The Church and the Sacraments (Early Views of the Church)

Continuing with the early views of the organiza­tion of the church as entertained by the early church fathers, we now call attention to Irenaeus. In our preceding article we called attention to the views as expressed by Ignatius, one of the apostolic fathers and bishop of the church at Antioch. The great esteem in which he held the office of bishop appears from all his writings, although we also called attention to the fact that Ignatius also held the office of the presbyter or elder in high regard. Later the office of bishop was held in much higher esteem.

Irenaeus is reputed to have been the first to have advocated the institution of bishop as a diocesan of­fice and as the continuation of the apostolate. From him we quote the following quotation:

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tra­dition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the churches, and to demonstrate the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these heretics rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the “perfect” apart and privily from the rest, they would have de­livered them especially to those to whom they were committing the churches themselves. 

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Remember Me!

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Luke 23:42

Everyone mocked the Christ when he hung on the cross.

The people stood beholding.

The rulers derided him, but also with them, that is, the people.

The soldiers mocked him.

Even the written word meant to deride him. The superscription on the cross was meant as a taunt of the ruler, the governor: This is the King of the Jews! Imagine: a King on a cross??!!

Yes, and even a man who was in the same judg­ment with Jesus mocked him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us!

Everyone derided and mocked Jesus.

But wait! There is one solitary exception: the other murderer.

He turns his tortured body toward the other mur­derer and after chiding him for mocking Jesus, he turns to Jesus and says: Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!

Marvel of marvels!

There is one in the whole universe that believes in the crucified one!

And he is a murderer.

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August 2019 Standard Bearer preview article

“As to our good works” (2): The nature of good works as works

Works occupy a prominent place in Scripture; in fact, Scripture is from beginning to end a book of works. Scripture attributes works to the triune God, Christ, angels—wicked and holy, and men—wicked and holy. We begin our examination of the good works of the believer by considering the nature of good works and noting five general characteristics of our good works as works.

A conscious, acting subject

First, works are those deeds consciously and volitionally performed by rational, moral beings. Strictly speaking, a creature like the sky is not capable of performing works. Psalm 19:1 teaches, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” The visible expanse of the heavens above us gives glory to God; however, it is not an intelligent creature consciously and willingly producing “works” of praise unto God as holy men and holy angels can do. We men are different than the creatures in the heavens above and in the earth beneath and in the waters under the earth, for God created us as personal beings with an intellect and will so that we are able to live consciously before His face performing works of service in love for Him and our neighbor. In marriage, a husband and wife are called to love each other and show it in word and deed, but if a whole week has gone by and they have not consciously performed even one considerate act towards each other, living as intimately as two stars twinkling side by side in the heavens, something is dreadfully amiss. God created us, and in Jesus Christ has recreated us, as new creatures able to do good. Consciously! Willingly! Cheerfully! Lovingly!

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A Covenant Home: What Is It Like?

Some years ago, on a visit to the south, I found myself in front of a home, which had, hanging over the front door, a sign upon which were the words: "In This House Christ Is King." I found this intriguing and immediately thought of the firm statement of Joshua to Israel just before his death: "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 

It would be equally appropriate for a covenant family to have a sign hanging over the front door of its home, with the words engraved on it: "This Home is a Covenant Home." Such a family would want all who visited it to understand that the home they were about to enter was a special kind of home, a unique home, a home which differed from countless thousands of homes throughout the country or the world. 

If you saw such a sign appropriately fixed above the front door of a house, what precisely would you expect to find inside? Would you enter with some firm ideas concerning what to expect? Or would you say: "I have no idea of what a covenant home is like." 

