Significant Silence

This article was written by Rev. Heys and published in the October 15, 1983 issue of the Standard Bearer.


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. 

King Ahasuerus divorced his wife Vashti and did not so much as claim that it was because of adultery. Nor could he correctly do that. God, therefore, continued to consider her his wife; and all men were required to take that same position. Being an unbeliever, not heeding God’s word that what God joined together no man might put asunder, the king put her out of the palace. Advised by his “wise men” he sought another wife. Note that the “wise men” who accused Vashti of “too much contempt and wrath” proceeded to show contempt for God’s laws and to advise deeds rooted in wrath against God. 

Shortly thereafter the king began to miss Vashti and considered restoring her. For we read in Esther 2:1 that the king’s wrath was appeased. And that word appeased is the same word that appears in Genesis 8:1 where we read of the waters of the flood being assuaged. In Esther 7:10 we find it translated as pacified. There we read of the king’s wrath being pacified after Haman was hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai. What is more, we also read in this verse that he “remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.” Verse 2 also makes it known that the king revealed that he missed her. For we read that his “wise men” said, “Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king.” They wanted no restoration of Vashti and were aware of the king’s loneliness and regret. Now that alcohol no longer warped his thinking, the king, reviewing in his mind what had happened, and, being sober, felt the loss. 

Note that the king remembers “what had been decreed” against her. We do not read, “what he had decreed against her.” It is true that he authorized her debasement and departure from the palace. But the decree had not originated in him. He was furious. He wanted her punished. But he was not ready to punish himself by getting rid of a wife in whom he had such pride, and was to him such a treasure, as is evident from his desire to show off her beauty at the feast. His eagerness for another beautiful wife is plain from the fact that the suggestion of his servants that there be a beauty contest, so he could have another most beautiful wife, is adopted. 

Having made all this known to us the chapter introduces Mordecai. Now surely he was not the same Mordecai who is mentioned in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7, and was one of the men who with Zerubbabel led the Jews back to Jerusalem. Some claim, or suggest this, but the somewhat detailed description of his genealogy—as well as all the acts of unbelief which he displays in the book—forbids such a conclusion. He is presented as a descendant of Kish (most likely the father of Israel’s first king) and as from the tribe of Benjamin. It is not important to determine whether this Kish is actually the father of King Saul. What is important is that he is a Benjamite, and thus a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose youngest son was Benjamin. 

In a broad, general sense then we may say that Mordecai was a covenant father, that is, one born among the covenant people that in generations had been taught the law and the prophets, and knew God’s covenant promises. In his eloquent plea which he makes before Esther, Mordecai reveals this to be the case. He speaks of enlargement and deliverance that will arise to the Jews from another quarter, if Esther does not speak to the king (Esther 4:13). Note here his significant silence consisting in this that he does not mention God’s name, when there was a beautiful opportunity to use it, and a time when it was required. 

But there are two matters here that must be considered. He is in Shushan long after the Jews had returned to Jerusalem and the promised land. Mordecai’s heart was fixed on the world, and he had no interest in returning to Jerusalem and in worshipping God in his temple. His burning desire to see Esther become queen of a godless nation, and wife of a thoroughly corrupt heathen king, reveals that. 

The other matter is that although he was, in that broad sense of the word, a covenant father, of an adopted daughter whose father also was born in and raised up in the covenant sphere, she being the daughter of his own brother, he did not bring this daughter up with covenant instruction. And what those who extol Mordecai and Esther as great heroes of faith disregard completely is that Mordecai does nothing (and that word nothing can be underscored), to keep Esther out of this sinful, immoral beauty contest, is so eager to see her win it, is not at all concerned by the fact that to become the wife of Ahasuerus is a flagrant violation of the seventh commandment, and that in order to get that position he not only instructs her but commands her to turn her back completely upon God’s covenant. Let us look at that a moment more fully. 

We will not accuse Mordecai of entering Esther into the wicked contest. We do not read that. We read that the king sent out men to look for fair virgins. Now Mordecai could have tried to hide her, for a time at least, but he makes no attempt. And even as there are ways to accentuate beauty of face and body, so there are ways, if one has a will and a mind to do so, to cover up and play it down. He makes no attempt and spoke no command to Esther to do so. More of this in a moment. But note that “Mordecai walked every day before the court of the woman’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.” That cannot mean that he was worried about her spiritual life. It cannot mean that he feared that she would fall into temptation. He knew that she had to spend a night with the king. This was not a sin she might fall into. It was a sin required to obtain the queenship. Mordecai was quite happy to have Esther pass this test of “trial marriage” and “lustful compatibility.” Here too he is completely silent. No warning is given Esther, no command to refuse going in unto the king. In fact, both knew that all this “purifying” of the candidates was with a view to this fornication. 

