Speech delivered by Rev. H. Veldman, Nov. 15, 1957 in Doon, at our annual meeting of our Protestant Reformed Action Society

My choice of subject for this evening is easily understandable. The purpose and goal of this Protestant Reformed Action Society is, of course, to make propaganda for the cause of our Protestant Reformed Churches and truth. This is suggested by the very name: Protestant Reformed. Action Society. This means that we do something, that we act, let ourselves be heard from, cause others to hear and learn about us. And the subject, I am sure, is in order: Our Future. Do we have a future? Can we, may we go on? What is our future? What is our calling in this connection? 

It is these questions which I will try to answer in this evening as I call your attention to: OUR FUTURE. – and we notice: 

I. ITS MEANING. 

II. ITS GROUND. 

III. ITS CALLING. 

I. Its Meaning 

Only one future may interest us. This is the first observation which I wish to lay before you this evening. The question is not, for example, whether we shall continue merely as a church, having our own denominational existence, with all that this implies, such as our own theological school, our own magazine, our missionary, etc. Neither is it the question whether we have a future in the sense that we will grow, although it can surely not be denied that all of uis would rejoice in such a numerical growth and advance. 

These questions are not fundamental. Numerical strength is not a sign of the true church. If such were true then Cain was surely truer than Abel, and the eight souls of Noah’s day could never have been regarded as the Church. Then Joshua and Caleb would have been condemned by their fellow ten spies, and the ten tribes were surely the true church rather than the Kingdom of Judah. And, not to name anymore, of the seven churches whereof we read in the Book ofRevelation 2, 3, of the only two churches unto which no rebuke is addressed? we read among other things, that they are very poor and small; I refer, of course, to the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. And, to judge according to this standard, the Roman Catholic Church of today would surely have to be regarded as the true church. Moreover, neither is the question fundamental whether we shall continue as a Church. Oh, had we desired merely to be a church and to have a name we could have attained unto some prominence by now. Had we not maintained Scripture’s position over against unions and union membership; and had we, for the sake of eternal peace and unity overlooked and condoned the two statements of Rev. De Wolf, we would have been stronger. Any church that grows at the expense of church discipline with respect to membership in worldly unions and the remarriage of divorced persons, is developing in the direction of the false church and denying to itself the right to be called the Church of Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

The question of our future is not fundamentally a matter of self-preservation, of being able to preserve and maintain our peculiar view of Scripture and the Confessions, a pet notion then, on our part, such as our peculiar covenant conception. We do not regard our covenant conception as a pet theory which must be defended at any cost, but as solidly founded in the Scriptures and in the Confessions. The question, fundamentally, is surely whether we have a name and place in the Church of God of all ages. The question, fundamentally, is whether we are Church or Sect. 

In answer to the question. “What is our future?”, we must distinguish between true and false church. What distinction must we make? What is the idea of the “true church”? According to our Confessions, Art. 27-29 of our Confession of Faith, the earmarks of the true church are: pure preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of Christian discipline. Fundamentally, this means that really there is but one mark of the true church: the pure preaching of the Word. In determining the question, “What is the true church,” we must bear in mind the following. The true church, whereof the Confessions speak, very obviously must refer to the church as it comes to visible manifestation in the midst of the world—this is evident from the fact that we are called and therefore under the obligation to join it. We cannot join something we cannot see and which does not reveal itself. Now the Church, according to Lords Day 21 of our Heidelberg Catechism, and also according to Scripture, as we shall presently see, is the elect Body of Christ, chosen by God from before the foundation of the world, and called by the Son of God (and, incidentally, only the Son of God can do this) out of all nations, tribes, peoples, lands, and tongues, from the beginning of the world until the end of time. However, the Son of God calls His own by His Spirit and Word. And this explains why the pure preaching of the Word is the mark of the true church. This we also read in John 10:16, where we read: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” There, of course, you have the Church where the voice of Christ is heard, because His sheep hear His voile. Only, this voice of Jesus is always heard in and through the gospel—Christ never speaks apart from the gospel. This does not necessarily mean that all the sheep hear this voice of Jesus through the gospel. The elect infants do not, and they are surely saved, as infants, generally. But it does mean that His sheep always hear His voice, that only the sheep hear this voice; and that this voice is heard by them through the gospel. This will also explain the identity of the true church. Christ’s sheep hear His voice, and they follow Him. Only, it is the presentation of Scripture and the Confessions that the people of God are gathered, that the Church of God is built in the line of successive generations. Hence, the true e church is that visible institute and organism, continuous throughout the ages, where it pleases Christ to call His sheep and where they hear His voice in the line of successive generations. 

In connection with the idea of the false church, some are of the opinion that there is hut one true manifestation of the church of God in the midst of the world, but one true institute, and that all ether churches are equally false. This was also the view of the Liberated in Canada, and it was the topic of discussion at the very first meeting of the Men’s society which I attended there in February of 1950. This view, however, is surely untenable. Surely, God’s people are not to be limited to our churches alone. This would kill all mission work, would it not, as directed to the false church. One does not sow the seed on rocks or plow upon stones. However, to say that there are people of God in other churches necessarily implies that the voice of Christ is heard there, because His sheep hear His voice, and they cannot possibly live without it. And, they hear this voice of Jesus through the preaching of the gospel. To be sure, the marks of the true church are corrupted, let us say, in the Christian Reformed Church and also in the Reformed Church. In the Reformed Church one looks almost in vain for any exercise or Christian discipline, the opposition to Christian instruction is almost common, lodge members are tolerated, and hundreds of ministers occupy the pulpit who deny that Jesus Christ is the everlasting God revealed in the flesh. And, as far as the Christian Reformed Church is concerned, there we encounter the Arminian and Pelagian Three Points, the remarriage of divorced persons, whether they are divorced on biblical or unbiblical grounds, the recognition of union members as members of the church. And talk is also heard in that church of allowing lodge members into the fellowship of the church. This, however, does not mean that all churches are equally false, and that a false church is therefore also the false church. A false church is a church which, in principle and officially, bas departed from the true marks of the Church, will develop in that way of error, in which the calling by Christ of His own will ultimately run dead, so that ultimately the voice of Christ will no longer be heard there. This is ultimately the mark of the Sect. A sect is a departure from the historical line of the true Church. Only, a church becomes increasingly false as it departs from that line, and it must depart more and more.

