Love for the Church – and Her Discipline: Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerFor the November 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer, editor Prof.B. Gritters submitted his latest installment in the series “What It Means to Be Reformed” (#10). Treating the subject of “The Church: My Chief Joy“, he writes in this third part about the third mark of Christ’s true church – Christian discipline.

Here is part of what he has to say:

     Not many churches exercise discipline these days. Exercising discipline on people is hard. Exercising discipline on myself is hard too. But if a church does not exercise discipline on her members – loving, corrective, purifying discipline – she may not call herself Reformed, any more than I may call myself Christian if I do not discipline myself. Both are difficult; both are extremely painful; but both are necessary for survival. The Head of the church mandates it.

…When Christ lives in a church – Christ’s presence is the most basic way to know if the church is true – the church will not be sleeping. The true church, the Reformed church, will behave Christ-like in ‘putting away from among yourselves that wicked person,’ (1 Cor.5), in counting some unto them ‘as an heathen and a publican’ (Matt.18), as well as in ‘forgiving and comforting’ the penitent, lest they be ‘swallowed up with overmuch sorrow’ (2 Cor.2).

A Reformed man has a high view of the church. Which is not the same as going to church morning and evening every Sunday. It means that he regards the church and her offices, her formal worship, her official teaching, her requirement for membership, her determination to take all things seriously by discipline, as essential. He has a high regard of the institutional church, her offices, her assemblies, her worship, and her government (pp.77-79).


Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers, and to the Sexually Broken – S.Lucas and R.Butterfield

Source: Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-Nov-2015Two excellent back-to-back articles in this month’s Tabletalk address specific aspects of “The Christian Sexual Ethic” – the one linked above, which addresses the church’s calling to minister both to those who have been sexually abused and to those who do the abusing, and a second by Rosaria C. Butterfield, which addresses ministering to the sexually broken, including those involved in homosexuality – a sin in which she herself was once enslaved before God’s grace broke her chains.

I read both articles yesterday and found them very direct, uncompromising, and yet expressive of God’s love and gospel hope in Christ alone. I give you a portion of both today, encouraging you to read the complete articles at the links provided (see title to Butterfield’s article below).

First, here is part of what Dr.Sean M. Lucas has to say in terms of gospel hope for abused and abuser:

Both the perpetrator and the victim of sin need the same thing: the gospel of Jesus. Those who commit sexual sins—whether sexual immorality, adultery, or even sexual abuse—need to hear the gospel. The entire point of discipline is to confront the sinner with the claims of Christ, to call for repentance, but also to seek new patterns of obedience that can come only as the sinner runs daily to Christ.

Often, those who commit messy and heinous sins believe their sins are too great to forgive. They need to be reminded that “there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent” (Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4). Such genuine repentance is drawn out by the “apprehension of [God’s] mercy in Christ to such as are penitent” (WCF 15.2). How great is God’s mercy in Christ? So great that He sent His one and only Son to die for sinners—and that death is sufficient to cover all our sins, even the most heinous ones.

Victims, too, need the gospel of Jesus: that Jesus is a Savior who does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20); that He identifies with the hurt and broken and grants liberty to those oppressed by sin (Luke 4:17– 21); and that He likewise asked, “Why?” when the pain and godforsakenness was overwhelming (Matt. 27:46).

But victims of sin also need to know that Jesus does more than identify with us in our hurts—He actually has done something about them. Through His resurrection, He is able to bring new life and new hope in the present as well as the future. There is power to move forward through the pain they know. In addition, the gospel provides us with the basis for forgiveness, knowing that we, too, have committed heinous sins against God (Eph. 4:32).

And this is how Butterfield opens her article on “Ministering to the Sexually Broken”:

Coming to Christ is the ultimate reality check, as it makes us face the fact that our sin is our biggest problem. Every day, a believer must face the reality that original sin distorts us, actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us. This distortion, distraction, and manipulation create a wedge between us and our God. We are in a war, and the sooner we realize it, the better.

Sexual brokenness comes with boatloads of shame, as sexual sin is itself predatory: it hounds us, traps us, and seduces us to do its bidding. Sexual sin won’t rest until it has captured its object. When our conscience condemns us, we sometimes try to fight. But when shame compels isolation, we hide from the very people and resources that we need. We whiteknuckle it until Satan deceptively promises that sweet relief will come only from embracing that lustful glance, clicking that Internet link, or turning off the lights to our bedrooms and hearts and embracing the fellow divine image-bearer that God forbids us to embrace.

