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Appreciation for the RFPA and the Standard Bearer

Greetings. I was so thankful to read that dear Annemie Godbehere’s work on the Reformed Baptismal Form has been published. She was working on it during the two years or so when I corresponded with her prior to her going to glory.

Also, may I express my thanks for Rev. Michael De Vries’ meditation on “Sowing and Reaping” [Oct. 1, 2017]. Like the rest of your pastoral articles, it is both sobering and timely. It was good, too, to see Martyn McGeown’s report of the vindication of the Bristol street preachers. I spent several years in the 1980s preaching in England’s city squares and cathedral precincts, and was often challenged and told to move on by the police. But the Lord converted one university student, even though we had been moved to another site, and silenced other objectors. Clearly, our sovereign God is not to be outdone by mere outraged enemies of the gospel.

And although (as J. C. Ryle used to say) we cannot expect all the Lord’s people to agree on everything until we reach heaven, it is gratifying to see that we in the Reformed constituency can agree on so much, when the world lies in the Wicked One, and the potsherds of the earth are left to fight against each other. What a comfort to know that God’s elect are safe now, and shall be safe forever.

With kindest regards,

Rev. Dr. John M. Brentnall

(retired former editor of Peace and Truth, the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union)

 

“What God begins in us He will finish in and through us”

I appreciated Rev. Ron VanOverloop’s article in the August 2017 Standard Bearer entitled “What God Begins Shall Be Fully Done,” but was disappointed by his last two sentences, where I believe he does not represent the Canons of Dordt as accurately as he could, and consequently departs from the proper thrust of the rest of his article, where he stresses that all aspects of our salvation are of God from beginning to end. In his last two sentences, when referencing Canons, V, 12 and 13, he fails to reference and expound a vital part of Article 12, the words “consideration of” when referencing our confidence, when he paraphrases the Canons by writing, “This confidence is an incentive to be serious and constantly striving to practice gratitude and good works. This confidence makes one more careful to continue in the ways of the Lord, so that (emphasis mine, CCD) we experience His gracious countenance….”

The Canons do not reference the benefit of confidence itself as an incentive, but rather the “consideration of” that benefit (and its associated benefits that are listed). The words “consideration of” are vital because such consideration directs our attention away from any possible mistaken notion of the worthiness of our good works. This humble consideration is then not used by the Spirit as an incentive to do good works so that we obtain the experience, but as an incentive to live humbly by faith lives of thankfulness to God for bestowing those benefits and that experience in His mercy and by His grace in and through us unworthy sinners.

According to the measure of mercy God displays and grace He gives in His sovereign good pleasure, the Spirit also uses this humble consideration to provoke us to more “fervent prayers” to solicit yet more mercy and grace needed to express more thanks and to seek His glory yet more by doing yet more good works.

Charles C. Doezema

Member of Hope PRC, Walker, MI

Response:

Dear Brother Doezema,

I am glad that you are willing to write because you believe that you found something that was in error. However, I am convinced, brother, that you are seeing things that are not there.

First, let me summarize what you see to be in error.

You declare that the last two sentences in the meditation on Philippians 1:6 are a departure from the emphasis that all of salvation is of God implying, in your mind, that the last two sentences ascribe something of salvation to man. You believe that the failure to reference and expound the words “consideration of” (in Canons, V, 12) leads to the possible danger of attributing worthiness to our good works. Further, you believe these two sentences made the “incentive to do good works” to be the way to “obtain the experience of assurance.”

I acknowledge that I could always say something in a better way. However, I cannot see how the last two sentences of the meditation even imply that salvation is not completely of God and how they even hint at the worthiness of our good works. I consciously used the beautiful language of the Canons of Dordt. In the first of these two sentences I borrowed from the language of Canons, V, 12, and in the second sentence that of Canons V, 13. Also, I fail to see any difference between “this confidence” and “the consideration of this benefit,” for both serve as incentive to the practice of gratitude and good works.

I believe that you are putting meaning into the words that I did not mean and that I did not say. I say, as the Canons do, that the assurance of our perseverance “is an incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works.” This does not even imply the worthiness of the good works. That you see this makes me wonder if you are working from the assumption that any talk about doing good works or any admonition to do good works takes something away from salvation being all of God and implies the thinking that our good works have worthiness.

Also, brother, do you realize that you added something? You perceive that the confidence of preservation and perseverance is an incentive to do good works so that we obtain the experience. Not at all. Rather, I wrote what is my conviction, namely, that the experience of assurance and the confidence of God’s preservation and our perseverance (Canons V, 9) is the incentive. The assurance and confidence of our perseverance is not the way we obtain the experience. It is my conviction that the “confidence of persevering” renders those recovering from backsliding

much more careful and solicitous to continue in the ways of the Lord, which He hath ordained, that (emphasis added) they who walk therein may maintain an assurance of persevering, lest by abusing His fatherly kindness, God should turn away His gracious countenance from them, to behold which is to the godly dearer than life, the withdrawing whereof is more bitter than death (Canons, V, 13).

Homer C. Hoeksema writes the following about this part of Canons, V, 12:

Hence, the article sums up the whole matter in the words: “so that the consideration of this benefit is an incentive to serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works.” As we said in our correction of the translation, this is not simply a matter of moral obligation, of what the consideration of this benefit ought to do. But it is a matter of fact. It is an incentive. This doctrine, therefore, is not harmful to a life of gratitude; on the contrary, it fosters gratitude and good works. This spontaneous response of the Christian who has this hope in him is that it becomes his earnest purpose and striving to show thankfulness to God, Who has done such great things for him and in him, and to walk in all good works (The Voice of Our Fathers, 2nd edition [RFPA, 2013], 737).

Your brother in Christ,

Rev. Ronald VanOverloop