Islam (1)

Because of multiculturalism and increased immigration, especially in Europe, Muslims are increasingly common in the post-Christian West. This makes Muslims our neighbors, those whom God has placed on our path. Many Christians view Muslims as their enemies. Nevertheless, the command of Christ is clear—love your neighbor, and even love your enemy.

Part of the love that the Christian owes his Muslim neighbor is to present the gospel to him. Many Christians are ill equipped to do so. In a series of blog posts, I intend to introduce the reader to the doctrines of Islam, so that we can better understand our Muslim neighbor, and so that we can witness to him about Jesus Christ. You might find that the Muslim is more interested in hearing the gospel than the hardened “lapsed Christian.”

One problem in witnessing to Muslims is that Muslims misunderstand what Christianity is. They have wrong notions about the Trinity, the Son of God, and other Christian truths. Not only do they reject them, but their Qur’an misrepresents them. This is a formidable barrier, but it can be overcome when we plainly state the truth.

A good place to begin is with history. The Qur’an was written during the lifetime of Mohammed (c. 570-632 AD). A lot of very significant church history took place before Mohammed’s birth. First, the Christian church defined from the scriptures the doctrine of the Trinity (the Council of Nicea in 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD). Second, the Christian church defined the relationship between the one person and the two natures (human and divine) of Jesus Christ (the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD).

The reason that these dates are significant is simple—the church had defined from the New Testament who God is and who Jesus Christ is over a century before Mohammed’s birth. (We do not mean that the church invented these doctrines, but that the church officially defined them out of the inspired scriptures). Therefore, the Qur’an, which Mohammed allegedly received as divine revelation, should accurately reflect what the church had defined. If the Qur’an shows evidence of ignorance of Christian doctrine or deliberate misrepresentation of it, the Muslim is faced with very serious questions about the authenticity of his “sacred book.”

Consider the following citations from the Qur’an against the Trinity:

 And behold, Allah will say: ‘O Jesus, the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’ He will say: ‘Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldest indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine. For thou knowest in full all that is hidden’ (Surah 5:116).

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not Three: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One God: glory be to Him: (far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs (Surah 4:171).

 They do blaspheme who say: ‘God is Christ the son of Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ Whoever joins other gods with Allah, Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily, a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Surah 5:72-73).

The reader will notice that the writer of the Qur’an views the Trinity very differently from the official statements of the Christian church. “Worship me and my mother in derogation of Allah.” The Qur’an’s “Trinity” is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but Allah, Jesus and Mary! Moreover, the Qur’an views the Trinity as “join[ing] other gods with Allah.”

This misrepresentation of the Trinity is inexcusable because the church defined the Trinity as one God in three distinct persons centuries before Mohammed wrote one word of the Qur’an. No Christian has ever defined the Trinity as the Qur’an does. It is, however, easy to imagine how Mohammed could have jumped to such a conclusion. Mohammed observed churches; he saw statues and icons; and he conversed with Christian merchants of various heretical sects. There is no evidence, however, that he was familiar with the Nicene or Chalcedonian creeds. In fact many believe that Mohammed was illiterate.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made … And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

How could Mohammed have been unaware of a theological controversy that had been resolved in the Christian church two centuries before the Qur’an was written, if he is (as Islam claims) the prophet of God, and if the Qur’an is (as Islam claims) the inspired word of the all knowing, all seeing Allah? For Mohammed to disagree with Christian orthodoxy is one thing; for him to be ignorant of or deliberately to misrepresent it is quite another.

Next time, DV, we will explain what we mean by the Trinity so that we can properly present the truth that Jesus is the Son of God to our Muslim neighbor.

______________

This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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Why the PCA is a Safe-Haven for the Federal Vision Heresy

Dewey Roberts provides an explanation for why the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has failed to discipline Peter Leithart. Roberts is convinced that the Federal Vision is a heretical movement. Peter Leithart, a pastor in the PCA, publicly identifies himself with the Federal Vision movement. Therefore Roberts openly charges Leithart with “departure from the Westminster Confession of Faith (The PCA’s main confessional standard).” For the sake of God’s glory, the purity of the PCA, and the soul of Peter Leithart, Roberts involved himself in taking the proper ecclesiastical steps to attempt to correct Leithart and to condemn the Federal Vision. Roberts served as a prosecutor against Leithart in a 2013 in a case known as “Hedman vs. Pacific Northwest Presbytery.”

