Grandparents in the Covenant Home

Grandparents have a significant role in the covenant home. Those who are come to this stage of life ought to realize this. This role can be the source of great blessing and joy. It also involves a serious calling and responsibility. God’s covenant mercy extends farther than only one generation. God is pleased to continue His covenant to succeeding generations. The covenant family in the church of the New Testament sometimes has present in it at one time three or even four generations. This is an amazing thing! On the day of Pentecost it was declared that God’s promise is to believers and their children even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

The Word of God has many passages in it that allude to the succeeding generations in the covenant among the God-fearing. After its beautiful description of the covenant home, Psalm 128 concludes with the promise of God: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion (the New Testament Church): and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

In Psalm 78, the inspired Psalmist exhorts fathers (and grandfathers) to instruct their children in the fear of the Lord. New generations arise in the covenant home and they must be instructed. “We will not hide them (the commandments of the Lord) from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done… which he  commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:4-7). Count if you will, the number of generations mentioned in this passage.  After these words the Psalmist warns about the serious consequences which follow when fathers and grandfathers fail in their God-given calling. God’s chastisement will fall upon His people. They will be cut off in their generations. Yet the Lord will surely preserve His covenant with His elect people.

In the New Testament we also have examples of the so called multi-tier family in the church, where several generations live together. The family where the evangelist Timothy was raised included a godly grandmother as well as a godly mother. It seemed that the father was either absent or pagan. In spite of this, God’s covenant was preserved by the Lord in a wonderful way. See 2 Timothy 1: 5 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17.  Timothy inherited spiritually by the grace of God the legacy of the faith of his mother as well as his grandmother.

In Titus 2, the various generations are instructed. The aged women are exhorted to teach the younger women to love their husbands and to love their children. The aged men are to be held in high regard by the children; and their godly instruction and discipline are to be submitted to.

According to the natural instinct which God has put in man from creation, men and women love their own children in a very special way. They take pride in their children more than in anything else in the world and are greatly offended when their children are judged and condemned by the world in which they live. It is common that this natural affection extends to grandchildren. But because of man’s depraved nature, this natural affection is thoroughly carnal and worldly and motivated by sinful pride and ambition. According to God’s law, He visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children unto the third and fourth generation.  The failure of man in raising a new generation contributes greatly to the evils of society among its youth. Society as a result loses all of its cohesion between the generations. In the nominal church, God’s covenant is forsaken and forgotten. Man is self-centered and proud and egotistical and consumed with concern only for his own welfare and personal enrichment and glory in the world. His days are cut off by God. He is destroyed in his generations. Therefore, every generation grows worse and worse.

No church in this world will ever continue to be spiritually strong when there is no concern about coming generations.  The boating of vast world-wide evangelism campaigns will come to nothing when there is neglect of the new generations that arise. The church that does not repent of this evil will soon be in the state of spiritual decline and apostasy. After a wave of excitement and enthusiasm and numerical growth it will decline and soon disappear from the earth. Very soon those who attend the worship services will only be the gray-headed. Children and young people will be gone. Their joy and laughter will no longer be heard. They will be lost to worldliness of life and ungodliness and even to total agnosticism. How very serious this is!

In the faithful covenant home and with the blessing of God there must be and will be a great difference. Godly married couples to whom God graciously gives covenant children must be concerned not only about their own homes but the homes and family which these children will establish in later life for themselves. Grandparents will be concerned about their children’s children and assist in teaching them the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of His truth. The Lord will pour out His blessing. There will be the great joy of the play and the laughter of covenant children. Few things in this life give greater joy and pleasure.

Psalm 128 speaks of the blessedness of the covenant home as culminating in the great joy and blessing of seeing one’s children’s children and peace upon the Israel of God. The apostle John in one of his letters says it in this way: “I have no greater joy than to see that my children walk in the truth”.

The senior generation in the church must guard against the sins of self-indulgence and self-pleasure. For the God-fearing, senior years are for more than endless vacations and world cruises, and visiting exotic places before one dies. It will be a generation that does not spend hour after hour and day after day sunbathing on the beach. This kind of life is worldliness, no less than the worldliness that destroys the youth in the early years of their lives.

Grandparents have a great calling in the church. It should be the case that they have gained spiritual wisdom and strength in the years of their life. They have learned even from their own falls and sinful weakness in the battles against sin and apostasy in the church. This wisdom must guide them in their lives and be evident in a life of holiness and devotion to God and the cause of His kingdom to the very end of their lives. Godly grandparents must support parents in the home in warning about the power of sin and the great temptations of the world. Grandparents must be an example of unwavering faithfulness and steadfastness in the truth of the Word of God for the great benefit of succeeding generations. In the times of many afflictions which often come with old age, they must show their genuine and sincere faith in God. They must be examples of trusting in the mercies of God and testifying of the strength of the Lord in their lives. This is not an easy calling. It takes a lot of grace. Old age in the church should be a time when grandparents live in such a way that they are worthy of honour and respect.  This is the time for them to leave a legacy of faith.

Sometimes by this time of life people have been able to amass large sums of wealth in the providence of God through retirement programs and annuities and such like. Those who have been able to do this ought not to proudly imagine that they have gained their wealth by their own wisdom and power. Rather they must give God the glory as the One who gave them power to get wealth in this world. Godly grandparents will not imagine that they have the freedom to spend their monies as they please. Grandparents, especially those entrusted with great wealth, have a special calling to contribute to the church and to Christian education for covenant children as well as to the evangelism of the church. They must be willing to make personal sacrifices and to give liberally, cheerfully and joyfully. This is more important than merely passing down material wealth to children who may or may not benefit spiritually from the inheritance of their parents. Remember that our Lord used the example of the widow’s mite who was probably aged and destitute herself. Yet she cast in all her living to the treasury for the support of the church and of the poor.

Grandparents must be around to help practically in the homes of their children with the raising of their grandchildren. They must joyfully give of their time, talents and remaining energy to help with the raising of the covenant family. In Bible times and in other cultures than our own, grandparents often lived with their children and their grandchildren in the same house. In these homes, by the grace of God there was care for each other, from one generation to the others. Even from a practical perspective, raising a covenant family is a daunting task. It can be wearying and exhausting to young mothers. Fathers often need to work long hours to earn enough to maintain their homes and pay for Christian school tuition. Therefore in the course of daily life in the home, many opportunities will arise for grandparents to help in practical as well as spiritual ways. In this way children will learn to honour and respect their grandparents. Grandparents have a deep sense of purpose in their lives in the days of their old age when perhaps they have retired from their full-time earthly occupations.

