QUESTION BOX inquirers, please have patience. We have several interesting questions on hand, and will make a beginning with some answers in the May 15 issue. But lack of that valuable commodity, time, on the part of your editor, together with an abundance of interesting material for our magazine, have made postponement of Question Box necessary.
ONE THOUSAND! As you will notice from the ads in this issue, the campaign for one thousand new subscribers is still going on. The Business Office still needs more names and addresses of potential readers to whom a sample copy of our magazine may be sent. The use of the business reply envelope enclosed with this issue is not limited to the paid subscriptions advertised in this issue. You may use this envelope also to send in more names and addresses. Please do so! We need your help!
PLEASE NOTE that the correct mailing address of both your editor and the Theological School is GRANDVILLE, Mich. 49418, not Wyoming. We have experienced some delay in our mail because of incorrect address. For your convenience, here are the new addresses:
Prof. H. C. Hoeksema,
4975 Ivanrest Ave., SW.,
Grandville, Mich. 49418
Phone: (616) 534-7308
Theol. School of the Prot. Ref. Churches,
4949 Ivanrest Ave., S.W.,
Grandville, Mich. 49418
Phone: (616) 531-1490
This is apparently the name being given in Australia to the movement patterned after Key ’73 in the U.S. Under the heading, “Dateline Australia,” Alan Nichols writes about this in the magazine World Vision (April, ’74, p. 13). Mr. Nichols is a Church of England clergyman in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, and is Director of Information (whatever kind of gospel ministry that may be!) for the Diocese. This department in World Vision is said to focus “from month to month on significant trends on the several continents.” And the contributors (Mr. Nichols among them) are introduced as “skilled evangelical observers strategically located Around the globe.” Mr. Nichols writes as follows:
. . .The vision is spreading that we need a concerted effort to evangelize Australia, together with a determination to be responsible for East Asia.
With the first aim in view, “Encounter ’75” is being planned. It is not a mass audience crusade, but an umbrella cooperation to bring together all the evangelistic efforts planned for next year by Protestant denominations. The goal is to reach every doorstep (if not living room) of every Australian home. The Baptists and Methodists had already planned an Australia-wide campaign within their own number, and they are happily bringing their plans under the umbrella.
Patterned after “Key ’73” in the U.S., “Encounter ’75” will provide a basic strategy and a resource book for use by all Christians willing to take part. In the state of Victoria the Roman Catholics will probably bring their “Holy Year 1975” into the campaign.
“Encounter ’75” will be the biggest effort to get church people into vigorous evangelism since the 1950 Billy Graham campaigns. An upsurge of commitment to the missionary cause is bound to follow, with Australia expressing a new sense of responsibility for evangelizing East Asia and the Pacific.
Reformed Christians ought to take warning when they read reports such as this, lest they and their churches be lured into such a movement by pious-sounding propaganda. We say this, not because the proposed “Encounter ’75” is likely to be a colossal failure from a practical point of view, even as was Key ’73, according to some of its own promoters. But we sound this warning because:
1. The movement by its own admission is intended to be an umbrella, and that, too, an umbrella big enough to include under it all Protestant denominations and even, if they are inclined to come under it, Roman Catholics. Such an umbrella is far too large for Reformed Christians and for Reformed churches. The only umbrella of suitable size for Reformed Christians who take their Reformed faith seriously and honestly is the umbrella of our Reformed Confessions. And though some may think the statement too strong, it needs saying: an umbrella such as is described above will not serve to protect a participating church from the fierce wrath of God Almighty which will rain down upon its pseudo-evangelistic efforts and its ungodly ecumenism. For we must remember that the blessing of the Lord can never rest on such ungodliness; and if not His blessing, then only His curse can rest upon it. Another possibility there is not.
2. The evangelism of this movement will be of the same kind as that of Key ’73. Encounter ’75 is deliberately being patterned after Key ’73, and will provide “a basic strategy and a resource book for use by all Christians willing to take part.” We cannot warn strongly enough against this and against related materials produced by the Christian Reformed Church in connection with Key ’73. We refer to booklets like “Who In the World?” and other such materials. There is, after all, but one “basic strategy” for evangelism. That is: PREACH THE WORD! But be very sure that it is the Word of the SCRIPTURES, the faith once delivered to the saints, and not a word of man.
