A blessed Easter to you!
But let’s be clear about one thing.
That wish can come true only on this condition: that by faith we think the right thoughts.
Fragrant Bowers, a new outfit, and delicious food can serve a good purpose only if they are outward symbols of believing thoughts in our minds and in our hearts. Without that, all these are only so much folderol or a plain farce.
So, let‘s look once again at the Easter story—so old but always so new to us who believe it—let‘s look at it again and direct our minds and hearts to a few precious and glorious thoughts about Easter. What‘s this all about when we sing: Hallelujah, Christ arose!
Following are four such thoughts.
Thoughts based on Matthew 28:2–6.
1. First, think of what Easter means for the earth. “And behold,” Matthew tells us, “there was a great earthquake . . .”
Surely, it is not unwarranted to find special significance also in this—that the earth quaked at the resurrection of our Lord. We believe that this is so because this earthquake came just at that particular time. Everything that happened at that time must have had meaning. Bear in mind that there was an earthquake at Calvary also.
The significance of Christ’s resurrection for the cosmos or the creation is truly precious. It seals the glorious fact that our Savior by His redeeming work also delivered the universe as God’s creation from the blight of the curse of sin.
Once upon a time the heavens and the earth were perfect. God had made them altogether good, able to serve the purpose for which He had brought them forth: to glorify Him. What a beautiful and wonderful earth that must have been when Adam and Eve were in Paradise!
But we know that all this is different now. God spoke of that to Adam immediately after the Fall: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake . . .” Romans 8:22 tells us: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”
But a better day is coming because of our Lord’s redeeming work. This universe is going to be renewed. We are to have new heavens and a new earth. Creation will one day be restored to its original beauty and perfection.
When God sent an angel and raised our Savior from the dead He showed thereby that Christ’s atoning work was sufficient. Sufficient not only to redeem us from our sin and from death and hell but sufficient also to take away the curse that was resting on the cosmos. So, we now “look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Pet. 3:13).
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
2. Next, think of what Easter means for our Savior.
When this angel of the Lord came on Easter morning he came with a message for Christ also. Matthew tells us that “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.”
It may seem strange that an angel should be sent from heaven to roll this stone away for the Lord to come forth. After all, Jesus is not only man but also the very Son of God. Did He need an angel to do this for Him? Celsus, a critic of Christianity in the second century, is said to have scoffed at this.
But Celsus was wrong. Surely, God had a purpose in sending an angel to do this. It seems to me that this act was symbolic. This was God‘s way of showing that He had accepted the payment Christ had made for our sin. Accordingly, Scripture tells us not only that our Savior arose but also that God raised Him from the dead.
On the cross Jesus had reported to the Father concerning His missions: “It is finished.” The angel sent to roll away the stone may have very well been the Father ‘s response to show thereby that He was fully satisfied and that our Savior was therefore to come forth out of the state of humiliation into the state of exaltation.
This rolling away of the stone would then be God‘s seal of approval to show that our Savior‘s redeeming work was altogether acceptable to God and that we who look to Him do not trust Him in vain.
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
3. Third, think of what Easter means for a godless world.
As long as men remain in their unbelief, let them beware! For them the resurrection of Christ comes with a terrifying message.
Note again what Matthew tells us: “His appearance [the angel’s] was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the watchers did quake, and became as dead men.”
Think of what a frightening experience this must have been for these coarse, brutal Roman soldiers. For the first time in their lives they were in the presence of a holy being who had just come from heaven were all is pure and holy. Otherwise afraid of nothing these men now began to tremble and they became paralyzed with fear.
And these enemies of our Lord had reasons to be afraid. The angel made that clear also when he said to the women: “Fear not ye.” By implication the angel said that these unbelieving soldiers indeed did h ave good reasons to be terrified.
There is such a close connection between our Lord‘s resurrection, as the first step in His state of exaltation, and the judgment on His enemies. Jesus is now no longer the Man of Sorrows but He is risen to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and able also to judge the wicked. Let the unbeliever, therefore, cast himself upon the mercy of the living Savior and thus Bee from the still greater wrath to come.