God-fearing grandparents must love their children and their grandchildren fervently and sincerely. They must seek to be of great influence in the lives of their children even after these children have grown up and married and have homes of their own. Grandparents can be the source of great encouragement to young mothers in that they do not forsake their duties in the home for secular careers of the world. The calling of grandparents continues even unto the day of their death. They have great influence through their tender loving embrace and sober godly example in their lives before their grandchildren.

After many years of enjoying the underserved faith and blessing  of God merited by the Lord Jesus Christ, what reason we have accumulated for a life of thankfulness. We have the solemn calling and obligation to speak of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in our whole life from our youth to old age. By doing this, we encourage new generations and our lives will be an occasion for the praise of God and thanksgiving to Him. Listen once more to the words of one of the Psalms that speak specifically of old age and the later years of our life and pilgrimage on this earth. After the Psalmist has testified of the goodness and mercies of the Lord from the days of his youth and his strength in old age, he utters this earnest prayer: “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” (Ps. 71: 18).

 

Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 49

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Scripture’s Covenant Youth (XII): David

Although I have written about David’s youthful years, and although this column is devoted to covenant youth, I decided to write also of one incident in David’s adult life, which is of great significance for us. I refer to the sin David committed with Bathsheba and against her husband, Uriah. You can read the history in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. You ought also to read Psalm 51 that was written after Nathan the prophet came to David and exposed David’s sin; and Psalm 32 that was written after David knew that God had forgiven him.

The sin of David began when he did not go with Joab and the army of Israel to fight against Ammon. Although he was the man God had chosen to subdue Israel’s enemies and extend the borders of Canaan, the land promised to Abraham and his seed, he chose to enjoy the luxuries of life in the palace in Jerusalem. He was in fact in bed during the day because he arose from his bed in the evening (2 Sam. 11:1-2).

He put into motion a series of events that led to his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, his neighbour’s wife. When he learned that she was pregnant, he decided to hide his sin from his household and from the nation over which he ruled. He summoned Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, from the battlefield to spend a few days home in the hopes that Bathsheba’s pregnancy could be ascribed to Uriah, a prominent soldier in Israel’s army.

But this did not work, for Uriah would not leave his fellow soldiers to spend time with his wife. He refused to go home. The result was that David ordered Uriah’s death in the battle against Ammon, and this was successfully accomplished.

As is so often common with the sinner, David refused to confess his sin to himself or to God. He tells of that in Psalm 32: “While I kept guilty silence, my strength was spent in grief. Thy hand was heavy on me; my soul found no relief” (Psalter rendition of Psalm 32). This “guilty silence” continued until Nathan the prophet came to him and brought David to see his sin and confess it.

What needs emphasis here is that David was not a profligate sinner: he is said in many places in Scripture to be a man of God, a special servant of God and an unusual person who occupied a special place in God’s covenant. In fact, he was a special type of Christ and one who stood in the genealogical line of Christ. Psalm 89 says some wonderful things of what God promised David to whom would be given a son who would build God’s temple.

Scripture teaches us by David’s sin that the strongest and most important child of God is indeed prone to sin and would sin if it were not for God’s grace. He is totally depraved because he was born with a corrupt nature (vs. 5). I think we have a clue to this and to David’s recognition of this truth in Psalm 51 in which David prays, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (vs. 11). He knew that without the Spirit any sin, not matter how heinous, was within his doing.

There is another point here that is important for us. God forgave David his sin. That is true from many passages in Scripture including Psalm 32 and from many other passages throughout the Scriptures. Nevertheless, forgiveness does not mean that God simply overlooks our sins. They are forgiven because God gave His own Son to die in our place. But He does not leave us without any consequences in our lives; He tells David that although he is forgiven, the sword will not be removed from David’s house.

This is necessary because David had given the enemy occasion to slander God and the cause of God in the world. The enemy could (and did) mock Israel because their most important leader was no better than they, but only an adulterer and a murderer. For His own name’s sake God had to send affliction on David as well as on any sinner.

And so he did. Ammon raped his sister Tamar, and Absalom murdered Ammon. Absalom committed a coup d’etat against his father. Adonijah made himself king apart from David’s consent. And both Amnon and Adonijah were killed for their treason.

It is well that we remember this. The Lord our God is a merciful God and freely pardons our sins. But we shall endure the consequences of our sin in our lives. God is so merciful to us that even the “sword” which He sends into our lives He turns to our good, makes it chastisement, and uses it to prepare us for heaven. But that does not alter the fact that we suffer affliction in our lives because of our sins.

A drunkard remains a drunkard all his life, even though he may live a life of sobriety. A dope addict must live with a fried brain even though he has been delivered from this sin. Our sins reappear in our children – to our dismay. What a man sows he also reaps – even in the lives of God’s people.

But there is one more thing here that we must notice. After David’s sin, David was forgiven. There can be no doubt about that. But the fact is that after this dreadful sin, David’s effectiveness as a king was over. We read little more about him, except for his sin of numbering the people. That too is the price we pay for our sins.

Let us be ever on our guard against the temptations of Satan, who goes around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Let us know and understand that we serve a righteous and holy God who will not let sin go unpunished, who does not take sin lightly as we so often do, and who is also a God of great mercy. It is a wonder of grace that we actually do make it to heaven. The righteous are scarcely saved, Peter says. We just make it. We make it by the skin of our teeth. We stagger into heaven exhausted from a life of sin and corruption. We arrive only because of the greatness of the grace and love of our omnipotent God.

To Him be the glory forever and ever.

 

Written by: Prof Herman Hanko | Issue 49

Raising a Covenant Family

The covenant family is God’s gift to those who marry in the Lord. It exists where husband and wife are bound together in the love of Christ in the unity of faith. The covenant family is created by God through the work of regeneration in the hearts of the two so married. The covenant family begins with being serious about marrying a fellow believer with whom we are truly one in the truth of the Lord. We must avoid being overwhelmed by feelings with a pretty face or an attractive body when seeking a life partner. If we are guided mostly by sexual attraction we are in danger of joining ourselves with the wrong partner. Sober judgments must be made concerning whom we will spend the rest of our life with.

Raising and maintaining a covenant home is a calling and solemn obligation God gives to the married. This is one of the chief purposes of Christian marriage. The married are not to live only for themselves and their own worldly pleasure. They are to live serving one another and if God gives children, to raise these children in the fear of the Lord. The life of the covenant home has its source in living faith in the Lord and abiding union with Him. The covenant family serves the continuation of the church of Jesus Christ in the world and the cause of His kingdom. It therefore has a very high calling.

Raising and maintaining a covenant family in this ungodly world is a daunting task. It requires great application and the life-long devotion of the Christian husband and the Christian wife. As husbands and wives we must be partners in the work of the Lord. God in His Word has defined the role of each partner in the marriage. This order was designed by the wisdom of God to serve the welfare of marriage and the family. The husband and father is to be the head of the home. He has the responsibility to rule the home in love and maintain its godly order and discipline. The wife and mother is to be the help meet of her husband. She is to serve her husband and children in love. She is to be ‘the keeper of the home’, indicating that she has a role for which she must stay home for the great work of building her family in God’s given knowledge and wisdom.

