Thanksgiving Offering

Lord, we would bring unto thee a gift of thanks.
But how shall we? What shall we render to the Lord? How shall we appear before thee so that thou wilt not despise us and cast us off? What is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing in thy sight and upon which thou wilt look down in love and good pleasure?
A broken spirit. A broken spirit and a contrite heart.
It alone can please thee, who hast no respect to what is merely external, who despisest the foolishness of insignificant and sinful men as they exalt themselves and would requite thee for thy goodness and grace, who desirest truth in the inward parts.
A broken spirit! A spirit cured of the stiffnecked pride and haughtiness of sin. A contrite heart! A heart that is crushed and overwhelmed in deep humiliation, because of a deep sense of God's greatness and power, of his righteousness and holiness, and of our own insignificance and smallness, our corruption and our guilt.
A heart filled with the sorrow after God.
It alone is the sacrifice, O Lord, that is pleasing to thee.
We will, then, approach thee, bringing this sacrifice of thanks.

"Thanksgiving Offering" - Meditation by Herman Hoeksema in Communion with God


Thank God this week for providing a complete Savior

In Lord’s Day 11 the Heidelberg Catechism teaches that Jesus is the only and complete Savior. Therefore, salvation is all the work of Jesus. Zacharias Ursinus explains this in his commentary on this Lord’s Day,

He saves us fully, and perfectly, by commencing salvation in us in this life, and at length consummating it in the life to come. This he does, because his merit is most perfect, and that for two reasons, as has already been explained: First, because he is God. “God purchased the church with his own blood; (Acts 20:28) from which it appears that his satisfaction surpasses the punishment and satisfaction of all the angels; and secondly because of the greatness of the punishment which he endured for us. He also saves us in the manner just specified, because the salvation which he confers upon us is most full, and complete: “Ye are complete in him; “(Col. 2:10) that is, ye have all things which pertain unto everlasting blessedness, and are made the complete and happy sons of God through and on account of Jesus Christ: “For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell.” “The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God cleanseth us from all sin.” “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” “But this man, because he continueth for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” (Col. 1:19. 1 John 1:7. Rom. 8:1. Heb. 7:24.)

For the Reformed faith salvation never depends upon anyone other than Jesus Christ. Now and in the future Jesus “saves us fully and perfectly.” Thanks be to God!


Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us


Amazing Eyes

Unfortunately you cannot access Margaret Helder’s article Optically Excellent online. In order to read the article you will have to find a copy of the September 15, 2015 Reformed Perspective. The article begins by explaining the complexity of the human eye. Even unbelieving scientists have to admit the implausibility of the human eye being the result of an evolutionary process governed by chance. The article demonstrates that the scientific case for evolution (in which “kinds” slowly evolve into other “kinds”) is further invalidated when the human eye is compared to the eyes of other creatures. Part of the argument is that if it is implausible that evolutionary change governed by chance produced one kind of complex eye, it is all the more implausible that such evolutionary change is responsible for producing a variety of complex eyes. But the main thrust of the article is that the similarity of the eyes of creatures that are otherwise quite dissimilar is a heavy blow against the theory of evolution even from a scientific perspective.[1]

Helder describes the eyes of octopi, squid, underwater worms, box jellyfish, and warnowiid dinoflagellates (?!). The point she makes is that it is difficult for those who subscribe to the theory of evolution to explain how these creatures with very different bodies have very similar eyes (which she explains are “camera-style eyes”). In conclusion she writes,

In the course of this survey of creatures with camera-style eyes we have observed that (apart from vertebrates), the possessors are rare specimens of diverse body plans. Obviously there was no line of descent linking them all—these creatures are too different to even contemplate such an idea, and everybody agrees on that. Instead mainstream scientists contemplate the separate surprising appearance of the same blueprint/design for an eye in wildly different organisms by means of an unguided evolutionary processes. In the cases that we have discussed, the lifestyles are not even remotely similar solutions, especially through chance processes.