We sexually broken sheep will sacrifice faithful marriages, precious children, fruitful ministries, productive labor, and unsullied reputations for immediate, illicit sexual pleasure.

We may pray sincerely for deliverance from a particular sexual sin, only to be duped when its counterfeit seduces us. When we pray for deliverance from sin by the atoning blood of Christ, this means that I know the true nature of sin, not that I no longer feel its draw. If you want to be strong in your own terms, God will not answer you. God wants you to be strong in the risen Christ.

Thomas Bradwardine: Defender of God’s Sovereignty – Rev. C.Griess

SB-Reform-Nov-2015Back on Reformation Day 2015 (Oct.31), I called attention to the latest special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer. This issue focuses on the period of the Middle Ages and the pre-Reformers the Lord raised up to give light to His people who sat in darkness.

Today I call your attention to one of the special articles in this issue – an article that introduces us to a man I would guess few of us know or at least know very well; Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349). In his fine piece on this godly man, Rev. Cory Griess calls him the “defender of God’s Sovereignty”.

This is how Rev.Griess opens his article and explains his significance in the history of the church in the Middle Ages:

     It is always a wonderful thing to find another who loves the sovereignty of God as the truth of God revealed in scripture. It is especially wonderful to find such in the Middle Ages. Thomas Bradwardine, though little known, is such a man. If Gottschalk is rightly remembered in particular for His defense of sovereign predestination in the Middle Ages, Bradwardine ought to be remembered for His defense of the absolute sovereignty of God during the same era.
Bradwardine was born in England sometime around 1290 AD. He was a brilliant man earning him the nickname, “The Profound Doctor.” He produced accomplished works in many areas of study, including logic, geometry, and physics, and some of his works are still required reading for advanced research in math and science today.

But his main contribution was in theology which he studied and later taught at Oxford. His great work as a theologian is De Causa Dei (The Cause of God), which was written against the Pelagians who were prevalent in his time. The title helps up know not only the content of the book, but Bradwardine’s own view of his role in God’s kingdom in in the 13th and 14th centuries. Bradwardine rightly viewed himself as a defender of the sovereignty and supremacy of God in the midst of a philosophical climate that exalted man and dethroned God. Gordon Leff describes Bradwardine’s purpose with the book and his life, He was “concerned to cut, root and branch, at that outlook which started from men, not from God…to rebut the consequences which flowed from such a wrong attitude and to win back all attention to God.”

TBradwardineTo read all of this article and the other special ones in this “SB” Reformation issue, visit the home page to receive a copy and/or to subscribe.

Introducing the 2015 “Standard Bearer” Reformation Issue

RefDay-post-tenebras-luxOn this Reformation Day 2015 we may call your attention to the annual special Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer, just out and coming to your mailbox or digital device (ours came in the mail yesterday).

The November 1, 2015 issue focuses on the pre-Reformers God raised up to bring light in dark times and prepare the stage of the church and world for the full reform of His church. You may remember that one of the mottos by which the Reformation era is known is the Latin expression post tenebras lux – after darkness, light. With that in mind the editors decided to give this special issue the theme “Pre-Reformation Light in the Dark Ages.”

Prof.R. Dykstra (one of the editors) provides this brief summary of what the issue is about:

What comes to mind with the term “Middle Ages”? Perhaps dark and dreary lives. Perhaps castles and knights. Perhaps crusades.

For church history, what may come to mind is a seemingly endless parade of corrupt popes. Surely all Reformed readers think of the apostasy and corruption in the church that required the most significant Reformation the church has ever had –1517, and Martin Luther. There is, however, more to the Middle Ages than immediately meets the eye.
The goal of this special issue is to introduce some key church figures of the Middle Ages. Though the age was indeed one of astounding ignorance, wickedness, and apostasy, God preserved His church, and God preserved the church’s foundation, that is, His truth, as it centers in Jesus Christ. This issue will bring to light some of the men and movements that God used for His sovereign purposes to that end. Most readers are aware of the noteworthy pre-reformers – Wycliffe and Hus. We invite you to learn about a few others.

Be instructed, be encouraged, and give thanks for the evidence that the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world gathers, defends, and preserves His church, and that He did so also in the Middle Ages.

Below is the cover of this special issue, with the table of contents. You will find a fascinating collection of articles inside the magazine.

