Christ’s poverty, our riches

Spiritually, we are very poor, by nature. We are poverty-stricken, spiritually bankrupt in ourselves. This poverty is the terrible poverty of sin, of death, of the curse, of hell! It is a poverty far more awful than the worst of material poverty. Do you recognize that poverty as yours? The whole church for which Christ died is poor, spiritually destitute. Think of the corrupt host for which Christ died, of the wretched sinners we all are, even now. If you think of your own terrible poverty, the poverty of a nature completely depraved, then you can see something of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He, being rich, was made poor on our behalf.

There is no other explanation for it but grace—undeserved favor. Christ was under no obligation to come into our poverty. He did not have to come to Bethlehem! He certainly did not have to save you and me! It was grace! It was our poverty that created the necessity for that horrible, foul-smelling stable in Bethlehem in which Christ was born. Do not attempt, like so many do, to make that stable a cozy, lovely place. It speaks of our sins and the depths of our poverty. It is our shame!

—Read the meditation ‘Christ’s poverty, our riches’ in the upcoming December 1 issue of the Standard Bearer by Rev. Michael DeVries.

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God’s armor for us: The sword

The sword is necessary for the advance of God’s kingdom, first of all, because the true, instituted church of Christ and her youth are surrounded by false doctrines, vain philosophies, and wicked lifestyles.

Dangerous are the heretics with their heresies, the crafty false teachers with their honeycomb tongues in influential speeches and cunning literature, and the pleasure-seekers attractively promoting their ungodly lifestyles. No one is more dangerous than the seducer who takes the name “Christian” and, like his father Satan, tries to take our sword by quoting the pure Word of God to prove his damnable lies and further his abominations. Danger is everywhere. And due to the Internet, everyone has a platform for their vain babblings, easily gaining entrance into and influencing any home.

The church must not wait for error to infiltrate the camp, but through her watchman must be vigilant in identifying the threat of the hour and go on the offensive by engagement in polemical preaching and teaching that condemns threatening false doctrines and wicked practices. The sword of the Spirit drives heresy and the love for dissolute living out of hearts, homes, and churches, and, more importantly, prevents its entrance.

—Read ‘God’s armor for us: The sword’ by Rev. Brian Huizinga in the upcoming December 1 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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Thanksgiving

Whenever we gather to give thanks, we should remember what scripture teaches about the activity, especially this time of year when even the ungodly claim to engage in it. Thanksgiving is essentially an act of worship performed only by faith. Although we thank each other and consider it courteous, with few exceptions thanksgiving in scripture is directed entirely to God. Giving thanks is a sacrifice of praise, a freewill offering of the heart to express our gratitude to God (Heb. 13:15; Lev. 22:29). Entering his gates with thanksgiving is simply part of our reasonable service and payment of our vows (Ps. 50:14, 100:4). And it should describe our entire life—we must be thankful in whatsoever we do in word or deed (Col. 3:15-17). 

Rightly, we associate thanksgiving mainly with prayer. Thanksgiving begins with prayer (Neh. 11:17). Godly officebearers like Moses, David, and Daniel regularly gave thanks in prayer. Jesus customarily gave thanks in prayer before he broke bread to eat (John 6:23), and Paul ceased not to pray thanks (Eph. 1:16). We also are told to continue in prayer with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2; Phil. 4:6). For Christians, prayer is simply the chief part of thankfulness (LD 45). But an important, perhaps overlooked, means of thanksgiving is singing. Scripture refers to it frequently. David wrote songs and appointed Levites to give thanks morning and evening by singing with instruments (1 Chr. 16:4-7). Scripture says it is good to give thanks by singing (Ps. 92:1), and urges us to come before his presence with thanksgiving, making a joyful noise unto him with psalms, and with voices of thanksgiving to publish all his works (Ps. 95:2, 26:7). 

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In Response to 'What Must I Do?' Editorial in the Standard Bearer

The following letter was sent to the editorial office of the Standard Bearer with the request that they publish it. The editors refused to publish the letter. I publish it here on the RFPA blog as I sent it to them. I believe these issues are of utmost importance for our churches and for the readers of the blog.

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Letter to the Standard Bearer about What must I do?

Dear Editors of the Standard Bearer,

I am writing about the most recent editorial, What must I do?, by Rev. Koole (October 1, 2018 Volume 95, Issue 1). I find the editorial deeply disturbing for the connection that it makes with doctrinal dispute in our churches, specifically the editor’s, “fear that we tend to underestimate,” the truth of irresistible grace, and the editor’s connecting this to the “issues being discussed in the PRC of late, namely, grace and godliness—the life of good works—in the life of the child of God.”

