The Latest PRC Seminary Journal

Though a few months late, the November 2016 issue of the PRC Seminary’s Theological Journal is now out.

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The digital version has been available for a few weeks now, while the print version became available the first week of January (the other digital versions will be forthcoming). Both domestic and foreign copies have now been mailed out. If you are on our mailing list, you should be receiving your copy soon. If you would like a copy mailed to you, let us know. And if you would like to pick up a copy at the Seminary, feel free to do that too.

The PRTJ’s editor, Prof. R. Cammenga, introduces the issue with these comments:

Editor’s Notes
This issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal is the first issue of volume fifty. That, certainly, is a milestone! For fifty years, without interruption, the Lord has made it possible for the Protestant Reformed Seminary to publish two issues per year of its theological journal. Founded in 1966, at a time when the seminary was housed in the basement of the First Protestant Reformed Church, located on the corner of Fuller Avenue and Franklin Street, the first issues were a “testing of the waters” to determine whether there was sufficient interest to warrant continued publication. From the enthusiastic reception of those first issues to the present day, the PRTJ continues to occupy a place on the shelves and in the hearts of those who love the heritage of the Reformed faith. After fifty years, PRTJ continues to publish scholarly theological articles that set forth and defend the Reformed faith, as that faith has been delivered to the Protestant Reformed Churches and preserved and developed in her seminary. And after fifty years, we continue to be one of the only theological journals that does not charge its subscribers an annual subscription fee. The costs of publication and mailing are covered by the generous donations of the PRCA and our readership. To you who regularly contribute, we express our thanks.

You will find this issue to be similar in content to previous issues. We include a slate of articles, two by members of the faculty of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, one by a fourth-year seminary student, and one by a recent guest speaker. That guest speaker was the Reverend Thomas Reid, librarian and occasional lecturer at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. This past Spring, Mr. Reid gave two outstanding lectures to the faculty and student body of the Protestant Reformed Seminary on the history and struggles of the French Reformed church. We judged the lectures to be worthy of wider distribution and he has kindly consented to prepare them for publication. For a number of reasons, brother Reid has a special interest in the French Reformed church, including the fact that his wife Geneviève traces her roots to the French Reformed. The first of those two lectures, “The Battles of the French Reformed Tradition,” is included in this issue of PRTJ. His second lecture focused on one of the important recent theologians of the French Reformed church, Auguste Lecerf. Look for that lecture to be included in the April 2017 issue of PRTJ.

Included in this issue is also the translation of the sermon preached by the Reverend Simon Van Velzen on the Lord’s Day following the death of Reverend Hendrik De Cock, the father of the Dutch Reformed reformation movement known as the Afscheiding. The sermon text was Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” The sermon is a sound, moving, exegetical work, full of practical application—exemplary in so many respects. The sermon was translated by the late Marvin Kamps. He was so captivated by the sermon that he translated it and submitted it for publication in our journal, convinced of its value for as wide an audience as possible. We agree. To our knowledge, it has never before been translated from the Dutch in which it was originally preached and transcribed.

And, of course, included in this issue of PRTJ are a number of book reviews. These are books that will be of value to seminary students, ministers, and professors of theology, not only, but to the informed Reformed believer who desires to stay abreast of the latest publications promoting—at least, hopefully—the Reformed faith and worldview. This is always a worthwhile section of our journal, and I am sure you will find it so in this issue as well.

Read and enjoy!
Soli Deo Gloria!
—RLC

It’s not too late to get started with your reading! As you will see, all of the articles are worthy of your attention.

