Dirty linen is something no one ever hangs on the line, is that not so? That is so in the literal sense and also figuratively. Despite all this, I am going to tell you about a sin that I committed at the beginning of my first charge as the minister of Genemuiden. Why am I going to tell you about this? Because (1) the story on page 20 of last months number reminded me of it; (2) and because it is not good for a minister (and every other person) to think that he is something that he is not - see 2 Corinthians 12 verse 6; and (3) so that both reader and writer might together join the Psalmist in praising God when he instructs us in (Psalm 103 verse 10):
"He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities."
These precious words are full of truth; for if it were not so, long ago He would have thrust me out into eternal darkness! Did you ever experience in your own life something about a long-suffering God Who is always ready to forgive?!
During a particular month of May Wilhelmus a Brakel once sang:
How sweet are times of song and flower,
wherein animal and man rejoice!
But with me there is only sorrow,
as long as I miss the love of Jesus.
But once He speaks to my soul and says:
Thou art Mine and I am thine to eternity
And delivers me from a life of sin,
Then is my life a life of song and flowers!
From a Church point of view it is at present no time of song and flowers. Nevertheless in your own soul it can spiritually still be the month of May. Did you ever experience that? Is it so still? Does not everything you see and hear about you invite you to this glorious and joyful SPRING to plead at the throne of grace and ask the Lord Jesus that you might experience this glorious time in your soul, that (Song of Solomon 2:11-12):
"The winter is past, the flowers appear on the earth and the singing of birds is come"?
Translated in New Zealand by Dick Vermeulen.
WORDS OF JESUS
Part of the solemn prophesy of Jesus in regard to His return to the earth in Matthew 24 (see previous number of the Catechisant), is the parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins of whom we read at the beginning of Matthew 25:
"Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom."
This parable points to selfdeception; and many other parables point to the same thing, maybe almost all. That is because it is such a solemn matter to deceive yourself! To deceive yourself FOR ETERNITY...
It is for that reason Jesus warns us. It has to do with the Kingdom of heaven and Jesus spoke about it a number of times because it arrived at the coming of King Jesus.
This King has also subjects.
The Kingdom is compared to a marriage. The King is the Bridegroom and the subjects are compared to the bridesmaids. There are here ten mentioned, half of them were wise and half of them were foolish; both groups belong to the Bridegroom. All ten were on their way to the marriage, to the Kingdom that was to come. Yet five of them were not really part of the Kingdom or associated with the Bridegroom; those five shall not enter into the Kingdom, partake of the marriage. Five of them will be shut out at last!
What was the reason for that? Were they not allowed to enter? They arrived too late! How did that come about? Well, we know the parable, don't we? They did not have enough oil in their lamps. They had not prepared themselves. They were so dumb, that they thought there was no need for preparation.
So then, what is it to be wise? To make proper preparations.
What is it to be foolish? If we make no preparation to meet Christ.
Jesus Himself explained the parable in a different way in the last verse (verse 13). He says:
Therewith He makes it clear that it is important that we must not be unprepared when we meet Him. We must be awake, we must be ready. And of course this parable confronts both writer and reader with the question: am I foolish or am I wise? Am I prepared to meet the Heavenly Bridegroom, or am I not? An important question in this connection is: do I have oil in my lamp only, or do I have oil in my vessel too? Put into modern language: do I have only batteries in my torch or did I bring some spare batteries as well? In the last case I am more prepared than in the first.
Calvin says: it is not a matter of being involved in the work for a short time, but that it be continued. This is what we learn from other words of the Lord Jesus, which we find in Matthew 10 verse 22. This has to do with persecution and the danger to give in and to deny Christ. For that reason He says:
"And you shall be hated of all men for My Name's sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved."
The parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins was spoken to the disciples, in other words it was spoken to believers so it is not only for those that are Christians in name only, or hypocrites, but it is spoken (also) for the benefit of those that are the children of God.
Maybe you are thinking: but these will surely be saved?! They belong (automatically) to the five wise virgins?! Or is it possible that a child of God can be lost in the end, so that as a child of God you come to be one of the foolish virgins after all?
The answer is: let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall...!
Jesus warns all of His disciples; not only Judas, but also Peter and James and Matthew. Why does He warn them? Is it possible then, that they might be lost in the end?
Listen, the manner in which God eventually saves His children is: to warn them, to encourage them to self-examination and to be watching. Let us notice two similar instances where Jesus warns His disciples, in Luke (17 verse 32):
"Remember Lot's wife."
And chapter 21 verses 34-36:
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. Watch therefore."
All this, while Jesus only just before (verse 18) had told them:
"But there shall not a hair of your head perish."
The parable of these ten virgins teaches us that there comes a time when the door shall be shut, not only for heathen and worldly people, but also for well-behaved religious churchgoers ... For you too, if you have no oil in your vessel.
How should I deal with Bible Translations?
As punishment for their pride God did confound the language of the people when they began to build the tower of Babel. As a result the different tribes did not understand each other any longer. For that reason it is necessary when a book is written in one language, that it is translated into another language, if people from that other language want to read it.
This particularly applies to the Bible. God had revealed Himself in the language of His peculiar people, the people of Israel in the Hebrew language. Later on He caused the New Testament to be written in the then universal language, Greek. Although Hebrew being a holy language, specifically used by God to reveal Himself in the way of salvation, and although Greek being a universal language at that time, today not many people speak those languages. For that reason if the inhabitants of the world want to read the Bible it needs to be translated into their own language!
The first Bible translation was from the (Hebrew) Old Testament into Greek. Later on, when the Greek language was spoken less and less, and most people began to speak and write in Latin, the whole Bible, the Old Testament as well as the New Testament were translated into Latin. At the time of the Reformation the Bible was translated into the languages of the different countries, German, English and Dutch etc.
