Rev. Gerrit Vos’ 25th Anniversary Book – Sioux Center, IA (1927-29)

GVosLast Friday we made an initial post announcing the gift of a treasure for the PRC archives – a beautiful leather volume commemorating the 25-year ministry anniversary of Rev. G. Vos (1894-1968).

The book (which must date from 1952 and probably at least a year before that) is filled with pictures and congratulatory notes from the four PRC congregations he had served up to that point – Sioux Center, IA, 1927-29; Hudsonville, 1929-1932; Hope, Redlands CA, 1932-1943; Edgerton, MN, 1943-1948; and then Hudsonville again, 1948-1966, which is where he was when his 25th anniversary in the ministry was celebrated.

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I gave you a sample of some pages last week; this week let’s focus on that first charge of his in Sioux Center, IA PRC.

By the way, this first charge of Rev. Vos brings up an interesting bit of PRC and PRC Seminary history. That is that Rev. Vos was called and ordained prior to his finishing his seminary training. While he had completed some of his ministerial training in those years prior to 1927, so needy were the PRC for ministers in the early years of her existence that she called and ordained Vos (William Verhil also, by Hull, IA PRC) before he finished seminary. Both of these men did return to school and graduated in 1932 (while he served as Hudsonville PRC’s minister!).

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Now, on to Sioux Center PRC, where Vos served from 1927-29. These are some pages from the book. I post them without further comment at this time, except that I wonder if the church and parsonage are still there. Perhaps some Iowa contacts can let us know.

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God: The Winner of Souls – September 2017 “Tabletalk”

The September 2017 issue of Tabletalk has been out for over a week now and it is time to introduce its theme and contents. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue on “Soul Winning” with his editorial “Rescuing Souls from Death.”

The first featured article is Dr. David Strain’s “God: The Winner of Souls,” in which he emphasizes that fundamental to our reason and motive for evangelizing is the truth that God is the One who saves sinners by His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.

Here are a couple of paragraphs that bring that home – one at the beginning of the article and the other at the end:

Though we may not realize it, behind and before our “lisping, stammering tongues” ever manage to proclaim the good news about Jesus, before we can muster the courage to speak a word for Him, God Himself has been in hot pursuit of sinners to save. Few truths offer more encouragement to us in our efforts to share the gospel than this: God is the great winner of souls.

…So here is the liberating truth: God is the true and great soul winner. The Father purposed to save sinners in love, and so He sent His Son for us. The Son of God has loved us and given Himself for us. The same Spirit who rested upon Christ now gives life to dead sinners, uniting us to Christ, and He empowers us in turn to bear witness for Christ. When we realize these great truths, when we see that God is the Evangelist, evangelism will cease to be a fearful work, pursued in an effort to curry divine favor. Instead, it will become a joyful expression of gratitude and an outpouring of holy zeal that others might know the salvation that has been lavished upon us by Almighty God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Read the full article at the link below. And, by the way, Ligonier has made a new special website for Tabletalk, with more content and featured articles available online. Check it out when you visit the link below.

Also, the daily devotions continue on the doctrines and practices restored to the church at the time of the great Reformation. This month they are on “The Reformation of Worship.” Want a sample of what they are like? Here’s part of the devotional for Sept.1:

Often when we think of the Protestant Reformation and what it accomplished, we focus on the doctrinal reforms related to such topics as divine grace, justification, and the authority of Scripture. This association of doctrinal reform with the Reformation is, of course, good and proper, for the Reformers were concerned to conform Christian doctrine to the teaching of God’s Word. However, the Reformers understood that there could be no true doctrinal reform without a corresponding reform of the church’s worship. In fact, in The Necessity of Reforming the Church, written to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, John Calvin listed the reform of Christian worship first in his explanation of why the Reformation was necessary. Our worship and our theology are inextricably linked.

Source: God: The Winner of Souls

A New Treasure for the PRC Archives – Rev. G. Vos’ 25th Anniversary Volume

This past Tuesday (Sept.5, 2017), after a visit to the mailbox, Mrs. Judi Doezema set a package on my library desk at the PRC Seminary.

Nothing unusual about that. Book orders come in regularly, so I am accustomed to seeing boxes and bubble packages of varying sizes on my desk. But this box was unusual – in size and in contents. Besides, I didn’t think I had any outstanding book orders. Nevertheless, I excitedly opened the box.

What I found inside left me short of breath and long of thrills. A special leather-bound book with the words “To the Reverend Gerrit Vos in Commemoration of Twenty Five Years in the Ministry of the Word, 1927-1952” on the cover.

