Hopelessness in Salvation
thank you and your church for having a website to visit. I wish more of our
churches had this. Could you please answer a question for me that has been
on my mind much of the time lately? I have been struggling with it a lot.
If a person has noticed a continual change in his/her life, without having a
feeling of absolute hopelessness first and such a deep deep sense of misery,
can that person still be saved? I must admit, I cannot feel hopeless,
because there is ALWAYS hope in Jesus Christ. However, what is preached in
the church is that you first have to come to a place of complete and utter
hopelessness first, and THEN you can be saved. Could you please give me your
insight on this? Thank you so much and all the best in the New Year to you.
you for your encouragement about the website. It has been a great means of
communicating and also answering questions. I also wish you a blessed New
Year. May you experience the personal grace of God in your life.
question is not an uncommon one. I struggled with the exact same issue
many years ago. I assume you will agree that without a real conviction of
sin no one will really become interested in salvation in Christ. It is not
until I feel sick that I am paying attention to notices about capable and
willing doctors. Therefore it is correct to say that no one will seek for
salvation who hasn’t first been somehow convicted of his or her sins. In
our natural and fallen state we are actually indifferent to the sinfulness
of our sins and the dangers of sins. Thus the teaching of your church is
correct if they teach that a sense of conviction and misery about who you
are and where you are in relationship to God is experienced prior to the
knowledge and experience of salvation through Jesus Christ.
everyone sense a complete “hopelessness” before they come to a measure of
hope by faith in the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus? That really is the
heart of your question. I rely in my answer on the helpful book The Way
of Life by Charles Hodge. I highly recommend that book. His chapter on
“conviction of sin” is extremely good and helpful. Conviction of sin
includes several aspects. First, God’s Spirit works a deepening knowledge
of the nature of sin and the extent of our sinfulness. How much of this is
necessary: enough to bring our hearts to consent to God’s declaration
about our guilt and His justice in punishing us. Secondly, along with
this conviction, comes a deepening sense of our personal unworthiness. This
sense of personal unworthiness is the main part of someone’s real conviction
of sin. A sense of shame is sensed; along with sorrow about all the
offences we have committed. There will also be a fear, a dread that we have
offended God as well as a fear that we will not be forgiven. Think of how
Job put it, “The arrows of the Almighty are within me…” It is interesting
to see that no matter how many years apart such convicted sinners have
lived, they all express themselves similarly before God. However, be
careful to think that such conviction is salvation. It only will make us
more ready to receive what God has been telling us all along and we weren’t
interested in but in itself it doesn’t save us. Only true faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ is saving. Thirdly, conviction of sin includes a conviction of
our condemnation before God. Along with this conviction often the feeling
is felt that our sins are so great that they cannot be forgiven. Indeed,
when there is a clear discovery of sin and guilt, without an understanding
of the plan of salvation, despair is felt. When someone sees God as just
in condemning a sinner and when that someone sees himself as a condemnable
sinner, than he or she cannot hope for mercy. A sense of despair or
hopelessness is experienced. I like to quote, however, a paragraph that
might help you.
a Christian country, however, the knowledge of the plan of salvation is so
generally diffused, that is seldom fails, even when imperfectly understood,
to calm or restrain the apprehensions of God’s displeasure. It is known
that God can pardon sin; that there is salvation at least for some, for some
have been saved. And although the sinner is often disposed to think that
his is an exceptional case, or that there is some peculiar aggravation in
his guilt, which puts him beyond the reach of mercy, yet he cannot be sure
that this is the case. And in his darkest hours the belief in the
possibility of salvation is not entirely destroyed.
agree with him. Those who have been raised all their life under the message
of the Gospel; who have heard over and over that there is forgiveness;
that God is the God of Manasseh etc. will always know in the back of
their mind that God is a God of love and pardon; that he who forsakes his
sins and thoughts and return to Him, He shall abundantly pardon. I vividly
remember to sense that “I stood outside everything – had no right to
anything but His holy and just displeasure – He would do no wrong if He
passed me by with His grace – that I was no more than a dead dog etc.” yet
never could I let go of that truth in Ps. 130 … but there is forgiveness!
That truth always drew me back to Him Who I felt I had deeply offended and
hope this answers your particular question. Feel free to react to this if
you have more questions.
Warmly, Pastor Vergunst
Back to the questions page
The Salvation of
infants or young children
Question: My wife and I have a
question regarding the salvation of our two year old. I was raised to
believe that children who are not able to understand and comprehend what
Jesus did for us would be saved by Him on resurrection day. We both agree
that we are born sinners. She defends that if he were to die today he would
spend eternity in hell. Please help us understand better.
The question regarding the salvation of 'infants or young children' is a
very delicate question. This is not a theoretical or doctrinal question
either for many couples do face the reality of these struggles.
Added to this is the reality of the millions of aborted children. So the
issue raised is very sensitive. How many parents don't struggle with the
torn and pained feelings about their children they needed to bury. Besides
the sensitive feelings and needs of the parents is the important question of
God's honor and glory. To 'theorize' about little infants going to hell or
heaven does involve the decree of God. Scripture teaches about 'election and reprobation' and that also includes
children. Yet the thought that God would sent the 'unborn or still born' or
the 'infants that die' to hell becomes therefore a very sensitive
issue. It concerns the glory and character of God. Mostly because of this
issue did our forefathers at the Synod of Dordt have lengthy discussions on
this issue. These discussions resulted in the 17th article in the first
chapter of the Canons of Dort.
Where the souls of children go that die infancy is not answered in the
Bible. There are a few examples of children that were saved in infancy,
such as John the Baptist. The child of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:22-23) and Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:13) do appear to be saved. Yet
the Bible doesn't speak anywhere else about the subject of the children that
died in their infancy. If that's the case, how then could our forefathers
write this article in the Canons in which they wrote that 'godly parents
have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom
it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy'?
First of all, they are writing about children that belong to God's church.
Nothing is said about the 'heathen children' because, as said earlier, the
Bible doesn't speak about it. The article wisely stated in the opening
sentence, "Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word ..." His
Word doesn't speak about the children of heathen parents. But it does say
something about the children of believers. They are 'holy' or 'set aside.'
Our children are spiritually just like any other children, inwardly corrupt,
children of wrath, under the curse of God, lost in Adam. Yet they are
called by God to be part of this Church. They are placed in the 'garden of
the administration of His covenant.' That privileged position doesn't
change the spiritual state of our children. Clearly, Scripture teaches that
'not all Israel is Israel.' Except a man be
born again, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. That is also
true of our infant children. Yet this position is of great advantage. It
brings them nearer to Christ than other children. Our children are 'elected
head for head to be placed in Christ's nearness.' They are not to be
considered as 'saved' unless there are evidences of that in their life.
However, children that die in the womb, or shortly after birth, or as young
children, what about them? Then the instruction in the Canons becomes
'pastoral.' They don't teach an automatic salvation of infants.' But they
do insist that godly parents don't need to doubt the election and salvation
of their child who dies in infancy. Why may only 'godly' parents have that
hope? What about 'ungodly' parents?
Godly parents are parents who wrestle with the souls of their children
before God. They seek the best for their children even before birth
already. From the moment they know that the child is conceived, they are
lifting up their little one in the arms of faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Godly parents realize that although their child in the womb or as young
infant isn't committing actual sins, he or she is still a child of wrath,
laying under the curse of Adam. With that reality they are exercised before
the Lord. They are like the parents in Mark 10:13-16 and are bringing their
children to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ so that He would bless them.
If it now pleases God to remove such a child from this life, godly parents
may be comforted by the words of the Lord Jesus that He took those children
up in His arms and putting His hands upon them, blessed them. You can also
take example of Job. What an exercised man he was with the souls of his
children (see Job 1:5)!
Neglectful parents, even though their child has been 'set aside in Christ'
don't have that comfort. They cannot rest on the Scripture in Mark 10:16.
That's doesn't mean that the children of neglectful parents' aren't saved.
God hasn't given us a straightforward answer on this in the Bible. But
neglectful parents don't have the comfort that godly parents may have. For
the Bible is not silent about what the Lord Jesus will do with those
children that are brought to Him when they are too small to come to Him
themselves. The Lord Jesus is the same today as He was then. How eager and
desirous He was to receive and embrace these children! So He is today.
When we bring our children in prayer before the Lord and wrestle for their
souls as they are too young to do that themselves, we may be assured that He
is as ready to receive and bless our children as He was then. So if God now
takes the children in infancy of such parents, then they are not to doubt
but that their child is well off. Such parents may pray, as I read
somewhere, "Lord, we have in Thy name brought forth this little one, and we
received it with thanksgiving from Thee. To Thee we have devoted our child
from the day we knew he/she was conceived that it may be Thy child, by
grace. It has now pleased Thee to remove this child from life. Therefore
in the same faith whereby we received this child from Thee and dedicated it
to Thee, we rest satisfied in Thy way, without being filled with fearful
doubt about the salvation and election of our little one. We know that thou
does according to Thy good pleasure which by faith we acknowledge to be
good. We trust Thy promise that Thou would be a God of grace to us and to
That leaves us the question yet if there will be 'little children in hell?"
Will the souls of the 'murdered children' (abortion) go to hell because mostly
these children are born outside the covenant? Or what about the souls of
'believing parents' (those that belong to the covenant) who have been
neglectful parents in not bringing their child to the Lord Jesus? As said
earlier, there isn't a clear answer on this question. But there an
implication we can draw from God's character. God is a just God. This
attribute of God isn't a negative attribute but a positive. He is just in
that He 'doesn't reap where He hasn't sown.' He judges according to the
measure of light and opportunity giving to each individual. Children that
die before infancy and young children that die in their infancy, haven't
sinned as we older ones sin: consciously choosing to go against what we know
is God's will. God will therefore not punish them as He will punish those
who have broken His covenant in personal and conscious choices. Therefore
in the light of this justice of God along with His attributes of mercy and
grace, I can find myself completely siding with the opinion of John Gill,
who spoke about the children dying in infancy or before birth, "Now though
their election is a secret to us and unrevealed, it may be reasonably
supported, yea in a judgment of charity, it may rather be concluded, that
they all are chosen than that none are." Let it be noted however, that
this is only a conclusion drawn from various observations about God's
character and dealings with sinners in general. So such is only an
opinion. The safest position therefore is to stand with Paul, "Therefore
judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to
light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of
the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Cor. 4:5)
Let's us seek to be a parent for our children as Job was for his! How he
wrestled for each of them bringing their names along with the sacrifice of
Jesus Christ before God's throne.
Back to the questions page
cannot find the "total depravity" in me!
Question: How come I cannot find myself as all that bad? I mean, sure, I
say the not-so-nice comment to my sister, or I grumble about the doing the
dishes. But I cannot see myself as all that bad. Why? I look very hard, but
I cannot find it. I cannot find the “total depravity" that Calvin talked
appreciate your honesty. The teachings from Scripture, as they are
reflected in statements like “total depravity” don’t always seem to line up
with how we experience it. So you struggle to see yourself ‘totally
depraved’ as Calvin taught.
let me remind you that Calvin didn’t teach that but that Calvin reflected
what the Bible teaches. But then what does that phrase “total depravity’
mean? It means that we have completely lost the holiness, knowledge and
ability we once had before the fall. Now we are capable to all the evil
human nature is found capable of doing. That means, if the Lord doesn’t
restrain us, you and I would do the things we naturally shutter to do. One
of the earliest references to this condition is Gen. 6:5 where it says, “And
God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that
every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually.” I have highlighted the words which indicate how total
this depravity is.
‘total depravity’ does not mean that every person will live as evil as he
possible could. God’s restraining grace holds most us back from living out
the terrible sins of our heart. I don’t think we will even know how
terribly bad we really are. Many people who are not even Christian are still
very nice people as far as we can see. But God looks inside these ‘very nice
people’ and sees their pride (Look at me!), selfishness (Everyone will think
good of me!) or hypocrisy (I do it only because it makes me look good).
Now that ‘nice’ person isn’t so nice anymore. All he or she cares about it
nature we are blind for ourselves but also feel not how bad sin really is.
A ‘not-so-nice comment to a sister’ doesn’t seem too big of a deal. Or
grumbling about doing the dishes isn’t a crime, is it? Yet both of these
actions are transgressions of God’s law. We may not think it a big deal
but to Him it is an offense of the His law. He requires us to be like Him in
that we are to love Him and our neighbor as ourselves. The
‘not-so-nice-comment’ hurts someone He cares about: your sister! The
grumbling about doing the dishes is hurting someone He cares about as well
and someone who cared enough about your to prepare a meal! They both are
opposite of God’s most glorious nature: love. Though among us such little
actions aren’t too bad, in His sight they are bad.
be your prayer as in Job, “Teach me what I see not.” When God does that we
will even see our sins in the nicest actions we do. The harder we will try
not to sin, the more we will find that we are totally depraved.’
Eichmann was a SS officer in World War II. This doctor did all kinds of
horrific experiments on Jews and war prisoners. After the war he captured
and tried for crime. They placed him in a bullet proof glass cage during
the trial. Survivors of the camp would testify against him. One man, who
bore the torture marks of Eichmann on his body, broke down in sobs when he
saw him sitting in that glass cage. After the trial, reporters cautiously
approached him with the question what made him cry so intensely when he was
in the court room. One ventured, “Was it the revived memory of what he did
to you that caused you to break down like that?” His answer was stunning.
“No, that didn’t cause me to weep. As I saw him sitting there in the glass
cage, I realized that we are like Eichmann. He lives within us. Only grace
keeps us like the glass cage kept him.” Now this was indeed received a
striking inside in the ‘total depravity’ of our human heart. May God keep
us from living out the sins that Eichmann lived out but may He also keep us
from thinking that our human hearts aren’t as bad as his.
Back to the questions page
How can you tell difference
between heart and mind?
How can you tell the
difference between your heart and your mind? How can you really know
that it is your heart that is telling you/believing? What if it is only your
mind that believes? How can you tell the difference (with anything) that it
is really your heart? and not just your mind?
In the Bible the word 'heart' describes the entire person. It is who you
are! That includes your mind, your will and your affections. All three are
to be involved if we are believing with our heart. You have heard
undoubtedly about historical faith (mind mainly) temporary faith
(affections mainly) and miraculous faith (will mainly). True saving faith
includes all three aspects.
For us it isn't always easy to separate or distinguish them. They mostly
merge together. If you love someone, you love him with your mind, your will
and your affections. Likewise if we love the Lord. It is a love that is
based on what I know of Him (mind). Through the power of the Holy Spirit
that knowledge influences my will and my feelings. It makes me willing, it
humbles, it draws, it stirs, it wants me to do things for Him. In other
words, it is living power of His Word and Spirit that we experience within
our heart. For many Christians all the knowledge of God and His Word doesn't
change their inner person. They easily live on without a real and close
relationship with God. In that sense it only 'mind' (historical faith).
But where God's Spirit is
working, what I know and learn about God affects my inner being so that my
life will change in direction and quality.
May I liken it to human relationships. I use my own example. For several
years I lived in the same congregation as my first wife. I knew her, did
things in youth-group together, saw her at church. But she never meant
anything more to me than any other girl in church. Until there
came a day that I 'noticed' her and within my heart a spark began to burn.
I wanted badly to know her more and be close to her. Getting to know
changed me completely and influenced me for the better. Now I not only did
have a 'mind knowledge' but my will and affections were greatly affected. I
certainly knew then that I wasn't just loving her with my mind.
In similar ways the Holy Spirit changes us our entire attitude, commitment,
feelings, understanding when He draws us to God. It will not only be 'mind'
but it will be everything of you. Later the intensity of the feelings etc
may ebb away and become more settled, just as in human relationships. But
the commitment, will, affections ... so the entire heart is devoted to God.