If you are proficient in Hebrew and Greek there is no need to use a translation, but if you do not know those languages you will need the help of a translation. I write: you need the help ... Why do I write in such a negative manner? For the simple reason that every translation (not only of the Bible but also of all other books) is likely to contain distortions and mutilations. However able a translator might be in Greek and Hebrew and in his own language, even then it is not likely that the translation is of the same caliber as the original revelation. In every translation the original language is likely to suffer. For that reason it is important that you accept the BEST translation, the most reliable.
In the Netherlands there was only one translation made for the national Church and that translation was at the same time the most reliable. It is as you no doubt know the Authorized Version. This translation came into being in the seventeenth century. The Synod of Dordt had given instruction that this translation be made and the General States of the Netherlands bore the costs. For that reason may the Authorized Version rightly be called the State's Translation. This translation is very good, it has one failing: the antiquity of the language. It is now four centuries since this translation came into being.
During those four centuries the language has changed quite a bit. All sorts of words have changed and those that are offended by the antiquity of the language can hardly read a verse in the Authorized Version without being irritated. The Authorized Version is of course not to be blamed for that, but the reader himself.
During the centuries there also appeared other translations such as the "New Translation", the "Great News Translation" and "The Book". These translations have advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is the fact that the language used is more or less comparable to today's language. But the disadvantages are much greater, namely: the origin the new translations use is wrong. That applies also to the latest Bible translation published only this year, meant to be an Ecumenical translation suitable for all people: both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Further: the translation principles of the last century are much less scrupulous in relation to the originals than the so-called Old Translation.
No, the old is not always better, but in this case (unfortunately!) it is so. It is very desirable to have a new, more modern translation in present day language, but then a translation that uses the originals the translators of the Authorized Version used; and that they use the same translation principles. It is possible to produce such a translation because able men are available, but it is still a very touchy subject that in practice rather has divided people than united them.
How do we then have to deal with Bible translations? Use the most reliable one even if the language is rather archaic. Use the marginal notes in order to have a better understanding as to what is meant - the Dutch ones are being published again this year in a handy format and that way you will be able to hear God speak to you in a language that is easy to understand...
Everyone that understands Dutch, German, French or Spanish, I would suggest to them, that they alongside their own translation read one of the foreign translations. That is often helpful and you are likely to get a better understanding of what is meant. It also sharpens your mental powers. In German you find the Luther Bible and in Dutch the Statenvertaling, in French the Louis Segond translation and in Spanish the translation of Casiodoro de Reina - Valera.
Beresjiet bara elohim eth-hasjamaiem we-eth he-arets = En archei epoiesen ho Theos ton oeranon kai ten gen = In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram = In den beginne schiep God de hemel en de aarde = Am Anfang schuf Gott Himmel und Erde = En el principio creo Dios los cielos y la tierra = In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The LORD'S Praise
Frederick the Wise was prepared to care for Luther all the days of his life and to defend him against the pope and emperor Charles V. God's providence rules over everything yet at the same time we see the importance of rulers. Humanly speaking the Reformation would never have taken place if it had not been for Frederick the Wise who continually defended Luther!
It was also not long before Luther gained an important bosom friend in Spalatin, the most important adviser to Frederick the Wise; a man that had come to believe the Bible.
Luther lived in Wittenberg from 1512 (and from then on to the end of his life) in the Augustine monastery; first as monk and after that in 1523 all the monks left to live as ordinary citizens, he lived there for a while by himself and later on with his wife and children.
Now began for Luther a most important part of his life, as professor of theology lecturing on the Word of God. He had to spend a lot of time studying, and through these studies he got a much better understanding of the truth...
After a short while he was appointed minister in the town church, which required even more study of the Word of God. The first book of the Bible that he explained to his students was the book of Psalms. In 1515 he began with the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans. In 1516 he dealt with the epistle to the Galatians, in 1517 the epistle to the Hebrews and in 1518 he went again over to the book of Psalms. All his lectures began at six in the morning...
In his Bible studies he received much help from the works of Augustine, the great church father from North African Hippo (AD 400).
The following is part of a lecture on the book of Psalms: 'A man continues to be a sinner before God, but what is worse, he does not want to acknowledge that, but instead seeks to make himself acceptable by his good works. This makes everything worse because he accuses God of being a liar, because God judges him and he believes that judgment to be unjust. The actual transgression then is that the sinner refuses to humble himself before God, but instead tries to trust continually in his own works.'
About the epistle to the Romans Luther writes: 'The main theme of this epistle is to destroy all the wisdom and virtue of man, to cast it out and bring it to naught; no matter how great they might seem in the eyes of men and no matter how well and honestly meant. The intention of this epistle is also to show our sinfulness, so that we might see it as through a magnifying glass.
'Therefore that sinner is in the right way and righteous before God, who as a sinner bows before God and condemns himself before God's face. The beginning of salvation is: to despair of any hope from self.
'God is pleased with those that are displeased with self. God's grace is magnified in those that acknowledge their sin. God grinds us between the millstones of despair and hope of mercy... Thereafter God's Word raises us up in Christ and His obedience to the Law of God. This is not only the case at the beginning of our conversion, but it continues for the rest of our lives: the believer is therefore at the same time on the one hand a sinner and on the other righteous before God.'
The first book that Luther published (in 1517), was a commentary on the seven penitential Psalms. His second book in the same year was about the Lord's Prayer. His commentary on the second petition begins as follows: 'This second petition - the same as all the others - does two things: it humbles us and it raises us up. It humbles us and thereby forces us to acknowledge from our own mouth our state of misery; it then raises us up by showing us how we are to behave ourselves under this humiliation. In the first place it humbles us, because we openly acknowledge that God's Kingdom has not yet come to us. When that is seriously considered and we are made to pray about it, we come to understand the terrible state we are in and this moves every God-fearing soul to sorrow ... On the other hand when our misery has stared us in the face, the comfort of our merciful Master is revealed, our Lord Jesus Christ, encouraging us to pray, desires us to be delivered from our misery and not to doubt our salvation.'