Other people (like us) conclude that a conscious choice was made to confer the same design feature on these diverse creatures. What we see is common design (conscious choice by the Creator) rather than descent with change from a single ancestral population (common descent) or separate spontaneous appearances in diverse creatures. God can bestow what features he likes on whatever creatures he so desires. There does not have to be a pattern or reason why these creatures are the way they are. When we see these examples of the work of God, our appreciation of the creation becomes more profound.


 [1] I decided to write this post this after reading this post by Charles Terpstra about the human ability to read.


Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us


New Study Guides: Acts, James, Romans

New Bible study guides on Acts, James, and Romans written by Mark H. Hoeksema.
Now available for purchase at our website! 

See our complete list of Bible study guides.


Now Available! New Book: Gottschalk

Gottschalk: Servant of God

written and illustrated by Connie L. Meyer

For several years the RFPA has discussed publishing books for younger readers and Gottschalk: Servant of God represents our first effort. This book is intended for junior high and high school ages. Because the story is intriguing and the history of Gottschalk is not well-known, adults will also enjoy this book and find it profitable.

Those were the Dark Ages, the days of knights and castles and kings and queens, of monasteries, Vikings, and monks. The days were spiritually dark. True doctrine was hard to come by, if not nearly lost. But there was a light. A clear beam of understanding and truth reflected from one monastery, from one courtroom, from one dungeon–from one man. This is a story of courage, of faith, and of love for the truth. This is the story of Gottschalk, the monk from Orbais.

Retail: $17.95
Book Club: $11.67

  • 160 pages
  • original illustrations and maps by the author
  • makes a great Christmas gift!

Purchase your copy today!


Election GOVERNS Sanctification and...the Covenant?

Christopher Gordon believes that the “sanctification debate” within Reformed circles may have become Arminian (for his article click here). He explains that this move towards an Arminian view of sanctification is a response to what some in Reformed circles believe is “an over emphasis on justification and a narrow definition of the gospel” that leads to “antinomianism.” Gordon writes, “Many explicitly fear that the word gospel is being defined too narrowly. So when people communicate that all they need is the gospel, worry is expressed that maybe this does not include sanctification too.” This had led some to re-emphasize sanctification and “the necessity of good works for salvation.” In today’s climate of tolerance Gordon’s response to the emphasis on “the necessity of good works for salvation” is bold.

In the first place Gordon has the audacity to suggest some in the Reformed camp are guilty of Arminianism! He writes, “I question…how Arminian our current debate has become in the Reformed world with regard to sanctification.” Arminianism is a heresy that was excommunicated from the Reformed camp in 1618-1619 by the Great Synod of Dordt. By raising the specter of Arminianism Gordon is suggesting that there are people within the Reformed camp who need to repent or be excommunicated from the camp. Maybe in time Gordon will have the audacity to move from suggesting to actually charging people with Arminianism.

In the second place Gordon’s response is bold because he responds to those who are worried that an “overemphasis on grace” will lead to antinomianism by appealing to the doctrine of election! Gordon quotes Canons 1.9 in full and parts of 1.7 and 1.8. These articles in the Canons explain that God’s decree of election “was before any of the fruits we experience, including sanctification, both in order and in time.” So Gordon argues it is not a question for Reformed people whether those who are justified by grace alone will also be sanctified. He writes, “The Lord remains Lord even over our sanctification, its degrees, measures, and our ‘good works’ that he prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). The intended end was always determined before the means were given! We should be clear in this sanctification debate, Christ completes the work he began in us (Phil. 1:6).”

Gordon knows that this appeal to the doctrine of election will likely lead some in the Reformed camp to cry those dreaded words, “hyper-Calvinism.” Twice he speaks of the fact some fear that that pointing to election as the fountain of all the benefits of salvation will lead to “hyper-Calvinism.” Gordon does not define what he means by hyper-Calvinism, but he seems to have in mind the belief that salvation by grace alone means that justified sinners are free to live careless lives. In other words hyper-Calvinism is the same as antinomianism. To his credit Gordon does not retreat in the face of the charge of hyper-Calvinism. He maintains that salvation is all God’s gift of grace that has its source in eternal election and is therefore not dependent on man in any way. (He even makes mention of the Canons teaching on reprobation in 1.16, although he does not really explain the doctrine and its relevance to the “sanctification debate”).

