The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, by B. Wielenga (Edited by David J. Engelsma and translated by Annemie Godbehere). Jenison, MI: RFPA 2016. 448 pages. $39.95 Hardcover. [Reviewed by Rev. Martyn McGeown]
The publication of this book will interest—and even excite—all those who love baptism, and in particular, all those who love the Form for the Administration of Baptism used in Reformed churches. Many church members and officebearers have heard the Form read, or have used the Form, hundreds of times as baptism has been administered to the covenant seed. But have we sufficiently pondered the beautiful language of the Form?
Bastiaan Wielenga (1873-1949) was a Dutch Reformed minister who not only studied the Form, but who loved the Form, and delighted in its clear, Reformed, biblical, devotional, and pastoral language. He wrote the commentary on the Form not for scholars, but for the ordinary child of God who loves the covenant and the God of the covenant. The RFPA has done the Reformed church world a great service by offering this book—the first English translation of a commentary on this priceless liturgical form—to the reading public.
Wielenga carefully explains (even exegetes) the language of the Form, dividing his material according to the divisions of the Form itself, the doctrinal section (misery, deliverance, and gratitude), a defence of infant baptism, the prayer before baptism, the questions to the parents, and the prayer of thanksgiving after baptism. However, he does not treat the section on the baptism of adults, which, although used on the mission field, is used less frequently in the established church.
Some of the outstanding features of the commentary are the following.
First, Wielenga’s writing is devotional. Wielenga is a very capable theologian and exegetes with the heart and language of a pastor, and even of a poet. The beautiful and moving passages in Wielenga’s writings are so numerous that a reviewer could not possibly do justice to them. Credit for this, of course, must also go to the translator, Mrs. Annemie Godbehere, with whom the reviewer was personally acquainted. Undoubtedly, it was her skill that helped bring Wielenga to life for an English readership. One example of Wielenga’s beautiful turns of phrase will suffice. In this quotation, Wielenga is explaining the need believers have for assurance and the richness of God’s supply in holy baptism:
Because it is exactly the opposite, and the godly constantly ask for stronger assurance, the cry of “Help thou mine unbelief!” does not grow silent before death closes their lips. Thereby God, who takes more pity on us than an earthly father, seals the covenant of grace in baptism. Even with this, he does not account the measure of his undergirding grace full, for in the Lord’s supper he has joined a second and no less royal and divine seal to the covenant (72-73).
Second, Wielenga’s doctrine of the covenant is (mostly) orthodox and mainly in line with our Protestant Reformed understanding. Although he does slip into “agreement” language on occasion, and although he does make a few statements on conditionality within the covenant with which we strongly disagree, Wielenga does view the covenant as an intimate relationship between God and his elect people. “That the Father establishes a covenant with us and adopts us as his children is intimate. That Christ makes us members of his spiritual body is even more intimate. But that the Spirit comes to dwell in us is the most intimate conceivable intimacy” (103).
But baptism, this holy baptism, is a seal and indubitable testimony that we have an eternal covenant with God. It is a covenant not entered into for a time, but rooted in an eternal election. It is a covenant not established on the proof of and dependent on the goodness of men, but anchored in the mediatorial heart of Christ who paid for all the sins of his people and accomplished all obedience.
Note, this is the power and beauty of Reformed doctrine as it shines brilliantly in our form: salvation not promised conditionally, but absolutely guaranteed! (143).
There are places where Wielenga slips into conditional language, but they do not appear so frequently as to mar the book. The astute reader will take note of them.
Third, Wielenga defends that view of covenant children which regards them as regenerate in infancy, and as partakers of a real, spiritual, and not merely external, holiness. This view does justice to God’s promises, rightly explains the language of the Form, and gives great hope to Reformed parents in the rearing of their children. “Just as the children, included in Adam, their covenantal head, are partakers of an internal depravity, so also are the children, included in Christ, partakers of an internal regeneration and holiness” (155). “The compilers of this form also did not regard the children of the congregation as spiritually dead but as spiritually alive” (220). “We are certain that any view other than that of an internal sanctification is out of place in the baptism form and is also not in keeping with the doctrine of the covenant that predominated in the church of the Reformation” (326).