Martin Luther not only was a monk, priest, professor and minister, but he was also the leader of the order of that monastery. In that capacity he had to travel a lot, to visit monasteries, in order to check that everything was going well. He also had to write many letters about the many problems in all the monasteries. From these letters it appears more clearly that he looked at everything from a Biblical point of view instead of dealing with problems according to the views of the times. To give one example: to a monk that was much troubled by many trials he wrote: you are laboring to be delivered from your troubles, but God gives peace to His people in the midst of their troubles.
The main difference between Luther and the church of Rome was: Luther had experienced the force of the Law of God, so that he saw himself as the greatest of sinners, and had learned to despair of finding any good in man. The natural man desires to be accepted for what he has done, but Luther would have nothing to do with salvation by any works that we could do.
Matthew Henry on Job, chapter 1
'His dearest and most valuable possessions were his ten children; and, to conclude the tragedy, news is brought him, at the same time, that they were killed and buried in the ruins of the house in which they were feasting, and all the servants that waited on them, except one that came express with the tidings of it. This was the greatest of Job's losses, and which could not but go nearest him; and therefore the devil reserved it for the last, that, if the other provocations failed, this might make him curse God. Our children are pieces of ourselves; it is very hard to part with them, and touches a good man in as tender a part as any. But to part with them all at once, and for them to be all cut off in a moment, who had been so many years his cares and hopes, went to the quick indeed.'
'They all died together, and not one of them was left alive. David, though a wise and good man, was very much discomposed by the death of one son. How hard then did it bear upon poor Job who lost them all, and, in one moment, was written childless!'
'They died suddenly. Had they been taken away by some lingering disease, he would have had notice to expect their death, and prepare for the breach; but this came upon him without giving him any warning.'
'They died when they were feasting and making merry. Had they died suddenly when they were praying, he might the better have borne it. He would have hoped that death had found them in a good frame if their blood had been mingled with their sacrifices; but to have it mingled with their feast, where he himself used to be jealous of them that they had sinned, and cursed God in their hearts - to have that day come upon them unawares, like a thief in the night, when perhaps their heads were overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness - this could not but add much to his grief, considering what a tender concern he always had for his children's souls, and that they were now out of the reach of the sacrifices he used to offer according to the number of them all. See how all things come alike to all. Job's children were constantly prayed for by their father, and lived in love one with another, and yet came to this untimely end.'
"Let your light shine - whether you're a candle in a corner or a lighthouse on a hill"
From Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary
'We wrong God if our groaning be heavier than our stroke, like froward children, who, when they cry for nothing, have justly something given them to cry for; but we do not wrong ourselves though our stroke be heavier than our groaning, for little said is soon amended.'
'O that I knew how I might recover God's favor! How I might come into His covenant and communion with Him!', is the cry of a poor deserted soul.'
'A patient waiting for death and judgment is our wisdom and duty, and, if we duly consider things, that cannot be without a holy fear and trembling; but a passionate wishing for death or judgment, without any such fear and trembling, is our sin and folly, and ill becomes us.'
'In what method we think most proper - we durst not be so free with earthly princes as a humble holy soul may be with God.'
'To be importunate in our requests, we are allowed, not only to pray, but to plead, not only to ask, but to argue; nay, to fill our mouths with arguments, not to move God (He is perfectly apprized of the merits of the cause without our showing), but to move ourselves, to excite our fervency and encourage our faith in prayer.'
'The same power that is engaged against proud sinners is engaged for humble saints, who prevail with God by strength derived from Him, as Jacob did.'
'That they are but tried. It is not intended for their hurt, but for their honor and benefit; it is the trial of their faith.'
"God's house should be a hive for workers - not a nest for drones"
"Don't let tragedy steal your trust in God"
"The Christian's inheritance is guaranteed forever!"
"God uses setbacks to move us forward"
"God invites us to burden Him with what burdens us"
From a Letter of Rev. D.J. Crag
"That I do love Thee ... is shown by my tears
is shown by my longing and sorrowing heart
could I by my tears force a way to be near Thee
it would have long ago been the end of my sorrow.
God of my soul, I have greater a trust,
stronger a tower and surer a rock:
it is not my love, whereon I build;
God be praised! It is the love of my God!"
And that is how it is. My wish for you in these days of joy and gladness is, not love towards Him - that we cannot sustain ourselves -, but His love towards us! And, that is also at the same time the source of our love to Him: when He pours again His love into our hearts, that in turn causes the flame of love to be kindled in our hearts, because then from Him flows a new supply of God given fuel, so that our hearts burn again with a glow of love to Him. O, what feelings of love and pleasure are just now filling my heart. I am so greatly astonished!
I got more and more desirous to write you again this afternoon. Not because I have any news, but because I received more and more light and my heart began to rejoice under the meditation that I want to share with you just now. What was it about? The astonishment about the incomprehensible Gift of God. Never shall we be able to comprehend this well known Gospel according to its worth, nor ever sufficiently be able to praise the God of grace for it. That was also the case with the meditations of my friend K. O, friend, should we not praise the Name of the Lord, Who has looked in mercy on such a dead dog as I am? Really, I have experienced during the whole of this week, what a deadness there was in me, despite the fact that the Lord has been so good to me and has cared for me in all my need. Although there was no particular sin in my heart yet it felt so dead. There is no spirituality in me. Although it has been planted in my heart by the Spirit of God, yet I cannot quicken it myself.
