In refuting the affirmative stand as set forth by my opponent, the Reverend J. Heys, the undersigned must remark at the very outset that there is much in his article with which he is in agreement. We, too, believe that the Ministry of the Word is very really discipline and that this first Key of the Kingdom of Heaven is the chief means of Christian Discipline. The rebuttal of the undersigned must therefore be directed primarily against the conclusion of the article of the affirmative which sets forth suggested reasons for leaving the discipline of those that belong to worldly organizations to the Ministry of the Word.
Without in any way feeling the need of disputing the contention that the Ministry of the Word is the chief means of Christian Discipline, the undersigned does desire to make a few remarks in connection with his opponent’s remarks to the effect that the Ministry of the Word is very really discipline. I, too, believe, with my opponent, that “Christian discipline is, then, that art of practice of training God’s children to walk as disciples of Christ.” But my opponent continues then and writes: “The general opinion of discipline is that it is the process of punishing the wayward church members. This, however, is not the case. The church has not been given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to punish its members that walk in sin.” Does my opponent wish to imply that discipline does not include punishment, but only instruction? Does the discipline of a child by his father not sometimes also include the use of the rod? Am I, then, not “training” my child when I inflict physical punishment? We understand that the Church, applying excommunication, does not inflict her punishment upon wayward members. When the Church applies the second- step of Christian Discipline she carries out and executes God’s judgment upon them. This my opponent himself declares when he writes: “When by the use of these keys one is excommunicated, that individual is not punished by the church, but he is declared to be outside the Kingdom of Heaven and therefore in the sphere of God’s wrath and punishment”—the underscoring is of the undersigned. I am, therefore, somewhat at a loss to explain my opponent’s emphasis upon the “training” or instructive aspect of Christian Discipline. In this debate, it seems to the undersigned, the emphasis falls upon its punitive aspect.
To be sure, the Ministry of the Word is very really discipline. It is this because God speaks His own Word, also in the consciousness of the unbeliever, and therefore very really places that sinner, in his consciousness, outside the Kingdom of Heaven. Pure preaching of the Word will therefore render it quite impossible for many sinners to remain, even nominally, in the bosom of a certain church.
The undersigned had expected that his opponent, to show that the discipline of members belonging to worldly organizations should be left to the Ministry of the Word, would have advanced an argument to the effect that such membership, although to be condemned as sinful, is nevertheless not of such a nature that it demands excommunication. He advances three reasons in support of his affirmative stand. They are:
1—The Ministry of the Word is very well capable of handling the situation and is not in need of a supplementary means of discipline.
2—We should remember that the discipline of members of worldly organizations requires a different treatment than such sins as theft, adultery, murder, and despising the means of grace.
3—Sound preaching of the Word will compel unworthy participants to refrain from partaking of the sacraments. This reason may be considered identical with the first.
4—Leaving the discipline of members of worldly organizations to the Ministry of the Word is more profitable for all those concerned.
Firstly, then, we refute the assertion that the Ministry of the Word is very well capable of handling the situation and is not in need of a supplementary means of discipline. On the one hand it may be declared that, upon the basis of this contention, the exercise of discipline to the extent of excommunication will never be necessary or required. This reason simply dispenses with the second key of Christian Discipline. The contention is that the preaching of the Word is very well able to handle the situation. This is a direct denial of the Scriptural command to use the second key of Christian Discipline. For, on the other hand, although it is true that the Ministry of the Word itself leaves no doubt as to the question whether one belongs or does not belong to the Kingdom of Heaven and certainly makes this clear in the consciousness of the individual involved, it is a fact that the mere preaching of the Word does not rid the Church entirely of erring and sinning members. There are always those present who will continue, boldly and insolently, as members of the Church if nothing else is done besides the admonition in the preaching of the Word. History abundantly proves that this is true. And Scripture verifies this when it repeatedly exhorts the Church of God to east out from her midst those who conduct themselves unbecomingly in walk and in doctrine. In this connection and upon the same ground we may also dispose of the third reason of my opponent when he declares that sound preaching of the Word will compel unworthy participants to refrain from partaking of the sacraments. Question and Answer 85 of our Heidelberg Catechism expressly speaks of those who despise the admonition and are forbidden the use of the sacraments. And, of course, we must ever be on our guard against the contention, so prevalent in many churches, that the preaching of the Word is sufficient and that therefore the application of excommunication should not be practiced by the Church of God in the midst of the world. The church that has relaxed in her duty to exercise both keys of the Kingdom of Heaven clearly violates her mandate from the living Christ and is not worthy of the name “church.”
