Timeless Truths Selected Reading


In this strange but appropriately entitled article we learn of the importance and necessity of doctrinal preaching. The author, a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, served as a missionary to Manchuria and later as professor at Geneva College. He was a frequent contributor to the early issues of Torch and Trumpet.

Our pastor preached another doctrinal sermon. It is getting to be almost more than we can stand!” This remark of a Covenanter church member betrays a common, but deplorably wrong-headed, attitude toward the doctrinal system of the Christian faith. People who say such things regard instruction in Christian truth as a boresome nuisance. They prefer “inspirational” sermons. But “inspiration” will be a mere castle in the air, a mere fleeting cloud of emotion, unless it has a solid foundation underneath it. If we do not have a clear, consistent, substantial knowledge of the doctrinal system of Christianity, no amount of “inspiration” or exhortation or enthusiasm-rousing can do us a bit of real good.

The human body is built on a structure of bones. The bones of the human body are not a luxury; they are an absolute necessity. Bones are not merely nice, not merely highly desirable, not merely a decorative ornament like a necktie; they are absolutely essential; without them the body can neither live nor function. We do not consider bones relatively desirable; we do not say that bones would be nice to possess as something extra, after we get everything else. We recognize that bones are not a luxury, but a necessity.

What bones are to the human body, doctrines are to Christianity. The doctrines of Christianity are not a superfluous luxury, to be added moderately to our religion after we have acquired everything else; on the contrary, the doctrines of Christianity are the framework to which everything else is fastened, on which all the rest is built; the doctrines are what give the body of Christianity its form and shape. With a different set or doctrines, it would not be Christianity but a different religion.

Christianity Is Essentially Doctrinal

Unlike some religions, Christianity is essentially doctrinal. It is built upon a foundation of specific ideas. Because these ideas are true, we speak of them as doctrines or truths of Christianity. Christian doctrines are made of (1) facts, plus (2) the divinely revealed interpretation of the facts. “Christ died” is a fact of history. To this fact there is added the divinely revealed interpretation, “for our sins.” Thus the statement, “Christ died for our sins” is one of the doctrines of the Christian faith. In this particular instance, it is a doctrine reduced to its lowest and barest terms; on the basis of other parts of the Bible it can be stated more comprehensively. But it shows the ingredients of all Christian doctrines: facts, plus God’s explanation of the facts.

The bones of the human body are not merely a collection of large and small bones carelessly thrown together; they are related to each other in a definite way, and so form a system of bones. So, too, the doctrines of the Christian faith are not merely a miscellaneous collection of truths thrown together in grab-bag fashion; they are related to each other in a definite way, and so form a system of doctrine. Just as the body’s system of bones determines its structure, form, and shape, so the Christian faith’s system of doctrines determines its structure, form, and shape. Really to grasp any one doctrine, you have to understand the system; really to grasp the system, you have to know each of its component parts. They are all organically related to each other.

Neither Skeleton nor Jellyfish

Of course the human body is not merely bones; it also has flesh, blood, nerves, muscles and so forth. A body with nothing but bones would not be a body, but only a skeleton. And Christianity is not merely a system of doctrines; it consists also of the flesh and blood of Christian life built upon the system of doctrines. Any so-called Christianity which consists merely of doctrines is not the genuine article, but a mere skeleton of lifeless ideas.

But the bones must be there to make it a living body, and the doctrines must be there for genuine Christianity. A body with only bones is a skeleton; but a body with no bones at all would be a jellyfish. There are some people who seem to think that we must choose between being a skeleton and being a jellyfish; we must either have nothing but doctrines, or we must have no doctrines at all. How absurd! We should be neither skeleton nor jellyfish. While making sure that our religion has the genuine structure of doctrines for its basis, we must also make sure that it is not “dead orthodoxism,” but vital Christianity, in living communion with God and active in service to him throughout the whole realm of life.

No one can live the Christian life aright nor serve Christ adequately without a thorough knowledge of Christian doctrine. It is not something extra, to be added after we have everything else; it is the foundation, the underpinning, which we absolutely must have if we are really to be Christians. The church today lacks power and effectiveness for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is sheer ignorance of the doctrinal structure of Christianity. People just do not know what Christianity is and wherein it differs from other systems of religion. We face today not merely opposition to Christianity, not merely indifference to Christianity, but a downright ignorance of what Christianity is—an ignorance without parallel since the Reformation in the sixteenth century.


Notice “Peter’s” call to godly women to fulfill the biblical commands for wifehood and for motherhood as she reminds her readers mirror God’s attributes while she raises her children along with her husband.