I conclude by saying: God has been good for me and I am pleased to be able to rejoice in Him: to say with the bride in the Song of Solomon:
"As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love."
I promised to write about the sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus speaks about it in Matthew 12 verses 31 and 32:
"Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
When we consider the context of the words of Jesus, we can say: the sin against the Holy Spirit is not a sin of weakness and not a sin of ignorance. So then if you have sinned in weakness or in ignorance, you have definitely not sinned the sin against the Holy Spirit.
What then is the sin against the Holy Spirit? From pure hatred and against better knowledge to oppose the truth of the Gospel, to blaspheme and to raise persecution against it. And all this against the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your own heart. That is what the annotations teach us.
So, it is not the sin that easily besets us, the sin which is so agreeable to your sinful nature and which you at the same time so often detest. Also not hateful or blasphemous thoughts about God or His Son. But, take note: when you never committed this specific sin and maybe never shall do, don't think that all is well. For also he who does not confess or strive against sin shall never receive forgiveness and so shall never be saved...
The question is: have you ever sorrowed for your sins, against God the Father, against His Son, Jesus Christ, and against the Holy Spirit? If so, you are welcome to the throne of Gods grace to receive forgiveness of sin! Even today.
- - -
The Heidelberg Catechism deals more particularly with the work of the Holy Spirit in answer 53. The child of God says: I believe the Holy Spirit He has been given me. That is something! God does not only give us His Son, but now we may also acknowledge and experience that He gives us His Spirit. What is that? The Catechism says: to make me by a true faith, partaker of Christ and all His benefits.
How then can you be a partaker of Christ and all the benefits He obtained on the cross at Golgotha? The Catechism teaches us more than once that it is by faith and that faith is a work of the Holy Spirit. Look at Questions 20 and 21, where we confess: only those are saved by Christ who are engrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits, by a true faith. The Holy Spirit works that true faith in my heart by applying the Gospel.
Now contrary to answer 53 is the completely different view of the church of Rome. How does one become a Christian there? How does one partake of the benefits of the work of Christ that He has obtained for His people? By faith? No, but by the sacraments, and particularly by baptism and the eucharist (the Lord's Supper). Faith, in the church of Rome is of secondary importance. Not altogether unimportant, but not as important as the Word of God shows it to be. We read very little in the Word of God about the sacraments; at any rate not that we become partakers of the benefits purchased by Christ by a simple (external) use of these sacraments. Instead we read in the Scriptures time and again that faith is of the greatest importance.
If the sacraments were the means of salvation, the church would, as a benevolent institution, become indispensable, and the minister of those sacraments, the priest, would usurp some unbelievably great authority. But if faith, and not the sacraments, is the means of salvation, then the church loses her central place and the minister as well; then all our attention will be on the Holy Spirit, as the One Who is the Dispenser of salvation.
And, that is how it should be. The church as a visible institution is, no doubt, used by the Holy Spirit, but she certainly is not indispensable. The preacher, according to the Word of God, is the means whereby the Word is dispensed and men come to faith, but still: you may believe even without a minister.
For that reason we should be thankful to the Lord that since the Reformation we have again a proper understanding that it is only the Holy Spirit, Who can unite us to Christ and all His benefits; so that we are dependent upon Him alone.
Many people find that very difficult. They prefer to be dependent upon anything but the Spirit of God. They prefer to have their dependence upon a minister or a priest, or some church institution or church ceremony (baptism or the Lord's Supper) rather than God Himself. But that is of course foolishness! Nothing can be compared with the joy to know that when it comes to the salvation of my soul I am not dependent upon anything or anyone but a Triune God. HALLELUJAH AMEN.
When the Holy Spirit has come to live and to work in your heart, you are made a partaker of all the benefits of Christ. But, that is not all. The Catechism shows us still more (and when we read this, our hearts should leap for joy!): He comforts me and is mine forever.
Comfort. That is the theme of the Heidelberg Catechism. That is what Question 1 begins with; that is also what Question 52 was about, when we consider the return of Christ. That is also what we are considering just now: the Holy Spirit comforts me. Where did Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus find this? Well, because the Lord Jesus speaks about it and calls the Holy Spirit by that Name. It is in the Gospel according to John that we read that the Holy Spirit is given that Name (chapter 14 verse 16):
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever."
Comfort goes well with sorrow. The disciples of the Lord Jesus were in need of comfort because they had to go into the world to preach the Gospel. They were to meet with much opposition, but the Holy Spirit would comfort and help them. Besides them all the children of God need to be comforted because they live in a world full of enmity and because they have to war against a mighty devil, and are surrounded by much sorrow, and above all: because they carry with them within their fallen nature the old man of sin. That means: the children of God have reason to sorrow and to weep all the days of their lives: and for that reason they need the Holy Spirit as their Comforter every day. What a wonder it is that He is present every day to comfort them in their sorrow. It is for that reason that the Lord Jesus not only tells them that He is the Comforter Who the Father shall give to His children, but also that He shall abide with them for ever. This then concludes answer 53 of the Catechism.
If that last statement were not true - and many people deny it - then it would be impossible that comfort and joy would live in the heart of a Christian. If it would be possible to have the Holy Spirit and still - for one reason or another after a while - to lose Him forever..., O, then all we would have would be, from day to day, a kind of despair. Why? Because I, from myself, can do nothing else but give the Holy Spirit reason to withdraw Himself. But He does not do that. He remains with me - despite my sin, unfaithfulness, worldliness etc.
Because God had from all eternity taken into consideration all my shortcomings when He gave me to Christ. O, what a glorious Gospel of GRACE!
"The more you love God, the more you hate sin"
"Those who reject Christ as Savior, will face Him as Judge"
ORTHODOXY and . . .
