saints assembled in Ballymena.
    • Missionary-pastor M. McGeown continues to preach the gospel in Limerick, Ireland until he can enter the U.S. and be installed as Providence PRC's pastor. Last week he published a new newsletter with important information about what is happening to the group as well as to his immigration process. For that news, visit this webpage. And in this week's bulletin he included this important note: On Wednesday 21 October “Level 5” restrictions will be imposed on the entire country of Ireland: no indoor/outdoor gatherings will be permitted, only essential retail shops will be open, non-essential travel further than 5km from your home will not be permitted; and, of course, no in-person worship services are permitted. These measures will continue until 1 December, DV. Pastor has an immigration appointment scheduled for Friday 6 November in the US Consulate in Dublin. At this stage we expect that the appointment will still go ahead despite the "Level 5" restrictions because the appointment is, we hope, considered "essential." However, we do not know that with any certainty. We commit our way unto the Lord, in whose hand are the hearts of kings. We ask you to bring this matter before the Lord in prayer.
    • Be sure to read the latest issue of the "Covenant Reformed News" - September 2020!
  • PRC in the Philippines:
    • With strict government limitations on public gatherings still in place due to the pandemic (Metro Manila and nearby provinces are now under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) through October 31), the PRCP pastors and the PRC missionaries carry on with livestreaming of services as well as with online catechism classes and Bible studies. Pray for them and the saints there as they continue to live and labor under these tight restrictions yet.
    • PRCP Seminary News: Let us continue to pray for our seminary instructors and students. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). [Provident PRC bulletin]
    • The PRCP Classis is scheduled to convince on October 31, 2020 at the Provident PRC Marikina City at 9:00 in the morning. Lord willing.
    • The latest PRCP newsletter was published this summer - don't forget to read the August 2020 report!

RWH Logo 2019
Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you or on Sermonaudio wherever you are!

  • Rev. W. Bruinsma (Pittsburgh PRC) will be delivering the messages on the program for the next four months. Today he begins a series on 1 Corinthians with a message titled "Perfectly Joined Together," based on 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.
  • Listen to the broadcast on the station near you, on your favorite podcast (Google Play, Spotify, and iTunes), or visit the links provided here to listen to this program.
  • The Reformed Witness Hour publishes each month's messages in an attractive booklet. These printed sermons are a great blessing to many and are distributed all over the world, including to many prisoners in the U.S. If you or your Evangelism Commitee would like to receive these, let the RWHC know and they will add you to the mailing list (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
  • Special notices for October: 

    The Reformed Witness Hour is pleased to announce that beginning this month we are adding a new broadcast time on Wednesday evenings at 8PM on WFUR-FM 92.9/AM1570 (Grand Rapids, MI).  The RWH will also continue to broadcast at our normal time slot on Sundays at 4PM. We encourage you to listen if you are able, and to promote the broadcast to family and friends when you have the opportunity.

    The Reformed Witness Hour is pleased to announce that beginning this month we are adding a new broadcast in the Kalamazoo area at 4PM each Sunday on WKPR-FM 105.1/AM1440. We encourage you to listen if you are able, and to promote the broadcast to family and friends.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

REFORMED RESOURCES FOR EDIFICATION, EDUCATION, and EVANGELISM:

MLuther Reformation 1
Looking for things to read in this month of remembering the great Reformation of the sixteenth century? Check out this section of articles on the website, all devoted to the Reformers and God's work through them in His church.

  • Be sure to check out the Reformed Book Outlet in downtown Hudsonville, MI and online! As a reminder, their hours of business are currently Tuesday 10-1, Wednesday 1-5, and Saturday 10-1, or send your order to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Are you desirous to learn more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Or are you simply interested in growing in your faith and walk with the Lord? Visit the Resources pages of this website and the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.

This Week's Thought for Contemplation:

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!

...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.

From one of Rev. A. Spriensma's meditations on Ephesians 1 this past week, "Our Dark Past: What We Were."

Read more...

Crete PRC Reformation Lecture: "Of, Through, To God" - Friday, October 30, 2020

CretePRC

The Crete PRC Evangelism Committee (Crete, IL) is hosting the annual Reformation Day Lecture on October 30, at 7:00 p.m.

Prof. Brian Huizinga (PRC Seminary) will speak on:

“Of God, Through God, To God: Our Covenant Doctrine as Protestant Reformed Churches."

You are cordially invited to attend this important lecture and evening of celebrating the Reformation.

We look forward to seeing you there.

CretePRC Ref lecture 2020

Read more...

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…”

Read more...

Heinrich Bullinger: "Common Shepherd of All Christian Churches"

This article first appeared in the November 1, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer, a special issue on the Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland.