I hope this will shed some light on your puzzle.
Back to the questions page
How do you know for sure that you are saved?
Question: How do
you know for sure if you are saved? How do you know that you are not
deceiving yourself? How can you be absolutely sure?
Important question. Assurance of salvation isn't not something to take
lightly especially when we know we can deceive ourselves in this aspect. In
Matt. 7 the Lord warns about those who come to heaven's gate without the
spiritual relationship with God through Christ.
To answer your question I will make use of a portion of the rich heritage of
our Reformed writings. This time let me use the Canons of Dordt. These
articles deal with many different subjects of doctrine but one of them is
also about the assurance of faith. I assume you have access to the Canons
of Dordt so I don't have to write out the entire article. If not, I am sure
you will let us know. You can find the Psalter on-line on our website and in
the back part, pages 96 and onward, you will find the Canons.
Let's first go to Art 12 of chapter 1 (page 99). There is stated that God's
elect shall find out in different ways and different strength the assurance
of their salvation. Not everyone will be equally assured of their
salvation. The reason one will be saved is because of God's election, a deed
of God's will from all eternity in which He has determined who will be His
people. This is completely hidden from our sight. Yet one will know
his/her election by the fruits of this election. In other words, by God's
work within the heart will you know whether He has chosen you. One way of
assurance is therefore by "observing in yourself the unmistakable fruits of
election." What are those fruits? Notice that they list a few of the
saying of the Lord in Matt. 5. In that chapter the Lord Jesus gave us 7
personal-descriptive characteristics of someone who is born again. Now
meditate or study these seven characteristics of God's heart-renewing
grace. Compare yourself with those seven marks. You can never go wrong
with these marks. No matter what kind of conversion experience you have
had, these seven statements are to be reflected in your life. Paul and
Samuel would recognize each other in these sayings though both of them had
such a different conversion story to tell. I always say that your
"conversion story isn't the proof of being saved." It is the marks of the
Lord Jesus which you are to find in your heart. If you have access to books,
pick up Thomas Watson's book on the Beatitudes. Otherwise, I did preach a
series on these verses and so you can check the archives of our website on
that. If they aren't there, let me know and I see if they can still be
added on there.
The next article that deals with assurance is in Head 5, art, 10 (page 113).
Notice that in this article we are taught that assurance doesn't come
through some spectacular revelation of God. Some people may speak about
visions and voices or other unique events in their life by which they are
assured of their salvation. The authors of this article didn't go that
way. They again lead us back to the Scripture. God uses always His Word
through His Spirit to assure His children of their salvation. He kindles
faith in the promises of the Gospel. There are plenty of them in the Bible
given for our comfort. However, so often we don't dare to believe those
promises. But the Spirit will kindle at His time and His measure a faith in
those promises. The more faith in those promise, the stronger our assurance
will be. Especially when the Spirit joins His testimony to our spirit. In
the first point we notice that 'our spirit' can observe the very marks or
characteristics that I am alive. At this moment, my own spirit testifies
that I am alive: I am breathing, typing, thinking, talking! So also
spiritually our own spirit or soul can testify, "One think I know, once I
was blind but now I see." Yet when the Spirit bears witness through the
Word, under the preaching or your personal reading or even meditating on His
Word, then our assurance of salvation will be the stronger.
That article then also point out that the desire and effort to be holy is an
indication that there is spiritual life in you. Man hungers for happiness;
renewed man hungers for holiness and will never feel happy except they are
holy. So if you find in yourself the inner desire to be holy and strive for
that day after day, looking to Christ and using His means of grace, you have
a spiritual mark of being born again. See also question 86 of the
Heidelberg Catechism (page 66).
Lastly, in the Canons after Head 5, you find a section of 'rejections.'
Let's go to rejection nr 5 (page 115). In this rejection the Synod men
torpedo a sentiment that you can only be assured of your salvation if you
have indeed some great and wonderful special revelation. They mean with
that a 'revelation' that is without the Word of God and consist of some
mystical experiential event. Their answer is so Scriptural. Notice how they
again point to the marks of grace. They use the word "deduce." That is
conclude. If I can find in myself those marks of God's Spirit's gracious
renewal, I may draw the joyful conclusion that His work is in me.
Hopefully this will give you some direction in searching for this answer.
The work of the Holy Spirit within us is the 'spiritual forensic evidence'
that He is working and living there. People are put into prison because
their 'fingerprints were found at the crime scene.' Likewise, when I can
find or trace the fingerprint of the work of the Holy Spirit within me, I am
to thank the "Father that He has made me meet to be a partaker of the
inheritance of the saints in light."
Back to the questions page
Is it possible for a person like me to be saved?
Is it possible for a person like this to be saved?
- one who has confessed his sins before God
- one who has said "Amen" to God's justice if He would never look upon him
- one who still stands outside without a promise and hope
- one who makes each day his sin greater and each day must pray for
- one who then experiences himself as an hypocrite (for how close can real
and almost be)
When sinners are invited to come to the Lord's table, then I would be able
to go on first but the elders will come to ask for fruit and then I have to
acknowledge that there are only stinking fruit; for out of me there shall
be no fruit till all eternity.
This is one of the easiest questions to answer! Not only does God's Word
answer it numerous times. Multitudes without number will be able to answer
your question from their own experience. The reason that you can be saved
has nothing to do with any of the reasons you listed about yourself. But
the answer is that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." Even
if you would feel yourself the chief, even then there is that hope that He
not only is able but also willing to save you. "All that come unto Me I
will in no wise cast out." (john 6:37) To the very murderers of Christ, God
sent Peter with this message, "Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son
Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away everyone of you from his
iniquity." (Acts 3:26)
Never doubt whether that you are welcome at the feet of the Lord Jesus.
Never! Even if all the world and every demon would say so. Because there
is but one mouth you never need to doubt and that is God's mouth as He spoke
through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ask any of God's children, and ask them about their fruits. If you find
anyone that answer you in the positive about his or fruits, hurry on to find
a real believer. Then if you find the most advanced in the life of grace,
he will still say that "all his fruits are as filthy rags." Paul, who I
reckon advanced in grace, never got beyond 'wretched failure' that I am.
If so your experience is as you stated, I don't think you have any reasons
to fear a conversation with your elders. A poor sinner and a rich Christ
May the Lord remember you.
Back to the questions page
How could Judas be appointed to preach the Gospel?
Matthew 10:1 is written: "And when he had called unto him his twelve
disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and
to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." And in verse 4:
"and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him." How is that possible? Judas got
appointment to preach the gospel?
The reason that God gave his twelve disciples this authority to preach and
even do miracles had nothing to do with the persons themselves. It was to
give testimony to the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah and to introduce Him
and His message to the people. In other words, they were His instruments to
advance God's Kingdom in and through His Son Jesus Christ. God has often
used various instruments. Often people that were very wicked. Think of the
Babylonians and Assyrians. In Ps. 17:13 David calls the "wicked, which is
thy sword." He even used the Jews to fulfill His hidden will. Peter said in
Acts 4:27-28, "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus ... the people of
Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel
determined before to be done." In the OT He even used Balaam to make some
beautiful prophecies of the coming Messiah.
So back to Judas Iscariot, God used Him in His service even though He knew
that although Judas Iscariot began to follow Him, he eventually would betray
Him. In John 6:70 Jesus even said, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of
you is a devil?" At first Judas Iscariot was undoubtedly sincere about his
intentions to follow Jesus. His understanding of Jesus Christ was, however,
completely earthly. In all fairness, the other disciples also did have this
expectation at first as most of all the Jews did. But throughout the years
of Jesus' ministry, Judas more and more hooked off. Jesus' kingdom was not
the kind he desired. This caused a great anger and hatred within Judas'
heart. It led finally to his act of revenge in which he betrayed the Lord
Did Jesus then make a mistake in allowing Judas to be His preacher and even
sending him out with the others to preach the Gospel? Or did the Lord Jesus
send him purposely even though He knew that Judas was fake? Perhaps neither
one is correct. I think the Lord Jesus sought Judas' repentance all along.
Throughout the three years, in which Jesus knew the inner motive and
thoughts of Judas, He never gave a single clue about what He knew Judas was
all about. He showed him the same genuine love and care that He showed to
the others. Judas received all the teachings and sermons the others did
receive. He even entrusted Judas with the bag of money as the treasurer.
Till the end He continued to heap coals of fire on Judas' head to seek his
repentance. When finally Jesus announced that 'one of you is going to
betray Me,' nobody concluded immediately, "Oh, that will be Judas
Iscariot." They had no clue it was him but neither had the Lord ever given
a clue in His dealings with Judas what He knew about him. Would you act the
same to one of your 'friends' when you knew he was setting the net to kill
So to sum up, Jesus wasn't at fault that the preacher He sent out wasn't
sincere. Judas had come and joined himself to Jesus. When Judas preached,
he would have preached the truth, "Repent ye and believe, for the Kingdom of
heaven is near." We may assume that he also did miracles.
Paul wrote about 'preachers who also didn't preach Christ out of the right
motives. In Phil. 1:15-17 he refers to believers who were preaching from
selfish ambition, envy and strife. But notice that Paul rejoiced
nonetheless. Why? Because the teachings of Christ were spread around and
that's what rejoiced Paul.
For certain, Judas wasn't a believer and therefore this passage doesn't
completely apply to him. Still, he was used by God and what how much he had
to answer for, when finally he hastened himself through suicide before the
judgment seat of Jesus Christ.
Back to the questions page
There are many sick people. Is God angry with us?
Question: In our congregation there are many people who are very ill.
Several persons have cancer, a very young boy of 19 years old has leukemia.
Since January 4 persons have died.
In 1 Corinthians 11:30 Paul writes:
cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (I suppose: die)."
Is God angry with us (as in the case of the Corinthians)? How can we know
Paul indeed alerted the congregation of Corinth to this judgment of the
Lord. Due to their irreverent manner of celebrating the Lord's Supper, God
placed His severe judgment upon that congregation. Many of the Lord's people
in that congregation were sick and dying as a direct result of the Lord's
The Bible does lay a direct link between sin and God's judgments in
sicknesses. In Ex. 15:26 God says, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the
voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and
wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put
none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians:
for I am the LORD that healeth thee." Again, in Deut. 28 God details His
judgments of all kinds of sicknesses when the people disobey His holy laws
(see especially vs. 21-22; 27-28). I feel that we don't often enough lay
this link anymore. Paul did and so did James in James 5:15-16.
Those are God's general principles and we would do well to acknowledge them
in our thinking about sicknesses. However, we must not make the mistake
that Job's friends made when they saw Job's affliction and immediately
conclude that he had done some great sin. We know that God in his case
wasn't affliction Job for a particular sin issue. Therefore we need to be
very careful when we draw our conclusions. God can afflict someone for
personal sins but also lead His people through the tribulations to mature
their faith and image of Christ. (Rom. 8:28-29; Heb. 12:5-11)
In the case of your church family, it is impossible for me to give a clear
answer on your question. Yes, it is possible that there are particular sin
issues in your church family that aren't dealt with properly. God will not
bless a congregation where sin issues are ignored. His Spirit will be
grieved and withhold the blessings of the Word ministry. The 'weak' that
Paul spoke can also refer to the weakness in spiritual life. But it is also
possible that God would proceed with the judgments of physical sicknesses as
well as death as the Corinthians experienced. The Lord hasn't changed from
what He said to Israel in Ex. and Deut.
My advice is to wrestle with God in prayer on this particular verse in
Corinthians. Maybe you can share your concerns with your pastor/elders and
ask them also to pray that the Lord would make that clear to your spiritual
leaders. God raised up Paul to address this issue among the Corinthian
church and so God can do among your church family.
May the Lord uphold your church as they face such serious trials of sickness
Back to the questions page
Does God answer the prayers of
Does God answer the
prayers of the unsaved? Because in James 4:3 it says "Ye ask, and receive
not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts." If
unsaved, then it is inevitable that you are going to ask amiss, yet God
invites us to come to Him and ask Him for help etc.
Are there examples in the Bible of God answering prayers of the unsaved? If
we can find even one example of that, your question is answered. In Gen. 4
I do find an example already. God did answer Cain implied prayer when he
responded to God's curse, Gen. 4:13-14. Cain's prayer was even completely
selfish. Later in 1 Kings 21 we meet with ungodly Ahab. After Elijah
brought him God's curse, Ahab humbled himself before God which undoubtedly
included prayer. He heard it and granted him a delay.
How often doesn't the Lord answer prayers like that in our daily life?
People who don't really serve the Lord out of love ask God for help,
protection, jobs, spouse and how often doesn't the Lord answer those
prayers. It speaks about God's infinite goodness that He is willing to
hear and answer our prayers.
The verse that you quoted is dealing with a specific situation James
perceived taking place. The people were fighting and arguing with each
other. In that context they were also praying, perhaps that God would bring
the other down their enemies. Instead of 'praying for their enemies that
they be saved or changed' they prayed that their enemies' cause be defeated
so that they themselves would look good. God rejects such prayers because
the only thing they desire is to triumph at the expense of the other.
Again, God calls us to use our mind to pray to Him. Read Prov 1:20-33. How
can He rebuke them for not having prayed to Him earlier?! That can only mean
that God expects us to seek Him, even when we are unconverted. Besides
nobody's prayers will ever be pure or perfect.
That's why He has given us a Mediator in His Jesus Christ. Through Him
alone can He hear any prayer.
Back to the questions page
God's care for His Church in the dark ages
Question: I was once a very avidly Reformed person. I used to love the
Reformed tradition, and the Puritan model...that was until I began to see
the holes and inconsistencies in the positions held (e.g.the "regulative"
principle is more regulative for some than others). My struggles with these
things has caused me to seriously re-examine many things,including authority
in the Church...
You mentioned in your Belief Statement that the Bible was surpressed for
centuries after the Early Church and substituted for fables, etc.
(I am assuming that you mean by the Catholic Church). I was wondering how
this could be the case when it was the same Catholic Church that affirmed
the Canon, and preserved the Scriptures through the centuries. It is also
interesting that the Reformed Churches "traditionally" hold to infant
baptism often using the argument of the Early Church together with the
Scriptures to make their case. However, the argument from history only goes
back to the 4th century – a time when the Catholic Church was already
supposedly imposing all sorts of fables for people to believe.
If the Church was in darkness for the many centuries between the time
shortly after the Apostles and the Reformation, how do you interpret the
promises of Jesus that (a) He would be with His Church always; and (b) the
Holy Spirit would lead the Church into all truth? Did Christ leave His
Church for those
many centuries when it was in darkness, or was He still there? If He left
the Church, did He break His promise? If He didn't leave the Church, why did
Luther, Calvin, leave?
apology for the late response. An overseas trip put everything back.
Perhaps the difficulty you experience regarding the statements about the
‘church in darkness’ is that you fail to distinguish that there is a
‘visible church’ (all formal church members) as well as an ‘invisible
church’ (all true, regenerated believers). Or simpler, a ‘church with a
small ‘c’ and the Church with a capital ‘C’. These phrases capture the
Biblical teaching that there is ‘wheat and chaff’ in the earthly phase of
Christ’s Spiritual kingdom. With that teaching (see Matt. 13) the Lord
taught that there will be believers and unbelievers within that which He
called ‘the kingdom of heaven.’ That is clearly reflected witnessed at
every stage of the history of the church. In the ages after the Apolostic
Church, the formal Western Church (Roman Catholic) continued as the church.
Less and less, however, were God’s true people (the Church) found among
them. I am convinced that God has reserved his ‘seven thousand’ among them
as well. In the centuries before the Reformation you can read about many
who were true Gospel believers and teachers. Since the political power of
the Roman Catholic Church was unchallenged, these lights were snuffed out.