How many times, while filling out an income tax return or filling some sort of application have you written in under “Occupation” the word “housewife” or “housewife and mother” with a certain amount of reluctance and even perhaps a little shame? You can claim no real occupation; you’re “just a housewife.” Have you perhaps thought back with some nostalgia to the time when you were able to write proudly: “school teacher;” “nurse,” “private stenographer,” “medical technician,” or the like? But now you have become like millions of other nameless women who have no title, no pay, no boss, who are “just” housewives and mothers.

But are you like those millions? In many respects, of course, you are. Outwardly, certainly. You have the same three meals a day to prepare as they do. You have the same dirty sheets and jeans to wash as they do. Dust accumulates on your table tops and floors as well as on theirs. Nor are you exempt from diapers and formulas, PTAs and graduations, or discipline problems. But what a basic, fundamental difference there really is! For you are aware, as those millions of the world are not, of the high calling to which you have been called by God, who makes his sovereign demands upon ministers and missionaries, doctors and teachers, clerks and mechanics—and yes, also upon housewives and mothers.

In Subjection to God

Whether they recognize it or not, all mothers—and fathers, too, for that matter—are answerable, as far as their family relationships are concerned, not first of all to their husbands, their children, or themselves, but first of all to God. For it is from him who is the source of all power and authority that mothers and fathers alike receive authority over their children. Just as the civil “powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1), so also are parental powers ordained by him. And just as the civil powers should be responsible first of all to God, who gave them the authority (and not to the voters), so also parents must be responsible first of all to God for the way they make use of the authority he has given them.

There is another slightly different comparison which we may make. All gold and silver, trees and rivers, “every beast of the forest” and “the cattle upon a thousand hills”—in short, the world and the fullness thereof—belong to God (Ps. 50). Out of his abundance he graciously “lends” a certain portion of his possessions to us. And we are responsible to him for what we do with them all of them, and not just the 10% or 15% we give back to his kingdom. In a similar way, he “lends” us the lives he has created—“our” children. And since they are basically his, not ours, we are, again, responsible to him for the way in which we take care of them.

In Subjection to Husbands

But then for the mothers we must go one step further. When a man and woman marry, they become one flesh, and yet in that union there is not absolute equality. Ephesians 5:22–23 tells us, “Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is head of the church.” This ancient biblical truth is now being revived in the currently popular motto: “Put father back at the head of the house.” This does not mean that we must put back fathers who are selfish, mean despots, hut ones who “love [their] wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it” (Eph. 5:25) and who “provoke not [their] children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). To such fathers must the wives be in subjection, as well as the children.

The Mother’s Responsibility

Yet even with these two basic restrictions placed upon mothers—their subjection to God and to their husbands—there is for them still much authority and consequently much responsibility. For although children belong first of all to God, it pleases him to rule them through their parents, by proxy, so to speak. And in like manner, although the husband is the head of the wife, by virtue of the fact that he is customarily absent from the home more than she is, it pleases him to rule the children through the mother, again by proxy. Thus for all practical purposes it is the mother who usually has the greatest contact with the children, and therefore the greatest influence upon their lives.

Perhaps the worst sickness of our time is the sickness of the family. Our medical scientists and doctors are valiantly destroying bodily sicknesses one by one. Yet this malignant disease of the family, which they cannot touch with their most recent surgical and radiation techniques, is eating away at the social structure of our nation. One symptom of this sickness is juvenile delinquency, which is increasing at an alarming rate, both as to the number of delinquents and as to the magnitude of their crimes. And if we do not want to have a policeman for every teenager, we must make corrections at the source of the trouble, the home.

Thus what a challenge there is to parents, and in particular to mothers, who are with their children so much of the time! God commands—and society demands—that mothers labor diligently and conscientiously to build up their homes and their children. It is not enough to set before the children the proper quantity of vitamins and proteins each day, and to see to it that they have enough baths and clean clothes. Nor is it enough to supervise their school assignments and encourage them in their intellectual development. It is not sufficient to help them to become well-adjusted citizens of their community and their nation. It is not even adequate to send them to a Christian school and to insist on their regular attendance at Sunday school, church, and catechism. These are all important duties which no mother should neglect. But Christian motherhood goes beyond these necessary activities.

A Mirror of God

The Christian mother should strive to mirror as much as possible certain divine attributes. A child’s first contact with the world is his mother. Before he is ever able to have any realization that there is a God, he does know that he has a mother who is always there, watching over and taking care of him. As the prominent British Christian psychiatrist, Ernest White, has pointed out, our concept of God is often formed in early childhood by associating God with a parent or grandparent. An excessively severe and stern father, for example, can condition a child into conceiving of God as a merciless judge. A withdrawn, silent grandmother can leave with a child the impression that God is unapproachable. In like manner, a good Christian mother can, just by her attitudes and actions, do much to give her child a correct understanding of what God is like, and how he deals with us.

