Augustine – Homily on John 10:1-10

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineThe quotation below is found in the new Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer (October 15, 2014), a Reformed semi-monthly magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. This special issue is devoted to the church father Augustine, and the opening meditation is an excerpt from a sermon (homily) of Augustine based on John 10:1-10.

Notice how the doctrines of sovereign grace permeate what he says in this section while acknowledging the mixed nature of the church in this present world.

12. You hear, brethren, the great importance of the question. I say then, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” He knoweth those who were foreknown, He knoweth those who were predestinated; because it is said of Him, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. If God be for us, who can be against us?” Add to this: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not with Him also freely given us all things?”

But what “us”? Those who are foreknown, predestinated, justified, glorified; regarding whom there follows, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Therefore “the Lord knoweth them that are His;” they are the sheep. Such sometimes do not know themselves, but the Shepherd knoweth them, according to this predestination, this foreknowledge of God, according to the election of the sheep before the foundation of the world: for so saith also the apostle, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” 

According, then, to this divine foreknowledge and predestination, how many sheep are outside, how many wolves within! and how many sheep are inside, how many wolves without! How many are now living in wantonness who will yet be chaste! how many are blaspheming Christ who will yet believe in Him! how many are giving themselves to drunkenness who will yet be sober! how many are preying on other people property who will yet freely give of their own! Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers.

In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated,—of those whom the Lord knoweth that they are His.) And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.

For information on how to receive this issue or to subscribe, visit the Standard Bearer website.  Or you may visit this news item about it on the PRC website.

The Blessed Trinity – Prayer and Praise

This morning in my home church (Faith PRC) we will hear the gospel contained in the truth of the Trinity, as taught us in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8, Q&As 24-25. So simply stated, yet so wondrously profound. I cannot comprehend the Tri-unity of my God; but I believe it with all my head and heart because this is how He has revealed Himself to me. My one God and Father is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thinking about my post for this Lord’s Day, I found this prayer/devotion in the book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett (Edited by Arthur Bennett; Banner of Truth, 1975). It is simply titled “The Trinity”, but it too contains profound truths concerning our Triune God.

May it lead us to contemplate with awe our amazing God, and to fall down before Him with deep praise according to the depth of His Being.

Three in One, One in Three, God of my salvation,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;

O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;

O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered my heart,
implanted there eternal life, revealed to me the glories of Jesus.

Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, so wondrous,
so mighty to save the lost and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep, jewel, portion;

O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;

O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
implanted faith within me, subdued my stubborn heart,
made me one with him for ever.

O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,

O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my petitions,

O Holy Spirit, thou art willing to help my infirmities,
to show me my need, to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.

O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those
things that concern thy kingdom and my soul.

Let me live and pray as one baptized into the threefold Name.

This is a video of Max Maclean reading this devotional, if you prefer to have this devotional read to you.

Jehovah Our Sun and Shield – H.Hoeksema

All-Glory-HHoeksema-2013Our meditation on this first Lord’s Day of October is taken from the latest collection of devotional meditations by Herman Hoeksema (series: “Reformed Spirituality”, edited by David J. Engelsma) published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association (rfpa.org) titled All Glory to the Only Good God (2013).

The fourth meditation in this book, “Jehovah Our Sun and Shield”, is based on Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Today we pull a quotation from the middle of this meditation originally published in The Standard Bearer.

May it be used to renew our faith in the God Who is both our Light and our Protector in this world of sin and suffering.

A sun is Jehovah God. The God of our salvation is also a shield.

At first there seems to be an irreconcilable contrast and antithesis between these two figures.

…How could the psalmist think of his God under the images of a sun and a shield?

What need has he who walks in the light of the protection of a shield?

Yet how real to experience is the figure.

