Mission work is the great command to the Church by Christ just before He ascended to heaven: all nations are to be discipled to Christ. This also applies to every reader: you are either a missionary or you are a subject of mission work. There is no way in between. Thus in the second case - when you are not doing any mission work in word and deed in your surroundings - it means that you are not yet a disciple of Christ, that there is a need that those that labor in mission work among the heathen, need to bring to you the knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ.
May God have mercy on us!
May brotherly love remain!
WORDS OF JESUS
After Jesus had solemnly warned the Jewish leaders He went out of the temple. The disciples heard everything He said to them and how He rebuked them, but it was just as if His words made no impression on them; because ... what is the next thing we read in chapter 24?
"... and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple."
I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that they did not understand the words that Jesus had spoken in the temple. They were just like little children. When you tell a young child something serious, for example that someone has died, then it is quite possible that such a child all of a sudden says: o, look father, what a nice butterfly! He has no ear for the solemn news, only for what he sees just at that moment.
So, with the disciples, it seemed that they were not at all impressed with what Jesus said in the temple, but much more concerned about the building itself. It seemed that they were so full of temporal matters, things of the earth, that they were more concerned about outward beauty than spiritual truths.
What was the answer of Jesus? We read about it in verse 2:
"And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
What a glorious Gospel do we read of in these verses. Yes, maybe you are hardly believing your eyes when you read this and think: how can you write a thing like that? When Jesus said that that beautiful temple, that house of God, was to be broken down, how can that have anything to do with the Gospel? This is not good news or a message of joy! It is nothing but judgment!?!
It is true that it was a judgment. The temple was to be broken down, and that was a judgment. But still: what a glorious Gospel!
Why? Because in these words is hidden the meaning THAT THE TEMPLE WOULD NO LONGER BE NEEDED. And why not? Because the offerings would no longer be needed. And why was that? Because the Offering was to be offered. However there was also an enormous judgment in these words of the Lord Jesus and that was what He spoke about a little later on. The disciples were so confused by these solemn words that they - having gone out of Jerusalem and having arrived at the Mount of Olives and looking back at the beautiful city and the beautiful temple - asked Him: when shall these things be?
He told them about two events that would take place: about the fact that the temple and the whole of Jerusalem would be destroyed (by the Romans in 70 AD, about 40 years after His crucifixion), and He told them about His coming again in the clouds of heaven (before long).
The destruction of the temple was the end of the Old Testament ministry of the Covenant of grace. That in turn points to another end, namely the end of the New Testament ministry of the Covenant of grace: by Jesus' return as the Judge of heaven and earth.
What we learn from the beginning of this solemn and impressive sermon of Jesus is, that it does not have to do - and our concern may also not be - about the external buildings. It has to do with inward matters. The church buildings are not important, but the church service. The stones of the building are not holy, only the spiritual and lively stones of the spiritual temple, the spiritual house of God, namely the Christian congregation, they are important!
This was also the case in the Old Testament times, but it has become much clearer in the New Testament. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria in John 4, that it does not have to do - as she thought - with the (Samaritan) temple on the mount Gerizim and also not - as the disciples thought - with the (Jewish) temple on mount Zion, because:
"... the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."
The apostle Paul shows his readers clearly (1 Corinthians 3 verse 16):
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
The apostle Peter says in the second chapter of his first epistle (verse 5):
"You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
In Revelation we even read (chapter 21 verse 22):
"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it."
For that reason we do not offer up any animals and we have no priests. We live by saving faith in the one Offering and the Priest of God.
You too? Let them pull down all church buildings - though it would be terrible if that were to happen!!! -, as long as you personally are but a stone in the spiritual temple.
How should I deal with Bible commentaries?
Maybe you are thinking: Bible commentaries are for ministers, not for me. Is that so?
You might well question if Bible commentaries are for ministers. I know of a minister who wanted to buy a very good Bible commentary, but he had no money to buy one. It was John Warburton, and because he had no money, he asked a friend if he would lend him the money. You know what his friend said? He said, No, you just get down on your knees! That friend felt that a Bible commentary was quite unsuitable for a minister. Ministers should not get their sermons out of Bible commentaries, they should get their sermons from God.
There is some truth in the views of this friend of John Warburton because there is the danger that a minister neglects prayer and meditation and instead spends too much time on his Bible commentary. But the same applies what I tried to explain last month in connection with Bible study and Bible circles that misuse does not make void the good use of a thing. Misuse is always possible and in those cases a sermon consists of comments of Calvin and Matthew Henry and others; and at the same time dependence upon prayer for light of the Spirit of God languishes. But there is also the possibility of making use of Bible commentaries together with prayer for light of the Spirit of God and dependence on Him with personal study and meditation.
Those that condemn the use of Bible commentaries claim to be wiser than God. The Lord can teach us all things and He has no need of help from anyone. But, at the same time the Lord will have us to make use of the means by instruction from parents, Christian schools, higher authorities etc. We are on the one hand not dependent upon mankind when it comes to spiritual matters, but on the other hand God will that we be given spiritual instruction by means of other people.
Take note of the following in 1 John 2 verses 20, 21 and 27:
"You have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. I have not written unto you because you know not the truth, but because you know it." "The anointing which you have received of Him abideth in you, and you need not that any man teach you."
When you read this portion of Scripture you are likely to think: all ministers etc. might as well pack up and go. There is no need for any more sermons, no more books need to be written because the children of God have no more need of that: Gods Holy Ghost instructs them! Yet the apostle John still writes this epistle.