Heinrich Bullinger: "Common Shepherd of All Christian Churches" 

Dazed and vulnerable after the disaster at Kappel, the fledgling Protestant church in Zurich turned to a young refugee pastor for leadership. King Jesus’ rebuke of His servants had been severe. Twenty-five pastors were dead. Among them, Zwingli, whose body was drawn, quartered, and burnt; a grim warning to any who dared replace him. Associates were in hiding. And nearby Bremgarten had just surrendered to advancing Catholic forces. Terms: Expel their pastor. The pastor, Heinrich Bullinger, flees to Zurich. His wife Anna, forbidden to leave, arrives days later. With love stronger than death, she overpowers the guard, lets herself out the city gate, and trudges the twenty miles to Zurich in the dark carrying their two young children. The King, who had taken so much away, had also graciously well provided for His church.

Heinrich Bullinger was born in Bremgarten on July 18, 1504. He was youngest of seven children born to Anna Wiederkehr, daughter of the town miller, and Heinrich Bullinger senior, an organist and deacon who was chosen parish pastor in 1495, shortly before marriage. Since papal law forbad clerical marriage, Anna’s father took him to court; but the tribunal allowed him to retain his office and the marital union. Still, Anna’s two brothers threatened to kill Heinrich senior, and the threat remained until 1506 when the brothers became casualties of war.

Heinrich junior’s education began early. At four, well before the normal age of seven, he entered the town’s Latin school where he learned to use the language as if it were his native tongue. At eleven, he left for the School of the Brethren of the Common Life in faraway Emmerich along the German-Dutch border. In his diary he records the rigorous discipline, the renaissance humanism he learned, and the house-to-house singing for his supper, not from parental neglect, but because his father wanted to teach him pity and generosity for the poor. In February 1519, only sixteen months after Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, fourteen-year- old Bullinger returned home to find his father under the ban, fined, and sued in Zurich by an indulgence peddler named Samson, whom he had barred from Bremgarten. At his trial, Zwingli, who began preaching that Janu­ary, came to his defense. The court lifted the ban, can­celled the fine, and sent Samson packing over the Alps with word that he should be glad to keep his horses and wagon laden with coin. In September, Bullinger entered the university whose faculty Luther dubbed “the ass­es of Cologne” for officially condemning his writings. They burnt Luther’s books November 15, 1520, three days before Bullinger received his Bachelor of Arts. He was sixteen.

Bullinger claims that at the time he was still ignorant of Lutheran and papal doctrine. This changed quickly. While still in Cologne studying for his Master of Arts in order to become a Carthusian monk, Bullinger also began studying the Bible, church fathers, Luther, and with special delight, Melanchthon’s Loci Communes. Sometime late 1521 to early 1522, still only seventeen, he renounced monkery and the mass. In April 1522, after receiving his degree, he returned home. He then became director of the Cistercian monastery in Kappel on condition he be excused from taking vows and at­tending mass. Immediately, he began lecturing on the New Testament for the twelve resident monks and any­one else interested. Within a month, the images were removed, murals whitewashed, and the mass abolished. In his six years there, Bullinger lectured through twen­ty-one New Testament books, published lectures on six of them, and wrote essays on marriage and the virtuous woman. In time, most of the monks learned trades, left the monastery and married, including Abbot Joner who had hired Bullinger.

October 17, 1527, twenty-three-year-old Bullinger proposed to Anna Adlischwyler, a former nun still liv­ing at a defunct convent in Zurich. In his proposal he wrote: “The greatest, surest treasure that you will find in me is fear of God, piety, fidelity and love, which with joy I will show you.” Anna, whose father was dead, accepted; her mother objected and tried to annul the en­gagement. She failed, but the court ordered the couple to remain apart until the mother consented. She never did, but died in July 1529. A month later, Heinrich and Anna married.

Anna was a remarkable woman. She mothered thir­teen children, eleven her own, two adopted. On her hus­band’s meager salary, she provided for her large family, cared for the sick and poor in Zurich, and gave hospital­ity to a constant stream of guests from all over Europe. Her care for English refugees received the thanks of Queen Elizabeth. In Zurich, she was known by every­one simply as “mother.” The Black Death would take Anna, two daughters, and the family maid Britta. Anna died on September 4, 1564, nine days after contract­ing the plague while caring for Heinrich, who also had gotten it. Heinrich was so sick, he could not attend her funeral. He would survive and live eleven more years, but with acute kidney trouble.

Ironically, Heinrich junior replaced his father as pas­tor when his father converted. In February 1529, ten years after turning away Samson, sixty-year-old Heinrich senior told his congregation that for the past twen­ty-three years he had not taught the truth of Scripture. The town council promptly deposed him. The citizens concurred, but also voted to abolish the mass and re­quest Zurich for a new pastor. In the meantime, they invited junior to preach. The day following his sermon they burned the church’s images. On June 1, they or­dained him pastor. He served Bremgarten until Novem­ber 20, 1531, when he was expelled in the aftermath of Kappel.

