“…Should we not be moved to yield him another manner of reverence than we do?” -J.Calvin

So then, to the end we wax not weary of the doctrine that is preached to us: let us mark that it is needful for us that God should put us still in mind of the things that he has taught us already: for our wits are short towards him. And therefore let us bethink ourselves well, and when so ever it is told us that there is but one God in whom we be, and that he is not only our maker, but also our father, and has adopted us to be his children, and moreover tied us to him by a much straighter band, in that he has redeemed us with the blood of his own son: when so ever we be put in mind of these things: although we have heard of them before, yet let us not say, “Tush, these things have been preached to us long ago”: but let every [one] of us enter into himself, and see whether the things that we have heard heretofore, be well printed in our hearts. Let us then enter into account after that sort.

And why? For if we remembered well, that we be set in this world to the end to glorify our God: would we not be more mindful to discharge our duty towards him? If we considered the fatherly kindness that he uses in calling us his children, and which he has showed towards us once already in adopting of us in the person of his own Son: and if we mark how dearly we cost our Lord Jesus Christ when he did set us free from endless death: should we not be desirous to give ourselves wholly to our God? Should we not be moved to yield him another manner of reverence than we do?

Now, therefore, when so ever we be unruly, so as the world carries us away, and we be entangled in earthly lusts and affections: let us assure ourselves it is because we have not given good ear to our God, when he speaks to us, nor taken heed to it when he warned us of our duties. And therefore it is good for us to be put in mind of it, and to have God come back again to us and to say to us, ‘You wretched folk, what mean you? When I have once taught you: the doctrine that is contained in my Word ought to soak thoroughly into you, and yet notwithstanding you be still like little babes.”

This is it (say I) which we have to do, to the end we may find favor in God’s Word, and be nourished therewith as with our ordinary food. We must assure ourselves, that the appointing of this order that we should be preached to all the time of our life, and that we should have our ears beaten continually with the things, which we ought to understand in one or two months, is not in vain.

Calvin-sermons-deuteronomyFrom John Calvin’s first sermon on the book of Deuteronomy (chap.1:1-3), preached March 20, 1555 (slightly edited for this post). These sermons are now available free in digital form from Monergism.

The Banner of Truth: Past – Present – Future

Banner of Truth: Past – Present – Future (Part Three of Three) on Vimeo on Vimeo

Most of us Christian and Reformed/Calvinistic book-buyers have heard of The Banner of Truth Trust (“Biblical Christianity Through Literature” is its motto) and their publishing ventures (magazine and books). But they have also been involved in sponsoring conferences for pastors, which some of our PRC pastors have attended in the past.

This is the first of a series of videos (three total – about 5 minutes each) describing the various ministries of the BOT. My special interest is in the books, of course, and that is featured in this initial video.

I hope that you benefit from learning more about the BOT’s work, and that you too have benefited and/or will benefit from their books, which include many Puritan classics, profitable commentaries, and church history titles. If you are not familiar with their books, I encourage you to visit the website link above and browse. And buy, too, if you are so inclined. :)

The April 2015 Issue of the PR Seminary Journal is Now Available!

PRTJ-April-2015Fresh from the printer (yesterday afternoon!) is the latest issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. The April 2015 issue (vol.48, No.2) is another ‘special” issue in that it contains the text of four speeches given at a PRC officebearers’ conference on preaching held last September (2014) in Illinois (see Prof.R.Cammenga’s editorial notes below). At this conference our three professors gave speeches, as well as missionary-pastor W. Bruinsma (Pittsburgh PR Fellowship) [Click on the image on the right to see all the subjects treated.]

These speeches in print will not only be of interest to and valuable for pastors and elders, but also for Seminary students and for the person “in the pew.” For just as preaching is the chief task of the minister of the Word, so is it the chief means of grace for the people of God (those two points are inseparable). All will benefit from reading these articles.

Besides, there are also two extensive book review articles and five other book reviews in this issue (for more on those, keep reading). I always find these personally edifying.

I include here Prof.R.Cammenga’s “Editor’s Notes” introducing the issue. If you would like to receive this issue, or would like to be added to our mailing list to receive the Journal (free of charge, though donations are always welcome!), contact me here or the Seminary secretary at the information on our Seminary website. Today I will also be posting this issue on our Seminary Journal page (in pdf form – the two other digital versions will appear later).