The books reviewed in this issue are as follows:

  • Bolt, John. Bavinck on the Christian Life
  • Engelsma, David. Christianizing the World:
    Reformed Calling or Ecclesiastical Suicide?
  • Gordon, T. David. Why Johnny Can’t Preach:
    The Media Shaped the Messenger
  • Owen, John. Communion with the Triune God
  • Roberts, Dewey. Historic Christianity and the
    Federal Vision: A Theological Analysis
    and Practical Education
  • Sheers, Janet Sjaarda. Ministers of the
    Christian Reformed Church and
    Classical Assembly 1857-1870;
    General Assembly 1867-1879; and
    Synodical Assembly 1880:
  • Wielenga, B. The Reformed Baptism Form:
    A Commentary

Luther and the Reformation (1) – The Ninety-Five Theses

ref-500-1

This year being the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation (1517-2017) – its origin notably marked by Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – we intend to do a series of posts throughout the year on some of the major works of Luther.

luther-theses-1And what better place to start than the Ninety-Five Theses themselves. For today, we simply refer you, first of all, to a few of them as found at the link above (and in many other places), prefaced by Luther’s purpose in posting them.

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

I have selected these points of debate (theses) in particular:

 1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

 

Secondly, we may point you to B.B. Warfield’s fine essay, “The Ninety-Five Theses in Their Theological Significance” (found in free digital form at Monergism.com). Below is a paragraph found in the early part of that work describing the significance of Luther’s theses:

The significance of the Theses as a Reformation act emerges thus in this: that they are a bold, an astonishingly bold, and a powerful, an astonishingly powerful, assertion of the evangelical doctrine of salvation, embodied in a searching, well-compacted, and thoroughly wrought-out refutation of the sacerdotal conception, as the underlying foundation on which the edifice of the indulgence traffic was raised. This is what Walther Köhler means when he declares that we must recognize this as the fundamental idea of Luther’s Theses: “the emancipation of the believer from the tutelage of the ecclesiastical institute”; and adds, “Thus God advances for him into the foreground; He alone is Lord of death and life; and to the Church falls the modest role of agent of God on earth – only there and nowhere else.” “The most far-reaching consequences flowed from this,” he continues; “Luther smote the Pope on his crown and simply obliterated his high pretensions with reference to the salvation of souls in this world and the next, and in their place set God and the soul in a personal communion which in its whole intercourse bears the stamp of interiorness and spirituality.” Julius Köstlin puts the whole matter with his accustomed clearness and balance – though with a little wider reference than the Theses themselves – when he describes the advance in Luther’s testimony marked by the indulgence controversy thus: “As he had up to this time proclaimed salvation in Christ through faith, in opposition to all human merit, so he now proclaims it also in opposition to an external human ecclesiasticism and priesthood, whose acts are represented as conditioning the imparting of salvation itself, and as in and of themselves, even without faith, effecting salvation for those in whose interests they are performed.

New and Noteworthy in the PRC Seminary Library for 2016

SemLibrary2Even though it is the beginning of a new year and the first new books of 2017 are already being highlighted, today I want to call attention to some more of the significant books that were added to the PRC Seminary library in 2016.

For the benefit of the Theological School Committee that oversees all aspects of the PRC Seminary, including the library, as well as for the benefit of the faculty and student body I have compiled a list of significant titles obtained in the last year.

I divided the list into categories so that it is easier to keep track of the kinds of books we look for. I hope this helps you see the quality of titles we strive to add each year. Keep in mind, that as long as this list appears, it is only a sampling of what is actually added.

Which makes me think that it is time for another Seminary library guessing content. How many books were actually added in 2016? And how many total resources do we have in our library now? Look for that post in the near future! 🙂

96693a98-7a59-497a-9646-1909b11a2d17For now, enjoy this list of significant books for 2016. And maybe you will find a title or two (or more!) for your own reading edification in 2017.