Merciful, that is our God. For that reason He continues to send His servants to call us to faith and salvation. That is how our fathers spoke when they came together at the Synod of Dordt of 1618-19. That is how they spoke about God's merciful election. What is repentance? Sorrow for sin. What is faith? To put our trust in Christ as the Savior provided by God.
Article 4 of chapter 1 of the Canons of Dordt continues:
'The wrath of God abides on those who do not believe the Gospel. But such as receive it and embrace Jesus the Savior by a true and living faith, are by Him delivered from the wrath of God, and from destruction, and have the gift of eternal life conferred upon them. (John 3:36; Mark 16:16.)'
People react in two different ways to God's friendly invitation. Some do not believe and others do. Those that do not believe remain under the wrath of God. What that wrath consists of, cannot be put in either thoughts or words; but that it is not an insignificant matter is clear from all those that accept the Bible to be the Word of God. The Lord Jesus compares the experience of God's wrath with the cutting off of the right hand and then says: it is better to live without the right hand than at the end of our life to burn in eternal fire. Here He uses the metaphor of fire. What He intends to convey is that experiencing the wrath of God can be compared to falling into a fire ... Have you ever experienced that: burned all over...?
The other alternative is: to embrace the Savior, to receive Him, to accept Him. The use of these words assumes that He has been offered to you. It is impossible to accept anything except it is first offered. It is in the same way impossible to accept someone in trust, who did not first offer himself.
That is what God does. He offers His Son to you in a very personal way. Without this offer there is not a single possibility and also no right to embrace Him.
You find an example of this offer in Psalm 2. There it speaks of those that set themselves against the King, Who God has anointed, His Son, the Messiah. In verses 10-11 those that set themselves against the King are told:
"Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling."
This is a call to salvation. Joy offered here in anticipation. Then verse 12 continues with this incomprehensibly glorious invitation:
"Kiss the Son."
What is meant by kissing the Son? The Great News Bible writes in the margin: As a sign of subjection the subjects kissed the feet or the ground near the feet of the king. The translators of the Statenbijbel explain it in the marginal notes in this way, 'That is, honor Him as My Eternal Son, and accept Him as your King, believe in Him, be subject to Him.' It is according to Matthew Henry, 'To welcome Jesus Christ and to subject ourselves to Him.'
What happens when we welcome Jesus? Then we are - says article 4 of chapter 1 of the Canons of Dordt - being delivered from the wrath of God, and from destruction.
Is that not marvelous? Just think a little longer about all this and let it not straight away escape out of your thoughts: the wrath of God and eternal destruction - GONE, for ever delivered from it!
Article 5 tells us something about the reasons why some people do not accept this DEAR Son of God as their King:
'The cause or guilt of this unbelief as well as of all other sins, is no wise in God, but in man himself.'
Those that see these matters as they are can do nothing but agree:
My damnation is not the fault of God. He has called me many times solemnly, kindly and seriously; He has clearly kept before my eyes what would be the result if I were to throw His advice to the winds; He has also clearly shown what He has offered me, so it will be impossible to plead ignorance. Now for a long time I have been trying to hide behind my so-called inability, but that was really no solid argument. If I had really in my impossibility cried to God He would have surely heard me and helped me. The real reason that in all these years I have been saying no to my Savior and my salvation, is: I did not want it!
If you are not in agreement with this, it is up to you. But there will come a day when God will very clearly show what the situation actually was. And that, on that day, the day of days, the judgment day, there will be no one who shall be able to blame God for his eternal damnation.
The blame for saying 'No' to Jesus and saying 'yes' to whatever sin or temptation lies squarely with ourselves. Therefore, think about it, be persuaded, bow your knees, and KISS THE SON!
"God is greater than our greatest problem"
"No service for Christ is insignificant"
. . . and ORTHOPRAXY
To be the head is of great importance. The best way for me to make clear this particular function is to compare it to the head of our body, your head. Your head, how does it function? Is it the boss? Does it behave like a tyrant? Not really? Your head is there to regulate everything in your body in a pleasant and proper manner. Your eyes and ears are ready and prepared to care for the whole of your body so that it does not come to any harm. An example: you walk in bare feet in the kitchen, where your little brother has just dropped a glass. Your feet would only realize that when you stepped in the glass. But your eyes..., when they see that broken glass, give a signal to your feet to tell them to take a different way. So your head is the keeper of your body. That now is the proper purpose of what it means to be the head, in the same way as the apostle Paul makes that clear in the epistle to the Ephesians (23rd verse):
"He is the Savior of the body."
In some Bible translations is 'he' with a capital letter and in some with a lower case letter. In Greek there is no such thing as a capital letter, so you have to find out from the context what the writer means. Does he mean that the man as head of the wife is her keeper and protector? Or does he mean that Christ is the Head of His Church, her Keeper and Savior? In actual fact it does not matter much, because here it has to do with the similarity between Christ and the husband: just as Christ is for His church, so is the husband for his wife. Christ is the Head of His Church, and the man is the head of his wife and in both cases it means that they are keepers of the body (namely the church / the wife).
If you are a boy and not yet married, but maybe you are engaged to be married, let me ask you: are you fit to function as head = protector of your girlfriend / fiancée / future wife? If that is not so, you should not trouble her by marrying her ... Are you keen to be her head? Not the boss, but protector / keeper? Do you love her so much so that you do not want to live to please yourself, but to please her?
If you are married already the same questions apply, even if you cannot undo your marriage, but what you can do if your marriage is founded on wrong principles you can undo that and make it better by together engaging in prayer to God, that your marriage be made a good marriage by the grace of God...!
Conclusion? Verse 24:
"Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
What does 'everything' mean?
Maybe you think: well, that is very simple: everything means just everything! Yes, that is what you think, but it is not as simple as that according to the Statenvertalers. They explain the word 'everything' as follows:
'Namely in the fear of God, as it is explained in verse 21, that is, as long as it is not contrary to love itself or the command of Christ, Who is the Head of the man as well as of the wife.'