The trial did not end the way Roberts thought it should. The decision of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC), the PCA’s highest ecclesiastical court, writes Roberts, “had the effect of exonerating Leithart and his views regarding Federal Vision…” So Peter Leithart and other adherents to the Federal Vision enjoy safe-haven in the PCA. Not that all is peaceful and tranquil in the PCA ocean. On the contrary the waves of controversy and schism are raging. Officially Peter Leithart and others with him in the Federal Vision camp are in good standing in the PCA. But many of their colleagues believe Leithart and his clan are heretics and openly identify them as such. What a deplorable situation! Open warfare is taking place in the PCA!

Roberts believes that the PCA is losing the war because, at least in the Leithart case, the denomination has chosen to play politics rather than to address the un-Reformed teachings of the Federal Vision. Or as Roberts puts it, “Polity Trumped Theology.”

The SJC refused to enter into the content and arguments of the Leithart case.  According to Roberts the SJC took the position that higher courts must “defer to the decisions of lower courts where the right procedure has been used.” The SJC made a ruling about the polity of the lower courts, but it refused to enter into the theology involved in the case. This is why Roberts says polity trumped theology.

But this doesn’t mean Roberts believes that the SJC did in fact properly follow the PCA’s Church Order. He pointed the SJC to an article in the PCA’s Church Order that ascribes to the “higher court…the power and obligation of judicial review, which cannot be satisfied by always deferring to the findings of a lower court.” The article requires the SJC to “interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and understanding regardless of the opinion of the lower court.” The Westminster Confession of Faith is part of the PCA’s Constitution. According to Roberts, the Church Order placed a twofold duty on the SJC in the Leithart case, (1) to make sure the lower courts followed proper procedures and (2) to “review and [make] confessional determinations.” The SJC fulfilled the first requirement and ignored the second. Roberts writes, “In the Leithart case, either FV is in accord with the Westminster Confession of Faith or it is not.” But the SJC made no ruling about Leithart’s teachings in comparison to the WCF. In other words the “polity police” pretended that there is no church orderly way to deal with false doctrine.

I find no fault with Roberts’ conclusion that polity trumped theology in the Leithart case. After the decision was announced, I read lengthy discussions online where those who supported the decision steadfastly refused to discuss Leithart’s teachings and insisted on focusing on “the process.” It was obvious to me that they were more interested in polity than in doctrine.

However I do not believe that an overemphasis on polity and an underemphasis on doctrine is really at the root of why the PCA is providing safe-haven for the Federal Vision. The reality is that in the PCA there is either an appalling lack of concern about the Federal Vision or an even more appalling mass of silent supporters for the movement (or a combination of both).

Those who openly supported the decision of the SJC that used procedural grounds to uphold the decisions of lower courts to exonerate Peter Leithart do not want anyone to think that they approve of his theology. But when questioned about their judgment of Leithart’s theology they respond with deafening silence. That silence was heard on the internet in the immediate aftermath of the decision. They defended the decision on procedural grounds. They argued the decision did not exonerate the theology of Leithart and the Federal Vision. So it was almost expected that they would voice their condemnation of the Federal Vision but…they never did. Their silence is even more deafening in the ecclesiastical courts. Where are these experts on proper procedure? If they know how to do things properly to ensure that the Federal Vision will be condemned, why do they not bring charges against Leithart and the others in the PCA who share his heretical views? They have not lacked for time and opportunity. Leithart and his party of heretics have walked in the open in the PCA with their views for years now. The only plausible conclusion is that they lack the conviction needed to root the Federal Vision out of the denomination.

That the PCA’s problems are deeper than a focus on polity in the Leithart case has not escaped Roberts’ attention. He writes, “it is my contention that . . . Hedman’s complaint was not really lost in March, 2013; it was lost long before then. It was lost in 2007.” Roberts’ mention of 2007 is intriguing. It is the year that the General Assembly treated a controversial report on the Federal Vision. Roberts indeed has that report in mind when he speaks of 2007. He writes,

On the day the General Assembly was scheduled to vote on the Report of the Ad-Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies, a fellow minister told me that the GA would not decide the issue that day. He said that there were a lot of “big guns” that were going to oppose the report and it would not be settled at or by that Assembly. Well, the Ad-Interim Report was adopted, but those “big guns” had been maneuvering behind the scenes for several years to make the Federal Vision a non-issue.