Biblical studies

  • IVP Reformation Commentaries (OT & NT)
  • IVP Ancient Christian Commentaries (OT & NT)
  • Preach the Word Series (Crossway)
  • Reformed Expository Commentary Series (P&R)

Church History

  • A Century of Church History : The Legacy Of Philip Schaff / Philip Schaff, 1819-1893.. ; Henry Warner. Bowden. ; David W. Lotz, 1937-. — 1st-hc. — Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.
  • Church And School In Early Modern Protestantism : Studies In Honor Of Richard A. Muller On The Maturation Of A Theological Tradition / Jordan J. (Jordan Joseph) Ballor. ; David S. Sytsma. ; Jason. Zuidema. ; Robert J. (Series) Bast . — 1st. — Leiden/Boston : Brill, 2013. (Studies In The History Of Christian Traditions)
  • Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, And The Making Of The Reformation / Pettegree. — 1st-hc. — New York : Penguin Press, 2015.
  • October 31, 1517: Martin Luther And The Day That Changed The World /  Martin E. Marty, 1928- author.. ; James Martin. — 1st-hc. — Brewster, MA : Paraclete Press, 2016.
  • Martin Luther : Visionary Reformer / Scott H. Hendrix. — 1st-hc. — New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 2015.
  • Luther’s Fortress : Martin Luther And His Reformation Under Siege / James Reston, Jr., 1941-. — 1st-hc. — New York : Basic Books, 2015.
  • Martin Luther And The Enduring Word Of God : The Wittenberg School And Its Scripture- Centered Proclamation / Robert Kolb, 1941-. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2016.
  • John Knox / Jane E. A. Dawson. — 1st-pb. — New Haven ;London : Yale Univ. Press, 2016.
  • Tyndale : The Man Who Gave God An English Voice / Teems. — 1st-pb. — Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 2012.
  • Handbook of Dutch Church History / J. Selderhuis, 1961-. ; Frank Van Der Pol. ; George Harinck, 1958-. — 1st Engl.-hc. — Gottingen/Bristol, CT : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.
  • The Pastor Bonus : Papers Read At The British-Dutch Colloquium At Utrecht, 18-21 September 2002 / Clemens. ; Wim. Janse. ; Peter Raedts. ; Theo and Wim Janse Clemens . — 1st-hc. — Leiden ;Boston : Brill, 2004.
  • The Literature of the Arminian Controversy: Religion, Politics, and the Stage in the Dutch Republic, Freya Sierhuis. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2015. 294pp.
  • Rescuing The Gospel : The Story And Significance Of The Reformation / Erwin W. Lutzer. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Books, 2016.
  • John Newton / Richard Cecil. ; John Pollock. ; Marylynne Rouse . — reprint-hc. — Fearn, Ross-shire, GB : Christian Focus, 2000.
  • All Things Made New : The Reformation And Its Legacy / MacCulloch. — 1st-hc. — New York : Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Augustine : Conversions To Confessions / Robin Lane Fox, 1946-. — 1st US-hc. — New York : Basic Books, 2015.
  • Reformations : The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 / Carlos M. N. Eire. — 1st-hc. — New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 2016.

Creeds/Confessions

  • In God’s School : Foundations For A Christian Life / Pierre Charles. Marcel. ; Howard Griffith. ; William Edgar. — 1st-Engl-pb. — Eugene OR : Wipf & Stock Pub, 2008.
  • Lest Any Man Should Boast : The Canons of Dort Simply Explained / Arthur Van Delden. — 1st-hc. — Armadale, W.A. : Pro Ecclesia Publishers, 2004. 353 p.
  • Truths We Confess: Volume I – The Triune God (Chapters 1-8 of the Confession) : A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession Of Faith / C. (Robert Charles) Sproul, 1939-. — 1st-hc. — Phillipsburg, N.J. : P & R Pub., 2006-07. (all 3 volumes added)
  • A Defense Of Confessionalism : Biblical Foundations & Confessional Considerations / Arden L. Hodgins. ; James M. Renihan . — 1st-pb. — Palmdale, CA : Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2016. (Recovering Our Confessional Heritage) vols. 1-3