And all this fits in so perfectly with that command of Mordecai that she in no way at any time show that she belonged to the nation that served Jehovah! That is what it means that she must hide her kindred and her people. And that is what Mordecai wanted her to do. Now let me come back to that failure of Mordecai to keep Esther out of the wicked beauty contest. There was a way which he knew would disqualify her. There was a way whereby he could keep her from all that sin. Just let it be known that she is a Benjamite, a Jewess, one whose nation professed to believe in the God Who clearly stated, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and no matter how beautiful of face, the king, if not the king’s men, would have no part in entering her into this beauty contest to be the queen of their land. How, O how, can you exalt a man like this and hold him up as a hero of faith? 

Consider that his command to Esther means that she might never pray to Jehovah. And for what would she pray—if she did it secretly on her bed at night in the dark? Would she pray for forgiveness of her sins in which she intended to continue to walk? She was preparing for fornication and had set her face to go that way, at her uncle’s command. Could she sincerely pray for forgiveness of a sin she intended to hold on to until her fleshly ambitions were satisfied? 

Not to reveal her kindred and her people meant that Esther had to desecrate the Sabbath so she could be kept on the list of candidates who would commit fornication to be joined to a godless, unbelieving king and be one flesh with him! It meant that she could not confess Jehovah and must not speak one word of faith or hope or love toward him! It meant that, what the three friends of Daniel, and Daniel himself, would not do, she would gladly do, namely, eat and drink things offered up to idols! She was to turn her back upon the Lamb of God and declare by her works that she had no connection with him whatsoever. There was no way in this heathen land and palace of a godless king that she could keep the passover and manifest faith in God’s wrath passing over her because of his Son’s blood. 

But let us concentrate for the moment on this father who commands all this of her. And later we will have occasion, the Lord willing, to point out several times when he could have used God’s name, and as a believer most assuredly would have done so. Instead there comes out of his mouth not one word that indicates even a weak faith in him. How dare anyone hold him up before his children as a hero of faith, a man after God’s heart who ought to be emulated and praised for what he did for God’s church

Mordecai was interested in Israel as a nation, but not as the people of God. He was interested in having one of the seed of Abraham in the king’s palace, but he was not interested in having the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob confessed and praised in that palace. Not only did he with interest watch to see whether his daughter would succeed in this immoral night of “sleeping” with the king, he taught her also to break the ninth commandment. O, yes, you can bear false witness by silence. Silence can speak louder than words, as well as actions often speak louder than words. And Mordecai’s unbelief becomes manifest not only in what he did but in what he did not do; in what he said, but also in what he did not, would not, and could not say. Indeed we have significant silence here in this book. A silence that loudly speaks of unbelief?

Consider that in New Testament language what Mordecai commanded Esther was, “In no way, at any time, let anyone think that you are a Christian. Be sure all think you are one with the world. Let your speech be in every way the speech of the world.”

But also in New Testament language take careful note of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, 33: “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” That hold true also for those who teach their children not to confess Christ.

You can extol Mordecai, though he never uses God’s name and forbids his daughter to use it. But the point is that Jesus in no uncertain terms teaches that such he will not confess before his Father in heaven. How terrible that silence is, and what significance it carries!


“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (2)

This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. If you have any questions or comments for Rev. McGeown, please post them in the comment section on the blog.


Alive in Christ

You might think that, if Paul has been crucified with Christ and had died to the law, he would be dead—but he is not, for he clarifies in verse 20, “Nevertheless, I live.”

Paul’s crucifixion with Christ did not put his physical body in the tomb. Paul’s death to the law did not kill him physically. Paul was not physically crucified at all.

Or to put it another way, Paul is dead in one sense: he is dead to the law; but he is alive in another sense: he is alive to God. When the law threatens him, Paul’s answer to the law is, “I died to you; I am dead to you because of the cross of my Savior, Jesus Christ.” When God calls him, Paul’s answer to God is, “O my God, I live to thee; I devote myself to thee because of Jesus Christ thy Son.”