This epistle is not only part of the Bible, but is also a sort of Bible commentary of what God had already made know in the Gospel. The epistle / commentary was thus still necessary despite the instruction of the Spirit. Yes, because - despite the direct working of the Spirit of God - it has pleased God to make use of the foolishness of preaching to save sinners.
So it is with Bible commentaries, God can and will instruct His servants. He can and shall give them light from His Holy Spirit and yet He also uses men and means: Bible commentaries. No, the Bible does not need to be explained. The Bible is plain and clear, but you and I are so darkened that we need to have it explained and made clear. For this reason during the centuries, ever since the Christian Churches had a being, commentaries of the Holy Scriptures have been written and read.
Especially since the Reformation we have received many commentaries from Martin Luther and John Calvin, initially for the benefit of students of theology but also for ordinary people.
But what about yourself? You are no minister and you do not study for the ministry. You do not need to prepare a sermon, what are you to do with a Bible commentary? Still, Bible commentaries - as opposed to scientific textbooks - are very suitable for the average member of a congregation; in fact very much written for them. Two examples as to how you can use a Bible commentary are: (1) After every church service you can look up in your Bible commentary about what the minister has been preaching. You learn from that. (2) Every day you can do your own short Bible study with the use of a Bible commentary.
Do you want to know what would be a good commentary for you? The Bible commentary of Calvin is very good, but not the most useful, then the commentary of Dachsel would also not be my first choice. The best that I know - besides the annotations in the Dutch authorised version - is the Bible commentary of Rev. Matthew Henry. Rev. Matthew Henry lived in the seventeenth century, three hundred years ago. Yet his Bible commentary has been reprinted time and again and is the best Bible commentary there is, especially for family and personal use. You will be well rewarded if you bought one; you could ask your parents (or grandparents) to lend you the money, or you could ask it for your birthday. Then you have a magnificent possession, which will last you A LIFETIME.
Do you always have to agree with what the Bible commentary says? No, you must always agree with what the Bible says, but commentaries are the works of men. For that reason use them prayerfully asking for the light of the Spirit of God; and, read them with discernment.
The LORD'S Praise
Luther was afraid to flee to Christ, because he thought that he had to be sinless before he was allowed to come and also because he thought that he had to earn his salvation with good works. That way Luther crucified Christ afresh!
Von Staupitz was actually the man who told him for the first time that he had a wrong view of Christ and that he ought to cast himself upon the Son of God with all his sins, because He suffered, that sinners might be delivered from their sins!
Luther was at times so full of fear and despair that he could hardly carry on. Later in life he wrote about these experiences:
'At this time God appeared full of wrath; there is no possibility of fleeing from Him, no comfort everything accuses me. At such a moment a soul cannot believe that she will ever be saved.'
The devil also attacked him with the question: are you one of the elect? But Luther learned: I must look at the wounds of a crucified Lord Jesus and not be troubled about the question, am I elected or am I to be cast off? Luther was able to see it in this light: my experience of feeling that I am left of God is proof that God is present! Throughout his life Luther was troubled by temptations and despondency. The devil never left him alone, but God used these temptations and this warfare in his life again and again to teach him about the most precious riches of grace and merciful love.
Because he was to enter into the priesthood he had to read the Bible. That used to be the practice in days gone by, but no-one seemed to understand the Bible. Many had no Bible and those that did have one did not read it, and those that read it did not understand it. By the grace of God Luther read his Bible in a different way: he read it verse by verse and meditated on each word until he understood the spiritual meaning. He said: you have to chew the cud. Every text is like a nut: it has a hard shell that you must break in order to be able to eat the beautiful insides.
Luther read his Bible so thoroughly, so often, that he almost knew it by heart! But he still found the Book of God very difficult and he nowhere met anyone that could explain its meaning. He longed so much to understand the meaning of the Bible that he was almost prepared to crawl to Spain upon his knees.
In this way he came to understand more and more that the Bible can only be understood by those that are troubled and tempted. All those texts did mean nothing to those who were not in need or distress. It is only possible to be comforted by the promises of God when you are troubled in your conscience.
Luther came to love his Bible more and more and to discover more and more of Christ in it. He now found that the Old Testament was full of Christ. That way he also learned more and more to hope in Christ, to confess his sins to Him and not to depend upon his own good works.
Luther in Rome and Wittenberg
In November of 1510 Luther traveled to Rome with a couple of companions. The reason for this difficult and dangerous journey was a dispute at the monastery between some who wanted stricter rules and those that desired an easier way of life. Luther was in favour of the stricter rules.
He was happy that now in Rome he would be able to find peace of conscience. If there was any place in the world where a fearful conscience could find rest and peace, it would be in Rome, because it was in Rome that so many indulgences could be earned. If you climbed the Pilate stairs on your knees and prayed the Lord's Prayer on every step, you would be able to deliver your soul from purgatory.
Purgatory? What is that? That is the place the children of God go after they die. Do they not then enter immediately into heaven? No, they must first suffer for the last sins they have committed and be cleansed from the last taints of sin, and that takes place in purgatory. Some of the children of God have to burn for years and sometimes centuries. This, at least, according to the church of Rome.
This false doctrine, this heresy of the church of Rome was believed by Luther. And, he was keen to do what he could to deliver his forbears out of purgatory. O, what foolish romish teaching, completely contrary to the Word of God!
But although Luther did everything he ought to have done, he at the same time doubted if it was really true. God was already working to loosen him from all superstition and error taught by the pope and the church of Rome.
The travelers from far away Germany were altogether four weeks in the capital of the great Roman Empire. What disappointments did our earnest young priest meet with: the clergy of the church in the capital was dumb, and careless in the execution of their spiritual ceremonies. This however was not a reason for him to leave the church.