Secondly, to answer my opponent’s second reason, namely that we should remember that the discipline of members of worldly organizations requires a different treatment than such sins of theft, adultery, murder, and despising the means of grace, the undersigned must confess that he is at a loss somewhat to understand this reasoning. My opponent believes that the sin of membership in a worldly organization should be treated in the same manner as sins such as theft, murder, adultery, etc. However, this is not done in many churches. Hence, the Ministry of the Word is surely sufficient to train these members to walk worthy of their calling as children of God. It seems to be the thrust of my opponent that those guilty of theft, murder, etc., must confess their sins, but that members of worldly organizations are not required to confess a specific sin but merely to sever their connections with that organization. To this we would say, in the first place, that the sin specifically in question in this debate is exactly a person’s connection with e.g. a worldly union. Consequently, it is required of him that he make amends exactly by severing that connection. I am quite sure that anyone, who sees the error of his way and severs connection with an ungodly labor organization, will also confess his sin of having been a member of it. There are many who confess that a worldly union is wrong but refuse to sever connections. The sin involved is exactly that of membership and therefore confession of that sin must result in a severing of that worldly bond. But, the undersigned fails to understand this reasoning in connection with the current debate. The question is not: How must we receive erring members back into the fold? but: Must the discipline of members of worldly organizations who refuse to leave their sin be left to the Ministry of the Word?
Finally, it certainly is not true that it is more profitable for all concerned to leave the discipline of members of worldly organizations to the Ministry of the Word. The contention is, then, that members must not be forced or compelled to lead a godly walk. If we prevent members from partaking of the Lord’s Table and presenting their children for baptism, these members, in order to partake of these sacraments, will even go so far as to sever connections with a worldly organization whereof they may be members. Is it, then, not a greater cause for rejoicing when such a member forsakes his evil way without any force or coercion whatsoever, because he saw the sinfulness of his way and voluntarily decided to sever connections due to his being influenced exclusively by the preaching of the Word ? Then, it is alleged, we need not doubt that he severed connections for any reason other than the exhortation of the living God Himself.
This, we all readily perceive, is a very weak argument. In the first place, it may well be doubted whether anyone will sever connections with a worldly organization merely because it is his desire to partake of the sacraments. It is hardly conceivable that anyone will reject the things of this present time, even choose to suffer hardship and affliction, want and starvation, because of his desire for the means of grace if he does not have an inner desire in the things of God and of His Kingdom.
Secondly, we must not hesitate to “compel” a member of a worldly organization to refrain from partaking of the sacraments, because it is spiritually impossible for anyone who walks in sin to partake of the means of grace. To partake of Communion and present one’s child for baptism must and can be done only in faith. The sacraments are signs and seals of the people and party of the living God in the midst of the world. They are our uniforms whereby we are separated from the world. It is therefore a spiritual impossibility to partake of the sacraments in a real sense of the word and simultaneously commit the sin which is involved in membership in a worldly organization. The one denies the other. Applying discipline we simply say to a particular member that he cannot partake of the holy sacraments.
Thirdly, inasmuch as he cannot partake of the sacraments, the Church may therefore not permit him to do so. The Church is called to preserve the purity of the Name of her God and of His Covenant in the midst of the world. The Church may not permit God’s holy Covenant to be profaned. Consequently, it is not “profitable for all those concerned” to witness such spiritual lethargy and indifference on the part of the Church whereby the profanation of God’s covenant and sacraments is permitted. This would surely have a devastating effect on the Church of God.