Scarcely have you begun to meditate upon the rich beauties and blessedness of the Lord God, and to rejoice in the privilege of his communion, but you look about for a shield to protect you. For the Lord gives grace and glory. When he does so, he makes you partaker of his light. His light is reflected in your life. With the reflection of his light in your life and walk, you stand for his name and glory in the world. It is true that in the world you are in danger as soon as you bid farewell to the darkness of sin and walk in the light of God, for the world is in darkness and loves the darkness. Because it loves darkness, it hates light, since its works are evil. As it loves darkness and hates light, so it loves and protects its own children and hates and persecutes the children of God’s light. The world battles those who dwell in the tabernacle of God’s light and reflect his grace and glory. It attacks you. It fights with the deceitful weapons of flattery and vain philosophy, offering you all the glory and riches of the world. It shoots the poisoned arrows of reproach and shame or openly threatens its death-bringing sword.

And all the while it aims at the light in us. All the while its purpose is to extinguish the light poured into our hearts and lives from Jehovah God, who is a sun.

But Jehovah is a shield!

A most perfect shield is he. …Jehovah’s protection is perfect. If he covers us, we are safe. If he watches over us, the enemy cannot reach us. For he is the Almighty, mightier than all the mightiest together, supreme in power. There is no sword that he cannot break; there is no hostile attack that he cannot repel. He never fails to watch, for he neither slumbers nor sleeps. Always his eyes are over the righteous. Constantly he watches to protect the children who dwell in his light and whom he made partakers of his own grace and glory.

…How safe, then, are they who trust in him! (24-25)

Blessed and Happy – October 1, 2014 “Standard Bearer”

StandardBearerThe latest issue of the Standard Bearer (Vol.91, No.1 – October 1, 2014) carries the next word study written by PRC pastor William (Bill) Langerak for the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken”. This one covers the closely related words “Blessed-Happy”.

Today I post a wonderful paragraph from this article. If you wish to find other such word studies, visit this page on the PRC website, or do a search for this rubric on the “SB” website.

Significantly, Scripture never associates being blessed or happy with earthly things – especially money, food, houses, clothing, or good health. Rather, it locates happiness exclusively in God. Scripture claims God to be the happy God (I Tim.1:11). Therefore, happy are the people whose God is the Lord and whom He chooses for His inheritance (Ps.144:15; 33:12). Happy are they who have God for their help (Ps.146:5), trust in the Lord (Ps.34:8), and whose strength is God (Ps.84:4-5). Happiness is the goodness of God’s house (Ps.65:4), enjoying the light of God’s countenance (Ps.89:15), and that God preserves, keeps, and delivers us (Ps.41:1-2).

Jesus is also declared God’s happy Son (I Tim.6:15). Happy, therefore, are they who kiss the Son (Ps.2:12). Happy are they who know Jesus as Christ, have eyes to see and ears to hear, and are not offended by Christ (Matt.11:6; 13:6; 21:9). Happy, because in Jesus, they have their transgressions forgiven and sin covered, and the Lord imputes to them no iniquity (Ps.32:1-2), p.15

Are you a subscriber to the “SB”? If not, check out the website linked above and find out how to become one.

The Pillar of the Truth – Steve Timmis

The Pillar of the Truth by Steve Timmis | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

pillarsAs I finished reading the special articles in this month’s Tabletalk yesterday, I also read this fine one by Steve Timmis. In it he explains the truth of I Timothy 3:15, that the church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.”

I hope it reminds you, as it did me, just how important the church – and the life of her members – are for the support and spread of the gospel.

Here are the opening paragraphs. Find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

At first reading, 1 Timothy 3:15 seems somewhat disconcerting. In it, Paul is explaining to Timothy why he is writing to him. It concerns the church: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

Did you catch what he wrote? “The church … a pillar and buttress of the truth.” As sound evangelicals, we know that Paul has to have that backwards, don’t we? Surely, the gospel is that which gives solidity and shape to the church? Isn’t the church built on the gospel and the product of the gospel?