The fact that the family of the Christian couple is called a ‘covenant home’ is very significant. Both in marriage and in the family the covenant of God Himself must be reflected. As the Holy and blessed Triune God, the three persons of the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect knowledge, communion   and   friendship   with each other. The truth of God’s own covenant could itself be the subject of an interesting and lengthy article to consider the wonder and beauty of this as revealed in God’s Word. But our focus now will be on the covenant home.

Our high calling in marriage is to reflect the covenant life of God. This means that we understand that the very essence of marriage as created by God is that it was intended to be a personal and intimate relationship of communion and friendship between a man and his wife. This is the heartbeat of it what will be a truly covenantal home. Without this being present marriage has lost its heart. We are still living on this sin cursed earth with its many troubles and miseries and we still have of our corrupt nature with us. Because of our sins, the above description of our families will still fall short of its beautiful and happy ideal. Nevertheless, we must constantly strive for God’s ideal for His glory and the blessedness of our marriages.

In the covenant home, sin between husband and wife must be regularly confessed before the cross of Jesus Christ. There must be sincere humble godly sorrow for the many sins that mar the beauty of our marriages. There must be repentance from these sins and sincere forgiveness offered. This is hard. It takes a lot of grace. Festering sin if left unresolved will soon destroy the heart of marriage for a time until it is again restored by the grace of God. Wounds and offenses must be healed with the balm of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. This must be done with great haste and urgency. Doing this, the covenant of God will be enriched between us as husbands and wives.

Husband and wife must be committed to life-long relationship of faithfulness and love together until they are parted by death. In special situations where God has taken one of the spouses to heaven, there can by the power of God’s grace still be a continuing covenant family. Strife and division, especially that which ends in divorce, is treachery before God. When one of the members of a broken marriage remains faithful to the Lord, He will also give grace to continue the covenant home and give grace to endure the pain of rejection and the suffering of separation.

Marriage must be a true and spiritual covenant relationship between husband and wife before children are born into the marriage. Great spiritual effort and much prayer must go into having a covenant home prepared and strong before God gives children, if He so pleases. This home must prepare the healthy spiritual environment for the receiving and nurturing of God-given covenant children. This is even more important than making a pretty cozy bed before the infant arrives.

The spiritual reality of the bond of love, fellowship and friendship that exists between the husband and wife will by the grace of God create an environment of personal warmth and protection, and security which children so urgently need. Such an environment is vital for helping children to grow up to mature responsible and stable adults. When this is there, this will be profound and obvious to all those who enter the covenant home. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised for the spiritual and psychological and social well-being of the children and the development of their personalities as children of God, and as citizens of the kingdom of Christ.

God and the Lord Jesus Christ must live by His Spirit and through His Word in the family for a home to be truly a covenant home. Without this reality, the home is not really a covenant home. Practically, this means that there must be structured family worship at regular times in the covenant home. This family worship must include the regular, daily, careful study of the Word of God. The Word of God must be applied to the lives of the members of the family in the regular course of the functioning of the family. The family must pray together and for one another. Both father and mother must be engaged in this family worship with their covenant children. The father must be the leader of this family worship. Leadership in this area is really more important than any other. Mother must teach her children the truth of God’s Word while they are sitting on her knees and embraced by her tender affection. An excellent part of regular family worship is the singing together of songs of praise and thanks to God. There is great joy in singing. Covenant children usually delight in it. The covenant home should be a place of great joy. This joy must not be the empty laughter of the world but the joy of the Lord and His salvation.

Especially while the children are still in the home, both parents must help the children with their many daily problems and struggles and disappointments. They must in the course of life in the home give wise counsel and advice for all the great issues of life. They must give encouragement in time of sorrows and trouble. The father must be careful not to be cold and distant from his children. He has the calling to lead His family. He must do this in fatherly love and sincere and hearty concern for the welfare of his growing children. Father certainly must not behave like a cruel tyrant in his home. For then he will grievously abuse his wife and children and cause them deep psychological and spiritual harm. (The grievous effects of this kind of behavior will often last a lifetime for those who experienced this abuse).

One of the greatest challenges of parenting over the years is to maintain a personal relationship with them even into adulthood, especially during the difficult teenage years. Father especially and also of course the mother must themselves be an example of godliness, holiness, reverence and humility before God. Only then can he hope to instill this same attitude in the hearts of their children. Fathers must lead their children in their daily behavior and walk. All of this requires time and sacrifice both on the part of father as well as on the part of mother.

Father must not be so busy with his own earthly career that he has very little time for the care of his children and show interest in their lives as they are growing up. Children are only with us in our homes for a very short time in their lives. Woe unto the father who is seldom home long enough to take any genuine interest in the lives of his own children. Mother must be devoted in love to the care of her children, not be busy with an independent career in the world for her own glory and satisfaction. There are very few roles in life that require more self- denial and self-sacrifice that the role of the covenant mother in the home. The complexities and business of the modern home easily crowds out true covenant living. Godly parents must carefully order their own lives so this does not happen. Sadly, it does even in too many covenant homes.

To maintain a covenant home there must be firm, consistent and loving discipline of the children. This ought not to be hastily given in the fit of anger or out of despair with the sinful behaviour of the children. The reason for the ongoing need of this is reality of the sinful nature of our covenant children with which they all were born. Through discipline children must be taught the seriousness of sin in the sight of God and the importance of holiness and obedience in all of their lives. They need to be corrected and turned from sin. They need to be positively encouraged in the way of obedience and the righteousness. Every child, even in the same home is different. God made them each unique. Some are in need of more discipline than others. Some occasionally need corporal discipline like spanking. Parents who neglect this according to the book of Proverbs do not truly love their covenant children. The crying of children should not deter the need of serious discipline at times. Though discipline is grievous at the time it is given for both parents and children, it will yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. This is God’s promised blessing in the book of Proverbs and in Hebrews 12.

We   raise   our   covenant   family   in the midst of an ungodly world that is desperately wicked and full of temptations. The Word of God tells us that we are not to love the world nor the things of this world. We need to condemn this world and its ungodly philosophy and its ungodly life style, and its entertainment. This we must do for our children’s sake. This is urgent. The friendship of the world is according to the Word of God enmity against God and makes ongoing covenant fellowship with God impossible. Our homes and our children must be guarded from worldly influence. We must guard the books that are read, television that is watched and how computer and electronic devices are used by our children. Our families must be protected from the great evils of this world such as fornication, alcohol abuse and illicit drug use. They must also seek by the grace and Spirit of God seek to deliver our children from hearts sins such sinful pride, self-centeredness, and the covetousness and materialism of this world. Negligence in this task of raising our covenant family will greatly endanger our children for becoming worldly and joining the friendship of the world. Parents need to do all in their power to guide and protect their children in the choice of friendships and the company they go around with outside of the home.

