“Seal not the sayings”: Publishing God’s truths in the last days

Jesus said in Revelation 22:7–10,

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

This year we commemorate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Before the Reformation, the Bible was a banned book. The Roman Catholic Church was nearly successful in sealing “the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door and was guided by God’s hand to initiate the Reformation. God used the Reformation to restore His church, revive and sharpen many truths, and put His Word into the hands of His people. The Reformation initiated an explosion of spiritual development and writing that has continued to this day. The RFPA stands in the line of this history. For nearly one hundred years the RFPA has been blessed to publish God’s truths penned by faithful authors.

We must not “seal…the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” Herman Hoeksema reminded us in Behold, He Cometh that “the book, therefore, must not be closed, and the sayings of this book must never be sealed. Its contents must be transmitted to the church. And it must be expounded by the church in the midst of the world. They must read it, understand it, and testify of it.” This is certainly the calling of the church, but the RFPA, an association whose members are part of the body of Christ, has an important role as well. As members and supporters of this association, we fulfill our calling in the office of believer by ensuring that God’s truths are published in these latter days.

In this past year five books were published, the Standard Bearer was published on its regular cadence, and many new blog posts were published. These publications reached far and wide. A pastor of a small PCA church in South Carolina wrote, “I very much appreciate the books and theological perspective that I share with you good folks in the Protestant Reformed Churches.”

Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer by Prof. Herman Hanko and Mark Hoeksema guides us through fascinating doctrinal controversies in the early church, during the time of the Reformation, and in the modern era, which take us around the world and expose the errors of Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, Anabaptism, Arminianism, and others. The book emphasizes the teaching of the great theologians, such as Augustine and John Calvin, on God’s particular grace, which is always irresistible and never fails or is frustrated.

Less than the Least, memoirs of Cornelius Hanko, follows his life from childhood to death and chronicles his school days, seminary training, six pastorates in five states, and retirement. Given the strong family ties in the Protestant Reformed Churches, there is a bit of historic interest for many as they find references to family and friends. A reader from Grand Rapids wrote, “I really enjoyed this book and learned much!” Another Grand Rapids’ resident stated simply, “Brings back many memories.”

Gospel Truth of Justification by Prof. David Engelsma was published specifically to help the RFPA mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ. Essential to the Reformation was the gospel truth of justification by faith alone. This book on justification celebrates that glorious work of Christ. It also maintains, defends, and promotes the Reformation in our present, perilous times. The doctrine of justification by faith alone is so fundamental to the gospel of grace that an exposition and defense of this truth are in order today and always. The true church of Christ in the world cannot keep silent about this doctrine. To keep silent about justification by faith alone would be to silence the gospel. Regarding this book, Rev. Angus Stewart wrote, “It is a superb contemporary work on this glorious doctrine. It is also refreshing because so many of the critiques [by others] of [N. T.] Wright and the new perspective on Paul are weak and half-hearted.”

Knowing God in the Last Days: Commentary on 2 Peter by Mark Hoeksema is an explanation of the general epistle of Peter to the early New Testament church. The primary theme of the letter is the knowledge of God, a concept that occurs many times and in various contexts throughout the book. This short epistle contains a wealth of instruction for the church today. The secondary theme of 2 Peter is the application of the knowledge of God to the last days in which we live. Especially in his third chapter, Peter reveals to the church the knowledge of God as it relates to the end times. Based on exegesis of the Greek text, this commentary gives a clear explanation to God’s people regarding necessary and important aspects of today’s Christian life.

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return by Rev. Martyn McGeown, a new author for the RFPA, was published last year. This was a test case for bringing additional books to market without overloading the book club. This book was successful and sold in the first year about two-thirds of a typical book club publication.

