Book(let) Alert! - 'The Necessity of Membership in a True Church' by David J. Engelsma

Most readers of the RFPA blog are familiar with Prof. David Engelsma. For sixteen years he was editor of the Standard Bearer and he has written numerous books which the RFPA has published, including two which treat the topic of church membership: Bound to Join and A Defense of the Church Institute.

Those who read and profited from these two books will be interested in knowing that the Reformed Witness Committee (RWC) of Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan has recently published The Necessity of Membership in a True Church, written by Engelsma. The booklet contains two parts: the text of Engelsma's public lecture sponsored by the RWC at Hope Church on the evening of November 11, 2016 and the questions of the audience and the answers of Prof. Engelsma that followed the lecture.

Having been present on that evening and hearing the lecture and the questions and answers, I can assure you that your effort of listening to the lecture online or reading this booklet will be greatly rewarded. While church membership is not a popular topic to speak on and write about in these days of the great "falling away", and while many a churchman dare not touch the topic with a ten foot pole, Prof. Engelsma addresses the "life-or-death matter" of church membership head-on (pg. 9).

The first part of the booklet, the text of the lecture, is divided into five parts: The Necessary Membership, The Marks of a True Church, The Marks of a False Church, The Nature of the Necessary Membership in a True Church, and The Believer's Calling. The booklet is thoroughly scriptural and confessional throughout. To disagree with the author's assessment of membership in a true church and the believer's calling as a vigilant church member is to disagree with scripture and the Reformed Confessions.

The second part of the booklet contains twenty-five pages of penetrating questions and fearless answers that followed the lecture. In the words of the author, some of the questions were "provocative" (pg. 10). One of the questions was, "What do you see as the most pressing, or dangerous, or most likely route of apostasy in the Protestant Reformed Churches?" (pg. 43).  Another, "If one leaves a true church and joins a church that is becoming false, can it be said that, insofar as they have left the truth, they have left Christ?" (pg. 53).

I encourage you to take the time to read the author's answers. Learn about the "ja broer" or uncritical "yes, brother" ..."who affirms everything that goes on and every sermon simply because the elders arrange the service as they do and simply because the minister says whatever he says" (p. 52). Read the author’s fearless and pointed answer to a question regarding NAPARC, which reads in part: "...the liberated Reformed churches make no secret of their judgment of the Protestant Reformed Churches as false churches inasmuch as they confess the unconditional covenant of grace. To these influential churches in NAPARC, the Protestant Reformed Churches are the one, anomalous, 'conservative' false church. Because the Protestant Reformed Churches confess the gospel of salvation by sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel and in the covenant of grace!" (p. 57).

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To obtain a copy of this booklet, one can contact the RWC by email at hoperwc@gmail.com. An audio recording of the lecture is available at www.hopeprchurch.org.

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This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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Church Membership (4): A Hard Day’s Rest

For six days out of the week, we are called to labor faithfully in the specific station and calling into which God has placed us. From Monday to Saturday we put in a hard day’s work. Throughout the week we look forward to Sunday, the day of rest. On this day we are able to lay aside the work and play of the other days.

But the rest of the Sabbath does not mean that we may be idle and inactive. It is not a day merely for us to “sack out.” We are called to active, spiritual labor on this day.

From that point of view, the Sabbath is a hard day’s rest.

In the previous post in this series we laid out the most basic calling we have as believers: to join ourselves to a true, instituted church. But that certainly does not exhaust our responsibilities. We are called to active church membership. The chief way that shows itself is in our attendance at the worship services of that church on the Sabbath day.

God in his Word demands this of us. He does so in the fourth commandment of his law, which commandment is still binding upon the New Testament believer. In its explanation of this commandment, the Heidelberg Catechism says in Lord’s Day 38 that God requires “that I, especially on the Sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, to hear his word, to use the sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord, and contribute to the relief of the poor, as becomes a Christian.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so such the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Consider also the example of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath. He spent the Sabbath day diligently frequenting the synagogues where God was worshiped and his Word was preached (e.g. Matt. 11:9). This was “his custom” (Luke 4:16). If this was his custom, certainly it must be ours also.

The necessity of faithful church attendance does not mean that there is never a legitimate reason for a person to be absent. Obviously if we are sick we are not going to be able to attend. There are also faithful saints who are “shut-in” and cannot attend, perhaps even for years. But talk to them and they will express the earnest desire to be in God’s house again. Their absence pains them.

