The Men’s Society of Oak Lawn sent me the following question:
“The Oak Lawn Men’s Society would appreciate it very much if you would please explain II Peter 1:9 in The Standard Bearer“
In the text above referred to we read:
“But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”
The Men’s Society of Oak Lawn does not indicate exactly what difficulty they had in interpreting this text. Hence, I better interpret the entire verse. I can surmise, however, that it was especially the last part of the text that was the cause of their difficulty as I also indicated in the heading of this article. Nevertheless, I will give an explanation of the entire verse.
The apostle introduces this verse by the statement “but he that lacketh these things,” that is, he that does not have them, that is completely without them. The things to which the apostle refers are found in the context, particularly those mentioned in vss. 3-8. They are the exceeding great and precious promises that are mentioned in vs. 4. These promises are that God hath given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, our calling unto glory and virtue. These promises contain the unspeakable glory and blessing that we become partakers of the divine nature and, in principle; have already become partakers of that nature, even as we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But the apostle admonishes the believers that they must now live in the midst of the present world from the principle of all the things God has given us, the things that pertain to life and godliness, the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, the divine nature of which we have, in principle, already become partakers. They must reveal in their entire walk and life that they have, indeed, escaped from the corruption of the world through lust. Hence, they must diligently strive to add to their faith virtue, that is, to reveal their faith: by a walk in virtue; and add to their virtue an increase in the true spiritual knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: Again the apostle continues that they must add to knowledge temperance, which refers to the control of all sinful lusts and desires that may arise and do arise from the “old man” of the believer; and to temperance patience which is the strength to resist and remain faithful in all temptations; and to patience godliness which here refers to a walk and life in the fear of God. Again, in vs. 7, the apostle once more continues: and to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness charity or love; the former refers to the actual relation of believers to one another; the latter, perhaps, to the manifestation of the love of God in all the life and walk of the Christian in the world and every sphere of life.
To the enumeration of all these virtues the apostle adds in vs. 8: “For if these things be in you, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And vs. 9 stands in direct contrast with vs 8. If these things, which the apostle has enumerated, are not in any man, even though he may, call himself a member of the church, he is absolutely fruitless and barren, is blind and cannot, see afar off and has forgotten that he was purged from his old or former sins.
Now, let us ask the question: what sort of a man is he in whom these things are not found? And we must also ask the second question: were these things ever found in him?
To the first question we answer: a man in whom these things are not found at all is a carnal, a mere natural man. He is not regenerated, for he has not the life of God in him and he is not a partaker of the divine nature, nor has he escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust. He cannot, will not and does not heed the admonition of the apostle to add to his faith virtue and all the other virtues, for the simple reason that he has no faith. He is nothing but a mere natural man. And to the second question ii reply with a most emphatic no. For that would mean that there would be a falling away of the saints and that is impossible according to John 10:27-30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” And this is the current teaching of all the Word of God.
But, if this is true, how must we then explain the last part of this text: “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins”? Our answer is as follows:
1. Negatively, this cannot mean, as we have shown above, that he was ever by faith in Christ and he ever was one of His. For Christ holds those whom the Father has given Him in His hand, and the Father holds them in His mighty hand, and they can never perish. Once a believer is always a believer. This also implies that he was never really purged from sin. They that are in Christ are justified and sanctified. They have the forgiveness of sins and are delivered from the corruption of this sin. But his man never belonged to Christ and, therefore, was never purged from sin.
2. Positively, this can only mean that, for a time, it was his own confession and, perhaps, also his own imagination, that he was purged from his sins. It is very probable that the person to whom the apostle refers was baptized as an adult and, in that baptism he himself confessed that he was purged from sin. But soon after his baptism he revealed that he was still deliberately walking in sin and that, therefore, his confession which he made at the moment of his baptism and his baptism itself, which signifies the washing away of sins, was not true. His sins, therefore, never were really forgiven and he was never really purged from his sins although he confessed this. There is no falling away of saints.