Yes, undoubtedly yes. But that’s not the point Paul is making in this context. He wants Timothy to get the church in Ephesus back on gospel tracks because she has departed from the gospel. The Pastoral Epistles are not simply manuals for church order. They are an urgent call to arms. Timothy needs to go to war because the gospel is at stake in this city and region.

But critical to this strategy is the church herself. The church, formed by the gospel, is for the gospel, and by her life and witness, she commends the gospel and is the primary apologetic for the gospel before the world. John Stott, in his commentary on 1 Timothy and Titus, put it well when he wrote, “The church depends on the truth for its existence; the truth depends on the church for its defence and proclamation.”

In essence, Paul’s letter to Timothy shows us just how important the gospel is for the church, but equally how important the church is for the gospel. Which, given the comment by Jesus in Matthew 5, isn’t at all disconcerting. Just as Israel under the old covenant commended Yahweh to the surrounding nations by her covenant life, so the church of the new covenant commends Christ by her covenant life.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 150

Psalm 150On this final Lord’s Day of September we come to the end of the book of Psalms in our Sunday worship preparation devotionals, as we take a brief look at Psalm 150.

And while the Psalms are indeed a spiritual biography of the children of God, allowing us to see into the souls of the saints as they go through all of life’s experiences and express themselves with regard to these varied experiences, the Psalms are not really about God’s people. The book of Psalms is about God – all about God. God and His glorious character; God and His glorious works. God and His majestic work of creation. God and His sovereign work of providence. God and His might acts of salvation. God and His mercy and grace and faithfulness to His people in Jesus Christ and for His sake. Yes, God is the heart and soul of the Psalms!

And so the Psalms are all about praising this glorious God. This is a book of “Hallelujahs” – “Praise the Lord”. And as we have been seeing, this theme is coming to a climax at the end of the book of Psalms. Once again I quote from the Nelson Study Bible as it aptly describes this last psalm: “Psalm 150, a psalm of praise, is a development of the Hebrew word hallelujah, meaning ‘Praise the Lord.’ How fitting that this book of praises – the meaning of the name of the Book of Psalms in Hebrew – ends in repeated commands to praise the Lord” (1029).

Psalm 150, like Psalm 148, is a call to universal praise. That is, the psalmist calls for all creatures to praise the Lord – from those in heaven to those on earth – everything that has breath. And he calls for them to do this using all the means God has given, especially instruments of music. So that this too is a call to worship the Lord – in the sanctuary of His creation and in the sanctuary of His church.

As we prepare to enter that sanctuary of God this day, let us hear this call to praise our glorious God. Let us think on God and His glorious character. Let us ponder His mighty works – around us, as well as for us and in us. And as those who have received breath from God – even new breath from the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ – let us respond with glad and grateful “hallelujahs.”

Psalm 150

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 149 through music, I encourage you to listen to one of the versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “A Summons to Praise” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
In His temple God be praised;
In the high and heavenly places
Be the sounding anthem raised.

2. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah
For his mighty acts of fame;
Excellent His might and greatness;
Fitting praises then proclaim.

3. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah
With the trumpet’s joyful sound;
Praise with harp and praise with viol,
Let His glorious praise abound.

4. Hallelujah!  Praise Jehovah,
With the flute His praises sing;
Praise Him with the clanging cymbals,
Let them with His praises ring.

5. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All that breathe, Jehovah praise;
Let the voices God hath given
Joyful anthems to Him raise.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 149

Psalm 149As our glorious Savior and King calls us once again this day to worship Him in “the congregation of saints”, we may prepare ourselves by considering the fourth “Hallelujah” psalm, Psalm 149. As you read through this portion of God’s Word, you will find it to be a joyful summons to praise the Lord, and as such, fitting for our public worship today in God’s house with His people.

In fact, v.2 specifically enjoins us to praise the Lord in public with our fellow saints, a point the Nelson Study Bible points out nicely: “One of the primary emphases in the Book of Psalms is that the praise of God is to take place in the center of the worshiping community. Praise unites the people of God (33:1-3)”.