When he returned to Erfurt he was instructed to go to Wittenberg. It was there that only recently a university was opened and they were looking for professors to teach the students Bible knowledge. Wittenberg was the capital of the duke of Saxen, where Frederick the Wise ruled. He was desirous that the new university should give serious attention to the Bible in the original languages, namely Greek and Hebrew.
From Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary
"In one scale he puts the sufferings of this present time. The sufferings of the saints are but sufferings of this present time, strike no deeper than the things of time, last no longer than the present time, light affliction, and but for a moment. So that on the sufferings he writes tekel, weighed in the balance and found light."
"In the other scale he puts the glory, and finds that a weight, an exceeding and eternal weight: glory that shall be revealed. In our present state we come short, not only in the enjoyment, but in the knowledge of that glory: it shall be revealed. It surpasses all that we have yet seen and known: present vouchsafements are sweet and precious, very precious, very sweet; but there is something to come, something behind the curtain, that will outshine all. Shall be revealed in us; not only revealed to us, to be seen, but revealed in us, to be enjoyed. The kingdom of God is within you, and will be so to eternity."
"He concludes the sufferings not worthy to be compared with the glory. They should not at all deter and frighten us from the diligent and earnest pursuit of that glory. The sufferings are small and short, and concern the body only; but the glory is rich and great, and concerns the soul, and is eternal. This he reckons. It is not a rash and sudden determination, but the product of a very serious and deliberate consideration. he had reasoned the case within himself, weighed the arguments on both sides, and thus at last resolves the point. O how vastly different is the sentence of the word from the sentiment of the world concerning the sufferings of this present time! I reckon, as an arithmetician that is balancing an account. He first sums up what is disbursed for Christ in the sufferings of this present time, and finds they come to very little; he then sums up what is secured to us by Christ in the glory that shall be revealed, and this he finds to be an infinite sum, transcending all conception, the disbursement abundantly made up and the losses infinitely countervailed. And who would be afraid then to suffer for Christ, who as He is before hand with us in suffering, so He will not be behind hand with us in recompence? Now Paul was as competent a judge of this point as ever any mere man was. He could reckon not by art only, but by experience; for he knew both. He knew what the sufferings of this present time were. He knew what the glory of heaven is. And, upon the view of both, he gives this judgment here. There is nothing like a believing view of the glory which shall be revealed to support and bear up the spirit under all the sufferings of this present time. The reproach of Christ appears riches to those who have respect to the reward."
"It is our duty at all times, especially when we are in affliction, to accommodate ourselves to, and quiet ourselves in, all the disposals of the Divine Providence."
"It is the duty and interest of every one of us to acquaint himself with God. We must get the knowledge of Him, fix our affections on Him, join ourselves to Him in a covenant of friendship, and then set up, and keep up, a constant correspondence with Him in the ways He has appointed. It is our honour that we are made capable of this acquaintance, our misery that by sin we have lost it, our privilege that through Christ we are invited to return to it; and it will be our unspeakable happiness to contract and cultivate this acquaintance."
"Be at peace, at peace with yourself, not fretful, uneasy, and in confusion; let not your heart be troubled, but be quiet and calm, and well composed. Be at peace with your God; be reconciled to Him. Do not carry on this unholy war. You complain that God is your enemy; be His friend. It is the great concern of every one of us to make our peace with God, and it is necessary in order to our comfortable acquaintance with Him. God Himself beseeches us; ministers, in Christ's stead, pray us to be reconciled. Can we gainsay such entreaties?"
"Having made your peace with God, submit to His government, and resolve to be ruled by Him, that you may keep yourself in His love. We receive our being and maintenance from God. From Him we hope to receive our bliss, and from Him we must receive law. Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
"Which way soever we receive the intimations of His will we must have our eye to Him; whether He speaks by Scripture, ministers, conscience, or providence, we must take the word as from His mouth and bow our souls to it."
"Herein consists the conversion of a sinner - his receiving the law from God's mouth and no longer from the world and the flesh."
"Lay up His word in your heart. It is not enough to receive it, but we must retain it."
From a letter of Rev. D.J. Crag
And when you begin with inattention, nonchalance and carelessness therein, you are likely to become more and more empty and spiritless and as a result you read the Word of God less and less and therefore you become even more miserable.
O, what is it a joy to hear again and again how you long to be about the study of the Word of God and to desire instruction from His servants and that you receive so much time from the Lord to do all this. What a great joy it is to notice how much more you understand and comprehend. And how above all it is a joy to me that you may tell how the Lord has taught you experimentally so that you are more sure of your way than you were before, despite the fact that you miss a felt love, joy and pleasure - although while you read this, you may be saying, I hope it is all true! And, what makes me wonder about it all is this: you have been kept from pride. God kept you! You receive so much from the Lord, when I compare you with others, but you have not been allowed to think yourself above others, because the LORD by His grace has kept you low, so that you see yourself as being of no importance.
I read this evening about a wise council from Rev. F.: In every twenty four hours we should spend seven on sleep, one on eating, thirteen on our work and three in the service of the Lord.
At the Catechism classes I was able to explain much as the result of the texts they had to learn and the questions they put, and they paid much attention. We dealt with our inability and the almightiness of God; with His mercy and that He may be found by those that seek Him, and with the conversion of Manasseh.
Only recently I heard about a sermon from Rev. V. on the Song of Solomon chapter 4 verse 9, how he commented that when preparing for his sermon he felt that he had never yet preached the Gospel. It was so full of matter and the text of course is also rich and deep:
"Thou hast ravished My heart, My sister, My spouse; thou hast ravished My heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck."