The editor’s reference is to the doctrinal dispute in the Protestant Reformed Churches over sermons preached at Hope Protestant Reformed Church. I take issue with the editor’s characterization of this as “a discussion.” Rather, there were multiple protests and appeals filed, discipline carried out, a man deposed from office, many meetings were held, many decisions were made, some decisions overturned, and the last decision was made by Synod 2018, part of which involved a formula of subscription examination of a preacher. It is hardly “a discussion.” To describe it as such is an affront to all involved.

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Doctrine

The Hebrew word for doctrine means "to take, receive, seize"; then it means that which is received mentally: instruction. The Greek has a whole family of words relating to our topic: one means that which is taught; another refers to the one doing the teaching, the doctor or master; the verb form simply means to instruct or indoctrinate. The word doctrine appears fifty-two times in scripture, good evidence of its importance. Strikingly, when we read of doctrines in the plural the reference is always to strange doctrines, the doctrines of men, or the doctrines of devils. False doctrines are legion and contradictory, but true doctrine is one, for it has its unity in Jesus Christ. 

The doctrine of God drops from heaven as rain (Deut. 32:2), it is pure and good (Job 11:4). The people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus, saying, "What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth he . . ." (Mark 1:27). But Jesus did not teach new doctrine; it was not his but the Father's, and it agreed with the teaching of Moses (John 7:16–19). The children of God obey from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto them (Rom. 6:17). Since all scripture is given by inspiration of God, it has the primary profit of giving us doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). Adding to the peril of the times in which we live is the fact that men "will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers; having itching ears" (2 Tim. 4:3). The purpose of God in giving ministers to the church is "that henceforth we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . ." (Eph. 4:14). Of such central importance is the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is come in the flesh that the denial of this is antichrist, and "if there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (2 John 10). 

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Be strong

When the Bible speaks of the strength of youth, it does not have in mind merely muscles. After all, God “taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man” (Ps. 147:10, a verse oft repeated to a sports-crazed young man by a wise grandmother).

Rather, the word of God has in mind spiritual strength. This is evident from the rest of 1 John 2:14 when it says to young men, “…I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong….” What ought to characterize mature Christian men, and young men in particular, is that they are strong spiritually.  

—‘Be strong’ by Rev. Joshua Engelsma in the upcoming October 1, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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What must I do…?

In this editorial we want to touch on a few things that are related to the doctrine of irresistible grace. I fear that we tend to underestimate that truth and its implications, which really is to say, what he, the Holy Spirit, is able to make of a man. We give you exhibit A, Simon Peter—the boastful, self-confident disciple pre-cross, in contrast to the humble, courageous apostle post-Pentecost. When it comes to a believer, the difference could not be more remarkable. We must not underestimate what by virtue of the operations of the Spirit a man becomes, and what the Spirit of grace enables a man to do! 

What we [also] touch on in this editorial are issues that are not only relevant to a proper understanding of the Canons and of the historically defined Reformed faith, but to issues being discussed in the PRC of late, namely, grace and godliness—the life of good works—in the life of the child of God; in particular, how the life of godliness relates to grace, and to faith, and then to the preaching of the gospel itself with its call to faith and godliness.   

—‘What must I do…?’ by Rev. Kenneth Koole in the upcoming October 1, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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RFPA Update newsletter - Summer 2018

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

  • Getting books into eager hands
  • Color House Graphics Tour
  • Upcoming children's books
  • A book contest
  • Author videos
  • New publications
  • Reader feedback
  • RFPA Annual Meeting
  • Reader feedback on T is for Tree

FULL ISSUE

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Synod 2018: Obedience and covenant fellowship

The editorial in this special Synod issue focuses on one particular issue faced by Synod 2018, namely, the place of obedience (good works) in the believer’s experience of covenant fellowship.

The issue of the place of good works in the covenant life is important because the covenant and salvation are inseparable. A Reformed man will confess concerning salvation that 1) it is all of God; 2) salvation is found in Christ alone; 3) God sovereignly saves His elect through faith in Christ alone. Likewise a Reformed man will say that 1) the covenant is all of God; 2) the covenant is established with Christ and therefore with those chosen in Him; 3) God effectually brings His elect into the covenant and gives access to fellowship with Him through faith in Christ.

—Read more in Synod 2018: Obedience and covenant fellowship by Prof. Russell Dykstra in the upcoming July 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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To teach them war (20) God’s armor for us: The Shield

From all eternity God determined to bestow the gift of faith as a shield upon His elect people in Jesus Christ. When we sinners are begotten again and sovereignly grafted into our living Savior, we receive all the benefits of salvation, including the ability to believe and trust in God and His word. Faith then is the powerful, conscious activity of the believer whereby he holds for truth all that God has revealed in His Word, confidently persuaded that the promises thereof are for him personally. Faith fixes itself on the Word of God and says about everything in it, “Truth!”

—Read To teach them war (20) God’s armor for us: The Shield by Rev. Brian Huizinga in the upcoming July 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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