For example, a mother’s love and care of her child should be a reflection—even though it will be an imperfect one—of the Father’s love and care of his children in Christ. With how much solicitude and tenderness does not our heavenly Father take care of all our needs, often before we ourselves even know what our needs are. God’s mercy and longsuffering also should be reflected in the mother’s attitude toward her child. How true the words we often sing: “No mother, half so mild, bears and forbears as Thou hast done, with me, Thy sinful child.” Of course this does not mean that she should allow her child to throw a bottle of ink at the wall whenever he pleases, but it does mean that she should exercise patience, love, and forgiveness as she attempts to correct and guide him. When a mother must judge and punish, she should do it as God always does, in wisdom, love, and justice, and not as a result of a moment of anger or impatience. A child should eventually learn to depend on the veracity of God. But before that time, he should have learned that whatever mother says is always true. Then it will be an easy step for him to say, “I know it’s true because God says so.” God’s trustworthiness, not only as far as his words are concerned, but also as far as his actions are concerned, should be mirrored in the mother. A child who is confident that his mother “knows best” for his welfare will more easily learn to confess “that to them that love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). In such a way, a mother can help to form a scriptural concept of God in the mind of her child.

Explicit Instruction

And then, at the same time, a mother should give explicit instruction which corresponds to that which has been implicitly conveyed by her actions and attitudes. As important as the Sunday school, Christian school, and catechetical instruction are, they may never be a substitute for training in the home. And how much more effective such training will be in a home atmosphere as we have just described! How much more quickly the child will be able to grasp the truths about God’s love, longsuffering, justice, veracity, and trustworthiness when he has already experienced such qualities on the human plane!

But if a mother wishes the faith to be important to her child, it must be evident to the child that the faith is important to his mother. If a mother wants her child to be faithful and earnest in Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance, then the child must be able to see that his mother is faithful and earnest in them herself. A child is quick to detect hypocrisy, and nothing is more devastating to the positive instruction of the child than the negative behavior of the mother.

Thus, deeply grounded in the faith herself, the mother will better be able to impart to her child not only that which he needs for his physical, intellectual, and emotional development, but also that which is essential for his spiritual growth. Aware of her responsibility first of all to God, and receiving from him divine wisdom and grace to do that which he commands; and in subjection to her husband, from whom she will receive human encouragement and wisdom, the Christian mother will strive to fulfill her obligations toward that child which has been entrusted to her care.

See Nine Words That Can Stop Juvenile Delinquency,” The Reader’s Digest (March 1958).


The author of this article, Mrs. Pearl Tadema, was a pastor’s wife who, among their several charges, served with her husband as missionaries in Nigeria, Africa. In this article she urges godly mothers to pray without ceasing for the children of God has given her family. Throughout the article, she also provides insight into how to pray for and with them.

What would you do you were given a bank account of eighty-six thousand dollars a day? If each morning there would be eighty thousand dollars on your bank account and each evening what you had not used that day would be gone? At the end of each day your account would be blank. Of course, if you had such a bank account you would draw it all out each morning and use as much as possible. And I’m sure you wouldn’t just throw it away. But you would ask yourself: “How can I best spend it? What are the most useful and most valuable things that I can buy with it?”

We all have some such a bank account. Each day God gives us eighty-six thousand seconds. And the seconds we don’t use are lost at the end of the day. They are gone, and we can never get them back again. But when a new day is born there are eighty-six thousand new seconds waiting to be used. We shall want to use them in the best possible way. So we shall ask ourselves each new day, “What are the most useful and most valuable ways of using my seconds today?” For one thing we’d want that which is the most valuable for the longest time.

For example, suppose you go to market to buy food for your family. When you arrive the onIy things left are four barrels of avocados, ten cans of milk, and a cow. Now, avocados are delicious and nutritious, but you couldn’t possibly eat more than one barrel before they would spoil. The same with the milk. It would be sour before your family could drink a tenth of it. You’d naturally buy the cow because then you’d have fresh milk every day, plus cream for whipping and making butter, and buttermilk besides. And when the cow is no longer good for producing milk, you’d still have hamburger to eat and leather for slippers.

Now in the same manner we must decide what are the most valuable things to strive for in our lives. As Christian mothers our first reaction would be, “Why, life eternal! What could be more valuable or for a longer time?” As Christians we have eternal life, because the Bible says that he that believeth on Jesus hath eternal life in him. And so as Christian mothers we want more than anything else to see our children have that same eternal life in them. That is why we baptized them and promised to do all in our power to lead them through Christ to God.