SB-Reform-Nov-2015To receive a copy and/or subscribe to the “SB”, visit the home page.

Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons – Steven Lawson

Source: Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog

As we reflect on the significance of the great Reformation of the 16th century this week, we turn today to this Ligonier post by Dr. Steve Lawson on the importance of preaching for the magisterial Reformer Martin Luther.

MLuther-SLawsonThis is an excerpt from Lawson’s book on Luther, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013).

This is the opening paragraph of the post; find the rest at the Ligonier link above. Still better, obtain and read the book. :)

In the tempestuous days of the Reformation, the centerpiece of Luther’s ministry was his bold biblical preaching. Fred W. Meuser writes: “Martin Luther is famous as reformer, theologian, professor, translator, prodigious author, and polemicist. He is well known as hymn-writer, musician, friend of students, mentor of pastors, and pastor to countless clergy and laity. Yet he saw himself first of all as a preacher.” Luther gave himself tirelessly to this priority. E. Theodore Bachmann adds, “The church … is for Luther ‘not a pen-house, but a mouth-house,’ in which the living Word is proclaimed.” Indeed, Luther wrote voluminously, yet he never put his written works on the same level with his proclamation of God’s Word. He maintained, “Christ Himself wrote nothing, nor did He give command to write, but to preach orally.” By this stance, Luther strongly underscored the primacy of the pulpit.

Protestantism vs. Eastern Orthodoxy on the Authority of Scripture – F.Ridenour

Whats-the-Difference-RidenourFor our Sunday night discussion groups this year at Faith PRC we are studying the various major religions of the world, starting with those that fly under the Christian banner. That includes the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, which we will be discussing tonight.

As a guide, we are using Fritz Ridenour’s book So What’s the Difference (Bethany House, 2001). A fundamental difference between classic Protestantism and Roman Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy is the doctrine of Scripture’s authority in relation to the church.

This is in part how Ridenour breaks down that difference, particularly as it relates to the Orthodox understanding:

     Protestants put the Scripture above everything else as the supreme authority over the Church. The Orthodox put the Church over Scripture, saying that Scripture is only part of a larger tradition that makes for a complete organic whole – the ‘fullness of the Christian faith.’ In this regard, they agree with the Roman Catholics, but not completely.

The Orthodox have no objective,clear and formally definable criteria of truth, such as papal authority (Roman Catholics) [which she rejects] or sola scriptura (Protestants). Instead, the Orthodox speak of an ‘internal norm’ for determining authority – the Spirit of God living within the Church. A record of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church can be found in Christian Tradition, the Nicea/Constantinople Creed, the Decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the writings of the Fathers, the canons of the Church, the service books (liturgy) and holy icons.

…A standard Orthodox view is that the Bible gets its authority from the Church, not vice versa. According to Orthodox theologians, the Church existed and flourished before any of the New Testament books were ever written. The Orthodox stress that the Church originally decided which books would be in Holy Scripture; therefore, only the Church can interpret Holy Scripture with authority.

The Protestant view of the Bible is much different. The Bible does not get its authority from the Church; in fact, as John Calvin put it, the Word of God gave birth to the Church. The Bible gets its authority from being the inspired (‘God-breathed’) writings of men who were led by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pet.1:20,21). The Church did not ‘decide’ which books would be in Holy Scripture; the Church took approximately 200 years to recognize which writings had ‘divine authority’ and belonged in the canon of Scripture (pp.55-56).

Published in: on October 18, 2015 at 5:22 PM  Comments (1)  

An Archived PRC: Trinity PRC – Houston, TX

Two weeks ago as part of our series on PRC archives we featured a “deceased” PRC that still has life – Trinity PRC in Houston, TX – because that now-disbanded congregation has former members of Christ’s church currently living in other PRCs, namely Joel Sugg and the Hopkins.

We posted this collection of pictures of Trinity’s property at the time they were going to purchase it. At that time I had you guess on a few things, which some of you got – thanks for the comments! One of you even noticed the Ford truck in the top left picture and came mighty close to getting the year right. :)


But I also promised to give you the letter the congregation sent out to the churches when they were about to purchase this property. I did not get to this last week, unfortunately, but I did not forget. So this week we do so.

Enjoy this look at our past too. Perhaps sad memories for some. Yet reason for rejoicing too, for Christ still gathers His church. And then too, none of our labors in our living Lord is in vain (1 Cor.15:58).


