Teaching Our Children Love for the Church – Rev. A. denHartog

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer is now available, and the October 1, 2017 issue is indeed a special one.

For one thing, it marks the beginning of volume year 94. That’s correct, this issue marks the beginning of the 94th year of publication for this Reformed magazine. And the magazine, reflecting the conviction of its editors and writers, is as committed to promoting (truth) and protecting (from error) the Reformed faith as it was in 1924 when it began.

SB-Oct1-2017-cover

For another thing, this issue heralds a new look in the history of the magazine. With the leading of the publisher, the RFPA, the SB has undergone another redesign, and we trust you will appreciate and benefit from the new appearance and layout – complete with pictures of the writers!

Editor-in-chief Prof. R. Dykstra introduces the new volume year with these opening words:

With all thanks and praise to God, we begin the 94th year of printing the Standard Bearer. The first issue of the SB consisted of sixteen pages, containing nine articles and three poems. Four men made up the entire staff. I am more thankful than I can express that in the upcoming year the SB has a total of 38 different writers who have agreed to contribute articles – from two articles to ten or twelve. By God’s grace working in these men and women, the SB will continue to be a Reformed magazine devoted to defending and expounding the Reformed faith over against error.

One of the edifying articles found in the October 1 issue is listed on the cover – Rev. A. denHartog’s “Teaching Our Children Love for the Church” – penned for the Christian family rubric, “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.” Fittingly, on this Sunday night, we post this paragraph:

Teaching our children love for the church begins with teaching them the greatness, holiness, and truth of the God of the church.  The church is the place where God dwells in the midst of His people; He shows His glory and greatness and majesty there. He is such a great God who must be worshiped with fear and trembling and with holy reverence and awe. He is to be worshiped with joy and thanksgiving, praising Him for His great salvation of His people and their children.

Coming to church is not a form of entertainment similar to going to a concert or a sports event. Neither is it to be considered a boring ritual only engaged in out of necessity or mere formal tradition. We do well as parents when we prepare ourselves sincerely and prayerfully for the holy exercise of the worship of God. Because our children have the same sinful nature as we parents do, there will be times when our children go to church grudgingly, desiring rather to use the Lord’s Day for worldly pleasure and entertainment. This sinful attitude must be patiently and firmly resisted and driven from the sinful hearts of our children; certainly it must not be tolerated or made light of [p.18].

New Review Book: Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World – T. Schreiner

I recently requested and received two more review books from Crossway Publishers. Today I feature one of them.

The title is Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World by Thomas R. Schreiner, who is “the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the school of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.” This new book belongs to a new series produced by Crossway – “Short Studies in Biblical Theology” (cf. my earlier reference to Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton, Jr.).

About this book the publisher has this summary:

“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.” Genesis 17:4

Throughout the Bible, God has related to his people through covenants. It is through these covenant relationships, which collectively serve as the foundation for God’s promise to bring redemption to his people, that we can understand the advancement of his kingdom. This book walks through six covenants from Genesis to Revelation, helping us grasp the overarching narrative of Scripture and see the salvation God has planned for us since the beginning of time—bolstering our faith in God and giving us hope for the future.

The author opens his “Introduction” with this statement about the significance of “covenant” in the Bible:

Covenant is one of the most important words in the Bible since it introduces one of the central theological themes in Scripture. Some scholars have even argued that covenant is the center of Scripture, the theme that integrates the message of the entire Bible. I am not convinced that covenant is the center of Scripture. Indeed, the idea that the Scriptures have one center is probably mistaken. Still, we can rightly say that covenant is one of the most important notions in the Bible.

A few pages later the author launches into his definition of covenant, one that has favorable elements:

…Covenant can be defined as follows: a covenant is a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.

…First, a covenant is a relationship, and that sets it apart from a contract. Contracts also contain promises and obligations, but they are impersonal and nonrelational. Covenants stand apart from contracts because the promises are made in a relational context. We are not surprised to learn, then, that marriage in the Scriptures is described as a covenant (Prov.2:17; Mal.2:14). In marriage a husband and a wife choose to enter a covenant relationship, and they make binding promises to each other, pledging lifelong loyalty and faithfulness [p.13].

There’s much more, of course, but we will pause here for today. The website gives the following as the contents:

Introduction

  1. The Covenant of Creation
  2. The Covenant with Noah
  3. The Covenant with Abraham
  4. The Covenant with Israel
  5. The Covenant with David
  6. The New Covenant

For Further Reading
General Index
Scripture Index

If you are interested in reviewing this little book, let me know.