The Lord caused our Second Church to lose its case in the supreme court as He did also in the circuit court.
He so operated in the hearts and in the minds of the judges of the supreme court that their final decision was against our Second Church and in favor of those that denied the Protestant Reformed truth, separated themselves from our churches, and are willing, presently, to sign the “Three Points” of 1924 and become amalgamated with the Christian Reformed Church.
They did so, not on the basis of the Protestant Reformed truth, nor even on the basis of the Church Order, which is all in favor of the Second Church, but only on the ground of a mere technicality. That technicality is that we did not meet, as continued synod, in the building of the First Church of Grand Rapids but in the building of the Fourth Church. On this basis the supreme court decided that not we but those that left us were the legal synod. And because our Second Church did not recognize the synod of the opposition the supreme court gave the right of property to the latter and turned its decision against the former.
They did so, in spite of the fact that the calling church was deprived of its church property so that they could not call the synod in the First Church; in spite of the fact that it had placed an announcement in The Standard Bearer to the effect that the place of meeting had to be changed; and in spite of the fact that there is nothing in the Church Order that determines the place of meeting and that denies the calling church the right to change the place of meeting if it Should prove to be necessary.
But let this be.
Our Second Church is not dismayed. They know that, although the supreme court rules against them, the Lord is for them. For, as one of its members expressed it, they have the truth and, principally that is all that matters.
We will probably discuss the decision of the supreme court a little more in detail in the future. In the present editorial we have no space for this.
Nevertheless, to one item we wish to call attention even in the present editorial.
Repeatedly the supreme court designates the true and only consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, as “the so-called reorganized consistory.”
This simply is not true. And even though the court does not say directly that the consistory of the First Church is the re-organized consistory, but only that it is so-called, it is contrary to fact.
Fact is that, in 1953, and ever since, there was only one consistory, and this consistory was not re-organized but is the original consistory of the First Church. This consistory; with the advice of Classis East, legally deposed some of its elders and suspended DeWolf. And when DeWolf ignored this legal suspension and deposition and, with his elder, claimed the right to be seated in the next meeting of Classis East, he was denied this right and the minister and elder of the only proper and legal consistory of the First Church were recognized.
The court is, therefore, in, error when it repeatedly speaks of the only proper and legal consistory as “the so-called reorganized consistory.” The consistory of the First Church was never reorganized.
Moreover, the supreme court knew this and recognized our consistory as the only legal consistory of the First Church when in 1956 it supported the decision of Judge Taylor.
We quote from that decree:
“At a meeting held June 23, 1953, these, matters, including the action to depose Reverend DeWolf and certain others, were considered, followed, by a meeting June 25th, presided over by Reverend Hoeksema. Reverend DeWolf and several elders who supported him were suspended or deposed from office. Two of the deposed elders who supported Reverend DeWolf notified the Consistory of the refusal to recognize of what they claimed to be illegal suspensions and depositions. The Consistory was notified by the suspended members that they claimed to be the legal Consistory of the church entitled to possession and control of the church and other properties.”
Then, after the entire case had been reviewed, the court proceeds by referring to the decision of Judge Taylor in the case as follows:
“The trial judge hearing the case, and relying upon those decisions, concluded that the plaintiff First Protestant Reformed Church, under its articles and constitution, and the Church Order, was dedicated to the discipline, rules and usages of the Protestant Christian Reformed Churches of the United States and authorized and declared from time to time by the Classis of said churches. The court concluded that the Church Order became the constitution of the church, to which every member subscribed, and that the court was bound to recognize it as controlling the issues.”
This opinion was supported by the supreme court, for we read:
“We are in accord. We decline to hold with the defendants, that the Hoeksema Consistory had departed from the doctrine and practices of the Protestant Reformed Churches.”
We have more to say about this matter. All I wish to bring out at present is that, according to the decree of the supreme court in 1956 the consistory of the First Church was never reorganized, not even “so-called reorganized,” but always was and still is the only legal consistory.