Within two days of arriving in Zurich with his fa­ther and brother John, Bullinger was asked to preach. Catholics, emboldened by Kappel, sharpened their daggers; the council, scarred by Kappel, was leery. And with good reason: Bullinger and Zwingli were closer than brothers; and even when Bullinger first preached, he thundered such a sermon that some thought Zwingli had risen from the dead. But Bullinger was not Zwingli, and had broken with him on the matter of taking up the physical sword. So when Zwingli visited shortly be­fore Kappel, Bullinger walked with him to the next city, said a tearful farewell, and they never met again. On December 31, 1531, Bullinger was appointed Zwingli’s replacement in the Great Minster of Zurich, where he served honorably and faithfully until his death at age 71 on September 17, 1575.

Like Calvin, the primary concern of Bullinger was to feed his own flock. To that end he reformed the schools; authored curricula, catechisms, and standards; supervised the formation of new schools, a college and seminary; and oversaw the training of hundreds of new teachers and pastors. His first six years he preached six to seven times per week. In his lifetime, he preached through every book of the Bible once; all the prophets, gospels, and Pauline epistles two to three times; and He­brews four times. He excelled at making the complex plain. Pellikan, professor of languages in Zurich, said he had one of the greatest minds of his age, yet was the simplest of preachers. Calvin wrote that he right­ly received much praise because he combined simplicity with learning. And when a visiting high-born man once complained of his common speech, Bullinger responded that he preached to the pews full of shabby caps and shawls.

Bullinger had an ecumenical spirit that showed early and often. In 1528, he attended the Bern Disputation against Catholicism. In 1531, he was to attend the Marburg Colloquy with Luther, until his council said no. In 1536, he co-authored the First Helvetic Confession in an attempt to unify with Lutherans. After Calvin’s re­turn to Geneva (1541) and Luther’s invective against the “false and seductive preachers” of Zurich that “take the poor people to hell with them,” Bullinger focused his attention on unifying the Swiss. In 1549, he wrote with Calvin the Consensus Tigurinus—a unifying agreement that affirmed the real spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper and restricted its grace to the elect.

Bullinger was a prolific and widely read author. He wrote over 12,000 letters (more than Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin combined) to people from students to kings throughout Europe. He wrote major theological trea­tises: On the Lord’s Supper (1528); On Images (1529); Warning to the Faithful of the Shameless Disturbance, Offensive Confusion, and False Teachings of the Ana­baptists (1531); The One, Eternal Testament or Cove­nant of God (1534); The Authority of the Holy Scrip­tures (1538); On Christian Marriage (1540); The True Perfection of Christians (1551); The End of the World’s Present Epoch and Future Judgment of Our Lord Je­sus Christ (1557); and A Manual on How the Perse­cuted Should Respond (1559). Bullinger wrote history books on the monastery at Kappel (1526), the city of Zurich (1531), the origin of error (1539), the Anabap­tists (1560), and a massive history of the Swiss Feder­ation and Reformed churches from 1306-1533 (1567). Bullinger wrote commentaries on every book of the New Testament. He published 618 sermons, including 170 on Jeremiah (1561); 66 on Daniel (1565); 190 on Isaiah (1567), and 100 on Revelation (1557)—which went through 20 editions and was translated into Ger­man, English, and Dutch.

But none of his published sermons were as popular as The Decades (1551)—50 sermons that systematically treated all of Reformed theology. Written in Latin for scholars, it was quickly translated and became an inter­national best-seller among the laity. The Latin edition was reprinted 77 times. In Germany and Holland, the vernacular version was simply known as “The House-book,” and went through 137 editions. In England it became a standard textbook. a’Lasco said The Decades pleased him much. Peter Martyr said preachers who read it could instruct people abundantly and profitably. Calvin called it a gift of the Spirit.

Nothing Bullinger wrote unified the Reformed churches more than his Second Helvetic Confession. Written as a last testament of faith when he contracted the plague, it would become, according to Schaff, the most authoritative of all the continental Reformed sym­bols, with the exception of the Heidelberg Catechism. It would be translated into every major European lan­guage and Arabic. Friedrich III, who commissioned the Heidelberg Catechism, had it translated into German. Beza translated it into French. Besides wide distribu­tion in the Palatinate, Holland, and England, the Sec­ond Helvetic Confession was also officially adopted by the Reformed churches of Neufchatel (1568), Scotland (1566), Hungary (1567), France (1571), and Poland (1578).

Bullinger made two notable and related contributions to Reformed theology. The first is his doctrine of the covenant, which he developed while writing against the dispensationalism of the Anabaptists. The second were several keys developments on marriage: there is one in­stitution of marriage even as there is one covenant of grace; marriage is analogous to or a picture of the one eternal covenant of grace; since marriage was instituted before the Fall, marital life itself is good and honorable (against the notion that marriage is mainly to avoid for­nication and to procreate, which mitigates an inherent sinfulness of intercourse); lastly, although Adam was created first as head, God instituted marriage for the mutual blessedness of both married persons equally.