“I live” is Paul’s conclusion in verse 20. What does he mean by that? Does he refer simply to physical life? That cannot be the meaning, for that would be true of anyone—believer or unbeliever; or Christian, Jew, or atheist. But Paul is making a distinction: I have been crucified with Christ; therefore, I live. To the unbeliever Paul would say, “You have not been crucified with Christ, but you are a stranger to Christ; therefore, you do not live. You cannot live.”

Outside of Christ, the unbeliever is dead.

The life of which Paul writes is the rich life of fellowship with God. This life has its source in God, for God alone has true life. This life consists in knowing God. This life is eternal and everlasting life. It is the life of heaven begun in to the soul, which will come to perfection in the kingdom of God.

“Nevertheless, I live.”

Paul lives because Christ lives.

Although Paul does not explicitly mention the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he has that in mind. Christ was crucified; Christ was buried; Christ was raised from the dead. Because Paul belongs to Christ, Paul was crucified; Paul was buried; and Paul was raised from the dead.

Paul explains this further in Romans 6:6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Paul explains it also in Ephesians 2:5–6: “Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Here, then, is the transformation in which Paul rejoices. He was dead in sin and dead to God. In that former life, Paul had no fellowship with God, for he was estranged from God, alienated from God, and an enemy of God.

Now he is dead to sin—and to the law—and alive to God; now he lives in the highest, fullest sense: by virtue of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live.”

As is characteristic for Paul, he clarifies what he has just stated: “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (v. 20). I do not live, or more literally, “I no longer live.” Christ lives. Christ lives in me.

What does that mean? Clearly, it does not mean that Paul’s human person has been replaced, as if Paul’s ego is no longer present, or as if Christ’s person has replaced Paul’s person. That is impossible: then Paul would be assimilated into Christ; then Paul would no longer exist. If that were the case, Paul would not be the subject of his thinking, willing, and acting. Paul would simply be a puppet in which Christ lives. Paul would be an empty shell in which Christ performs the activity, and in no sense could it be called Paul’s activity.

Then that would be true for all Christians—Christ’s person (his ego) would replace the individual persons (or egos) of millions of Christians; that is impossible and absurd.

Paul makes similar statements elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 he writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain: but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

In that verse Paul does not deny that he worked hard, but he gives the praise to God. God’s grace worked in him; God’s grace was the source of his strength. Yet God did not work in him in such a way that he did not also work. God did not bless Paul’s sloth, but God blessed Paul’s diligent labors. Yet God’s grace was first: Paul depended on God’s grace for his work; God did not depend on Paul.

Similarly, then, Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Christ is the source of Paul’s life; Christ dwells in Paul by the Holy Spirit; Christ gives Paul the grace to live, to fight sin, to follow after holiness, to bring forth good works of obedience, and to endure affliction. Yet Christ does not fight sin—Paul does by the power of Christ; Christ does not follow after holiness—Paul does by the power of Christ; Christ does not obey—Paul does by the power of Christ; Christ does not endure affliction—Paul does by the power of Christ.

Do not fall into mysticism by confusing your person with Christ. Do not imagine that you are assimilated into Christ so that you no longer do anything. Do not sit idly and expect without any effort on your part to walk in God’s commandments and serve him. That is not how it works—and that is not what Paul means.

Apply that to Galatians 2:20: I am so united to Christ that Christ lives in me. I am so separated from sin that I do not identify with sin. Yes, I am guilty of sin—but Jesus has died for my sins. Yes, I commit sin—but I hate my sin, I flee from my sin, and I crucify my sin by the grace of God. And that is only possible because Christ lives in me.

The Canons of Dordt address this also, and in so doing they refute the “Let go, and let God” error of some Christians. Some Christians in an attempt to elevate the grace of God teach passivity in the life of a Christian. “Let go—make no effort. Let God—God will save you while you are unconscious, but he will do so without your activity.” That sounds pious, but that is not how the Bible describes the Christian life: the Bible describes the Christian life as a battle, a struggle, a fight, and a grueling race. God works in us in such a way that we work. Listen to the Canons: “Grace is conferred by means of admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced” (Canons 3–4.17).