I am not sure that Roberts meant to offer a devastating criticism of the adoption of the 2007 report. He seems to be focusing only on the fact that there was a movement to protect the Federal Vision going back to 2007 and even before. Nevertheless, his statement exposes the PCA’s folly in adopting the report. The statement demonstrates that the hope of many that adopting the report would give the PCA the tool it needed to exterminate the Federal Vision was nothing but a vain wish. It also demonstrates that the critics were right who contended that the adopting an anti-Federal Vision report was the wrong thing to do when there were Federal Vision heretics who needed to be disciplined. In 2007 the PCA acted like a farmer who determines that instead of taking steps to kill the dangerous weeds in his field that he will write a paper that identifies and condemns them. And if six years later (when the Leithart case was tried) the farmer still has not taken the steps to eradicate the weeds the only conclusion to be drawn is that he is a foolish farmer who wants the weeds to stay in his fields.

The PCA’s fixation on polity is indeed a serious problem. But it is only a symptom of the deeper problem that many of the “guns” in the PCA, big and little, lack the commitment to the Reformed Confessions that is required for warfare against the Federal Vision. This does not mean that they are cowards who won’t fight and fire their guns. They are fighting. Viciously and tenaciously. By wicked means. To keep the Federal Vision in the PCA. And to silence those who oppose the heresy. Men of courage and boldness are needed to wage warfare against such enemies. Sadly, it may be too late for the PCA.

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This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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New Books!

NOW AVAILABLE:

C H R I S T I A N I Z I N G   T H E   W O R L D 

This book is a critique of Abraham Kuyper’s cultural theory of a common grace of God and of the grandiose mission of this grace, and of those who confess the theory and evidently intend to promote it so that it accomplishes the end Kuyper claimed. The book exposes Kuyper’s biblical basis for his theory and its practical mission.

The first and main part of the book is a much-expanded version of the public lecture given in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2014 under the auspices of the evangelism society of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan. The second part of the book consists of questions raised by the audience at the conclusion of the lecture and of the answers by the speaker at the lecture. 

$19.95 / $12.97 Book Club  |  192 pages

 

COMING SOON:

A   S P I R I T U A L   H O U S E   P R E S E R V E D

This is the story of a true church of Jesus Christ with very humble beginnings. The congregation of mostly poor farmers faced and survived many challenges, some due to her isolated location in a hook-like bend in the Grand River. But this one-hundredth anniversary book of Hope Protestant Reformed Church is more than a record of Hope’s history. More importantly, it reveals the secrets of her continuance as a faithful church today: secrets which if heeded give Hope and like-minded churches hope for tomorrow.

Expected Release date: June 2016
Now taking preorders.


This book will not be automatically sent to Book Club members. However, Book Club discount may be used on this title.

$44.95 | 752 pages | Hardcover

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Rest

Hear the parable of the pilgrim.

Down the path walks a lonely traveler. He is a pilgrim and stranger in the country through which he sojourns. He is not a citizen there. He was not born there and does not have family there; he does not know the language and is ignorant of the customs. His citizenship lies in a distant city. There he is comfortable. There he has family. There is home.

And that is where he is heading. The reason why he walks the lonely road is to reach his final resting place at home.

But between where he stands now and his final destination is a long, difficult path. The way he must walk runs through a waste-howling wilderness, a dry and thirsty land where no water is. High above the sun beats down with unbearable heat. The wind blows across the barren landscape throwing dust in the eyes of any passerby. The path winds through treacherous, uneven terrain, down into deep ravines and up steep cliffs. Lurking along the path are ravenous wolves, roaring lions, and subtle serpents. Thieves wait in ambush.

The pilgrim is acquainted with all this. He is keenly aware of the difficulties of his present course. But he also knows that this is the only way that leads home. And so he puts one foot in front of the other.

But walking this path is taxing. At the end of each day, the pilgrim is worn out. By nightfall he is ready to fall over, and yet the fear of attack in the night makes him sleep restlessly so that he rises early the next morning to continue on his way. After a few days of this, he is spent.