And between the leather covers was a treasure-trove of PRC history under the ministry of Rev. G. Vos (1894-1968). Pictures and congratulatory notes from the four PRC congregations he had served up to that point – Sioux Center, IA, 1927-29; Hudsonville, 1929-1932; Hope, Redlands CA, 1932-1943; Edgerton, MN, 1943-1948; and then Hudsonville again, 1948-1966, which is where he was when his 25th anniversary in the ministry was celebrated.

Every page I turned was a gem. Wonderful pictures of Rev. Vos and his wife and family (cf. above), of the church buildings and parsonages, of congregational picnics and societies, of Consistories and Councils, of Vos and colleagues, of Vos and Schilder – and on the list goes. Pages filled with signatures of church members; with tributes to the gracious pastor who had brought them the gospel and ministered to their needs; with letters from Herman Hoeksema and George Ophoff, his seminary professors and fellow-servants in the gospel in those early years of the fledgling denomination (cf. below); with the full program held in Hudsonville PRC marking his 25th written out in beautiful script – speeches and all! – again, and on the list goes.

What a wonderful gift to the seminary and to the PRC archives! Invaluable! Unspeakable!

And from whom did this precious gift come? From his grandson, Dr. Ben Zandstra (son of Vos’ daughter Marilyn and son-in-law, Dr. Ben Zandstra). In the box was a wonderful letter from Dr. Zandstra, in which he expressed his difficulty in parting with such a treasure (a gift he had received from his mother on the 25th anniversary of his own ordination in the CRC), but also stating, “But I know in my heart that this volume belongs at the school of the Protestant Reformed Churches, the denomination that my grandfather served for so many years. So, I pass it on in his memory & Soli Deo Gloria.”

I have sent Dr. Zandstra a personal letter of thanks for this PRC treasure. But I also take this space to say, “From the bottom of our denomination’s heart, Thank you for this precious gift!”

I plan to scan this book as it is to preserve it in its original form. I have an idea the PRC congregations he served that are still in existence (Hope, Redlands, Edgerton, and Hudsonville) will want a digital copy for their own histories. And I plan to feature some pages from it in the months ahead. I have an idea you will be as excited as I was to see what’s inside this amazing volume. 🙂

Reshaping Marriage, Reformation Style – “Refo Thursday”

On this Thursday, the last day of August, we bring to mind again the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And we do so through another video clip from the Church History Institute, which they are sending out each Thursday this year – what they refer to as their “Refo Thursday,” “your weekly throwback to the Reformation.”

This particular video, sent out on August 10, celebrates the Reformation’s reform of marriage, including Martin Luther’s wonderful union with Katherine von Bora. On this day of my own thirty-ninth wedding anniversary to my lovely bride (August 31, 1978!), this post seems appropriate. Verna and I are personally grateful to the Reformers for restoring this aspect of the Christian life to its biblical foundation!

The article that goes with it – “The Reformation of Marriage” – includes these paragraphs at the beginning:

It is a remarkable fact that none of the leading Protestant reformers ended up a bachelor—Luther, Zwingli and Calvin all married in the course of the Reformation. It is remarkable because the prevailing late medieval ideal was that one should not marry in order to devote full attention to serving God. The same ideal prevailed for women. St. Jerome, writing in the fourth century, even offered a kind of algorithm for measuring one’s devotion to God. He assigned a spiritual value of 100 to virginity, but to marriage he assigned a paltry spiritual value of 30. The message was clear: if you really loved God, you would remain a bachelor or bachelorette.

The Reformation is most often identified with theological debates, whether over  justification by faith alone, predestination, or the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. However, it can be argued that the most enduring consequence of the Reformation was not theological developments, but the transformation of the institution of marriage. By 1520, just three years after the 95 Theses, Luther publically renounced clerical celibacy in his famous pamphlet, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.

Read the rest of the article at the link provided, and be sure to watch this video and many others that make up this informative and interesting series. You can sign up to receive the “Refo Thursday” posts each week at the CHI website.

Luther, Bold Reformer: Uncompromising in the Truth

bold-reformer-steeleOne of the easier reads I am taking in during this year of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation is Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther by David S. Steele (Kindle version).

In chapter three, “Bold Reformers Refuse to Compromise the Truth,” Steele points us to the history of Luther before the Diet of Worms, where he famously said on April 18, 1521,

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear reason (for I trust neither pope nor council alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have cited, for my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since to act against one’s conscience is neither safe nor right. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, may God help me.”