Finally, I repeat what I wrote in my first article. We must not be wiser than God. The Lord has commanded us to exercise the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. We may be afraid to use these keys because of fearing the loss of that which we have. We may think it expedient to relax in the exercise of Christian Discipline because we do not desire to “lose” any members. We may fear to take a definite stand when the way becomes rough and hard. We may desire to keep our local church intact. However, we must not be wiser than God. His way is the only way. We may safely walk in that way, wherever it may lead us, in the belief that God will provide for His own and lead His Church into that glory which He has laid away for her.
It becomes plain at once that the Rev. H. Veldman has three reasons in mind for maintaining that the discipline of members of worldly organizations may not be left to the Ministry of the Word. These reasons are: (1) This membership is a very grievous sin, (2) Scripture demands that Christian discipline be applied to all who commit such grievous sins, (3) Christian discipline is necessary for the purification of the Church and the salvation of the elect sinner, since the Ministry of the Word is not sufficient to accomplish this.
Not difficult is it to see that the first two reasons belong together. The reasoning of the Reverend is plainly this: (1) Scripture demands Christian discipline for all those who commit grievous sins. (2) Membership in a worldly organization is a grievous sin. Hence (3) we must apply Christian discipline to such members of worldly organizations. His reasoning in the last ground he gives is this: (1) God has given unto the Church the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. (2) It is a fact that the Ministry of the Word, the first key, is not sufficient to purify His Church and save His erring people. (3) Hence we must apply the second key, Christian discipline.
Let us examine these grounds of the Reverend in the order that he presents them. First of all he states that Christian discipline must be applied because of the grievousness of the sin. That membership in worldly organizations is a grievous sin is also our firm conviction. This we stated in our first essay. The very wording of the proposition implies that it is a great sin requiring discipline. That this is now a reason for the application of Christian discipline rather than the Ministry of the Word we are not ready to declare. We fear very much the implications of this reasoning. Consider once that back of this reasoning is the implication that Christian discipline is capable of more, and is more powerful than the Ministry of the Word. It makes the Ministry of the Word take a back seat. Certain sins, so this reasoning runs, can safely be left to the Ministry of the Word, but as soon as the sin becomes grievous, it is no longer safe to leave it to the Ministry of the Word but a stronger, more capable key-power must be exercised. The teacher in his schoolroom disciplines his own pupils, but when they become so unruly that he can no longer, manage them, he sends them to the principal. Is his act of is ending them to the principal not an admission on his part that a higher and more capable power is needed than he possessed? Is this the way we must look at the relationship between these two keys of Ihe Kingdom of Heaven? Certainly not! Whatever the reason or purpose of Christian discipline may be—and we do not feel that it is our duty to state here what they are, for we are dealing chiefly with the Ministry of the Word while the negative is dealing chiefly with Christian discipline—the grievousness of the sin cannot be the reason why we exercise Christian discipline. In our first essay we stated that it was a supplementary method of discipline not on the same level with the Ministry of the Word. Surely it is not above the Ministry of the Word. We look eagerly for Rev. Veldman’s rebuttal to see just what he presents as the proper relationship between these two keys. Will he make them of equal significance or will he emphasize the view he here presents—be it by implication—that Christian discipline can do what the Ministry of the Word cannot do, and therefore has more significance than it?
After all is not every sin grievous in God’s sight, and is the man who takes Christ’s name in vain not just as antichristian as the man who is a member of an antichristian organization? Must Christian discipline not be applied to all sins then? Just what must be the standard or measuring stick? Must Christian discipline be applied to those sins which the Church considers to be of a grievous nature or to those which are grievous in God’s sight?
The Reverend writes himself, “We know, of course, that a member is not disciplined for the sin he has committed but for his refusal to repent upon the labor of love bestowed upon him by those who exercise the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Notice: one is not disciplined for the sin he commits. Thus if I belong to a worldly organization and thus commit a grievous sin I am not disciplined for it. How then can the grievousness of the sin be the reason that Christian discipline must be exercised and it may not be left to the Ministry of the Word? We cannot follow this reasoning.