If this child, shortly after baptism, came to die, the parents, if they have come to understand something of the eternal comfort in life and death, may find in this baptism a ground for the hope that their early-deceased darling entered into glory. If the child grows up, the parents may proceed with the rearing from the supposition, or if this word displeases you, from the hope, the quiet expectation, that the God of the covenant has already laid the new germ of life into the child’s heart (407-408).
Wielenga regards the opposite view as Methodism, a Methodism increasingly common in Reformed circles today:
In contrast to the Methodist, who in the rearing only focuses on conversion, making of Sunday school and Christian education a conversion institute, the Reformed parent, who has learned to live out of the covenant, prayerfully looks to the God of the covenant. He pleads the promises of the covenant for his child so that he increases and grows up in the Lord Jesus Christ (408).
Fourth, Wielenga discusses a good number of practical questions concerning the ceremony itself, and there are times when he is unsparing in his criticism of certain practices that had arisen in the churches of his day: should baptism be delayed until the mother recovers or until relatives from out of town can arrive; who should hold the baby; how many times should the water be applied, once or thrice; and should the minister say “Amen” after the baptism? Although some of these matters are historical curiosities to us, some of them are still serious issues today.
Not out of custom! May this reverberate in our ranks. Let us battle against the great enemy of all spiritual life, called custom; against this large monster, which in its cold embrace spiritually smothers thousands—and by its icy breath spiritually murders thousands (286).
Every young parent—especially the fathers, who seek baptism for their children in the consistory room—would do well to read this book. It would be worthwhile for married couples to read this book as they rear the covenant seed. And it would warm the hearts of all Reformed church members to read this book carefully and devotionally, whether they have children or not, for the doctrine of the covenant and of salvation is the joy of our souls.
Reader, may the fruit of the joint contemplation of our precious baptism form be that the word with which this prayer and thus our entire form concludes may find in all our hearts a warm echo. That is to say, on all these truths, promises, and admonitions, may your whole soul pray and worship. Amen (425).
The Queen of Virtues
Longsuffering begins, Rev. Smit writes in chapter five of The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, “the second main group” of the fruit of the Spirit. The first group of three virtues is inward looking, while this second group of three “seems to highlight virtues that are evident in our outward dealings and communication, especially with those of our church families and covenant homes.” Just as the importance of love is highlighted by its position at the head of the first group of virtues, so longsuffering is highlighted because it is first in the second group – before gentleness and goodness. Love is first, the king of all virtues. And longsuffering, according to Rev. Smit, “certainly must be queen.”
If you have seen another translation’s rendering of Gal. 5:22-23, then you know that the word the KJV translates as longsuffering is often translated as patience. We use these words interchangeably, Rev. Smit notes, in our “common daily conversation,” Rev. Smit writes, “Although they may seem to be almost identical terms, according to Colossians 1:11 patience and longsuffering are shown to be both closely related and yet distinct virtues.”
Because patience is closely related to longsuffering Rev. Smit briefly defines and explains patience. What is patience? How did saints in the Bible demonstrate patience? Does God have patience? Do you have patience? Pages 70-72 will help you answer these questions.
Because longsuffering is distinct from patience Rev. Smit gives it separate treatment. He writes, “Longsuffering is the virtue that applies to the persons whom God providentially places upon [the child of God’s] divinely determined pathway and, as a result, with whom he cannot avoid communication and dealings.” I added the emphasis to the word persons in order to indicate that longsuffering is a virtue that has to do with our relationships with other people. Patience is broader than longsuffering, as you will discover if you read Rev. Smit’s treatment of patience. Longsuffering is narrower. It is patience with people. In longsuffering we have to do with the neighbor and our calling to love him or her as ourselves.
Rev. Smit continues his treatment of longsuffering by explaining that God is longsuffering. Do you know what it means that God is longsuffering toward his people? Read the bottom of page 72 and the top of page 73. Amazingly, God shares his attribute of longsuffering with his saints. Saints who are longsuffering are a reflection of God!
What is the longsuffering of saints? Rev. Smit writes that it means saints “bear with the weaknesses of others.” Rev. Smit provides a helpful explanation of how this longsuffering is shown to the neighbor, of the motivation for showing this longsuffering, and how this longsuffering is not a toleration of sin. Then he provides helpful biblical examples of longsuffering in action.