Published in: on October 15, 2015 at 5:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

WIMTBR – Love for Christ’s Church – Prof.B. Gritters

SB-Oct1-2015-coverThe first issue of Standard Bearer volume year 92 is now available (October 1, 2015), and in it Prof.B. Gritters returns to continue his series of editorials on “What It Means to be Reformed” (WIMTBR, #8).

This time he begins to address the third “C” of the Reformed faith – “Church”, emphasizing the Reformed believer’s love for the church of Jesus Christ. This editorial is titled “The Church: My Chief Joy,” based in part on Ps.137:6 (and Psalter #379).

This is a portion of his description of that love for the church:

A Reformed believer’s love for the church reflects a profound reality: Christ, who loves the church with a profound love, lives in the believer. That is, Christ creates that love in the believer when Christ Himself comes to live in him. Christ said, ‘I will build my church’ (Matt.16:18, and now Christ in us responds: ‘Build her!’ Christ says, ‘I love her well’ (Psalter #368, from Ps.132); and Christ in us says, ‘We also love her!’

Our love grows when we read Christ’s word in Ephesians that God exalted Him over all things to, or for the sake of, the church (Eph.1:22,23). ‘From heaven he came and sought her.’ Now, in heaven, He governs all things for the church’s sake! As Ephesians teaches ecclesiology – the church’s blessedness, election, redemption, unity, holiness – it reaches one of its pinnacles when chapter four explains why Christ gave gifts to men: for the edifying of the church.

The entire Scripture teaches the importance of the church, ending in Revelation’s letters to the seven churches. And if there remains any question whether a Christian ought to love the church above his chief joy, the question will fade when he understands that, when Christ returns, He does so in order to marry this church and love her forever (Rev.19:7ff.; 21:2).

For more on what is in this Oct.1 issue, see the cover image here (click on it to enlarge). For subscription information, visit the “SB” homepage.

A “Deceased” PRC – But With Visible, Living Fruit

That is how a former member of a now-disbanded PRC church described her. Yes, perhaps this congregation is “deceased”. But I can tell you, she still has visible, living fruit – a testimony to the work of our risen, living Lord and His life-giving Spirit! And this man is one of them!

I have some pictures to share with you of this congregation’s building at the time that she purchased it. All for the low price of $65,000, including a parsonage and Sunday School building! A Dutch deal! Except that the congregation was not much Dutch.


Can you guess which PRC this was? And what was the year in which she made this purchase? And maybe some of the members?

Ok, you get one hint. Here’s a special Seminary guest who is working on a history of this congregation and whom I am assisting with some archival resources. Yes, we DO have a lot of the congregation’s history preserved in our PRC archives. But we can always add more – pictures too! Because I noticed we don’t have many.


A PRC history researcher and writer.

Published in: on October 1, 2015 at 4:40 PM  Comments (8)  

“Imagine the activity, the upheavals, the changes, the disruptions that would ensue if all Christians obediently put into actual practice the will of Christ!” – A. Kuyper

PracticeofGodliness-AKuyper-1948-2We conclude today our use of Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s thoughts on our calling in the church as Reformed Christians from his translated work The Practice of Godliness.

All of these quotes have been from the first section of this work, titled “The Christian Warfare”, where the fifth chapter describes that battle as it takes place in the church of Jesus Christ. This final quotation is also under the sub-heading “obedience.”

     By nature we crave freedom. We say, ‘I shall be master of my fate!’ and ‘I shall do as I please.’ We chafe under rules and laws. Hence we also protest that the church must not interfere with individual self-expression.

And by nature we are also inclined to slothfulness. It is so much more pleasant to sit idle than to exert ourselves! We love our ease.

Imagine the activity, the upheavals, the changes, the disruptions that would ensue if all Christians obediently put into actual practice the will of Christ! We admire the men of old who gave their all and dared to risk their very lives. But our admiration seldom produces willingness to part with our own earthly possessions.

The craving for freedom, plus the distaste for exertion and danger, make it easy for us to accept the teaching: ‘Sit still and see what the Lord will do.’

But we should be up and doing. And the Word says, ‘Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might.’ And, ‘All who would live godly lives shall suffer persecution.’

May He, before whom we humbly confess our own guilt and for whose Name and honor we have striven also in the writing of these essays, use our words to open the eyes of many to their calling as members of the church of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Abraham Kuyper in The Practice of Godliness, (translated and edited by Marian M. Schoolland; Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948), p.62.


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