Here follows Prof.Cammenga’s introduction of the April 2015 issue:

Editor’s Notes

Preaching is fundamental to what the church is called to be and is called to do. It is at the heart of worship. It is the chief means of grace. It is the means for the salvation of the elect, both in the generations of believers and from the nations through missions. It is the means to work faith, to strengthen faith, and to preserve in faith. It is the means for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven and the gathering of her citizens.
Preachers are what we aim to train for the church of Jesus Christ in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. We aim to produce pastors who are preachers—chiefly preachers. As preaching is the chief, from a certain point of view the only task of the minister, so does all the instruction in PRTS have as its goal the development of sound, capable preachers of the gospel.

Classis West of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America sponsored an officebearers’ conference prior to its September 2014 meeting. The speeches presented at this conference make up the main contents of this issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. Domestic missionary of the PRCA, the Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma, gave the keynote address: “The Minister’s Development of His Preaching after Seminary.” In his speech Rev. Bruinsma not only emphasized the need for the minister’s development as a preacher after graduation from seminary and once in the active ministry, but also gave a number of concrete suggestions with a view to this development. The remaining speeches were given by the faculty of PRTS: “The Elders’ Supervision of the Preaching,” “Developing God-Honoring, Faithful, and Effective Preaching,” and “Application in Preaching.” We hope that our readers, especially ministers and seminary students, will find these articles to be worthwhile.

Besides the conference speeches that have been put into print, readers should take note of the two review articles that are included in this issue. Past issues of PRTJ have contained reviews of the individual volumes of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, edited by James T. Dennison, Jr., as they were published. Recently the fourth and last volume of this very worthwhile set was released. With the completion of the set, Rev. Angus Stewart, minister in the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, Northern Ireland has submitted a review article. You will definitely want to read what he has to say. Another significant book that has recently been published by B & H Publishing Group (formerly Broadman and Holman Publishers) is entitled Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views. Emeritus Professor of Dogmatics at PRTS, Prof. David Engelsma, offers readers an insightful analysis of this new book. At the same time, his review article is a passionate call to Reformed churches and officebearers to defend the biblical and confessional truth concerning the redemption of the cross of Christ. That cross, an offense and stumbling block to so many today—also in the church—is “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

And then there are the book reviews. Notable among recently published books is the publication of The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible. This new study Bible is the first of its kind—a Reformed King James Version study Bible. Up until now Arminians and Dispensationalists have held the field among KJV study Bibles. At long last a King James Version study Bible whose notes and articles are written from a distinctively Reformed perspective. Reformed believers who treasure the King James Version of the Bible—among them the members of the PRCA and her sister churches—should welcome this new study Bible.
Now read and enjoy.
Soli Deo Gloria!
—RLC

Preaching Without Fear or Favor – B.Gritters

SB - Jan15-2015As a good complement to today’s earlier post about the importance of preaching to ourselves, Prof.B.Gritters (PRC Seminary) writes about the importance of faithful ministers of the Word preaching “without fear or favor” (of man) in their congregations.

This is the title of his editorial in the latest issue (Jan.15, 2015) of The Standard Bearer, the Reformed semi-monthly magazine unofficially tied to the PRC. Prof.Gritters uses the Latin expression for his title: “Sine Timore Aut Favore (that is, “without fear or favor”): A Motto for Preachers.”

In this editorial he points out that it is not only true that the pulpit impacts the pew (“preaching changes lives”) but also that the pew can impact the pulpit – and not always for good. The temptation is great for the preacher to cater to the sinful weaknesses of his congregation – out of “fear or favor” of certain members, so that the pew silences the pulpit from addressing the very sins the members needs to repent of.

This is how he addresses this great danger at the end of the article:

The longer there is silence, or a muted sound, on a particular weakness in the congregation, the more difficult it will become ever to speak about it again. The easier it will be simply to abandon this particular aspect of the Christian faith or life.

All the parties involved must pull together to keep the church from this sad end. Ministers must be bold. Indeed wise, careful, and patient, but also bold. Let the fear and favor of God, not man, govern what and how he speaks. And the favor of God upon the congregation that is sanctified by bold preaching will be all the reward any faithful minister needs, even if he loses favor of some men.

Elders will help the ministers to be fearless. They can begin by praying for their ministers to be bold… and wise. To preach without fear or favor.

And we who sit in the pew will take heed to the words spoken, object to them if they are applications improperly made, and follow them if they are truth.

For more on this issue of the “SB”, visit this news item on the PRC website.