The Reverend states in the second place that Scripture demands the exercise of Christian discipline for all such grievous sins. This reason we expected to find in the Reverend’s essay. Yet we were very disappointed by the fact that he gives not one text to show that Scripture demands this. He quotes from the form for the Lord’s Supper, and he does quote Jesus words which prove that membership in worldly organizations is a grievous sin, but he does not give us Scripture to prove that Scripture demands Christian discipline for members of worldly organizations. We must have at least one text that not merely states that these members may not partake of Communion, but one that will make plain that we may never leave it up to the Ministry of the Word to tell these members this but must always send the Consistory to advise the man that it has decided to refuse this to him.
We quotedin our first essay. The Reverend will have to prove that when Scripture says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” that it is profitable to correct, instruct in righteousness and reprove members of worldly organizations only when it is used by the Consistory in Christian discipline. Since the Reverend gives us not one text from Scripture, we cannot refute his exegesis, for we know not what texts he has in mind. That makes it difficult for us to refute but also takes away all the force of his statement that Scripture demands it.
Again we agree with the Reverend when he states that the purpose of Christian discipline is to save the erring brother and purify the Church. The same is true of the ministry of the Word. But again we are disappointed in not finding any proof for the strong statement that, “It is a fact that the Ministry of the Word is not sufficient in the preservation and purification of the Church.” Here again the Reverend is reasoning as in his first two grounds that Christian discipline is able to do something the Ministry of the Word is unable to accomplish.
But consider with me the following facts once: It is through the Ministry of the Word that God first calls us out of the darkness into His marvelous light and not through Christian discipline. Paul came with God’s Word and administered it to the Greeks, and they were saved from their sinful way and unbelief. Jesus administered His own Word to Paul on the way to Damascus, and he was saved. Jesus gave Peter one glance thereby reminding him of His Word, and Peter ran out weeping bitterly, saved from his sin and purified. When Paul heard of sins in the Church, he administered the Word per letter to purify that church. You may say, “The church was not yet fully organized, and Christian discipline could not be administered.” That makes no difference for it still proves that the Ministry of the Word is able and sufficient. Mind you these sins were also of the same nature as that of belonging to worldly organizations. Readand note how Paul disciplines them with the Word of God in verses 16-18. Apparently Paul considered the Ministry of the Word to the Corinthians sufficient. But let me return to what I began to say. God saw fit in His infinite wisdom to use the Ministry of the Word to call us and bring us to the knowledge of our sin and deliverance. He chose to use it and it alone to bring us to faith and to the knowledge of our salvation, yea James says that He begat us with the Word of truth. The initial act of purifying us and saving us from our sin was accomplished by the Ministry of the Word. Why then, after we have been brought to the light by that Ministry of the Word, does the Ministry of the Word lose its force and power so that it is no longer sufficient? The Rev. Veldman declares, to explain his point, that some will be bold and continue as members regardless of the Ministry of the Word. But we ask, “Can Christian discipline purify the Church of the hypocrites who do not show their antichristian nature? Then we must also say of Christian discipline that it is insufficient to purify the Church. It has not become plain to us how Christian discipline can fulfill that which Rev. Veldman maintains the Ministry of the Word lacks.
Having written that we will limit ourselves to four pages since we wrote six in our first essay, we conclude that Rev. Veldman has proven that membership in worldly organizations is a grievous sin, but he has not given us one reason for not leaving their discipline to the Ministry of the Word.
We feel constrained to state that in spite of all we have written above we still believe that the discipline of members of worldly organizations should not be left to the Ministry of the Word. However our reasons are different than those presented by Rev. Veldman and are we believe based upon, Scripture. We do not feel that it is our duty to present them here. If there has been any profit in this debate it must lie herein that it shows us that we can profitably make a study of and do a little research into the true relationship between the two keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.