Aside from these legitimate reasons, the clear demand of God’s word makes one wonder: How can a self-proclaimed Christian never darken the door of the church? How can an individual on the membership rolls attend so infrequently when he is able to do so? How can a Reformed church member in good conscience spend months overseas “seeing the world” and having “adventures” at the expense of faithful church attendance? Why would a Reformed church member want to take a job that requires him consistently to be absent from the means of grace?

Rather, the attitude of the child of God ought to be: How dear to me is the house of God! I’m going to do all in my power so that rarely (if ever) am I absent from God’s house!

But there is more. Not only are we called to be physically present in church on the Sabbath, we are also called to be mentally and spiritually present. It is not enough that we simply fill a spot in the pew, but we are called to joyful worship of God from the heart, in spirit and in truth. God is not pleased with mere lip service and outward ritual. May it never be true of us what was said of Israel of old: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Is. 29:13).

This genuine, heartfelt worship does not come easily and automatically. Preparation is required. This means getting home on time on Saturday night and getting a good night’s rest. This means waking up early enough so that everyone has sufficient time to get ready. This means spending the day in God’s Word, prayer, singing, fellowship with other saints, and acts of service. This means the hard work of putting aside distractions and focusing our hearts and minds on worship and the Word.

Truly, a hard day’s rest!

But a blessed day, a day of spiritual refreshment in God’s house so that we can serve him faithfully for another week.

Jehovah summons: “Seek ye my face!”

Let the believing heart reply: “Thy face, Lord, will I seek!”

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Previous posts in this series:

  1. Lively Stones in God’s House
  2. Time To Build!
  3. Bound to Join

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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Church Membership (3): Bound to Join

In previous posts I’ve introduced the calling of active church membership. Now we begin to spell out concretely what responsibilities are given to us by King Jesus.

Perhaps you’re an adult who’s thinking, “I’ve never given much thought to my church membership. What responsibilities are there?” Perhaps you’re a young person who’s considering making confession of faith and wondering, “What’s all involved with my church membership?” Whatever the case may be, it’s beneficial for us to be reminded of what our church membership ought to look like practically.

I want to begin with the most basic (and perhaps obvious) calling: the necessity of being members of a true, instituted church of Christ. This duty is foundational for all the rest.

This calling is memorably expressed in Art. 28 of the Belgic Confession: “We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person…ought to withdraw himself to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it…”

This is our calling: we are bound to join!

The Belgic Confession goes on in the following article to explain how we decide our church membership. It does so by describing the “marks” or distinguishing characteristics of the true church that guide us in this calling. Those three marks are: the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of Christian discipline. The true church bears these marks; the false church does not. In determining which church we must join, we are guided by these marks: “Does this church preach the gospel faithfully? Are the two sacraments administered faithfully? Is there the faithful exercise of Christian discipline here? If so, this is where I must be a member.”

The calling is simple and straightforward, yet there are several dangers that must be avoided.

One danger is the temptation to base our church membership on something other than these marks. Often it’s the case that, rather than being guided by these objective marks, we are guided by our emotions. We base our church membership on how warm and inviting the members are. We base our church membership on how charismatic the minister is or how easygoing the officebearers are. We base our church membership on whether there are other couples or individuals who are the same age as we are. We base our church membership on where our family members attend. We base our church membership on our spouse and where they want to go to church.

As easy as this is to do, something as serious as our church membership may not be based on our fickle feelings. We must be guided by the marks.

Another danger is that someone says that it really doesn’t matter what church they are a member of, so long as they are a member somewhere. However, it is our calling to join the church that most clearly manifests the marks of the true church.

In the past this calling has been illustrated by the figure of a wedge, like the shape of an ax head (cf. Homer Hoeksema, “At the Point of the Wedge,” Standard Bearer vol. 59, no. 18). One end of the wedge is thick and dull. The other end of the wedge is thin and razor-sharp. The wedge represents a broad spectrum of churches that would be considered true churches of Christ (thus giving the lie to the idea that the Protestant Reformed Churches are the only true churches in the world). On the sharp edge of the spectrum is a church where the three marks are clearly seen. In the middle of the spectrum is a church where the three marks are evident, albeit imperfectly. On the dull end of the spectrum is a church where the three marks are scarcely visible. And beyond that a church becomes a false church.

It is our calling to strive to be on the point of the wedge. This is the calling of the church as a whole, meaning that she must strive to manifest ever more clearly the marks of the true church. But this is also a calling for each individual believer. He must see to it that he is a member in a church that is as close to the point of the wedge as possible, a church that most clearly manifests the three marks.

A movement away from the point of the wedge will be judged by God. For the church that moves away from the point, God will judge by causing that church in time to become a false church. For an individual that moves in that direction, God will judge by causing him eventually to be cut off in his generations.