Source: Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World

Comfort in God’s Sure Covenant

evening-thoughts-winslowOn this sobering Monday, reflecting on the brevity of life and our hope in Christ, the evening meditation for April 30 from Octavius Winslow’s book Evening Thoughts is certainly fitting.

Taking his thoughts from the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 23:5, Winslow wrote:

God sometimes comforts the cast-down, by bringing them to rest in the fullness and stability of the covenant.

…What a cloud was now resting upon his [David’s] tabernacle! How bitter were the waters he was now drinking! But see how God comforted him. “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”

Believer, this covenant is equally yours. You have the same individual interest in it that David had. The ‘sure mercies’ of the true David are yours, as they were those of ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel.’ In the midst of domestic trial – family changes – thwarted designs – blighted hopes, God has made with you in the hands of Jesus, its Surety and Mediator, ‘an everlasting covenant.’

In it your whole history is recorded by Him who knows the end from the beginning. All the events of your life, all the steps of your journey, all your sorrows and your comforts, all your needs and your supplies, are ordained in that covenant which is ‘ordered in all things.’ While mutability is a constituent element of everything temporal – ‘passing away’ written upon life’s loveliest landscape, and upon the heart’s dearest treasure – this, and this alone, remains sure and unchangeable.

Let, then, the covenant be your comfort and your stay, your sheet-anchor in the storm, the bow in your cloud, upon which God invites you to fix your believing eyes; yes, all your salvation and all your desire, though He makes not domestic comfort to grow.

Note: to find this book in print, go here or here; to find it online, go here.

Dr. Klaas Schilder and the PRC

The PRC Seminary’s 2017 Interim course ends today. Prof. R. Dykstra, by rotation, taught his course on the Schism of 1953, that tragic but necessary rupture that occurred in the PRC over the doctrine of the covenant of grace and the nature of salvation (conditional or unconditional; general or particular).

Much of that history involved Dr. Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) of the Netherlands, himself ousted from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in the 1944, following which he helped found the Liberated Churches that same year (Canadian Reformed and American Reformed in N. America).

Schilder was an opponent of common grace, which in part caused him to be befriended by Rev. Herman Hoeksema and prompted visits to the U.S. and conversations with PRC leaders in 1939 and 1947. However, on the doctrine of the covenant he and Hoeksema parted. Because of Schilder’s influence on many PRC ministers, his conditional theology was instrumental in the schism in 1953.

Prof. Dykstra gives out many handouts for his class on this history, both original and secondary sources. He (and his classes!) also enjoy visuals, including pictures. So I gathered what we had in the PRC archives, scanned them, and sent them to him for use in his PowerPoint presentations.

Today I share them with you as well, including a brand new one that came in this week from the T. Newhof family – thank you!

We will start with that one, since it is one of the largest and clearest pictures of Dr. K. Schilder that we have, and because it relates to the first visit he made to the U.S. and the PRC in 1939. It shows him sandwiched between Rev. George Lubbers (minister in Pella PRC at the time) and Rev. William Verhil (minister in First PRC, Edgerton, MN at the time) next to the old Doon PRC in Doon, IA.

lubbers-schilder-verhil-1939

kschilder-pics-hh-wife-picnic
This is also a new one, compliments of Mark Hoeksema, showing his grandfather and grandmother (Rev. Herman Hoeksema) at a private picnic with Dr. K. Schilder.

kschilder-pics-gvos-ca
Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. Gerrit Vos on the way to Ripon, CA

kschilder-pics-apetter-la-zoo
Dr. K. Schilder with Rev. A. Petter (minister in Bellflower, CA PRC at the time) at an outing at the Los Angeles, CA zoo.

kschilder-pics-theol-conf-1947
Dr. K. Schilder (just to the right of Rev. H. Hoeksema and Rev. G. Ophoff in the front) and PRC ministers and elders at the Theological Conference held at First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI on November 6, 1947.

In March of 1952 Dr. K. Schilder died suddenly, prompting this brief but warm memoriam in the Standard Bearer from the pen of the editor, Rev. Herman Hoeksema:

Early this morning, March 24, I received a telegram from my friend, Arnold Schildre at The Hague, informing me that his brother Klaas, the well-known Dr. K. Schilder had on the previous day, Sunday, March 23, passed into his eternal rest.

