The subject which was given me is, “Thoroughly Equipped in Our Peculiar Times.” The subject “Thoroughly Equipped” is the main theme of this convention and the keynote speaker likely has given a rather complete analysis of that subject. It is therefore not necessary for me as fourth speaker of your convention to elaborate upon that part of my subject, namely, to explain what constitutes our being thoroughly equipped. Rather do I understand my task as fourth speaker to characterize the times in which we live, to show what is peculiar about them, to show thereby another emphasis upon the main theme of the convention.
I shall therefore first of all speak to you about our peculiar times in order then to conclude with some remarks about our being thoroughly equipped.
When we speak about our times, I think it was the intention of the committee, who gave this subject, to be the times in which you and I are now living. We do not mean a general reference to our modern time in distinction from the medieval or ancient time. Nor do we mean the time of our fathers and grandparents. We mean our time, the time of you and me as young people, who must face a different world than the world of ten years ago. It is the time in which we now live, into which we are just emerging. Not many of us remember the last world war; not many of us were so deeply concerned with the last depression. Now that is so different. Now we must take our places in the army of laborers, which has its own peculiar difficulties; we must take our places in the army of leaders; and we must take our places in the armed forces of the country to defend it. We are being inducted into peculiar times.
Our subject calls for a discussion of our Times. It is not worded in the singular, our time. Why so? We speak of our times because of the many changes that are taking place. The scene changes every day. Every month something new has happened and is happening. Because of the swiftly changing scene of our time we speak of our times.
The important question before us now is, what is peculiar about our times? What is that which is characteristic of our time in distinction from the past. There may be different answers to this question, in the main there will be at least two different answers. The man of the world will have his own answer. Our answer will necessarily be different than the answer of the world. It is necessarily so because we view all things and evaluate them from the vantage point of the Word of God. We must always take God’s Word as a guide to evaluate the present developments.
Probably the first thing that we all think of when we would give an answer to our question, is war, the peculiar war which is raging in different places in the world and in which our country is taking an increasing share. When we mention war we mean of course all that is connected with it. Connected with the present war must be the change in power, the change in political ideas, the attendant destruction, of life, of property, of liberty and happiness. The gloomy aftermath of war must also be included when we speak of war. After the red horse comes the black and the pale horses. No doubt future historians will characterize the period in which we are now living as a period of war.
But that is not a sufficient answer. There has always been war. We must be more specific and mention what is peculiar about this war.
We do not point to the peculiarity of this war when we point to the peculiar causes. No doubt a cause lies in the Versailles treaty. Much also lies at the feet of the present ruler of Europe, the dictator of Germany. He is full of lust for power and fanatic idealism to establish a world order in which the Aryan race has the upper hand. Yet, whatever the cause or the causes are, it does not explain what is peculiar about the present war. History is full of wars of aggression, and speaks of many such despots who lusted for power and almost did attain world power. It does not explain the peculiarity because at the bottom of it all is the root sin and the sin that developed in mankind. War is hatred and the result of sin. So, no matter how we would seek out the causes and the explanations of the present war we would not have really progressed much in an explanation of the peculiarity of the present war.
Nor would it be correct to say that our time and our war is peculiar because we live in a time of undeclared warfare.
Probably a more correct answer lies in the speed and the scope of the present conflict. Our war is different than all other wars because of the speed of the conflict, because of mechanized forces, tanks and guns, because of aerial warfare, the bombing of civilian populations. Besides the speed of the war itself of the different campaigns, this world war appeared so soon after the last war. We are living in a time of war. Also because of the scope, the fact that wars are total in scope, we can say they are peculiar. Every war seems to affect the whole world of nations. Each nation considers that its interests are involved. Therefore, because of the total scope we can see that there are more seeds of war sown. There are more wars in the offing. Man cannot achieve peace through war. That is the attempt. Every nation seeks to establish a world order for itself, and foolishly visualizes that it can be achieved through war. The only result of such sinful, unrighteous warfare is more war. We are living in such peculiar times as were predicted by Jesus. “There shall be war and rumor of war.” That is plainly indicated in this present peculiar war. There may be an apparent lull in the conflict when the world power achieves its high point of power in the man of sin. Nevertheless, we can plainly see from present history that there shall be no end to war which is the result of sin until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is something else that is peculiar of our times which really has made our war peculiar. That is the fact that we are living in the time which has reaped the results of the inventive genius of the past and is still developing. Our whole life is mechanized. We are living in a machine age or, as someone now explains, in the power age. We are highly developed scientifically and industrially. Ever since the Industrial Revolution our age has been different than the previous ages. It almost seems that we have reached the limit of development. There will be some advancement and change to be sure. Yet it almost seems as if that will not be essential. Man can travel at a tremendous rate of speed across country, through the air, and can transmit his voice throughout the world. We await only the perfection of all the inventions of man. The present war is speeding that up also. It is definitely discernible that man will do wonders. Man has at his command now the mighty force of nature which he has studied for so long a time, and has discovered many of its secrets that he will be able to perform many wonders. He will be able to deceive many.
Though we can point to the peculiarity of the present war and also the underlying peculiarity of our scientific age, which shows that we are living in the last days, in the eleventh hour, that is not the peculiarly that should receive emphasis at this convention. That is not the danger for the church. Because there shall be wars and rumors of wars, and because of the wonders of the present age, we are not admonished to watch and pray, to put on the whole armor of God. There is something else which is peculiar of our times, which the Bible tells us also shall be peculiar of our times.