If Gordon thinks he has effectively explained his position so that he will not be charged with hyper-Calvinism he is mistaken. Just as teaching that salvation is by God’s grace alone inevitably attracts the charge of antinomianism, so also, teaching that election is the source of all the benefits of salvation inevitably will lead to the charge of hyper-Calvinism. There may have been a time in the history of Reformed churches when the charge of hyper-Calvinism was legitimately applied to those who abused the doctrines of grace—to those who abused the doctrine of election, for example, to teach that the gospel is to be preached only to the elect. But now the charge of hyper-Calvinism is made against those who merely teach the doctrine of election, not because they abuse it. Gordon may soon be charged by men within the Reformed camp with allowing election to govern, yea even dominate, sanctification. He may even face the absurd charge that because he has allowed election to govern sanctification that he has virtually made election and sanctification synonymous! In the face of such charges will Gordon maintain his position that election governs sanctification?

Here are some other important questions for Gordon. Does he recognize that the so-called “sanctification debate” is intimately connected to the current debate about the doctrine of the covenant of grace swirling in Reformed Churches? Does he recognize that Arminianism is not only being injected into the doctrines of justification and sanctification but also into the doctrine of the covenant? He writes, “Maybe what this sanctification debate needs to recover is a robust appreciation again for the Reformed doctrine of Predestination.” Would he agree that this statement would be equally true if the word “sanctification” were replaced with the word “covenant”? Would he agree that the Canons teach that the decree of election is also the source of the covenant of grace (if you connect 1.9 to 2.8)? Would he agree that just as it is wrong to charge those who teach that election governs sanctification with hyper-Calvinism that it is equally wrong to make that charge against those who teach that election governs the covenant?

By these questions I do not mean to antagonize Rev. Gordon. I appreciate his article. My only criticism is that he should be less hesitant to identify and condemn the Arminianism that has spread as a leaven throughout the Reformed lump. But if Gordon wants to get at the source of the Arminian infection he will have to examine how Arminianism has latched on to the doctrine of the covenant within Reformed circles.


Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us


The Hopeless Optimism of (Some) Evangelicals

The Power of Our Weakness is the title of an article by Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson appearing in the most recent hard copy edition of Christianity Today (Nov. 2015). By “our weakness” the authors mean that Evangelical Christianity (EC) is in a culturally weak position in the United States. According to the authors, the cultural weakness of EC was evinced by the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. By “the power” of EC’s weakness the authors mean that EC is still able to have a tremendous impact for good on the world.

The authors are optimistic. Indeed they see areas of improvement in the US, entitling one section of their article “THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER.” In support of this claim they point to a decline in the rate of abortions, teen sex, and violent crimes. Thus, they exclaim “our broader culture has shown, in some areas, a remarkable ability to mend itself.”

Things are getting better! Culture is able to mend itself! Nonsense. And the authors should know better. At the beginning of the article they explain how the Supreme Court’s decision to approve homosexual marriage is the result of decades of cultural decay,

Those who felt ambushed by the decision [of the Supreme Court to approve gay marriage] haven’t been paying enough attention. The ruling was the result of cultural trends that emerged in the context of heterosexual, not homosexual, relationships. During the 1960s and 1970s, America saw a concentrated cultural revolution: the triumph of radical individualism, particularly in sexual ethics. Since then, we have seen the outworking of this shift in attitudes, behavior, and laws: on divorce, abortion, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, gender roles, and now, decisively, same-sex marriage.

