Forgiveness and Life in the Church of Christ – H.Hoeksema

Our pastor will be preaching on the truth of the believer’s confession of the forgiveness of sins as found in the Apostles’ Creed (Art.10) and explained by the Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 56. In his commentary on the HC, Herman Hoeksema has this to say about the connection between our confession of forgiveness and our confession of the holy catholic church, the communion of saints (Art.9 in the AC):

In the fellowship of the Church, and, therefore, in the communion of saints, the believer lays hold upon this blessing, and makes this confession. This is the connection between the article concerning the Church and that concerning the forgiveness of sins.

Outside of the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, there are no spiritual benefits, the forgiveness of sins cannot be appropriated. If, for some reason, the believer severs himself as far as his conscious life is concerned, from that communion, the first effect of this error is always that he lacks the joy of forgiveness. Perhaps, for a time, he lives in hatred over against some of the brethren; or he envinces an unforgiving spirit; or he seeks the friendship of the world; or he lives in whatever other sin may sever his fellowship with the saints, and disturb the exercise of the communion of saints: in that state of separation from the body of believers, he forfeits the forgiveness of sins (p.88).

And then, after demonstrating this from several passages of Scripture, Hoeksema explains this relation further at the end of this treatment:

Nor is it difficult to understand why this relation between our living in the communion of saints and in the joy of forgiveness exists, and is so inseparable that the one cannot be enjoyed without the other.

It is never in our own power to lay hold on the forgiveness of sins. That we are sorry for sin, repent, seek forgiveness, and obtain it, is the work of Christ Himself. By His Spirit and grace He works the true sorrow after God in our hearts. By that Spirit, He brings us to repentance, leads us to the cross, and assures us of redemption, even the forgiveness of sins in His blood. But that Spirit, on Whose constant indwelling and operation our appropriation of the forgiveness of sins continuously depends, is the Spirit of Christ, and, therefore, the Spirit of the body, that is, the Church. For there is one Lord, and one Spirit, and that one Spirit dwells in the one body. He does not dwell in you or in me, individually, apart from the body, but in the body as a whole, and, in the individual believers, only in fellowship with the body. Hence, outside of that body the Spirit does not operate to bestow the blessings of salvation upon men. If, therefore, through some sin, the believer separates himself from the body, and does not live in the communion of saints, he immediately forfeits the forgiveness of sins.

And as he loses the forgiveness of sins, he necessarily forfeits all the blessings and joy of salvation; for the remission of sins… is basic for all other benefits in Christ.

The article concerning the forgiveness of sins, therefore, occupies a most proper place in the Apostolicum.

By its very position, we are exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! (pp.89-90).

Triple-Knowledge-HHoeksemaTaken from volume V, Abundant Mercy of Hoeksema’s The Triple Knowledge (Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1949) and now reprinted by the RFPA in the same ten volume format (2015).

The Elder’s Ordination – Rev.D.Kuiper – April 1, 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-April 1-2015The April 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is now out and a variety of articles once again fill this Reformed magazine (see cover image here for the details – click on it to enlarge).

One of the articles in a continuing series on the office of elder is that found in the rubric “Ministering to the Saints”. Rev.Doug Kuiper (Edgerton, MN PRC) begins writing in this issue on the important subject of the ordination of elders, introducing it this way:

The fact that a man is qualified to be an elder in Christ’s church does not, in itself, make him an elder. Nor has he become an elder by virtue of being designated by the council of a church or being chosen by the congregation to be an elder.

Until the church of Christ ordains a man to be elder in her midst, that man may not consider himself to be an elder. Such is the importance and necessity of ordination into office.

A little further in the article he continues:

Ordination is the work of the church by which she officially and authoritatively places a man into that church office for which he was chosen. Samuel Miller’s definition is helpful: ‘By Ordination is meant that solemn rite, or act, by which a candidate for any office in the Church of Christ, is authoritatively designated to that office, by those who are clothed with power for that purpose’ (An Essay on the Warrant, Nature, and Duties of the Office of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church. General Books, 2009, 137).