This is not the bride speaking about her heart being ravished by the Bridegroom, but here the heavenly Bridegroom, Who is so rich and in perfect union with His Father(!), says that His Church had ravished His heart ...
The Twelve Articles of our Christian Faith can be divided into three parts: the first part is about God the Father and our creation (questions and answers 26-28). The second about God the Son and our redemption (questions and answers 29-52). The third about God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification (questions and answers 53-58).
The third part is what we are to consider just now. Question and answer 53 of Lord's Day 20 deal with the Person and work of the Holy Spirit:
"What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?
First, that He is true and co-eternal God with the Father and the Son."
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is true and co-eternal God. About the Godhead of the Holy Spirit we have already spoken when we considered question and answer 25. This time I want to write down a couple of proofs of Godhead of the Holy Spirit, so that you will be convinced that it is true: that the Holy Spirit is true and co-eternal God.
It is necessary to know this because it is everywhere denied in our day. Especially among the Jehovah Witnesses. But, in practice even the established churches do not always acknowledge it and preach about it. What do the Jehovah Witnesses actually say? They claim that the Holy Spirit is not God and not even a Person, they say the Holy Spirit is the power of God.
God's Word speaks about the Holy Spirit in the following manner:
a) In John 14 verse 16 He is called the Comforter; chapter 16 verse 13 states that He guides us into all truth and that He speaks whatever He hears; and in verses 14 and 15 we read that He glorifies Christ and that He makes Christ known.
b) In Romans 8 verse 26 it is stated, that the Holy Spirit helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
c) In 1 Corinthians 2 verses 10-11 it is written that the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and makes them known to us. All these things would be impossible for someone that is not a person.
This confession of the Holy Spirit being true and co-eternal God is amazingly joyful for all those that have come to know Him in His work and His indwelling in their heart. YOU??
How miserable we would be if the One, Who must baptize us (Mark 1 verse 8), Who must unite us to Christ (John 16 verse 14), Who must make us alive (John 6 verse 63), Who must wash and sanctify us (1 Corinthians 6 verse 11), Who must deliver us from our enemies (Psalm 143 verse 9), Who must change us into the image of Christ (Romans 8 verse 9), Who must be our Comforter (John 14 verse 16), Who must lead us (Romans 8 verse 14), Who must make intercession for us (Romans 8 verse 26) ... if He only - as the Jehovah Witnesses in continuation with those that have been promoting error in past centuries say - was the non-personal power of God, then salvation would be altogether impossible!
If He was no God, but a non-personal power ...
- How could He then have overshadowed the blessed virgin Mary, so that our Redeemer, the Son of God, would be conceived and born of her holy, harmless and undefiled (Matthew 1 verse 18; Luke 1 verse 35)?
- How would He have been able to have anointed the Messiah to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to them that were bound (Isaiah 61 verse 1)?
- How could He have revealed the deep things of God, which only the Holy Spirit teaches (1 Corinthians 2 verse 10-13)?
- How could He teach us, lovers of lies, and lead us into, the truth if He were not the Third Person of the Godhead (John 14 verse 26; 15 verse 26; 16 verses 13-15)?
- How could He make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8 verse 26)?
- How could He lead us and magnify Christ in and to us and make our bodies His temple (1 Corinthians 6 verse 19)?
- How would He be able to bear witness with our spirit that we are the children of God (Romans 8 verse 16)?
- How would He be able to search the deep things of God - this means that He enters into the most unsearchable depths of the eternal Being of God, comprehends it all and makes it known to those that are His (1 Corinthians 2 verse 10)?
I shall give one more example in what the Word of God teaches us in regard to the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12 verses 6-11 the apostle Paul writes about the different gifts of the members of the churches. In verse 6 we read:
"And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God Who worketh all in all."
Then the apostle Paul sums up some of these different gifts and he concludes this part by writing in verse 11:
"But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will."
Who is working here in these gifts, God or the Holy Spirit? According to Paul in verse 6 it is God, in verse 11 (he writes in a confused manner according to the Jehovah Witnesses) that it is the Holy Spirit. This is not confused at all, not at all contradictory, when we consider that God (in verse 6) and the Holy Spirit (in verse 11) are One and the Same. Not the same Person, but the same God. It becomes even clearer when we look at verse 11 and see how the apostle Paul writes about the Holy Spirit: He gave different gifts as He saw fit. The Holy Ghost is here revealed as Someone Who does according to His will. So He has a will. The Greek word for 'will' means: to have a preference, to benefit, to chose, to convince, to decide. This will comes - according to the Greek meaning of the word - from a conscious deliberation in the spirit. This 'will' always assumes a freedom to decide. In short: if the Holy Spirit would have been a non-personal power, words - at any rate in this instance - would have been devoid of meaning! If words do have a meaning, then the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 verse 11 would have been thinking about a Person consciously chosing whatever He willed.
As we have been speaking about the Holy Spirit you might have been thinking at the same time about the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin that cannot be forgiven. A fearful subject, don't you think? All sin will be punished and that is fearful enough; but then when you consider that sin can be forgiven, that gives a little light, and you think: it is still possible to be saved. If however you commit this particular sin, against the Holy Spirit, that cannot possibly be forgiven and that is the end of any hope you might have ever had! However much you pray and call, however much you seek...; there is no forgiveness. God can or will not forgive any more. Or is it different? Yes, ultimately it is the other way round; when you have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, YOU DO NOT WANT to have your sins forgiven. In the following issue I will consider this sin more particularly. Jesus says in Matthew 12 that it is a greater sin to sin against the Holy Spirit than to sin against Gods Own Son. Then it is impossible that the He is a non-personal power, He must be as important as Christ, the Son of God, so the Holy Spirit is God also.