Are you using the Bible to regulate your relationships with the people God has placed in your life? Do you love your neighbor(s) as yourself? Do you respond biblically to the weaknesses and sins of others? This is a fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that God calls his people to cultivate in their lives. I highly recommend you read this chapter for help and encouragement.
Other articles by Rev. Spronk on The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ:
This article was written by guest blogger Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, IL. Rev. Spronk will be blogging for us several times a month, taking us first through a brief study of Richard Smit's newly released book, The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If there is a topic you'd like to Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Schism of 1953 within the Protestant Reformed Churches. In the newest issue of the RFPA Update, learn about the role of the Standard Bearer throughout the schism and read a review of our most recent book publication which also details much of the history of the schism. Click here for to view the entire Update as a PDF.
The SB and the PRC: A Trumpet Blast and Reformed Testimony
by Prof. David J. Engelsma
Rightly, both friend and foe of the magazine perceive the Standard Bearer (SB) as the literary voice of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC). That the SB is published by a “free” association, that is, an association that is independent of the churches, does not affect the perception. All hear this voice as a trumpet—a clear, loud sounding of the Reformed faith as purely known and boldly confessed by the PRC.
In an address at the 1945 RFPA annual meeting, the cofounder and first editor of the magazine, Herman Hoeksema, said, “The Standard Bearer wants to send forth a trumpet blast of no uncertain sound. It purposes to send forth a testimony that is very specifically Reformed.” Hoeksema added that the “very heart” of this specifically Reformed truth, that the SB would clearly and loudly testify, is “the idea of the covenant of grace.” And the truth of the covenant of grace “dare not be divorced from the doctrine of sovereign predestination.”
Little did Hoeksema know that in a few years the SB would have to give a “trumpet blast of no uncertain sound” regarding the doctrine of the covenant for the defense of the Reformed faith within the PRC themselves. But this it did, for the preservation of the churches in the pure Reformed faith, for the development of the doctrine of the covenant by means of controversy, and for the public exposure of grievous heresy regarding the covenant with believers and their children.
The year 2013 is the sixtieth anniversary of a notable schism in the PRC. The issue was the doctrine of the covenant, whether having its source in the eternal decree of election and, therefore, made unconditionally with Jesus Christ as head of the covenant and with all the elect in him (Gal. 3:16, 19, 29), or cut loose from election and, therefore, made conditionally with all who are baptized. Involved in the controversy was also the conception of the covenant as a living, warm bond of intimate fellowship, reflecting the life of the Trinity, rather than a cold contract or agreement, patterned after a business deal or a political alliance. In June, 1953, the large, influential First PR Church in Grand Rapids, mother church of the PRC, was divided over the issue of the covenant. In September, 1953, the schism spread to Classis West of the PRC. In October, 1953, the schism sundered the churches in Classis East, thus becoming denomination-wide.
To celebrate schism in the church of Jesus Christ, schism being a gross, public sin that does damage to the visible church of Christ, is inappropriate. We mourned the schism. Sixty years later, we still mourn the schism. But we celebrate the work of Christ in and by the wicked, hurtful schism. That work was the preservation of the PRC in their belief and confession of salvation by sovereign, particular (unconditional) covenant of grace. We celebrate also the work of Christ by the schism of bringing about development of the doctrine of the covenant; of causing a Reformed denomination officially to adopt and confess orthodox Reformed principles of the doctrine of the covenant (in the PRC’s Declaration of Principles); and of exposing and condemning a perennial threat to the truth of the covenant and the gospel of grace in Reformed churches.
The main instrument of the Spirit of Christ in this work, other than the sermons preached by the faithful PR ministers, was the SB. Beginning in 1948 and continuing through the heat of the controversy in the early 1950s, the SB explained the issues of the controversy and defended the truth of the covenant, crossing swords with the enemies of the truth in the PRC. Thus the magazine preserved the PRC, though in much smaller size than before the schism.
The crucial importance of the SB for the PRC and their confession of the truth of the gospel of grace in the schism of 1953 was not the first time the magazine had functioned in this capacity in hard times. The SB was instrumental in forming the PRC in March, 1925. The first issue of the SB was published in October, 1924, when Hoeksema, G. M. Ophoff, and H. Danhof and their congregations were still members of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).