The RFPA continues with many book projects, including translation work. In 2011 the board appointed a special committee to develop a long-range plan that included research into Dutch works worthy of translation into English. As a result, in 2016 the RFPA released The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary by Bastiaan Wielinga. His book was first published in the Dutch language in 1906 in the Netherlands. Since the translator of this commentary died shortly after finishing her work, the RFPA had to search for another translator. The search led to Dr. David Schuringa, and this year the RFPA commissioned him to translate Wielenga’s commentary on the Lord’s Supper Form. After he began translating this book, he wrote to the RFPA:

When I am translating Dr. Wielenga, I feel like I am on holy ground and need to remove my shoes. This man is so Reformed and knowledgeable, with a warm pastor’s heart, that every page is worth gold…. I am amazed at the foresight of the publishing company to make this available in English, as it will be a treasure chest for Reformed pastors who love our heritage, and inspire them to see anew the wonder of our Lord’s Supper Form, especially if their Dutch is rusty. I am confident the book will also find its way to the bookshelves of armchair theologians in the pew.

Many RFPA publications have been translated into other languages. Noteworthy is the 2011 translation into Korean of Come, Ye Children by Gertrude Hoeksema. To date, over 1,500 copies have been sold in South Korea. This same title is being translated into Tagalog (the language spoken in the Philippines). The RFPA is bringing its professional resources to bear on this project, as well as some available funds. Since we are not a mission organization, we will not fund the entire project. However, we have personally banded together as a publishing association with the common belief that God’s truths must go forth to all nations, and that projects like this will benefit our fellow saints in other parts of the world. Anyone interested in providing financial support for this project should contact the RFPA.

RFPA materials travel around the world, sometimes quite literally. Recently Sharon Kleyn, wife of Rev. Daniel Kleyn, shared this story with us: A copy of Saved by Grace was delivered to the Philippines. This book was picked up by a person who regularly attends one of the churches with which the missionaries have contact. The book traveled with him to the Netherlands, where he gave it to his employer. Writing back later to this man that had given him the book, the employer stated,

Thank you very much for your present, the book Saved by Grace…. I am excited to receive such a book from a business friend, which is really uncommon! The title Saved by Grace is very close to my heart, and the faith in God through Jesus Christ, grounded on the Bible, is my daily source of life. Also, I fully underwrite the Calvinist doctrine, which is the closest to the Bible.

Each issue of the Standard Bearer travels to 2,200 subscribers living in the United States, Canada, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, Singapore, Romania, South Africa, Central Africa, Uganda, Namibia, India, Indonesia, and Italy. The authors and editors take seriously the admonition to “seal not the sayings.” In the August issue, Rev. Kenneth Koole warned us of the grievous decisions by the Liberated Churches of the Netherlands to allow women to serve as deacons, elders, and even ministers. He warned also of the insidious way that these decisions are so often justified by quoting Scripture! Rev. E. Guichelaar warned us of the continuing governmental encroachments on the authority of the home with the adoption of Bill 89 by Ontario’s government. In the same issue Prof. R. Cammenga reminded us of the treasures of the Reformation that shine in the Second Helvetic Confession. He wrote,

God alone through Christ alone—that was the gospel of the Reformation. And that is the gospel for all time and in every age and among all peoples. This is the distinctiveness of the Christian faith. This is the reason on account of which Christianity that is true to Christ cannot accommodate the false religions. The gospel is never Christ and, but is always Christ alone. Christ is the Way to the Father, and there is no other way to the Father.

Issue to issue the Standard Bearer publishes the sayings of Scripture. One reader in Canada wrote, “May God continue to mightily use and bless your work in His name.”

It has been several years since the Standard Bearer has undergone a significant design change. While the content of the Standard Bearer will always take precedence to its appearance, the two must work together. During the last few years, the membership and marketing committee has been discussing a complete redesign of the magazine. The goals were to publish a periodical that is pleasing to the eye, easy to read, and maintains its distinctively Reformed content. The new design was revealed in the October 1, 2017 issue. The biggest change is that the magazine will now be full color, which requires a subscription rate increase. However, the RFPA is subsidizing half of the increase the first year; subscribers will pay just an additional $3. The new subscription rate is still reasonable for the oldest, continuously published, subscriber-based, Reformed periodical in North America.

On the blog last year Rev. Joshua Engelsma reminded us of the importance of publishing God’s truths, reading them, and living them:

If we claim the name Reformed and celebrate the Great Reformation, then we ought to know the truths of Scripture that were restored to the church at that time. And knowing them, we ought to confess them. And confessing them, we ought to defend them. And then what lives in our hearts and is confessed with our mouths must characterize our lives. And this all because we love these truths of the Bible. Far from being a cold, superficial confession of what our forefathers clung to before us, there is a warmth and fervor and zeal for them living in our hearts.