However, God was at work in the rising nationalism, increased learning etc
to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church. Unable to quench the light
of men like Luther, Calvin etc. because of their curtailed political power,
they were forced to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Neither had the
intention to leave but to reform and return to the pure teachings of God’s
that short survey I answer your questions. God was always, and never left,
His people, the Church, even though the visible or formal church did so
deeply corrupt itself. Even today, there may be true believers found in
Biblically and doctrinally unsound churches. He never leaves His people as
He has indeed promised. But we may never make “His people” or “His Church”
the same as church or denomination.
you will return to the teachings God revived through the Reformation and
later the Puritan teachings. You discovered holes in it and we will
probably always meet with inconsistencies and failures in any interpretation
of God’s Word. But let that not drive you away from Scripture and from the
God of Scripture. I maintain, however, that the pure Reformed teachings
are an accurate reflection of what God teaches us in His holy Book.
Back to the questions page
Women to be submissive.
been reading through Paul's first epistle to Timothy, and have a couple of
questions about some of the ideas Paul sets out. 1)1 timothy 2: Paul is
writing about how the women have to be submissive and modest etc. I
understand all that, it's quite clear cut. But verses 13 to 15 don't make
any sense, especially verse 15, "notwithstanding she shall be saved in
childbearing it they continue in faith and charity and holiness with
sobriety." Does that mean that to be saved you have to have children?
Because that would mean that unmarried or barren women couldn't be saved?
Question (2): Then in chapter 5 it is talking about widows re-marrying and how their age
makes a difference. I was wondering if you could explain what he actually
means, who does or doesn't get married and why, and also if that should
still apply to us today. (after all we still keep to the clothing issue,
women's authority, among others) so why is this not a common issue?
I am taking the time to answer your first question today and the other one a
bit later. I am glad that you are clear about the first part of Paul's
instruction and I am not surprised that you have a few questions about the
last verses in that chapter. They look a little puzzling at first sight,
don't they. Obviously, Paul couldn't mean what you suggested in the last
part of your question (do I need to have children in order to be saved).
The verses 13-15 are to be seen in connection of what goes before it. Paul
is building his case for his teaching in vs. 11-12. He has you already so
convinced that he could have omitted vs. 13-15! But there might have been
a few women in Ephesus who weren't agreeing that quickly. So Paul made his
case, as God's spokesman, of course. There must be a reason why the women's
place in the teaching position within the church was placed off-limit.
There are two unchangeable facts upon which this exclusion of the women in
the teaching position is based.
1. God's creation order. God first made the male and after that the female
as his helper. In other words, he made man to lead and women to follow.
This tendency to follow was imbedded in the soul of Eve by the Creator as
well the quality to lead in the soul of Adam. This order God placed in His
creation should not be reversed or encouraged to be reversed in the public
roles of men and women in the public worship. It is interesting to note
that only when the woman recognizes this basic distinction and gladly
accepts it as God's ordinance, that then she will be a real blessing to her
husband and even will have the beautiful task of shaping and helping her
husband in his task of leadership. Without the wife's involvement, a man or
husband couldn't do his task well. That doesn't mean that unmarried people
are failures or won't be able to fulfill a meaningful role in life. Yet, it
is undeniable that there is something missing as also is keenly felt; it
was even experienced by Adam before the Fall as he doing God's task of
naming the animals. For I am sure that not only God remarked that it wasn't
good for man to be alone but that He also caused Adam to feel that as he
completed God's task of naming the animals.
fall of Eve. After having described this original creation order, Paul goes
on to show what happened when Eve rebelled against this order for her to
"follow" and instead began to "give leadership." Her fall into sin
occurred because she ignored her divinely ordained position. She chose to
lead Adam and she promptly led him into sin. The first statement "Adam was
not deceived" isn't meant absolutely. In some way Adam was also deceived
but he wasn't deceived like Eve was. Adam, as a leader with whom God had
made the covenant of works, knew full well what he was doing but choose to
follow his wife who had overstepped her position at that point. What
before was a blessing (i.e. to follow a sinless husband) now is no longer a
blessing. As one said, "Now she has to obey the creature of her own
designing, a sinful husband." Paul is arguing from this fall that the women
should not seek to reverse or ignore the order of God as established in
creation within the church context. It created huge problems then and it
will do so now as well. So let's continue to obey this Divine order.
In the last verse Paul is still making his case to the women that they
should aspire to teaching position within the church. It will not be a way
to happiness and neither will it be the way to be most useful or successful
as a woman. A woman will not attain to real happiness by forcing herself
into a position that God didn't make her for but by assuming the position
and pursuing the task that God has created her for. If she may continue to
live in the life of faith, love and holiness as a woman or wife, taking her
position and devoting herself to the task God has called women for
(childbearing and child-rearing), then this will not hinder her salvation.
Sometimes super busy moms have hardly time to do anything else but caring
for their busy and demanding families and they may feel they miss out so
much. Yet God encourages even the "stay-home" mothers that if they pursue
their task as women, this will never hinder their personal salvation.
The path of obedience is always the way to blessing. Therefore the best way
for a woman to feel useful and even experience the joy of "leading" (because
that is joyful and privileged task) is by "leading" their children to the
Lord in their daily walk and talk at home. God has given women the task to
"teach" future men from the "bottom up." In other ways, by means of the
upbringing of the child or children that she may bear, she can be greatly
used for the prospering of God's kingdom. Let no mother think that they are
"burying their talents" when they devote themselves to the bringing of their
children, the keeping and managing of the "home-base" (family) and creating
the "harbor of safety and nurture" each home is to be. That's where the
men, as they lead and combat for their families, is to be able to return to
and from there they are to be able to go forth again in the task God
assigned them. Perhaps you may think that this is "demeaning" the women's
value. Far from it. Read Prov. 31 and observe what a multi-sided and
influential woman this virtuous woman is. There is nothing wasted when the
woman devotes herself to her husband and family. What a school also is the
family life to our personal life! A busy mother I know once shared an
interesting thought on this verse: being a full-time mom of a large family
had certainly made her feel her selfishness, rebelliousness, etc. That made
her feel the need for the salvation of Jesus Christ more than anything. So
God used her daily family problems and demands as a way to teach her
spiritually. I don't think that's exactly what Paul had in mind but it is
In the context of the question, it doesn't fit to dwell upon the husband's
task and his absolute vital role in making his wife or woman feel valued and
important. Prov. 31 woman is an ideal picture; no man is will find such a
woman! Indeed, they only become that way by the loving ministry of
husbands. But that falls outside the scope of your question.
For time sake, you need to wait for the second half of the question. Thanks
for your patience.
Back to the questions page
there, I have been struggling lately with the trinity doctrine. I realize
that this makes me a heretic but I have lost faith in it almost completely.
I know vaguely about the history of his rather large controversy and I can't
quite understand something. The Athanasian Creed states; Whosoever will be
saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he
shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship
one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot
be saved. Please, if you would, explain to me from your point of view why
the belief that Jesus is God' is necessary for salvation when from my
perspective belief that Jesus is God Son is enough. He still has been vested
with all power and authority in heaven and earth. (that is except over the
one who vested Him such powers) as the scripture states "The head of every
woman is the man, and the head of every man is Christ, and the head of
Christ is God (the Father).' If he truly has all authority who is able to
stop Him saving one who believes that his is the messiah, The final
revelation of the Father, the Son. Yet still preserves for the Father a
separate and Higher and the only true eternal existence? (The word 'one'
meaning in this context only that Jesus represents his Father perfectly in
Thought and Word and Deed.
Struggling with understanding the Trinity ... that' nothing too uncommon!
Augustine, one of the greatest Bible students, wrote a long row of books
about this subject, probably more complicated that God Himself wrote about
it in the Bible. At the end of the study, he still didn't understand it.
One day, as goes the story, he walked along the beach and saw a little boy
walking with a small cup from the ocean to a little hole he had dug.
Augustine, observing the lad, asked him, "What are you doing?" He
answered, 'I am emptying the ocean into my little hole!" Augustine took
that as an answer on a different issue. Never are we able to comprehend the
things of God with our little puny minds.
The subject of the Trinity is not something God expects us to understand.
He knows that is beyond our comprehension. I also don't understand how God
existed for always. Or how He could make a material universe out of
nothing. Or how He could so love that He sacrificed Himself in His Son for
enemies and attempted murderers of Himself. The list goes on. We aren't
able to understand these things. Let's acknowledge that and let the thought
liberate you and me that we also aren't asked to understand it. That doesn't
mean we can't talk or think about it. To have an inquiring mind is healthy;
to think beyond what you know is stimulating for that's how you learn more.
Yet God ask us to believe in what He has revealed to us. He asks us to
believe His explanation about the origin of the world. He created it, He
said. We can't prove that although there are enough evidences to support
this revelation of God. Search on your internet to "creation international"
or Creation Research Institute" and enjoy learning about those evidences.
Yet, no one can fully comprehend it even thought God's fingerprints are
everywhere to be found. From a "detective viewpoint" nothing is easier to
prove that "God has had His hand in the every aspect of the creation
(design, order, beauty, organization etc.)."With the Trinity it gets more
difficult because it deals with the Person of God Himself. Creation is His
work, something we can see and relate to; even explore or research. With
the Trinity you can't do that. However, there are some
theologians-scientists who find evidences within Creation of the Trinity.
The universe, so they say is composed of a trinity: past, present, future;
matter is composed of a trinity: solid, liquid, gas; space is measured
with height, breath and depth. Take those thoughts for information. I find
it difficult to use them to support the "personalness" of the Divine Being,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches the Trinity.
There are enough resources available for you to find out where and how the
Bible teaches about the Trinity. That's wasn't so much your question. I
take your question to be, "Why is it necessary to believe in the Trinity for
me to be saved? " Your quote of the Athanasian Creed is significant. A
person needs to believe in a personal Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three
distinct Persons in the one God. One reason for stating this is that
evidently Jesus Himself believed in the Trinity! Unless you can disprove
from the Gospel records, especially from John, that Jesus Christ Himself
didn't think that the Son was equal to the Father as a personal God as well
as His clear faith in the "another" (a different One though similar)
Comforter, the Holy Ghost, then you might have a point. Rarely do I see
this question discussed from this angle. Jesus spoke as the Son of God,
Whom He claimed to be and for which assumption He was finally condemned to
die because it was considered blasphemy. Yet He spoke about His Father and
Him sending forth the Holy Spirit to this earth. He equalled His Father and
His love; His Father's sovereign right to judge and He confessed His own
sovereign right to judge. From those statements and assertions I can only
make one conclusion: Jesus Himself clearly considered the Father and Son as
two distinct Persons and later clearly revealed the third Person of the
Trinity. That forms then enough foundation to require His followers to
believe and confess the doctrine of Trinity. He even claims Himself to be
"Jehovah." One of the most shocking moments of self-revelation we often
miss. It was upon His arrest in Gethsemane. When they answered Him who
they were seeking, He answered, /I am!/ Upon those words, they fell
backwards! Ever wondered why? Jesus used there the very words that refer
to Jehovah's name in Ex. 3; the most sacred name to the Jews. The awe and
impression that this temporarily made upon those about to arrest them is
pictured in their falling backwards! For Jesus to make such claim and to
accept the confession of Thomas, "My God and my Lord" in John 20 clinch the
point. He considered Himself God! That's why you and I should if we want
to be His followers.
Why do we have to hold that Jesus is God? Because it takes a Divine mind
and Person to rule over the entire earth! You acknowledge that He has
received all power and authority in heaven and earth. Unless that One has a
divine ability to rule such a large place and hear the millions of prayers,
rule over the myriad of details, even the hairs on our head and the sparrow
on the housetop, who could do that unless you have a Divine ability. No
human person, no matter how exalted his position be, is capable of
maintaining and governing this world. His authority doesn't mean that He
change things at His will. Your suggestion that "no one is able to stop Him
from saving one who believes that He is the Messiah but not God" gives me an
uncomfortable impression of your view of the Lord Jesus. He is no way is a
"independent-minded Child" Who will do it His way even though His Father may
not agree with us. Let's never think of Him in such a light. "I rejoice to
do thy will" was the motto of His heart. And I am sure it is still that way.
You are right that the Son is the highest and fullest revelation of the
Father. Heb. 1:1-3 will support that view. Also other Scriptures from
John 15-16 can be used to support that view. Those Who have seen the Son
have seen the Father, He said. That's because the Father is an invisible
Spirit and He has made Himself visible in the incarnate Son of God, Who
assumed a human nature. The incarnation is one the greatest mysteries of
the Scripture. How can God and man become the God-man. Let's adore the
Being God, trust in Him and leave the questions which we can't possibly
grasp to Him. I hope I have assisted you somewhat.
Pastor Arnoud Vergunst
Back to the questions page
How do I get rid of an internet addiction?
How do I get rid of an internet addiction?
With any addiction, at least in my former experience with smoking, it
doesn’t seem to work to limit yourself to ‘some slots’ of time when you
allow yourself to be involved in the activity you are addicted to. In your
case of ‘internet addiction’ the easiest is to get rid of the internet so
that the temptation isn’t there for you. This is even more important when
you live alone and therefore has no accountability.
If that is not possible, for various legitimate reasons, I suggest that you
need to establish an accountability system where each day you are going to
be in touch with someone about this issue. If your problem is ‘time waste’
then you need to establish what is a reasonable amount of time to be on the
internet. Each day you need to give account about that to the person with
whom you have made the agreement and establish consequences about your
choices, both positive and negative.
If your problem isn’t only time but content of the internet sites, then in
some sense the same agreement of accountability and supervision needs to be
made. But depending on what you are addicted to, you may need special
counseling to deal with the addiction and above all with the sin-issues.
For, lastly, the addiction problem is above all a sin issue. Both in time
and content we can waste what God gives and walk into areas that God has
clearly forbidden. To give a few thoughts and suggestions from this place
looks simplistic and therefore I suggest you get into touch with the people
in your church that can help you. It is important to be open with them and
seek their help in a genuine way.
conclusion, only God can truly change our heart so that the sin-addictions
will be broken and we come to a complete repentance of that which we have
done wrong. Seek Him therefore together with the use of the means in those
God has placed around you: parents, spouse, spiritual leaders etc.