I was deeply shocked.

For although I certainly did not agree with him in regard to the question of the covenant and the promise, I nevertheless esteemed him for his work’s sake, esteemed him, too, as a highly gifted scholar, and, above all, as a brother in Christ.

And now Dr. Schilder is no more.

It would seem to us that his work was not finished.

Certainly, he himself cannot have been aware of the fact that his end was so near. At least, if we consider the very elaborate set-up of his work on the Heidelberg Catechism (he was writing) on the tenth Lord’s Day), he must have felt that he still had many years of labor before him.

But the Lord took him out of his busy sphere of labor and pronounced it finished, nevertheless.

May the Lord comfort the bereaved family, with whom we express our heartfelt sympathy.

And may He teach us so to number our days that we apply our hearts unto wisdom.

H.H.

Save

Save

Save

The Origin (and Security) of the Church – John Muether

TT-Sept-2016As we have noted here before, this month’s Tabletalk carries the theme of “The Church,” with eight-plus (brief) articles dedicated to explaining the Reformed doctrine of the church.

As we contemplate the Lord’s Day tomorrow and prepare to exercise our place in Christ’s body, part of which is worship, we may benefit from the thoughts of Dr. John R. Muether (professor of church history and dean of libraries at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL and an OPC ruling elder).

He wrote an article on “The Origin of the Church” and, strikingly (for our doctrinally weak age), roots the church in the eternal counsel of God, specifically, the covenant of redemption and sovereign election in and by the Triune God.

He has some excellent points by way of application of this truth, two of which I include here – his closing paragraphs. Deep thoughts, but rich thoughts. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is supremely practical and comforting, as you will see again. And that, in turn, should lead us to deep praise to our Savior God.

The eternal counsel of peace highlights the Son as the “surety” of the covenant, and so we find in Christ alone the hope and security of the church. “All that the Father gives to me will come to me,” Christ assures us, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). The “peace” of this covenant is purchased for us according to Christ’s priestly office, maintained and defended by His kingly office, and revealed by His prophetic office. Because the God who decrees the church is the same God who sustains the church, the future of the church is in God’s hands. This encourages us to see the church with the eyes of faith. It is bigger and stronger than its frail and precarious human expression suggests. Though despised and disparaged by this world, the church is the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8) that will prevail against all of her enemies.

Finally, the eternal origin of the church provides our assurance of faith. Commenting on God’s words in Jeremiah 31:3 (“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”), Geerhardus Vos famously wrote, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” That everlasting love finds expression in the covenant of redemption. As the Heidelberg Catechism beautifully puts it, the church is “a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (Q&A 54).

Source: The Origin of the Church by John Muether

Prayers of the Reformers (15)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this first Lord’s Day in May we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

These prayers (slightly edited) are taken from the section “Prayers for Baptism” and, as you will note, accord with the Reformed, covenantal (biblical) view of children.

For sanctification

Almighty and everlasting God, who of Thy infinite mercy and goodness hast promised unto us that Thou wilt not only be our God, but also the God and Father of our children: We beseech Thee, since Thou hast vouchsafed to call us to be partakers of this Thy great mercy in the fellowship of faith: that it may please Thee to sanctify with Thy Spirit and receive into the number of Thy children this infant, whom we shall baptize according to Thy Word.

May he, coming of age, confess Thee as the only true God, and Him whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ, and serve Him and be profitable unto His church, in the whole course of his life. After this life be ended, may he be brought unto the full fruition of Thy joys in the heavens, where Thy Son our Christ reigneth, world without end. In whose name we pray as He hath taught us…. Amen.

For the Spirit of light and grace

O Almighty God, which in commanding us to pray hast assured us that we, believing steadfastly in Thy promise, shall have all that we desire, especially concerning the soul, wherein we seek Thy glory and the wealth of our neighbors; our humble petition to Thee, O most dear Father, is, that forasmuch as this child is not without original sin, Thou wilt consider Thine own mercy, and according to Thy promise send this child thy good Spirit, that in Thy sight it be not counted among the children of wrath, but of light and grace, and become a member of the undefiled church espoused to Christ, Thy dear Son, in faith and love unfeigned, by the means of the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (attributed to M.Coverdale)

 

Note to Self: Give Thanks

Klamer-spring-break-2016

After a wonderful week in the deep South celebrating my wife’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary (celebrated this past Tuesday, April 5) with over eighty of her family and some of our own, we were constantly filled with gratitude to God for His covenant mercies and blessings – as well as for the beautiful place in His creation where we could celebrate these mercies and blessings.