Halleujah! Christ arose!How To Build His Church (3)
Once again I wish to call attention to Dr. John H. Kromminga’s article on “Church Discipline as a Pastoral Exercise” in The Reformed Journal of November, 1974. To my mind there are compelling and urgent reasons for doing this.
The following considerations lead me to believe that the article calls for such further attention!
1. The importance of the matier on which Dr. Kromminga (hereinafter to be referred to as Dr. K) writes should be obvious. One of the marks “by which the true Church is known” according to the Belgic Confession (Art. XXIX), is the following: “if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin.”
Let no one suppose then that the further pursuit of this matter is mere nit–picking or undue concern about certain ecclesiastical peccadilloes. If the recognition of “the true church” is as important as the Belgic Confession holds it to be, then it is certainly not true that we are hereby belaboring mere trifles.
2. Moreover, the strategic position that Dr. K occupies as the President of Calvin Theological Seminary (at which most CRC ministers receive their training) means that his public utterances about any one of the marks of “the true Church” should be regarded as being of real significance for the entire Church.
3. An inescapable and honest concern about the direction in which Dr. K. goes in his article on “Church Discipline” means that, in my judgment, one would be derelict in his editorial duty not to evaluate, in the light of Scripture, the writing of anyone in such a responsible position.
To recall the matters in Dr. K’s article to which exception was taken in last month‘s editorial, these may be stated in summary as follows:
1. In differing with what he calls a “popular caricature” as to “the focus of discipline,” Dr. K takes the liberty of dealing with the Belgic Confession and the Church Order by saying: “Some of the language we have cited from the Belgic Confession and Church Order lends support to this. Perhaps that is careless language; perhaps we are reading too much into it; perhaps it is simply wrong. However that maybe . . .” (Italics added). And then Dr. K. goes on to state his own position. He should explain how the Belgic Confession and the Church Order language may be dismissed in this easy and cavalier manner.
2. Exception was taken also to Dr. Ks contention that “it remains true that the removal of offense out of the church by the removal of the offender is not a mark of the success of church discipline at all, but a mark of its failure” (italics added). We are entitled to know how Dr. K. can possibly square this with Scripture.
3. Finally, exception was taken to what I would judge to be a mistaken emphasis in Dr. K’s article. One easily receives the impression from what he writes that the CRC is very intolerant, severe, and rigid in the exercise of church discipline.
Fact is that our day is one of a growing permissiveness rather than highhanded discipline. It was pointed out that, according to the 1974 Yearbook, in Classis Grand Rapids East (to which Dr. K himself belongs), the largest Classis in the CRC, not even one member was excommunicated during 1973.
Allow me now to conclude this matter by calling attention to one more matter in Dr. K.’s article in The Reformed Journal, November 1974 (pp. 12–15). Note what Dr. K. says about the “focus” of church discipline.
According to Article 79 of the Church Order, church discipline has these three objectives: “The purpose of the admonition and discipline of the church is to maintain the honor of God (italics added), to restore the sinner, and to remove offense from the Church of Christ.”
Now it seems to me that it makes sense to assume that the first objective mentioned (“to maintain the honor of God”) would be first in importance, that it is the focus, the center, or the ultimate aim of church discipline. even as it is to be first in al1 of life.
But now notice what Dr. K writes:
“Do these three objectives have a focus? If so, where is it?
“The pious, hyper-Calvinistic answer to this question is that, discipline finds its focus in the honor of God (Italics added). Now we do well to keep God in mind with respect to discipline, lest it be neglected or distorted. But if this were the center of the consideration, what is called for might be wiping out entire congregations. The God for whose honor we must be concerned is Himself concerned with sinners. How can He be better honored than by our seeking that very concern of His?”
Reading and re-reading this paragraph of Dr. K., a Calvinist might understandably be led to exclaim: “Can you imagine that! To say that discipline finds its focus in the honor of God is to give a ‘pious, hypercalvinistic answer!’” And “if this were the center of the consideration” says Dr. K., “what is called fa; might be wiping out entire congregations” (italics added). This reasoning and its conclusion on the part of the President of Calvin Seminary leaves us baffled, to say the least.