Back to the questions page
Differences in Reformed Churches
I grew up, there was an NRC, CRC, FRC, Canadian Reformed, Reformed Church of
North America, etc. A LOT (not all)of people from the NRC would not step
foot inside any of those other reformed churches because they believed they
were all easy-believers. Each of those reformed churches uses the exact same
catechism and essentially believes the same things. However, there is a
different emphasis in each church. It is true that the CRC, for example,
believes it is ‘easier' to be saved than the NRC; however, they do NOT
believe that they are going to heaven because they are good people. They
believe that they need to be converted (although that word is not commonly
used in the other churches). They believe that they need to accept that they
are sinners, that they need a saviour, and that Jesus died for their sin if
they will accept that. The difference comes that they are more willing to
accept it than the NRC people are - the NRC sees this as easy-believism and
that is what is extremely confusing to non-NRCers. Non-NRCers believe that
we have a responsibility and the ability to make a choice (just like Adam &
Eve did). The NRC also will say that we have a responsibility, but that is
where I get confused because I not sure what the responsibility is if we
don't have a choice? As I read through the new Testament, I don't know of
any stories where Jesus left somebody confused about whether or not they
were saved and yet I know many NRC folk who are just that. Or they just
decide they aren't but they're going to keep going to church because maybe
God will speak to them one day? Maybe you could clear up some of my
easy to get confused about the many different churches which in theory all
hold to the same doctrinal statements (such as the Heidelberg Catechism,
Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort). Still there are subtle or great
differences between the churches’ emphasis or application of those
doctrines; too many to discuss in the scope of this article. As you
indicated in your question, we do easily stereotype certain churches and put
labels on them that aren’t always accurate. When you then confront or
discuss those finer points of doctrine with the members of those particular
churches, you will discover what you have discovered, i.e. that the
differences aren’t quite that easy to pinpoint in some of the denominations
that are standing quite close to us.
intention isn’t to answer the statements you made about the extent of the
differences between the churches but focus on the heart of your question:
what is our responsibility with regard to salvation? I agree that many are
very confused and your analysis of “that they just decided to keep going to
church with the hope that God will speak to them one day” is to the point.
responsibility is to repent from the sins God identifies through His Word
and believe in His message that He will abundantly pardon us when we return
to Him. (Is. 55:7; Mark 1:15; Acts 13:21) (Did you look up those
verses? If not, do that first!)
are thousands of sins in our life we don’t even see or feel but God declares
His utter displeasure and anger about them in His Word. Also in your life
He sees day and even at night sins and sins. Sin is transgression of His
holy standards and He is “angry with the sinner every day” (Ps. 7:11) As
God points these sins out in His Word (and I assume you are reading His Word
every day not just for information; conscience soothing but for listening to
what He is saying about you and to you!). When we see those sins what does
God require from us to do? He expects us to get on our knees and to
confess those sins to Him. If we don’t feel our sins, He expects us to be
on our knees begging Him to show us our sins, “that which I see not teach
thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.” (Job 34:32) Simply
because we are dead in sin, blind for sin, deaf to His voice, doesn’t mean
we are “off the hook.” It condemns us that we are like that: insensitive to
this great and holy God!
moment I see sin to be sin, I need to get back to God in confession and
seeking for His pardon on all those sins. Do you ever come out of church
condemned by the Word you heard? How foolish to ignore such a summon by the
Judge! You would declare those people a fool who ignore the flashing lights
behind them as they have broken the traffic laws! They won’t escape by
ignoring it. Or those people who refuse to come to court when they are
summoned to do so. They only make things worse. Yet that’s how we are all
the time when it comes to God. Yes, some people say, I haven’t felt it deep
enough and therefore I don’t think I need to respond. How foolish is such a
“respond-ibility” is to respond to God’s call as Judge and turn ourselves in
before His throne as the guilty one. Each time we feel our conscience
speak; each time the Word condemns us … each time! Even if it a hundred
times a day! (Luke 17:1-4) Delaying returning will only make it worse.
When the prodigal son came to himself, would it have helped him to delay to
return to his father? No, he resolved to return and did return in
confession (he even rehearsed it all the way). That’s exactly what David did
in Ps. 32:5. When God brought home his sin (which he trying hard to ignore
for a while) he resolved “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the
LORD.” (Ps. 32:5) He didn’t only resolve it; he did do it. In Ps. 51 he
has recorded how he did it. I have used that Psalm countless times to
confess my sins to God again and again.
God doesn’t only bring the message of the Law to us! He also extends a
personal golden scepter to us that He is “a gracious God, ready to pardon.”
(Ps. 86:5) It is impossible to believe without God’s divine aid that this
is true. To think that God is “ready to pardon” me, after I have sinned so
enormously over and over! Yet He is and He declares it over and over to us
in His holy Scriptures. He has written it personally on your forehead when
you were baptized: I am the GRACE-GOD and I promise you that if you will
return in the way of repentance and faith I will abundantly pardon you.
Multitudes of people struggle to believe this; they conclude that God is
only willing to pardon “good people or His people.” For sure, God speaks
about His people in the Scripture but in the general call of the Gospel He
extends to every hearer of the Gospel in this world His golden scepter of
people think they have somehow to overcome God’s unwillingness to save them
so they work hard, try to do better, be humbler and holier etc. But isn’t
grace sovereign? Sovereign means that He didn’t take either merit or
demerit in consideration when He declared I will be merciful to whom I will
be merciful. (Rom. 9) Friend, God is speaking to us in His Word and
through the preaching of the Word every time when you read it or hear it.
And He is saying, “Return, oh children of men, return!” Deep down many
people think that God is somehow “hostile” to them and therefore they have
to win Him over. The thought is blasphemous! It our unwillingness and
hostility that is the problem. As He calls us and assures us in Is. 55 that
when we return to Him and will abundantly pardon, do you think He means it?
prodigal son didn’t know his father when he thought that he could never be
son again and therefore begged to be “servant.” In that parable the Lord
Jesus exposes exactly our darkness of understanding about God! We don’t
know God either and can’t believe that He would pardon and reinstate us into
the very position as sons and daughters we once enjoyed before that dreaded
Fall in Paradise.
responsibility is therefore not only to repent but to “believe the Gospel
message.” And what is that message: that He will abundantly and
instantly pardon all my sins when I may exercise trust in Him. John
wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God requires
us to act as He acts. When someone comes to us in repentance, we are to
forgive him, even if he comes seven times a day. (Luke 17:3-4). So He will
also forgive even if we come seven times a day. The disciples couldn’t
believe that and therefore asked, “Lord increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5)
many people who struggle under the burden of their sin; under the sense of
the separation from God’s favor; under the condemning sentence of His holy
law linger and linger before they respond to God’s call of grace. Why?
Ultimately it because of unbelief in the message that He is really ready to
mentioned that “many people come to church hoping that God would speak to
them one day.” I hope you are not one of those but let me assure you, the
Lord is speaking to you each time you are in the house of God. He speaks
through His servants and we are called to “hear what the Spirit saith to the
churches.” Never walk out of church again thinking that God didn’t speak
to you. Instead ask “Now what did He speak to me about this morning?”
Never close your Bible saying, “It wasn’t for me; there is nothing in there
for me.” You may not have heard it but He spoke and spoke to you!
responsibility in no way implies your ability; neither does your inability
to respond favorably to God’s law and Gospel in any sense diminish you
responsibility. Instead, focus on your responsibility while you confess and
bemoan your inability. A church is erring when they teach that we have the
ability to respond to God. But a church is as much in error when it
diminishes our responsibility! God grant that the sharp edge of His Word
is never blunted in your church by a vain appeal to God’s sovereignty. The
Lord is holy and just and righteously maintain His demands.
Warmly, Pastor Vergunst
Back to the questions page
Question: My husband is from a very conservative family. They find things to
be very wrong that I was not brought up to be concerned about. Examples:
women don't wear necklaces, you don't discuss business on Sunday, females
absolutely do not wear pants for any reason, etc. To some extent I am OK
with beliefs like these, as they are probably supported in the Bible, but I
don't feel as strongly as he does; it's like his family bases conversion on
these ideas. (Although I know they don't.) And, almost every other family
must think differently--guys are always coming up to him with a "business"
question on Sunday that they need a quick answer on. In other words, I
don't like women wearing pants either, but I don't have a fit because
someone wears them to a car wash, or when they're working in a garden, etc.
And I think necklaces are OK if they aren't your source of pride. etc... I
also realize that if we are brought up to think something is wrong, it is
wrong for us even though it might not be for another. The questions I have
do you, yourself, as a minister, explain in your mind the differences
between people's convictions: how one person who goes to the Lord's Supper
has no problem doing something, but another one who goes thinks it's
absolutely wrong to do that same thing?
the Bible there are those with "weak faith"--who are afraid to do things
that God might punish them for--and those with "strong faith"--who are not
held back by "do's and don'ts". In our NRC church, of course, we are brought
up to think differently! The more do's and don'ts you have, the stronger and
better you are! (or so we seem to think) Please explain this more.
(3)When do we know if something is REALLY TRULY against the Bible? Those who
are against pants, necklaces, hair cuts, etc., can find a verse for anything
they want. They will say, See--the Bible PROVES it is wrong to do
such-and-such. But--When do we really know it IS wrong?
do I know what is my conscience and what is just a "guilty" feeling? For
example, suppose in my mind I was never brought up to think playing CDs of
Psalter music on Sunday was wrong. But my husband isn't comfortable with
it. So, now suppose I am home alone and put such a CD on. To me it is OK,
but I am feeling guilty because I feel I am not supposed to do it...and if I
know it's time for him to come home, I quickly turn the CD player off so he
doesn't catch me. You can develop a "conscience" without really being "God's
voice." How do we know what is REALLY GOD's voice?
this is long, but thanks for any response, Linda
Thanks for your patience. I was overseas for a few weeks and so everything
is catching up. You have brought up a host of issues which in someway all
boil down to one issue: How do I know what is right or wrong in things that
aren't black of white in Scripture? It is clear that we don't have to
discuss what God's will is in issues that He clearly spelled out in His
Scriptures, such as the ten commandments. Yet there are endless areas of
every day life where we need make applications to how we are to live. You
mentioned many little details in which we can differ, such as listening to
CD's on Sunday; wearing necklaces, dress-codes, etc. It is also very true
what you observed that God's people don't always see the same on particular
issues. I personally grew up with a father who displayed the tender fear of
the Lord and yet didn't have any difficulty with particular things that I
myself today find questionable. Yet not for a moment do I doubt my father's
relationship to the Lord. As a child we used to play soccer on the street
with the neighbor children. One time a child of God from within the
congregation called on my father and shared how he was bothered by the fact
that he allowed us children to play soccer on the street. Yet this person
used to be in professional soccer which had become an obvious sin issue to
him. All soccer, even children playing it, was in his view sin! For him
indeed it was, as it reminded him of his former idol. But for my father and
us kids it obviously wasn't loaded like that.
That's also how you are to consider the various differences between the
children of God. According to Rom. 14 there are differences in degree and
understanding of one's faith. The "weak ones" felt tremendously burdened
with particular actions (in Rom. 14 it had to do with eating certain foods
and keeping certain days) while the "strong ones" didn't see any sin
issues. In the end God reveals that the weak aren't to "lord over" the
strong while the strong aren't to 'despise" the weak. We need to learn to
accept differences in areas that are so-called "grey," areas where God has
given us allowance to make individual choices. The issue of wearing a
necklace is one of those. The Bible doesn't condemn necklaces but does
condemn the excessiveness, the pride-issues, the worldliness aspects. Yet
some who may have been excessive and sinful with ornaments, may upon
repentance adopt a very narrow view and seek to enforce that. Their "narrow
view" isn't wrong if it is one of a tender conviction before the Lord but to
enforce it upon others is. So it is with many issues.
Indeed, our consciences are somewhat "shaped " by our upbringing. If you
have always grown up learning that "driving a car on the Lord's Day is sin"
than you probably will experience driving a car to church on Sunday as a
sin. Yet, there is absolutely no Biblical basis for condemning the use of a
car to come to church on Sunday. But again, rather than condemning the
"weak conscience" we are exhorted to show charity and deny ourselves the use
of our liberty. So if some church would be offended if I would come on
Sunday with my car, then I would come on Saturday.
How far do you go to give in to all the various demands or views people
around you have? That's is tough question. It is my observation that the
"shallower the spiritual life becomes, the more the rules multiply in a
church." That was already in the Bible times. The Pharisees had an
exaggerated amount of rules but their religion was ultra-shallow; basically
they had no true devotion to the Lord. Sadly, we see that today again, even
in our own churches. People live by certain 'rules' but have no idea why
(as you indicated in your letter) and still they feel somehow better or good
because they at least keep the rules. It is hard to live with such people
and then your question, how far do you go to please them, is best answered
with another question, "What would the Lord Jesus do in such a case?"
Interestingly, He usually denied Himself His liberty and accommodated
Himself to the current expectations. Yet He also purposely exposed their
shallowness and insincerity, hypocrisy and partiality. He did that through
teaching as well as through living. Eventually He caused the Pharisees so
much discomfort, as His works and words testified that all their religion
was evil, that they crucified Him. So what application to your case? Since
you have promised to be under the headship of your husband, you also are to
respect him in that and deny yourself the liberties that you may feel you
have personally. That doesn't mean that you have to agree with him in every
aspect and I encourage to discuss with him the Biblical basis that we need
to establish for what we do. It is absolutely not enough to say "We do or
don't do this because my family always or never did." We need to be able to
formulate our convictions for why we do certain things on God's Word.
For example, your Lord's Day keeping. Go to Nehemiah and study the last
chapters to glean something about the question of discussion business issues
on Sunday; study Is. 58 to consider what God's will is for the Sabbath
day; trace all the instances of Jesus' actions and activities (He went for
a meal in a Pharisees' house on the Sabbath day!) and distil from it how He
kept the Lord's day; etc. After all such study, you need to reflect and
formulate together how you both will fill in your Lord's day. Nobody can
exactly dictate the details but God has given us the broad principles that
are to govern the Lord's Day. The same goes for dress-code issues;
ornaments etc. I refrain from sharing my personal convictions on these
matters because it is you both that need to define the Biblical positions
you are to make.
With regard to the "guilt feelings" you may have, again Linda, you need to
examine those against God's Word. Some guilt feelings are unreasonable. I
sometimes feel guilty to take off some time for relaxation but that isn't
reasonable because God even patterned the whole cycle of days and nights,
seasons as well, for times of rest and refreshments. Yet our culture can
make one feel guilty when one chooses not to be so busy with business,
work. You shared feeling guilty because you listened to a CD on Sunday
while your husband isn't home; you felt sneaky. That guilt is real because
you are in somewhat disregarding the will of your husband (even though your
husband may be unreasonably). If you do it behind his back, I suggest you
don't do that. Rather, share that you respect his opinion but would like to
review it Biblically and that you both need to come up with a different
solution both can be happy with. But never go behind your husband's back.
It creates a rift in your relationship and erodes trust. So, I hope I have
given you a few guidelines and thoughts. It is complex and the issues you
raised aren't simply to be answered with more rules. Some years ago I
preached through the Biblical principles about dress-codes. One member
responded with sharing the appreciation but also shared that is much easier
to have defined rules given by the leadership. Yet, the Scripture's
principles are clear but the details aren't specified. This makes God's
Word applicable to every culture where the Lord brings His Word. That's
God's wisdom. What works in the West wouldn't necessarily work in the East.
May the Lord bless you both with wisdom.
Back to the questions page
community the difference in men and women's clothing has become of so much
of an importance the wearing of pants is often seen as a reason women should
not be allowed to go to the Lord's Supper. (In the community's opinion)
Though I realize that in Deuteronomy 22:5 "The woman shall not wear that
which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment:
for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." Yet in the same
chapter concerning dress code it mentions "Thou shalt not wear a garment of
divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together" (Deuteronomy 22:11) I would
like to know why we adhere to the one and not the other since there is no
direct command given in the New Testament about either of these issues? The
only caution in the New Testament concerning dress code I can find is to
dress decently, which I find can often be found in woman wearing pants as
well as skirts, so why has this clothing issue become such a big deal in our
It seems clothing always continues to be a very contentious subject. I am
afraid far more contentious than the Lord would want to make it for us. It
is obvious that clothing styles keep changing with the ever restless minds
of mankind. However, God's principles laid down in Scripture are not
changing. From Scripture I have gleaned the following principles that
should guide us in clothing ourselves. 1. It needs to be concealing our
nakedness and sexual attractiveness to the other race rather than
revealing. In Gen. 3 Adam and Eve made themselves loin cloths but the
Hebrew indicates that God made coverings that covered the body from neck to
lower legs. So when we choose our clothing, we need to keep this principle
in mind, both men and women. Tight clothes, skimpy coverage and sensually
stimulating aren't according to God's fashion. We need to clothe so that
we help the other person not to sin by being sexually stimulated in their
thoughts. Don't forget to include this principle also when you think about
the issue of the women's slacks because (tight) slacks are sexually tempting
to males. Yet, in all honesty, there are also activities in which a regular
dress would be immodestly revealing and then you could say that slacks are
better again. Most of our people would hold that opinion when it comes to
yard work, or helping on the farm, or even those women-nurses who work in an
Here is nice quote from a Puritan: /If the women don't do their best to
avoid being a snare, then they are somewhat responsible. You must not lay a
stumbling block in their way nor blow up the fire of their lust. You must
walk among sinful person as you would do with a candle among straw or
gunpowder or else you may see the flame which you did not foresee when it is
too late to quench. /I know families where the girls are never allowed to
wear slacks but they are allowed to wear short skirts, tight blouses,
low-neck lines etc. They may feel good about nor allowing slacks but they
certainly miss the point! 2. It needs to be gender-distinctive. The verse
in Deut. 22 you quoted is not always well understood. Notice that God adds
to this verse the word "abomination." In Scripture this always refers to
something of horror, detestation, loathing. It is used 117 times in the
Bible. God has marked the following sins with this word: idolatry (Deut.
