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).


“…We must continue to be a people of the Book.” – J.Tweeddale

Biblestudypic     Our problem as evangelicals is not that we have failed to defend the Bible; our problem is that we have neglected to heed it. As Psalm 78 makes clear, our capacity to tell future generations of the ‘glorious deeds of the Lord’ depends largely on how well we have attended to God’s Word in the present. When God bids us to listen to His instruction, He means more than for us simply to hear and regurgitate it. He intends for us to incline our ears, focus our minds, bend our hearts, and orient our lives to His Word (see Ps.78:1-4).

Spiritual decline within the church rarely begins with overt heresy or full-orbed persecution. It often starts when God’s people are bored with the claims of truth – that is, when we know the truth but are no longer gripped by it (read Judg.1-2). This is why the local church is so important for countering biblical illiteracy as well as upholding a commitment to biblical inerrancy. We gather together Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day in order to be awakened from our spiritual lethargy by the ministry of the Word. In all our strivings, we must continue to be a people of the Book: we must love it, study it, meditate on it, teach it, defend it, and live by it.

Taken from this weekend’s devotional (Oct.31-Nov.1) of the October issue of Tabletalk. The devotional is by Dr. John W. Tweeddale and is titled “Upholding Inerrancy.”

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.

The Antithesis and the Theater – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn the last few months we have been quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman relates the antithesis to movies and theater attendance on the part of the students at Calvin. He has some very frank and revealing comments about the breakdown of the antithesis at this point – and this is in the 1920s.

The antithesis failed in the matter of amusements. Many leaders of the church demanded abstinence from movies, card-playing, and dancing. These are dead chestnuts today; but in the 1920s these prohibitions, questionable in theory and unenforceable in practice, were on the books. I never saw either card-playing or dancing at Calvin, though I heard about the latter. Movie attendance was another matter. Often somebody in the dormitory would holler, ‘Who’s going to Wealthy [theater]?’ and a group would gather. The fact is that many Christian students saw no evil in attending a good motion picture. In 1928 there were movies you could take your mother to. The students broke the rule as a silly one; some faculty members felt the same way but observed it. This rule triggered more dissimulation than did anything else at Calvin.

The first movie I ever saw was Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1928. I went to see it on the invitation of a preseminary student, a gentleman who has since served our church with devotion for a lifetime. The theater was a place some went to nonchalantly and some with guilt attenuating or intensifying their enjoyment; some sneaked in, and some bough their tickets defiantly. For some time, students had to sign pledges not to attend. Were it not for the profound convictions of the church leaders, rooted in their idea of loyalty to the Lord, the insistence on the rule would now seem to have been much ado about nothing. In the 1920s, the defense of movie attendance cost Prof. B. K. Kuiper his seminary post (p.30)

“It is what we believe about Scripture more than anything else that sets us apart.” – August 2015 “Standard Bearer” – Prof.R. Cammenga

SB-Aug-2015-coverThe latest issue of The Standard Bearer has been published and is now available. The August 2015 issue (the “SB” is published monthly in the months of June, July, and August; otherwise bi-monthly) contains a fine variety of articles once again – from a meditation on 1 Cor.12:3 to material on Reformed doctrine, world and life view, missions, and family matters (cf. cover image to the left; click on it to enlarge).

One of the featured articles is the latest installment on the Second Helvetic Confession from the pen of Prof.R. Cammenga (PRC Seminary). In this article he expounds Chapter I,B of this Reformed confession, “Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God.”

Here are his opening lines as he introduces his conclusion to Chap.1:

Fundamental to everything that the Reformed Christian believes and confesses is the truth of sacred Scripture: “…in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God….” (SHC, 1.1). What we believe and confess is derived from Scripture, is taught in Scripture, and can be defended on the basis of Scripture. It is what we believe about Scripture more than anything else that sets us apart. It distinguishes us from those who are not Christians and who have no regard for the authority of Scripture. It sets us apart from those who have apostatized from the faith, who invariably regard Scripture as less than the divinely inspired book that it is and therefore undervalue its authority. For good reason, then, the very first article of the Second Helvetic Confession of Faith concerns the doctrine of Holy Scripture. In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 1, the SHC affirms the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, as well as the sufficiency of Scripture. In addition, the creed relates Scripture and preaching, expressing the Reformed conviction that “the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.”