In conclusion, let me make one more important point. God’s covenant with His people is known in Zion, in the New Testament, through our active membership in the true church of Jesus Christ. There God’s people come together   to   worship   the   covenant God of their salvation. There He dwells with them and they with Him. In His Fatherly house, He shows us His greatness and glory, His mercy and lovingkindness. We enjoy and appreciate the reality of God’s covenant with us through the preaching of the blessed gospel in Zion. God protects and keeps us as our might Lord and God from our enemies within the walls of Zion. The great blessedness of the communion of the saints is experienced in the church of Jesus Christ. Often this is the place were good and strong bonds of Christian friendship are formed. According to Psalm 128 the Lord blesses His covenant children ‘out of Zion.’ We maintain our covenant families by bringing them with us to Zion. Leaving and forsaking the true church of God in Zion will have very serious consequences for us and for them. Our children must be instructed in catechism classes in Zion to raise them to maturity in knowing and understanding the great doctrines of His Word. The goal is to prepare them to confess their faith in the midst of God’s peoples as citizens of Zion.

Let us strive with all our God-given powers to maintain this ideal for our covenant homes.

Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 47

Lest We Forget (III)

A Fighting Church

The true church is a fighting church. She fights on behalf of the cause of Jesus Christ. She fights against all who would oppose Christ and His truth. She fights against all who oppose her Lover. She resists all other enticements that would draw her away from her Lover. Fighting faithfully, she enjoys the intimacy of her Lover’s affection. Fighting faithfully, she is blessed by her Lover. Fighting faithfully, she has the hope that her fighting will not be in vain at the coming again of her Saviour.

Scripture makes plain that fighting for the truth is an essential attribute of a believer. Most of Old Testament history was characterised by warfare. Already in the garden of Eden, God had established warfare as an inherent part of the Christian’s life (Gen. 3:15). Israel’s entire history was marked by continual warfare against her enemies who sought to destroy her, and Christ who was in her bosom.

The New Testament applies Israel’s warfare to the life of the believer. The Christian is called to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). He must “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). He must “put on the whole armour of God, that ye might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). The confession of the apostle Paul shortly before his death, which ought to represent our own confession is this: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Lifelong fighting characterises the believer.

The Reformed confessions also teach that fighting spiritual battles is an essential characteristic of the Reformed believer. One reason why believers are called Christians is that they must with a free and good conscience “fight against sin and Satan in this life”.1

Confessing that they have many infirmities, believers “fight against them through the Spirit, all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ”.2

At baptism, Reformed believers pray that God will equip their children so that they “manfully fight against and overcome sin, the devil and his whole dominion”.3

Reformed office bearers are especially called to fight for the cause of Christ and His truth. They are the watchmen on the walls of Zion, watching out for the enemy who seek to enter the sheepfold. Concerning these watchmen, God declares to the church: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence” (Isa. 62:6). It is quite remarkable that these watchmen are instructed not to hold their peace or to keep silent. They are to make mention of the Lord, not only in praising His name, but also in warning the people against the threats of the enemies.

Binding upon all Reformed office bearers is the Formula of Subscription, a liturgical form which “arose out of a desire to preserve unity in the church, which unity is based squarely on oneness in doctrine”.4   The Formula “requires   complete   agreement   with all the doctrines contained in the Reformed creeds”.5 By signing the Formula upon their entrance into the offices, they promise “diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine (of the Reformed confessions), without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same, by our public preaching   or   writing”.   Moreover, they promise to “reject all errors that militate against this doctrine…and to exert ourselves in keeping the church free from such errors”.6

Given to the ministers of the Word is the charge that they must be “refuting with the Holy Scriptures all schisms and heresies which are repugnant to the pure doctrine”.7   Moreover, the office of the professors of theology is to “expound the Holy Scriptures and to vindicate sound doctrine against heresies and errors”.8 The professors are called to caution the students “in regard to the errors and heresies of the old, but especially of the new day”.9 By their preaching, teaching, and writing, they are constantly refuting false doctrines and heresies which seek to enter the church and corrupt the sheepfold.

The elders, moreover, are to see to it that “no strange doctrine be taught”.10 They are to “take heed that purity of doctrine and godliness of life be maintained in the church of God”. Moreover, “to ward off false doctrines and errors that multiply exceedingly through heretical writings, the ministers and elders shall use the means of teaching, of refutation or warning, and of admonition, as well in the ministry of the Word as in Christian teaching and family- visiting”.11

Upon the young believer making confession in the church is placed the calling to fight spiritually. He swears before God and His church that he is “resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto; and to lead a new, godly life”.12 An older form for public confession of faith phrases this calling more forcefully: “Do you promise, by the grace of God, to continue steadfastly in the profession of this doctrine and to live and die in accordance therewith?”13

The young people, with all their energy and zeal, are to be rejecting heresies repugnant to, that is, offensive to the doctrines that they have been taught. They are to live and die in accordance with the doctrines that they confess.

 

Lest We Forget History

In the last ten years since the split of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS), God has used important developments here to teach us important lessons. The history of the split in the ERCS is of tremendous importance to CERC. No member, and certainly no office bearer, ought to shy away from speaking about this significant history. This history must be told, and taught to the next generation of faithful believers in CERC.

In the last ten years, by God’s grace, CERC has grown in her love for God and has been reforming according to the truth concerning marriage, the sovereignty of God’s grace, and the unconditional, sovereign covenant between God and His people in Jesus Christ.

But when a church receives not the love of the truth by allowing false doctrines into her midst, God sends her a strong delusion, so that she believes a lie (2 Thess. 2:10-11). The English Standard Version translates the verse this way: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false”. Gradually, she believes more lies and adopts more false doctrines. In His wrath, God gives such a church which has lost her first love over to the lie, so that she is “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). What results is a future generation that grows up without the knowledge of the truth. Gradually, this church loses more important and fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Loving the truth goes hand in hand with God’s blessing, just as losing the love of the truth goes hand in hand with God’s judgment.

No church becomes false or apostate overnight, even though she embraces false doctrines. Prof. David Engelsma accurately defines a false or apostate church as “a congregation or denomination that, while claiming to be the church of Christ and displaying an appearance of being a church, has so far departed from the truth of the gospel, and thus from Christ the head of the church, that it no longer is a manifestation of the body of Christ at all”.14 He further elaborates that “a church does not become a false church at once. Usually it is a process of gradual development from bad to worse until finally the church becomes false, or fully apostate”.15 When a believer finds himself in a church that is embracing new doctrines, it is absolutely important that he searches the Word diligently and compare those doctrines with the standard of Scripture and the Reformed confessions.