Bullinger is relatively obscure today, in part because only six of his major writings are translated into English. But one measure of his significance is the high regard he had among peers. When Ursinus was driven from Bre­slau in 1560, he went to study in Zurich, not Geneva. Olevianus wrote this to Bullinger: “Any sound wisdom in reformed thought, we owe it in large part to you.”1 And none other than Beza called Bullinger “the com­mon shepherd of all Christian churches.” High praise, considering that Beza knew Calvin’s influence had al­ready eclipsed that of Bullinger. And neither should any obscurity of Bullinger today change that assessment.


1  Charles S. McCoy and J. Wayne Baker, Fountainhead of Feder­alism (John Knox Press; Louisville, KY), 37.

Read more...

PRC and Sister-Church News Highlights for October 11, 2020

matt 18 11The following are special highlights of PRC and sister-church news for this Sunday, October 11, 2020, the forty-first Lord's Day of this year.
  • Rev. J. Engelsma (Doon PRC) is considering the call to Hudsonville PRC (received Sept.20). He plans to answer on or before Oct.18. May the Lord guide him into the certain knowledge of His will concerning this new call.

  • Rev. C. Spronk (Faith PRC) is considering the call to Wingham PRC (received Sept.28). May the Lord show him His way with regard to this call.

  • Last Sunday Rev. R. Kleyn announced his decline of the call from Kalamazoo PRC. We continue to pray for this vacant congregation, that God may soon send them a pastor to go in and out among them again.

  • Classical appointments and pulpit supply for today in the vacant PRCs: Rev. C. Spronk  in Cornerstone PRC; Prof. R. Cammenga and Rev. J.Holstege in Hudsonville PRC; Prof. R.Dykstra and Rev. N.Decker in Kalamazoo PRC; Prof. B.Gritters and Rev. J.Mahtani in Providence PRC. What a blessing that our PRC federation gives such help to these churches! May we also bring to the throne of grace the needs of these vacant congregations, including Wingham PRC, who cannot have pulpit supply from the U.S. at this time (pandemic travel restrictions).

  • Let us not forget to pray for the needs of Rev. J. Marcus, who awaits a call to the churches; of Rev. M. McGeown, who awaits permission to enter the States to be installed in Providence PRC; and of Covenant ERC, our sister church in Singapore, as she awaits both pulpit supply from the PRC and a call for minister-on-loan through Grandville PRC - both on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
     
  • For those who may still be limited to house worship, whether completely or partially, we invite you to visit the PR churches page and follow the links to the websites where the churches' livestream may be found.

  • Did you know that:
    • The Canadian PRCs will celebrate their Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, October 12? The congregations of First PRC in Edmonton (AB), Immanuel PRC in Lacombe (AB), and Wingham PRC (ON) will gather for worship in the morning and then enjoy family and church family get-togethers much as we do in the U.S.
    • Some PRCs have been able (allowed) to open up their church buildings to other church functions and fellowship on Sundays and during the week, from basements to classrooms - for catechism classes, Bible studies, nurseries, and more. May the Lord continue to provide for all the churches, no matter our allowances and privileges - or lack thereof.

PRC DENOMINATIONAL NEWS:

  • The 2020 PRC Acts of Synod is now available and has been distributed to the congregations. If you have not yet received yours, seek out your congregation's clerk, the stated clerk (Rev. R. Van Overloop), or contact the seminary.
  • 2020 edition of the Church Order: The 2020 edition of the ring-bound Church Order book is now available and may be ordered through the PRC Seminary (616-531-1490). As per synodical decision, these books are updated every five years to incorporate new synodical decisions affecting them. In addition to the Church Order, this book also contains such things as the Constitutions of all synodical committees, the Rules of Synodical Procedure, the Explanation of the Rules for Protests/Appeals/Overtures and the denomination's Articles of Incorporation and By-laws. All these are of most practical use to the office bearers. But, all of our families would do well to cultivate a knowledge of and interest in Protestant Reformed church polity. If you already have the six-ring green binder, you need only order the new inserts ($4.00). The inserts with the binder with the 2020 edition is $10.00. Payment can be made to the PRCA after you receive your materials.

Sem sign Fall 2018 2

Special PRC Seminary Notices:

  • Seminary has now completed seven weeks of its first semester - nearly half way through the semester already. Remember in prayer the professors, students, and staff as they labor in the task of training men for the ministry of the Word. And remember to petition the Lord of the harvest to send us more men who heed to call to serve as His ambassadors.
  • The first round of practice preaching continues tomorrow (Monday Oct.12), with Sem. M. Koerner delivering his first 'PP' sermon. Pray for all these students as they prepare for this vital part of their training.
  • For several years, the seminary faculty have permitted auditors to audit some classes. The presence and input of the auditors has been appreciated. With regret, because of COVID restrictions, the faculty is not inviting any auditors this semester. This decision will be reviewed at the end of the semester with a view to Interim 2021 and the second semester.
  • For the latest seminary news and information, visit the seminary's website.