To our Australasian brethren we write: we in the U.S. have been through all this in connection with Key ’73. Our Standard Bearer has given extensive critique of Key ’73 and related matters. And in 1ectures and pamphlets we have instructed and warned people of God in the U.S. against this movement. You may profit, if you so desire, from our experience. Upon requests from brethren in New Zealand and Australia we have already shipped to New Zealand 200 reprints of an article by Prof. Hanko on this subject, 1000 copies of Rev. Engelsma’s pamphlet on Key ’73 to Australia. And we are currently preparing to send 1000 copies of a reprint of a Standard Bearer editorial to Australia. We assure the brethren there that we stand ready to help, in the interest of our mutual love of the Reformed faith. Any requests for literature sent to our Business Office will be taken care of promptly.
The OPC and the “Free Offer”(5)
In our last installment on this subject (April 1 issue) we began to call attention to the current teaching of Scripture with respect to God’s attitude toward the ungodly reprobate, a current teaching with which any honest exegete must reckon when he wants to explain those passages of Scripture which have frequently been quoted as proof for an attitude of favor and loving kindness on the part of God toward the wicked. This matter of Scripture’s current teaching, as over against the method which merely cites a few texts in isolation from that current teaching, is of the utmost importance. For the Word of God is one, and does not contradict itself.
Hence, this is a matter of utmost seriousness for the proponents of the “free offer.” If they are honest exegetes of Holy Scripture, they must face up to this current teaching of God’s Word. And then they must do one of two things: 1) Either they must show plainly that their doctrine of a “free offer” and of an attitude of love on the part of God toward the reprobate wicked, as it rests upon a relatively few passages of Scripture, is inharmony with that current teaching of the Bible. And this, I am convinced, they cannot do. 2) Or they must frankly and honestly admit that their doctrine does not meet the test of God’s Word. A third possibility does not exist: for Scripture does not contradict Scripture.
And it is a striking fact that men like Murray and Stonehouse in their pamphlet and Errol1 Hulse in his pamphlet never trouble themselves about this problem. Striking it is, because the passages which constitute a problem—- I say it is an insurmountable problem — for their view outnumber by far the passages to which they appeal for support. I myself have only quoted these passages, without expounding them. I did this for two reasons. In the first place, as far as the fundamental teaching of these passages is concerned, they are clear. They speak for themselves. Most of them speak literally of the fact that God hates certain men, that He is filled with wrath against them, that He purposes to destroy them, that His curse rests upon them. And, secondly, the burden of proof is upon the proponents of the “free offer.” They must prove to the satisfaction of any simple child of God that their doctrine is in harmony with this current line of Scripture.
At the same time, I make bold to say that we, on our part, can explain — and have many times in the past explained — any passage which the proponents of the “free offer” may put forth in a way that is in plain harmony with this current doctrine of Scripture. And now we turn to the New Testament, in order to cite a few more passages. For there we find the same teaching as in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Think, first of all, of the Lord’s teaching that it is the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who are blessed and who enjoy the favor of God. Matthew 5:3-9. And consider the opposite truth as it is taught in Matthew 7:15-23: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the oven. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity.” These words of the Savior Himself emphasize the same truth as that set forth in the passages cited from the Old Testament: God’s favor and love are on the righteous, and He hates all the workers of iniquity.
Or consider a chapter like Matthew 23, where the Lord Jesus pronounces manifold woes upon the scribes and Pharisees. These are the self-righteous ungodly who never come to repentance, who do not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Note that Christ pronounces nothing but woes upon them, finally declaring: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias the son Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” Where, I ask, is there so much as a hint of the love or favor of God upon these wicked?
A very significant passage in this connection is Romans 1:18-32, which speaks of the wrath of God revealed from heaven over all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Note carefully that this passage does not speak of a wrath of God that is to be revealed after the day of judgment, but of a wrath in this present time, operating from heaven upon mankind as it exists in this present world. About this passage the Rev. Herman Hoeksema writes, in part, in his God’s Goodness Always Particular, pp. 141, ff.:
This explains the revelation of wrath from heaven of which
speaks. The very fact that man knew God and would not serve Him as God, makes him the original object of God’s wrath. For, God is terribly displeased with both our original and our actual sins, and will punish them both in time and eternity. When, therefore, man holds the truth in unrighteousness, God’s wrath is revealed from heaven upon him. It is revealed in its terrible operation. And this operation of God’s wrath is the curse. This curse pursues man, makes him wretched, foolish, so that he bends the knee in worship before man and beast and the creeping thing. Idolatry is no proof of grace, but the result of the operation of God’s wrath revealed from heaven. Man who pretends to be wise is made foolish by God in His wrath, so foolish that instead of calling upon the living God he seeks his refuge with the brute beast and the dumb idol!