What is the Gospel? God’s Good News – January 2015 “Tabletalk”

What is the Gospel? by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Jan-2015The January 2015 issue of Tabletalk is now out and in use! And you may also obtain this entire issue FREE at the Ligonier site!

This issue carries the theme “The Good News”, featuring nine articles answering the question “What is the Gospel?”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue with the article linked above. These are some of his points about the gospel:

In our day, there are countless counterfeit gospels, both inside and outside the church. Much of what is on Christian television and on the shelves of Christian bookstores completely obscures the gospel, thereby making it another gospel, which is no gospel whatsoever. English pastor J.C. Ryle wrote, “Since Satan cannot destroy the gospel, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution.” It is vital we understand that just because a preacher talks about Jesus, the cross, and heaven, does not mean he is preaching the gospel. And just because there is a church on every corner does not mean the gospel is preached on every corner.

Fundamentally, the gospel is news. It’s good news—the good news about what our triune God has accomplished for His people: the Father’s sending His Son, the incarnate Jesus Christ, to live perfectly, fulfill the law, and die sacrificially, satisfying God’s wrath against us that we might not face hell, thereby atoning for our sins; and raising Him from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the victorious announcement that God saves sinners. And even though the call of Jesus to “take up your cross and follow me,” “repent and believe,” “deny yourself,” and “keep my commandments” are necessary commands that directly follow the proclamation of the gospel, they are not in themselves the good news of what Jesus has accomplished. The gospel is not a summons to work harder to reach God; it’s the grand message of how God worked all things together for good to reach us. The gospel is good news, not good advice or good instructions, just as J. Gresham Machen wrote: “What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you.”

R.C.Sproul, Sr. also has a fine article on the importance of “preaching and teaching” in the church. Here is a portion of what he has to say:

God’s people need both preaching and teaching, and they need more than twenty minutes of instruction and exhortation a week. A good shepherd would never feed the sheep only once a week, and that’s why Luther was teaching the people of Wittenberg almost on a daily basis, and Calvin was doing the same thing in Geneva. I’m not necessarily calling for the exact practices in our day, but I’m convinced that the church needs to recapture something of the regular teaching ministry evident in the work of our forefathers in the faith. As they are able, churches should be creating many opportunities to hear God’s Word preached and taught. Things such as Sunday evening worship, midweek services and Bible classes, Sunday school, home Bible studies, and so on give laypeople the chance to feed on the Word of God several times each week. As they are able, laypeople should take advantage of what is available to them by way of instruction in the deep truths of Scripture.

I say this not to encourage the creation of programs for the sake of programs, and I don’t want to put an unmanageable burden on church members or church staff‹s. But history shows us that the greatest periods of revival and reformation the church has ever seen occur in conjunction with the frequent, consistent, and clear preaching of God’s Word. If we would see the Holy Spirit bring renewal to our churches and our lands, it will require preachers who are committed to the exposition of Scripture, and laypeople who will look for shepherds to feed them the Word of God and take full advantage of the opportunities for biblical instruction that are available.

“And I will give you pastors according to my heart” – God’s Promise of Jeremiah 3:15

Jer3-15-pastorsThis morning in Faith PRC our new pastor, Rev.Clayton Spronk (seventh in the congregation’s history), will be installed. And then this evening he will officially begin his ministry in our midst, as he leads our worship service and preaches for the first time for us, after which he and his family will be welcomed into our midst with a special program (our evening service is starting at 5 p.m. today). This is a happy and humbling occasion for us as a congregation, since we waited two years to receive a new under-shepherd from the Lord.

But with regard to the preaching of the gospel, we were well provided for through guest pastors, especially Prof.R.Dykstra (one of our members), who led us through the Heidelberg Catechism and many special services. And with regard to our other spiritual needs, we were well cared for by our faithful elders and deacons, who, no doubt, spent many extra hours fulfilling their offices caring for us sheep. We thank these men for the diligent labors among us.

While we waited for another pastor, we also rested in God’s good promises, including the promise of Jeremiah 3:15 – “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Once more God has shown His faithfulness in fulfilling this promise to us as a church. Our joy is in Him and our gratitude is toward Him.

In connection with this wonderful event today, I quote from John Calvin’s comments on this passage as found in vol.9 of his Commentaries (“On The Prophet Jeremiah and The Lamentations”, Baker, 1979), concluding  with his prayer that closes this lecture. May his words give us fresh gratitude for this office of pastor-teacher in the church, and may it lead us to pray diligently for our new pastor as well as for all our pastors.