Dogmatics/Theology/Historical Theology

  • Knowing Christ / Mark Jones. ; J. I. Packer, (James Innell). — 1st-pb. — Edinburgh ; Carlisle, PA : Banner of Truth, 2015.
  • The Glory Of Christ / Peter Lewis, 1945 February 6-. — reprint-pb. — Chicago, Ill. : Moody Press, c1997.
  • Historic Christianity And The Federal Vision : A Theological Analysis And Practical Evaluation / Dewey Roberts. ; Michael A. Milton. ; Morton H. Smith. — 1st-hc. — Destin, FL : Sola Fide Publications, 2016.
  • The Beauty And Glory Of Christ’s Bride / Joel R. Beeke. ; Conrad Mbewe. ; Gerald M. Bilkes. ; Joel R. Beeke . — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2015.
  • The Beauty And Glory Of The Word Of God / Joel R. Beeke. ; Michael Barrett. ; Geoff Thomas. ; Joel R. Beeke, 1952- . — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2016.
  • Common Grace : God’s Gifts For A Fallen World, Volume 1: The Historical Section / Abraham Kuyper, 1837-1920.. ; Nelson D. Kloosterman, Transl.. ; Richard J. Mouw. ; Jordan J. and Stephen J. Grabill Ballor . — 1st-hc. — Bellingham, WA : Lexham Press, 2016. 632 p.  — (Collected Works in Public Theology)
  • Pro Rege : Living Under Christ The King, Volume 1 / Abraham Kuyper, 1837-1920.. ; Albert Gootjes, Transl.. ; John Kok. ; John and Nelson D. Kloosterman Kok . — 1st Eng-hc. — Bellingham, WA : Lexham Press, 2016. 507 p.  — (Collected Works in Public Theology) vol. 1
  • The Oxford Handbook Of Martin Luther’s Theology / Robert Kolb, 1941- , editor of compilation.. ; Irene Dingel, 1956- , editor of compilation.. ; Lubomir Batka, 1974- , editor of compilation.. — 1st-pb. — Oxford : Oxford University Press, c2014.
  • James Durham (1622-1658) : And The Gospel Offer In Its Seventeenth-century Context / Donald John. MacLean. — 1st-hc. — Gottingen, Bristol : Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.
  • Corrupting The Word Of God : The History of The Well-meant Offer / Herman C. Hanko, 1930-. ; Mark H. Hoeksema. — 1st-hc. — Jenison, MI : Reformed Free Pub Assn, 2016.
  • The Doctrines Of Election And Justification / Arthur Walkington Pink, 1886-1952.. — reprint-pb. — New Ipswich, NH : Pietan Publications, 1997.
  • Biblical Theology : Volume 1: The Common Grace Covenants / Jeffrey Jay. Niehaus. — 1st-pb. — Wooster, OH : Weaver Book Company, 2014.
  • Biblical Authority After Babel : Retrieving The Solas In The Spirit Of Mere Protestant Christianity / Kevin J. Vanhoozer. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI : Brazos Press, 2016.

Practical Theology

  • Pulpit Aflame : Essays In Honor Of Steven J. Lawson / Joel R. Beeke, 1952- editor.. ; Ian Hamilton. ; Dustin W. Benge. ; Joel R. and Benge Beeke, Dustin W. . — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2016.
  • The Pastor’s Book : A Comprehensive And Practical Guide To Pastoral Ministry / Kent Hughes, 1942-. ; Douglas Sean O’Donnell, 1972-. — 1st-hc. — Wheaton, IL : Crossway, 2015.
  • The Pastor As Public Theologian : Reclaiming A Lost Vision / Kevin J. Vanhoozer. ; Owen. Strachan. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids : Baker Academic, 2015.
  • A Clear And Simple Treatise On The Lord’s Supper : In Which The Published Slanders Of Joachim Westphal Are Finally Refuted / Theodore Beza, 1519-1605. ; David C. Noe, (David Craig) , translator.. ; Martin I. Klauber. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapid, Mich. : Reformation Heritage Books, 2016.
  • The Reformed Baptism Form : A Commentary / Wielenga. ; Annemie Godbehere, Transl.. ; David J. Engelsma, ed.. ; David J. Engelsma . — 1st English-hc. — Jenison, MI : Reformed Free Pub Assn, 2016.
  • Church Polity in the Canadian Reformed Churches and the Christian Reformed Church : A Comparative Study of Two Dutch Immigrant Churches / William J. Van Oene, 1920-. — bound-hc. — Fergus, ON : Knox College / Toronto School of Theology, 1973.
Published in: on January 3, 2017 at 9:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