In this task we face many problems. Perhaps the greatest barrier is formed by our own inconsistencies. We want to teach our children to praise God, and they hear us singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” But then they hear us describe our farms, our homes, our cars, our washers and dryers, not first of all as a blessing from God, but purely as a product of hard work. On another occasion a child is sick, and they hear us pray, “Dear God, make little sister, or baby brother well again.” But when he is well they hear us speak about the wonders of penicillin, or of the cleverness of our doctor who immediately diagnosed the case correctly. Again, we pray for a safe journey, and when we arrive safely we flippantly remark, “Yes, the roads were good.”

Children have a keen sense of intuition or feeling. When we pray for a thing and later give credit to sources other than God, it should not surprise us that our children cannot see the importance of prayer.

As Christian mothers we face the problem of our inconsistencies. But how can we overcome them? I believe the best and surest way is through prayer. Listen to what God promises us: “And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” So let’s take God at his Word. He says, “every need of yours.” When we wake up in the morning, then, let’s pray that God will give us courage to admit that it is only his hand moving along the highway which leads us safely to our destination, that only our Lord God can make penicillin and streptomycin effective, that God alone is responsible for giving us conveniences and blessings far beyond the fondest dreams of many people in other lands.

In order to teach our children Christ-like living by our personal example, we must pray without ceasing. To be a mother is a great responsibility, but through prayer a Christian mother has access to a reservoir of strength that never runs dry. And when we fail, we fail because we do not drink freely enough from God’s reservoir of blessings. We worry about our health or the health of our children, we are anxious about meeting monthly payments, for car, tuition, and other things. We worry about the weather because if it doesn’t rain the crop will be a failure. But all our handwringing, fretting, and nail biting does not produce one drop of rain, meet a single payment, or produce rosy cheeks on our children. The fact is we do have cares, and the only way to deal with them is to turn each one into a prayer. Then every care will be a benefit to you. Then you will have grace to walk one step at a time, and God will give you strength for each trial, grace for each day.

Yes, our personal example is an important part of bringing our children through Christ to God. But our example cannot stand alone. The Word must accompany it. And, still more important, the two must harmonize. If all our talents and all our energies are directed in one great effort to gain a little chunk of this earth for ourselves, as if that is all-important, then it will be hard to convince our child that to save his soul is more profitable than to gain the whole world. But neither can he come to understand the value of his immortal soul unless we tell him, “Son, nothing in this world is profitable if you have a lost soul.”

And who is better fit to impart such wisdom than a mother? God has made you the mother of your children. He has placed their little souls in your hands to mold. There is nobody with as many opportunities of explaining, both by deed and word, the eternal value of his soul as mother. It is true, we do not all have equal abilities and equal tact. But if we pray, God will use and bless whatever abilities we do have. He has promised: “Be not anxious how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Let’s use what abilities we have, and use them at once.

One of the favorable opportunities for a spiritual chat with your child is at night when it is bedtime. It is easy to slip into the habit of saying, “Jump in bed now. You can pray by yourself, can’t you?” Oh, let’s not miss such an occasion simply because we’re tired. This day’s opportunity will never come back. If we don’t make use of it—it will be gone. But kneel by his bedside together and teach him to pray.

Did Johnny kick Mary today? Teach him then to pray, “I’m sorry, Lord, that I kicked Mary. Please forgive me. Help me to show love instead as Jesus wants me to.”

This is also an excellent time to encourage your child by telling some of your own spiritual experiences. Most of our children display at times outbursts of uncontrolled anger. We can be a real help to them by telling them about our own struggles against a bad temper. For example, remind them that God says, “CaIl upon me in the day of trouble, and I will help you.”

Your experience may be similar to mine. When I was a little girl, I had a very bad temper. One day a boy threw a stone and hit me in the leg. This made me furious. So I picked up a big rock and hurled it at him as hard as I could. He jumped up so that instead of hitting him, the rock bounced and went through the back window of a car. I scampered hurriedly down the riverbank and hid under an old shack before the driver of the car could catch and punish me. With pounding heart I then prayed to God that he would take my evil temper away, so that I wouldn’t do such a thing again. However, a few days later I felt the same burning anger inside me. From then on I asked God each morning to help me show love instead of anger. I still ask him each morning and he has helped me. He will help you too, for, what he’s done for others he’ll do for you. God means it when he says, “Call upon me . . . and I will help you.”

Mothers, if we do this for our children, they too will feel that God is real to their soul.

A mother holds a most powerful influence in molding the little lives God has entrusted to her. Who knows, beneath the rosy cheek you’ve kissed good-night may lie another John Calvin or Johanna Veenstra? At any rate you know that tucked beneath the blankets beats the heart of a little Iamb belonging to the flock of the Good Shepherd.

God grant it to be so.

Prayer: Lord God in heaven. It makes us tremble to think that we have eternal souls in our care. The responsibility of leading and training these souls is too much for us alone. Help us to pray without ceasing. And supply all our needs, small and great, according to thy riches in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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