Part of Cammenga’s exposition is pointing out the errors of those who deny the Bible’s sole authority and sufficiency:

Either error, whether taking away from or adding to the canon of Scripture, is a fundamental denial of sola Scriptura—Scripture alone. Both fall under the condemnation of the apostle in Revelation 22:18, 19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

What arrogance, that puny man should presume to excise certain books of sacred Scripture—the Word of God! What arrogance, that puny man should presume to exalt his writings to the level of the Word of God! That same arrogance is on exhibition in our own day. It is evident in the cults and sects, who add to Holy Scripture either the writings of the founder of the cult, or additional sacred writings like the Book of Mormon or the Quran.

And so he concludes with this positive point:

The distinctive mark of the believer and of the true church of Jesus Christ in the world is the confession that Scripture alone is the authority for faith and for life. Nothing may be taken away from Scripture and nothing may be added to Scripture. Because Scripture is the Word of God nothing need be added to Scripture and nothing may be placed alongside Scripture. Scripture is sufficient for the individual believer and for the church as a whole. In the words of the opening paragraph of this first article of the SHC: “And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God….”

To receive this Reformed magazine, contact the Reformed Free Publishing Association at the “SB” link above.

Doctrine and the Necessity of Creeds – May “Tabletalk”

TT May 2015Yesterday before worship services I read two more articles in this month’s Tabletalk, which has the theme of “Doctrine for All of Life.”

The first is by Robert Rothwell, an associate editor of Tabletalk. His article is “Where Did I Go Wrong?”, and addresses the importance of Christians standing with the church of all ages when it comes to embracing sound doctrine.

This is how he opens his treatment of this subject:

It’s a thrilling episode—Martin Luther, standing before the Diet of Worms, the only faithful Christian in his day, proclaiming his God-given right to read the Bible however he saw fit: “Unless I am convinced by my self-determined understanding of Scripture, I will not recant. Here I stand, I can do no other.”

Obviously, I’ve embellished the account. No historically informed Protestant would say outright that Luther was the only faithful believer in His day. Neither would an informed Protestant confess that Luther’s protest came from his private reading of Scripture apart from the work of his theological forefathers and contemporaries.

Yet I fear that the way many people tell Luther’s story betrays an implicit belief that the German Reformer was a mad individualist for whom the supreme arbiter of truth was his own opinion and who sought to turn the church into a collection of like-minded individuals with no theological authority over its members. But while Luther’s work was driven in large measure by his quest for a personal assurance of salvation, he was not a radical individualist. Luther certainly didn’t endorse the belief that we should have “no creed but the Bible” or that the work of studying and formulating doctrine is left up to the individual.

And later he adds this:

God never meant for us to study doctrine as isolated individuals. The study and formulation of doctrine is first and foremost a communal doctrine. After all, the Lord revealed Himself to a corporate body. The Bible is not written just to me personally but to all the saints of God. Thus, God designed us to plumb the depths of His revelation together as individual congregations and larger church assemblies. There should be no such thing as autonomous doctrinal study, but we should examine doctrine in concert with our forebears and contemporaries. We should read their works, check our reading of Scripture against theirs, and doubt our conclusions if no one else has reached them. In this, the reformers are our model. Though they affirmed the Bible as the sole infallible source of doctrine, they understood the proper role of God’s corporate people in knowing His truth. They charged that the medieval church had abandoned the best of its earlier thinking, but did not say that we should cast off all who studied Scripture before us.