When a church or denomination realises the error of her ways, there is mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation in the cross. It is hoped that through these editorials, the churches which may be enticed by the false doctrines of common grace, the well-meant gospel offer, and the conditional covenant may flee from those falsehoods and see the glorious truths of Scripture once again. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Pro. 27:6). Jesus’ promise of reconciliation and fellowship comes to the erring church today, just as it did to the erring church of the Laodiceans: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:20-1).

The warning is also sharp to all the members of CERC. Love the truth, and sell it not. Be a faithful witness to the truth, and live faithfully in it. Teach the truth to your children and their generations. Only in that way will the truth be maintained and confessed in the hearts, mouths, and lives of our people.

Our fighting will not be vain. We fight with the absolute confidence in God’s Word. We fight with the absolute confidence that no sacrifice is too great for the truth. This battle will be costly. But let us fight the good fight of faith, for henceforth there is laid up for us a crown of righteousness, not to us only but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Tim 4:7-8).

 

1 The Heidelberg Catechism, LD 12, Q&A 32.

2 The Belgic Confession, Article 29.

3 Prayer of Thanksgiving in the Reformed Form for the Administration of Baptism.

4 The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches, (Grandville: Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2005), 324.

5 The Confessions, 324.

6 The Formula of Subscription.

7 Form for the Ordination (or Installation) of Ministers of God’s Word.

8 Article 18, in The Church Order of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore.

9 Form for the Installation of Professors of Theology.

10 Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons.

11 Article 55, in The Church Order of the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore.

12 Form for Public Confession of Faith.

13 Form for the Public Confession of Faith (http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/nethlit.htm).

14 David Engelsma, Bound to Join: Letters on Church Membership, (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2010),

15 Bound to Join, 9.

 

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 43

Lest We Forget (II)

In the last editorial, I mentioned that through the ecclesiastical contacts of First Evangelical Reformed Church (FERC) in Singapore, the Arminian doctrines of common grace, the well- meant offer of the gospel, and the conditional covenant have made inroads into the Reformed churches in Singapore. In ten short years after their adoption of divorce and remarriage, these Arminian doctrines have found fertile ground in FERC.

Lest we forget, it was only ten years ago in 2007 that FERC still belonged to a faithful denomination, the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS). For over twenty years, the ERCS confessed the sovereignty and particularity of God’s grace in salvation. Prior to her institution in 1982, she had   received   distinctive   instruction in the Reformed faith through her contact with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

As early as 1979, emissaries from the PRCA began instructing the young group of believers in Singapore concerning the heresy of common grace and the particularity of God’s grace. These emissaries reported the instruction that they gave:

We stressed that the grace called common is a non-entity and exists only in the minds of those who seek justification for fellowship with the world, whose good deeds are ethically ever only corrupt, while they indeed may be good in a functional sense. We emphasized the absolute antithesis established by God’s particular grace as our God calls children of light out of the children of darkness, life out of death, etc. This speech was very appreciatively received by many and they saw clearly that we are called to an antithetical walk.1

The emissaries also explained the PRCA’s rejection of the well-meant gospel offer:

We emphasized that the truth of election is not an hindrance to missions as is often alleged, but that it is instead an incentive for the guarantee that God has His people and that Christ has sheep which He must gather through the preaching of the Gospel by the Church.2

In 1982, after the young group of believers was organised into the ERCS, they expressed wholehearted agreement with the truths confessed by the PRCA:

We believe God has blessed you in a very special way and given you a measure of the truth that is largely lost to the churches of our day. We believe that God who gives you this truth so that we may learn from you, will in no wise leave you no avenue to proclaim it…We in the E.R.C.S. love the truth your churches have brought us…3

Through the ministries of two PRCA ministers working in the ERCS, Rev. Arie den Hartog and Rev. Jason Kortering, the ERCS continued to be instructed more fully in the Reformed faith. The two ministers on loan to the ERCS were instrumental in developing the young church’s understanding and conviction of the Reformed faith. Zealously,   they   preached,   taught, and gave much advice to the young church. They officiated at many weddings, instructing young couples in the biblical truth of marriage and the covenant home. They were also actively involved in the mission work of the ERCS. Their faithful ministries were used powerfully by God to develop the ERCS into a faithful Reformed church.

The Lord prospered the ERCS in those years. Many were gathered into the church out of heathendom. Marriages were aplenty. Young, godly families were characteristic of the ERCS. The denomination was entering into another phase of life, where the second generation   of   Reformed   believers was rising. In 1986, a daughter congregation, Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, was organised. At their peak, the ERCS numbered over three hundred members. The denomination was spiritually healthy and vibrant.

In 1996, based on the reports of the ERCS’ minister-on-loan, Rev. Kortering, the PRCA’s Contact Committee reported that the doctrinal distinctives concerning the preaching, God’s   covenant   and   grace   were preached:

Although the ERCS has not taken an official position on the doctrines of the covenant, common grace, and free offer, they continue to preach and teach the faithful Reformed position.4

In   1997,   Rev.   Kortering   reported that the doctrinal distinctives were understood and settled:

The doctrines of the covenant, the well- meant offer, and common grace are no longer issues in the ERCS. The ERCS have grown in their understanding and appreciation of the Reformed position in these areas. The ERCS are also being more and more identified with the PRC by the church community in Singapore.5

Giving hearty approval to the instruction given by the ministers on loan, the ERCS expressed their unity in the faith with the PRCA:

This indeed is another golden opportunity for our two churches to express our unity in the faith and support of each other in this increasingly dark and sinful world of unbelief…The Reformed faith, which we have come to know and love through the ministry of your churches, we will uphold and defend with all our might in the Far East…In our observation of you, we continue to notice, with great delight, your steadfast defense of the Reformed faith in all your publications. Your undaunted effort to clarify your fine theological position is helping the Reformed community more and more to develop in greater depth of understanding of the truth.6

A Broad-Minded Spirit

Nevertheless, trouble was already brewing in the ERCS. When emissaries from the PRCA’s contact committee visited the ERCS in 2003, they expressed some “real concerns about a ‘broad-minded’ spirit in the ERCS”. This broad-minded spirit would surface a year later in the controversy over divorce and remarriage that wrecked chaos in the denomination. This broad- minded spirit manifested itself in an eagerness to learn and embrace the doctrine of divorce and remarriage that was taught by other denominations, which doctrine had been repudiated by the two PRCA ministers during their lengthy ministries in the ERCS. Today, the broad-minded spirit is very much alive in FERC. Ministers of different theological stripes are invited to preach there.