Marriage was not redefined only by the Supreme Court; it was also redefined by decades of social practice. Marriage, over time, has come to be viewed as a contract of individuals based on love rather than an institution recognized by the state to serve social purposes. When gay couples sought to join a contract of individuals based on love, they were pushing on an open door. Arguments for marriage based on tradition or natural law started to sound ancient and unintelligible. And many evangelicals, we must admit, have not been immune to this changed view of marriage.

This is a devastating description of the spiritual decline of the United States. And the authors do not even fully capture the enormity of our culture’s guilt. For them it seems that redefining marriage is a transgression merely of some long standing human tradition or a law of nature. Maybe they thought they were making this point by implication, but they should have spelled out that redefining marriage is a transgression of the law of God. The number of those who approve of and live in rebellion against God in the US is widespread! The authors are right to see homosexuality as only the tip of the iceberg. Rebellion abounds in the world and in the church. The heterosexuals, for their embrace of divorce and feminism, are just as guilty as the homosexuals.

The expectation that the “broader culture” will improve is hopeless. The men and women of this world are dead in sin. They will only turn to God if God draws them to himself by his own power (John 6:44). Those who are not drawn to God will continue in sin. And even if there is an “improvement” in some statistics concerning certain behaviors, it does not necessarily follow that people’s hearts have been “improved.” It probably only indicates that men and women have an “improved” ability to prevent or mitigate some of the consequences of their sins. With their hearts they are still far from God.

Things will not get better in the US from a spiritual point of view. The Bible does not set before Christians the hope that the nation we live in will get better. The Bible tells us to expect the opposite. The darkness of this world will grow thicker. And that darkness will extend to the church, which according to the Bible will experience a great falling away (2 Thess. 2:3ff). Christians, whether culturally weak or strong, will never be able to stem or reverse the tide of the world’s wickedness.

This does not mean Christians are in a position of hopelessness. Toward the end of the article the authors rightly remind us that those “who believe in a sovereign God should be the least angry, the least anxious, and the least fearful.” And they write, “We can rest in the knowledge that God is in control and that things will unfold according to his will and ways.” They also explain that even from a position of cultural weakness Christians have the opportunity to witness to the “true, enduring, and life-giving message of the gospel.” Unfortunately the authors seem to think the positive impact of the Christian witness will be cultural. But God did not send the gospel to save the United States.

God sent the gospel into the world to save sinners! Christians are and always will be culturally weak. But God is powerful. He is sending the gospel throughout the world by means of the church. He will save his people. He will send his Son Jesus Christ at the end of time. He will make all things new. He will institute an unending age of perfect bliss and peace for all his people. This is our certain and real hope!


Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us


RFPA Update Fall 2015 Issue

 Click the pdf to read the full issue.

[Best if opened in Internet Explorer or FireFox]

Articles in this issue:

Association Membership and Book Club Membership: Are They Important? Is There a Difference?

New Sign and Landscaping

New RFPA Publications Coming in October 2015

The Triple Knowledge

Do you know...

The Standard Bearer

2015 RFPA Annual Meeting Recap

In Review: Faith Made Perfect

Reader Feedback


John Piper Denies Justification by Faith Alone

John Piper is a well-known (celebrity) pastor and widely thought of as a leader in Reformed circles.[1] Thus, any subtle errors that he teaches are all the more dangerous and in need of exposure. This is even more the case when his errors pervert justification by faith alone, one of the cardinal doctrines of scripture. Those who seek to learn from Piper must be aware that Piper subtly denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone in a way that aligns him with the deadly heresy of the federal vision that is sweeping through Reformed and Presbyterian churches today. Piper recently betrayed his heretical doctrine of justification by faith and works in his foreword to a book by Tom Schreiner on justification. In the foreword Piper agreed with Schreiner’s controversial and heretical language (I paraphrase), “one becomes right with God by faith alone, but does not attain heaven by faith alone.”

Here are some links for those who are interested in the mini-controversy caused by Piper’s comments.

