“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.

“I Will Come Again” – Prof.R. Dykstra – August 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-Aug-2015-coverThe latest issue of The Standard Bearer has been published and is now available. The August 2015 issue (published monthly in the months of June, July, and August; otherwise bi-monthly) contains a good 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).

Among these is the powerful reminder from the editorial of Prof.R. Dykstra that the Lord’s promise to come again is being fulfilled in many ways – a striking call to us to prepare ourselves for His return. Below is an excerpt from this article.

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

“I will come again.” This is Jesus’ word to each and every believer. By this He promises: This world is not your eternal habitation. Your eternal dwelling place is in Father’s house in heaven where I have gone to prepare a place for you to live. It is My good pleasure to deliver you from this world of sin and death in order we may dwell together in blessed covenant fellowship forever. I will come again for you “that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Sad to say, even it is a shame to express it, believers do not often live in the consciousness of this gracious promise. We are so earthly minded that we can scarcely devote an hour at a time to spiritual things. The weekly sermons on the Lord’s day set before us the promises of our crucified and risen Lord, but even that is not enough. We soon return to our work and play, and heaven is far away from our thoughts.

“I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”

There are times when Jesus forcibly reminds us of His promise. He comes. He takes to Himself. An eight year old boy. A new born child. A beloved grandmother or grandfather, full of years. A former teacher. A thirty year old husband and father.

There are times when our Lord speaks very loudly and forcefully. In the Protestant Reformed Churches in western Michigan Jesus has spoken again and again from the end of May on as He came. He came repeatedly. Surely during this year already the Lord came repeatedly to His church all around the world and He continues this very day taking His people to Himself.

Every coming of Jesus – through death—is another reminder: I will come again.

The Lord speaks. How long will we consciously remember His promise? How long will it be before work and play, earthly possessions and pleasures control almost all our thoughts and activities again?

The Reformed Worldview: Some Books are Meant to be Burned – Rev.S. Key

SB-July-2015-Synod-IssueThe July 2015 issue of The Standard Bearer is out and while this issue is the annual PRC Synod issue – complete with a recap of its decisions and plenty of pictures of the men and their work, – there is more to this issue than synodical matters.

Rev.S. Key returns to his rubric “Reformed Worldview” to pen another article on “Truth and Its Consequences, this time addressing “The History of the Concept Worldview.” At the outset he reminds us what the Reformed worldview is:

We last saw that the Reformed worldview is one that has us living in willing subjection to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  He Who has purchased us with His precious blood also owns us body and soul.  There is not an aspect of our lives that falls outside the scope of His Lordship.

But it is His work of grace in our hearts that brings us into willing subjection to Him.  The Lord of glory Who owns us also lives in us!  He rules over us — not by force, but by the impelling power of His love as His Holy Spirit sheds that love abroad in our hearts.  Christ’s rule, therefore, is a rule of grace in us who are His.

That life of Christ in us brings a profound change.

…By “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6) the perspective of the children of God is changed in every respect.  Their worldview is completely changed under the influence of the gospel of their salvation in Christ Jesus.  Their understanding of God has changed.  Their view of themselves has radically changed, as has their view of the world and their own relationship to the world.  To use the language of Acts 19:20, the Word of God will be seen prevailing over the thoughts that once had governed us and the behavior that characterized our lives apart from the gospel.

And then he takes us to one such example of this profound change – the new Ephesian Christians, who as part of their repentance burned their books that were tied to their former idolatrous life:

A new perspective, a new worldview, marks those who are new creatures in Christ.  So verse 19 records, “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

That we have here evidence of true conversion is demonstrated in verse 18.  The faith worked in them by the Word of God brought the conviction of sin to their hearts.  They were given to see the nature of the sin in which they had been involved.  It was idolatry.  They saw it as the offense against God that it was.  They knew that the kingdom of God was closed to any ensnared in idolatry, and that the only salvation was salvation through the Christ Whom Paul preached, the Lord Jesus, sent from God to pay the

Thus, we read, they “came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.”  Willingly, in heartfelt repentance, they proved the honesty of their sorrow of heart, by confessing their sins.  They acknowledged the folly to which they had given themselves.  They grieved their wickedness, and devoted themselves to renouncing it forever.