And this wrath of God operates to the bitter end.
That is the teaching of the first chapter of the Romans. Not of a restraining grace but of a pursuing, always pursuing wrath, the chapter speaks. Always this wrath abides on the ungodly. Always it presses him more deeply into degradation. Always it makes him more foolish, more wretched, more of a reprobate mind. This is the meaning of the repeated “God gave them over” that occurs in this chapter. The words do not express a mere negative notion. They do not mean the same as “to let go.” They denote an operation of God’s wrath whereby the ungodly wander away into the death-ways of their ungodliness and corruption even unto the end. They changed the truth of God into the lie. They glorified the creature in preference to the Creator. Let, then, that awful lie become fully manifest as the lie! That is God’s purpose. That is the reason why He “gives them over.” He does this through the sinful lusts of their own hearts. God’s wrath operates upon and into those lusts, cursing, corrupting. And they reveal themselves in all kinds of debauchery. They practice uncleanness. Men burn in their lust one toward another, and men with men work that which is unseemly. Women seek satisfaction of their carnal lusts in ways contrary to nature. They appear to be filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness. They become full of envy, deceit, debate, murder, malignity, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. And all this corruption and wretchedness, all this death and misery is the result of God’s righteous wrath revealed from heaven over them that keep the truth in unrighteousness!
Who, then, when he reads this chapter, still has any desire to speak of a “general goodness of God”?
The same writer adds — and we conclude with this quotation:
Nor do we ever find different language in the New Testament. It knows nothing of a goodness, favor, grace, lovingkindness, blessing of God upon the ungodly reprobate. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,
God is merciful to whom He will be merciful and whom He will He hardens,
The Scripture saith unto Pharoah that God hath raised him up for the very purpose of manifesting His power and wrath in him, and to serve the proclamation of His glorious name over the whole earth. Unto this purpose He endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction,
The elect indeed obtained salvation, but the rest were hardened. God gave them a spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear. Their table became a snare unto them, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence.
Things take place in parables, in order that they that are without, seeing may see and not perceive, hearing may hear and not understand, lest they be converted and their sins be forgiven them,
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted and I should heal them,
And God resisteth the proud, but He giveth grace unto the lowly,
Notice that all these passages speak of God’s wrath operating in this present time, in this present world, in and through the things which also the ungodly receive. They speak of the fact that in this present world God is angry with the wicked, that He reveals His wrath, makes the ungodly miserable, foolish, hardens him and through the things of this present time, even through his very prosperity, sets him on slippery places and casts him down into destruction.
And he who would speak of a “common grace” and of a favor or lovingkindness of God extended to the reprobate ungodly and who would claim that Scripture teaches this will have to contend with the fact that the current teaching of Scripture is the very opposite
What is your conclusion, reader?
A Step Toward A New Confession in the GKN(2)
[Editor’s Note: Herewith we present the second and third parts of the “Unanimous Testimony of Faith” submitted to the Synod of the GKN The first section appeared in our April 15 issue.]
II. The Faith Which We Confess
Keeping in mind that which we have already said regarding our faith in general and our confession of it, that which we further confess as the content of our universal Christian faith can be summarized in the following 10 points:
1. God Our Father
We believe and confess that God is our Father in Jesus Christ our Lord. When we speak of Him in this way we are saying:
that He Who has revealed Himself in Christ is the Origin and Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, and that He continues to direct all things to the goal that He has set in creating the world;
that He is also the one Who has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ and continues to call it to Himself by His Word and Spirit in order to live in his fellowship;
that He for this purpose has established His kingship in Christ among men and that He will bring this kingdom to victory in the way of salvation and judgment.