Here are a few of the author’s comments on Luther’s boldness before this conference:

Martin Luther understood the paralyzing effects of compromise. He saw how compromise slithered its way into the fabric of the church and began to devour the gospel, verse-by-verse and line-by-line. He witnessed how compromise in the priesthood eroded the integrity of the church from the inside out. Luther’s pilgrimage to Rome awakened him to the compromise that plagued the church…. He watched with horror as the church he loved grew more and more like the world.

Luther battled sin like every other fallen man. Yet, he maintained a posture that served his generation well and continues to reverberate throughout the halls of church history. So Luther learned a valuable lesson in the sixteenth century: Bold reformers refuse to compromise the truth.

Toward the end of this chapter, as he calls today’s church members to be bold reformers, Steele references Herman Bavinck, writing,

Herman Bavinck rightly identifies such a person, a theologian who bears the marks of a bold reformer: ‘Bound by revelation, taking seriously the confessions of the church, a theologian must appropriate the Christian faith personally. This is a liberating reality; it made it possible for heroic figures such as Martin Luther to stand up to false teaching and misconduct in the church. We must obey God rather than men.’

J. Calvin’s Ethic of the Christian Life: Not Our Own But the Lord’s

If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests.

Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us – in every way in all our lives – run to Him as our only proper end.

How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own – who’s taken rule and domination away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor to want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord.

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017). This is taken fro mthe beginning of section two, where Calvin treats “Self-Denial in the Christian Life,” pp.22-23 (slightly edited).

Why the Reformation Still Matters – Because of the Holy Spirit

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016One of the books we are making our way through this year of remembering the Reformation (500th anniversary!) is Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016).

Each chapter touches on a significant doctrine rediscovered by the Reformers, showing why the return to that particular truth was important for that time and why it is still important for the church today. I have been pleased with and profited by each chapter so far.

The next chapter I read last night is Chapter 7, which treats the Reformation’s rediscovered doctrine of the Holy Spirit under the title, “The Spirit: Can We Truly Know God?” With ample quotes from the magisterial Reformers, the authors show just how significant the truth concerning the Third Person of the Holy Trinity was for that time – and still is.

Here is just a sample of what they say:

Deep heart metamorphosis instead of superficial behavioral change, personal communion with God instead of abstract blessing, and joy-inducing assurance: these were some of the vital benefits of the Reformers’ theology of the Holy Spirit.

But in fact the Reformers’ view of the Spirit really permeated everything they fought for. If he is the giver of life, then salvation must be by grace alone. If he, the Spirit of adoption, freely unites to Christ, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone – and must be about knowing God with the security of the Son. In fact Calvin showed that the Spirit even keeps us from placing any other authority over that of Scripture, so protecting the principle of Scripture alone. We believe Scripture, he argued, not finally because the church tells us to or because intelligent men persuade us that we can, but because the Spirit opens our eyes and witnesses to us that Scripture is indeed God’s own Word.

Then after quoting Calvin on that point, the authors state this:

The fact that the Spirit is found in every doctrine the Reformers fought for should not be surprising. All the life-giving truths of the Reformation are life-giving because they are to do with him, the giver of life. [pp.140-41]

One more quotation I must share is this little gem from William Tyndale about the Spirit and the fruit He produces in believers – appropriate for the summer season:

Where the Spirit is, there it is always summer, and there are always good fruits, that is to say, good works.

*Nota bene: This book is still available for review if there are interested parties.

Worship of God Alone through Christ Alone

The August 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now available, and in it Prof. R. Cammenga (PRC Seminary) continues his exposition of the Second Helvetic Confession (written by Reformer Heinrich Bullinger) with treatment of chapter 5a, where the creed sets forth the Protestant Christian truth concerning worship through Christ alone as the saints’ only Mediator.

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On this August 13 Lord’s Day we quote a portion of this confession and Prof. Cammenga’s exposition, as relevant for us today as when it was composed (1562/64).

Christ Alone

God alone is to be invoked through the mediation of Christ alone. In all crises and trials of our life we call upon him alone, and that by the mediation of our only mediator and intercessor, Jesus Christ. For we have been explicitly commanded, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Ps. 50:15). Moreover, we have a most generous promise from the Lord Who said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23), and, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And since it is written, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” (Rom. 10:4), and since we do believe in God alone, we assuredly call upon him alone, and we do so through Christ. For as the apostle says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5), “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).