Recounting the history of the ERCS, Rev. den Hartog astutely observes that one of the main reasons for apostasy in the ERCS was a broad-minded spirit in her leadership:

 

There were those in the ERCS who in these controversies became convinced that they did not want to continue in the direction presented by men from the PRCA. The direction was considered too narrow, and there arose a desire instead to have closer fellowship with other churches. There was a strong desire on the part of some of the leaders to be more broad minded and open in tolerating different doctrinal teachings in the church that came from several different denominations which came through new members who joined the ERCS over the years.8

A broad-minded spirit always spells the destruction of a faithful denomination, as history proves. Broad-mindedness necessarily implies a toleration of different doctrines, worldviews, and practices in the church. When a church is not narrowly on guard against the wolves that seek to enter the sheepfold, she becomes susceptible to many errors and temptations.

The only remedy for a broad-minded spirit is the narrow-mindedness of Scripture and the narrow-mindedness of the Reformed confessions. In an age which celebrates an open-mindedness to every conceivable false doctrine and immorality, being narrow-minded is not popular. It is scorned and rejected by many. Jesus Himself told us: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-4). Many indeed prefer the broad and comfortable way, but shun the narrow and difficult way of the cross, of the holy Scriptures, and of the Reformed faith.

But Jesus assures us that the narrow way is the way of life and of salvation. That narrow way is the way of walking faithfully in His Word, and rejecting all things contrary to it. That is the way that CERC embraces. We are a narrow- minded church. In the way of the narrow-mindedness of the Scriptures and the Reformed confessions, we remain a faithful Reformed church.

 

1 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1979, 71-2.

2 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1979, 71-2.

3 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1982, 82.

4 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1996, 97-8.

5 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1997, 91.

6 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 1996, 151-2.

7 Acts of Synod and Yearbook, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2003, 93.

8 Arie den Hartog, Lessons from the Beloved Church of Jesus Christ Now Among Us, in the Salt Shakers (Aug. 2014, Issue 27), 22.

 

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 42

Lest We Forget

2017 – a special year for Reformed churches the world over.  Lest we forget, this year we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. If anything stands out from the Reformation, it is the reformers’ fierce struggle for the truth. They counted God’s truth above all. They would readily lose their lives for the sake of the truth. In the words of Guido de Bres, chief author of the Belgic Confession, the persecuted believers would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to fire, rather than deny the truth of God’s Word”1. We are humbled and grateful to be the children of the Reformation, and to call its glorious heritage our own.

2017 is particularly significant for CERC, because she will celebrate her 30th anniversary. Thirty years ago in 1987, she was organised and instituted as a church. CERC’s history mirrors the history of the Reformation, a history marked by painful and bitter struggle for the truth. When she was first organised, CERC was made up of first- generation Christians. They were new believers who had just come to know the Lord. Most of them had come from pagan backgrounds, formerly worshipping idols, ancestors, and were deeply entrenched in superstition. Many suffered persecution on account of their faith. But forsaking their unbelief by the sovereign grace of God, they remained steadfast in the faith, and were organised into an instituted church.

Graciously, the Lord has preserved CERC through numerous trials. Today, CERC is growing spiritually with a group of second-generation believers. Many of them were raised in the church and have married, cleaving to those who love and confess the same truths as they do. Besides, God has added many others who were not born in covenant homes to CERC. There is doctrinal strength, and true, spiritual unity that is based upon the truth.

There is good hope for the future in CERC. The third generation arises. Plenty of covenant seed are being added to the church. God is demonstrating His gracious promise to be a God unto His people and to their seed after them. He has not cut us off in our generations. Sovereignly He maintains His covenant of grace with us and our children. He sees to it that His truth is believed, confessed, developed, and maintained in our midst. He uses false doctrines in other churches, in Singapore and elsewhere, to sharpen our understanding of His truth. Always God uses apostasy to increase a love for the truth in His people. He uses the lie in order that His truth is defended, developed, and cherished by faithful believers.

Only ten years ago, lest we forget, CERC still belonged to a denomination of Reformed churches, the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore (ERCS). Ten years ago, the ERCS denomination was dissolved, and the only two member churches – First Evangelical Reformed Church (FERC) and Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) – went their separate ways. Several years after the split, CERC reunited and became sisters with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA) and their sister church, the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland (CPRC). FERC recently became a sister to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA), whose distinctive doctrine is that of a conditional covenant2.

These developments in Singapore are not only ecclesiastical in nature. They are doctrinal. Although the split ten years ago concerned the doctrine of marriage, differences then have led to differences today over the doctrine of God’s covenant, common grace, and the well-meant offer of the gospel. Ten short years was all it took to expose these differences. Through her ecclesiastical contacts, FERC has introduced the doctrines of common grace, the well- meant offer of the gospel, and the conditional covenant into the Reformed churches in Singapore.3 These are important doctrinal developments that deserve our analysis.

Through the controversy over divorce and   remarriage   that   raged   in   the ERCS, CERC was led by God to see the glorious and beautiful truth of marriage. Her members now confess the lifelong permanency of marriage, which Scripture incontrovertibly teaches in 1 Cor. 7:39 and Rom. 7:2-3. With humble boldness we reject, repudiate, and condemn the false doctrine of divorce and remarriage, which doctrine permits the “innocent party” of a lawful divorce to remarry. This doctrine not only violates the clear teaching of Scripture, but also makes marriage a conditional relationship, a relationship dependent on the faithfulness of a spouse. If a spouse remains faithful in the marriage, then the marriage bond remains intact. But if a spouse becomes unfaithful and commits adultery, then the “innocent party” may divorce and remarry. This weak view of marriage destroys what God has joined together, and disobeys what He has commanded not to be put asunder (Matt. 19:6). This conditional view of marriage ultimately denies the power and efficacy of God’s grace to maintain what He has established.

CERC will not permit divorce and remarriage. God will not allow it.

Unashamedly we confess that marriage is an unconditional relationship of love and friendship. Husband and wife love each other unconditionally in marriage. They cleave to each other for life because God has made them one flesh in marriage (Gen. 2:24). At no time is their marriage conditioned on the faithfulness of either spouse. Where there is sin against each other, even the grievous sin of adultery, there is forgiveness in the cross. In the comforting words of the Reformed Form for the Confirmation of Marriage which repudiates divorce and remarriage, married couples have the “certain assurance” of the grace of God in all their afflictions.4 They do not, and may not, take it upon themselves to break up their marriage. God’s grace gives them the “certain assurance” that He will uphold them in all their trials and afflictions. This is the comfort of the gospel of grace. Believing this comforting gospel, faithful believers are assured that God’s grace enables them to assist each other faithfully in “all things that belong to this life and a better”. Believing this faithful promise of God, married believers vow “never to forsake” the other, and to live holily in marriage as long as they both shall live.