First – Rev. W. Langerak

From the brand new issue of the Standard Bearer (January 1, 2017) comes this wonderful, food-for-your-soul article by Rev. Bill Langerak. “First” is his latest contribution to the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken” and is certainly fitting as we begin the new year today.

first-bl-jan-2017-sb

I quote from the last few paragraphs, which point us to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one true First, and the One in whom alone we can also be first, in the truest sense of that word.

The ultimate explanation for why Jesus is first is this: He alone is the eternal and natural Son of God living in the bosom of the Father, as the express image of His person and brightness of His glory, daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him and declaring Him (Pro. 8:30; John 1:18). And He is first because at the appointed time, God sent this same only-begotten and eternal Son into the world to assume human nature by the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus is not only the firstborn son of Mary but firstborn of every creature (Matt. 1:25; Col. 1:15). As firstborn Son, Jesus is given the power, authority, and kingdom of God, made King of kings; even the angels must worship Him (Num. 8:16; Col. 1:19; 2Chr. 21:3; Ps. 89:27; Heb. 1:6). And as the Son of God, Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren, given responsibility to gather, defend, and preserve them as the church of God written in heaven (Rev. 8:29; Heb. 12:23).

Only through faith in Jesus, can we who are last, be first (Matt. 20:16). Even though He is the first, He first suffered many things to redeem us from among men as firstfruits unto God (Rev. 14:4). Only because He first loved us, are we begotten by the will of God as firstfruits of His creatures (Jam. 1:18). And only because He is the first begotten from the dead and firstfruits of them that sleep, will the dead in Christ shall rise first (1Cor. 15:23; 1Thess. 4:16).

Therefore, seek not to be first. Rather, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; seek Jesus, the first, and be assured that all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).

Note to Self: Take Note

Note-to-self-ThornAs we end the year of our Lord 2016 today, this final chapter in Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, is fitting. This forty-eighth chapter is titled “Take Note.”

How will we “take note” of the Lord’s ways with us on this final day of 2016?

We can start by reading and meditating on 1 Chronicles 16:8-13. And then read on.

Dear Self,

Like the Israel of old, you tend to forget the most basic things. Important things. You need constant reminders…. You need to find ways to remind yourself about the things that matter, because when you aren’t intentionally setting the truth before yourself you forget.

You forget that before you knew Jesus you were a slave to sin, a child of wrath, a dead man walking. And remembering these truths promotes humility in yourself and dependence on God. You forget that in Jesus you are his disciple, a child of God, a new creation. And remembering these truths creates gratitude and optimism. You forget that you are made for the glory of God and the good of your neighbors. And remembering these truths gives you purpose and passion.

…Without reminders you will forget all of this and much more. And when you forget these things you get into trouble. This means you must do better than build a robust theology. You will have to exercise it. It demands setting that theology before yourself frequently. Israel erected “memorial stones” to remind themselves of the person and work of God. One of the primary ways you will remember the truth is by preaching it to yourself regularly.

…And do you realize that you are doing it right now? You are reminding yourself of the need to preach to yourself, to remind yourself, and to not forget your God. Remember your God and his wonderful works (pp.135-36).

How Should We Remember God? – David Mathis

tt-dec-2016You may recall that the December issue of Tabletalk carries the theme of “Remembering God.” That theme is worked out in several featured articles, one of which is “How Should We Remember?” by David Mathis.