Klamer-group-pic-GS-2016

And we gave thanks to God often throughout the week – in set times (devotions) and in special times of public fellowship and private conversation. We sang and prayed and read His Word (favorite passages and songs abounded!), and with tears thanked our faithful Father for His amazing grace to sinners such as ourselves. It was a good week together. It was a better than good week together. It was a God-centered, grace-filled, gratitude-displaying time.

Note-to-self-ThornTonight in wondering what to post in light of this, I decided to share these thoughts – and then too, these thoughts from  chapter 5 of Joe Thorn’s book Note to Self. That chapter is simply titled “Give Thanks.” You will see why it fits with this post.

     The psalmist calls us to ‘enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise,’ which is a call to approach God in gratitude. Why is that? He points to three realities: because God is good, because God is loving, and because God is faithful. A good theologian is thankful, and until you know these truths you are likely to feel entitled and deserving.

How do you know God to be good, loving, and faithful? These attributes were put on display most beautifully in the gospel. God is good, loving, and faithful by not giving you what you deserve (judgment) and by lavishing on you grace unmeasured. He is good and loving in saving us from sin and judgment, giving us hope and life, and adopting us as his own. He is faithful to his Word and his promise to us, that he will not count our sins against us and will continue the work he began in us to completion. On top of this, every good thing you have in this life is a gift from your heavenly Father, and as one who has been justified by the grace of Christ you should see everything in your life as grace that accompanies your salvation [to which we give a hearty AMEN!].

…Does gratitude characterize your thoughts of God? Thankfulness is a good test of your faith. ….Your days, whether easy or difficult, should be filled with thanksgiving because while life changes drastically, your God remains the same forever. He is constant – constantly good, loving, and faithful (pp.43-44).

Now, shall we give this thanks to our great and gracious God tomorrow in our times of public and private worship?

Christ in Gethsemane: The Covenant Bond

     While our Lord in Gethsemane received no answer to his repeated knocking on heaven’s door, he knew, from that profound silence, that he must drink the awful chalice that the Father had placed in his hands. Always he was fully aware of the covenant bond between the Father, representing the Trinity, and himself, representing his people – the covenant of grace. Again and again he addressed the Father, a word so often on his lips, as ‘my Father’ and ‘my God’. That is covenant language.

Christ knew that the Father smote him for the salvation of his people. Before going to Gethsemane, he warned his disciples that they would soon forsake him, quoting from Zechariah, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’ (Matt.26:31). He willingly submitted to the rod. In Gethsemane he virtually said, ‘Here am I’. His obedience was covenant obedience. He was ever mindful of his eternal undertaking as the Surety and Mediator of his people, a thought that is dominant in his high priestly prayer (John 17). He never doubted that holy decree by which he came into the world to save sinners. And so the darker the night, the greater the storm and the fiercer the conflict, the more he reached out to his Father and rested in his sovereign will.

CrossHeBore-LeahyTaken from chapter 3, “Strengthened to Suffer” (based on Luke 22:43) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), p.14.

Book Alert! Restored & Revived PRC Documents

Rock-Hewn-HH-HD-2015On this PRC archive/history day, we can bring to your attention a significant new publication from the RFPA (Reformed Free Publishing Association) – a personal copy of which I received Sunday in my church mailbox as a book club member and two copies of which I received for the Seminary library (and cataloged yesterday).

The 530 page book is titled The Rock Whence We Are Hewn: God, Grace, and Covenant, authored by early PRC fathers Henry Danhof and Herman Hoeksema and edited by David J. Engelsma. The work consists of nine pamphlets published early in the history of the PRC and her controversy with the CRC over the doctrine of common grace (as well as over covenant theology), and has important historical significance therefore. While all of these pamphlets were previously published, some were not readily or widely available in English, and some not in English at all until now.

In his foreword, Engelsma writes:

     The various writings included in The Rock Whence We Are Hewn are all pamphlets or booklets written very early in the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches – between 1919 and 1940. The authors are two men whom God used in forming these churches – Herman Hoeksema and Henry Danhof. All the writings explain and defend the great doctrines of the Reformed faith that were fundamental to the founding of the Protestant Reformed Churches – covenant, predestination, particular grace, and antithesis. These writings therefore were used to establish these churches in the very beginning of their history. The contents of the book are their foundational writings.