But their repentance was not mere words.  They took all the instruments of their sin, the books in which they had invested great sums of money and time, and made a bonfire out of them.  The text tells us that this was an act of great cost.  “Fifty thousand pieces of silver” was the value of those books.  No matter how you count that silver, whether the Roman denarius or the Jewish shekel, we’re talking thousands of dollars worth of books going up in flames.

Added to the price of the books was the cost of their reputation in the eyes of their neighbors.  After all, “magic and sorcery, witchcraft and superstition, charms and incantations, ‘portents’ and the interpretation of dreams were deeply woven into the tissue of Roman life.”[1]  These new Christians, by their actions, were marking themselves in the eyes of their peers as lunatics, crazy extremists.

But that cost was little in their eyes compared to the price that Jesus paid for them.

Consider the testimony that these actions gave in that city where so much value was given to magic and superstition and the worship of Diana.

“What are you doing?  Those books are valuable!”

“No, they’re not valuable to us any more.  We have seen the folly of them.  We now belong to Him Who alone has power over death, and Who alone holds the future in His hands.  His name is Jesus.  Let us tell you about Him.”

[1]Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1972, p. 388.

What about our own worldview? Is it Reformed, that is, biblical? Does it bear the marks of these new Christian in Ephesus? Do we have any books that need burning because of the idolatry of which they are a part?

May we think about how our worldview is influencing our own lives.

Word Wednesday: “Keep” – Rev.W.Langerak

For this Wednesday we will return to our word feature, in part because I wanted to call attention to something from the June 2015 issue the Standard Bearer. For that issue, Rev.W. (Bill) Langerak has written his latest installment for the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken.” And this time he has focused on the significant biblical word “keep.”

Below is that article in its entirety. For more on the content of the June 1 “SB”, see the cover image at the end of this post. For information on subscribing to this excellent Reformed magazine, visit the “SB” link above.

Keep

“Keep” is a biblical word that teaches both the preservation and perseverance of the saints.  Preservation of saints is God’s keeping them; perseverance of saints is their keeping God’s law by His keeping them.  Basically, “keep” means to exert careful attention (thus, to heed, obey, and observe), so that something precious and pure is guarded and protected from being defiled and destroyed by some evil power.  And with regard to keeping, Scripture teaches six grand truths.

     First:  Our main calling is to keep.  Adam’s duty was to keep the garden.  That also implied evil was afoot; angels who kept not their first estate intended to destroy the place (Gen. 2:15; Jude 1:6).  When Adam failed, other angels had to keep it (Gen. 3:24).  Keeping was the earthly vocation of many Old Testament saints.  Cain wouldn’t keep his brother, but Abel kept sheep (Gen. 4:4).  So did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David.  Kings were called to keep the kingdom, priests the tabernacle, and prophets the Word (I Sam. 13:13; Num. 1:53; Rev. 22:9).  So we are also keepers.

     Second:  The essential thing we must keep is God’s Word.  The whole duty of man is to keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13).  The frequent Word to Israel was to keep His statutes, judgments, and laws (Lev. 18:5).  Their calling was to keep the covenant, the service, the feasts, and the Sabbath of the Lord (Gen. 17:9; Ex. 12:25); keep their soul, mouths, and hands from evil (Ps. 39:1; Is. 56:2); keep knowledge, truth, righteousness, and wisdom (Is. 26:2; Mal. 2:7; Prov. 2:20).  And this does not change in the New Testament.  God still calls us to keep His Scripture, the faith and ordinances delivered to us by the apostles (Luke 8:15; I Tim. 6:20; I Cor. 11:2); to keep ourselves pure, in the love of God, unspotted from the world, and from idols (I Tim. 5:22; James 1:27; I John 5:21); and to keep our garments, the unity of the Spirit, and our hearts though Jesus (Rev. 16:15; Eph. 4:3).