Behind the marvellous truth of marriage’s lifelong permanency stands God’s everlasting covenant of grace. God’s covenant is His bond of marriage- friendship with His elect people in Jesus Christ. That covenant is described in Scripture in terms of a marriage (Jer. 3, Ezek. 16, Eph. 5:22-33). Jehovah is married to His beloved Bride, the Church. Faithfully, He maintains His marriage to her, even though His wife sins against Him so grievously, and ever so often. He remains married to her, for theirs is an unconditional relationship of love and friendship.

CERC believes, confesses, and preaches the unconditional character of God’s covenant. That God’s covenant is unconditional means that it is not dependent on man’s will for its origin, establishment, or maintenance. God is absolutely sovereign in establishing and   maintaining   His   covenant.   By His sovereign decree of election He chose a people for Himself, bringing them into His covenant in time and in history by the preaching of the gospel. He maintains His covenant with them sovereignly, and perfects it in the new heavens and earth, where His people will dwell with Him in perfect bliss. Never is God dependent on the will of sinful man for the establishment or maintenance of His covenant. The covenant is His.

Today, after ten short years, the evil root behind the false doctrine of divorce and remarriage is exposed. What the last ten years proved beyond any doubt is this: the doctrine of marriage is inseparable from the doctrine of God’s covenant. Touch the doctrine of marriage, and the doctrine of the covenant will necessarily be affected. So close, so intimate is the relationship between the earthly and the heavenly marriage, that to spoil or to exalt the one would impact the other. If marriage is conditional, so is God’s covenant. If marriage depends on the faithfulness of a spouse, so does the covenant depend on the faithfulness of man. Conversely, if marriage is unconditional, so is God’s covenant. If marriage does not depend on the faithfulness of a spouse, neither does God’s covenant depend on the faithfulness of His people.

Today, those who stood for the truth in the controversy are vindicated. History has vindicated them. History is making it clear that the split ten years ago was a divide between the truth and the lie. History is making it clear that God’s blessings abide with those who are faithful to His truth, and that those who reject His truth further apostatize from the faith through false doctrines and heresies.

Ten years have passed, and many of the younger generation in CERC do not know the bitter struggle for the truth only ten years ago. Lest we forget our history, it is imperative that the church continues to instruct the younger generation what happened ten years ago. Lest our children forget their parents’ and grandparents’ bitter struggle for the truth, we must teach our covenant seed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to their forefathers. To those who find themselves in churches where false doctrines have made inroads, search the scriptures! Return to the old paths; remember your first love! The Lord will confess those who overcome, and clothe them in white garments (Rev. 3:5).

The church of Jesus Christ is always a militant church, so long as she is in the midst of this world. Like the reformers of old who counted all things but loss for the sake of the truth, it is our high calling to teach our children to battle for the truth in these last days. The words of Rev. Herman Hoeksema, who warned those who would shy away from controversy in the battle for the truth, is fitting: “Let those who are shy of controversy remember that in this world it is impossible to maintain the truth unless one is ready to defend it against the gainsayers”.5

 

1 The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Grandville: Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2005, 22.

2 Acts of the 2015 Synod of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, Baldivis, 2015, 36-7. Taken from http://synod.frca.org.au/2015/acts/Acts_Of_FRCA_2015_Synod.pdf. See also The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers by David Engelsma. Jenison: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2005.

3 See the speech “What is the Grace of God” by Maurice Roberts. (http://ferc.org.sg/OtherRecordings.aspx). For Wes Brendenhof ’s conditional covenant theology, see “I Will Be Your God” – An Easy Introduction to the Covenant of Grace” by Wes Brendenhof (Inter League Publication Board, 2015).

⁴ The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches, 306-10.

⁵ Hoeksema, Herman. God’s Goodness Always Particular. 2nd Ed. Jenison: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2015. EPub Edition.

 

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 41

Our Children’s Education (IX)

Covenant education for Covenant seed is faithfulness to Jehovah’s Covenant. Leaving our children to fend for themselves in the ungodly education of public schools is contrary to all the precepts of the Covenant. We rob our children of their Covenant privileges when we give them an ungodly education instead of a Covenant one.

It is sheer folly to expect godly, spiritually mature men and women to be raised under an ungodly education. As a corrupt tree cannot produce good fruit, so an ungodly education cannot produce godly children.

Jehovah’s calling for Covenant parents is not to raise up the political and business leaders of this world. It is to raise up “Davids”, “Daniels”, and “Pauls” for the church of Jesus Christ; it is to rear mothers in Israel.

Educating our children carefully in the ways of the Covenant will serve an important purpose. We will raise a generation that knows their Reformed faith intimately; by God’s grace, they will love it, confess it, maintain it, defend it, live by it, and even die for it. We will raise a generation who will be jealous for their precious Reformed heritage because they have a God who is jealous of His glory. We will raise a generation whose chief end in life is the glory of their God.

It is extremely crucial for parents in CERC to understand and be convinced of Covenant education. Most of our second generation members have undergone the public education process and know of its evil consequences. If the Reformed faith is to survive and be developed in all its splendour and beauty, the next generation must not be bystanders in their children’s Covenant education.

If CERC pursues the path of Covenant education for her young (using whatever means the Lord provides us), we will be very much alone. Most churches in Singapore have carelessly given their Covenant seed over to the public schools and are suffering its devastating consequences. We must not be afraid to be alone, for God’s people always constitute a very small remnant.

 

I have no doubt that Covenant education in Singapore is a difficult path that will involve much sacrifice. It is, nevertheless, the path that Scripture directs for us as Covenant parents. God assures us that He will bless us in the way of obedience.

God has provided the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) as an example for us. There is nothing cultural about the PRC’s insistence on providing a Covenant education for her children. It is Biblical. It is confessional. It is Reformed.

For reformation to take place in the church of Jesus Christ, we must give serious consideration to the education our Covenant children receive and make significant effort to be greatly involved in it. The Christian education of our children is not a matter of choice. It is our Covenant duty. It is our Covenant privilege.

It is a Covenant necessity.

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 39

Our Children’s Education: A Covenant Necessity (VII)

Our church fathers wisely understood that the church had an important role to play in the education our children receive. Article 21 of the Church Order of Dordrecht, binding upon CERC as our own Church Order, reads,

“The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.”

In Article 41 of the same Church Order, the president of the classis is mandated to ask the delegates from each church whether “the poor and the Christian schools are cared for”.

Explaining the fourth commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy, the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism instructed that the “schools be maintained” (LD 38, Q&A103).