  1. A defense of Piper by Mark Jones: Jones mentions that he is aware of criticism of Piper’s foreword but does not provide any references.
  2. A thorough rejection of Piper’s teaching by R. Scott Clark.
  3. Another defense of Piper by Rick Phillips.

Let me get right to the heart of the issue.[2] Piper speaks about what is sometimes distinguished as initial and final justification. Piper cleverly avoids using the term justification. Because if he did use the term he would have to admit that he believes in initial justification is by faith alone but final justification by faith and works. Thus, Piper denies justification by faith alone. It really is that simple. Piper’s error is identical to the error of Richard Gaffin and others who have defended and taught the federal vision heresy now for several decades.

The basic error of Piper is that he denies that the ground for being “right with God” is the meritorious work of Jesus Christ alone. In final justification God’s declaration that the sinner is “not guilty” and “righteous” is announced only if he has fulfilled the condition of doing good works. So Piper clearly denies that Christ’s work alone is the ground for final justification.

But even in initial justification Piper’s teaching presents faith as a ground for God’s act of justifying a sinner. In Reformed orthodoxy justification by faith alone does not mean that a sinner is declared right with God because he believes. Faith is not a condition upon which justification depends. Rather, faith is the only instrument by which a sinner appropriates the perfect righteousness of Christ. Therefore, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, properly understood, means that Jesus Christ’s work is the only ground for the justification of a sinner, and faith is the instrument through which the sinner receives Christ’s righteousness.  But Piper speaks of faith as a “condition” for being right with God. He writes, “There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others [besides faith] for entering a right relationship to God.” If Piper would see that faith is never the ground for justification but only the way in which a sinner receives the righteousness of Jesus Christ, he would understand that there is no way that works could ever enter into either initial or final justification.  Piper’s view that faith is the condition for being right with God (initial justification) opens the door for him to bring works in as a ground for attaining heaven (final justification).  

At the very least those who are defending Piper should admit that the fact such defenses of his foreword are necessary indicate that Piper expressed himself in a confusing way. And this confusion is indefensible. Why is it so difficult for Reformed theologians to maintain that justification is by faith alone, based on the work of Christ alone, by God’s grace alone? And why is it so difficult to conclude that anyone who creates confusion about these issues denies justification by faith alone? If Piper held to the orthodox view of justification by faith alone he would be able to express himself simply and clearly. There is no reason for confusion here. This truth of scripture is clearly stated in our Reformed confessions. But Piper does not use the language of our Reformed Confessions. Thus one can only conclude that Piper denies justification by faith alone.


[1] John Piper is NOT Reformed, as is irrefutably explained here:

[2] In his defense of Piper, Rick Phillips takes a position that disagrees completely with my analysis of Piper’s statements.  I have decided not to respond to Phillips for the sake of keeping this post brief.  As evidence that my understanding of Piper’s teaching on justification is correct I cite this critique of Piper by John Robbins.


Our blog writer is Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Faith Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison, MI. If there is a topic you'd like Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us


Bible Study

It’s the season of Bible Study Societies. Thus it is a good time to think about how to study the Bible. I decided to dedicate today’s post to some helpful resources about how to study the Bible.

Here are some Standard Bearer articles by Rev. Thomas Miersma (The last 4 links especially get into the “how to” of Bible study):

            The Reformers’ Principles of Scriptural Interpretation: Introduction

            Scripture Interprets Scripture: Historically

            Scripture Interprets Scripture: Grammatically (1)

            Scripture Interprets Scripture: Grammatically (2)

            Scripture Interprets Scripture: Grammatically (3)

            Scripture Interprets Scripture: Grammatically (4)

Here are some other resources you may find helpful:

Another article in the Standard Bearer by Ken Hanko, The Survey Method of Bible Study

A review in the Standard Bearer by Pete Vander Schaaf of a book that explains how to study the Bible (I include this review in case you might want to obtain the book), Grasping God’s Word...

Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul

This is a very brief start. If you know of any other helpful resources please comment below.


Post Tags

On Twitter

Follow @reformedfreepub