LimerickRF 2020
Read about what's happening with the Limerick Reformed Fellowship in Rev. M.McGeown's latest newsltter from Ireland (see note below under CPRC News)

SISTER-CHURCH/MISSIONS NEWS:

  • Covenant ERC, Singapore: 
    • From today's "Pastoral Voice" in her bulletin: This is the second week we are having a maximum number of 100 worshippers at each worship service. Let us be very thankful to God for this provision despite the various restrictions placed on us. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to come together to worship His great and glorious name. ...The PRCA, through its Contact Committee, has graciously proposed to provide every Sunday morning pulpit supply to CERC via online means from USA. The online worship services, conducted by Professor Dykstra, require as many as three audio team members and even Seminarian Marcus Wee in USA to facilitate the proceedings as opposed to only one audio team member needed for ‘Reading Sermon services’ conducted by our Elders. Session will be meeting to deliberate and decide if we have the necessary resources and means to continue the online Sunday morning worship services conducted in USA. Do pray for us.
    • The last issue of "Reformed News Asia" is the August 2020 one, #61). Read that issue here.
  • Covenant PRC, N. Ireland:
    • Rev. A. Stewart brought the Word there today.
    • Missionary-pastor M. McGeown continues to preach the gospel in Limerick, Ireland until he can enter the U.S. and be installed as Providence PRC's pastor. This week he published a new newsletter with important information about what is happening to the group as well as to his immigration process. For that news, visit this webpage.
    • Be sure to read the latest issue of the "Covenant Reformed News" - September 2020!
  • PRC in the Philippines:
    • With strict government limitations on public gatherings still in place due to the pandemic (Metro Manila and nearby provinces are now under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) through October 31), the PRCP pastors and the PRC missionaries carry on with livestreaming of services as well as with online catechism classes and Bible studies.
    • PRCP Seminary News: Last week, our seminary instructors and students took a one-week break. The second quarter of the school year begins this Tuesday, October 13.
    • The PRCP Classis is scheduled to convince on October 31, 2020 at the Provident PRC Marikina City at 9:00 in the morning. Lord willing.
    • The latest PRCP newsletter was recently published - don't forget to read the August 2020 report!
  • Are we continuing to pray for our dear brothers and sisters throughout the world as they also face trials and tribulations? Let us show the communion of saints also in this way.

RWH Logo 2019
Listen to the Reformed Witness Hour each Sunday - on a radio station near you or on Sermonaudio wherever you are!

  • Rev. W. Bruinsma (Pittsburgh PRC) has begun delivering the messages on the program for the next four months. Today's message is titled "The Blessings of Fearing Jehovah" and is based on Psalm 25:12,13.
  • Listen to the broadcast on the station near you, on your favorite podcast (Google Play, Spotify, and iTunes), or visit the links provided here to listen to this program.
  • The Reformed Witness Hour publishes each month's messages in an attractive booklet. These printed sermons are a great blessing to many and are distributed all over the world, including to many prisoners in the U.S. If you or your Evangelism Commitee would like to receive these, let the RWHC know and they will add you to the mailing list (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
  • Special notices for October: 

    The Reformed Witness Hour is pleased to announce that beginning this month we are adding a new broadcast time on Wednesday evenings at 8PM on WFUR-FM 92.9/AM1570 (Grand Rapids, MI).  The RWH will also continue to broadcast at our normal time slot on Sundays at 4PM. We encourage you to listen if you are able, and to promote the broadcast to family and friends when you have the opportunity.

    The Reformed Witness Hour is pleased to announce that beginning this month we are adding a new broadcast in the Kalamazoo area at 4PM each Sunday on WKPR-FM 105.1/AM1440. We encourage you to listen if you are able, and to promote the broadcast to family and friends.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

REFORMED RESOURCES FOR EDIFICATION, EDUCATION, and EVANGELISM:

reformation men
Looking for things to read in this Reformation remembrance month? Check out this section of articles on the website, all devoted to the Reformers and God's work through them in His church.

  • Be sure to check out the Reformed Book Outlet in downtown Hudsonville, MI and online! As a reminder, their hours of business are currently Tuesday 10-1, Wednesday 1-5, and Saturday 10-1, or send your order to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Are you desirous to learn more about the doctrines and practices of the PRC? Or, are you in need of some pamphlets and/or articles published by the PRC for use in evangelism and/or witnessing? Or are you simply interested in growing in your faith and walk with the Lord? Visit the Resources pages of this website and the PRCA Evangelism page for a complete list of materials available in digital format or by order from the publishing church.