The RFPA has added a few more men to the pool of blog writers this year. The topics are wide-ranging and thought-provoking. Topics covered this year include Islam by Rev. M. McGeown, subjects related to the Reformed Baptism Form by Mike Feenstra, spiritual disciplines of the Christian life by Rev. R. Barnhill, and social constructionism by Rick Mingerink. A blog subscriber from Uganda wrote, “I appreciate the blogs and have especially loved the series on spiritual disciplines.” A Canadian subscriber wrote, “I have thoroughly enjoyed all the writers’ posts. Excellent idea.” At least one blog is posted each week. You can start receiving these interesting and informative blog posts by joining our email list. Contact the RFPA office by email (paula@ rfpa.org) or phone 616-457-5970.

After the success of Gottschalk: Servant of God by Connie Meyer, the RFPA officially launched its children’s division in January 2017 with the hire of Miriam Koerner as the coordinator. She is currently working with Connie on a book for young children who love the Reformed faith—an ABC book that teaches about God’s almighty power and saving promises to His saints. We are also working with other authors on several projects, including picture books about doctrine, a new book of Bible stories, and Christian realistic fiction. As lovers of the doctrine of God’s covenant of grace with believers and their seed, supporters of the RFPA will find our future children’s books to be an excellent resource in raising their sanctified children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

This year marks significant changes in the RFPA staff. Alex Kalsbeek is the newest addition to the RFPA staff. In early September Alex took up the new position of sales and operations manager, which combines most of the work formerly handled by Tim Pipe and Evelyn Langerak. Alex is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan, with his wife Cynthia and their four children. He earned a B.A. degree from Calvin College and taught several years at Heritage Christian High School in Dyer, Indiana. He also served as the executive director of the Federation of Protestant Reformed Schools. For the last three years, Alex has been the business manager for a local company. Alex has the skills and experience to benefit the RFPA for many years. After thirteen years as business manager, Tim Pipe retired at the end of August. Evelyn Langerak also retired in August after twenty-two years at the RFPA, twenty as the book coordinator. Both Tim and Evelyn have labored tirelessly for the RFPA; their work has been critical in the process of building up and strengthening the organization. Tim helped us improve our business model and Evelyn helped us become a reputable, independent book publisher. Their work has been appreciated by many; board members especially have benefited from their experience and faithful labors. Please take time to thank Tim and Evelyn for their work. Paula Kamps has taken on the role of book coordinator and is transitioning some of her administrative duties to Miriam Koerner. Miriam continues to coordinate the children’s book division. The additional administrative duties allow Miriam to spend more time in the RFPA office.

Through the years the RFPA has been blessed with substantial gifts from several sources, which include church collections, individual gifts, estate gifts, and gifts that accompany payments of book and subscription invoices. The RFPA Board invested a large estate gift received about five years ago and developed guidelines regarding the use of these invested funds. The RFPA used some of these funds to implement ebooks, install a new sign on the property, improve the website, and reduce the retail price of the commentary on the Baptism Form and the ten books in the Triple Knowledge series. These funds will be used for the latter purpose when the commentary on the Lord’s Supper Form is published. These funds are also being leveraged in a significant way for two major investments, the children’s book division and the salary of the sales and operations manager. We hope that these investments will generate sustainable growth, so that the RFPA can continue to publish books for adults and children and reach new markets. We are thankful that the Lord has blessed us with gifts that allow us to make these investments.

In concluding this year’s secretary’s report, I turn to Rev. McGeown’s book, Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, in which he reminds us that “the calling comes to every member, young and old. Serve Christ! Serve Him in your home. Serve Him at school and university. Serve Him in the church. Serve Him in the workplace. All your time and resources belong to Him.” We can readily add, serve Him through the work of the RFPA. Serve Him in reading! Serve Him by encouraging others to read what we publish!

The RFPA is called to serve Christ in its publications. This is why we work together. This is why we serve on the Board. This is why we busy ourselves with the publication of materials. To this cause we dedicate our time, our resources, and our talents. “Seal not the sayings.” Let us publish God’s truth in these last days.