But a movement toward the point of the wedge will be blessed by God. The congregation that moves toward the point will be blessed. And the individual that moves in that direction will be blessed, in his generations also.

If you are a member of such a church, rejoice and be exceeding glad!

If you are not, join a true church, one that most faithfully manifests the marks!

And, so long as she remains faithful, never leave her!

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Previous posts in this series:

Lively Stones in God’s House

Time to Build!

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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Church Membership (2): Time To Build!

In the initial post in this series I merely stated the fact that Christ calls us to be active in the work of the church. In this post I want to prove that from the Word of God, and in so doing to impress upon us the blessed privilege and high calling that we have.

I want to do so by using one of the important figures that the Bible employs to describe the church. The scriptures use a number of different images to describe the church, most notably the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12ff; Eph. 1:22-23) and the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22ff). But the church is also described in a number of places as the temple or building or house of God.

The temple is a type of Christ’s body (John 2:19, 21). In that connection it is also a type of the body of Jesus, the church (Eph. 2:20-22). And, to be more specific, it is a picture of the church institute, the church as it is manifest in local congregations with officebearers and members and regular worship of God on the Sabbath (1 Tim. 3:15).

This spiritual house is built upon a cornerstone that supports the whole work and gives shape and structure to the building. The cornerstone is Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6-8).

That cornerstone anchors the whole foundation of this spiritual house. The foundation is solid and unshakeable. It is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the inspired apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20).

The house which is built upon this cornerstone and foundation is comprised of many different, individual stones. These stones are naturally misshapen, ugly, and covered in muck. And yet each one is precious and has a specific place and function in the building. These stones are the elect in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).

This temple is precious. Just as in the Old Testament the temple was the place where God was pleased to dwell, so also in the New Testament the church is the place where we enjoy covenant fellowship with God (Eph. 2:22). Just as in the Old Testament the temple was the place where sacrifices were made for sin, so also in the New Testament the church is the place where we receive the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of the Lamb on the cross. Just as in the Old Testament the temple was the place where God’s people brought their worship and thanks to him, so also in the New Testament the church is especially the place where we bring our praise and thanks to God. For these reasons our Reformed fathers said that outside of the church institute “there is no salvation” (Belgic Confession, Art. 28).

What a privilege to be a part of this house!

But in belonging to this house, we have a calling from Christ.

Understand that the work of building this house is Christ’s work. He is the one that gathers, defends, and preserves the church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 21). He is the one who chooses the stones that will make up his house. He is the one who alone is able to gather them together as one. He is the one that shapes, molds, and forms each misshapen stone to fit its unique place in the house. He is the one that polishes and perfects each stone so that they all appear as shining marble when every stone is gathered and the house is complete at his second coming.

Yet, in this work Christ gives us callings. This does not mean that we cooperate with Christ. It does not mean that we are equals. It does not mean that Christ bears some responsibility for the work and we do as well. We are means/tools/instruments in the hands of the Builder and Maker.

But this fact does not minimize our calling. It does not mean that we can be lazy and inactive. Christ calls us to be actively and zealously engaged in the work of building his house. In Haggai 1:8 God calls us to “go up…and build the house,” and the whole rest of the book of Haggai is a word of encouragement to be involved in this work.

Christ is pleased to use the church in the gathering of stones for his house. He does so by our preaching the gospel in the local congregation, engaging in mission work, and witnessing and local evangelism.

Christ is pleased to use the church in the shaping and molding of each stone so that is serves its function in the house and is made beautiful. He does so by our attentiveness to the preaching, by the rebukes of our fellow saints who come in the way of Matthew 18 and the elders who exercise Christian discipline, by our fellowship with other believers, by our service to the body of Christ, by our bearing the burdens of others, and a host of other ways.

We are stones in the house of God! What a privilege!

And we have work to do in this house! What a responsibility!

It’s time to build!

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Previous post in this series:

Lively Stones in God’s House

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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Church Membership (1): Lively Stones in God’s House

What’s your attitude toward the church?

How highly do you value your membership in her?

How seriously do you take the responsibilities that you have as a member of her?

I intend with this post to begin a series of articles on church membership, in particular the callings that we have as active, living members of the body of Christ.

The subject is significant because the calling is significant. Christ, as King of the church, has given to us important callings as members of his church, callings that we must take seriously, and callings that serve the well-being of his church. Nothing less than our best efforts are permitted. The churches where we have our membership need this of us.