Yes, and what a blessing it is that we are still able to do this openly and unhindered in our land! Let us not take this for granted, but thank our God for it. And let us gladly take advantage of every opportunity to gather with God’s people in praise our God! This Lord’s Day again affords us such opportunities.

The call to praise and worship the Lord, also as we have it here in Psalm 149, includes the fact that we must do so in joy. Notice that element too as you read this psalm (especially vss.2,5). God will not have us stand before Him with grumpy spirits, offering up grudging praise. He will not have us sing a new song with an old man soul, nor dance before Him with dragging feet and drooping hands.

No, He is the God of joy, the happy and blessed God, and in our worship He will have us match what He is, in spirit and in behavior. So let us rejoice and be joyful in our singing and dancing and playing (of instruments) this day (vss.2-3). Let us skip and sing, from renewed and thankful hearts. Why? Because God takes pleasure in us (Can you imagine that?!)! Because He will beautify the meek with salvation (v.4)! Yes, be clothed with Christ and you will have joy, boundless and endless joy!

You will also notice a “twist” in Psalm 149. The worshiping people of God go from joyful praise to swinging a two-edged sword and executing vengeance and judgment on the heathen (vss.6-9). What is going on? Why this? Because the church of Christ is at all times in this present world also the army of God. Always she is surrounded by her and His enemies, who hate and oppose her and Him. And against these foes she must do battle, fighting in the Lord’s name. As she marches into her holy warfare singing God’s praises, she is also to swing His sword of judgment.

While in the OT that warfare took on a physical form, with real swords and literal vengeance (as in the church’s conquest of Canaan), now the NT church swings the sword of the Lord’s Word, chiefly the preaching of the gospel among the nations. Yet, also when we sing God’s Word (as in these psalms!), we are wielding the “sword of the Lord” and executing His judgments against unbelieving enemies.

Let us be mindful of that too as we worship today. Worship is serious and dangerous business. Not only because we stand in the presence of the sovereign, all-glorious King of heaven and earth. But also because we are the instruments of His judgments on the wicked. May that humble us, so that we sing God’s praises and swing His sword only under the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 149

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

2Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

4For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.

5Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.

6Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;

7To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;

8To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;

9To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the Lord.

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Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 149 through music, I encourage you to listen to one of the versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “The Promise of Victory” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

 

1. O praise ye the Lord
And sing a new song,
Amid all His saints
His praises prolong;
The praise of their Maker
His people shall sing,
And children of Zion
Rejoice in their King.

2. With timbrel and harp
And joyful acclaim,
With gladness and mirth,
Sing praise to His Name;
For God in His people
His pleasure doth seek,
With robes of salvation
He clotheth the meek.

3. In glory exult,
Ye saints of the Lord;
With songs in the night
High praises accord;
Go forth in His service
And strong in His might
To conquer all evil
And stand for the right.

4. For this is His word:
His saints shall not fail,
But over the earth
Their power shall prevail;
All kingdoms and nations
Shall yield to their sway.
To God give the glory
And praise Him for aye.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 148

Psalm 148As we prepare to meet our covenant Father in His house of praise and prayer, we consider together Psalm 148, another of the “Hallelujah” Psalms beginning and ending with the call, “Praise ye the LORD.” Here is God’s Word in this part of the OT Psalter:

Psalm 148

Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.

Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.

He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:

Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:

10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:

11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:

12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints;even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord.

Psalm 148 is a call for universal praise, as all of creation – from everything in the heavens (angels and sun, moon, and stars) to everything on earth (snow and wind, mountains and trees, beasts and birds, kings and children) – is summoned to praise God. Why? Because God alone is the Maker and Sustainer of all creatures (vss.5-6). And because His name alone is excellent and His glory above the earth and heavens (v.13).