 That this is the correct meaning of Paul ought to be obvious when we read the rest of the verse. Paul very definitely refutes the view of the mystics on this verse when he writes, “And the life which I now live in the flesh” (v. 20).

So Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live.”

Then he qualified it, “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

And then he qualifies it again, “And the life which I now live in the flesh.”

So Paul does, in fact, live after all—he lives in the flesh. The word flesh is a reference to Paul’s human nature or his human existence: it is human nature from the perspective of its weakness and even its sinfulness. What is man—he is flesh! Body and soul, he is flesh. When Paul writes Galatians 2:20, he has not yet reached the perfection to which he aspires.

But notice what Paul does not say, “The life that I now live according to the flesh.” Paul lives in the flesh, because he cannot (until Christ releases him in death) escape from the flesh. Nevertheless, Paul does not live according to the flesh, or in harmony with the flesh, for he does not serve the flesh; he does not serve sin.

How could he—he is dead to the law! How could he—he lives unto God! How could he—he is crucified with Christ! How could he—Christ lives in him! Paul explains it elsewhere in Romans 8:12–13: “Therefore, brethren we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh, for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Or Galatians 6:7–8: “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, the same shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

That is the Christian life. On the one hand, we live in the flesh—that’s our life, the everyday, ordinary, and difficult life in this world. We live that life. We struggle through that life. We fight against our sins. We stumble, we fall, and we get back up again. We watch and we pray, and we seek to glorify God. On the other hand, we no longer live, for Christ lives in us—he is the source of our strength; he enables us by the power of his grace to live as his children.

Our lives have been transformed, and they are being transformed. The process is slow—and often painful—but we press on by the grace of our Savior.

Living by Faith

Finally, Paul explains the power of his life. “The life, which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (v. 20).

There is confusion about these words, as well as the words in verse 16: “by the faith of Jesus Christ.” There is some who imagine that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the subject of the faith—that is, Jesus is the one performing the activity of believing. Grammatically, that is possible, but it makes no sense. How could Jesus be the one performing the activity of believing? Jesus does not believe for us or instead of us; we believe in him.

The meaning, therefore, is clear: I live by faith in the Son of God, or, if you prefer, I live by faith that comes from the Son of God. Jesus is the one in whom I believe, or Jesus is the one from whom my faith comes. But when God gives me faith, it becomes mine; it is mine, and I exercise it.

Jesus works faith in us, and we believe. We live by (or by means of) faith in Jesus. In Jesus we trust; on Jesus we rely; in Jesus we find our salvation. Therefore, we do not find salvation in the law or in our efforts to keep the law; we find salvation and all the benefits of salvation in Jesus alone.

Paul explains the basis for this: the love of God displayed in the cross. Notice that Paul emphasizes the dignity of Jesus’ person: he does not call him “Jesus” or “Christ,” but “the Son of God.” That is a testimony to his deity: he is the eternal, only begotten Son of God; he is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Holy Trinity.

And the Son of God, says Paul, loved me. The Son of God had great affection for me; before the foundation of the world the Son of God willed and sought my highest blessedness and salvation; and the Son of God sought and established a bond of fellowship with me—that is love!

And here is how he loved me. He loved me by giving himself to the cruel, humiliating, painful death of the cross for me. He loved me by taking my sins upon himself, by bearing God’s wrath for me, and by enduring the curse for me.

And now I live, but not in my own strength: I live by faith in him, the one who loved me and gave himself for me.


Ten Rules for Producing Unspiritual Young People

In any great undertaking there are certain basic rules or principles which need to be followed if the endeavor is to be capped with success. The pilot must know the principles of aeronautics; the draftsman the principles of engineering; the surgeon the principles of human physiology. Such is also the case in the great enterprise of producing unspiritual young people. Here, too, one's goal is most easily achieved, and success guaranteed, when these basic rules are taken into consideration. Application of these time-tested laws, either singly or in any combination, is sure to bring about the desired goal. Any consistency in applying the rules is sure to make the devil cheer and the world applaud. By the same token the Holy Spirit will be grieved and the cause of Christ's church in the world dealt a severe blow. 

What are these rules, the practice of which is most effective in producing unspiritual young people, a virtual serpent's brood? 


“Crucified with Christ, I Live”

Dead to the Law

Paul begins Galatians 2:19 with this assertion, “I am dead,” or (better) I died.” The difference between “I am dead” and “I died” is the difference between a state of being (dead) and a completed action in the past (died). You might express it thus: “I died,” with the result that “I am dead.”