This Week's Thought for Contemplation:

God raised Jesus from the dead. What power on earth could possibly accomplish this miracle? Obviously, there is none. Only a heavenly power could and did raise Jesus on the third day. God thus vindicated Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah and declared that Christ’s atonement for sin was accepted. As God raised Jesus from the dead, so also by His Spirit He raises us from the dead with a birth from above. As Jesus Christ was victorious over Satan, sin, and death, all those who are united to Christ by faith can live triumphantly through that power!

What a sinful world we live in which tempts us to join in its wicked ways and persecuting those who refuse. How are we victorious over that great enemy? The answer is, we can only gain the victory through the power of God that transforms us “by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2). It is what makes us “new creatures” (II Cor. 5:17).

Our second great adversary is our own flesh, that sinful nature that you and I must fight against day and night. What an enemy it is! So often we are not active as we should be in reading God’s Word, praying, or performing good works. Our sinful nature also locks us into sinful patterns of behavior. How can we triumph over these strong forces? It is only by the power of God displayed in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Our third enemy is the devil and his host of fallen angels. No wonder Peter writes, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil ,as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he might devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith…” (I Pet. 5:8). Because of this, we need to be enlightened with respect to the power of God working in us. Nothing else can enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil.

From one of Rev. A. Spriensma's meditations on Ephesians 1 this past week, "Knowing God's Power in the Exaltation of Christ."

Read more...

Knowing God's Power in the Exaltation of Christ

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

Knowing God's Power in the Exaltation of Christ

Meditation on Ephesians 1:19-23

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

These verses in our pericope are the last part of a long sentence beginning in verse 15 and ending with verse 23. Paul prayed that the Ephesian believes might know God and the scope of what he does for us. Our faith is not a blind faith, but faith is a certain knowledge and a therefore a deep-rooted assurance. God wants us to know him, the hope of his calling, the riches of his inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of his power. May we know what is the exceeding greatness of his power!

What is that power of God? It is seen in the exaltation of Christ. Speaking of Jesus’ exaltation, Paul referred (1) to Christ’s resurrection from the dead, (2) to His ascension and enthronement over all , and (3) to His headship over the church His body. Since the church is Christ’s body, what is true of Christ is also true of His church! God’s power can be known in Christ and then also as it works in us. In the above verses, there are many different Greek words for power. First, we have the Greek word from which we get our English word “dynamite”. It means the power of strength in the sense of ability, ability to do something. Another Greek word means inner power, the inner energy of God. A third word for power is that which means the strength of authority. A fourth Greek word is simply strength, that is the power to do something. The apostle heaps word upon word and phrase upon phrase to express that power of God. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is a greater power of God than even that of creation!

There are some who believe that in knowing the truth they have it all. While sound theological and doctrinal knowledge is important, this knowledge is given to us that we know God better and thus live in His power and be victorious over sin in this life. The salvation of the soul is a resurrection, the recovery of a person from the dead. Without God’s mighty strength, not one individual would ever triumph over sin, live a godly life, or come at last to the reward God has for all His own in heaven.

God raised Jesus from the dead. What power on earth could possibly accomplish this miracle? Obviously, there is none. Only a heavenly power could and did raise Jesus on the third day. God thus vindicated Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah and declared that Christ’s atonement for sin was accepted. As God raised Jesus from the dead, so also by His Spirit He raises us from the dead with a birth from above. As Jesus Christ was victorious over Satan, sin, and death, all those who are united to Christ by faith can live triumphantly through that power!

What a sinful world we live in which tempts us to join in its wicked ways and persecuting those who refuse. How are we victorious over that great enemy? The answer is, we can only gain the victory through the power of God that transforms us “by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2). It is what makes us “new creatures” (II Cor. 5:17).

Our second great adversary is our own flesh, that sinful nature that you and I must fight against day and night. What an enemy it is! So often we are not active as we should be in reading God’s Word, praying, or performing good works. Our sinful nature also locks us into sinful patterns of behavior. How can we triumph over these strong forces? It is only by the power of God displayed in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Our third enemy is the devil and his host of fallen angels. No wonder Peter writes, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil ,as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he might devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith…” (I Pet. 5:8). Because of this, we need to be enlightened with respect to the power of God working in us. Nothing else can enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil.

In Christ’s exaltation, all things are placed under His feet! Christ’s exultation over all rule and authority involves all earthly powers and heavenly things. How are we to be victorious over Satan? James tells us: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). You and I cannot resist Satan in our own strength. If we submit ourselves to God, His power which was demonstrated in the exultation of Christ above all rule and authority now flows through us. The devil will flee as he fled from Christ at the conclusion of the temptation in the wilderness.