And then, after six days of toil and struggle, he comes to an oasis. He can hardly believe his eyes! Is it a mirage? Has the heat gone to his head? No, it is real! He falls to his knees on a carpet of rich, green grass. He drinks deeply out of a quiet stream. He eats his fill of the bountiful fruits. He washes himself of the dust and filth in a pool of refreshing water. He stretches his weary frame under the shade of a large tree. He sleeps peacefully without fear of predators and enemies. In that oasis, he rests.

When he awakes from his slumber the next day, he finds that he is refreshed and reinvigorated. He is ready to continue on his journey, ready to walk the difficult way, ready to do battle with the enemies. He fills his bag with food and his bottle with water, laces up his sandals, takes his staff in hand, and continues on.

In the strength that he received at the oasis, the pilgrim is able to go on for another week. At the end of that week he is again tired and worn. But again he comes to an oasis. And in that oasis, he rests, is refreshed, and strengthened to go on for another week.

On and on he travels, from one oasis to another, until at last he stands before the gates over which is written the name of his city: “The Better Country.”

He is home.

This is the parable of the pilgrim, but what of the meaning?

The pilgrim is the child of God (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11). The waste-howling wilderness is his life in the midst of a fallen, sin-cursed world (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 63:1). The home to which he travels is heaven (Heb. 11:14-16).

And what of the oasis?

The oasis is the Sabbath day, set apart by God and filled with the precious blessing of rest, rest that is a foretaste of the everlasting Sabbath, rest that is enjoyed only in the way of keeping this day holy.

Are you weary, pilgrim?

Despise not the day of rest!

_________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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To: Mom

Dear Mom,

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we wanted to let you know how thankful to God we are for you. Our gratitude certainly isn’t limited to this one day, but we don’t mind having a special day to show our appreciation for all you have done and are doing for us.

Time would fail us to tell of the many things for which we are thankful. We could go on for quite a while about your love, your patience, your self-sacrifice, and a host of other things. But we’ll save that for another time.

What we want to say “thanks” for today is the different roles you fill so capably in our lives. We know that the world doesn’t think too highly of your position. We know they look down their nose at you as someone who is uneducated and has no real skill set. We know they like to run down your calling as something unglamorous and undesirable.

But we disagree. We know better. And here are just a few of the reasons why:

  1. You are a highly trained doctor and nurse. You keep a fully stocked pharmacy in the house and know how to use it. You are always ready with a kiss for that stubbed toe, a Band-Aid for that skinned knee, and regular doses of ibuprofen for that high fever. When we feel like we have to throw-up during the middle of the night, you’re there to catch it with a bucket and clean it up when our aim is off. And when you need backup, you’re always happy to cart us to the doctor’s office and get us what we need. And don’t get us started on your bedside manner. Simply unparalleled.
  1. You are a renowned nutritionist and chef. Every week you plan our meals and return from the grocery store with hundreds of dollars’ worth of food for us. You keep a close eye on our junk food intake, and are quick to supplement our diet with a steady stream of fruits and veggies. Your kitchen is open seemingly around the clock—for breakfast, lunch, and supper, and every moment in-between. And, what often goes unnoticed, is that you double as head dishwasher as well.
  1. You run a top-of-the-line clothing department. We’ve never lacked for clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet. You’ve spent countless hours at the mall, at the second-hand store, at the garage sales, hunting for new pants (because we wore holes in the knees) and new shirts (because we spilled supper on them) and new shoes (because our feet grew two sizes over the summer). And then you wash them. And fold them. And mend them. And iron them. And put them away. And pick them up off the floor. And then wash them again.
  1. You operate a chauffeur-service that could rival Uber, except you don’t make a dime. You take us to and from school. You make a special trip with the lunchbox that we left on the counter. You take us to doctor and dentist appointments. You drive us to practice and ball games. You take us to piano lessons. You haul us to and from our friends’ houses.
  1. You are our first and favorite teacher. You helped us learn history and science and spelling and geography. You stayed up late helping us with our math homework. But especially you taught us about our heavenly Father. Since we were just a few years old, you taught us about God, and creation, and sin, and forgiveness, and the cross of Jesus Christ. You read us our first Bible stories. You taught us to pray on our knees before bed. You taught us our catechism lessons. You reviewed our memory verses for school. You taught us to sing the Psalms. You taught us about repentance and forgiveness, about love for God and love for our neighbor.