Without minimizing the importance of this work, I also don’t want to place the wrong emphasis upon it. The reality is that I need the church more than the church needs me. Thanks be to God that the gathering, defense, and preservation of the church does not rest in my hands but in the almighty hands of Jesus Christ. I need the church as a child needs its mother. It’s within the womb of mother church that I receive life. Mother church feeds me, first with milk and then with meat, and makes me grow. Mother church chastens me when I sin and encourages me in faith and godliness. Apart from mother church there is no salvation.

At the same time, we cannot use this as an excuse to shirk the responsibilities that we have toward the church, as thankful children have responsibilities toward their mother.

The subject is significant as well because there are many wrong attitudes toward active membership in the church.

One danger that is becoming more and more common today is total neglect for the instituted church. The youth leave the church in droves. “Members” never darken the door of the sanctuary, other than an obligatory visit on Christmas or Easter. Some claim to be Christians and yet say that membership in a church is not necessary. The meetings that they have in their homes on Sunday are sufficient.

Another danger is that, although we are members of an instituted church, we are largely inactive and live on the fringes of the congregation. Our membership is limited to the hours of worship on the Sabbath day. Perhaps we say that we don’t have time to devote to the church.  Perhaps we say that we don’t have an outgoing and social personality. Perhaps we think that we don’t need anything from the other members. Perhaps we simply don’t feel like putting in the effort that is required.

Another danger is that we have the wrong perspective on church membership and the communion of the saints. Our perspective is not that we ought to serve others, but we think that others must serve us. Paul Tripp writes, “I am persuaded that the church today has many more consumers than committed participants. …For most of us, church is merely an event we attend or an organization we belong to. We do not see it as a calling that shapes our entire life” (Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, xi-xii). Often the result of having this perspective is that we are left soured and bitter toward the church because she does not meet our expectations. We don’t feel that others are giving us the attention that we need. And the temptation is for us to withdraw from the church.

Another danger is that we think this calling applies only to the officebearers. We might think that the only ones who really have work to do in the church are pastors, elders, and deacons. We members of the pew can rest easy. Certainly it is true that the officebearers have responsibilities in the church and lead the way in this work. But the Bible calls all members of the pew to be active in the church. This year we celebrate the five-hundreth anniversary of the Reformation, and one of the truths that Christ restored to his church at that time was the priesthood of all believers. The Reformed faith highly honors the office of believer in the church. And it is necessary that we take seriously the duties that Christ gives us in this office.

…to be continued.

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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RFPA Update Winter 2013

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
Northern Ireland
 

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
Philippines
 

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
Singapore
 

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

Herman Hanko
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.

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Save the Date!

RFPA Annual Meeting

September 27, 2012  |  Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church  |  7:30 p.m.

Save the date for the RFPA Annual Meeting! This year's keynote address will be given by book author and co-editor of the Standard Bearer Prof. Barry Gritters, professor of practical theology and New Testament studies at the Protestant Reformed Seminary. Gritters will present

Church Membership in a Postmodern Era

in connection with a conference on postmodernism given by Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church this past winter and in connection with two of our recent publications by David J. Engelsma: Bound to Join and A Defense of the Church Institute.

Stick around after the speech to hear more about the work of the RFPA and enjoy refreshments and fellowship with our Association members, authors, and fellow readers!

Join us at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church on September 27 at 7:30 p.m.! Bring your family and friends!

Listen to the meeting via live stream! Click on the "Listen Live" button on the upper right-hand side of the Hudsonville PRC homepage.

At the start of the meeting click on the "Listen Live" button in the upper right-hand side of the Hudsonville PRC homepage

Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church
5101 Beechtree Ave
Hudsonville MI 49426

 


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New Release Responds to Critics of Its Prequel

The newest book release, titled A Defense of the Church Institute by David J. Engelsma, is a defense of the author's controversial book (Bound to Join) that took issue with the deteriorating view of church membership in the 21st century.

Criticism of the position Engelsma takes in Bound to Join has come from Christians who reject the idea of church membership, preferring to live apart from other saints. Surprisingly, criticism has also come from Reformed and Presbyterian Christians who claim that true believers' membership in the invisible church excuses nonmembership in an instituted church.

In A Defense of the Church Institute, Engelsma defends the doctrine and practice of church membership, demonstrating that love for the invisible, universal church expresses itself by love for the manifestation of this church in the local congregation and denomination. The author also examines the growing "house church" movement and the teaching of Harold Camping that the church age has ended.

A Defense of the Church Institute is now available for $17.95. (Join the Book Club now to save 30-35% + FREE shipping!)

Oh, and if you missed Bound to Join, now's the time to snag this book! It's on sale now for only $15.00 ($9.75 for Club members and $10.50 for International Club members).

 

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