Quite directly, the SB occasioned the formation of the PRC as a separate Reformed denomination. Rather than the churches producing the magazine, the magazine helped to produce the churches. The deposition by CR classes of Hoeksema, Ophoff, and Danhof and the expelling of their congregations from the CRC were due, in no small part, to the ministers’ publishing of the SB and writing against the doctrine of common grace, which the synod of the CRC had adopted in the summer of 1924. A ground for the deposition of Danhof and Ophoff and their consistories was their “association with the SB.” Although his involvement in the SB was not mentioned in the grounds for Hoeksema’s deposition, it was mentioned in the proceedings that led up to it (Herman Hoeksema, The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, 1947], 252, 158).
In the early years of the PRC, the SB was the main means of the expansion of the denomination among Christian Reformed people who shared the PRC’s rejection of common grace and convictions concerning particular grace and the antithesis.
The SB vigorously and uncompromisingly defended the unconditional covenant during the internal struggle of the PRC in the early 1950s that culminated in the schism of 1953. This defense is shown today as a glorious defense of the gospel of grace by current developments concerning the covenant in many reputedly conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches in North America. The heresy of the federal vision, which is widespread and entrenched in these churches, openly denies justification by faith alone—the heart of the gospel—and thus all the doctrines of grace confessed by the Canons of Dordt with specific regard to salvation in the covenant. For the Reformed critique of the theology of the federal (covenant) vision, see my Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2012).
By its own admission the federal vision is nothing other than the development of the doctrine of a conditional covenant that the PRC repudiated in 1951 by the adoption of a synodical document called the Declaration of Principles, and in 1953 by the discipline of a minister who was preaching the conditional covenant. For the full account of the adoption of the Declaration of Principles, including its contents, and an account of the schism itself, see Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2013). The witness of the SB in the late 1940s and early 1950s to the unconditional covenant, now summed up in the Declaration of Principles would be the salvation of Reformed churches in North America, if only they would give heed to it.
The important work of the SB on behalf of the PRC and the Reformed faith and life is not finished. What this work—a calling—continues to be is indicated in the statement of the SB’s purpose by the founders of the magazine. Originally, the purpose of the magazine was to develop and defend the truth of particular grace against the theology of the three points of common grace adopted by the CRC synod of 1924 (cf. Hoeksema, PRC in America, 134–35). The importance of this calling of the SB, still today, in AD 2013, is evident from the appalling apostasy of the CRC, both in doctrine and in life, as that church goes on foolishly and wickedly developing and applying its doctrine of common grace.
In their announcement to the CRC that they intended to publish the SB, Danhof and Hoeksema advised the CRC that the magazine would testify that “the doctrine of common grace necessarily leads to world conformity” (Om Recht en Waarheid [For justice and truth], Kalamazoo, MI: Dalm Printing, n.d., 46; the translation of the Dutch is mine). This warning, many other Reformed churches besides the CRC need to hear. They criticize the CRC for its falling away, while themselves embracing, defending, and preaching the false doctrine that has destroyed that church.
As editor Herman Hoeksema declared in his address to the annual meeting of the RFPA in 1945, the calling of the SB is to sound a “trumpet blast of no uncertain sound” that is “very specifically Reformed.” And the “very heart” of this “very specifically Reformed” blast is “found in the idea of the covenant of God,” which “dare not be divorced from the doctrine of sovereign predestination.”
If ever there were a time when such a blast should be sounded throughout all of Reformed Christendom, it is the present. The churches are plagued either by the absence of a covenant consciousness, as Arminian evangelicalism corrupts the churches, or by the heresy of a conditional covenant that is deliberately divorced from sovereign predestination and is, therefore, also the Arminian error.
For such a time as this, God has raised up the PRC and their SB.
In carrying out this calling, the SB must not only be positive, but also negative. The constitution of the RFPA requires the SB “to reveal false and deceptive views repugnant [to the Word of God as expressed in the Reformed creeds].” The SB must be polemical—a fighting magazine. The wars of the Lord did not end in 1953. And the Lord’s wars intend the destruction of the foe.
For this warfare courage is demanded. The magazine must be willing to endure slander and ridicule, while persevering in the conflict without wavering. Love of the truth must outweigh the suffering of the hatred of men.