     Third:  Keeping God’s Word is the only and necessary way of blessedness and life.  There is no other way.  Blessed are they that hear the Word and keep it (Luke 11:28).  In keeping God’s law there is great reward and it goes well with us forever (Ps. 19:11; Deut. 4:40).  Whoever keeps Jesus’ sayings shall not see death, and whoever keeps His commandments dwells in God and God in Him (I John 3:24; 8:51).  But cursed are those who keep it not; they will be cut off, perish, die, and be cast away from God forever (Deut. 28:25; I Chr. 28:9; Rev. 22:19).

     Fourth:  No man has kept God’s Word.  Except Jesus.  He kept the commandments of God (John 15:10).  But not Israel.  They kept not His covenant, judgments, ways, temple, feasts, or Sabbath (Ezek. 20:21).  Neither their wisest kings, princes, priests, or fathers kept His law (I Kings 11:10; Ezek. 44:8; Neh. 9:34).  Nor do we.  For if we keep the whole law but offend at one point, we are guilty of all (James 2:10).  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar (I John 1:10).

     Fifth:  And yet…saints do keep the Word of God.  Scripture says Abraham kept the law and covenant of God (Gen. 26:5).  So did Job (23:11), David, and others (Ps. 18:21).  So do we.  For if a man loves Jesus, He will keep His Word (John 14:15, 23).

     Sixth:  Saints not keeping, but keeping God’s Word is no contradiction.  Nor is preservation (our keeping) and perseverance (God’s keeping) of the saints.  First, because God is our keeper (Ps. 121:5).  It is the Lord who keeps our soul, keeps us alive, keeps His truth, and keeps us from presumptuous sins, falling, the wicked, snares, and evil (Ps. 17:8; 19:13; 25:20; 41:2; 140:4; 141:9).  Abraham kept God’s law because God kept Abraham (Gen. 28:15).  Israel kept God’s way because His Angel kept that way (Ex. 23:20).  We keep His covenant only because He keeps His covenant to us (Deut. 7:8-9).  Secondly, because all keeping of God’s Word is by faith.  Faith now, not in one’s merit, power, or ability, but in Jesus the original Shepherd, who kept the law for us, keeps those given to Him, and keeps God’s covenant forever (Jer. 31:10; John 17:11; Ps. 89:29).  Indeed, we both keep and are kept by the power of God through faith that commits the keeping of our souls to Him by the Spirit dwelling within us (II Tim. 1:14; I Pet. 1:5).

SB-June-2015_Page_1

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 (rfpa.org), 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.

Word Wednesday: Rise(n); Raise(d) – Rev.W.Langerak

SB-April15-2015For our word feature on this Wednesday, we turn to the latest Standard Bearer – April 15, 2015 – and post the most recent contribution of Rev.W. (Bill) Langerak to the “A Word Fitly Spoken” rubric. This one ties in nicely with our recent commemoration of Easter and our Lord’s resurrection.

Rise(n); Raise(d)

Rev. Bill Langerak

The gospel is that Jesus is risen from the dead. The good news is not merely that Christ died. Indeed, Jesus must die for our sins according to the Scriptures (1Cor. 15:3). But He must also rise (John 2:22). For if Christ is not risen, our faith is vain (1Cor. 15:14). A dead Jesus does us no good. A dead Jesus is no different from any other human. And Christians who believe only a dead Jesus are themselves still dead in sin (1Cor. 15:17). The complete, comforting, pure and powerful good news of salvation is that Jesus is risen from the dead, and if we confess this with our mouth and believe it in our heart, we also shall be saved (Rom. 10:9).

The good news of this gospel is derived from three truths concerning the resurrection. First, we are repeatedly taught (17 times in Acts alone) that God raised Jesus (Acts 2:32). This proves the impossibility of any salvation by the will or worth of man. So completely is salvation from beginning to end the work of God, even Jesus did not raise Himself up. God must raise Jesus by His Spirit (Rom. 8:11). Likewise, the same God who raised up the Lord, must also raise us up by His own power and grace (1Cor. 6:14). Eternal life is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23).