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Christian Marriage

As head of the wife the husband must love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it (v. 25). In the love of God the husband must love his wife. Love never seeks to hurt or destroy, but always seeks the salvation of its object. God so loved us that he gave his only begotten Son to atone for our sins and give us everlasting life and glory. That love must be reflected by godly husbands. Loving his wife as Christ loved the church, the husband will never be a ruthless tyrant. He will lead his wife in the way of the word of God. Together husband and wife will bow before that word in all of their married life. God's word will be the foundation for their marriage. In God's love the husband will provide both the earthly and spiritual need of his wife. Just as Christ gave himself for the church, so the husband will love his wife. With the self-sacrificing love of Christ the husband will seek his wife's welfare in this life and for the life to come. A godly husband lives for his wife. She is first in his life. He is not harsh or bitter towards her. He is tender and kind. He nourishes and cherishes her as Christ cherishes the church. He rules not with an iron hand expecting to be waited on hand and foot. His wife is no harried, tired slave who lives in fear of him. As the church has all of the love of Christ so the wife has all of the love of her husband. He loves her so much that he will not only put up with her weaknesses and bad habits, he loves her so much he is willing to die for her.

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Fellowship with God

The truth concerning man's relation with God is one which deserves our attention and our understanding. Nothing can be more important than one’s standing before God. It is very literally a mat­ter of life and death.

There is a relationship of fellowship between God and his people. That relationship has been called a "covenant relationship." This concept is fundamental unto a proper understanding of our duties and responsibilities before God and with men. Within the church it becomes very plain that some sort of beautiful relationship exists between God and this people of his church. It is also to be clearly understood that this relationship exists only because of and through the cross of Jesus Christ.

"Covenant" involves a coming together, a dwelling under one roof. The term emphasizes that God and his people have a basis for unity. This, we believe, is the purpose of God's revelation outside of himself—that a people might eternally dwell with him in Christ.

 

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July Standard Bearer preview article

Introduction

The Lord’s Supper in the dialogue of worship was not always understood the scriptural way we have described it in these articles. In our previous article we examined how Rome views the Lord’s Supper in worship. In this article we want to understand how and why the Reformation was used of God to restore the church to a proper understanding of the Lord’s Supper in worship.

Restoration of the gospel

When the Reformation returned the church to the truth of the gospel, everything changed also in worship. In God’s sovereign mercy, Martin Luther, who had access to Scripture, began to see the truth of the Word of God. Particularly, he saw that Scripture taught the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross that effectually atoned for the sins of all His people, so that they are justified by an imputed, alien righteousness alone.

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The Sesquicentennial of the Afscheiding

Pastor de Cock briefly addresses the gathering, pointing them to the seriousness of the moment and of the step they were contemplating. Then they all kneel in prayer to commit their cause to the Lord and to beseech him for grace that they may make their decision in the consciousness of his favor. For their help is in the name of the God of Jacob. 

It was only a little band! 

They did not belong to the noble and the wise and the rich of this world. They did not belong to those who counted for something in this world. But "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are" [1 Cor. 1:27]. 

It was by this little flock of small and despised folk that a step was taken and a decision reached which would prove to be of tremendous historical significance for the Reformed Churches—in fact, for Zion of all ages, for eternity. 

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The Fifth Point of Calvinism

We must not imagine that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and of the assurance of that perseverance was a new doctrine established by the Synod of Dordrecht in 1618–‘19. It was not. The doctrine of perseverance was not new for the church in general, nor was it new to our Reformed creeds and for our Reformed churches. I need only remind you of the fact that this doctrine finds expression in a most beautiful context in that jewel of our Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 54, concerning the holy, catholic church. The 54th answer concludes with the well-known words, "...and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof." There, in just a few words, you have both the doctrine of perseverance and the doctrine of the assurance of perseverance. And the fathers of Dordt were well aware of this, and thus aware of the fact that the Arminians militated against the adopted confession, as is plain from their reference to Q&A 54 in article 9 of the fifth head of doctrine:

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Significant Silence

The second chapter of the book of Esther is very revealing, if one does not approach it with a mind biased by the general notions concerning the principal characters in the book but lets the facts speak for themselves. It reveals nothing but deeds of unbelief both on the part of the Gentiles mentioned, of whom it can be expected, but also of the Jews, who knew the law and the prophets. And while this chapter already is revealing, what follows in the remaining chapters also underscores what we wrote before, namely, that not one of the persons mentioned by name in the book was a believer. Indeed some reveal that they know that there is a God, but without exception all show that they have no faith in God. Let us look carefully at what the one true God makes known to us in this chapter. 

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