Therefore the wife does not have to obey blindly, but always with an eye to the Word of God. For that reason the marriage formula states:
...Everything that is right and reasonable.
It is even possible that at a particular moment you have to do the complete opposite of being in subjection, as we find in the end of the marginal notes on Ephesians 5 verse 24, where we are referred to Luke 14 verse 26, where Jesus says:
"If any one comes to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."
Next we read more particularly about the man, as to how he is to conduct himself towards the wife (verse 25):
"Husbands, love your wives."
Now, there are, no doubt, female readers who are reading this and are saying, that is fairly easy for the men! The only thing they have to do is to love ... Yes, that does seem somewhat easier than to be in subjection, but the question is, is that really so. In the first place we have already seen that the man has to be the head of the wife, and what that means; and in the second place ... what exactly is 'loving your wives' actually? Is it that easy? Yes, if (1) the wife always conduct herself so that he can do no other than love her...; and (2) as long as he is not troubled by his fallen Adam-inclinations = egoism ...!
To love is, according to the apostle John, only possible from the side of God as a gift from Heaven. How far does that love reach? Paul gives a measure of it in the same verse:
"... even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her", namely unto the most terrible death, the death of the cross.
Are you prepared to die for your (future) wife? If not, then you do not love her as Christ loved His Church, and so you are not in the orthopractic line of the advice / command of the apostle Paul.
FROM THE MISSION FIELD
In the time of the Reformation very little mission work was done, at any rate not outside Europe. The reformers had their hands tied with matters in their immediate surroundings. They also did not have the opportunity to work overseas because in many instances the countries that were in charge served the church of Rome. But they did what they could, in particular Calvin sent many preachers from Geneva to France and even to Brazil together with a number of French Huguenots. Unfortunately this came to nothing shortly after when in the beginning of 1551 their leader joined with the Portuguese, who plundered the newly started colony and murdered the missionaries.
Later on the need to do mission work surfaced again among some of the congregations. In the seventeenth century there was some mission work done by George Fox, who in 1661 sent three brothers out to China. Unfortunately they did not reach their destination. A certain Lutheran, Justinian von Welz, vainly tried to start mission work in Suriname.
It was not until the eighteenth century that we see great strides in the protestant mission work. It was only then that men saw that they were responsible for those that lived without the Word of God.
Among those that saw the need for mission work were two Lutherans, Jacob Spener and August Hermann Francke. Francke was professor at the university of Halle and made his school a center of theology, evangelism and mission work. This last work was so strange in his time that most church leaders and theologians ridiculed him and laughed at him.
King Ferdinand IV of Denmark was the man who brought mission work into being by asking the university of Halle to send out missionaries who could evangelize his people in overseas countries, especially in Tranquebar, India. Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plutschau were the first to be sent out and the Danish-Halle mission was born. Within ten years a mission school was opened in Copenhagen, where among others the well known Hans Egede was taught. He began a mission in Greenland in 1722. You will hear more of him later on.
The most well known missionary of that century who worked for the Danish-Halle mission was Christian Friedrich Schwarz. He sailed in 1750 to India, where he faithfully worked for 48 years, traveling up and down the coast of India, preaching the Gospel and founding churches. Much of his work would have been impossible if he had not been able to master the many languages and dialects of the different areas. He worked much among young people, who later on continued his work. In those years there were as many as 60 missionaries sent out from Halle.
Unfortunately the fire slowly died out, but that did not mean the death knell of the mission work. Another mission organization came into being. This group was influenced by Halle and in a short time developed into the greatest mission church of the Christian era: the Moravian Brothers or Hernhutters.
A very important man for the development was Count Nicolaus Ludwig of Zinzendorf. His greatest desire was to spread the Gospel unto the ends of the earth. They had a missionary at every sixty church members while in other protestant churches the average was one missionary at every five thousand church members...
And how was the church able to pay so much for the missionaries? They could not do that and they did not do that, and there was no need for that, because every missionary earned his own income, just as the apostle Paul. This method is not only cheap, but it is also beneficial for the financial circumstances on the mission field. An example is Labrador, in the north east of Canada, where the Eskimos live. Because of the business endavours of the missionaries - in order to provide for their living - they interested the local people in business practice, so that their economy prospered and at the same time they were able to hear the Word of God.
The most important benefit of the Moravian Brothers to the mission work would probably have been this, that every Christian missionary was to be a witness in his daily occupation.
Von Zinzendorf was born in 1700, was an aristocrat and was rich. He studied law - the only thing that was expected of a count that to do with matters of state. He had a desire to do different things but was not allowed to. Yet when he was nineteen years old he saw a painting of Jesus with a crown of thorns, under which was written: This I did for you, what do you do for Me? From that moment on, the young Count knew: I shall never be happy as a noble. Whatever it might cost me, I shall serve my Savior and live for Him. The first opportunity arose in 1722 when a group of Christian refugees asked if they could live on his large estate. That settlement was called the Herrnhut, which means: under the care of the Lord.
On 13 August 1727, during a Communion Sabbath there was a spiritual revival: and a renewed glow of love to mission work fell on the settlement. That was the most important event of the Hernhutters to this day.
"To avoid going wrong, follow God's leading"
A STRIKING INCIDENT
That 6th of January it snowed, however I had to preach in Vledderveen, Drenthe. Someone of the congregation went with me and we left home extra early. Auto telephone or mobile phone I did not have at the time. When we reached the little church building in that wide, cold, deserted part of Drenthe, hardly anyone was to be seen except the chairman of the Gospel Chapel and two or three people.
Said the chairman, "I do not think that more people will come, because we have phoned the people and cancelled the service: the roads are so slippery and dangerous! I have tried to phone you, but you had already left so I have come to tell you that there will be no service. What do you think?"
