“A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working.” – A.Kuyper

If the Lord is to come as a thief in the night, the church should go about its daily duties in quiet devotion, until He suddenly appears. We are not to keep looking out the window, or climbing to the housetops to gaze eagerly into the distance, while neglecting our work and giving our household duties but scant attention.

Indeed we must watch. We must so live that we are ready to welcome Him at any moment. Like a Christian family that, having commended home and children to God’s care for the night, quietly goes to bed and to sleep, and awakens in the morning to resume the daily task, so the church of Christ upon earth must go on quietly, prayerfully, with its common daily tasks, until He comes, in His own time, to break off this round of daily duties.

A deep and living faith in God’s Covenant is the foundation of our quiet, watchful, patient waiting and working. For included in God’s covenant are also all the chosen who are yet to be brought into the fold, though they may now be drunkards, or thieves, or self-righteous rejectors of the truth. They are destined to be saved; and it is through the ministration of the church that they must be brought to the light and taught in the truth.

This one confession, that God is God, and that He will bring in His own, makes us patient to bear with the imperfections and weaknesses of the church, since He has seen fit to place that cross upon us. And it also keeps us humble before Him, as we must confess our own guilt. ‘The sin of the church is also my sin. I, yea even especially I, am at fault.’

…Being keenly aware of his own sins, and knowing full well that he has fanned the flames of sin perhaps more than others, the true Christian fights against sin the more earnestly and zealously.

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2Dr. Abraham Kuyper in the chapter titled “The Church of Jesus Christ”, found in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), pp.56-57.

Prayers of the Reformers (2) – M.Coverdale

prayersofreformers-manschreckThe following two prayers I recently discovered while browsing further through the wonderful collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958.

These two are from the section headed “Prayers of Petition and Supplication” (pp.50ff.), and are both attributed to Miles Coverdale (1488-1569), whom we know as one of the early translators of the Bible into English. I found both of these fitting with my earlier post on the blessedness of our communion with Christ.

This saving union with our Lord is not and never must become static from our side, but must be experienced and developed daily, as these prayers assume and express. May they be ours in this coming week, as we seek to grow in closer, intimate fellowship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For increase of knowledge and truth

O gracious Father, grant unto us, which through thy Son have known thy name, that in such knowledge and light of the truth we may increase more and more; that the love wherewith thou lovest thy dear Son may be and remain in us; and that thy only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, our head, may in us his members continue still to work, live, and bring forth fruit acceptable unto thee. Amen (p.50).

Draw thou our hearts

O Lord Jesus Christ, draw thou our hearts unto thee; join them together in inseparable love, that we may abide in thee, and thou in us, and that the everlasting covenant between us may stand sure forever. O wound our hearts with the fiery darts of thy piercing love. Let them pierce through all our slothful members and inward powers, that we, being happily wounded, may so become whole and sound. Let us have no lover but thyself alone; let us seek no joy nor comfort except in thee. Amen (p.55).

Communion with God the Son – J.Owen/S.Ferguson

Trinitarian-Devotion-Ferguson-2014Thus, Owen’s great burden and emphasis in helping us to understand what it means to be a Christian is to say: Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Father gives you to Jesus and gives Jesus to you. You have Him. Everything you can ever lack is found in Him; all you will ever need is given to you in Him. ‘From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.’ For the Father has ‘blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavenly places.’ It is as true for the newest, weakest Christian as for the most mature believer; from the first moment of faith, we are fully, finally, irreversibly justified in Christ.

In this way, like Calvin before him, at a stroke Owen transforms our understanding of the nature of grace and salvation. To explore fellowship with Christ, then, means that we need to explore both ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’ with whom we have fellowship, and how it is that we have ‘fellowship’ with Him in His grace.

…Since all the fullness of God dwells in Him, and He received the Spirit without measure, His bearing the judgment of God on the cross could not exhaust and destroy Him. Because He is so perfectly suited to our needs, therefore, Christ endears Himself to believers. He is just what we need and He is all that we need:

[Here Ferguson quotes Owen]

There is no man that hath any want in reference unto the things of God, but Christ will be unto him that which he wants.

I speak of those who are given him of his Father. Is he dead? Christ is life. Is he weak? Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Hath he the sense of guilt upon him? Christ is complete righteousness.

He hath a fitness to save, having pity and ability, tenderness and power, to carry on that work to the uttermost; and a fulness to save, of redemption and sanctification, or righteousness and the Spirit; and a suitableness to the wants of all our souls.

And so Ferguson concludes:

From beginning to end, therefore, communion with Christ is all about Christ. When He fills the horizon of our vision, we find ourselves drawn to Him, embraced by Him, and beginning to enjoy Him.

Taken from chapter four “Communion with the Son”, in the new book by Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen, published by Reformation Trust, 2014 (pp.64-67).