And for the child of God, who knows and loves the truth, it is his calling to depart from that church for two reasons. First, such a church, having become principally false, is developing in the line of the antichrist and will ultimately be found completely within his ranks. And, secondly, I must witness for the truth; and when that has become impossible for me in a church I must leave. This is surely true of our membership in the Christian Reformed Church. There it is impossible for anyone to protest against the Arminian conception of the universal love of God to sinners, of the gospel as an offer of salvation to all; there it is also impossible to protest against union membership in the fellowship in the church and the recognition as members of the church of persons who have divorced and remarried. One cannot protest against these evils because they are the official stand of that church. 

Hence, what is our future? Are we a sect, a departure from the line of the true Church, in which the truth will ultimately no longer be heard and God’s people will no longer be gathered? Or, do we stand in the line of the Church of God of all ages, where the truth will continue to be heard and Christ’s sheep will continue to be gathered? This is the question which confronts us tonight. And this future we surely have. 

II. Its Ground 

First, permit me to emphasize the all-important observation that we maintain the truth. What is, fundamentally, the truth? Throughout the ages there is but one issue: God or Man. This was the issue in Paradise when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit because he would usurp the place of God. This is the issue throughout the ages. God is Truth. He is in Himself the Absolute Reality. All other glory is only creaturely reflection of His glory. Everything else has been made, is creaturely, is a reflection, a mirror in which the only Absolute Reality is revealed and displayed. And for you and me to live the truth is simply that we proclaim that God is God alone, alone worthy of all praise, alone the Creator and the Recreator, alone the living God Who does all things for His Name’s sake. Anything which deprives the living God of the glory which is due Him and Him alone is the lie and the denial of the Truth as revealed in the Scripture and in the Confessions. What is truth? This is truth: unconditional election or sovereign predestination. Conditional election and reprobation is not truth but the lie. This is Arminianism. The Arminians taught that God elected and reprobated on the basis of foreseen faith and unbelief. This Arminian conception is contrary to Scripture and to the Confessions. It is surely contrary to the Scriptures. We read in Rom. 9:10-13, 16-21the following: “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth:) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God Who sheweth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” Notice, please, the following. Is God’s election or reprobation preceded by anything in the sinner? Did God elect or reprobate because the one believed and the other did not? Indeed not! God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they did good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works; but of Him that calleth. And, the potter farms vessels, does He not, unto honor and dishonor. They were not in existence before time. And this same truth is also taught in the Confessions;—see Canons I, A, 6, 7, 15, and we quote (italics ours): “That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive itproceeds from God’s eternal decree; For known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world,”Acts 15:18. “Who worketh all things after the counsel of His will,” Eph. 1:11According to which decree, He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however, obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy . . . . Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He hath out of mere grace,according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of Salvation . . . What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable, good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in His just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and perish them forever, but also for all their other sins . . . . What is the truth? Unconditional election and reprobation! God elected and reprobated sovereignly, for His Name’s sake, not because of anything in man. And, this truth we preach and teach. 

What is truth? This is truth: Total depravity. This is surely Scriptural and Confessional. It is Scriptural. We read in Rom. 8:6-8: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” And in Romans 14:23 we read: “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” This is plain language is it not? Can the sinner, apart from regenerating grace of God, (Point III of 1924), please God? The apostle informs us that they who are in the flesh cannot please God, and the Scriptures abundantly testify that only they are not in the flesh who possess the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of regeneration and eternal life. This truth is also Confessional. We read in Canons III and IV, A, 3-4: “Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation . . . These remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God? and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.” Hence, what is truth? This is truth: the sinner, apart from the regenerating grace, can never please the Lord. And this we preach and teach. 

What is truth? This is truth: Limited or Particular Atonement. This is Scriptural. We read in John 6:37-39: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent Me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And in John 10:11, 25-30 we read: “I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine . . . . . Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you. 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.” Comment on these passages is hardly necessary. Did Jesus come to save all? Is that His intention? Indeed not! This is the Father’s will, commission, who sent Him; this is the commission which the Father gave Him, that He should save only whom the Father has given Him. And this same truth is taught in the Confessions, in Canons II, A. 8: “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon themalone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every nation, people, tribe, and language, all those,and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation; and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them fret from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.” I ask: what is truth? This is truth: Christ died for the elect, only for the elect, for those given Him by the Father. And, this truth also we preach and teach. 

What is truth? This is truth: Irresistible Grace. This, too, is surely Scriptural. We read in John 6:44, 6:37, 39 (see above—we need not quote this again), Romans 9:16, 19: “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Thou wilt say then unto Me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” And in Phil. 1:6 we read: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Need we make any comment on these Scriptures? This truth is also Confessional. We read in Canons III, IV, A, 12, 14: “And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the, gospel, by moral suasion or such a mode of operation, that after God had performed His part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted, or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active.”

(To be continued)