Mathis concerns himself with the means of remembering God, the practical ways in which we learn repeatedly not to forget our God but faithfully to recall His wonderful works and ways toward us. In the author’s words by way of summary, “His primary avenues for sacred remembrance are these: hearing His voice, having His ear, and belonging to His body.”

It is that last one we wish to focus on with you today. It is so easy to forget God by forgetting the important place He has given us in the body of His Son, the church of Jesus Christ. Mathis reminds us of this indispensable means for remembering God in his last two sections.

Read them; remember and use this means. And by living faithfully in the church may we chiefly remember our God and His amazing grace to us.

Fellowship: Belong to His Body

Third, and perhaps most overlooked in our day as a vital avenue of remembering God, is the community of fellow Christians in the local church. Let it be said loud and clear that other believers are an essential, irreplaceable means of edification in our lives. Most of our lives are not spent bent over our Bibles and on our knees in private prayer, but most of us do rightly spend a massive portion of our daily lives with other people. And, it is hoped, some of those people, whether family or coworkers or in whatever avenue of life, are fellow believers who can be not only acquaintances but God’s willing instruments in the ongoing delivery of His grace into our lives.

Whether it’s a word of spiritual encouragement, a memorized or paraphrased verse, a probing question, a kind corrective word, or the simple invitation to pray together, we need real-life relationships with fellow believers who know us well enough to direct both encouragement and challenge into the specifics of our lives. The Christian life is a community project.

The Most Important Habit

Chief among the many good habits we can cultivate under the banner of fellowship is corporate worship. The reading and preaching of God’s Word come together with corporate prayer and receiving His grace in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper within the context of worshiping Jesus together.

You might say that the coming together of Word, prayer, and fellowship in corporate worship makes it the single most important habit of the Christian life. It is the vital spark plug of faithfulness. Your Christian life will soon become famished and anemic without corporate worship and its unique banquet of spiritual blessings to be received in active faith.

Source: How Should We Remember? by David Mathis

Christmas for Adults – R. Pratt

In Tabletalk’s weekend devotional for this past weekend (Dec.17-18) appeared this piece by Dr. Richard L. Pratt. Titled “Christmas for Adults,” he begins by pointing out how we delight to hear children involved in the good news of Christmas – their joyful songs and activities.

Luke21112But he reminds us that Christmas is also for adults and that we have every reason for joy too. And he shows us that the message of Christ’s first coming is laden with images of war and victory, of battle and conquest – just what we adults need in this time in which we live anticipating Christ’s second coming.

Here is part of what he has to say:

The angels were not a sweet children’s choir. They were a ‘multitude of the heavenly host’ (Luke 2:13). In the Bible, ‘Lord of hosts’ most frequently refers to God as the One who leads the armies of heaven, angels who battle Satan and demonic forces. So, when the angel announced: ‘I bring you good news of great joy…. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11), much as ancient human armies sang as they entered battle, these angels sang – a vast army eager to fight against every power that threatens God’s people.

To understand the ‘great joy’ of this first Christmas, we must recognize what was so astonishing about Jesus’ birth. First, the words ‘good news,’ or ‘gospel,’ usually make us think of how Jesus brings salvation to individuals who believe in Him. ‘Good news’ includes that, but passages such as 2 Samuel 18:31 reveal that this phrase is actually the announcement of victory in battle. Second, the term ‘Savior’ makes us think again of how Jesus saves individuals from sin. Again, ‘Savior’ includes that, but passages such as Zephaniah 3:17 teach that a ‘savior’ is a warrior, one who delivers his people from harm and grants victory.

In response to the certainty of victory for ‘Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11), the angelic army sang ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ (Luke 2:14). And this praise should fill every heart, even the hearts of ‘reasonable’ adults. Evil threatens on every side, but we know the good news that victory is sure. Christ our victorious warrior was been born.

The State of Theology – Ligonier

tt-dec-2016This month’s Tabletalk includes  an interview with Ligonier Ministries’ Chris Larson and Stephen Nichols about the 2016 survey Ligonier did on the “state of theology” in America.