We thus confess God, the Father, as Creator, Redeemer and Finisher of all things. And we believe that one cannot in truth speak of Him in his incomprehensible greatness, wisdom and love in any other way than by Jesus Christ our Lord and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. For no man knows the Father, except the Son and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. And we know that the Son has come and has given us an understanding, to know the Truthful One. And God has revealed it to us by the Spirit so that we should know that which has been given to us by God in grace (Matthew 11:27, I John 5:20, I Cor. 2:10-12).
2. God and Man
We believe that God has created man good and after His image, that He has equipped him as man and woman in order to live in fellowship with God, to know His will and to obey it in freedom;
that he also has created man in order to inhabit and rule the earth as God’s covenant partner and representative and thus to attain to the temporal and eternal destiny which God had reserved for him.
Man, however, as far as his history extends, has yielded to the foreign temptation to take the gift of his freedom into his own hand and not to exercise it in obedience to God; he has separated his glorious and powerful responsibility for his own life and for the entire history of the world from the fellowship with His Creator and has turned away from God. Thereby, from the moment that man came under the temptation of evil and fell into sin the history of the human race has taken a turn which is in conflict with its divine destiny. For man has indeed remained man and has not been deprived of his human gifts and responsibility, but instead of the privilege of possessing and exercising these in the undisturbed fellowship with God, this evil choice, as the mother of all evil has obtained mastery in his life. In the place of an undivided heart, division has come; in the place of freedom, temptation and slavery. Yes, sin has obtained control to such an extent in the heart of man and in the entire human race that the good at no time or any place exists without the evil; and that sin has become a power which penetrates and determines the entirety of human life, individually and corporately; even when man begins to struggle against evil and its effects he encounters an enemy whom he can no longer overcome. Therefore we believe that men, each one individually, and all of them together, stand guilty before God; are not able to save themselves and to attain to their destiny; that also no human ideal, however exalted it may be, nor even the law of God Himself can provide for this, but that only in the power of the blood and of the Spirit of Christ does the reconciliation and the renewal of human life lie.
3. Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Lord
We believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the one sent from the Father, the Messiah promised to Israel, the Savior of the world. For thus He has made Himself known during his life on earth, as the Son of God who came to call men back to God and to bring them by the power of his words and deeds under God’s saving lordship.
Moreover He has also for our salvation assumed our guilty existence that was subject to death and has given Himself for us when He, in the deep humiliation of His suffering and death on the cross put Himself in our place in the judgment of God as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
God Himself has confirmed in the most glorious way that which His Son had thus finished, in accordance with His will when He raised Him from the dead, exalted Him as Lord and Christ, and gave Him a Name that is above every name in heaven and on earth. For not only does that which he has done retain eternal power, but He Himself also rules us as the living Lord by His Word and His Holy Spirit. Yes, we believe according to His Word that to Him all power has been given in heaven and on earth against every power of sin and darkness, and that He will lead the world to the righteousness and liberation of God’s holy and eternal kingdom.
Therefore our words fail when we value and confess Him according to His true worth. He is our Brother and He is our Lord. He has become like us in everything, born of a woman, generated from the seed of David and yet not by the power of natural life but He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. He became poor while He was rich and became man by emptying Himself. For it was God Himself Who came to us in Him and reconciled the world to Himself. And so we confess and adore Him with the exalted names which the Scriptures themselves give Him, such as the Image of the Invisible God, the Word that was in the beginning with God and was God and became flesh; the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
4. Justification and Reconciliation
We believe that the reconciliation accomplished by Christ concerns first of all the relation of man to God. For even as the root of all evil lies in the departure and alienation of man from God, so the entire salvation of life is included in the reconciliation of man with God.
This reconciliation depends so completely upon God’s grace in Christ that the Scripture says that God justifies the ungodly. For this does not only mean that when we turn to God He will accept us but rather that God in Christ’s atoning sacrifice has taken away the judgment upon our sins before we came to Him or called to Him, and has opened for us the way to Himself. Therefore it can be said that man is justified by faith alone, without the works of the law, in order to express that the reconciliation with God does not rest in our good works or in repentance but only in the completed work of Christ, and that we may be a partaker thereof freely, by faith alone.
The power of this reconciliation is so great that it embraces the entirety of our life. For by reconciling us to God Christ saved us from the power of sin and brought us under His lordship. Therefore, with an appeal to this great mercy of God, we are admonished to present our entire life as a sacrifice to God, to forgive others as people whose guilt is forgiven and to show to one another the love with which God has loved the world; and furthermore to live no longer under the lordship of the powers and people who are estranged from God but to stand in the freedom with which Christ has made us free; that is, in submission to God and in imitation of Christ.