This means that the editors and writers of the magazine must be willing to be studiously ignored by the wider Reformed community in their magazines and journals, as though the content of the SB is unworthy of consideration. They must write without desiring or expecting the praise of men, in anticipation of the only commendation that matters—the Lord’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”
But if history lasts another one hundred years, Reformed scholars somewhere in the world (for the Reformed faith will endure; God grant that it may be in the PRC) will write that, in the midst of shameful embarrassment at the Reformed, Christian faith and life and in an environment of dreadful apostasy, there was a magazine known as the SB that kept and fought for the faith of Jesus Christ according to the Reformed religion.
In Review: Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant
David J. Engelsma
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Jenison, MI, 2013
Hardcover, 304 pages; $28.95
Reviewed by Justin Smidstra
Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant is a timely publication, examining the controversy over the doctrine of the covenant. This treatment is merited not only by the present need to preserve the history of the schism of 1953, which becomes more distant with each passing generation, but also by the present ecclesiastical landscape in which conditional covenant theology is rampant even within the walls of conservative Reformed churches. This book is an important historical study readily applicable to the lives of contemporary Reformed Christians.
Historically, the book covers the provisional adoption of the Declaration of Principles in 1950, through the tumultuous period of controversy leading up to and following the synod of 1951, and concludes with the schism of 1953 and the subsequent return of the schismatic churches to the CRC. The commentary on this history is engaging as the author not only recounts these events but analyzes them, explains their meaning for the churches, and provides insight into why they occurred.
The author focuses primarily on the Declaration of Principles, the document that precipitated the controversy. This Declaration, as the author maintains, is a landmark document in the history of Reformed Christianity. This is not because it teaches anything new. Rather the Declaration articulates that which the PRC has always confessed, namely that the covenant is sovereignly established by God with the head of the covenant Jesus Christ and the elect seed of believers. The covenant is therefore governed by election and is dependent for its fulfillment solely on the gracious work of God. In the course of the book, the author articulates this covenant doctrine and decisively refutes the disguised Arminian view of the Liberated, which divorces the covenant from election.
The author also draws out some important implications of the Declaration for Reformed churches today. First, the doctrine of the unconditional covenant is not a peculiar creation of the PRC alone; rather it is a doctrine that necessarily arises from a consistently applied Calvinist theology. This is accomplished by proving the complete harmony of the Declaration with the confessions. In this way, by illustrating the soundness of the Declaration’s creedal argument on behalf of the unconditional covenant, the author demonstrates that all Reformed churches who subscribe to the three forms of unity are bound to confess that the covenant is unconditional. It is a matter of creedal fidelity.
Second is the application of the Declaration to the current controversy surrounding the federal vision, a theology that teaches on the basis of the conditional covenant that God gives the covenantal promise to every baptized child and that the fulfillment of that promise depends upon the child’s fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant. This latest mutation of “salvation by works” theology that now plagues numerous Reformed Churches is essentially the same covenant theology that was unmasked and defeated by PRC in the 1950s. The Declaration holds the cure, but few have sought to learn from history’s light. Indeed the Battle for Sovereign Grace shows that this battle is an ongoing battle between the true gospel and the false gospel and, as members of the church militant, we are called to fight the good fight on behalf of God’s truth.
In this regard this book is a very worthwhile read for anyone, young and old alike, who cherish the truth of the covenant and who desire to see this heritage preserved for the good of the church and the glory of God.
Mr. Justin Smidstra is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI, and will be entering the Protestant Reformed Seminary this fall, the Lord willing.
Catch Up with Calvin for only $31.45!
Click here to purchase. Valid through October 31, 2013.
*Book Club or any other discount does not apply. Book club members will not be charged for shipping.
As the anniversary of the celebrated Protestant Reformation approaches, let us give thanks to God for John Calvin and the wonderful reformation he also brought about, by God’s power.
Calvin’s Calvinism features the treatise written by Calvin in 1522 on the doctrines of predestination and providence represents his mature thoughts on these subjects. The Reformed Faith of John Calvin is the perfect book for those in search of a succinct summary of the Calvin’s Institutes.
Stock your shelves with these two valuable volumes and catch up with Calvin!