Following this, Rev.Kuiper goes into a treatment of the distinction between ordination and installation, concluding that “while there is an important distinction between the two terms, especially regarding the office of minister, they both refer to an official placement into office, and both indicate that one is now authorized to begin the work of that office.”

In his next installment he plans to consider the reason why such ordination requires a public ceremony. Be sure to read this and the rest of the articles in the April 1, 2015 “SB”!

Memories of Grundy Center (Iowa) Library – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanContinuing some readings in John J. Timmerman’s “semi-autobiography”, Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987),  I read another chapter last evening. “Out of the Shell” describes Timmerman’s years in Grundy Center, Iowa (1916-20), when his father (CRC minister) took a call to begin a preparatory school (seminary) to train pastors to serve in Classis Ostfriesland.

This was another fascinating description of his early life among the Germans and Dutch (a few) in this community (as well as the Scotch and Irish). One of the paragraphs that intrigued me – and which I post here – is his reference to the Grundy Center library and the books and magazines to which he was exposed as a young boy. You will be able to judge rather quickly why this section of the chapter grabbed my attention and made me smile – but also frown with sadness (keep reading!).

The Grundy Center library was a good one for a town of its size, especially in two respects: an abundance of children’s books and a gracious, unforgettable librarian, Mrs. Holden. She knew books boys would like, and in my world at least, fortunately unfamiliar with radio and television, books were the frigate to take me lands away. I fought the Indians in Altsheler’s fine boys’ books [so have I!], the British redcoats in Tomlinson’s stories, lived in the woods with E.T. Seton’s superb “Rolfe in the Woods” and “The Young Savages”, had fun with “Penrod and Sam” by Tarkington, and, best of all, romped with “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.”

My parents also gave me books, the “Rover Boys” series, one after the other. These books and the excellent boys’ magazines of the time, “St. Nicholas Magazine”, which was not a Christmas magazine, “Boy’s Life,” and “American Boy”, brought a stir of adventure into my boyhood, where games, a rare fire, a runaway horse, or the drama of disease and death were about the only excitement around. These were the magazines of high quality and published stories by gifted authors, some of them famous in American literature.

The stories were rooted in human experience and human history, from drama in a small town to adventures in the forest, the frontier, the windswept coast, the buffeted ships, and the endless plains. The central characters were usually youngsters who dramatized virtues such as honesty, courage, loyalty, generosity, and simple decency in a harsh world. They were moral without sentimental stuffing and pompous lessons.  They were healthy books. When I think of the sexually sick world that I, as well as many little children, now see on the television screen, I am enraged at what our culture has done to the innocence a child deserves and needs (14-15).

“Tabletalk” Interview with Reformed Pastor, President, Professor W. Robert Godfrey

Reformed Pastor, President, Professor by W. Robert Godfrey | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

One of the first articles I read in this month’s Tabletalk magazine was the interview feature, in part because I always find these to be interesting, but mostly because the March interview is with well-known “Reformed pastor [United Reformed Church], president [Westminster West Seminary], and professor [of church history], Dr. Robert Godfrey.

Yesterday, because I was finished with all the other articles, I re-read this interview, and remembered that if I had the time and space, I would post a few parts of it here. You may find the entire interview at the Ligonier link above, but I found these sections of Godfrey’s comments on Seminary training to be interesting and edifying.

I find much of his comment and counsel relevant to our own Seminary setting as well, and trust that you will too.

TT: Why is seminary education necessary today, especially when the Internet makes so many resources readily available?

RG: As you cannot learn surgery on the Internet, as you cannot have a church on the Internet, so you cannot get a good pastoral education on the Internet. The Internet is valuable for various kinds of information, but it cannot provide the kind of personal interaction and mentoring necessary for seminary education. The community of faculty and students and the community of students interacting with fellow students are both crucial for learning academic and interpersonal skills.

TT: Is seminary only for men seeking ordination as pastors? Who else should consider attending seminary, and why?

RG: While our seminary is focused vocationally on the education of future pastors, it also o—ffers education in the Bible, theology, and church history to men and women who are interested in learning. They then can use that learning for their own personal edification, to teach in the local church, or to serve churches around the world.