This connection which the Scriptures establish between the reconciliation and the renewal of our life is so close that they warn us that without sanctification no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14) and that the tree is known by its fruits (Matthew 7:16-20). Therefore the church has rightly confessed the relation between faith and works and has connected the certainty of faith to its fruits (Lord’s Day 32). Hereby the ground for our faith is not again transposed to our good works but the holy purpose that God has established in the reconciliation of our human life is impressed upon our hearts with such power that this connection must continue to fill us with fear and trembling and must force us that much more to seek the only source and power for all our life not in ourselves but in the love with which God has loved us.
5. The Kingdom of Christ
We believe that the Kingdom of Christ has gone out into the world as a saving spiritual lordship to join battle with the powers of darkness, sin and death which hold the life of man in servitude. Christ exercises this lordship by His Word and the Holy Spirit as the ministry of reconciliation, and we believe that God saves all who heed it from the power of darkness and transports them into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
This lordship of the crucified and risen Lord is proclaimed to us as the triumphal disarmament of all principalities and powers (Col. 2:15). In the light of these words which far surpass all our thoughts concerning the world that is visible to us and discloses the depth of the power of the cross against all shame and human pride, we believe that this lordship of Christ is not limited to a specific life relation, also not to that of the church, but that where it is accepted it reveals itself as a liberating and renewing power in the entirety of the life of men. It establishes peace and righteousness; it joins battle with injustice and suppression; it kindles hope in the hearts of man; and it keeps faith in the future alive. And although there are many forces in the world which want to liberate life from misery and injustice, in which we recognize that God continues to write His law on the hearts of man, nevertheless the Lordship of Christ is to be discerned and known herein that it does not teach us to search for the salvation of life in the power and will of man himself but in the power of His blood and His Spirit and in the return of man to God. Therefore the Kingdom of Christ and the service of reconciliation that proceeds from it in the world is for man, but not according to man. It both saves and it judges; it both establishes peace and it divides. Only then will it fill the entire earth and make all things new when every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess Him as Lord and the last enemy, which is death, will have been destroyed.
6. The Church
We believe that Christ whose Kingdom comprehends all times and places, has Himself gathered a church and still continues to gather it by the preaching of the Gospel from all the nations of the world.
It may also be said of this church that it has been chosen by God before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). For the only and unshakable ground of its existence lies in God’s council and good pleasure to form a new mankind in Christ from the world which has fallen and is estranged from God, and to call it as His people to Himself.
Therefore we recognize this church where men from ancient times have understood the voice of God and have followed it and have lived in the expectation of the coming salvation. God’s gracious election however has become apparent in particular in the calling of Israel, the people of God’s Covenant, whom He endued with the special knowledge of His will, with the ministry of reconciliation and prophetic revelation, and whom He, in spite of all its errors, preserved and destined as His people to be a blessing for all nations on earth. For in the Messiah of Israel the mercy of God and His love for mankind has appeared so clearly and powerfully that in His church no distinction of sex, or race, or class, or nation is valid any longer but Christ is all and in all.
Therefore we believe that there is one, holy, catholic, Christian church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and which knows no other boundaries than those of the Lordship of the Word and the Spirit of Christ and whose oneness and holiness lie exclusively in its submission to this lordship. Moreover this dependence of the church upon its Lord is so complete that the church may also be called the body of Christ, in order to express that it derives its existence, its oneness and its diversity solely from its fellowship with Him.
We believe that this congregation which is built in its holy faith by the ministry of Word and sacrament has been put in the world to confess God’s Name, to proclaim the gospel to all nations, and in its activities in the world to stand in the service of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ. When we thus speak about the church we realize that the church as we have learned to know it from history and as it exists to this day displays only very partially the image of the one, holy, and universal church and that it has often been difficult, and still is, to recognize it as such.