From Our Readers
Thank you for your valuable publication of the eBook version of the Church Order Commentary. I have already learned much from it and am very grateful for yet another outstanding RFPA publication (as always, the best that there is)!
—Reader from Tennessee
In the last year I was introduced to the Standard Bearer. I have found so much already that has helped us grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. This is a Reformed journal to which every Reformed believer should be a subscriber. When I finish each issue, I leave it in the narthex of my church for others to read. Thank you for maintaining fidelity to God’s Word as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity.
—Reader from New York
I received Reformed Dogmatics by Hoeksema. Thank you for sending along a free copy of Our Goodly Heritage Preserved and a free copy of the Standard Bearer. I thoroughly enjoy reading the SB and read many SB articles online while deployed in Afghanistan.
—Reader from Michigan
Wondering about RFPA book distributors, the success of the warehouse sale, or what books are on special this spring? Read about it all in the newest issue of the RFPA Update! Click here for to view the Update as a PDF.
Spreading the Truth...One Book at a Time
Do you imagine the woman in Europe studying the truth of God’s word, whose bookshelf of RFPA publications is her most prized possession? Or the man in Asia just hearing about the Reformed faith for the first time? Do you think about the group of Reformed believers in Africa, eagerly awaiting a translation of Doctrine according to Godliness in their own language? What about the young converts in Singapore, who worship and study despite their families’ outrage?
The purpose and mission of the RFPA has always been to testify to the truth of Scripture as understood and developed in the Reformed tradition. What use is this testimony unless the RFPA actively proclaims it throughout the world, making our good, Reformed material available to believers of every nation, tribe, and tongue? We give thanks to God for the following three bookstores that help make this happen.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Bookstore
The Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Bookstore (CPRCB) is the RFPA’s distributor to its UK and European readers. Up and running for approximately 30 years, the bookstore is currently located in the manse of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) and operated by Rev. Angus Stewart and his wife, Mary. Rev. Stewart is the pastor of CPRC.
“The bookstore was opened in order to spread the Reformed faith, to strengthen and grow the CPRC, and to get the Protestant Reformed authors better known,” said Rev. Stewart. “We are trying to reach anybody and everybody with the truth of the Reformed faith, especially those in the UK and Europe.”
The Stewarts and other members of the CPRC use diverse means to sell books and to get them into the hands of people all over the world. They have a comprehensive website (www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore.htm), including translations of parts of 30 RFPA titles in 13 different languages. The CPRCB is active in the community, having hosted booths at agricultural shows, markets, and other community events. Rev. Stewart (along with Rev. Martyn McGeown of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship in the Republic of Ireland) sells RFPA books at CPRC conferences and frequent lectures throughout the UK. The CPRCB advertise the books in their monthly paper, The Covenant Reformed News, and through Facebook.
And these efforts have certainly been successful, by God’s grace. On average, the CPRCB sells approximately 320 RFPA books each year, including several of the most popular titles (Doctrine according to Godliness and When You Pray). In 2010, the RFPA sent nearly 700 books overseas to replenish the CPRCB’s supply, the largest order in the history of the RFPA.
The Philippines Bookstore
The Philippines Bookstore is a relatively new operation, run by Rev. Daniel Kleyn and his wife, Sharon. Rev. Kleyn currently serves as a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches to several groups and churches in and around Manila. The bookstore opened just two years ago and has proved to be an asset to the mission work being done in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia.
“The costs for the bookstore are funded by generous collections in the Protestant Reformed Churches. They enable us to pay for shipping the books and also to sell the books here at a discounted price, so that the Filipinos can more easily afford to buy them,” said Sharon.
In the two years since the bookstore opened, the Kleyns have sold more than 750 books plus many Bibles and Psalters to the members of the churches and the groups with whom they work. Many of these people have also spread the word to their friends and acquaintances, resulting in the spread of RFPA books all over the Philippines and even as far as Indonesia and Korea. One pastor in the Manila area uses sections of Doctrine according to Godliness (which has now been translated in its entirety into Tagalog) for his weekly radio broadcast.
“Thank you for making these books available at discounted prices,” said one customer. “I have learned so many things from what I have already read. By God’s grace, the Lord gives me opportunity to share what I am learning with others here at church, especially with my elders.”