God alone is to be worshipped. But God is to be worshipped through the only Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ alone is the Mediator: solus Christus. Only in the name of and through the Lord Jesus Christ may men approach God in worship. All worship of God apart from Jesus Christ, all worship of God while invoking other mediators, be they saints, angels, or the virgin Mary, is damnable worship.

God alone through Christ alone—that was the gospel of the Reformation. And that is the gospel for all time and in every age and among all peoples. This is the distinctiveness of the Christian faith. This is the reason on account of which Christianity that is true to Christ cannot accommodate the false religions. The gospel is never Christ and, but is always Christ alone. Christ is the Way to the Father, and there is no other way to the Father. Christ is the way to the Father because He alone is the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is “our only mediator and intercessor” with the triune God. He alone is our “advocate with the Father.”

May our worship of the heavenly Father this day reflect this part of confession as Protestant Christians. May we seek the one true God through His only Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ.

You may find the Second Helvetic Confession in ebook form on Monergism’s website here.

2017 Reformation Books for Children – ABCs and More!

Looking for good books for your children during this year of celebrating the great Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary? I have a fine one for you, one I purchased this week and read through last night.

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Reformation ABCs: The People, Places, and Things of the Reformation from A to Z is a wonderful children’s “ABC” book written by Stephen J. Nichols (author) and Ned Bustard (author/illustrator) and published by Crossway (2017). The publisher gives this description:

Reformation ABCs is a fun way for kids to learn about the places, things, events, people, books, and ideas that shaped this pivotal time in church history. Through whimsical illustrations and engaging storytelling, this book teaches kids that even though the Reformation occurred five hundred years ago, it isn’t just about people and places in the past. The Reformers’ fight to reclaim the gospel is still relevant today.

To give you an idea of what’s inside, under “A” the book has “A is for ants, artists, and Augustine” (showing how the Reformation was a return to the theology of St. Augustine); “H” has “H is for hippos, hats, and Heidelberg” (a nice tribute to the Heidelberg Catechism)’ “T” has “T is for torch, trains, and Tyndale” (pointing out the significant Bible translation work of this godly man and martyr). One of my favorites was what they had for “Y” – “Y is for yellow, yodeling, and YOU,” part of which says this:

The Reformers wanted children to learn the Bible. Every morning Martin Luther opened his doors, and young boys and girls ran across his yard and gathered around his dining table to be taught. Since all of the German boys and girls could not fit around his table, he wrote a catechism for them. The Reformers in Heidelberg wrote a catechism. And the Reformers at Westminster wrote a catechism. All of these catechisms had one purpose: to teach boys and girls the Bible, the gospel, and the truth of the Christian faith. When these young boys and girls grew up, they became the next Reformers. And for centuries God has given the church Reformers. You are the next Reformer.

The back part of the book includes a section on “Reformation by the Numbers” (noting the significant numbers associated with the movement, such as Luther’s  95 Theses and the 5 solas of the Reformation) and a Reformation timeline.

I highly recommend this book to you. If you buy one Reformation children’s book this year, make this the one. In light of my post on Tuesday of this week about reading to your children, this would make an excellent one to use. Read it to your young children and let the young readers in your home read it again on their own. And, grandparents, this would make a great gift for your grandchildren. That’s what I bought it for. 🙂

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Also, do not forget the wonderful church history series Reformation Heritage Books publishes, “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series, featuring Reformed author Simonetta Carr. This series includes Reformation titles on Martin Luther,  John Calvin, John Knox, Lady Jane Grey, and the newest, Peter Martyr Vermigli. Here’s a video on that title:

John Calvin and his Institutes – “Refo Thursday”

On this Thursday night, it is time for another “Refo Thursday” feature.

As we have mentioned several times here already this year, the Christian History Institute (which also publishes the magazine Christian History – issue #120 is about Calvin and the Reformation – cf. image here) has a special post each week featuring various aspects of the Reformation.

It is called “Refo Thursday” (“your weekly throwback to the Reformation” [in their words] – connected to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017), and usually features a quote from one of the major Reformers and a brief video on an aspect of Reformation history.

Today’s short video, featuring Karin Maag from the Calvin Meeter Center and Michael Horton from Westminster Seminary (West-CA), focuses on John Calvin’s attempts to bring reformation to Catholic France, his home country, by writing his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion – from Basel, Switzerland.

Listen in and learn about how Calvin viewed himself and the other Reformers as more “catholic” than the Roman Catholic Church.