TT: What are two ways that churches can better prepare young men for the pastorate?

RG: First, seminaries need the support of churches to do their work. Prayer and financial support from the churches are vitally necessary for the seminaries to do their work of pastoral preparation. We work for the future of the church, and we need the help of the churches to flourish. Second, churches need to take on seminarians as interns to give them experience and encouragement. Seminary can teach many things, but the actual experience of serving and working in a church can only happen in the church.

TT: What is the main challenge that U.S. Seminaries face today? How is Westminster California working to meet that challenge?

RG: A great challenge that seminaries face today is the increasingly poor preparation that many students receive in their undergraduate education. Too many are not prepared to read analytically, to write research papers, or to study a foreign language. Many also are far less familiar with the English Bible than was the case in earlier generations. So our seminary has introduced a series of entrance exams that determine whether a student needs to take specific remedial courses. We invest a great deal of time in the careful teaching of Greek and Hebrew because they are so foundational to everything else we do. We are excited by the emergence of a college like Reformation Bible College, which we hope will send us much better prepared students.

The 1950 PR Young People’s Convention and 25th Anniversary PRC Field Day

Last week several old issues of the Beacon Lights, the magazine “for Protestant Reformed Youth” were put away in the PRC archives. Bob Drnek  brought a few of them into my office because two of these were PR Young People Convention issues (1950 and 1968) and had some good pictures in them.

So I scanned a few pages from the August, 1950 “BL”, since this also included a report on the PRC Field Day held in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of our denomination – an event that drew 2700 to Spring Grove in Jamestown! We post these today, though some of the pictures are quite dark. But I hope you will recognize a few folks and enjoy another ride down “memory lane” – at least for some of you, since others of us didn’t come along until 1958!

Come along! Here we go! [As always, you may click on the picture to enlarge it.]

1950 BL Cover_Page_1

 

1950 Fed Board_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0005_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0006_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0001_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0002_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0003_Page_1

1950 PRYPs Conv-2nd PRC_0004_Page_1

Why Inerrancy is Essential – Michael Kruger

Why It’s Essential by Michael Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015Yesterday before worship services I finished reading through my March Tabletalk, including the final articles on this month’s theme, “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

The first of these final articles is by Dr. Michael Kruger (professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC) and titled “Why It’s [Inerrancy] Essential.” One of the things he does in his article is answer various objections that have been raised in the Christian academic world against the doctrine of inerrancy. I find this form of apologetics to be most helpful, and include here for  your benefit one such objection that he answers (for the full article, follow the Ligonier link above).

3. Inerrancy is not taught by the Bible itself. Some have suggested that there is no exegetical argument for inerrancy, but only a theological one based on the fact that God is a God of truth and cannot lie. Who are we (so the argument goes) to determine what kind of book God could or could not inspire? But again, this argument proves to be a straw man.

First, there is nothing inappropriate about theological arguments—some doctrines flow naturally from other doctrines that we already believe. For instance, many of our beliefs about the Trinity are not based on simple proof-texting, but are pieced together from a variety of theological considerations (for example, God is one, yet Jesus is God). If we believe the Bible is the very Word of God—that is, when Scripture speaks, God speaks—then it follows that the contents of the Bible are truthful. One need only consider Jesus’ own view of the Old Testament. Time and again, Jesus appeals to Old Testament passages and always receives it as truth, never correcting it, criticizing it, or pointing out inconsistencies. Indeed, He not only refrained from correcting the Scriptures, but He also affirmed the Scriptures “cannot be broken” (John 10:35), and that “[God’s] Word is truth” (John 17:17). It is unthinkable that Jesus would ever have read an Old Testament passage and declared, “Well, this passage is simply wrong.”

A second beneficial article I read on this subject is that which immediately follows Krugers in the magazine, “Just Me and My Bible?” by Rev.Terry Johnson (pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA). In this interesting article Johnson shows that the Reformed faith too has a healthy regard for the church’s tradition (contra Rome, but understood properly), most prominently in her creedal heritage, when it comes to understanding the Bible.

I also leave you with a portion of his article, encouraging you to read the rest at the link above (at his title).