The exultation of Christ consists in God in His power giving Him to be “the head over all things to the church.” Christ is the organic and legal Head of the church. We are subject to Christ as the body is subject to the head. Christ and His church belong together. The church cannot be without Christ as the Head. This is absolutely impossible. Christ also cannot be without the church. Christ fills all things in the church. What a close relationship we have. We live, move and have our being in Christ Jesus raised from the dead! The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is a power that is to us-ward who believe. You believe, don’t you?

Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Robert Lowry (1826-1899)

Read more...

Limerick Reformed Fellowship Newsletter - October 2020

Rev. Martyn McGeown
38 Abbeyvale, Corbally, Co. Limerick, Ireland, V94 K7ER

http://www.limerickreformed.com/
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dear saints in the Protestant Reformed Churches,

In my last newsletter (July 15) I reported on the CPRC Council’s decision (March 9) to withdraw me, the missionary, from the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, and my acceptance of the call to Providence PRC (April 4). I also mentioned how the COVID-19 restrictions have affected our activities, and I gave some indication of how long immigration might take before Larisa and I will be permitted to travel to the USA.

Larisa, being a U.S. citizen, was actually able to travel to the USA to attend her youngest brother’s wedding. Ben and Taylor (Griess) married on August 7 in Loveland, Colorado. Initially, Ben and Taylor had asked me to officiate their wedding, which I would have been honoured to do. Sadly, immigration issues made that impossible, so Larisa travelled to the USA alone. I was glad that she could go—she had missed two family funerals already in 2020—even though I had to stay at home without her. Her visit to the USA also gave her the opportunity to visit Providence PRC, meet the people of our future congregation, attend social events with friends, family, and future congregants, and see the parsonage that the saints in Providence PRC are preparing for us. Of course, travelling during the pandemic was not easy with mask wearing on the flight and self-isolation in Michigan and Limerick, but, thankfully, she and her family remained COVID-19 free.

 LimerickRF 2020

The Fellowship is slowly—and painfully—disbanding. Of the three main families, the Wattersons, Kuhs, and Mansonas, only one remains. The Wattersons moved to Northern Ireland in March, as I reported last time, and are now members in the CPRC in Ballymena. The Kuhs plan to move to Northern Ireland next week, DV. October 4 was their last Sunday worshipping in the Fellowship. They will be greatly missed. Now there are only a handful of souls left. Yesterday (October 7) was also my last day teaching the Kuhs children—Sebastian and Penelope—catechism. As “thank you” gifts the children made cards depicting me as their pastor/catechism teacher: as you can see, they are very artistic. Their new pastor/catechism teacher will be Rev Stewart. He is getting some very good students, who by God’s grace have grown greatly in the knowledge of God’s Word.

children notes 1 2020children notes 2 2020

The Irish government recently adopted a “Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19,” which outlines a five-level approach to the disease. Yesterday, the whole country entered “Level 3.” Under Level 3 we are advised to have no more than six people to our home from one other household, which makes our Bible study difficult (we usually have two visitors to our Bible study, but they are from two other households); worship services must move to online only, so that the Conradh na Gaelige is again closed to us (we will most likely be back to “bubble church” on Sunday, although we could have up to six people from one household join us); and we are only allowed to leave our county for essential purposes. An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) have checkpoints on all major roads to check that people are complying with the “no non-essential journeys” rule. Although, for now, they have no powers of enforcement (they can only advise against unnecessary journeys), the government is considering introducing fines for crossing county borders. There are 26 counties in Ireland and to travel from Limerick to Dublin, we must travel through five counties: Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, and Dublin. To travel to Northern Ireland would require travelling through two additional counties, Meath and Louth, with potential checkpoints and questions at every border. Media speculation is that on October 27 when the Level 3 restrictions expire, Level 4 or even Level 5 restrictions could be introduced.

That brings me to immigration news. On August 24 the immigration lawyer whom we hired for the R-1 religious worker visa informed us of USCIS approval, which is very good news. However, the next step is an interview in the US Consulate. Initially, I was told to book an interview in London, which I tried to do: the next available appointment is August 13, 2021! Then I tried the US Consulate in Dublin, and I have an appointment scheduled for November 6, 2020! You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions of late August, as joy gave way to disappointment, which gave way to relief.

Everything, therefore, depends on a successful outcome in November, which is just four weeks away. Pray, first, that the US Consulate remains open during the COVID-19 restrictions; and, second, that the Lord, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, moves the immigration officials to approve our petition. I can assure that I will be telling every police officer between here and Dublin that my journey to Dublin is absolutely essential! (Incidentally, the R-1 visa, if successful, would permit me to work as a religious worker for a maximum of five years. The other petition, immigration based on marriage to a US citizen, is a separate issue: there is no progress on that petition).

While my catechism instruction of the children of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship has ended, I have begun to teach two classes online for Providence PRC. Because of the time difference I teach only the Beginners and Juniors classes (finishing at 10 PM on Mondays for me). I am enjoying very much getting to know the first through fifth graders as we study New Testament History together, and I look forward, DV, to meeting the rest of the catechumens and the other members of Providence PRC in due course.