When we nevertheless persist in this confession concerning the church it is not as if we wanted to retain an unreal and unattainable ideal, but rather because we believe that God who knows His own has preserved his church in the midst of much apostasy and deformation and every time anew will bring it to clearer manifestation; and further because in the midst of the dividedness of the church in which often something entirely different than the richness of diversity comes to light it remains an urgent task for the entire church to do everything possible to manifest the visible unity which the Lord Himself has oriented toward the faith of the world (John 17:23) and which is a sign of true discipleship (John 13:35). This unity in the midst of all human estrangement and brokenness belongs essentially to the church which herein also is the light of the world and the city on the hill, visible to all. In the expectation of the one flock under the one shepherd, the church is ever and again called to the testing of its confession and life according to the Gospel that is revealed in order to unite all under the one Name.
7. Baptism and the Holy Supper
We believe that by the Holy Baptism in the name of the Triune God we are taken up into the fellowship of Christ and of the church as His body.
By means of joining this sign of the washing away of sin to incorporation into the church, Christ has grounded our membership in the church entirely in the atonement as it has proceeded from God has been accomplished by Christ, and is communicated by the work of the Holy Spirit to all who believe. Therefore baptism can be called the sign and seal of God’s covenant, the baptism into the death of Christ, and the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
From this meaning of baptism and all its descriptions, it clearly appears that the church is not a mere institution of man to which we are able to join ourselves and from which we can separate ourselves according to our wishes, but that our membership therein depends only on God’s electing grace by which He has called us to Himself and to His holy church. Therefore baptism and our incorporation into the church remain valid our whole life long and we cannot divest or separate ourselves from them without separating ourselves from Christ.
The church from early times onward has rightly baptized also the children of believers. For God calls us to His gracious fellowship with all that we have and all that we are also with our children. Therefore the little children who themselves are yet incapable of a deliberate choice of faith are by baptism, as children of believers, to be incorporated into the church and brought under the lordship of the Word and the Spirit of Christ.
Christ has also, in the night in which He was betrayed, instituted the Holy Supper and has given to His disciples the bread and the wine to eat and drink as signs of His body and blood unto a lasting remembrance.
Therewith He has directed the eyes of His church for all times to the atoning sacrifice which He brought once for all, whose saving power may be proclaimed and celebrated at the Supper of the New Covenant and therein shall in this sacrifice that is bestowed and confirmed to his own in a most personal way.
Therefore we in the Holy Supper direct our hearts upward where Christ is. For it is from His own hand that we eat and drink and it is His own presence that makes the holy bread and the holy drink to be a food and drink of eternal life.
By thus continuing to celebrate the Holy Supper, the church proclaims the death of its Lord as a holy tradition until He comes. It eats of the bread and thus, going from strength to strength, faces the future. It hands the cup from person to person, those who are going to those who are coming; and it does this in the expectation of the great future of which the Scriptures often speak as the great wedding banquet in which Christ will unite His people in His fellowship in the Kingdom of His Father.
8. The Holy Spirit
We believe that the church can exist in the world only by the power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. For the Spirit maintains fellowship between the church and its Lord in heaven and leads it through history toward the future of Christ and of His Kingdom in glory.
We believe that the Spirit is the gift of Christ and that no one can belong to Christ and His church without the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit turns us away from ourselves and converts us to God. He teaches us to put our trust completely in the sacrifice of Christ offered once for all on the cross, to call upon God as our Father and to dedicate our whole life to Him. He is not the Spirit of slavish fear, but the Spirit of freedom and childlike confidence, the Spirit of grace and of prayer.
We believe that we share in the gift of the Spirit of Christ as members of His Body. For we participate personally in the salvation of Christ solely in fellowship with all who belong to Him by a true faith. Therefore we confess the communion of the saints. For as there are many members, each with its own gift in the rich diversity of the fullness of Christ, so it is one and the same Spirit who performs this all, namely the Spirit of the body. Moreover, for the advancement of the unity of the faith and love, Christ has established offices and ministries in the church to build it in the faith and to equip it for service, both in its mutual relations and in its dealings in the world. We therefore recognize the Body of Christ, the working of the Spirit, and the maturity of the believers, of which the Scripture speaks most clearly, where the church has not lost its way by various errors but, held together by the bond of love in the multiplicity of gifts in the one Spirit and in the distinctiveness of the members displays the one body and knows how to make this serviceable for the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ.
9. Church and World
We believe that God has called His church out of the world and thus has made a distinction between church and world. We understand the world to be the life that has been estranged from God and His service and the way of thinking and doing that derives from this estrangement. Therefore we also believe that the marks of the church are not a given implied in its separation itself but consist in the dedication of life to God, in the understanding and the doing of His will, in the struggle against sin, and in thus not being conformed to the world.