It is a revealing study, as you might imagine. It is designed to be useful for churches and ministries, and I believe it ought to be looked at by the PRC as well. If we are going to do outreach and missions in this country, we have to know where people are at theologically in this time.

If you have not heard of this report before, you will want to read this interview and then visit the special website on the survey that was conducted.

Below is a portion of the interview; find the rest at the Ligonier link beneath the quote.

Tabletalk: Why did Ligonier do the State of Theology survey?

Stephen Nichols: One of the cardinal rules of giving a speech is “Know your audience.” Back in 2014, we partnered with LifeWay Research to conduct a survey of the theological beliefs of three thousand Americans. We decided to undertake the survey again in 2016 and expand the visualization of the data into a new website, TheStateOfTheology.com. Our ultimate purpose for this survey is to help churches, Christian ministries, and Christians live as the body of Christ in our place and in our time.

Chris Larson: Dr. Sproul has said often, “Everyone’s a theologian.” And the point he is making is that everyone has an opinion on theological matters, but not all opinions are created equal. Some are right, some are not. This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological precision and awareness throughout our nation. We are a ministry that seeks to serve the church by providing helpful resources that God’s people can use as they grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. This ongoing survey can be used to focus our aim as Christians as we proclaim the light of God’s truth to a darkened world. We believe it is essential to know the core beliefs of Americans and share those findings freely with pastors and church leaders.

One of the most significant questions in the survey concerned beliefs about Jesus Christ. This is what the men say on that:

A third question involves the identity of Christ. Actually, we can look at two questions and see some significant theological confusion. When asked if Jesus is truly God and has a divine nature and if Jesus is truly man and has a human nature, a strong majority of 62 percent agree. Six out of 10 Americans think Jesus is the God-man. Yet, consider this. When asked if Jesus is the first being created by God, 53 percent agree. This is a contradiction. To say Jesus is created by God is to deny His divine nature and to deny that He is truly God. To say that Jesus is the first created being is actually to repeat a heresy that echoes through the early centuries of the church, the heresy of Arianism. The answers to this question reveal that this old heresy is still prevalent. When put over and against the question that asks if Jesus is truly God, this question also reveals how confused Americans are on essential issue of the identity of Christ. “Who do you say that I am?” was a question Jesus Himself asked. We must point people to the right answer.

Source: The State of Theology by Various Teachers

New Books Alert! Corrupting the Word of God and Called to Watch for Christ’s Return (RFPA)

As 2016 comes to a close, the RFPA (Reformed Free Publishing Association) has just released two new books: Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer, by Herman Hanko and Mark Hoeksema (hardcover, 272 pp., $24.95); and Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, by Rev. Martyn McGeown (paper, 304 pp. $14.95).

corrupting_word-hh-2016Concerning the first title, the publisher has this summary information:

Does the eternal, unchangeable, all-powerful, and sovereign God really have a temporal, changeable and weak desire to save those whom he has unconditionally reprobated (Rom. 9:22), for whom the Son did not die (John 12:31) and whom the Holy Spirit will not regenerate, sanctify or glorify (John 3:8)?

Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anabaptism, Arminianism, Amyraldism, and Marrowism say yes to the well-meant offer of the gospel. The biblical, Augustinian, Reformed, and creedal position is no!

Emeritus professor of church history, Herman Hanko, guides us through fascinating doctrinal controversies in the early, Reformation and modern eras of the church, taking us to North Africa, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, and America, and emphasizing the teaching of the great theologians, such as Augustine and John Calvin, on God’s particular grace, which is always irresistible and never fails or is frustrated.

In dealing with the historical perspective of God’s absolutely sovereign grace versus the well-meant offer, this book fills a gap in the literature, and does so in a way that is warm and easily understood.