The second article I read is this one by Dr. David W. Hall, titled “Why Creeds and Confessions?” You would do well to read his contribution as well. Here are a few paragraphs to get you  started:

As Christians, we must embrace a mature biblical norm of confessing our faith. Let me offer briefly five reasons why a written confession is helpful:

First, written confessions represent maturity. A confessional communion is more than fly-by-night. It is relatively easy to produce a personal statement of faith or a position paper on a narrow subject. However, only those confessions that are tested by many generations endure. Just as yesterday’s pop music hardly inspires anymore, so a transient confession is slightly embarrassing. But classic creeds, produced by seasoned Christians, stand the test of time. a confession is a mature, proven set of beliefs. Wouldn’t you rather be guided by such a statement than by an ill-defined set of beliefs or an immature statement of faith?

Second, written confessions keep believers from having to reinvent the wheel. Creeds and confessions can put the student at the head of the class in a hurry. If one need not formulate every bit of doctrine himself, that is, if he is humble enough to listen quickly to other saints (James 1:19), he can spare himself considerable time and countless dead ends. He will avoid paths that are “useless to further reconnoiter,” as theologian Abraham Kuyper recognized.

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. :)

May 1, 2015 Standard Bearer: Second Helvetic Confession on Holy Scripture – Prof.R.Cammenga

SB-May-1-2015The May 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer, the semi-monthly Reformed magazine published by the RFPA (, is now published and being distributed. This issue too contains a variety of edifying articles – from a meditation on Ps.55:22, to another editorial on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, to matters “all around us” of interest to Christians, to an article on raising children in a covenant home – and an important book review (By Faith Alone).

One of the new series of articles is on the historic Reformed confession, the Second Helvetic (Swiss) Confession. In this issue Prof.R.Cammenga begins to treat the specific articles of this creed, starting with Art.1 on the doctrine of holy Scripture. Today, I take a brief quote from this article to show you how significant a confession this is and why you and I ought to become better acquainted with it.

First, Prof.Cammenga quotes from the first article itself, which reads this way:

We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men.  For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.

And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.

Then he adds this opening commentary:

The Second Helvetic Confession begins its exposition of the Reformed faith with the doctrine of Scripture.  This is altogether proper.  This is necessary.  Everything depends on one’s view of Scripture.  More than anything else, this is what distinguishes the Reformed faith.  What distinguished the Reformed faith at the time of the Reformation was its view of Scripture. This is what set the Reformed apart from the Roman Catholics, on the one hand, and the Anabaptists and enthusiasts, on the other hand.   Both Rome and the Anabaptists erred in their view of Scripture. That aberrant view of Scripture affected everything.  And as different as they were from each other, both Rome and the Anabaptists were alike in that they denied the sufficiency of Scripture, that in Scripture “the Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God.”  Rome denied the sufficiency of Scripture by adding to Scripture, as an equal authority alongside of Scripture, tradition. That tradition consisted of the writings of the church fathers, the decisions of the church councils, and the Apocrypha.  The Anabaptists denied the sufficiency of Scripture by adding direct revelations and immediate promptings of the Spirit.  The Reformers said, “A plague on both your houses.”  And they affirmed the sole authority and complete sufficiency of Holy Scripture, with appeal to Revelation 22:18 and 19, where “it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from” the Word of God.

And finally, he makes this application to us today:

Still today, this is the issue and still today this is what distinguishes the Reformed faith, at least the Reformed faith properly understood.  Scripture alone is the arbiter of truth.  Scripture alone is the authority for faith and life.  Scripture alone is determinative in the life of the church, both the local congregation and the broader assemblies.  And Scripture is determinative for the walk of the individual believer in the midst of the world. The method employed by Bullinger in the Second Helvetic Confession of beginning with the doctrine of Scripture is the distinctively Reformed method.  All the truth that we confess and that is summarized in the confession is revealed in Holy Scripture.  The Reformed view of Scripture is that it is “the true Word of God.”  Fundamental to the Reformed faith is its view of Scripture.

To receive a sample of this Reformed magazine, or to subscribe, visit this SB page on the RFPA website.