7:25), sexual perversion (Lev. 18:27), occult and witchcraft (Deut.
18:9-14), human sacrifice (Deut. 12:31). Looking at those passages, it
seems clear to me that far more is meant in this verse than a female putting
on a male clothing or vice versa. Comparative study of the words "that
which pertaineth" reveals that it is used to refer to the "things of a man
or woman" such as armor, instruments, weapons, tools and clothing as well.
Thus it seems to point to the various things used in different occupations.
Therefore I agree with those who see this verse as forbidding the sex-role
reversal and even more, transvestism. Transvestism is when a male begins to
act and live like female and vice versa. Today even surgeries are performed
to make such reversal even more physical. Mostly this was associated with
homosexuality, fertility rites and idolatry. Seen in that light, it is
clear why the Lord adds the word "abomination" to this practice. God has
stamped upon human nature a definite distinction in the different sexes and
has created "feminine and masculine" (as it literally states in Gen. 1).
This uniqueness of the male and female personhood is also expressed in
various occupations, use of tool and equipment (some need great use of
muscles) but also in clothing style. That doesn't mean, however, that this
verse has nothing to say about the differences of male and female clothing.
Our clothing should remain gender distinctive in such a way that it always
clear whether you are a male or female. Erasing those distinctions would be
a transgression of this commandment. The common argument used that today's
women's slacks are totally different than men's slacks isn't the point. In
the Bible times there was probably less distinction in the male and the
female robe. To maintain, however, that the wearing of slacks by a woman is
breaking this commandment, seems also unrealistic. Our clothing should
never cause "confusion," or hinder the identity of the male or female; we
should never seek to blur the line of distinction. The way this is done is
somewhat culturally bound. When Moses wrote Deut. 22, the people were
wearing skirt-type of clothes yet both were also wearing distinctive
ornament of head-dresses, jewelry and especially the males would have
beards! So Deut. 22:5 forbids creating such confusion in clothing,
occupation, roles which would lead to a sex-reversal, thereby overturning
God's created order.
3. Clothing should be sober and functional to the occasion (1 Tim. 2:9-10;
1 Peter 3:14) The priest wore special clothing while serving in the
Tabernacle; he didn't wear this at home however. So there is clothing
fitting for work, weddings, funerals, offices etc. Yet of course, they are
to agree with the first two principles.
4. Clothing is governed by the law of charity (Rom. 14:13-17) Most people
have a hard time obeying this command of God. Scripture doesn't always
define exact lines of acceptable and unacceptable. That's also true in the
clothing issues. Yet charity will do everything not/never to grieve or
offend a weaker brother in the faith. Charity will impose a severer law
upon self and allow larger indulgence to others. So sometimes I need to
deny myself a right in order to serve others. So if in your church family
community slacks remain an hot issue, then you owe it to your church family
to not push your own point. I don't mean to say with this that
female-slacks isn't a real issue but that you are also to be guided by your
surroundings. In Fiji-culture, all men walk with some long skirt while
women wear a different type of skirt. If in that community it would be an
offense if I would walk with normal slacks, what do you think I need to do
if I live among them? So, these are a few thoughts on this difficult area.
Your question about the different textiles, and later about the different
sorts of seeds that couldn't be mixed, isn't clear. In the seeds mixing,
the Lord may have cared about the development of hybrids but I don't really
know. Yet is noticeable that the "abomination" isn't added to either of
these commandments. What was an abomination to God in the OT is still an
abomination because it deals with the laws of holiness.
Pastor Arnoud Vergunst
Back to the questions page
What is the background for the "leprosy laws"?
In Leviticus 13 God is giving the
laws concerning leprosy to Israel. But instead of talking about leprosy it
talks about a leprosy (v 8,15). Does that mean that leprosy is a synonym for
disease (i.e. a generic term for unclean scabs/boils etc)? But then it also
talks about a plague of leprosy. Does that mean that there are different
types of leprosy? And what was the difference, why sometimes they had were
unclean, and sometimes they weren’t? What is the "background" for these
I don't profess myself an expert on any of these detailed laws of leprosy
and the many other Mosaic details on diseases. Yet as there are many
varieties of cancer which ultimately are still all the same disease, so
there may have been different forms of leprosy. At least it appears that
there were different stages of development in leprosy. From what I have read
elsewhere, I don't think you must consider leprosy' as a generic term
for boils and scaps, warts and other skin irritations. Leprosy was
definetely a disease on its own. It is still very found in countries like
India where there are leprosy colonies. Modern medicines has diagnosed it
but I don't think has found a definite cure for it. Recently I read a book
by a late leprosy doctor who did have quite a succes rate in treating and
helping leprosy sufferers. God chose leprosy also for spiritual reasons. The
disease makes a person's body 'slowly rot away.' It cause ligaments to fall
off, noses to be eaten away and the leprosy suffers smells like death.
Perhaps because of the nature of the disease did the Lord select this one as
a spiritual representation of what sin does to us. Eventually the leper was
excluded from normal society, even separated from wife and children. Isn't
that a picture of what ultimately sin will do to us? It will bring us into
hell where we will share the same fate in the same place without any real
connection or comfort. The only way a leper could completely be cured was
by God Himself; a miracle would have to take place. Jesus healed many
lepers and that was clearly a message in itself also. Again, that
illustrated the message of the Bible! Only God is able to cure the
sinner; nothing of man comes into this. It is all His grace, His power, His
Spirit, His blood and His thought! Soli Deo Gloria.
What is interesting about these leprosy laws is something that we didn't
discover till the late 1800's! How did Moses know that leprosy is
contagious but only 'airborne.' Not by touch but through the sneezing or
even breathing. God told the leper to cover his mouth and nose with his
hand and cry 'unclean' when someone come too close! You know why God
commanded that. Moses had no clue that there was a medical reason to this
hand! It provides us with another powerful proof of the Divine inspiration
of Scripture. God's Word is about 3500 years ahead of modern science!
Back to the questions page
The Love of God
was wondering after your sermon on the love of God, how can he, being such a
loving God, let so much misery be in the world, i.e.: child abuse. B/c these
children are brought into this world as victims of abuse... living with it
all their lives? Also if God loves everyone. How can this love flow over to
What a tough question you asked! Still, I understand these questions. They
come up in my heart also. There are many things that "don't seem fair" in
this life. You mentioned one little aspect (though not at all a little
issue) of the many aspects where such like questions can be stirred up. The
list is endless (hungering children, dying of AIDS, living and dying without
hearing the Gospel etc.). Naturally, when we look at these things from our
"human perspective" then the question you asked seem so right. Years ago
someone asked the question from the other side: how come there is so much
good in this world? Let's face it, in many lives the good outweighs the evil
things in life (or did I grow up in too limited a circle!?) Yet nobody seems
to sincerely question that aspect of our reality but almost take it for
granted. However, in the light of the sin and rebellion which fills this
world, isn't that actually a greater wonder. I know that doesn't really
answer the question as yet, but it does bring in another angle to the our
thinking. The Lord's tender mercies are multiplied to such a larger extent
than His acts of justice in this life. The prophet Habakkuk begged the Lord
to "remember mercy in His wrath." (Hab. 3:2) The Lord is doing that. His
acts of mercies outweigh His acts of righteous and holy displeasure. He is a
long-suffering God which means that He, humanly speaking, will suffers long
before He acts. God doesn't love "abusers" or even "sinners" but He loves
His creatures. That sounds like the same and yet I think it is different. He
hates sin; is angry with the sinner everyday and will punish any sinner who
doesn't repent from his or her sin with punishment, in this life and the
after-this-life. Still He cares and loves in His general love all His
creatures. I can be livid with my child when he or she does something
abominable yet I love my child intensely though I will never approve or
condone bad behavior. I will punish it severely if it is necessary. The
Almighty acts like this in perfection where we as humans may ultimately
totally fail as sometimes parents can't say anymore that they love their own
misbehaving or rebellious children.
it comes to all the suffering, and especially such suffering which is
imposed by adults upon children or those in power pon the weak and poor, it
is easy to question God's ways. Why would He allow an adult to mess up a boy
or girl through sexual abuse? Indeed, such an abused person often is too
weak to resist perpetual abuse and even may marry an abuser or become an
abuser. The cycle seems so endless and the question so natural, "Why doesn't
the Lord of love stop this or prevent this?"
because He is justly punishing this creation for rejecting Him? We tend to
forget that this world is cursed because of our rebellion in Paradise. We
are living in a world which *we *have destroyed and we continue to destroy
through sin. God's judgments are revealed against sin and one way His anger
is revealed is that He allows people to sin. In Romans 1:18ff Paul indicates
that the Roman society is so lewd and evil because God gave them over to do
such things after they have rejected the obvious. It is His act of justice
gives a society over like this. So ultimately we are to be blamed for
causing our own problems. Our sins also affect our children and those around
us. Does that mean that He is neutral to such actions? Far from it! His
displeasure and His anger will be felt by those who have committed sin and
in His way He will visit their iniquities upon them. If not in this life, it
will be in the after-this-life.
sometimes allows sins to bring out a greater good. He permitted Adam and Eve
by His decree to sin. Yet it formed the occasion for Him to reveal His
greatest glory in the love of the gift of His Son. Could He have thought out
a different way? Paul confronted such reasoning or questions with "Nay but,
O man, who are thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to
Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20) God can use
the terrible pain of abuse to bring a person to Himself. I know a few cases
where such pain has been blessed spiritually. Without pain we will ignore
the dangers we are in and isn't that also true spiritually. In no way does
that make the evil of abuse any less; never must we lean toward minimizing
the evil of certain deeds by the good that comes out of it. Yet there are
people who "bless the Lord for the affliction He send them or allowed to
take place" for it was His way of teaching them.Your last question isn't
very clear (How can this love flow over to these abusers?). I assume you
meant "How are we to show love to these abusers?" then my answer is by 1)
confronting them with their horrific sins (Luke 17:3) and 2) if he or she
repents, we need to show forgiveness in word and deed. God pardons sinners
and put their sin away. He will never forget it but He doesn't dwell on it
anymore; He cast those sins into the ocean of His love. It is very difficult
for us to do that, especially in cases of abuse. Still, the only way to heal
the abuser is to lead him or her to the cross and to show that love in our
own actions. Many abused continue to harbor hatred and anger. Does that
help? It continues "abuse" in a different form and makes for bitterness. It
doesn't resolve anything. Therefore the Lord directs us in His Scripture to
deal with it and to pray for the exercise of love. These are some of the
initial thoughts I like to share upon your questions. Feel free to respond
with other questions.
Back to the questions page
Why Don't we know when we will die?
did the Lord did not say in the Bible when we are going to die?
There might be several reasons why. The Bible would be huge if all the
people's names and details of birth and death would have to be recorded.
Secondly, if He would tell you that you are going to die on September 9,
2045, how do you think would that improve your life? I think you would be
very careless and be entirely self-focused instead of mindful that you are
here only briefly and that this life needs to be lived to His glory.
Notice what the absence of many deaths did to the first world (before the
Flood). Since so few people died (as they all became so old) there was very
little impression of God and our purpose left. The world became very evil.
Therefore it is better that we don't know when we are going to die but that
it is possible that today it may the last day. You might say, "That spoils
my day as I dread dying." Indeed, most people think that so they drown out
the thought of dying by busily living, partying, amusing or simply denying
the reality. Others are frantically seeking to appease the anger of God
they may feel in their heart because of their sins. Such focus on pleasing
Him to earn His favor. That's also a dead-end street because we can never
earn God's favor. The only way that the dread of death can be taken away,
which also enables us to truly enjoy each day that God gives us, is to be
reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul, the apostle, knew
that death was going to be gain for him, instead of loss. The reason:
because for him to live was Christ! (Phil. 1) John Mason commented,
"Death for a Christian is putting of the rags for robes"!
God hides the exact date of your death so that you will use each day to be
prepared. If you are not prepared today, it will not help you to be
prepared if you would know when you would die. It would only make you
careless and procrastinate. Therefore death will be terrible for him who
doesn't die daily in his thoughts. In other words, when we don't live
consciously knowing that this could be our last day, than we live very
Someone remarked, "Though you may have been nearer death (in your own
understanding; because of a close accident) than you are now; yet it is
certain death was never so near to you as it is now!" So let us think of
death not as though we were living but as though we were dying, for that is
actually the reality.
Am I morbid (i.e. preoccupied with death)? Far from it. I enjoy each day
as I receive it from the Lord. He calls me to use this day for His glory
and for the service of those around me. I must focus on what is right and
may enjoy the things He gives us so richly and abundantly. Still, it is
good and profitable to remain mindful (and God surrounds us with those
reminders) that we are not here to stay forever.
Back to the questions page
How does a calling for the ministry come?
How does a calling for the ministry come? Can you have a calling for the
ministry when you are not saved? If I do not deceive myself I may believe
the Lord has done something in my life but I can not speak of a Christ
knowledge, how can I then teach people with such little knowledge of the way
God calls His servants to the work of the ministry by drawing the heart to
this work as well as giving them the direction from His Word. Besides,
there also must be an 'aptness to teach' in other words, God will equip His
people with the abilities necessary to do the work of the ministry. Not
everyone who may possess saving grace, is necessarily fitted to be an
office-bearer within His visible church.
So the desire for the ministry is something that the Lord lays in the heart
of His people. Without that inner conviction and longing to give yourself
for this task, there would be something vital missing. Paul wrote to
Timothy that "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good
work." (1 Tim. 3:1) Not only is it a good thing but also a necessary thing.
However, everyone who has experienced the grace of God may feel this desire
in his heart. Even female believers may experience a desire for this but
know that this isn't God's will for them as He hasn’t reserved that task for
them. Therefore God's servants also can relate that God spoke to them about
this calling through His Word. To go without such a Divine direction, we may
be running without a warrant. Therefore in one way or other God will
through His Word either direct or confirm that this heart's desire is His
calling. Let this be your chief business therefore at the throne of grace.
Never place yourself into this way until you are fully convinced that it is
God's will for you and your life. I will never forget how my pastor
directed me at the time that I struggled with knowing if this was God's
will. After having related to him my feelings and struggles, looking at me
calmly, he said nothing. I asked him, "What do you think?" and his answer
was basically, "It doesn't matter what I think! You have to convince me
that you feel that God has called you to the ministry. It is not my task to
convince you that it is." With that I could go home. To be honest, I was
very upset with him and didn't think he was good pastor. Later I learned
that his answer was the best and wisest. This calling is something between
you and the Lord. Therefore, Joe, you need to be assured in your heart that
God has called you and is sending you forth to seek to attain to this
Lastly, God speaks through His providence. If He has destined you to be a
'pastor and teacher' He would also have given you the certain abilities to
take up this task. Not everyone has the qualifications of character to be a
pastor. I am going to refer you to Brakel's books, entitled The Christian's
Reasonable Service. He has a very instructive chapter on the calling to the
Lastly, your question about a "Christ knowledge." From what I understand of
your question is that you have hope that a work of grace has begun in your
heart. Yet you feel yourself so poor in the understanding and assurance of
the work the Lord Jesus. That is the heart of the Gospel message.