In Christian love,

Rev Martyn and Larisa McGeown

Read more...

God Calls David to Repentance

God Calls David to Repentance

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRC Christian School

II Samuel 12

David felt he had dealt with his sins of adultery and murder. He had covered his actions well enough that when his and Bathsheba’s baby was born, people would think the baby had come a little early. David could go about his life. However, God was displeased with him. God sent His prophet Nathan to call David to repentance.

Nathan does not directly confront David with his sin. God had given Nathan a parable to tell. Nathan tells about a rich man who had many sheep and a poor man who has but one, which was as a daughter to him. The rich man has a visitor but the rich man does not want to kill one of his own plentiful sheep to have a meal, so he kills the poor man’s only sheep and serves it for dinner.

Though living in unrepentant sin, David is still able to judge between right and wrong. “David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man.” He does not yet see the parallels between himself and the guilty man in the parable. David had many wives yet, when his passion is stirred with adulterous desires, he does not go to one of his many wives but he takes the one wife of another man. If we think we can satisfy sinful desires by catering to them, we will find to our sorrow that our sinful desires cannot be satisfied. Our sinful flesh always desires more.

David pronounces a punishment against the rich man which was more than what the Old Testament law demanded. The law stated that the punishment for stealing a sheep was giving four sheep. David adds the penalty of death. How shocked David must have been to hear Nathan declare with divine revelation, “Thou art the man!” David realizes that if he pronounced the death penalty for taking a man’s sheep, the punishment for taking a man’s wife and having him killed should be worse.

David’s chastisements are severe. Since David thought the sword was a convenient way to solve problems, David would have the sword wielded against his family for the rest of his life. He had taken a man’s wife privately but his wives would be taken in a brazen fashion. David learns the child Bathsheba now bares will die since David’s actions gave the wicked a reason to blaspheme God and His people. The following scriptural narrative unfolds all of this to us.

One might question God’s justice. Why should the guilty David live and the innocent child die? The sovereign God shows His disapproval against David for his sin, and His love for him by sparing his life. Also God will provide for His church the perfect Lamb of sacrifice through Solomon, who is yet to be conceived by David and born of Bathsheba.

David fasts and prays for the child. He hopes God will yet spare him. David’s servants are shocked that, when David learns of the child’s death, he stops fasting, washes, anoints himself and goes to God’s house to worship. When David confesses, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me,” David does not mean that some day he will join his son in the grave. There is no comfort in that. David speaks of being with his son in heaven. This passage has been a comfort to many of God’s people. Covenant parents have no reason to doubt the salvation of the children whom it pleases God to take in their infancy.

David comforts Bathsheba and she bares Solomon. The name means “peaceful.” David is at peace with God, Solomon would have a peaceful reign and Solomon pictures Christ, the Prince of Peace. God sent Nathan to David and Bathsheba, for He has another name for Solomon. The name is Jedidiah, “Beloved of the Lord.” We do not read of God naming any of David’s other sons. Here we see God’s choice to succeed David on Israel’s throne.

The chapter closes with the defeat of Rabbah, the royal city of Ammon. It is likely that the events related here occurred just after the death of Uriah and before David’s confession. Joab sends for David so David can finish the work and be given honour. Some commentators cite the severe punishment of the captives as an indication of the condition of David’s heart before repentance. Others point out the cruelty of the Ammonites, so they were justly served. They point out that being made to “pass through the brick kiln” was especially appropriate since the Ammonites sacrificed their children to their idols.

We need to note something about David’s call to repentance. There is no salvation outside of repentance. We must repent. However, we must be careful not to make repentance a work of ours on which our salvation depends. Our repentance is not an exercise of our free will as a condition we fulfil which subsequently allows God to be gracious to us. We did our part and now God is free to do His. This is not at all the idea.

David is an example here. He did not repent of his sin by his own powers. He dealt with his sin by covering it with subtilty. Psalm 32, which David wrote as his confession, states, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” David suffered from a plagued conscience yet he did not, and would not, go to God to repent. God graciously sent Nathan to bring David to repentance. Nathan brought the gospel of grace to David by saying, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” Nathan brought the external preaching of the Word and God worked repentance in David’s heart.

The Canons of Dordt speak of this in the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine. Repentance is part of conversion. We cannot put off the old man of sin if we do not repent of the deeds of that old man. It is for His elect that God “confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son, that they may show forth the praises of Him, who hath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord.” It is our Father who “opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable.” Finally, “Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.”

Praise God for His sovereign, unmerited grace and His unconditional gift of salvation!

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed

Contact Details

Denomination

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Reading Sermon Library
  • Taped Sermon Library

Synodical Officers

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Synodical Committees

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact/Missions

  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Classical Officers

Classis East
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Classis West
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.