And, what’s even more astounding, is that you manage to fill all these roles (and more!) at the same time!

The reason why we mention these things is not to praise you (because we know you wouldn’t want that), but just to let you know that what seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated was noticed and was appreciated.

So, thanks, Mom! And know that we are deeply grateful to your and our Father for placing you in our lives.

We “arise up, and call [you] blessed” (Prov. 31:28)!

With all our love,

Your children

__________________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Sunday and Sports

Members of the church today face increasing pressure to participate in sports on Sunday. Often it’s simply a matter of scheduling. The powers that be schedule games on Sunday. Sometimes these schedulers are willing to accommodate those who do not participate in sports for religious reasons. Other times they are not, and then the Christian faces the temptation to break the fourth commandment in order to participate. In a day when many who carry the name of Christian play sports or allow their children to play sports on Sunday, I am happy to report about Covenant College’s decision “to forfeit the women’s tennis conference title match rather than to play on Sunday.”*

Covenant College is an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America. The decision of the college not to play on Sunday stands in contrast with other “Christian” universities in their league. In the semi-finals Covenant defeated North Carolina Wesleyan, whose coach questioned why Covenant even participated in the tournament knowing that the women would not compete for the championship.** Evidently the Wesleyan institution planned to participate in the finals had they won the semi-finals. The team that left the tournament with the championship because of Covenant’s forfeit was from Methodist University—they were also willing to participate on Sunday.

Covenant joined the USA South Conference in 2013 knowing that the league holds sporting events on Sundays. However, the South Conference accepted Covenant’s membership knowing the College’s policy of not participating in sports on Sunday. As it has done in the past, Covenant submitted the proper paperwork to request a change of date for the finals before the tournament. The USA South Conference denied the request. At the tournament the women’s team won the semi-final and qualified for the championship. Many Christian institutions would have caved in to the pressure of this situation (many already have!). Covenant withstood the temptation.

 What about the women who missed the opportunity to compete for a championship? Should we feel sorry for them? The USA South Conference certainly could have been more reasonable and simply switched the date for the finals. Apparently the conference’s fall and winter championships occur on Saturdays. But the women probably joined the Covenant team knowing the policy of non-participation on Sundays and its possible repercussions. If winning tennis championships meant more to them than the Sabbath Day they could have attended other colleges. They and their parents should be thankful that they attend a college where decisions are made based on scripture. And if the women and their coaches missed out on possibly winning the conference championship because they used the day instead to attend divine worship services, hear the preaching of the word, and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then there is no reason to feel sorry for them. God’s blessings, which are far richer than a tennis championship, flow to them who gather with their fellow saints for worship on the Lord’s Day (Ps. 84:4, 10).

_________

Covenant College’s announcement about the forfeit can be found here.

** A news report about the forfeit can be found here.

__________________

This post was written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, Michigan.

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Teachable

I see it from time to time in my children. I will be explaining something to them or relating some story, and they will interrupt, “No, Dad, that’s not what happened. No, Dad, it happened this way.” Sometimes they are right and Dad is wrong, but at other times they are mistaken and I try (gently, I hope) to correct them. But at times they will not budge. With dogged determination they insist that they have it straight.

I have a hunch that my children are not entirely unique in this regard: sometimes they have an unteachable spirit.

And I have a further hunch that this is not limited only to children: I can have an unteachable spirit too.

We must not confuse an unteachable attitude with having opinions or convictions. The two are not the same. We must be people of strong, biblically-based, confessional convictions. We must be bold to hold to those convictions without compromise. As a beloved professor put it once, we must not be “spaghetti-spined” but have backbones of steel.

What, then, does it mean to be unteachable? To put it bluntly, it means that I am a know-it-all. It means that I think I have everything figured out. It means that I never ask for help or advice. It means that I am not willing to listen to others and learn from them. It means that I am always talking, holding forth, pontificating. It means that when others offer a critique or a gentle suggestion for improvement I become surly and resentful and vindictive.

It means that I am proud.

The scriptures have something to say about this issue. James 1:19 says, “…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” Proverbs 9:9 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” Proverbs 10:17, 19 says, “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth…In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Besides these few, there are a number of other passages in Proverbs that address the idea of being teachable.