Pray much for the working and the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit and God shall surely give Him to you as the Lord Jesus promised and witnessed in Luke 11 verse 13. Look it up! Don't forget to do it!
ORTHODOXY and ...
How do you get to believe in Christ? That question is dealt with in paragraph 2 of chapter 1 of the Canons of Dort. In paragraph 3 the synod answers as follows:
And that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom He will and at what time He pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. Romans 10:14-15: "How then shall they call on Him Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe on Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?"
God did not only send His Son, but He also sent His servants, not because He was obliged to do so, no, the Synod of Dort saw it in a different way, that God mercifully sent His messengers. In other words, that God sent His minister to preach His Word in your congregation is His merciful loving-kindness (Latin: clementer = mercifully, friendly). And what is the purpose of all those preachers who from week to week, from one year to another, and for centuries have been preaching His Word? It is written in that paragraph: that men may be brought to believe. That is the purpose of God! And so we read in John 1 verse 7 in relation to a man sent from God (namely John the Baptist)
"The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe."
The reason is THAT ALL men through him might believe. Which men? Some men? The elect? No, ALL MEN. Does that happen too?
That is a different matter. The first chapter of the precious Canons of Dort, deal with that also. But the first thing that must be established is, that God sends preachers / proclaimers, with the purpose that men - do you belong to mankind? Yes? So, you too!!! - be brought to faith.
For that reason those preachers may proclaim that extremely glad news. What news? That whoever believes in the crucified Lord Jesus, need not be lost, and shall not be lost, but shall be saved.
O, what glad tidings, what EXTREMELY glad tidings!
Was there ever a time that you were joyful in the church, under the preaching of this Gospel?: God calls me! Me too!
You too? Yes, you too. And what does God say then when He calls you with such a personal call? Article 3 says that by the ministry of His servants men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified.
So here, through me, one of the messengers of these very joyful tidings, God now calls you: Believe in the crucified Lord Jesus Christ!
Is God serious about that? Well, if you do not trust God, then that is the end of the matter, because you at the same time do not trust me. When you do not trust God and you do not trust me, there is another that you trust, namely him who says: God is not serious about this call... Who is it that says this?
To whom does God send His servants? To people that are very much in need? Yes and no. Yes, because ever since the fall of Adam mankind has been very much in need of these joyful tidings. On the other hand the answer is, No, because we do not see the need of it at all - at least we are not conscious of any need. We are quite happy without ministers and without their joyful tidings. We are quite capable of providing our own joys and pleasures!
God sends His servants to people who are worthy because they have made good use of their natural and mental abilities. Sure, they are sinners and although they do not know how to obtain eternal life, yet they are in earnest to find it; and for that reason God sends His servants to such a city or country...
Do you agree?
I am afraid, I do not. This is the false doctrine of the Arminians (followers of Arminius), who in those days (and in our time) taught these things. You would love to secretly think that we in ... (fill in the name of your congregation) are much better than those that go to ... whorehouses and dancings. But that is not true, because the Bible makes it clear that the servants of God were particularly sent to those places where (1) no-one was waiting for them, and (2) no-one in the least had deserved that they should come to them. For example: Antioch and Corinth became congregations blessed by God, but before that, they were world famous as sewers of immorality!
So they did not conform to the imaginations of the Arminians. God sends His servants when and where He wills - in the year 300 in The Netherlands by the North Sea; and not until the year 1800 to the isles in the Pacific Ocean. Why the difference of 1500 years? Were our forebears, the Batavians, the Anglo-Saxen, Frisians and Germans any better than the cannibals where John Paton spent his whole life that they might be saved?
No, no, no!!!
And why then do these joyful tidings come to you at this time?
... and ORTHOPRAXY
According to Luther the devil flees when you sing a Psalm. The statement of Luther, the great and humble reformer, must of course not be considered as a magic formula. He means that we must do this, believingly in dependence on God ... And it is then that it will be fulfilled; and so it is meant also by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5 verse 19.
Then in verse 20 there is added in the same category:
"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Even in adversity and trouble there are always reasons to thank God for so many other things that we receive. There are even reasons to thank God for all our troubles and adversities. Because what is written in Romans 8 verse 28 is still true in the year 2004:
"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
The apostle continues to instruct his readers further in the right way, as to how we as children of God should behave ourselves (which is orthopraxy) and writes in Ephesians 5 verse 21:
"Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God."
About the Greek word for submitting I read in the dictionary the following comments:
A Greek military term meaning "to arrange troops divisions under the command of a leader." In a non-military use it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".
What a blessing if a congregation lives together in such a way!
The structure of the language in this verse has also a connection with verse 18 and can be given as follows: Be filled with the Holy Ghost by submitting to each other in the fear of God.
How can you be filled with the Holy Ghost? By the singing of Psalms etc. to the honour and glory of God, by thanking God for all that He has decreed for you in your life, and to submit freely to each other, to work together, to accept responsibility and to bear (to help bear) one another's burdens.
Easy and practical! Yes, practical; but easy? If you have any comprehension of it, you know that it is the most difficult thing that you can think of. And that is the reason why so few of the children of God are FILLED with the Spirit of Christ ...
But if God daily gives us the ability to deny self / humble self, then it is not such a difficult task to submit to another. Not like a slave, not with a mental inferiority complex, but in love.