Therefore I suggest you to 'set yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus as
Mary of old.' Let it be your specific prayer that the Lord would reveal
Himself more and more to you personally. The Lord made His apostles
"witnesses" and only 'witnesses' can give a more trustworthy testimony of
the message they must bring. That doesn't mean that all God's servants need
to have an experiential knowledge of every aspect of what they preach
about. But to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great work
of atonement etc. cannot be missed in the personal experience of the
preacher's heart. Paul's prayers in Eph. 1:16-23 and 3:14-21 are beautiful
prayers to be exercised with as it regards exactly your need.
So dear Joe, wait on the Lord in fervent prayer, listening for His answer in
the Word preached and read.
Pastor Arnoud Vergunst
Back to the questions page
that the name is Reformed Congregations (plural) know that there is a church
in Carterton. My question is: are there also other congregations in New
Zealand within this denomination? Do you try to start up something else?
Hi Mark, You observed this very well. About 25+ years ago, when they
decided on the name of this church, it was decided to put into the plural as
an expression of the faith that the Lord would use this congregation as a
means to plant other like-minded church fellowships within NZ. To this date
that hasn't happened but we recently we have had a survey within our
congregation and a good follow-up discussion about this. As a congregation
we are convinced that there is need for us to evangelize and have given that
a form in various ways. One of the suggestions at the meeting was to
schedule a Sunday service in an area, advertise it and lead a worship
service to see if there is any interest. Personally I don't think that is
the most effective way but I am willing to try this. Perhaps in the future
several of our families can be nucleus of a new fellowship in a certain
area; or we can actually support someone to do church planting work as an
I hope this answers your question. Have a wonderful day!
Back to the questions page
How to deal with prejudices
I had my parents listen to Dr. Murray from Scotland one night to see what
they thought of him. Our sermon was on Why it's good to go to a Funeral. It
was a very serious sermon and it seemed to be based on the NRC truth. The
only thing my dad could get out of the sermon was that the minister didn't
speak enough about the work of the Holy Spirit. My mom who walks the life of
a believer liked the sermon and would love to hear more from him. I'm
wondering what to say to my dad. He cuts down ministers from the NRC
constantly. The only thing he can get out of sermons is to find something
wrong. What do I say to him when he cuts another minister down with out
being disrespectful to him? And WHY does he do this? Shouldn't we be
listening to a sermon to get something out of it instead of cutting it down?
I listen to a sermon to try to get something out of it and when I listen to
Dr. Murray I try to apply it to my life, but every time my dad slams him and
all ministers I get discouraged and do NOT know what to do. Please help!
How difficult to have your dad react like that. Ultimately only one Person
can cure him from his hyper-critical attitude. Many people listen through
their own filters to God's Word rather than in the Berean attitude of
searching the Scriptures whether the things they heard were God's truth.
The "mental filters" are prejudices. Even Nathanael had one, "Can anything
good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46) By that attitude he nearly
lost the opportunity to meet with the Lord Jesus Himself. But notice how
Philip responded to this put-off attitude? He appealed to Philip with "Come
and see." There is no point arguing with your dad. The more you argue and
debate, the more he digs in his heels to maintain his position. Only
sharing with him "Come and see" as you did by inviting him to listen to the
sermon of Dr. Murray. Undoubtedly Philip prayed that Nathanael's heart
would be changed when he would meet the Lord. Only the Lord Himself could do
it and He did it!
Mental filters became part of us from the day of our fall into sin. Our
minds are darkened to the truth of God's character and to the value of His
Word. Education (which preaching is) can strengthen that kind of
prejudice. Every unregenerate mind will make misapplication of the best
sermons. Even Jesus' sermons were rejected by the unregenerate mindset of
the hearers! Those regenerated also continue to struggle with various
'mind-sets" that may take years to undo. I don't know whether your father
knows of saving change of heart but if he doesn't, than that explains the
major reason of his attitude.
Another fact is that many people love the sermons that focus on the
description of the work of the Holy Spirit because it leaves them rather
undisturbed. The sermons of the prophets, as well as the Lord Himself and
His apostles, is essentially very confrontational. It is a hammer and a
fire as Jeremiah mentions. When well and truthfully preached it hurts and
pierces. Hosea speaks about the "hewing of the hearers with the Word."
(Hewing is what you do with an ax!). That kind of a message makes the
unconverted very uncomfortable and therefore the only way to remain
'comfortably unconverted" is to choose to listen to sermons that are
"descriptive of the work of the Holy Spirit." Now, don't take me wrong,
such sermons in which the essential work of the Holy Spirit is traced and we
are examined as to whether there is a saving work within us, are very
important. We are easily deceiving ourselves and building our hopes on
sandy foundations. But such sermons aren't to be preached every Sunday. Our
guide for preaching is God's Word and the balance within that Word is to be
balance of our messages.
Back to your question, keep doing what you are doing. God's Word and Spirit
are the only way your father's heart can be changed. Pray that the sermons
he hears may be blessed; his eyes be opened; his prejudices taken away; his
heart be humbled to acknowledge that he was/is wrong.
You are right in your attitude of listening to learn instead of to
criticize. The critical attitude of always finding what is wrong or missing
will make one entirely miss the blessing. No minister's sermon is ever
going to be perfect or says everything there is to say. A sermon is the
expounding of one passage of Scripture and the Holy Spirit can use a sermon
on how to parent children to convert a man and convince him or her of her
sins. Too many people think that only when the work of the Holy Spirit in
how God converts His people is going to convert people. Such a mindset is
extremely narrow and indicates a great misunderstanding of the work of the
Holy Spirit. Your poor father misses many a jewel of truth brought out in
the sermons because of that filter. God alone can take that filter away
from him. So, keep sharing but also keep praying for him.
Back to the questions page
Problems about the Lord's supper
church we had Lord's Supper recently. Usually I wear a sober dress and
straw colour hat. As I was preparing for the Lord's Supper, I was thinking
about the expectation there is in our congregation to wear black, especially
when we attend the Lord's Supper. I decided not to because the Lord's
Supper isn't a sad but joyous occasion. Still, someone afterwards made a
nice comment about it to me and pointed out from a Dutch book that we should
wear black during the Lord's Supper celebration. What are your thoughts
don't personally know what the reason is that our Dutch fore-fathers
stressed the necessity of black. In one of the Dutch Psalms it uses the word
"black" where our English uses "mourning." Ps. 42:9 "Why go I mourning
(Dutch, black) because of the oppression of the enemy?" Perhaps that is the
Scripture background of their emphasis on black. Black is my least favorite
colour! Yet that's what we are expected to wear since it is a colour of
dignity which to some extent is so even in the general public's eye.
Does that mean, however, that we need to wear "black" as believers,
especially at the occasion of a joy? For you are right that the Lord's
Supper is the pre-marriage supper. The Puritans referred to it as the
"engagement meal" of Christ and His people. That is an occasion of joy;
not a funeral or a time of mourning. Therefore I don't agree that we need
to wear black at the Lord's Supper as if we are to emphasize that we are
mourning. The death of the Lord Jesus is a cause of joy, rather than
grief. Our sins are the reason we need to mourn but isn't the Lord's Supper
emphasizing the forgiveness of these sins? Isn't that an occasion of joy?
The joy I am speaking about it not a trivial or jovial joy; it is the
spiritual joy which flows from feasting on the truth that He gave His life
for my sins and also that He is committed to love me in spite of all my
shortcomings. That's no reason to hang down the head but to "be glad, ye
righteous, and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart" (Ps. 32:11).
Therefore it is not necessary to change your hat to black when it comes to
the Lord's Supper time. Isn't every church service "holy" as we are in the
presence of God and His angels? Is the Lord Jesus "nearer" in the service
where the sacrament is administered than in the service where it is not?
Do we also wear a black hat when it is baptism? The answer is obvious. He
uses the sacraments to visibly display what He audibly makes known through
the preaching. Therefore I find it objectionable when people change their
clothing habits when it comes to the Lord's Supper. I know that people
don't mean it hypocritically but for "outsiders" it does seem like that. It
can also contributes to an unhealthy spiritualism surrounding the Lord's
Supper which often becomes a hindrance in the celebration of the truths
which are there displayed and sealed.
That doesn't mean to say that we shouldn't have "Sunday clothing." Farmers
wear overalls on the farm; police have their uniform for their job. We
don't wear a three-piece suite when we go on a hike. Each occasion has its
own appropriate clothing. Therefore I think we need to emphasize that a
church service calls for appropriate clothing which shows respect, an
understanding of the sacred nature of the place and being in God's
presence. When we visit an important person, we clothe for the occasion;
therefore when we meet God in His house, we also are to meet for the
occasion. Your choice of clothing, however, doesn't need to change from the
"regular" Sunday when it the Lord's Supper. It should be appropriate each
The principle which you are to live by is also charity. When people are
offended at your "freedom or liberty" Rom. 14 instructs us how we are to
act. What you did was in my opinion not wrong but if many people are going
to be upset about this, you are to restrain your freedom and not to offend
them. So you might want to ask a few other people within the fellowship on
how they felt about. If people do think you did something wrong, then be
patient with these "weak believers" (as Rom. 14 refers to them) and gently
instruct them in the right principles.
I hope that this answers your question somewhat. Thanks for you question.
Warmly, Pastor Vergunst
Back to the questions page
Circumcision vs Baptism
Question: Where in the Bible can you find support for the idea that baptism
is the NT equivalent of circumcision in the OT? You can find a lot on
support for infant baptism, but not much on that particular point, and if
you can't prove that baptism follows on from circumcision, it makes it a lot
harder to support the infant baptism, because the main arguments for it rest
on the assumption that baptism follows on from circumcision.
Though the reasons to baptize the children of the covenant-church are
various, one of them is indeed that in the NT we find no more the
requirement to circumcise believers and their children. In the OT any male
non-Jew who desired to join Israel, needed to be circumcised to receive the
token of his surrender to the covenant revelation of Jehovah. Think of how
God came against Moses and was ready to slay him because he had omitted to
circumcise his own children for many years to avoid war with his wife.
In the NT we find the example of Cornelius in Acts 10. He was a
"god-fearer" which meant that he worshiped the God of Israel but hadn't
become a formal Jew through circumcision. He didn't follow the Jews in all
their rituals. If he had lived earlier, maybe eventually he might have
because not being circumcised stood as a barrier between him and the God of
Israel. Only those circumcised were regarded as being full members of the
covenant community. But in his case he didn't because Peter preached to Him
the Gospel. After having been filled with the Holy Ghost, he is baptized
but not circumcised.
In the NT meeting in Acts 15, we don't read that Gentiles who repented and
believed the Gospel needed to be circumcised. From other church history
sources we can observe that circumcision entirely disappeared from the early
Christian church. In Galatians Paul opposed false (Jewish) teachers who
were insisting that Gentile believers had to be circumcised. Especially in
Gal. 5:6 and 6:15 the apostles finishes off with this Jewish demand. Also
in the letter to Colossians, where the same pressure was placed on believers
by Jewish teachers, Paul wrote Col. 2:11-12. (I trust you have looked up
the verse...) Paul actually tells them, "You are already circumcised in your
heart (the dying of the old man and the rising of the new man) which is
pictured beautifully in your baptism."
Another line of reasoning is that the "blood sacraments" of the OT are
entirely fulfilled in the blood of the Lord Jesus. Both the circumcision
and the pass-over looked ahead to Christ's shedding of His own blood to
atone for sins. As this has taken place, we now commemorate His sacrifice
sacramentally without the actual shedding of blood.
The fact that in the NT both male and female are equal in the participation
of NT blessings is another argument for the abolishing of circumcision.
Women were not circumcised in the OT but are baptized in the NT. I don't
know exactly the reasons for that but have a few interesting thoughts. But
that's not part of your question.
Lastly, there are many ways in which circumcision and baptism are alike. I
found this helpful comparison in the book by Robert Booth showing that
although there was a change in outward form, there was no change in meaning
when baptism replaced circumcision as the sign and seal of the covenant of
Circumcision and Baptism References
♦ both are initiatory rites Gen.
17:10-11; Matt. 28:19;
signify an inward reality Rom. 2:28-29; Col.
2:11-12; Phil. 3:3
picture the death of old man of sin Rom. 6:3-7; Col. 2:11-12
represent repentance Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Lev.
26:40-41; Acts 2:38
represent regeneration Rom. 2:28-29; Titus 3:5
represent justification by faith Rom. 4:11-12; Col.
represent a cleansed heart Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Is.
52:1; Acts 22:16;
represent union and communion with God Gen. 17:7; Ex. 19:5-6; Deut
7:6; Heb. 8:10
indicate citizenship in Israel Gen. 17:4; Gal.
3:26-29; Eph. 2:12-13; 4:5
indicate separation from world Ex. 12:48; 2 Cor. 6:14-18;
can lead to either blessings of curses Rom. 2:25; 1 Cor. 10:1-12;
Back to the questions page
Election and God's promises
After listening to your sermon about election on 11-4 I am a bit puzzled.
Doesn't Jesus promise that those who seek Him early shall find Him? But if
you are not elected how can He than fulfill this promise?
Yes, Jesus has indeed promised that and will keep His promise. God points
out our duties in His Word and calls us, invites, allures and seek us even
long before we seek Him. (John 4:23). The reason that there is any hope for
any of us to seek Him with confidence is because salvation is completely a
gift of His sovereign grace. God reveals a glimpse of His secret will from
all eternity in the Scripture. In that
glimpse we discover that He has predestinated from all eternity. Who that
will be is not known to any of us. But the rest of the Scripture is God's
revelation of His will for our life as well as His promises toward us.
We are to give heed to that part of His will. He promises that those who
seek Him shall find Him.
Compare it to a house. There is door that gives access to all the beautiful
benefits of being in the house. That door is Christ and He is through His
Word calling you to enter into the house of 'salvation.'
The foundation of this house is God's sovereign election. Without that
foundation not only there would be no house but also nobody would come into
that house. Now our focus must not be on the 'foundation' but on the door
of the house and how to enter into it.
God's sovereign election of sinners is the only hope for us sinners. If we
have to qualify or make ourselves somewhat worthy, there would be no hope
for any of us. Even if it was dependent on our seeking, again, there would
be no hope. We are depraved and as Paul said in Rom.3, "... there is none
that seeketh after God." God makes us seeking and God leads us in our
seeking till we become finders. The comfort (election) doesn't cancel our
duty (to seek). But it encourages us to seek Him.
Back to the questions page
How to put your mind on the Word of God.
Question: How do
you put your mind on good things of the Word of God?
Let me begin with another question: When in school or study, how do you put
your mind on the valuable teachings of the science book or history text?
The answer is that you make a choice to pay attention, or set yourself down
with a book and discipline yourself to focus on those things. If you at
that time have a radio blaring in your one ear, your little brother pulling
on your arm you probably be very distracted. So you pack up your stuff and
find a quiet room.
When it comes to focusing our mind on the good things of God we encounter
even more opposition and obstacles. Satan will marshal all his devices
together to discourage, hinder, distract and plug up our
minds. Our own hearts also can feel like lead and will absolutely resist to
even think about the things of God. Yet as Paul used the example of the
athletes in 1 Cor. 9:24-27, so I would like to do that also. People in
various sports push themselves beyond their limit; discipline themselves to
exercise, place all kinds of restrictions upon their bodies in order to
obtain a corruptible crown. Listening to their stories, you hear how their
muscles object, scream for rest and often they don't feel like doing one
more push; yet they maintain their mind focus on the crown. In that sense,
the children of the world are wiser than the children of light. The world
realizes that nothing will come without effort. Do we also realize that
in the spiritual aspects of life nothing will come without effort? The Lord
Jesus admonished to
labor not for the perishables of this earth but rather to labor for such
things that endure.