What does it mean to be teachable? A teachable person is one that is aware of his limitations and is willing to acknowledge them. He is a person that is not afraid to ask for help or advice from others. He is a person that is willing to listen to others and learn from them. He is a person that is slow to speak. He is someone that is willing to receive correction and reproof. He is wise, and wants to grow in wisdom.

He is humble.

This is a virtue that every child of God must seek to cultivate. It is not just for church members in the pew, but for leaders and officebearers too. The only one who is unteachable is God. For the rest of us, we are very much in need of teaching. We must be teachable before the Word of God, but we must show ourselves teachable also in our interactions with one another.

What about you?

Are you teachable?

O come, my people, to my law
Attentively give ear;
With willing heart and teachable
The words of wisdom hear.
(The Psalter, no. 215, stz. 1)

______________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Jehovah's Witnesses

The Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) of the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society claim that the Christian Church has colluded in removing the name "Jehovah" from the Bible, and that they alone confess the true name of God. They say that over 7,000 times the name Jehovah (Yahweh, the tetragrammaton, YHWH) has been changed in the King James Version (KJV) to LORD. Since their New World Translation (NWT) retains the original name Jehovah, they, so the claim goes, must be the true followers of God.

The Hebrew word Yahweh, four Hebrew consonants, is translated Jehovah in a few places in the KJV in the Old Testament (Gen. 22:14Ex. 6:317:15Judg. 6:24Ps. 83:18Isa. 12:226:4). In every other place in the Old Testament, it is translated LORD, and will be in all upper case letters. The word Jehovah does not appear at all in the KJV New Testament.

The issue is not the translation of the four letters which make up the name YHWH, but the meaning of the name itself. For example, a person might confess the word, Jesus, and sing enthusiastically, "JESUS, he's the one for me," but if that person does not believe that Jesus is the only, complete, all sufficient, effectual Savior of his people (Matt. 1:21), he does not really believe in Jesus at all. Alternatively, a person might say of Jesus, "Lord, Lord," but unless by Lord he means Master, Owner, Redeemer, and lives in submission and obedience to that Lord, his using the word "Lord" is vain hypocrisy (Matt. 7:21Luke 6:46). 

What, then, does the name YHWH, or Jehovah mean?  God himself explained it to Moses in Exodus 3:14. The KJV says, "I AM THAT I AM: thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel. I AM hath sent me unto you."  The JWs' translation, the NWT, translates it this way, "I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE." The Hebrew is a form of the common verb hayah which means to be. The verb form is the qal imperfect and is translated invariably I amI shall be or I was. In the Greek translation, the Septuagint (LXX, used by the Jews in Christ's day, and quoted by the Apostles in the New Testament), the form is translated ego eimi, which means I am. "I shall prove to be" is therefore hardly a smooth or an accurate translation.

That God identifies himself with the name derived from the verb to be, best translated I am, teaches us important truths about the being of God. First, God is absolutely independent. He derives his being from himself, and maintains his being of himself. He needs nothing outside of himself (Rom. 11:33-36). Second, God is eternal, or timeless. God is. No creature can say, "I am." To be accurate, every creature must say, "I am becoming." In the few minutes that you have taken to read these lines, an unknown number of cells in your body have died and are being replaced, your blood has circulated around your body, and the air in your lungs has been exchanged for a fresh supply. That is not true of God. He does not need air, food or anything else, and his divine essence never changes. Third, the name JHWH, I AM, tells us that God is absolutely dependable and reliable. He never reneges on his promises. He is the God we can trust, whose purposes are always the same. Thus he could come to Moses at the burning bush and declare that the lapse of over 400 years had not caused him to forget or change his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. One Watchtower publication says of the name YHWH that it means "He can become whatever he pleases in order to fulfill whatever role is necessary." The same publication says that God is a God of "innumerable roles."  This is not the meaning of Jehovah, Yahewh, I AM, YHWH or ego eimi.