Secondly, Jesus is risen from the dead. This is why God must raise Him. Dead is dead. God raised Him because, having paid the wages of sin, it was impossible for death to hold Him any longer (Acts 2:24). And being raised, death has no more dominion over Him (Rom. 6:9) and this enemy will be destroyed (1Cor. 15:26). The Lord is risen to scatter His enemies (Num. 10:35), rule His adversaries (Num. 24:17), and stand over His fallen foes (Psa. 20:8). Risen, He has abolished death and brings life and immortality to light through the gospel (2Tim. 1:10).

Thirdly, He is risen. On the third day, God did not raise merely His body. But God raised His Son (1Thes. 1:10). He raised up Jesus and showed Him openly (Acts 2:24). Likewise we shall be raised. It is true this includes the quickening of our bodies (Rom. 8:11)—the same natural body sown in corruption, dishonor and weakness, is raised a spiritual body, incorruptible, glorious and powerful (1Cor. 15:42-44). But the really good news is God raises persons—and that if His Spirit dwell in us, then He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up (2Cor. 4:14).

Because God raises persons from the dead, the good news is that we need not wait until He raise our bodies to enjoy the benefits of His resurrection. Indeed it is true, that Christ is risen as the first fruits of them that sleep, so that when He returns we will awakened from slumber by trumpet sound, and in a blink of an eye raised incorruptible (1Cor. 15:20, 52). But the really good news is we are already risen. As we are buried with Him in baptism, we are now risen with Him through faith by the operation of God (Col. 2:12). And whosever lives and believes in Jesus shall never die (John 11:26). God is not the God of the dead, but God of the living (Mark 12:27).

God has given us assurance in that He raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). Jesus is risen that we might have a living faith and hope in God (1Pet. 1:21). Faith believes that, as He was delivered to death for our offences, so He was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Hope is certain that God, having raised up His Son, has delivered us from the wrath to come, and sent Him to bless us in turning us away from our iniquities (1Thes. 1:10; Acts 3:26).

Such faith worked by the Spirit of the risen Christ is powerful to make us alive unto good works. Now. It is as impossible that a living faith leave us unfruitful and remiss in a holy life, as it would be for those who believe this gospel to ignore Jesus at the trumpet’s call and remain unchanged in the grave (B.C., Art. 24). Christ was raised by the glory of the Father that we should walk in newness of life, and bring forth fruits unto God (Rom. 6:4; 7:4). As those alive from the dead, we yield our members instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom 6:13). Risen with Christ, we are made to sit together in heavenly places, to seek those things which are above where He sits on the right hand of God (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Good news indeed!

For more word studies like this, visit this page on the PRC website. They make for fine devotional material.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

A little further in the article he continues:

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

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

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

Premillennialism, Revelation 20, and the Great Tribulation – D.J. Engelsma

Also in the March 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer,under the rubric “Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass”, Prof. (emeritus, PRC Seminary) David J. Engelsma delves deeper into the errors of premillennialism by taking on its explanation of Revelation 20, a key passage for a proper understanding of the doctrine of the last things (eschatology) and the believer’s hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Among the serious errors that Engelsma addresses in this article is the error of teaching that the NT church (Christians) will avoid the “great tribulation” (trial of persecution) at the end of this age. Properly showing how dangerous this is to the life and hope of the believer, Engelsma makes these comments – comments that ought to alert us to our true hope of the one coming of Christafter the tribulation – indeed, to deliver His own out of the midst of this fierce battle with its great personal cost.

Let every Reformed, indeed Protestant, reader take note that premillennialism has the coming great tribulation fall upon the Jews.  We Christians will be exempt, for we, of course, are supposed to be in the air somewhere or other while the tribulation rages.  All Christians will have been raptured before Antichrist rampages on the stage of world history.

…This exemption of the church and the Christian from the persecution of Antichrist is an outstanding sin of premillennial doctrine.  The sin is eminently practical.  Premillennialism does not prepare God’s people for the looming threat of persecution for Christ’s sake at the hands of the antichristian world-power.  In this respect, premillennialism is one with postmillennialism.  Both of the millennial errors assure the church of the 21st century that she has nothing to fear, or prepare for, with regard to suffering the great tribulation.  Premil-lennialism tells the church that she will be raptured prior to Antichrist’s raging in the world, and that the object of his hatred will be the Jews.  Postmillennialism preaches to the church that, whoever the Antichrist was and whenever he carried out his antichristian work, Antichrist and his fulminations are safely in the past.