He also explains the title and the purpose of the book in these words:

     The title of the book is taken from Isaiah 51:1: ‘Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.’ In this figurative way the prophet called the people of Israel to look to their origins. This title calls the members of the Protestant Reformed Churches, including the ministers and officebearers, and especially the younger generation, to find in the book the doctrinal truths that are of fundamental importance to the Protestant Reformed Churches still today. By the work of the Spirit these doctrines, confessed, defended, and explained in the writings in this book, are the source of the churches – the rock whence they were hewn.

Below are the contents of The Rock:
1. “The Idea of the Covenant of Grace” – H.Danhof, Transl. from the Dutch by D.Engelsma
2. “On the Theory of Common Grace” – H.Hoeksema
3. “Not Anabaptist but Reformed” – H.Danhof & H.Hoeksema, Transl. from the Dutch by D.Holstege
4. “Along Pure Paths” – H.Danhof & H.Hoeksema, Transl. from the Dutch by M.Kamps
5. “For the Sake of Justice and Truth” – H.Danhof & H.Hoeksema, Transl. from the Dutch by M.Kamps
6. “Calvin, Berkhof, and H.J. Kuiper: A Comparison” – H.Hoeksema
7. “A Triple Breach in the Foundation of the Reformed Truth: A Critical Treatise on the Three Points Adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in 1924”
8. “The Reunion of the Christian Reformed Church and Protestant Reformed Churches: Is It Demanded, Possible, Desirable?” – H.Hoeksema, Transl. by H.Veldman
9. “The Place of Reprobation in the Preaching of the Gospel” – H.Hoeksema, Transl. by C.Hanko

The book is enhanced by the editor’s historical introductions for each document, to his applicatory “afterword,” and to a helpful “appendix of names” giving “biographical sketches of the main combatants in the common grace controversy.”

The Rock reveals significant history and vital Reformed/biblical doctrines, but also something else – heroism. Engelsma explains in his “Afterword”:

Finally, The Rock bespeaks heroism – the most courageous doctrinal and churchly bravery. To be willing to give up everything that is dear to a minister of the gospel – name, position, and office – and to be willing to suffer reproach, shame, and even church discipline for the sake of the purity of the gospel and the glory of the name of God, this is heroism at the highest level. And this leaves out of sight, as Danhof and Hoeksema did, financial support for one’s family. This is heroism in the cause of God in the world. This is heroism in the most important and hottest warfare, the warfare of Jesus Christ on earth (p.498).

For information on ordering the book – or becoming a book club member – visit the RFPA website.

God’s Messenger of the Covenant – R.Hanko

Coming_of_Zion_s_Redeemer -LgFrom his recently published commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer, RFPA, 2014) comes these thoughts from Rev.R. Hanko (Lynden, WA PRC) on Mal.3:1ff., which reads, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.”

He is identified not just as God’s messenger, but as the Messenger of the covenant. This identifies him both as the fulfillment of all the promises, the one of whom every other messenger was only a type and forerunner, and also as the one who would by his work bring God’s people into the full enjoyment of their covenantal relationship with God and who would establish that covenant on everlasting foundations, so that the relationship between God and his people could never again be interrupted.

But Christ is the messenger of the covenant not only because he takes away that which separates God and his people, that is, their sin; not only because he, by his Spirit, actually receives them into fellowship with God; but also because he is in his own person the one who unites us to God. He is the one in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily and the one whose bone and whose flesh we are, so that in him we live and walk with God and are joined to God. He is Immanuel, God with us.

That he is the one in whom we delight stands in stark contrast to the unbelieving question of chap.2:17. When he does come, unbelief is cured, doubt is turned to faith, and disbelief becomes delight, by his gracious work as God’s messenger.

This is all promised by Jehovah of hosts, the one whom all things serve and in whose army they march. Nothing, therefore, can prevent the coming of the Messenger of the covenant. Nothing can stand in the way of his work. Nothing can spoil or interrupt his work, not the rise of the Roman Empire, not the apostasy of Judah in the days following Malachi’s prophecy, not the rise of Pharisees who would be his bitter enemies, not even the temptations of Satan. All things would serve him (pp.475-76).