Now, JWs claim to believe in the divine, verbal inspiration of the Old and New Testament. They complain that God's name has been removed from the Old Testament thousands of times, and they claim that they have restored the word to its proper place. Here is a startling fact: the word Jehovah, YHWH, never appears in the New Testament Greek, even when the writers are quoting from the Old Testament where the Hebrew text has the word YHWH. Every time the writers of the New Testament Scriptures quote the Old Testament they use the word, kurios, which means Lord. If the Holy Spirit thought that the name Lord was an unacceptable translation for the word YHWH would he have not "corrected" that in the New Testament? After all, there are times when the writers of the New Testament modify the Septuagint translation from which they quote (the Septuagint translation is not inspired, you know). Why, then, did the Holy Spirit not have the New Testament writers substitute the word Jehovah for kurios, as the JWs' translation, the NWT, has done?

Let me give some examples. In Matthew 4:10 Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 and says (KJV), "Thou shalt worship the LORD, thy God." The Hebrew of Deuteronomy has YHWH, the Septuagint has kurios (Lord). What does Matthew write, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Kurios, Lord, not Jehovah! In Acts 2:21, Peter quotes Joel 2:32, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (KJV). The Hebrew of Joel has YHWH, the Septuagint has kurios (Lord). What does Luke, the human writer of Acts, write, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Kurios, Lord, not Jehovah! In Romans 10:16, Paul quotes Isaiah 53:1, "Lord, who hath believed our report?" The Hebrew of Isaiah has YHWH, the Septuagint has kurios (Lord). What does Paul write, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Kurios, Lord, not Jehovah!  If the word Jehovah must be used, why does the Holy Spirit never use it in the New Testament?

Moreover, the JWs' translation, the NWT, adds to the NT the name Jehovah, even when the Old Testament is not being quoted. For example, the NWT translates kurios (Lord) as Jehovah in the following passages: II Peter 3:9, "Jehovah [kurios] is not slow respecting his promise ...;" Acts 13:48, "... they began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah [kurios];"I am the Alpha and the Omega, says Jehovah [kurios] God." Other examples could be given. In the book of Revelation alone, Jehovah is added at least ten times (4:8, 11; 11:17, 15:3-4, 16:7, 18:8, 19:6, 21:22, 22:5-6). However, when kurios refers to Jesus Christ, it is never translated Jehovah (e.g., Phil. 4:5I Thess. 4:15-17II Thess. 2:8II Tim. 4:17James 5:7-8Rev. 14:1319:16, etc,). This shows the bias of the NWT version. I Thessalonians 4 is a particularly interesting example. Here it is in the NWT: "For this is what we tell you by Jehovah's [kurios] word that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord [kurios] shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death, because the Lord [kurios] himself shall descend ... be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord [kurios] in the air and thus we shall always be with the Lord [kurios]" (vv. 15-17). Notice, the first kurios is translated Jehovah, but the other examples of kurios in the same context are translated Lord. Why? Because clearly they refer to Jesus Christ and the JWs will not recognize that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God!

In addition, JW's claim that Jesus went around Israel teaching the name of God, and teaching the people to pray that God's name be hallowed or sanctified. They appeal to John 17:26, "I have declared unto them thy name." Does that mean that Jesus taught them the secrets of the Tetragrammaton, the YHWH? They already knew that. They were Jews! It means he taught them who God is, what kind of God he is, because the name of God is the revelation of who God is. To know God's name is not to know the consonants and vowels which make up the address of God, but to know God himself, to know his attributes, his wonders, his works, his promises, and to have a relationship with him in Jesus Christ.  Besides, never in the Gospels, do we read of Jesus ever addressing God in prayer with the name Jehovah, YHWH or Yahweh. Even in John 17, the greatest of Christ's recorded prayers, he addresses God as "Father" (vv. 1, 5, 21, 24), "Holy Father" (v. 11) and "Righteous Father" (v. 25). And in the prayer which he taught his disciples, he taught them to address God in these words, "Our Father which art in heaven." Why not Jehovah, if that is the preferred, if not the only acceptable, name of God? 

The name "I AM" does appear in the New Testament. Four times, Almighty God is addressed in these words, "which is, and which was, and which is to come" (Rev. 1:8) or "which was, and is, and is to come" (Rev. 4:8) or "which art, and wast, and art to come" (Rev. 11:17) or "which art, and wast, and shalt be" (Rev. 16:5). These are clearly allusions to Exodus 3:14 and the name YHWH in the Old Testament. These phrases refer to the unchangeable eternity and faithfulness of God. 