Bible study is meant to take place in an ecclesiastical context, one that stretches back to the Apostles. We read Scripture in light of what properly ordained pastor teach, but also in light of what the creeds and councils, the confessions and theologians—of the catholic (universal) and Reformed tradition—have taught. Too many contemporary Christians barely hide their contempt for “traditional ways of doing things.” By way of contrast, Paul urges the Corinthians to “maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2; see 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). He urges them to maintain not merely the “message,” the “good news,” the “teaching,” the “instruction,” or the “commandment,” but the “tradition.” In the immediate context, Paul is talking about the infallible Apostolic tradition that we know today as the New Testament. Still, there is a secondary application—those who have gone before us could err and have erred, but it is wise for us to give the benefit of the doubt to the great men and women of God who interpreted the Bible before us.

This tradition is the interpretive or exegetical heritage of those who hold to the Reformed faith. I am to read my Bible not in isolation, but in consultation with that heritage, its teachers (both alive and deceased), and its implications for theology, ecclesiology, ethics, worship, and family life. What did our ecclesiastical ancestors say about a given passage of Scripture? What was their consensus on a given doctrinal theme? A given church practice? Humility demands that we go beyond “just me and my Bible” as we seek to be faithful in our generation.

A Spiritually Thriving Christian – J.Owen

The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen  -     By: Ryan M. McGraw<br />
This weekend I started to do some reading in a new title I had received for review from Reformation Heritage Books. The book, edited and introduced by Ryan M McGraw, is a small (in size and length – 150 pgs.) paperback titled The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, part of their series “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality”.

The work, which purposes to introduce the reader to the theology of Puritan John Owen (1616-1683), consists mainly of brief selections (41 in all) from Owen’s writings, tying together the main themes of his theology: the Trinity (communion with God) and public worship (piety).

As I read through some of these brief chapters, I was struck by this one, “A Spiritually Thriving Christian”, taken from Owen’s The Nature and Causes of Apostasy. Keep that broader title in mind as Owen describes how important the church’s means of grace are for the spiritual health and growth of the believer. I believe you will find his thoughts a fitting cap to our Lord’s day in God’s house of fellowship and worship.

Again, there is not anything in the whole course of our obedience wherein the continual exercise of faith and spiritual wisdom, with diligence and watchfulness, is more indispensably required than it is to the due use and improvement of gospel privileges and ordinances, for there is no other part of our duty whereon our giving glory to God and the eternal concern of our own souls more eminently depend.

And he is a spiritually thriving Christian who knows how duly to improve gospel institutions of worship and does so accordingly, for they are the only ordinary outward means whereby the Lord Christ communicates of His grace to us and whereby we immediately return love, praise, thanks, and obedience to Him, in which spiritual intercourse the actings of our spiritual life principally do consist, and whereon, by consequence, its growth depends. It is therefore certain that our growth or decay in holiness, our steadfastness in or apostasy from profession, are greatly influenced by the use or abuse of these privileges (81).

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ – ChristianityToday.com

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

marriagepic-1Christianity Today’s latest “Gleanings” feature (March 18, 2015) carried this note of further apostasy from the teaching of God’s Word about marriage on the part of the mainline Presbyterian church in this country.

Below is the first part of that story; for the full news item, visit the “CT” link above. The report includes a map showing how the various states have voted to this point (Michigan has not yet decided.)

May the Lord call out of this apostate denomination those who are truly His and who desire to be faithful to His Word and the true Presbyterian heritage (Rev.18:4).

The Presbyterian Church (USA) will now define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people,” rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman as an act of Christian discipleship.

Last June, the PC(USA) general assembly voted to change the language in its Book of Order, the denomination’s governing constitution. Following the vote, a majority of the PC(USA)’s 171 presbyteries also had to approve the measure for it to go into effect. On Tuesday, this number (86) was reached.

The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) criticized the denomination’s shift.

“In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, PLC president, in a statement. “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost.”

(True) St. Patrick’s Day Commemoration!

Indeed, it is St.Patrick’s Day. And we shall not allow the world to grab another day off the church’s calendar (as arbitrary as it is) and rob it of its true significance.