We hence learn that the Church cannot continue without having faithful pastors to shew the way of salvation. The wellbeing of the Church then is secured, when God raises up true and faithful teachers to proclaim his truth: but when the Church is deprived of sound teachers, all things soon fall into ruin. For God, no doubt, intimates by this promise that he would not only be the deliverer of his people, so as to restore them from exile, but that he would be also their perpetual guardian after the people had returned to their own country.

It hence follows, that the Church of God is not only begotten by means of holy and godly pastors, but that its life is also cherished, nourished, and confirmed by them to the end. As it is not enough for civil order to be once set up, except the magistrates continue in their office, so nothing is more ruinous to the Church than for God to take away faithful pastors. It cannot indeed be, that people will return to God, unless prophets be first sent: but God speaks here of a continued course of instruction, and of a well regulated government in the Church, as though he had said, ‘I will not only give you prophets to lead you from your wanderings to me, and to restore you to the way of salvation, but I will also continually set over you sound and faithful teachers.’

But we must notice, that those who preside cannot rightly discharge their office unless they are endued with wisdom. God also intimates his paternal love, when he says, that good pastors would be dear to him (181-82).

And this lecture is concluded with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou at this day mercifully spared us, when yet in various ways we provoke thy displeasure, — O grant, that we may not harden ourselves against thy chastisements, but that thy forbearance may lead us to repentance, and that also thy scourges may do us good, and that we may so truly turn to thee, that our whole life may testify that we are in our hearts changed; and may we also stimulate one another, that we may unite together in rendering obedience to thy word, and each of us strive to glorify thy name, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.

God is God! -H.Hoeksema

The supreme and, in a sense, the only task of the church in the world is to preach the word of God. If there is a word of God to be proclaimed by the church, however, it needs to be a word that God himself speaks, and that he speaks concerning himself. If God speaks concerning himself, the basic and all-pervading note of that speech must inevitably be, ‘I am God.’

God is God. Unless the church proclaims this truth in all its implications, in all its purity, and without compromise, she cannot preach; she has nothing to say. Unless she proclaims this truth, not as one of the tenets of her faith but as the truth of all truths, not occasionally but always, she forfeits the right and lacks the power to say anything at all about man, the world, Christ, salvation, life and death, and sin and grace. It is to this supreme calling of the church that the Lord himself calls the attention of his people and enjoins upon them in Isaiah 43:12: ‘Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.’

…The church is witness: she testifies that God is God. That is her calling. For this very purpose she was chosen and called out of the world. The fact that she is witness implies that she hears and believes the word of God. She is the recipient of revelation. When she proclaims that God is God, she does not speak of herself, but through revelation.

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHTaken from the first radio message of the Reformed Witness Hour (known as “The Protestant Reformed Hour” in its early years), delivered by Rev.Herman Hoeksema, pastor of First PRC, Grand Rapids, MI on October 12, 1941. The message was based on Isaiah 43:12 and titled “God is God.” Later, some of these first radio messages were published by the RFPA under the title Knowing God & Man (2006).

Antiques and Our Heritage (3) – The Priority of the Sunday Sermon

Three weeks ago we began to quote from a selection by John J. Timmerman, former English professor at Calvin College, found in a collection of his writings titled Markings on a Long Journey (Baker, 1982). It is an article he originally wrote for The Banner in September of 1972, and includes his thoughts on some things “old, precious, and beautiful” in the Reformed tradition.

Markings on long journey-TimmermanThe first one was the “antithesis”; the second one was “a sense of sin”.  Timmerman’s third one he titles “The priority of the sermon in our Sunday services”. I posted some of his thoughts on this previously, in connection with his perspectives on sabbath observance. But here briefly are some additional thoughts on this subject:

I wrote about this before and have since found neither in practice nor rebuttal any reason to alter my convictions about the immeasurable spiritual benefits of good sermons. I use the word good because some of my friends pointed out that I was really assuming that the sermons I was talking about were good, but that fact does not invalidate the importance of the sermon; it only points up the lack of talent or preparation in the minister. The sermon is still a rhetorical instrument of great and abiding power to willing hearts and minds (157-58).

To this we would only add the words of two Scripture passages:

Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Let us remember to pray for our pastors today as they prepare to preach on the morrow. And let us remember to hear the preaching with that hearing “mixed with faith”, else that word will not profit us (Heb.4:2).