This title is a significant contribution to the study of the controversial subject of the free offer of the gospel. Often misunderstood (by unsuspecting novices in the faith) and frequently misrepresented (as being truly biblical and Reformed!), the free offer (or well-meant offer) has an infamous history in the church of Christ, carrying such theological “baggage” as a universal love of God, a general will of God for the salvation of all men, a universal atonement of Christ, and a grace for all in the preaching of the gospel – all of which stand opposed by the historic biblical and Reformed faith.

Hanko and Hoeksema demonstrate from the main periods of church history along with its controversies, as well as from the church fathers, that the common teaching of the free offer is unorthodox, to be rejected by all who love the doctrines of sovereign, particular, saving grace.

Theologian, pastor, and layman alike will benefit from this important historical study. The book is enhanced by the final chapter giving the reader closing “analysis and positive statement” on the nature of saving grace and the preaching of the gospel. And the reader is further benefited by the “select annotated bibliography” provided by Rev. Angus Stewart (pastor of Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland).

called_to_watch-mm-2016Concerning the second title (Called to Watch), the RFPA has this description:

A few days before Jesus gave his life on the cross, his disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). Christ responded with the Olivet Discourse, a detailed teaching on the doctrine of the last things.

We need to understand the signs of Christ’s coming for our comfort as we look for “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Christ had two concerns. First, his disciples must know the signs of his coming, which are footsteps of his approach. But Christ is not satisfied with mere “sign-gazing,” which can lead to speculation and idle, foolish living. He did not give signs to satisfy our curiosities, but so that we will be ready for him when he returns. Therefore, Christ’s second concern was the readiness of his disciples, which is expressed in his urgent and repeated warnings to watch for his coming in light of the signs.

Watch, pray, and serve the Lord with an eye to the signs of his return!

This book by a new author fills an important gap in the fields of biblical exposition and theology, especially from a solid Reformed, amillennial perspective. This book will properly explain our Lord’s instruction in Matthew 24, thus giving you right thinking about the end of the world and its signs, while also kindling a godly hope in your soul for the glorious return of our Savior.

Since this book is not a book club title, be sure to visit the RFPA’s website for ordering information. And, if you join the book club, you will receive the discount on this title and on all new titles. And while there ordering your copy, order one for that friend or family member too – just in time for the Christmas season!

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — Corrupting the Word of God

The Maiden Mary – M. Luther

come-jesus-guthrie-2008For this second Sunday in December we post an excerpt from a sermon of Martin Luther (1483-1546) found in the book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (ed. Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2008).

The title is “The Maiden Mary” and is based on Luke 1:26-33 (and is, in fact, adapted from Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, ed. by Roland Bainton, 1948). There are plenty of gems in this little meditation. Here are a few:

The angel greeted Mary and said, ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace.’ That is the Latin rendering, which unhappily has been taken over literally into German. Tell me, is this good German? Would any German say you are full of grace? I have translated it, ‘Thou gracious one,’ but if I were really to write German I would say, ‘God bless you, dear Mary – liebe Maria,’ for any German knows that this word liebe comes right from the heart.

…To this poor maiden marvelous things were announced: that she should be the mother of the All Highest, whose name should be the Son of God. He wold be a King and of his kingdom there would be no end. It took a mighty reach of faith to believe that this baby would play such a role. Well might Mary have said, ‘Who am I, little worm, that I should bear a King?’ She might have doubted, but she shut her eyes and trusted in God who could bring all things to pass, even though common sense were against it; and because she believed, God did to her as he had said.

…The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be the mother of God. …Had she not believed, she could not have conceived. She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature. Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day to day. Otherwise Christ is born in vain.

…Truly it is marvelous in our eyes that God should place a little child in the lap of a virgin and that all our blessedness should lie in him. And this Child belongs to all mankind. God feeds the whole world through a Babe nursing at Mary’s breast. This must be our daily exercise: to be transformed into Christ, being nourished by this food. Then will the heart be suffused with all joy and will be strong and confident against every assault (pp.25-27)