In the parable of the sower was a section that was "the wayside." The seed
of the sower bounced off and went nowhere. Jesus described in that soil
(hearers!) a person who has a heard that is "packed down by many
footsteps." That's the person who immerse his mind the whole day to the
stream of "footsteps" of information coming through the various
communication sources. It will be very hard to concentrate such a mind that
is daily immersing itself in such activity on God. Let me add that an
over-stuffed agenda with all kinds of commitments, many which are voluntary
choices, is another way to pre-occupy our mind with the things of this
earth. How hard to pull away our thoughts and focus them on God! So, take
a good look at your daily agenda as well as to what information you expose
your mind all day and everyday! Not too many veggies are going to grow in
my plot if I allow everyone to walk over it all the day.
The way we need to keep our minds focused on God is by disciplining
ourselves to the reading and studying of His Word: /daily sitting at His
feet/. That means we need to schedule the time slot somewhere in our day,
each day for a start. Without that discipline of making an agenda point to
read and study the Bible, it will be pushed off. Secondly, meditate on John
4:23, the last part. It is an astounding revelation the Lord Jesus gave.
The Father is actually seeking such to worship Him! He is the first for
sure. Therefore carry in mind that majestic saying of Luther, "We don't
need to overcome God's unwillingness but are called to lay hold of God's
willingness." He seeks you as sinner that you would worship Him. How
often don't we come dreamily and drearily to the use of the means of grace
instead of anticipating the meeting with a great God. He may for many wise
and just reasons keep Himself distant from us. Mostly because He sees sins
we aren't dealing with. That always destroys relationships and certainly
between a holy God and we unholy creatures. Lastly, remember that God is
seeking such that will worship Him. We are always out to "get something out
of it." Yet our focus ought to be "to give God what He deserves, and that
is worship." Worship is expressed in various ways as singing, praise but
also in repentance and obedience to His holy will.
Hope these thoughts answer your question. May God bless you richly.
Back to the questions page
Eating With Sinners
In 1 Cor. 5:11 Paul writes "But
now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a
brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a
drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." That sounds
strange to me. What does he mean? Jesus eats with sinners, publicans and tax
collectors. (Luke 15:1-2; Mark 2:15-16) What's the difference between eating
in 1Cor. 5:11 and Jesus' eating?
You have to see that direction in the context of the chapter. There is
church discipline case in view. A member of the congregation (a brother) is
living a gross sin (vs. 1ff). Paul is directing the Corinth church to act
Biblically. A person who lives in open fornication cannot be treated with
the same privileges as another brother. We cannot maintain the same
'friendship level interaction' with such a person as if nothing is
happening. Paul said that clearly in vs. 9, "I wrote unto you in an epistle
not to company with fornicators." We are not to maintain a friendship
relationship with sinners. Meals were and in some ways are privileges you
share with friends. Yet he adds in vs. 10 that we should not carry this
into the extreme. There are people you work with who are not Christians.
They are thus not brothers or sisters. They may live worldly as
fornicators. Can you share your lunch with them or have other types of
association with them? Absolutely, for that is exactly what Jesus did also.
The Lord Jesus didn't eat and drink with the publican and sinners because He
approved of their lifestyle. He sought to evangelize them. So likewise Paul
cautions not to stop that type of interaction in vs. 10, "Yet not altogether
with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners,
or with idolaters; for them must ye needs go out of the world."
Paul finalizes to point out again (vs. 11) that with 'brothers who are
living in sin' this approach should not be followed. They should not enjoy
the privileges of friendship (though we always need to remain friendly) in
order that this person may feel how much he is losing by living ungodly.
Paul exhorted like this also in 2 Thess. 3:6 and 14-15.
Hopefully that answers your question.
Back to the questions page
Suitable dress sense
I have a colleague who is getting married next year. She is having problems
finding a suitable dress, because from her church she is not allowed to wear
white, and she has to wear a hat, not a veil. She can't wear cream either,
or any light colour. I was wondering what your position on this is? I
realize that white is a sign or symbol of purity, and that no-one is pure.
But if it's not ok to wear white on our wedding day, then why is it ok to
wear white any other day? And what is the difference between a hat and a
veil? they are both coverings for the head. If anything, I think a veil is
better, the Israelites never wore hats! What do you think?
You are asking for my position on the colour of the wedding dress. I have
no difficulty with a white dress as it is fitting the occasion of the
wedding. Of course, someone could argue that nobody is pure and therefore
nobody should wear white but that's an endless discussion that goes
nowhere. The colour of clothing, or even clothing itself, was never meant
to be an expression of one's standing before God. The choice of colour is
also somewhat culturally dictated. What is acceptable in one culture isn't
in another. In our Western culture, white has been the traditional colour
for weddings and black for funerals. God never dictated a colour of
clothing in the Bible. Of course, as the Bible is written in the culture of
those days, you will also find reflected their culture in the Scriptures.
We would think it `quite` inappropriate to swaddle babies at their birth.
Yet is was very common in the Bible culture. Also, people wailing around
the funeral procession would be frowned upon in the Netherlands; yet it
would be frowned upon if missed in the Bible times. The Bible's principles
about clothing are in brief 1) concealing rather than revealing (that's also
true for wedding dresses and true for males and females) 2) sober rather
than extraordinary (clothing is a badge of our fallen condition) 3) fitting
the occasion (sackcloth wasn't usually worn to a wedding feast!) 4) sex
distinguished (there need to be difference between male and females
expressed in clothing) 5) subject to the law of charity (don't offend your
weaker brother with your liberty). Colour is never dictated anywhere. The
reference to "zwart" in Ps. 42 is a reference to mourning, grief rather than
to the exact color. Therefore I don't think I agree at all with the position
that brides have to be in black or dark clothing. However, I would respect
it if that is an important issue within that particular church your friend
hopes to be married in. Rom. 14 tells me that I need to deny my liberty and
in this case, your friend would do wrong if in that church she would provoke
brothers and sisters to anger with pursuing her liberty in this matter. If
she doesn't want to conform, she should find another church where God's
truth is preached and where this colour of the dress isn't an issue.
Regarding the head covering. That's not a cultural issue but clearly a part
of the expression of obedience to God's order of creation as reflected also
in the church setting. Study 1 Cor. 11 (there has been an excellent series
of articles about this in the NRC Banner of Truth by Rev. Sonneveldt during
2007). My opinion is that the head coverings in our churches have in
general become a fashion item. The simplicity is gone and, I am afraid, for
many it hardly an expression of faith and obedience to God; rather a form.
Indeed, in Scripture they used a veil which was a sort of "hoofd-doek." I
am not sure but we must not imagine them to be the ones you see enforced in
the strict Muslim world. It is curious that on the wedding we still see
the veil on the bride even though even that one isn't quite like in the
Bible times but it tries to reflect that somewhat. You are asking for my
opinion. It doesn't matter to me as long as the head is a covering,
non-provocative, affordable and modest. All these things are outward
things. The most important part of the wedding is not the clothing of the
bride but the spiritual attitude of the both the bridegroom and bride.
Let's not forget that we are seeking the Lord's blessing on our marriage
when we gather together in church. Let there be preparation for that as
Back to the questions page
Question: My husband and I are trying to find out what the biblical view of
tattooing is. Could you please help us out with clarifying the text in
Leviticus regarding them? Some info we've read states that when Jesus died
the OT laws regarding some Jewish traditions were done away with, allowing
them to wear mixed fibers in clothing and have tattoos as forbidden
previously. The website was
The verse in Leviticus 19:28 is clear. I would agree with Matthew Henry
that many of the commandments in this chapter are not ceremonial or social
but applications of the moral laws and therefore permanent. Especially
consider the verses around the one on cutting the flesh and tattoos, you
cannot simply lift out vs. 28 and claim that this one isn’t applicable any
more in the NT times. Observe that vs. 28 is in connection with
enchantments, observing of (astrological) times; the rounding of corners of
the beard was in connection with idolatry. In vs. 28 the Lord is still
dealing with practices which were very common in the surrounding nations.
“making of any cuttings in your flesh” was clearly associated with the
dead. Blood letting was a common ritual to unleash the demonic and
supernatural powers. Because the Lord says that “the life of the flesh is
in the blood” (Lev. 17:11) therefore blood remains highly valued in the
occult world as a power source. As the Scripture next moves to tattoos, the
implication is that tattoos may also be connected to the evil practices in
connection with paganism. Every historian will trace tattoos to religious
paganism. Even today tattoos are heavily found in idolatrous people and
always in connection with false religions. Undoubtedly because of that
association with heathenism and devil worship God forbade tattoos to put on
the bodies of His people. To enforce the obedience God added the words, “I
am the LORD.”
you know that even today, the most common theme in tattoos is death. The
symbols of the skulls, snakes, demons, spiders and spider web, flames and
fire are the most popular symbols.
argument is sometimes raised that tattoos are only forbidden if associated
with death or religious themes. Non-religious tattoos are falling under
this category, such as flowers, names and other rather innocent pictures.
My conviction, however, is that Lev. 19:28 does forbid any tattoo. If you
read the verse then you notice that God connects the cutting of the flesh
“for the dead” but He doesn’t limit tattoos to that but simply states “nor
print any marks upon you.” He doesn’t limit it to association with the dead
but extends it as a general principle. Unger remarked that in Lev. 19:28
there are two prohibitions regarding the disfiguring of the body. The
latter refers to tattooing and has no reference to idolatrous usages but is
intended to inculcate a proper reverence for God’s creation. I agree with
that position even though many tattoos have religious connotations.
Another argument is raised by quoting Is. 44:5 and Ezek. 9:4. It seems
that God there speaks about “marks on the body.” However, the examination
of the original Hebrew reveals that in neither verse tattooing is meant.
The word “printing any marks” in Lev. 19:18 is the Hebrew word “k’thoveth
qa’aqa” which literally means writing that is stuck in.
Tattooing is done by sticking needles into your skin and inserting ink. In
Is. 44:5 the Hebrew is “yichtov” which means will write like
someone who signs a contract. In Ezek. 9:4 the Hebrew for mark is “tav”
which means writing a mark with ink. So neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel is
referring to tattoos.
is another element to consider. God knew what the medical dangers of
tattoos were. We didn’t know this till about 3500 years later! But do you
know that tattoos have been proven to increase the risks of Hepatisis B & C,
tetanus and HIV and even various sexually transmitted diseases. Even in
today’s modern tattooing places, the risks of contracting infectious
diseases is significant. The ultra liberal city of New York banned all
tattooing from their city from 1961-1997 for that reason! The Red Cross
will not accept your blood as a donation for 12 months after you have
received a tattoo. Their guidelines state, “Wait 12 months after a tattoo.
This requirement is related to concerns about hepatitis.” The Red Cross
knows that there are very few strict guidelines and no supervision on
commercial tattooist about sterilization of the equipment they use. Those
dangers of infections were of course many times more in the days of Moses.
So besides God’s intention to keep us from associating ourselves with the
culture of death, occult, demonic powers, He also wanted to protect His
people Israel from all the possible sicknesses they could bring upon
themselves. How good is the LORD!
Lastly, over 50 % of all those who received a tattoo regret. Among those
who are married, that is 70 %. The cost to remove a tattoo are nearly
prohibitive with the result that many people walk with the visible reminder
of their backsliding and disobedience the rest of their life.
excellent website to check out is
hope this will help you know that tattoos is not something a Christian
should place on his or her body. Our bodies were and are to be a “temple of
the Holy Ghost.” In that light we are to treat it like His temple.
Back to the questions page
Difference between Samson and Muslim extremist?
What's the difference between a
Muslim extremist and Samson in Judges 16:28-30? Why God gave him his
strength back while Samson wanted to avenge HIS two eyes (and not the honour
Good question! There is much difference between the 'Muslim extremist' and
what Samson did in his last act of 'redeeming' his nation as judge. Muslim
extremists sow terror to advance their agenda and have absolutely no
difficulty justifying killing innocent bystanders and children. They also
do so without any provocation. When Samson did his last act he was already
for some time the target of mockery. In vs. 25 it says that they took him
from his prison "that he may make us sport." In other words, they wanted to
have some fun with this blinded giant. Since he was helpless they didn't
fear him. Perhaps they hit him, pushed him around, made him stumble. In
short they were abusing him playfully. Did it occur to you that this was a
'worship service' of
their Dagon who was mightier than the God of Israel? (see vs. 23-24)
That means that the contest here wasn't between the Philistines and Samson
but between Dagon and Jehovah! We tend to forget this ceaseless wrestle
through the history of time.
Samson in this setting comes to his last and probably his most courageous
act as judge of the nation of Israel. He sacrificed himself for a nation
that has basically abandoned him. In that sacrifice he took down the "top
brass" of the Philistines as they had all gathered there in temple of Dagon.
By that 'military self-strike' he crippled the nation of the Philistines for
decades to come and in that way paved the way for their eventual overthrow
under leadership of king David.
Did he commit suicide? No, I don't think we should look upon his sacrifice
as a revenge act or a suicide exit from the misery he was in. It appears
that 'revenge' was a motive (see vs. 29b) and maybe it wasn't altogether
absent in Samson's thoughts. This OT hero of faith wasn't without some
glaring faults. They are not to be glossed over but it only magnifies the
grace of God also evident in his life.
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List of classic books
regards to your sermon on “Discipline on Learning", you mentioned “religious
classic" books, can I get a list of these books?
I went through the shelves of my library to select a few of the "religious
classics." Some are harder to read than others but with practice, any sound
mind should be able to master reading the Puritan authors. Here is
- Archibald Alexander: Religious Affections
♦ very useful book in speaking to the many questions surrounding
struggles and variety of leading in the life of grace; very
readable with useful
Joseph Alleine, Alarm to the Unconverted
♦ Alleine really pressed the point that we shouldn’t delay
coming to Christ
Isaac Ambrose: Looking unto Jesus
♦ a precious volume of mediations about the work of Christ and
how it should
affect us; a gem for daily devotion
Horatius Bonar: The Way of Peace and The Way of Holiness
♦ both volumes ought to be read for the balance of the whole
Brakel: The Reasonable Service (4 vol.)
♦ Brakel’s systematic theology is unique in that it masterfully
makes the doctrines
of Scripture spiritual nourishment. Not every part of each
chapter needs to be
read by the layman as Brakel also wrote to instruct
instructors. He spent pages
on defending certain doctrines, exposing errors and answering
can be tedious and can be skipped if you are looking for
spiritual instruction of
Thomas Brooks: A Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ
♦ precious remedy for a fearful soul seeking for salvation
Thomas Boston: Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and Beauties of
♦ both excellent; the “Beauties” is the cream of his writings;
Bunyan: Pilgrim’s Progress; Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ; etc.
♦ any of John Bunyan’s writings are good; John Owen heard him
preach and would gladly
give all his learning to preach like John Bunyan. His grasp
of Scripture is superb.
Calvin: Institutes of Christian Religion
♦ This book looks impressive but is surprisingly readable. It
is a gem and well worth your effort.
Jonathan Edwards: His Collected Works; Religious Affections
♦ Edwards is a challenge to read but well worth any effort
Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Method of Grace, Christ Knocking
♦ Flavel is easy to read; his collected works are well worth
William Guthrie: The Christian’s Great Interest
♦ beautiful book in explaining God varied ways in leading His
people to salvation
Owen: The Forgiveness of Sin
♦ Mostly rooted in Ps. 130, this book sets forth so much
beautiful Gospel teaching
and sheds tremendous light upon the way of the Gospel.