From this definition the apostle Paul goes over - we believe by the infallible leading of the Holy Spirit - to regard marriage.
At the same time very spiritual.
He begins with that subject in verse 22:
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
What does it mean again to be submissive?
"a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden."
In (marriage) love this is not difficult at all, although it is against the spirit of our time in the 21st century. But where it is practiced marriages last much longer than when the spirit of our time rules in self-asserting, to stand up for your rights etc. etc. And, the quality of such marriages is much better too.
The apostle Paul is not only extremely practical, but also extremely spiritual, which is shown by the words:
"... as unto the Lord."
Here you find not only the norm how / and in what way, but also the motive or main spring why a woman must be subject to her husband.
For that reason the following verse says:
"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body."
This is a rather old fashioned and antiquated rule - according to many emancipated and feministic women (even in our circles and maybe even among the readers of the 'Catechisant'). I can understand it fully, because headship has been practiced very badly by many men, so that as woman (or girl about to be married) you could get sick of it. And of course that is what creates opposition. But listen, 'misuse by some' does not mean that it is wrong in itself, and we also know that a good use can be made of it! Here also: that many men have conducted themselves badly, as half or complete dictators, does not mean that this portion of the Word of God is wrong; it only shows that men ought to practice headship better / in a more Biblical way.
FROM THE MISSION FIELD
Because to Christ is given (all) power in heaven and earth (Matthew 28 verse 18), He does send out / thrust out His servants with the glad tidings of His victory over death and the grave and to proclaim this throughout the world, verses 19-20:
"Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
To encourage them He adds - what in practice during twenty centuries has proved to be true:
"And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
It is about the sending out of His servants that I want to tell you on this and the following page.
The starting point of Christian mission was of course with the church of the New Testament. The fearful and doubting disciples who ran away when their Master suffered so grievously on the cross, on the day of Pentecost were strengthened by the Holy Spirit - and Christian mission work was born.
The most detailed and precise description of this new field of work can be found in the book of Acts where the apostle Paul appears in this work, head and shoulders above all the others, although Peter, Barnabas, Silas, John, Mark, Phillip, Apollos and others also have an important place.
Except for the narratives in the Bible we know almost nothing of this first generation of Christians. It has been said that Matthew went to Ethiopia, Andrew to the land of Scythen, of which people we have a record in the annotations of the Statenvertaling on Colossians 3 verse 11: 'These were by the Greeks considered to be barbarians, and among other nations were considered evil and unmerciful.'
Bartholomew went to Arabia and India and Thomas also went to India. Thomas, as has been told had no desire to obey the command of the Lord and to go to the east. The result of his refusal was that he was sent to India as a slave and had to help build the palace of king Gundaforus. The story goes that Thomas instead of working on the palace spent his time preaching the Gospel. This was considered a crime that landed him in jail but in the end he was allowed to speak about his faith to the king who as a result himself believed and was baptized. To this day there is a group in south-west India who call themselves Thomas-Christians.
The apostle Paul was no doubt the greatest missionary of the early church. He has been an example to thousands that followed him. Yet humanly speaking Paul was just an ordinary man, who as all missionaries after him had to contend with many problems. The power and the fruit of his labour did not come forth from himself, but from the Holy Spirit.
How did Paul go to work? He always began in the cities, politically important business centers, from where the Gospel very soon spread to the surrounding areas. He reached people from all walks of life whereby the church became very broad based (in other words not just slaves or just the uppercrust). Another thing he did was to establish independent churches and not just missionary stations belonging to the mother church. He also laboured to provide for his own needs.
Paul suffered much persecution, beating and imprisonment. You find a list of it in 2 Corinthians 11 verses 23-28: Three times beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times he suffered shipwreck and a night and a day he was in the deep. During his journeys he was often in dangers of waters, of robbers, of his own coutrymen, of the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea, and in dangers among false brothers; he was in labours more abundant in weariness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which came upon him daily, was the care of the churches...
As well as this, Paul had to endure that fierce debates and many differences of opinion arose about many questions.
It is difficult to overstate the work of the apostle Paul when we consider the example he gave when seeking to deal effectively with lost sinners. In a certain measure the success or failure in mission work is partly due to following or failing to follow the example that the apostle Paul has set.
As with many courageous Christian evangelists who followed him, Paul came to a violent death. According to tradition he and Peter and many other Christians were martyred during the terrible persecutions under emperor Nero in the year 64. His death too has been an example to many generations, when they did not consider their lives dear, but considered only that when they suffered with Christ they would also reign with Him.
Would you also like to / want to become a missionary?
A STRIKING INCIDENT
Was this really worth the trouble?
A lady, somewhat on in years told her maid that she was not able to attend the meeting of the T.B.S., the Trinitarian Bible Society. For that reason the girl had to go, to listen carefully and to report what she heard.
The hall was hired, the account paid and the invitations had been sent out and so the evening of the meeting arrived. Speaker and chairman arrived and waited, but no-one came except a young woman: the maid. It was therefore understandable that the chairman suggested to the speaker that the meeting should be cancelled. O, no, said Dr. Bullinger, the speaker, this has been announced and the meeting must be kept. The chairman then suggested that if they were to keep the meeting that it should be very short. Again Dr. Bullinger was not in agreement and said: I shall speak as if the hall is full.
The girl, Jane was her name, felt very uncomfortable so all alone in that big hall, and she hoped that at least some people would still come. Sad to say no-one else came and the meeting began.