To get the primary objective of church discipline into proper focus, we do well to consult The Revised Church Order Commentary by Van Dellen and Monsma who certainly are not to be set aside as having been “pious” (in the derogatory sense) and “hyper-Calvinistic” as leaders in the CRC. They comment as follows on the purpose of church discipline:
“Article 79 first of all mentions the maintenance of the honor of God. God is altogether holy and righteous. He is supremely good and most excellent in all His divine virtues. Consequently He is most honorable, and is to be worshiped and adored. But when anyone sins against Him he dishonors God; he brings dishonor upon His name. Moreover, when the world sees us sin against God and His commandments, it looks down upon God whose servants and children we claim to be . . . . By church discipline the honor of God is vindicated and upheld.
“The first-mentioned purpose for church discipline in Article 79 harmonizes . . . with Calvin’s first mentioned purpose, namely, that the name of God may not be blasphemed by the world. God told David through Nathan the prophet that by his sin he had given the enemies of the Lord great occasion to blaspheme (II Sam. 12:14). Thus it is ever. Our sins bring dishonor to God’s name. The Church must openly repudiate such and all sins against God” (p. 291).
Moreover, if it is “pious” and “hyper-Calvinistic,” as Dr. K. would have us believe, “that discipline finds its focus in the honor of God,” what then becomes of such distinctively Calvinistic slogans as: “Soli Deo gloria,” “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” and “All to the glory of God”?
Of course, these must be more than mere slogans, banners, or empty words. Simply stated, to do all to the glory of God is ever to show forth, to tell, and to reflect His glorious attributes. Our highest aim in life is always and everywhere to show what kind of a God we have. God’s justice, holiness, and truth are to be shown forth in church discipline as well as His love and mercy.
To make the salvation, the reformation, the rehabilitation of man our first purpose is horizontalism which leads to humanism. The Calvinist’s life-and-world view is theocentric from start to finish. Whoever makes self the be-all and end-all of life is an egoist. When we make our fellow-men number one in church discipline or in anything else we become altruists. It is only when we have God and His honor as the be-all and the end-all that we are Calvinists or Christian theists in the best and highest sense.
And, of course, the clincher in all this is that Scripture is so plain in making the honor of God to be our foremost, central, and ultimate purpose for everything in the lives of His people.
At the birth of Christ, the angels kept their priorities straight when they put this first: Glory to God in the highest.
The same was true of Paul. To the Romans he writes: “For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
And to the Corinthians the apostle writes the same thing; “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).
And to the Ephesians: “Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).
Now, will you please tell us, Dr. K., why it is “pious” and “hyper-Calvinistic” to insist that this is true in the case of church discipline also?
NOTES OF INTEREST
To err is human – Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, the term cosmonomic was repeatedly misspelled as cosmonic in Miss Johanna Timmer’s article on “For All These Things – Judgment” in our February issue. Without pinpointing the blame for this misspelling in production, we assure the reader that this was not in Miss Timmer’s copy and that the error was not hers.
Backlog of book reviews – Due to a large backlog of book reviews waiting for publication, we must once again ask those who cooperate so willingly in reviewing the books sent to them to go the extra mile in patience in waiting for their reviews to appear. The readiness of these reviewers to serve, as well as that of the book companies to make their publications available, is greatly appreciated.
Tongues Yesterday and Today – This is the title of a recently published 72-page book by Rev. Robert J. Holwerda, pastor of the Calvary Christian Reformed Church of Pella, Iowa. Having just finished reading this book, so sorely needed for such a time as this, I wish to endorse that which Rev. Bassam M. Madany states in the Foreword: “By interpreting Scripture with Scripture in the tradition of the historic Christian faith, Pastor Holwerda shows us that the claims of the charismatics are unfounded, and that their movement is not a return to Apostolic Christianity.” Church societies, study groups, and all others interested in today‘s so-called “tongues-speaking” will find in this brief book definitive guidance in the light of Scripture, particularly the Book of Acts and the First Letter to the Corinthians. See the ad elsewhere in this issue for further information.