And when you sat on your deck on a summer morning, listening to the birds sing and observing the flowers opening up their blossoms, or watched and heard an approaching thunderstorm with its lightning  and peals of thunder, you know these creatures were praising the Name of the Lord. Or when you sat on the pierhead and heard the pounding of the surf and felt the breeze off the lake, and caught in sight soaring gulls and fish jumping out of the lake, you know these creatures were giving glory to their Maker. The praise of our God is all around us, from the majestic mountains to the flat prairies, from the “dragons” of the deep to the tiny ants on their sandhills.

But who should praise God the best? His church, the “children of Israel, a people near unto him” (v.14). For God exalts “the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints.” Do we remember how we sinners, who once were far off from God, have been brought near by the blood of Christ (read Eph.2:11-22 again)? Do we recall today God’s mighty mercy to us and His tender pity on us (Read Psalm 103 again)? Do we bring to mind His amazing grace that saved wretches like me – and you (Read Romans 3 again)? Do we think about what Jesus did to bring us back to the God from Whom we departed and ran (read Hebrews 10 again)?

Then let us praise the Lord! The angels in heaven will. The sun, moon, and stars will. The mountains and hills will. The fish and birds will. The grass and flowers will. Let us who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb join them in a mighty chorus of praise to the Lord of creation and salvation.

And let us speak to one another with these words, “Hallelujah! Praise ye the Lord!” Today, as we assemble for public worship. Today, as we gather with family and loved ones. And, tomorrow, as we return to work. God is worthy of all our praise, all our days. “For His name alone is excellent.”

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Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 148 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Universal Adoration” to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Praise ye, praise ye the Lord
In yonder heavenly height;
Ye angels, all His hosts,
In joyful praise unite;
On sun and moon, declare His might,
Show forth His praise, ye stars of night.

2. Praise Him, ye highest heavens,
Praise Him, ye clouds that roll,
Created by his power
And under His control,
Ye heavens that stand eternally,
Established by His firm decree.

3. Ye creatures in the sea
And creatures on the earth,
Your mighty Maker praise
And tell His matchless worth;
Praise Him, ye stormy winds that blow,
Ye fire and hail, ye rain and snow.

4. Ye hills and mountains, praise,
Each tree and beast and bird;
Ye kings and realms of earth,
Now let your praise be heard;
By high and low, by young and old,
Be all His praise and glory told.

5. By all let God be praised,
For He alone is great;
Above the earth and heaven
He reigns in glorious state;
Praise Him, ye saints, who know His grace
And ever dwell before His face.

The Death of His Saints

Psalm116-15With the sudden death of two, precious saints – one young (25), one middle aged (55) – in our PR Christian community in the past week, I find this “Grace Gems” devotional from yesterday very fitting – and very comforting to every child of God. May it speak peace to our hearts in the face of that fearful, yet defeated last enemy, death.

The death of His saints!

(Alexander Smellie, “The Secret Place” 1907)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints!” Psalm 116:15

To me death has its unlovely aspects. I may be ready by God’s grace to meet it–and yet I recoil instinctively from the act of dying.
It seems unnatural.
It is usually attended by pain and suffering.
It is a farewell to dear and beloved associations.
It is a going out into an untrodden land.
I cannot coax myself to love the dreadful experience. And therefore I am glad to think that there is another side to the matter, and that to my Lord, my death is precious. And why should it be so?

Let me consider the name by which He calls me, and I shall begin to understand. “His saints!” That is His title for His sons and daughters, among whom I have been enrolled.
The people of His own purchased possession.
The redeemed people whom He has set apart for Himself.
He owns them in virtue of the stupendous price which He paid for them.
He has been at infinite pains to redeem and save and cleanse them.
Nothing which concerns them appears indifferent to Him.
The death of the humblest of them, is of stupendous moment in His sight.