“…All of that eternal life will be concentrated upon the everlasting praise of God….” – Rev. H.Hoeksema

Last Sunday our pastor at Faith PRC preached a wonderful sermon on Lord’s Day 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism, where this Reformed teacher is explaining the last articles of the Apostles’ Creed (the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting).

Image result for i believe the life everlastingSince every Sunday is a foretaste of that future glory of the church with her great God and Savior, this morning we post an excerpt from Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s exposition of this Lord’s Day. It is taken from vol.5, Abundant Mercy (Eerdmans, 1949), p.148( now being reprinted by the RFPA in the original ten volumes). These are his final paragraphs on “the life everlasting.”

But the essence of all the blessedness and glory of that new world will, nevertheless, be the perfect fellowship of friendship with the living God in Christ. Everywhere in that new world we shall see Christ, and, in Him, the Father. We shall see Him face to face. All our knowledge will then be theology, in the highest sense of the word. This is eternal life, to know Thee, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent!

Of that glory we can only form a faint conception as long as we are in this life.

For, as the Catechism reminds us, that perfect salvation belongs to the things ‘which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.’

But when it shall be revealed, all of that eternal life will be concentrated upon the everlasting praise of God, of Whom, and through Whom, and unto Whom are all things.

To Him be glory forever!

If that is the essence and ultimate purpose of our glorious future, and if today is another preview of that “life everlasting”, shall we not seek to see the face of Christ and glorify our God in our worship and in all our activities this day? May God grant us grace so to do.

WIMTBR: Covenantal – Implications … for Marriage

SB-March15-2015In the latest Standard Bearer issue (March 15, 2015) Prof. Barry Gritters continues his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed” (WIMTBR), in connection with the 90th anniversary of the forming of the PRCA. He is answering this question by organizing the Reformed faith under five (5) “Cs”, the first of which is “Covenantal”.

In the March 1 issue he laid out the meaning of this primary Reformed truth, showing its distinctive unconditional and particular nature, especially as developed, maintained, and defended in the PRC. In this March 15 editorial Gritters draws out four (4) implications of this covenant doctrine. The last one is “The Covenant of Marriage”, and it is from this one that I quote today:

Finally, a Reformed church will be a church that defends the precious institution of marriage. If marriage is the preeminent biblical illustration of God’s covenant with His elect, what better way for the covenant seed to learn about covenant than by observing good marriages! If one were an enemy of God’s church, one of the main bulwarks he would assail – with mortar after mortar and one battering ram after another – would be the bulwark of Christian marriage. Thus, the institution we most earnestly defend is the institution of marriage.

No one can write such words in AD 2015 without feeling a great sense of sadness, and a good deal of righteous anger, that the devil had made such headway in his battle against the covenant by ruining so many marriages.

…Reformed believers must give their entire life and all their energy, working and praying, that God preserve our marriages. We must preach and preach, and teach and teach, and then preach and teach some more, the biblical doctrine of marriage – preach that God ‘hates putting away;’ preach that, even if marriage is only temporal, it is still one of the most important temporal institutions God created in the beginning for the preservation of His covenant people.

…And may our gracious God forgive (and correct) what sins He may be judging in churches where the covenant perhaps is accurately taught but not truly lived, one of the most flagrant ways to offend the covenant God (272).

Grace Privileges Lead to Grace Duties – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonAs promised, we post this follow-up to our post last Sunday on the gracious privileges that belong to us as NT believers – privileges of God’s covenant of grace. Continuing to treat the warning passages in Hebrews, Sinclair Ferguson has this to say about the duties that are also ours as members of God’s covenant:

Faith and repentance are not static, the decision of a moment; they are the lifelong realities  of a new heart (8:10; 10:16). Yes, our faith and repentance have a starting point, but it is the beginning of a pilgrimage we share with the community of the new covenant. If we do not walk in faith and repentance, we may be among the visible people of Christ, but we are not a living part of them because we never mix the promise of God with faith (Heb.4:2).

So we already ‘have come to Mount Zion… the heavenly Jerusalem.’ But we have not yet finally entered it. We hear its worship; we experience its power; its light illumines our camping ground (Heb.6:4-5). The doors of the city are never shut (Rev.21:25), but we do not yet dwell inside the city gates. There is a river still to be crossed. God’s covenant faithfulness calls for faith that perseveres to the end.

When we have seen the privileges that are already ours, we have every reason to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and persevere in penitential faith until that which is now ours in part becomes ours in whole and forever.

Taken from In Christ Alone (Kindle ed.)