The truth that Paul died presupposes that before he died, he had lived—or he had been alive. Such is the case. With respect to what was Paul once alive? And with respect to what did Paul die, so that he is now dead? The answer to the question is “the law.” “I am dead to the law” or “I died to the law.”

There was a time in the past, says Paul, when I was alive to the law. But that has changed. I am now dead to the law, for I died to the law. Paul was alive to the law; he lived for the law; he was devoted to the law; and he sought his salvation in the law.

There was a time in the past, says Paul, when I tried to keep the law. The law said, “Do this and live.” Paul thought that by “doing” the law he would live. Therefore, Paul made every effort to keep the law. He lived very strictly.

Then something happened. Paul died to the law, so that now he is dead to the law.


Irresistible Grace

What is meant by it? 

To understand the meaning of irresistible grace we must go back in history to the time of the Arminian controversy. The very term irresistible cannot be understood, except in that light. 

The Arminians taught resistible grace. In their third article they seemed to maintain an orthodox doctrine of man's depravity, although more than appearance this was not. And in their fourth article they made it very plain that the grace of God in their system of doctrine is dependent on the will of man. Man, after all, is able to resist the operation of God's grace; and if he is able to resist, he is also able not to resist. The choice rests with him, and the efficacy of God's grace depends on the willingness or unwillingness of the sinner. 

This is very plain when one reads Articles 3 and 4 of the Arminians together.


June Standard Bearer preview: Response to ‘Agreement and objections re faith and works’

Rev. Lanning:

I am glad to read that you find between us areas of agreement. Especially important is that you can accept calling faith a ‘doing,’ though only “as long as calling faith a ‘doing’ only means that faith is an activity, but in no way, shape, or form means that faith is a work.”

You should have no fear of that. In no place have I called or labeled our faith a work. To do so, would create a confusion of categories. They are to be distinguished.

You write that we are in agreement that faith is an activity. I am happy to hear that.

You indicate that we can agree that the regenerated child of God is able to believe and that faith is the necessary means of salvation. That is encouraging.

You also indicate (in your third paragraph from the end) that faith is obedience to the gospel’s call.

Thus, in sum, we may say that you teach that 1) faith is an activity, 2) faith is obedience to the gospel call, 3) faith is a ‘doing’ (carefully defined), and 4) man actually does believe. It means we have a common basis for discussion.


June Standard Bearer preview: Agreement and objections re faith and works

Agreement and objections re faith and works

Thank you for publishing my letter and revised letter in the March 1 and March 15, 2019 issues of the Standard Bearer, even though the letter exceeded the length allowed by SB policy. (As for your apology for publishing the wrong letter originally, apology accepted—no harm done and no hard feelings.) Thank you as well for your thorough response to my letter in two installments in those same issues. We are agreed that these matters are of greatest importance and are worthy of the space devoted to them in the pages of the SB. I ask for your indulgence in allowing me to respond once more, since this letter again goes beyond policy.

I have read your responses repeatedly and carefully, and I believe that I understand what you are saying. I am in complete agreement with much of what you write, and I think it would be beneficial in this discussion to highlight precisely where we are of one mind.


God's Providence and Sin

The subject of God's providence and sin places us before an unfathomable mystery. This we readily concede and confess. And we have no intention of comprehending and understanding this mystery. On the one hand, man is a free responsible being. He performs iniquity because he loves it. He is unmolested in his sinning, is never forced or coerced. Besides, he never wills or desires anything else than sin, does not rest until and unless he commits evil, is a slave of iniquity, but always a very willing slave. He is always free, only however in this moral sense of the word. He is never sovereignly free. On the other hand, God is the living God. He alone is God. We cannot afford to lose this truth. If we lose this truth we lose God. And, losing God, we lose all. 


Our first audio book!

The RFPA has received many requests over the years to produce audio books, so we are excited to finally share with you the production of our first audio book: When You Pray.

What is blessedly refreshing about Professor Hanko’s work, When You Pray, is his admission that none of us is good at prayer—including himself—yet over the years of one’s life, the author assures us, a person can make progress in praying.


Graduation Special - 50% off titles!

Graduation Special - 50% off titles! For the entire month of May.


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