Covenant Reformed Book Centre
Located in the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC), a sister church of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, this small but energetic operation is not so concerned with making a profit as it is to encourage people to read doctrinally sound Reformed books.
Run by Suet Yin Goh and Daisy Lim along with help from the church’s Ebenezer bible study group, the Covenant Reformed Book Centre (CRBC) has been in operation for quite some time, although not always under this name and management. Many years ago, donations from the Protestant Reformed Churches were given to the church in Singapore as a start-up fund for a bookstore, the fruit of which the Singaporean saints have been enjoying for years.
“We are grateful that Prof. Herman Hanko and Prof. David Engelsma have faithfully documented their wealth of knowledge in writing the many books. We hope that more professors and ministers would set aside time to write books,” said Daisy. “Books help us to reinforce our understanding of the sound doctrines of Holy Scriptures. Whenever we forget what we heard in the preaching, we can always re-read the books.”
Daisy’s words give testimony to the value of the written word. The CERC is a growing church with many young members, passionate about the Reformed faith. The book centre, carrying over 70 RFPA titles, has been invaluable to this growth. Popular titles include God’s Everlasting Covenant of Grace, Doctrine according to Godliness, and Mysteries of the Kingdom.
New Book, New Author! The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ
This beautiful paperback is the perfect gift book for anyone, young or old. This book discusses the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (found in Galatians 5:22, 23), encouraging believers unto a life of good fruit-bearing.
New author Richard J. Smit first wrote about the fruit of the Spirit in a series of articles that appeared in the Standard Bearer. Smit has served as a minister in several charges in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America and currently serves as a missionary to the Philippines.
RFPA Annual Meeting 2012 Recap
The RFPA annual meeting took place on September 27, 2012 in Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church with board president Henry Kamps leading the proceedings. Sixty-four association members attended and sixteen men requested membership. What a thrill to have men passionate for the work of the RFPA!
The treasurer, Jeff Kalsbeek, reported on various financial details including a net income deficit for both the book and Standard Bearer divisions. In both cases, the deficits showed only a slight variance to the budgeted amounts, and funds were made available from restricted accounts to cover these deficits. Book sales were near all-time highs at $207,651, and although SB hardcopy subscriptions have dipped, eSubscriptions are gaining in popularity. The RFPA has zero debt and its net worth continues to grow. The balance sheet showed amounts in accounts reserved for designated and special situations, such as future building maintenance and office equipment.
Cal Kalsbeek, secretary of the board, presented his report on highlights of the previous year, calling it the “Year of the epub,” making reference to our transition into the eBook industry. The transcript of this report was printed in volume 89 issue 4 of the Standard Bearer. Professor Barrett Gritters presented the keynote address entitled “Church Membership in a Postmodern Era,” the text of which will be published in upcoming issues of the Standard Bearer. Thanks were given to retiring board members Tom Bodbyl, Ryan Brunsting, Ed Hoekstra, and Henry Kamps. New board members were elected for three-year terms.
Photo | The current RFPA board (from left to right): Dave Harbach, Cal Kalsbeek (secretary), Joel Bodbyl (chairman of marketing and membership committee), Tom Bergman, Dan DeMeester (vice-all and chairman of book and Standard Bearer committee), Michael Bosveld (president), Jon Engelsma (vice president), Jeff Kalsbeek (treasurer and chairman of finance committee), Dan Van Uffelen, Matt VanOverloop, Dan Kalsbeek, and Doug Mingerink Jr.
Warehouse Sale an Encouraging Success!
Six hours. Roughly 325 customers. Approximately 460 bags. More than 10,100 books sold. Seven new Book Club members. Yes, by all accounts the RFPA warehouse sale was a smashing success!
Customers were invited to visit the RFPA on Saturday December 15 and fill a bag with books (choosing from 40 select titles) for only $25. And the people came in droves! The staff and board members were available to answer questions, assist customers with checkout, and restock the books on special. The most popular book, selling 402 copies? Portraits of Faithful Saints. The Unfolding Covenant History series was close behind, at about 380 copies of each volume.
One of our goals is to help young people and families establish a solid Reformed library, and we are thrilled to report that a large number of young people and families came out for the sale. What an encouragement it is to see so many, both young and old, excited to read about the truth of God’s word! It is our prayer that the books purchased will be well-used as resources for instruction and comfort for years to come.