There I stood. I had not expected this. But now, to keep a service for five people...? To my shame I must admit that I had no desire to do that. While I am writing this it is already nineteen years ago, yet I still blush with shame: how could I be like that?!
"No", I said, "let us go home." And so the five or six people went home again. I do not know if they were pleased or disappointed, but on the way home I did not have much joy. I was ashamed of myself but tried to justify myself, of course...!
When I got home - it was still quite early -, I decided to sit and read for a while. It was the autobiography of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, part 1; and I had come as far as chapter 7, with the title "The great change - Salvation". It was about the great wonder of God in the heart of the fifteen year old Charles. It was the 6th of January 1850. Spurgeon went to church. It snowed very much.
Exactly my situation ... 135 years later!
Because of the snowstorm he could not reach the church he had intended to go to and was forced to stop at a simple Gospel Chapel where, because of being prevented by the snowstorm there were only a few people (just like at Vledderveen!) And what did the preacher say? "Let us cancel the service"...? No, he preached!! HE PREACHED!!! The text was: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22) And God blessed that service and delivered this fifteen year old Spurgeon and set him free - after he had lived for five years in ever deepening conviction of sin, under the damnation of the Holy Law of God.
And here I was on the 6th of January 1985 reading in my study in Genemuiden - after I considered it not worth the trouble to preach to five or six people in Vledderveen. How ASHAMED I was of myself!
B I B L E C A T E C H I S M
The content of the book of Exodus
21-22 Diverse laws for public living. This shows the need for love to our neighbor; the LORD explains the command 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'
23. Three yearly feasts are established; Passover, Feast of Ingathering and Feast of Dwelling in Booths; God promises His presence on the journey: His Angel, Who He is in His Son.
24. The people are sprinkled with the blood of the covenant; a sign of our baptism.
25-30. God shows Moses the plan of the Tabernacle (Gods habitation among His people) and all the instruments: this is fulfilled in the New Testament, Hebrews 9!
31. Bezaleel and Aholiab are prepared by the Spirit of God with wisdom to make everything according to the will of God.
32. The golden calf is made as a likeness to the LORD. This is not so much a transgression of the first commandment but of the second. Yet it is still called idolatry! Aaron makes it. Moses breaks the two tables whereon God had written the holy Law. Three thousand children of the covenant(!) were destroyed because of this sin ... 1 Corinthians 10 verse 7. Moses prays for this sinful people and puts himself in the place of this sinful people. Herein we see in him the likeness of Christ.
33. God forgives the sin and spares the people. Moses is allowed to see God's back parts.
34. God makes Himself known by His glorious Names and Attributes. God renews His covenant.
35. Freewill offerings for the building of the Tabernacle, wherein the spoil of the Egyptians is included. (12:35-36).
36-39. The tabernacle and all the instruments for the service of reconciliation is made.
40. Everything is put together. Then God comes to live(!) among His people Israel.
The Sabbath: The LORD gave the Sabbath as a token of His covenant (31 verse 13), whereby the question comes to us: do you trust the LORD unconditionally and do you obey Him, even if you are not well off financially because Sabbath day costs you money? God gives us every week a Day of Rest, a feast day wherein we may thankfully remember Christ rising from the dead. Let us honor that Day of the Lord so that we do not loose His worship service. We are not to keep that day because we are under the Law, but in an Evangelical manner and that because our love to that day, that we may carefully spend it in the service of the Lord. Let us keep the New Testament Sabbath to the honor and glory of His Name and to our eternal benefit!
The Catechism of Geneva (1545)
156. Does He mean that the innocence of a pious man will be the salvation of all his posterity, however wicked?
Not at all, but that He will exercise His benignity to believers to such a degree, that for their sakes He will show Himself benign also to their children, by not only giving them prosperity in regard to the present life, but also sanctifying their souls, so as to give them a place among His flock.
157. But this does not always appear.
I admit it. For as He reserves to Himself liberty to show mercy when He pleases to the children of the ungodly, so He has not so astricted His favor to the children of believers as not to repudiate at pleasure those of them whom He will. (Romans 9) This, however, He so tempers as to show that His promise is not vain or fallacious.
158. But why does He here say 'a thousand generations', whereas, in the case of punishment, He mentions only three or four?
To intimate that He is more inclined to kindness and beneficence than to severity. This He also declares, when He says that He is ready to pardon, but slow to wrath. (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 145:8)
"I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love, and every grace
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
'Twas He Who taught me thus to pray,
And He I trust has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He'd answer my request;
And, by His love's constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea, more, with His own hand, He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
"Lord why is this?", I trembling cried,
"Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?"
"'Tis in this way", the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From pride and self to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
That you may find your all in Me."
Contemplation IV of Cain and Abel - Genesis 4
Look now, O my soul, upon the two first brothers, perhaps twins, and wonder at their contrary dispositions and states. If the privileges of nature had been worth anything, the first-born child should not have been a reprobate.
Now, that we may ascribe all to free grace, the elder is a murderer, the younger a saint; though goodness may be repaired in ourselves, yet it cannot be propagated to our children. Now might Adam see the image of himself in Cain, for after his own image he begot him. Adam slew his posterity, Cain his brother. We are too like one another in that wherein we are unlike to God. Even the clearest grain sends forth that chaff from which is was fanned ere the sowing; yet is this Cain a possession.
The same Eve that mistook the fruit of the garden, mistook also the fruit of her own body, her hope deceived her in both. So many good names are ill bestowed; and seldom our comfortable expectations in earthly things do not disappoint us.
Doubtless the education of Adams children was holy. For Adam - though in Paradise he could not be innocent - yet was a good man out of Paradise: his sin and fall now made him circumspect. And since he saw that his act had bereaved his children of that image of God, which he once had for them, he could not but labor by all holy endeavors, to repair it in them, that so his care might make amends for his trespass.