Augustine: Preacher, Exegete, Biblical Apologist

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineSuch is the title of the article penned by Missionary-pastor M.McGeown in the recent special issue of the Standard Bearer (Oct.15, 2014), marking the life, work, and writings of the great church father Agustine (AD 354-430). Last week we called attention to a sermon by Augustine; today we highlight his relation to the Scriptures.

This is part of what Rev.McGeown has to say about Augustine as a biblical preacher and expositor (emphases are mine):

From the beginning of his Christian pilgrimage, when, as a young man, he heard the call, Tolle lege, tolle lege (“Take up and read”), and his eyes lighted on Romans 13:12-14, until the end of his life, when, on his deathbed, he asked that the penitential psalms be written out for him, so that he might read and mediate on them, Augustine loved the Scriptures. As bishop of Hippo, Augustine aimed to preach biblical sermons, and, as a writer, Augustine saturated his treatises and letters with quotations from the Bible.

Augustine was also a churchman, one who loved the church, one who pursued his theological studies in the church and for the sake of the church, and one who revered the tradition of the church, developing that tradition and defending it against heretics, both inside and outside the church.

…There can be no doubt that Augustine the preacher—with the other church fathers—revered Scripture. For Augustine, Scripture was the very Word of God. Quotations could be multiplied, but, in the interests of space, we offer only one. In a letter to Jerome, Augustine writes, “I have learned to do only those books that are called the Holy Scriptures the honor of believing firmly that none of their writers have ever erred. All others I so read as not to hold what they say to be truth unless they prove it to me by Holy Scripture or clear reason.”[1]

 Augustine was not content merely to admire the Bible. He labored to expound the Bible. Marveling at the detail of Augustine’s exegesis in his commentaries and sermons, one scholar writes, “Augustine finds a great deal in his chosen texts—partly because, being thoroughly convinced of their divine authority, he expects to find a great deal in them.”[2]

[1] Cited in A. Skevington Wood, Captive to the Word: Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Scripture (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1969), 125.

[2] Thomas Williams, “Biblical Interpretation” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (eds. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann (Cambridge: [Cambridge Companions Online] Cambridge University Press, 2006), 60.

To learn more about this special Reformation issue of the “SB”, visit this page. To receive this issue or to subscribe to the “SB”, visit its homepage.

Lord’s Day Eve – Valley of Vision

Lord’s Day Eve – Banner of Truth USA.

We have had another wonderful Lord’s Day in our home church of Faith PRC. Blessed worship, rich preaching of the gospel, and sweet fellowship with our fellow saints.

And precious family time too – some planned, some unplanned. God is good and kind in the midst of life’s hardships and trials. It was a good day of rest – a rest we needed and a rest our Lord supplied.

Because I was not able to bring a devotional this morning, I will close the day with one – taken once more from A.Bennett’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975).

GOD OF THE PASSING HOUR,

Another week has gone and I have been
preserved
in my going out,
in my coming in.

Thine has been the vigilance that has turned
threatened evils aside;
Thine the supplies that have nourished me;
Thine the comforts that have indulged me;
Thine the relations and friends that have
delighted me;
Thine the means of grace which have edified me;
Thine the Book, which, amidst all my enjoyments,
has told me that this is not my rest,
that in all successes one thing alone is needful,
to love my Saviour.

Nothing can equal the number of thy mercies
but my imperfections and sins.
These, O God, I will neither conceal nor palliate,
but confess with a broken heart.

In what condition would secret reviews
of my life leave me
were it not for the assurance that with thee
there is plenteous redemption,
that thou art a forgiving God,
that thou mayest be feared!

While I hope for pardon through the blood
of the cross,
I pray to be clothed with humility,
to be quickened in thy way,
to be more devoted to thee,
to keep the end of my life in view,
to be cured of the folly of delay and indecision,
to know how frail I am,
to number my days and apply my heart
unto wisdom.

To hear the two rich sermons we heard today, visit our church’s sermon page (see links below). Both messages ministered to our needs – comfort for afflictions (Prof.R.Cammenga on 2 Cor.4:17-18) and submission to the Kingship of the Lord (Rev.R.Van Overloop).

Samuel: Renewing the Kingdom
Rev. Ronald Van Overloop – 1 Samuel 11:14-12:25
Affliction Working Glory
Prof. Ronald Cammenga – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
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