Although CERC does not have a Christian school presently, there is much that the church can do. Office- bearers, to whom Christ entrusted the welfare of His flock, can and must point out the evils of public education to Covenant parents. They must demonstrate precisely from Scripture the sinful and spiritually devastating consequences public education has for Covenant seed, especially if parents are not careful. Scripture is not silent about the subject. Because they are His children, God has much to speak about the rearing of Covenant seed in His Word.

When the church establishes a clear and distinctive spiritual vision for Covenant education, God’s people will not perish. Covenant parents will be convicted of their high calling to rear Covenant seed. They will see the need for a solid Covenant education that has God’s Word as its central focus. Any knowledge gained apart from Scripture is meaningless. They will understand that Covenant children must be raised Covenantally.

While the establishment of a Reformed school may only be a long-term goal for now, the office-bearers can give much needed support to the parents for this cause. There must be support both for parents who home-school their children and for those who have children in public schools. The church can give much needed support, direction and instruction to them so that every family may pull together in the same direction of establishing a Christian school one day. The church is our spiritual mother that showers us with loving instruction and care. The church that truly loves the Reformed faith will do all in her power to give her children a Covenant education.

Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 37

Knowing That We Are His

Introduction

Every human being is born dependent. The sense of belonging to someone and somewhere is most fundamental and important for the healthy growth and development of the human nature. Without this sense of belonging, one lacks the confidence to venture into the unknown.

In the Christian life, there are many new and unknown territories for a child of God to experience. Some of these spiritual experiences can be quite frightening with serious consequences. Fear is not the best place for a normal learning experience. We learn and grow best and con dently in this world when we know that we belong to its caring Owner and Provider.

Thus, the Psalmist commands God’s people to know how they are related to their God – “…we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Why We Are Jehovah’s

Things belong to each other as they are meaningfully related to each other, and together they function in harmony and unity. Think of the different pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. The curvy sides of each piece fit those of others perfectly, and together they present a beautiful picture. The pieces belong to each other. They belong to each other because they have the same creator who determines their respective shapes and images. Each piece is lost and meaningless when it is not placed where it rightly belongs, according to the design of the creator.

As Christians, we must know where and to whom we belong before we can live meaningfully and happily in this world. The Book of Genesis is the book of beginnings in the Bible, the Word of God. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and all things therein. And man was created after the image of God. So we Christians, as human beings, belong to God by virtue of Creation. He did all things according to His own good pleasure and out of His infinite wisdom. We are the way we are because of God’s determination. We belong to Him and find our meaningful place in Him. Any form of denial of the Almighty Creator is the forsaking of the proper place to which we rightly belong and from which, alone, we can begin all rightful thinking.

The Jehovah Who establishes His Covenant (friendship) with us is this God, our Creator. He made us, and not we ourselves. We must know that among our many friends in this world, there is one who is the Mighty Creator of all things. And we belong to this Mighty One Who knows us through and through because of His own determination of all things concerning us! What a wonder and privilege to have such a friend!

It is He Who has brought us into existence, both physical and spiritual, and not we ourselves. He creates and redeems us in Jesus Christ. We are doubly His!

The Implication Of Being His

Being possessed and owned by another means that we are not alone, but belong somewhere and to someone. Such a thought of being owned can either bring joy and comfort or it can bring misery and great apprehension. It all depends on who the owner is.

If we belong to the evil one, we are indeed in deep trouble, as he cares not for us but only seeks to use and dump us finally. Oh yes, the evil one will first deceive with his wicked lies

and then show his true colours when we are safely in his hands, doing his bidding. We then become wicked like him and condemned of God to eternal perdition. Here, we have no comfort.

But, on the other hand, to belong to Someone as good as God Almighty Who changes not, there is no greater comfort and joy. This is because He shows Himself able and willing to take care of His own according to His good promises to His own. He is the Sovereign One ruling over all and causing them all to fall out according to His eternal good council which serves our well-being.

That we belong to Him means that He has undertaken to be responsible for us. Whenever something or someone is in trouble, we not only consider the state and condition of that troubled object itself, but also look for any other who may be responsible for its being and well-being. So, when a child is in trouble, we look for his guardian – the one who has undertaken to care for him. An irresponsible guardian may disappear at such an hour, shirking his responsibility. But we may not have such an idea of God. He is never irresponsible like sinful men. When He has undertaken to do something, He will make it good with His whole being.

He has undertaken to make us His people and the sheep of His pasture. We belong to Him as His people to show forth His praise. We belong to Him as His sheep to enjoy His shepherding.

The Blessing Of Knowing That

The word ‘know’ used in Scriptures can refer to the different depths of perception of things. For example, Adam was said to ‘know’ Eve and she brought forth a son. The ‘know’ used here speaks of intimate, sexual, physical knowledge. But ‘know’ can also simply refer to being acquainted or familiar or aware.

God wants us to know that we are His in a deep way. In a super cial way, in the messages we have heard, we have come to know this truth that we belong to God. When the Psalmist commands that we should know that we belong to Jehovah, he calls us to an in-depth knowledge of that. We must know that in our experience and, in our soul, be able to rejoice in it. We can ever grow in greater depth of such knowledge. He becomes ever more precious to us as we become more aware that we belong to such a Mighty God.

To be a good and faithful member of a good church is a sure way to know this God and all His glory better. This is so because a true Church not only declares the true Word of God, but also ensures that Its discipline is upheld to the glory and honour of His Name. Such a Church is also very supportive of all who would walk in Jehovah’s way.

The more we know of His perfections and our miserable conditions, the more we desire to belong to Him. It is always our lingering doubt of being His that gives rise to problems in our Christian walk. The Lord knows who are His, but do we know whose we are? And do we know how great He is to whom we belong? For the perfect knowledge of such things we must wait for Heaven. And, since God commands us to know them in this lifetime, He Himself will teach us as we go along with Him.

The sure signs of true spiritual growth are:
1. The growth in deeper appreciation of God in His attributes and perfections.
2. The growth in knowledge of our own unworthiness and total dependence upon Him.
3. The growth in confidence that we belong to Him as His people and sheep under His guidance and care.

Conclusion

God created us, and redeemed us in Christ. We are His because He brought us into existence. He is responsible for our well-being because He chose to save us from sins and destruction. Having began a good work in us, He will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ.

We must learn to trust Him in all things, and to obey Him, knowing that what He requires of us is only good for us. We can trust our Good Shepherd to help us overcome the many difficulties along the path of obedience.

God will uphold His own good name. He will not allow Himself to be known as a God Who has failed to save His people and His sheep. We must know and understand that, and walk in His way confidently. In that way, we can be happy Christians, come what may.

This is to walk by faith. Whatever is not of faith is sin and we are called to cleanse ourselves of such sins in the Blood of Christ. Amen.

“Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psa. 100:3

Written by: Pastor Lau Chin Kwee | Issue 5