The Prayers of J.Calvin – Jeremiah Lectures (5)

JCalvinPic1The next prayer of John Calvin that we post follows his fourth lecture on the prophecy of Jeremiah, covering chap.1:18-19 and chap.2:1-5. But before posting the prayer, once again we quote from a portion of his lecture. In connection with vss.1-2 of chap.2 of Jeremiah, Calvin has these wonderful things to say about the steadfastness of God’s covenant love for His wayward people:

Now this is a remarkable passage; for God shews that his covenant, though perfidiously violated by the Jews, was yet firm and immutable: for though not all who derive their descent according to the flesh from Abraham, are true and legitimate Israelites, yet God ever remains true, and his calling, as Paul says, is without repentance (Rom.x1. 29) We may therefore learn this from the Prophet’s words, – that God was not content with one Prophet, but continued his favour, inasmuch as he would not render void his covenant. The Jews indeed had impiously departed from the covenant, and a vast number had deservedly perished, having been wholly repudiated; yet God designed really to shew that his grace depends not on the inconstancy of men, as Paul says in another place, for it would then presently fail (Rom.iii. 4;) and that were all men false and perfidious, God would yet remain true and fixed in his purpose. This we learn from the Prophet’s words, when it is said, that God remembered the people on account of the kindness of their youth (71).

And then this beautiful prayer follows:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou continuest at this day, both morning and evening, to invite us to thyself, and assiduously exhortest us to repent, and testifiest that thou art ready to be reconciled to us, provided we flee to thy mercy, – O grant, that we may not close our ears and reject this thy great kindness, but that remembering thy gratuitous election, the chief of all favours thou hast been pleased to shew us, we may strive so to devote ourselves to thee, that thy name may be glorified through our whole life: and should it be that we at any time turn aside from thee, may we quickly return to the right way, and become submissive to thy holy admonitions, that it may thus appear that we have been so chosen by thee and called as to desire to continue in the hope of that salvation, to which thou invitest us, and which is prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. – Amen (76).

The Prayer of Faith (2) – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonThis is a follow-up to my post last Monday, in the place where Dr.Sinclair Ferguson is treating the proper idea of “the prayer of faith” (contra Pentecostal teaching) based on the passage in James 5:15, “And the prayer of faith shall save him….”

These are the immediately following paragraphs to that section from Ferguson’s book In Christ Alone:

The struggles we sometimes experience in prayer, then, are often part of the process by which God gradually brings us to ask for only what He has promised to give. The struggle is not our wrestling to bring Him to give us what we desire, but our wrestling with His Word until we are illuminated and subdued by it, saying, ‘Not my will, but Your will be done.’ Then, as Calvin again says, we learn ‘not to ask for more than God allows.’

This is why true prayer can never be divorced from real holiness. The prayer of faith can be made only by the ‘righteous’ man whose life is being more and more aligned with the covenant grace and purposes of God. In the realm of prayer, too (since it is a microcosm of the whole of the Christian life), faith (prayer to the covenant Lord) without works (obedience to the covenant Lord) is dead (Kindle ed.)

J.Calvin on Psalm 148: “Nor are we to seek the cause… elsewhere than in the mere love of God.”

JCalvinPicAlso for our meditation on Psalm 148 today, we include these thoughts of John Calvin on the last verse, v.14. Here  he reflects on God’s particular blessing on His church in the midst of all His goodness on display in creation, a blessing that calls for our special praise. May his words also inspire us to bless the God Who has so richly blessed us by His grace in Christ Jesus.

14. And hath exalted the horn, etc. As we saw in the former Psalm, that the perfections of God are to be seen more conspicuously in the Church than in the constitution of the world at large, the Psalmist has added this sentence, as to the Church being protected by the divine hand, and armed with a power against all enemies which secures its safety in every danger.

By the horn, as is well known, is meant strength or dignity. Accordingly the Psalmist means that God’s blessing is apparent in his Church and among his chosen people, inasmuch as it only flourishes and is powerful through his strength. There is a tacit comparison implied between the Church of God and other hostile powers, for it needs divine guardianship as being exposed on all sides to attack. Hence the Psalmist infers that praise is to all the merciful ones of God, for they have ground given them in the singular goodness of his condescension both for self-congratulation and praise.

In calling the children of Israel a people near unto God, he reminds them of the gracious covenant which God made with Abraham. For how came the nearness, except in the way of God’s preferring an unknown despised stranger to all nations? Nor are we to seek the cause of the distinction elsewhere than in the mere love of God. Though all the world equally belongs to God, he graciously discovered himself to the children of Israel, and brought them near to him, strangers as they were from God, even as are the whole race of Adam.

Hence the words of Moses —

“When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, and distributed the peoples, he stretched forth his line to Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 32:8.)

He is to be considered, therefore, as pointing out the cause why God hath extended such signal blessings to a single people, and a people poor and despised — his adoption of them to himself.

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).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 563 other followers