That which is peculiar of our times and which is a grave danger for us as people of God is the apostasy.
There is a falling away from the truth and the man of sin is being revealed. Many antichrists are appearing.
Nations are avowedly atheistic and are attempting to wipe out the knowledge and the worship of God. Even in our land where there is the freedom of worship there is the definite sign of apostasy everywhere. Anyone who believes in God and His Word has freedom yet, but it is increasingly plain that the true worship of God is subject to all kinds of ridicule. If one believes in the Word of God he is called old fashioned, confessionalist, Biblicist, Anabaptist. Besides there are the trends of unionism and collectivism and the disregard of the Sabbath, not to speak of the lack of righteousness and the immorality in our land which places it also in the class of those who care not about God’s Word. Leaders and teachers and preachers of our land are preaching nothing else than a social gospel of man and are looking forward to a world order of peace and prosperity which shall be established out of the efforts of man himself. This is humanism taught in most of the modern churches. They speak of Christ, but it is as Jesus said, they shall say hero is Christ and there is Christ, follow not after them.
It is true there always has been apostasy. Yet never has there been the degree that there is today. Everything has had its influence upon our time. The mixture of all the influences has produced the peculiar result, our peculiar times. There has always been war, and there has always been the development in science ever since the sons of Lamech, and so too there has always been a falling away from the truth. Nevertheless, when all these are put together in the peculiar amount that they are today, the result is entirely different. Just as you can put a certain amount of chemicals together and the result is perfectly harmless. But put the same parts together in different amounts and the result is entirely different too, a very dangerous explosive product.
The false doctrine, the unbelief, and the lie is potent in our times. The devil goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The devil and the world, strange as it may seem are thoroughly equipped. It is more thoroughly equipped than ever before. And, the very real danger is that these forces of evil are brought to our very door, into our very homes. Not only has the world developed in sin but it has become so dangerous for the church by its close proximity. It is close to us in its panel’s and magazines, in the radio, and in the close association of modern life. The world has become more one unit. And, we are children of our time.
The result is seen too. No longer is there a clear line of difference between the church and the world. Even our own people have shown the effects of this close contact. You and I are not immune to the influences, because of our sinful nature. Many of our people do not see the difference. We do not only dress like the world, we talk and act like it too. The church is falling away. Many individuals are falling away. Many of our friends, those who were brought up with us in the church, in the very Reformed truth that we confess have fallen out and are falling away. Because of that peculiar apostasy that we see among us the necessity of the admonition is greater, watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. Because of our own nature there is the same pull in us towards the world away from God. When we see so many being pulled into the world we know that the danger is increasing and that our times are peculiar because of that apostasy. Now, more than ever before, we must be thoroughly equipped to fight the good fight of faith.
We are not called upon to fight with weapons of earthly might, not with swords, nor outward power of force. Our weapon must be spiritual.
What is that spiritual weapon? It is knowledge that is what the apostle Paul emphasized. In his letter to Timothy after he described our times, that men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, and warns to turn away from such, he explains that 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. Often he tells the churches that it is his prayer that they increase in wisdom and spiritual knowledge.
In his letter to the Philippians Paul says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” Therefore it is plain that we must have knowledge to be thoroughly equipped Christians.
If you do not understand what Paul means by knowledge you may be confused. You may question whether that is correct, that knowledge can be our only weapon. You may object that many of our fellow church members had knowledge too. In fact they were sometimes the brightest in our catechism class. They were educated in the doctrines of the Word. Yet they left and fell away and denied the truth of the Word of God. You may also object that this is exactly the worldly philosophy of Socrates who said knowledge is virtue. You may go still further and explain that even in the Scriptures there are the statements that faith is the essential thing. It is stated, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” Jesus said, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
All these objections do not hold against the apostle Paul. The knowledge he refers to includes faith and is spiritual saving knowledge. He speaks to the man of God that he may increase yet more and more in knowledge of the Scriptures. Faith and knowledge are closely related, in fact faith is a certain knowledge and a hearty confidence. Our knowledge must be rooted in faith. That is the idea of the apostle when he speaks of knowledge. The world attacks our faith. In every form and place the attack is made. To be thoroughly equipped we must have that faith in the Word of God. When the world presents its theories of evolution and denies the miracles we must be equipped with faith that we may not be tossed about, that we may believe in the Creator and in the wonders of His grace. We must believe that God gave His Son Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins.
Besides, that knowledge is hope. Though there is danger, though the times are peculiar, if we have the hope of salvation we shall be thoroughly equipped, filled with watchful confidence. Be not afraid, though heaven and earth pass away,. God’s Word of promise shall not pass away. That promise of perfect salvation shall be realized. Our knowledge must be a hope in the fulfillment of the promise of God in Christ Jesus. Exactly that is the attempt of the world. Not only does it attack our faith in the work of God in creation and salvation in Jesus Christ, but it also attacks our hope in His Second Coming, which is for us the final manifestation of our salvation. The world mocks with the taunt, where is the sign of His coming. Just as in the days of Noah, they scoff that the world continues as it always did from the beginning. So they eat, drink and are merry. They even proudly speak of a new order to be established here. The Word of God indicates an apparent realization of this vain hope of the world. That is peculiar about our times. But, God has also written over everything, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. Ours is the victory if we are equipped with faith and hope rooted in love. That is the knowledge given us by God to stand in this evil day. It is the perfect knowledge of faith, hope, and love which shall endure into all eternity.