     Exempting the church from the persecution by Antichrist helps explain the popularity of the two millennial errors.  Humans shrink from persecution, especially from that persecution about which our Lord said, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

     Nevertheless, this is altogether the wrong attitude of Reformed Christians with regard to the coming persecution.  The believer should regard it an unspeakably great privilege to be counted worthy by the Savior to confess that Jesus is Lord in the face of the greatest attack on God and His Anointed in all history, and to seal this confession with his suffering and even with his blood.  And the divine reward for this spiritual battle against the beast and this faithfulness to Jesus will be correspondingly great.  This reward is described in Revelation 20:4-6:  resurrection in the soul at the moment of death into the life and glory of heaven, where they reign with Christ.

“Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.” -Gerrit Vos

The following quote is taken from a meditation Rev. Gerrit Vos (pastor of Hudsonville PRC at the time) wrote for the March 1, 1964 issue of The Standard Bearer (Vol.40, #11), in connection with the church’s remembrance of the suffering and death of her Lord Jesus Christ. It is based on Matt.16:21“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”

The Unspeakable GiftLater, these meditations such as these were pulled together and published by the Men’s Society of Hudsonville PRC under the title The Unspeakable Gift: The Gift of God’s Son – Selected Meditations. This book is available through the Reformed Book Outlet in Hudsonville, MI.

Rev.Vos was gifted with a unique style of writing, a style that matched the intent of a meditation well (As did his preaching!). That is reflected in these words that form the closing part of the above-linked meditation. May its reflection on the gracious gift of God’s Son for us sinners serve to stir our souls and fill our mouths with humble thanks and praise to the God of our salvation.

However, when that happens, do not despair. But, rather, rejoice, and be very glad, for such was done primarily to Jesus, and to you for Jesus’ sake.

Partake of Jesus’ suffering, and . . . you will also partake in His glory.

For that is the third part of God’s program which must come to pass.

Although it seemed as though all was lost when Jesus hung on the accursed tree, He, nevertheless, obtained a glorious victory.

All the foregoing, no matter how horrible, was eternally necessary.

Jesus is the great Vicar, Substitute. Jesus is the Substitute for the elect church, which in itself is damn-worthy.

And Jesus takes over all their damn-worthiness and in their stead treads the weary pathway to everlasting death and condemnation.

And the elders, chief priests and scribes are the agents of God. Look up Acts 4:27, 25.

Necessary, I said. It was the only way of God’s wisdom. Only through the horrible spectacle of Golgotha could God come to the highest glory of His name. It took that Cross to reveal just how lovely and attractive our God is.

Looking at that bleeding Lamb unto all eternity it will not be too long to tell of His praises and to tell of His dory.

The cross of Jesus tells us of a lovingkindness that beggars description. Imagine, God Himself goes to hell for such worms as we are.

God does not need us at all. He is the Self-Sufficient in Himself. He needs no world, no angels, no elect men, no heavenly music and chorus of millions of voices in order to enjoy Himself unto all eternity.

He has His everlasting Covenant life in Himself, and is happy.

God was happy in eternity before the world was.

He does not need the creature.

But He wanted to show to untold millions how limitless is His love and lovingkindness. He wanted to make His Name and His power known, and so He willed the wicked and the devils and the hosts with their devilish howling about that Cross and that Suffering Servant of Jehovah. He wanted the Blood of the Innocent as a Testimony of the everlasting power of His love.

Oh yes, we see it, we love it, we adore it, and we sing of it. And we shall never grow tired of telling Him how we love Him.

And so our Jesus rose from the dead, and took our glorified new nature smith Him to heaven. And He works in heaven, and shall work until all the saints are safe and time ended.

In your suffering, shame and reproach, remember: God loves you!