But there is one other place where the name YHWH jumps out of the New Testament text. It is, however, deliberately obscured by the JWs' translation, the NWT. In John 8, Jesus claims that Abraham had rejoiced to see his day, to which the unbelieving Jews retort in scorn, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" (v. 57). Christ's response is so shocking to the Jews that they pick up stones to put him to death on the spot for blasphemy. Here is the NWT version of what Jesus said, "Most truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been" (John 8:58, NWT). Here is the KJV. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." The Greek is ego eimi. Why would the NWT translate ego eimi, I have been, instead of I am? Because the JWs refuse to believe that Jesus is Jehovah and they want to sever the obvious link between John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14, where ego eimi is used in the Septuagint (LXX) version! In addition, Jesus frequently had the words ego eimi on his lips, and not only in the famous I AM sayings (John 8:2418:5-8, etc.).

The name of God is important. But the New Testament does not contain the name Jehovah. Or does it? In fact, the word Jehovah, the root of YHWH, is written large all over the New Testament. It is found in the name Jesus. Jesus means Jehovah-salvation, Jehovah is salvation or Jehovah Savior. That is why Peter can say in Acts 4:9-12, "If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." That, too, is why Paul can write, in obvious allusion to Isaiah 45:23 ("I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear"), "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11).

Jehovah's Witnesses may use the word Jehovah in prayers, worship, in their Bible version and in their proselytizing, but they do not confess the name Jehovah, because their Jehovah is not the sovereign, unchanging, faithful, Triune God of scripture. It is Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), not Christians, who are guilty of taking God's name in vain.

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Rev. McGeown is missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 

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The White Horse Running in Myanmar

It might not make front page headlines, but there have been some interesting developments of late in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Originally a colony of Great Britain, the Southeast Asian country gained its independence in 1948 as a democratic nation. But for the last fifty years or so the country has been in the chokehold of a brutal military dictatorship.

Things have changed of late, however. Last November a free election was held, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) party defeated the incumbents in a landslide. There was some question about whether the military would allow the election results to stand, or simply ignore them and remain in power. But it appears that a transition of power is actually taking place and a democratic government is taking shape.

A recent article in the Washington Post (here) reports on a new position occupied by Aung San Suu Kyi, unquestioned leader of the NLD. The 70-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been under house arrest for decades and was forbidden from occupying the position of president because her husband and two children were British citizens. Suu Kyi’s ally, Htin Kyaw, was named President of the new government, but Suu Kyi is the real power. She has been appointed foreign minister and, most recently, state counsellor. This latter position was created just for her as a way of skirting the constitutional limitation, and effectively gives her the position of prime minister and “boss” of the president.

This may make for interesting politics, but why is it worth knowing as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven?

These recent events are significant because they have important implications for the running of the white horse of the gospel in Myanmar.

Since 2007 one of the churches in the Protestant Reformed denomination has been laboring with a group of saints in Myanmar. But one of the major obstacles has been in getting a missionary on the ground. The military-backed government closed its borders to any Christian missionary coming to preach the gospel in their land. The result has been that rather than doing mission work through a missionary living and working full-time in Myanmar, the work has been done through occasional, short-term visits to the field and through various channels of technology.

But now there is a shift in power. A democratic government is forming. The hope is that this new government will reverse the decision of the previous one and make it possible for a Christian missionary to come into the land and proclaim the glorious gospel of salvation in this predominately Buddhist country. We can only wait to see what will unfold in the sovereign plan of God.

And pray. The command of God is that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made…for kings, and for all that are in authority.” Why? “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” But also God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” And in what way does that take place? Through the preaching of the gospel, of which Paul is “ordained a preacher…a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (1 Tim. 2:1-7).

Pray that God might use someone like Suu Kyi to open the door in that land so that the white horse might run, the elect there might be gathered, and Christ might come.

______________

This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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The Standard Bearer: Special Issue on Reformed Marriage

The April 15, 2016 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the topic of Reformed Marriage.

Some of the articles you will read in this issue are:

  • Marriage for Life: A Blessing
  • The Reformed Wedding Ceremony
  • Still Using the Reformed Marriage Form?
  • Wedding Receptions: Sanctified Celebrations
  • Children: Calling and Blessing

....and much more!

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