Let me reflect, too, that death is one of the means His grace and power employ to uplift and crown me. It looks as though I scarcely could know God thoroughly, or confide in Him completely–until I learn to lean upon Him . . .
when heart and flesh faint and fail,
when the long and close fellowship of body and soul is sundered,
and when I pass forth alone into the mystery of unseen eternity.
Then He becomes more indispensable than ever. Then my trust must be simple and absolute. Then, when lover and friend are put far away, I cling to Him and refuse to let Him go. Death teaches us this perfection of dependence.

And let me predict to myself the future to which death is the doorway. I can scarcely imagine it . . .
its spotless holiness,
its unfathomable bliss,
its endless pleasures,
its divine love.

But He sees it clearly, and comprehends it in its breadth and length and depth and height. He is familiar . . .
with the flowers and fruits of His upper garden,
with the refreshment of the fourfold river,
with the music of the better country,
with the city’s foundations of gems, and its gates of pearl, and its streets of gold.

Is it a marvel that He should pronounce desirable and precious, that loosening and wrench from earth which liberates me for a Heaven like this?

When I think my Lord’s thoughts, I shall cease to be so afraid of death!

Prof.R.Cammenga’s Thesis Now Available in Print: “God of Friendship”

Prof.Ronald CammengaLate last week Prof.R.Cammenga (professor of Dogmatics and OT Studies in our PRC Seminary) came through the doors of Seminary loaded with a large box filled with large black volumes. And yet, though loaded under the weight of these volumes, he was clearly enthused, for the box contained the printed (bound) copies of his recently completed thesis from Calvin Seminary, “in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Theology and successfully defended on April 29, 2013.” The certificate in the front of each volume (dated August 1, 2014) is signed by Profs.Richard A.Muller and John Bolt, the former serving as Supervisor.

The thesis Prof.Cammenga successfully defended and which was subsequently approved is titled “God of Friendship: Herman Hoeksema’s Unconditional Covenant Conception.” Those in the PRC – and many on the outside of her – will certainly recognize the significance of this work, for the Reformed and Biblical truth of the unconditional nature of God’s covenant of grace with His elect people in Jesus Christ lay at the heart of Hoeksema’s theology. This was a truth that Hoeksema distinctively developed in connection with the PRC controversies with W.Heyns (CRC) and K.Schilder (Liberated in the Netherlands), though, as Cammenga ably and clearly points out, Hoeksema stood in good company with this teaching and taught this from the beginning of his ministry, also in the Christian Reformed Church.

In the “abstract” Prof.Cammenga lays out the main theme of his thesis:

This thesis is a study of the doctrine of the covenant of grace as developed by the Protestant Reformed theologian Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965). In the thesis I will focus particularly on Hoeksema’s teaching that the covenant of grace is unconditional, both in its establishment and its maintenance. I will demonstrate that already in the early 1920s, while yet a minister in the Christian Reformed Church, Hoeksema’s understanding of the covenant was impacted by his convictions concerning election. Throughout his lifetime Hoeksema never wavered from his fundamental view of the covenant of grace in its relationship to God’s sovereign, gracious decree of election (vi).

“God of Friendship” is divided into four (4) main parts:

  1. The Covenant as a Bond of Friendship
  2. Election Applied to the Covenant
  3. Within the Tradition (here Cammenga defends the view that Hoeksema was by no means alone in his understanding of the covenant)
  4. The Unconditional Covenant (here Cammenga treats the contemporary controversies in which Hoeksema was engaged)

Prof.Cammenga affectionately dedicates this thesis to his son Daniel (1988-2004), “departed and in glory, whose parents rejoice in God’s covenant promise ‘to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee (Genesis 17:7).” Indeed, the doctrine of the covenant is no cold, abstract truth, but the source of the believer’s comfort and hope, in life and in death, for time and for eternity.

This is to inform you that a limited number of copies have been purchased and are for sale ($20) in the Seminary Bookstore. Contact the office if you would like a copy (616-531-1490).

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