PRC Archives: The First PR Theological Journal

Thinking about the publication of the latest issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal (see my previous post), made me think about the initial edition of the PRTJ. When do you think this Seminary periodical began?

If you pay attention to the volume numbers, you will note that the April 2015 issue is part of volume 48. And working backwards in years, that means that the first PRTJ was published in 1967. So, for our PRC archives feature today, Volume 1, No.1 is the item on display!


You will find this complete issue on the Seminary’s website under the “Journal tab” (r-h side), but I also made the first three pages into images, which I post here. These include the initial cover (above – the entire issue was published in syllabus form – 8.5 x 11 size pages), the introductory note by the editor (below), and the table of contents (Alas, there were no book reviews in that first issue. But many would come in time. :) )



I also thought you might like to see the progression in covers and design over the years. There were basically four styles – the one you see here; the one on the previous post (since vol.38, Nov., 2006 this has been the latest look); and then these two styles from the 1980 and 1990s.

PRTJ Covers-1986 & 1998_Page_1

If you are not a subscriber of the PRTJ, and would like to become one (whether the print edition or the digital version), let us know! You may contact the editor (Prof.R.Cammenga) or our Seminary secretary (their email addresses may be found on the Seminary’s website.). The price is right (free, because it is generously supported by the PRC membership!) and the content is always edifying and stimulating. It is truly a unique Reformed Journal in the church world.

Calvinism’s “Solas” – Prof.B.Gritters, April 15, 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-April15-2015In the latest issue of The Standard Bearer (April 15, 2015) Prof.Barry Gritters adds another installment to his series on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, a series begun in the February 15, 2015 issue. This new article lays out “Calvinism’s Solas – the great Latin mottos of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone – to be treated in a later editorial), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (to God alone glory).

If you are not familiar with these expressions, or have forgotten why they are important – especially the sola (only or alone) part – then this is a good place to be reminded. For our purposes in this post, we take you to the end of Prof.Gritters’ explanation and defense of these solas. Here he shows why Calvinism’s solas end where they do – with all glory given to God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

     So that we may always say, “To God alone be the glory!”

     To put these four solas together is not difficult:  Christ alone saves through faith alone for the sake of grace alone, in order that all glory may be given to God alone!  If any of salvation—even the tiniest bit—comes from outside of Christ, or if Christ comes to man through any other instrument than His free gift of faith, or on account of any merit in man, then the glory of that tiniest bit of salvation goes to man and not to God.  Against that “gross blasphemy” Reformed believers fight with all their might.

       Canons [of Dordt] I:7 teaches gracious salvation, beginning in salvation’s source—sovereign election:  “for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of His glorious grace….”  The fathers in this ecumenical synod were looking at Scripture’s call to give all glory, in all things, to God and to God alone.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings…in Christ…according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:3-6).  And the book of Romans does nothing if it does not teach that everything revolves around God’s glory.  The heart of the reprobate’s sin is a refusal to give glory to God (1:23).  Sin is a coming “short of the glory of God” (3:23).  Paul teaches that if Abraham’s justification were by works, he would be able to glory in himself (4:2); but Abraham “was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (4:20).   Paul’s conclusion of the doctrinal section of the epistle, where all the doctrines of sovereign grace are taught is, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.” (11:36).  And Paul’s own Spirit-inspired exclamation point of the epistle, his very last words before the final “Amen,” are:  “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (16:27).

     No one else saves but Christ!  Nothing but grace and faith explain our salvation in Christ!  For none but God may receive the glory!

This is exclusive, for false teachings must be excluded.  This is antithetical, for truth must be defended over against the lie.  This is distinctive, for biblical truth must be known and confessed clearly, sharply, distinctly.  There may be no doubt as to Who is worthy of praise.  All of it.  This is Reformed.

For more on this issue, visit this news item on the PRC website. To start receiving the “SB”, visit the subscription page on the RFPA website.


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