It was very unusual with only one listener but Jane listened carefully so that she would be able to bring an exact report to her employer of what Dr. Bullinger had said. And so, when she came home she told the lady what the speaker had said and that the T.B.S. wanted to print a portion of the New Testament in Hebrew and that the cost would be 64 pounds sterling. That was a lot of money in those days and the report made a deep impression on the lady. As she was a woman of some wealth she decided there and then to write out a cheque for 64 pounds sterling which was brought to Dr. Bullinger the next morning.
There was only one listener at the meeting, but God used her for an important purpose so that the T.B.S. could immediately begin on the desired project.
This story was told by Rev. Vogelaar from Kalamazoo in the United States of America, who had to speak at a T.B.S. meeting in Canada; there were only about thirty people. "The question then arose in my mind: was it worth all the trouble of all those hours of travel?" It was thereafter that Rev. Vogelaar read the above story.
B i b l e C a t e c h i s m
Contents of the book Exodus
12 Passover is established (Hebrews 11 verse 28), wherein we see Christ pictured as the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13 verse 8). There is mention of blood. It is only under the blood that you are safe from eternal destruction. Being of the seed of Abraham, circumcision, and obedience to the Law are of no use. So it is still; only by appropriating in faith the blood of Christ, our Passover (1 Corinthians 5 verse 7), we can be saved from the angel of death. Never forget this! 10th plague: all the firstborn die who are not under the shelter of the blood upon the lintel and the sideposts of the doors.
13 The firstborn are for the LORD. The people have to travel along a curious way to the Red Sea. The bones of Joseph (his mummified body) they carry with them. A cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night show them the way.
14 Through the Red Sea, dryshod (a sign of baptism, 1 Corinthians 10 verse 2); the Egyptians are drowned. It is impossible to copy the children of God.
15 Song of triumph (compare Revelation 15 verse 3). Verse 11 is one of the most important verses in the whole Bible! The people arrive in the wilderness through a heavy trial of faith. The Lord asks them as it were: do you now believe Me, now that I have saved you with such a wondrous salvation? I shall care for you. But do you trust Me? Therefore: Mara. God by a wonder makes bitter water sweet. Elim: a place of refreshing.
16 God gives flesh, quails and bread: man or manna. 'Manna' in Hebrew means: What? The command of the Sabbath is repeated, because there shall be no manna on the Sabbath.
17 The LORD gives water out of the rock. Amalek is defeated by a fighting Joshua and a praying Moses. We see time and again the importance of prayer and intercession.
18 Jethro visits Moses and suggests Moses to appoint other rulers who can judge matters of difference between the Israelites.
19 God reveals Himself to Moses. Command to prepare for the giving of the Law. No-one may be on mount Horeb, but Moses only. So holy is God.
20 The everlasting moral Law of the Ten Commandments is given by God. The first commandment is the kernel of the religion of Israel; throughout the centuries the only thing that matters is that God, and He only, is honoured. God promised His blessing to His congregation, where His Name is remembered.
The Catechism of Geneva (1545)
The Second Commandment
152 What does He intimate by the term jealousy?
That He cannot bear an equal or associate. For as He has given Himself to us out of His infinite goodness, so He would have us to be wholly His. And the chastity of our souls consists in being dedicated to Him, and wholly cleaving to Him; as on the other hand they are said to be polluted with idolatry, when they turn aside from Him to superstition.
153 In what sense is it said that He avenges the iniquity of fathers on children?
To strike the more terror into us, He not only threatens to inflict punishment on those who offend Him, but that their offspring also will be cursed.
154 But is it consistent with the justice of God to punish any one for anothers fault?
If we consider what the condition of mankind is, the question is answered. For by nature we are all liable to the curse, and we have nothing to complain of in God when He leaves us in this condition. Now, as He demonstrates His love for the righteous, by blessing their posterity, so He executes His vengeance against the wicked, by depriving their children of this blessing.
155 Go on.
To allure us by attractive mildness, He promises that He will take pity on all who love Him and observe His commands, to a thousand generations.
And can it be that I should gain
an int'rest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me? who caused His pain!
For me? who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
* * *
'Tis myst'ry all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love Divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
* * *
He left His Father's throne above
(so free, so infinite His grace!),
'emptied' Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
* * *
Long my imprisoned sprit lay
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
* * *
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness Divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Contemplation on Paradise, Genesis 2 & 3
Man could no sooner see, than he saw himself happy: his eye-sight and reason were both perfect at once, and the objects of both were able to make him as happy as he wanted. When he first opened his eyes, he saw heaven above him, earth under him, the creatures about him, God before him. He knew what all these things meant, as if he had been long acquainted with them all. He saw the heavens glorious, but far off; his Maker thought it requisite to fit him with a Paradise nearer home.
If God had appointed him immediately to heaven, his body had been superfluous; it was fit his body should be answered with an earthen image of that heaven, which was for his soul. Had man been made only for contemplation, it would have served as well to have been placed in some vast desert, on the top of some barren mountain; but the same power which gave him a heart to meditate, gave him hands to work, and work fit for his hands.
Neither was it the purpose of the Creator that man should but live. Pleasure may stand with innocence. He Who rejoiced to see all He had made to be good, rejoices to see all that He has made to be well. God loves to see His creatures happy: our lawful delight is His. They know not God who think to please Him by making themselves miserable. The idolaters thought it fit service for Baal, to cut and lance themselves. Never any holy man looked for thanks from the true God, by wronging himself.