Although God is angry against and hates sin, He has nevertheless loved the world in His mercy and has reconciled it to Himself. Therefore we believe that the church in its dealing with the world must be controlled no less by God’s love for the world than by His aversion toward sin. For God has not only commissioned the church to proclaim the Gospel to all men to the end of the age, but He has also overcome the power of evil in Christ so that the world is preserved for the future of the Lord and for the consummation of His Kingdom. Therefore the church may not withdraw itself from the world, as if this had been abandoned by God to the powers of sin and corruption; but it is called, in imitation of its Lord, to proclaim the Gospel and to turn with help and love to that which is lost, to the poor and the oppressed; also to join the battle for peace among the nations and for making and maintaining those laws which promote freedom and righteousness for all people; in order thus also to point a way to the Kingdom of peace and righteousness, in which God will dwell among men, no one will do unrighteousness or suffer unrighteousness, and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.
10. The Future of the Lord
We believe that we are on the way to the future of the Lord, in which He will make all things new and will glorify our presently imperfect existence that is subject to death. For even as Christ has made Himself one with us in all things, so we also will participate in His resurrection and victory over death. Therefore the Scripture calls Him the Second Man, the Beginning, the First Begotten from the dead in order to express that Christ by His resurrection is the beginning of a new world and a new humanity in which all who belong to Him will receive incorruptible life. But this is all from God Who completes what He has begun, Who makes the dead to live and calls that which is not into being, and has given us the life-giving Spirit as a first down payment and seal of eternal life.
Therefore we confess that we live in the hope of the coming Kingdom of God. A hope that is so great and glorious that we cannot imagine the reality thereof, and much less can we bring it about, although God has put us in this life to serve in the coming of His Kingdom. This hope is so closely joined with our faith that we recognize that without it we would have put our faith in Christ in vain and would be the most miserable of all men. But in living in hope, we know the present to be bound upon our soul, not as a burden but as a gift and a task from Him who goes before us into the future, and who will require an account from everyone concerning his deeds, whether they be good or evil. Therefore our expectation is also our perseverance and our prayer is for steadfastness to abound in the work of the Lord, knowing that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him and that which happens for the hallowing of His name and for the coming of His Kingdom is not in vain or for nought.
When we now finally once more look at what we have confessed above regarding the saving power of the blood and the Spirit of Christ and the image of the church as that is pictured for us in the Scriptures, we realize more deeply and we confess with shame how far short we have fallen in our life as new men and in the manifestation of the body of Christ. For while we confess that our entire salvation depends on faith, upon the imitation of and the future of Christ our Lord, our heart is often divided, is misled by love of self and is ensnared by fear of men and worldly intentions. And while the church confesses her unity and certainty in Christ, it is shamefully divided, is diffident in its confession, and often succumbs to the temptation to be led more by the wisdom and the favor of men than by obedience and love to the Lord.
All of this must surely not make us detract from the confession that Christ is the only and complete Saviour or to preserve it for better days. To the contrary, the awareness of our own weakness and sin should make us understand and recognize more deeply how great and incomprehensible the love is with which God has sought us in Christ, and continues to seek us; it must also prevent us that much more from wanting to found the certainty of our faith and confession, for ourselves or for others, on anything or anyone else than on Jesus alone.
Nevertheless it must be said of our confession as has been written of the Kingdom of God, namely that it does not consist in words but in power; for faith also is dead if it does not bring forth fruits; and it is not at all a true church if it is not prepared to reform itself again and again according to the Word of God.
Therefore we conclude by saying that we cannot confess the Name of God except in deep humility and with a continuing call for the help of His Spirit in order to preserve intact that which He has entrusted to us and to put it in service of that for which He has given it to us. And as for what further concerns the church in its activities in the world: although it lives from the forgiveness of sins and confesses that it has not yet laid hold and is not yet perfect, nevertheless it may never, in all its decisions and questions to which it is pit, and in all its speaking or remaining silent let go of the great question what it will answer its Lord when He will come and will ask it to give an account of its confession before Him, that is: of its response to that which He in His grace has said and given it. For those who will have confessed Him before men He will confess before His Father who is in heaven; but He will also deny when in the great judgment the Father will have entrusted all judgment to the Son.