How plain is it, that even good upbringing and education cannot alter destiny! That which is crooked none can make straight. Who would think that brothers, and but two brothers, would not love each other? Dispersed love grows weak, and fewness of objects uses to unite affections: if but two brothers be left alive of many, we would think that the love of all the rest should survive in them; and the beams of their affection are now so much the hotter, because they reflect mutually in a right line upon each other. Yet behold, here are but two brothers in a world, and one is the butcher of the other.
Who can wonder at dissentions amongst thousands of brothers, when he sees so deadly opposition between two: the first root of brotherhood? Who can hope to live plausibly and securely amongst so many Cains, when he sees one Cain the death of one Abel?
The same devil that set enmity between man and God, sets enmity between man and man. And yet God said: "I will put enmity between thy seed and her Seed." Our hatred of the serpent and his seed is from God; their hatred of the holy seed is from the serpent. Behold here at once, in one person, the seed of the woman and of the serpent: Cains natural parts are of the woman, his vicious qualities of the serpent. The woman gave him to be a brother, the serpent to be a manslayer. All uncharitableness, all quarrels, are of one author: we cannot entertain wrath, and not give place to the devil. Certainly so deadly an act must needs be deeply grounded.
What then was the occasion of this deadly malice? Abel's sacrifice is accepted. What was this to Cain? Cain's is rejected. What could Abel remedy this? Oh envy! The corrosive of all ill minds, and the root of all desperate actions. The same cause that moved satan to tempt the first man to destroy himself and his posterity, the same moves the second man to destroy the third.
It should have been Cain's joy to see his brother accepted. It should have been his sorrow, to see that he himself had deserved a rejection. His brother's example should have excited and directed him. Could Abel have stayed Gods fire from descending? Or should he (if he could) reject Gods acceptation, and displease his Maker, to consent a brother? Was Cain ever the further from a blessing, because his brother obtained mercy? How proud and foolish is malice! Which grows thus mad for no other cause, but because God or Abel is not less good.
It has been an old and happy danger to be holy. Indifferent actions must be careful to avoid offence; but I do not care what devil or what Cain may be angry that I do well, or receive good.
There was never any nature without envy: everyone is born a Cain, hating that goodness in another, which he neglects in himself. There was never envy that was not bloody; for if it does not eat another's heart, it will eat our own. But unless it will be restrained, it will surely feed itself with the blood of others, oft-times in act, always in affection. And that God, Who - in good - accepts the will for the deed, condemns the will for the deed - in evil. If there is an evil heart, there will be an evil eye; and if both these, there will be an evil hand.
How early did martyrdom come into the world! The first man that died, died for religion. Who dare measure Gods love by outward events, when he sees wicked Cain standing over bleeding Abel, whose sacrifice was first accepted, and now he himself is sacrificed? Death was denounced to man as a curse, yet, behold, it first comes down upon a saint. How soon was it altered by the mercy of that just hand which inflicted it! If death had been evil, and life good, Cain had been slain, and Abel had survived. Now that it begins with him whom God loves, "O death, where is thy sting?"
Abel says nothing, his blood cries. Every drop of innocent blood has a tongue, and is not only vocal, but also importunate. What a noise then did the blood of my Savior make in heaven! Who was Himself the Shepherd and the Sacrifice, the Man Who was offered, and the God to Whom He was offered. The Spirit that heard both, says, "It spoke better things than the blood of Abel." Abel's blood called for revenge, His for mercy. Abel's pleaded his own innocence, His the satisfaction for all the believing world. Abel procured Cain's punishment; His freed all repentant souls from punishment. Better things indeed than the blood of Abel. Better, and therefore that which Abel's blood said was good. It is good that God should be avenged of sinners. Execution of justice upon offenders is no less good than rewards of goodness.
No sooner does Abel's blood speak to God, than God speaks to Cain. There is no wicked man to whom God does not speak, if not to his ear, yet to his heart. What speech was this? Not an accusation, but an inquiry; yet such an inquiry as would infer an accusation. God loves to have a sinner accuse himself; and therefore has He set His deputy (conscience) in the breast of man. Neither does God love this more than nature abhors it. Cain answers stubbornly. The very name of Abel wounds him no less, than his hand had wounded Abel. Consciences that are without remorse are not without horror. Wickedness makes man desperate. The murderer is angry with God, as of late, for accepting his brothers offering, so now for listening to his blood.
And now he dares answer God with a question, " Am I my brothers keeper?", where he should have said, Am I not my brothers murderer? Behold, he scorns to keep, whom he did not fear to kill. Good duties are base and troublesome to wicked minds, while even violences of evil are pleasant. Yet this miscreant, which neither had grace to avoid his sin, nor to confess it, now that he is convinced of sin, and cursed for it, how he howls, how he exclaims! He that does not care for the act of his sin, shall care for the smart of his punishment.
The damned are weary of their torments, but in vain. How great madness is it to complain too late! He that did not want to keep his brother is cast out from the protection of God. He that did not fear to kill his brother, fears now that whoever meets him will kill him. The troubled conscience projects fearful things, and sin makes even cruel men cowardly.
God saw it was too much favor for him to die; He therefore wills that which Cain wills: Cain wanted to live; it is yielded him, but for a curse. How often does God hear sinners in anger! He shall live, banished from God, carrying his hell in his bosom. And the brand of Gods vengeance in his forehead. God rejects him, the earth repines at him, and men abhor him. How bitter is the end of sin, yea, without end! Still Cain finds that he killed himself more than his brother.
We would never sin, if our foresight were but as good as our sense: the issue of sin would appear a thousand times more horrible than the act is pleasant.