Now that we have cleared some much needed space in the warehouse, we can prepare for the next several book projects! We ask for your continued prayers and monetary support as the urgent work of proclaiming the Reformed truth is carried out.
A Review of A Pilgrim’s Manual: Commentary on 1 Peter
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Jenison, MI, 2012
Hardback, 352 pages; $32.00
Reviewed by Charles Terpstra
Protestant Reformed Seminary Professor Emeritus, Herman Hanko, has done it again! He has penned another fine exposition of a portion of Holy Scripture, this time on the book of 1 Peter. As he did with The Mysteries of the Kingdom (on Jesus’ parables) and Justified unto Liberty (on Galatians), so now with A Pilgrim’s Manual Hanko has given us a rich exegetical commentary on a precious New Testament book. He has captured the heart of this epistle and woven its theme throughout this work. He will not have us forget that 1 Peter is indeed a pilgrim’s manual, inspired by the Holy Spirit and inscribed by Peter to guide God’s pilgrim-stranger people through this world on the way to their heavenly home.
Hanko is a skilled exegete in his own right (gifted by the Lord, of course). Having preached through the epistle in his early ministry, and having taught New Testament Greek for many years in the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Hanko develops the concepts and truths of this letter even further. In fact, Hanko is not afraid to differ with Herman Hoeksema and others at points. The result is a commentary that is fresh, deep, and rich in doctrinal teaching.
Still more, because Hanko writes as a churchman who is bound by and faithful to the Reformed creeds, his work breathes the beautiful truths of the Reformed faith, especially the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of his grace to his people in Christ Jesus. And because he writes as a Protestant Reformed churchman, he emphasizes especially God’s sovereign, particular grace and his unconditional covenant with his elect people in Christ. For the same reasons, Hanko exposes the heresies and errors of our time, with clarity and compassion.
Nor does Hanko avoid the “difficult” doctrines presented in this epistle, such as Christ's being the chief cornerstone of his church while also being the “stone of stumbling” and “rock of offence” to the wicked unbeliever—and both aspects being according to God’s sovereign predestination (election and reprobation, 2:4–9). Or the tough practical issues involving the true Christian’s persecution by this ungodly world (chaps. 2, 4) and the callings of the Christian wife and husband in marriage, even mixed ones (3:1–7). In the face of ecclesiastical mushiness on doctrine and outright wimpiness on morality, Hanko issues a clear sound of faithfulness to the text of Scripture, letting God’s word speak plainly and powerfully for the instruction, correction, and guidance of God’s people (2 Tim.3:16).
Yet this new work is also more than rich in exegesis and doctrinal commentary. Warmly dedicated to his wife “Wilma, my fellow pilgrim,” A Pilgrim’s Manual is also rich in devotion and practical application. Hanko writes this commentary as a redeemed and devoted Christian pilgrim, himself making the journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. And because he is a mature and experienced pilgrim, filled with the light of God’s word, he is able to provide us, his fellow pilgrims, with wise counsel for our journeys. In reading this commentary you will not lack for comfort and hope.
We sincerely welcome and heartily recommend A Pilgrim’s Manual to Christian readers everywhere. It will serve as a profitable addition to your personal or family library. It will feed your soul and strengthen your faith whether you use it for your group Bible study or for your personal devotions. Above all, this work will confirm you in the one hope we have as believers—the hope of our everlasting home with the Lord. By all means get this book, study the manual, and then press on, pilgrim!
Mr. Terpstra currently serves as the librarian and archivist (among other responsibilities) at the Protestant Reformed Seminary in Grandville, MI, and is the book review editor for the Standard Bearer.
Bound to Join and A Defense of the Church Institute- BOGO! (reg. $17.95 each)
Click here to purchase! Valid through April 15, 2013.
*Book Club or any other discount does not apply. Book club members will not be charged for shipping.
These books by David J. Engelsma are must reads in an age when many Christians neglect their duty regarding church membership. In Bound to Join, Engelsma explains, in the form of letters, the importance of church membership in the twenty-first century. In the sequel, A Defense of the Church Institute, Engelsma defends the doctrine of church membership and demonstrates that love for the universal, invisible church invariably expresses itself by love for the manifestation of this church in the church institute.