Dear Rev. den Hartog:
Your article in the September 15, 1978 issue ofThe Standard Bearer was read by me with great interest as I came to know through a very difficult experience that “it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.” (I Cor. 1:21b—American Standard Version) Also see Question and Answer 65 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
To almost all of your article I could say “Amen,” but I had difficulty agreeing with a portion of the 4th paragraph. You state, “This work (to preach the gospel) involves more than merely the regular preaching in her own midst. Every church must preach to the world in which God has placed her, that all those who are ordained unto eternal life might believe and be brought into the fold of the church.” Then you go on to say, “This is the work of the church as a whole and every individual member of the church, not only the minister.”
Now, are you saying that “every individual member of the church” has the duty to preach?
The scriptures say, “Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men” in II Corinthians 3:2 ASV; but to infer that “every individual member” has the duty to preach takes, my breath away, as I believe-preaching is done by the ordained man of God in a regular worship service with the consistory present. I do make an exception to the missionary who is sent by the church to minister in some area designated by the church. If you mean that “every individual member” must support the work of the church by his “tithes and offerings,” I would wholeheartedly agree.
I would be pleased to read your reply in The Standard Bearer if you so desire.
(w.s.) G.P. “Gerry” Vellenga
Dear Brother in the Lord Jesus Christ:
Thank you very much for your letter to me and the question that you ask on my Standard Bearer article of September 15, 1978. I am very sorry that I did not reply to your letter sooner. This is inexcusable. I hope that you will still receive my reply.
With regard to the work of the preaching of the Word there are I believe two dangers that must be avoided. I believe very strongly that the work of the preaching of the Word in the official sense must be carried on by the ministers of the Word of God. These ministers must be sent by Christ Jesus Himself. They are to be His official ambassadors. This is the clear teaching of scripture in passages such as Romans 10:14-15 andGalatians 1:1. They come with the official and authoritative Word of Christ Jesus Himself. Christ is pleased to ordain and send these ministers of the gospel through the ordination of the church. We have an example of this in the sending out of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13). I sense in your letter a concern for the maintaining of the official preaching of the Word by the ambassadors of Christ Jesus. This concern I share with you. This is especially important in our day when we see so many self-ordained and independent preachers going out on their own hook and thus usurping the office which Christ has ordained in the church. Furthermore, there is today the notion that everyone can and should be a preacher in the same way that the ordained minister is. There is very much disregard for the official character of the preaching of the gospel of Christ Jesus. There is little appreciation of the fact that the ordained preacher comes with the official authority of Christ Jesus. All of this I do not in any way want to minimize and I am sorry if my article gave this impression.
I believe however that there is another danger with respect to our understanding of the work of the preaching. This is a danger that has often been present in the church of Christ Jesus which must be just as strongly warned against as the danger mentioned above. Sometimes the work of the preaching of the Word is understood in such a way that the saints of God in the church consider themselves to have really no part in this work at all except that they come each Lord’s Day to listen to it. Perhaps we as Reformed people are more inclined to fall into this error. We think of the preaching of the. Word as a work that belongs exclusively to the minister and perhaps to the elders of the church. I believe that the involvement of the member of the church in the work of the preaching goes much further than merely supporting that work by tithes and offerings. May I suggest a few aspects of what I would call the church members involvement in the work of the preaching. First of all, of course, all this work must come out of the motive of the love and zeal for the gospel of Christ Jesus and the extension of the church of Christ Jesus which should fill the hearts and souls of every member of the church. Secondly, the scriptures abound with exhortations to the church to pray for the work of the ministry of the gospel. Thirdly, the child of God has the duty and obligation to do as the Berean Christians did after they heard the preaching of the apostle. He must go home and search the scriptures to see if that which is declared in the preaching is true. Finally, and this in relation to what I was speaking of in the article you referred to, it is the duty of the Christian to speak zealously about the preaching of the Gospel to others. We must encourage one another and exhort one another with the preaching of the gospel. I believe that the chief work of missions which the individual believer has the calling to do is zealously to try to encourage others with whom he comes in contact to come to the preaching of the gospel in the church. If one looks at the history of the growth of the church I believe that most of the genuine growth of the church has come when the saints of God zealously encouraged others to come to the preaching. In fact, in a sense the regular members of the church are often more in a position of being able to encourage others to come to the preaching who are outside of the church than ministers are able to do. This is true because they often live closer to these people than the preachers of the gospel do. Often we hear about Christians who join the church because a friend or a relative first brought them to church and encouraged them to come. In this way every individual member is actively involved in the work of the preaching of the gospel. The Lord has given us people who have, the gift to be able to do this kind of thing very effectively. We need to encourage this very much in our churches. Ultimately, I believe, all that is called personal evangelism or witnessing must be directed to the preaching.
I hope this answers your question. I admit that it would have been better to explain in the article what I meant by the statement you quoted.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. A. den Hartog