Every earth was not fit for Adam, but a garden, a Paradise. What excellent pleasures and rare varieties have men found in gardens, planted by the hands of men! And yet all the world of men cannot make one twig, or leaf, or spire of grass. When He Who made the matter, undertakes the fashion, how must it needs be - beyond our capacity - excellent! No herb, no flower, no tree was lacking there, that might be for ornament or use; whether for sight, or for scent, or for taste. The bounty of God taught further than to necessity, even to comfort and recreation: why are we niggardly to ourselves, when God is liberal? But for all this, if God had not there conversed with man, no abundance could have made him blessed!
Yet, behold! that which was mans storehouse, was also his workhouse; his pleasure was his task. Paradise served not only to feed his senses, but to exercise his hands. If happiness had consisted in doing nothing, man had not been employed. All his delights could not have made him happy in an idle life. Man therefore is no sooner made than he is set to work. Neither greatness, nor perfection can privilege a folded hand; he must labour, because he was happy; how much more we, that we may be!
This first labour of his was, as without necessity, so without pains, without weariness. How much more cheerfully we go about our business, so much nearer we come to our Paradise.
Neither did these trees afford him only action for his hands, but instruction to his heart. For here he saw Gods sacraments grow before him. All other trees had a natural use, these two in the midst of the garden, a spiritual.
Life is the act of the soul, knowledge the life of the soul; the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life, then, were ordained as earthly helps of the spiritual part. Perhaps He Who ordained the end, immortality of life, did appoint this fruit as the means of that life. It is not for us to inquire after the life we had, and the means we would have had. I am sure it served to nourish the soul by a lively representation of that living tree, whose fruit is eternal life, and whose leaves serve to heal the nations.
O infinite mercy! Man saw his Saviour before him, ere he had need of a Saviour; he saw in Whom he would recover a heavenly life, ere he lost the earthly. But after he had tasted of the tree of knowledge, he might not taste of the tree of life; that immortal food was not for a mortal stomach. Yet then did he most savour that invisible Tree of life, when he was most restrained from the other.
O Saviour! None but a sinner can relish Thee. My taste has been enough seasoned with the forbidden fruit, to make it capable of Thy sweetness. Sharpen Thou as well the stomach of my soul by repenting, by believing, so shall I eat, and - in despite of Adam - live forever.
The one tree was for confirmation, the other for trial. One showed him what life he would have, the other what knowledge he should not desire to have. Alas, he who knew all other things, knew not this one thing, that he knew enough. How Divine a thing is knowledge whereof even innocency itself is ambitious! Satan knew what he did: if this bait had been gold, or honour, or pleasure, man had contemned it.
Who can hope to avoid error, when even mans perfection is mistaken? He looked for speculative knowledge, he should have looked for experimental. He thought it had been good to know evil; good was large enough to have perfected his knowledge, and therein his blessedness.
All that God made, was good; and the Maker of them much more good; the things made were good in their kinds, He was good in Himself. It would not content man to know God and His creatures; his curiosity affected to know that which God never made: evil of sin and evil of death; which indeed he himself made by desiring to know them. Now we know evil well enough, and smart with knowing it. How dear has this lesson cost us, that in some cases it is better to be ignorant; and yet do the sons of Eve inherit this saucy appetite of their grandmother; how many thousand souls miscarry with the presumptuous affectation of forbidden knowledge!
O God, Thou hast revealed more than we can know, enough to make us happy; teach me a sober knowledge, and a contented ignorance.
Paradise was made for man, yet there I see the serpent. What marvel is it, if my corruption find the serpent in Paradise! No sooner he is entered, but he tempts; he can no more be idle than harmless. I do not see him at any other tree; he knew there was no danger in the rest; I see him hidden at the tree forbidden. How true a serpent is he in every point: in his insinuation to the place, in his choice of the tree, in his assault of the woman, in his plausibleness of speech to avoid terror, in his question to move doubt, in his reply to work distrust, in his protestation of safety, in his suggestion to envy and discontent, in his promise of gain.!
And if he was so cunning at the first, what shall we think of him now, after so many thousand years experience? Only Thou, O God, and those angels who see Thy face, are wiser than he. I do not ask why, when he left his goodness, Thou didst not bereave him of his skill. Still, Thou wouldst have him an angel, though an evil one. And Thou knowest how to ordain his craft to Thy own glory. I do not desire Thee to abate his subtilty, but to make me wise; let me beg it without presumption: make me wiser than Adam. Even Thy image, which he bore, made him not (through his own weakness) wise enough to obey Thee. Thou offeredst him all fruits, and restrainedst but one; satan offered him but one, and restrained not the rest. When he chose rather to be at satans feeding than Thine, it was just with Thee to turn him out of Thy gates with a curse. Why wouldst Thou feed a rebel at Thy own board?
And yet, we transgress daily, and Thou shuttest not heaven against us! How is it that we find more mercy than our forefather? His strength is worthy of severity, our weakness finds pity. That God, from Whose face he fled in the garden, now makes him with shame to flee out of the garden. Those angels that would have kept him, now keep the gates of Paradise against him. It is not so easy to recover happiness, as to keep it, or lose it. Yea, the same cause that drove man from Paradise has also withdrawn Paradise from the world.
That fiery sword did not defend it against those waters wherewith the sins of men drowned the glory of that place. Neither now do I care to seek where that Paradise was which we lost. I know where that Paradise is, which we must care to seek, and hope to find.
As man was the image of God, so was that earthly paradise an image of heaven. Both the images are defaced, both the first patterns are eternal: Adam was in the first, and staid not. In the second is the second Adam, Who said, "This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." There was that chosen vessel, and heard, and saw what could not be expressed: by how much the third heaven exceeds the richest earth, so much does that Paradise, whereto we aspire, exceed that which we have lost.