Therefore, in the spirit of remembering God’s work through one of His servant-saints in the fifth century, we shall proceed to note this day with true commemoration of Patrick, missionary to Ireland – the chief thing for which he should be remembered (born c.389; died c.461-493).

We begin with this brief video on St.Patrick from Rose Publishing (“Christian History Made Easy”), which debunks many of the myths associated with him while relating the story of his life and work.

Patrick-Portraits-HHanko_Page_1Second, we point you to an article Prof.Herman Hanko wrote for the Standard Bearer back in 1990, titled “Patrick, Missionary to Ireland.” This article later became a chapter in his book Portraits of Faithful Saints, (cf. image to the left, which is the opening page) published by the RFPA in 1999 (pp.46-50). Here is a part of that article/chapter which introduces us to this zealous man:

The early history of the church of Christ is an exciting and moving history of her missionary enterprise. Scripture itself records for us how the gospel was brought to Judea, Samaria, and the entire Mediterranean world, so that the church was spread throughout the Roman Empire. The early annuls of the church provide us with information of how courageous missionaries moved beyond the Mediterranean world into darkest Europe to bring God’s Word to the many barbarian tribes who had moved into Europe and settled there.

Through the labors of the church the whole of Europe was Christianized, so that it was changed from darkest heathendom and paganism and became the cradle of Christianity. Although the work covered many centuries, it had its lowly beginnings in the lives of men who sacrificed all for the cause of the gospel.

This is the story of one such missionary: Patrick, missionary to Ireland.

To read the rest of this story, follow the link above with the title.

And, finally, we include here this beautiful arrangement of the prayer attributed to Patrick, as composed by John Rutter and sung by the Cambridge Singers.

 

Where Does Scripture’s Authority Come From? – Keith Mathison

What We’ve Received by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015The above-linked article in this month’s Tabletalk is the third one centered on the theme of the March issue – “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

Dr.Keith A. Mathison is the author of this article, and in it he treats the authority of Scripture in connection with how we know in the first place what books belong to the Bible (its “canon”). As he shows us the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, he refutes Rome’s claim that the church is the body that determines the canon of the Bible and therefore she is the one who gives Scripture its authority. Mathison shows plainly that the Bible carries its own authority because it is the Word of God.

What I appreciated about this article is its solid historical and confessional foundation rooted in the great Reformation. Repeatedly Mathison takes us to the historic Reformed creeds of the Reformation (Westminster Confession, Scots Confession, Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.).

This is a lengthy article, but well-worth your reading. I give you a portion of it here, where Mathison gets at the heart of the controversy between the Reformed and Rome. Find the full article at this link (or the one above).

The question at the heart of the debate between Rome and the Protestants regarding the canon and the authority of Scripture may be stated as follows (using Michael Kruger’s terminology): Is the canon of Scripture community determined or is it self-authenticating? According to Rome, the authority of Scripture depends upon the authority of the church. The most fundamental problem with this view, however carefully it may be nuanced and qualified, is that it unavoidably and inevitably places the authority of God beneath the authority of the church. It completely reverses the true state of affairs. If we are to believe in the authority of Scripture, according to Rome, we must assume the authority of the church. But why should we accept the authority of the church? Is it self-authenticating? No, Rome says, and she appeals to Scripture to establish the authority of the church just as she appeals to the church to establish the authority of Scripture. The circular nature of this appeal has been pointed out since the Reformation.

To say that the canon and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating is to say what the Reformed confessions say. It is, to use the words of William Whitaker, to say that “the Scripture is autopistos.” It has “all its authority and credit from itself.” Why? Because it is the Word of the living God, and God does not have to appeal to the church in order to establish His own inherent sovereign authority. God is God. The church is not God.

So, how is it that the church has come to recognize the right books and only the right books? Jesus Himself gives us the answer when He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). As Roger Nicole has pointed out, the best way to describe the way in which we know the canon is “the witness of the Holy Spirit given corporately to God’s people.” Recognition of the canonical books is due to the action of the Holy Spirit’s enabling God’s people to hear His voice.

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