Pink: The Attributes of God
♦ Though Pink isn’t an official “old father” his writings are
searching and meaty.
I found his book on God very refreshing and challenging.
C. Ryle: New Birth; Holiness; Expository Thoughts on the Gospels; Old
♦ J. C. Ryle had the gift of writing simply about great and
important truths. If you
are not much of a reader, begin with Ryle. His expository
wonderful daily devotion in the family circle
Thomas Watson: Heaven Taken by Storm
♦ This book is a powerful exhortation to seek the Lord.
Anything of Watson is
well worth reading. He is one of the easier Puritans to
read as his sentences
tend to be shorter than some of his fellow brothers. I love
his Body of Divinity.
It is “catechism style” book covering the whole of truth
with question and
answers, many of them very pastoral and experiential.
Well, this is for a starter. May God bless the reading to your heart.
Back to the questions page
Bible, weeping and mourning is often mentioned. Joy and gladness are also
mentioned, but never humor. Jesus wept, but I never see an occasion where
What do you think of humor in regards to the Bible?
question is a good challenge. It is true that the Bible doesn’t say that
the Lord Jesus ever laughed. He had little reason to laugh. As the God-man
He perfectly understood every thought and need of those around Him. The
world for the Lord Jesus was like a hospital ward with dying, suffering
people on the one hand and a war-zone of rebellion, disdain and unbelief on
the other hand. Besides the prophet wrote that “He was afflicted, smitten of
God” and Matthew added, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by
Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our
sicknesses.” (Matt. 8:17) There are people who have gone through such
terrible ordeals that they have never been able to laugh again. The Lord
Jesus walked with so many sad and grievous things on His mind that it would
have tempered His emotional mood so that laughing was probably not something
He would even have felt like doing.
doesn’t mean of course that the Lord Jesus never laughed or smiled. From
the Scripture’s description you can notice that even children were never
afraid to be near Him. To me that means that He was lovely in His dealings,
no doubt greeted them or looked at them with a smile of friendliness and
to our life, aren’t there thousands of reasons to smile? God surrounds us
with His mercies every day in so many ways and a sour look isn’t something
we should ever have on our faces! It would be an offense to look like that
when you are receiving a constant flow of gifts of mercies and grace.
Personally I can’t stand those grim faces of those who greet the day with
growl or a sour look. Besides, God commands us “to be kind one to another”
(Eph. 4:32) and one way to communicate kindness is with a smile.
let’s think about your question about humor. Humor I define as something
that brings laughter and relaxation. Some people have the ability to say
something in such a way that you feel like smiling or laughing in response.
It is the ability to make a point in an entertaining way. It can be used to
break the ice (relieve an uncomfortable tension), or to lift someone’s
isn’t simply telling jokes. Humor can be constructive or useful even.
Children sometimes can say something in a humorous way that brings pleasure
or a good laugh. A father can use humor to make a point never to be
forgotten. I read once a story of a father who served his children some
very special “brownies.” After a discussion that it was ridiculous rule not
to watch certain movies because most of it was good and only here and there
was something offensive, the father delayed the final resolution. He
prepared some “brownies” for the children. Besides the regular ingredients
he added a bit of dog poop. Before he served them he told his children, “I
have made these special brownies for you tonight. I have used the freshest
eggs, fine sugar, good quality white flour, sea-salt and cocoa. However,
there is one ingredient that is not the best quality. I added some
dog-poop.” None of the children even touched the brownies!
use of humor I think is very legitimate and useful. Looking through the
book of Proverbs, in which more is said about the use of tongue than in any
other book, I came across the following verse.
12:18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but
the tongue of the wise is health
12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good
word maketh it glad.
14:13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful: and in the end of
that mirth is heaviness.
15:23 A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word
spoken in due season, how good is it!
15:30 The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart;
16:24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and
health to the bones.
17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken
spirit drieth the bones.
3:4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a
time to dance.
you review these verses, it must be clear that God doesn’t condemn laughing,
joy, cheerfulness or fun. He built into His creation various components that
are there simply for our joy. How wonderful He created our taste buds,
colors and eyes to enjoy it, wonderful vistas in nature and even the joy of
marriage life! All these things were created to give us various pleasures
of enjoyment. Why did God create us with the muscle ability to produce a
smile? In order to use to His glory and to serve our neighbor!
Likewise, the ability to add in your speech some humorous expression to
bring a smile or lift a down cast heart is to be used for that end. Not to
bring attention upon ourselves but to love our neighbor as ourselves. In
Prov. 14:13 I was struck with the word “that” in the phrase “the end of that
mirth is heaviness.” That means that there is a mirth (joy, fun, happiness)
that is not heaviness. Good and clear humor fits into that category.
Prov. 26:18-19 gives a caution against the inappropriate use of humor, As a
mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that
deceiveth his neighbor and saith, “Am not I in sport?” How often doesn’t it
occur that someone has to respond with, “Oh, I was just joking!” Their use
of “humor or jokes” obviously went too far. Aren’t we all guilty of that?
humor has invaded many pulpits. Many preachers are trying to make their
congregations laugh by spicing up their message with humor. We ought to
radically distance ourselves entirely from that method. As Eccl. 3 says
that there are times to weep and times to laugh, so there are places where
humor should never be used. That’s why you look in vain for “humorous”
expressions in the Bible. Scripture is never meant to be entertaining or to
be used for entertainment. It is confront us with the giant truths of God,
sin and salvation.
Hopefully this gives some direction on your question. Thanks for asking
it! It made me do some thinking also.
Warmly, Pastor Vergunst
Back to the questions page
Why not to build an altar from hewn stone?
In Joshua 8:31 I read about an
altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron. And in
Exodus 20:25 I read also of an altar of stone, with the commandment "not to
build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast
polluted it. My question is: why only whole stones?
In both cases you referred to it is theological reason. God by that
commandments simply reinforced that salvation through the mediatorial and
sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is ENTIRELY His work and His provision.
Repeatedly the LORD instructed Moses to make the tabernacle precisely after
the patterns He has shown him in the mount. Not a stitch or hook was left
to Moses' imagination. This also was symbolized in the fact that the stones
weren't cultured or hewn by men. The stipulation that it only were to be
'whole stones' could be reference to the fact that Jesus Christ was
unblemished as a Lamb but also that none of His bones were broken.
As an extension of your question, isn't it beautiful how God provided this
'altar' in Ex. 20 (which functioned as the temporary tabernacle)! The
people felt that they couldn't have communion with the Lord directly and
feared that if He would speak again, they would die. The LORD's answered
them by providing them an altar through which He would draw near to them and
they could draw near to Him. This "altar" we just paused at when we
commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ! Through Him we can have communion
with the Lord.
May God bless us with that.
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Communion to known unbeliever
Question: It is the elder's and minister's responsibility to abstain from
administering communion to a known unbeliever. Jesus gave Judas of the sup.
It is a bit questionable whether Jesus actually gave the cup to Judas; I
can't decide whether he actually partook or not but perhaps it doesn't
matter for us to know. However, if I knew that a man is an unbeliever
(either because he confesses himself to be so or if his life is clearly
contrary to God's law) I would not dare to take the responsibility to
administer the sacrament to him or her. According to Matt.
18 a person living in sin needs to be under discipline and that effectively
rules him out of the privilege of communion. To be a confessed 'unbeliever'
is also sin. So, yes, I am convinced it is the elder's responsibility to
exclude such a person from the communion.
Back to the questions page
right for a newly-wed couple to use contraception?
Question: Is it right
for a newly-wed couple to use contraception?
God’s command for newly-wed couples is: “Be fruitful and multiply, and
replenish the earth …” Gen. 1:28. Therefore it would be disobedience for a
newly-wed couple to use contraceptive means to prevent a pregnancy. If a
couple realizes that they will not be ready to have a family, then they
should realize that they aren’t ready to marry. The mindset of humanism is
that ‘we please ourselves’ first while we shirk the responsibility that God
gives us. Isn’t that often also the very mindset that makes newly-wed
couples use contraceptive means to prevent children from being conceived?
Years ago, I was listening to a ‘Christian’ couple explaining why they
didn’t have any children. They first wanted to enjoy married life without
the ‘clutter’ of children. Then there were big bills to pay on the house;
they wanted to travel, etc. So they decided not to have children for a few
years! They reasoned they were still young enough and so had plenty of
years ahead. I was deeply shocked by this utterly humanistic reasoning.
If I would paraphrase that sentiment, it would read something like this,
“God … well, He needs to wait on us before we decide to obey Him!” Hmm,
does that sound right? The tale of their life story isn’t uplifting. The
couple experienced major troubles when they finally decided to have
children. The first one was still-born; the second was a special needs
child. I still wonder whether that was God’s answer!
So, let’s be clear about this. If you want the privilege of marriage, then
you also need to submit to God’s call to be fruitful and multiply. Young
couples should spend as much time together in that first year of their
marriage to get to know each other better and to share this special time of
their life before God blesses them with the responsibility of raising
children. God allowed the young men in Israel one year reprieve of military
duty after they were married so they could deepen the relationship by having
much time for each other. So if you are not ready to accept the
responsibility of children, then you really aren’t ready to get married yet.
“But we have been courting each other now for so many years already and we
really can’t contain ourselves anymore. Didn’t Paul write that is better
“to marry than to burn?” Yes, you are correct about what Paul wrote. It is
indeed not healthy and wise to have a long courting period in which you stir
each other’s sexual desires without having the ability to satisfy them
legally and purely as is done in marriage life.
The need to be married because we can’t contain ourselves any longer begins
with starting the courting relationship far too early or with courting in an
unbiblical way. It is not wise to start a courting relationship when you
know you have several long years ahead of you yet. Additionally, you make
it even harder when you transgress God’s directions about how to
court each other. Spending time together in cuddles is something God
reserved only for the marriage context! Let’s not quote Paul partially. He
also wrote that ‘it is not good for a man to touch a woman.’ (1 Cor. 7:1)
The Greek word ‘touch’ is linked to the idea of ‘kindling a fire.’ Physical
touch kindles fierce fires in our bodies. There is nothing wrong with that
‘fire,’ for that is part of God’s beautiful creation. But there is
something very wrong with the ‘kindling’ of this fire outside the marriage
context. Therefore couples that are dating or courting should begin their
relationship with obeying God’s commandments not to touch each other and to
keep their nakedness concealed to each other. Those couples who have
faithfully walked according to God’s rule in this area have experienced the
blessings of obedience as they walked toward marriage! Many struggle with
remaining pure and have fallen into the continued soiling of themselves in
sexual activities God clearly has reserved for a married couple.
Lastly, the question of the use of contraceptives in marriage life, needs a
Biblical answer as well. Yet since that’s another subject, I will leave it
with this for now.
Back to the questions page
Does it have to be
Jesus Who is made lovely?
Question: Does it have to be Jesus Who is made lovely? Can’t it be that we
feel the need for a relationship with God so we see God as whole as lovely?
I know I need Jesus for salvation but my love and devotion is to God in
general, rather than Jesus specifically.
When God’s Spirit
opens our eyes, He makes God desirable and lovely. To have a relationship
with Him is now what you truly desire. Even though you are surrounded with
loving family and all other kinds of blessings, you will sense that the most
important aspect of your life is missing. God’s fellowship is the ‘hidden
treasure’ or the ‘precious pearl’ you will now seek for with all your
heart. Nothing will be too great to sacrifice in order to obtain Him as
your God and Father.
Yet in that search for God you will also see that you and God are infinitely
apart. He is holy and just but everything in you is unholy. Never can
these two come together. God cannot be yoked ‘unequally’ with a sinner. It
is easy to fall into the thinking that God may be quite pleased with my
devotion and love. Looking back you can see how you used to think and
live; that is now all different. Yet we can’t base our relationship with
God on anything we are or do because it is still sin-soiled. On that basis
God can never have a relationship with us. Only on the basis of perfect
obedience and perfect love is reconciliation between God and us possible.
That discovery is so necessary and it is the Holy Spirit Who works this in a
But that’s where the Holy Spirit will also reveal to us the significance and
provision of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the LORD our righteousness; He
is only Mediator between God and man; His merits alone can be the basis of
my reconciliation with God; His sacrifice alone can satisfy God’s demands
for justice. His constant intercession in heaven is the only way that keeps
the access to God’s heart open.
Perhaps you have not seen much of this significance of the Lord Jesus. But
the more God will lead you to see the love and importance of the only
Prophet, Priest and King, the more also your devotion and love to the Lord
Jesus will increase.
Yet it also true that we can’t separate our love to the Three Persons in the
Trinity. When we love God, we love Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though
each has a unique role in the work of salvation, they are always together
and also need to be worshipped together. Even though Jesus Christ is the
Mediator Who sacrificed Himself willingly to take the curse for His people,
it is still the Father who gave His only begotten Son and it is the Spirit
Who made the Father and His Son precious to our hearts.
Back to the questions page
Is it right to
have unconverted consistory members?
Question: Is it all right if a church has consistory members who are
According the Scriptural guidelines, all consistory members should be men of
God, believers in the Lord Jesus. How else can they represent Him in the
various offices if they don't have a saving relationship with the Lord
Himself. When you read 1 Tim. 3:1-13 you cannot come to a different
conclusion. In Acts 6 the apostles appointed deacons who were filled with
the Spirit. It is sign of incredible poverty when a church needs to put
into office men who aren't confessing their hope and salvation in the Chief
Office Bearer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet that may at times be how low a
church gets. In reality there aren't always men who have the grace and
skill to lead in the offices within the church. If that's the case, then
sometimes there is no other choice but to put forward the names of them who
are members in good standing but have not the liberty or clarity regarding
their personal salvation.
However, these people ought to show a seriousness about their spiritual
life. Men who are 'just members of a church in good standing' but who do
not at all appear to take their spiritual condition serious should never be
placed on the ballot for offices within the church of the Lord.
I leave you with a question: is it right for anyone to be unconverted?
To be unconverted is disobedience to the call of God!
Back to the questions page
be converted who asks to be converted?
Question: I have had arguments with my
friend because we don't agree on something. She believes that everyone who
asks to be converted will be converted. But is that really true because if
everyone in the world were to ask to be converted not all of them are going
to be converted. Only God's elect. So I said that and then she said well it
says in the Bible "Ask and it shall be given unto you" and then she says God
is not a liar. But isn't that because we have to ask with a true desire to
be converted and none of us by nature truly have that desire?
Sometimes arguments are great! They help you think better. It is not going
to help you that I agree with you both on nearly every point you raised!
The one who said that 'everyone that seeks the Lord shall find Him and be
saved' is right. The one who said that 'our seeking needs to be the right
kinds of seeking' is also right. The one who said that God saves His elect
and not one of them shall be left behind, is right also. Now, to top it
off, the one who said that God is not a liar wasn't lying either!
The only thing that was a bit weak is that everyone who asks to be converted
will be converted. The reason why that is not true is because many people
don't even want to be converted and are asking it only because it sounds
good to ask that. God knows exactly whether we are sincere. When I ask the
doctor, 'Please, help me to get better" and then I ignore his advice, don't
eat the pills he gives, then I am not really serious about being helped. So
it with many that 'pray that they may be converted.' They never seriously
listen or seek in God's Word. Praying for salvation while neglecting
diligent use of the means of grace is not called praying but tempting God
for we separate what He has joined together.
God has taken the divine initiative to redeem sinners and He is calling us
in His Word directly each time when we hear or read His Word. His election
guarantees that His Word will be fruitful in bringing sinners to salvation.
But we are never to take God's sovereign and hidden will as our starting
point. We are to listen and obey what He calls us to do. His call is
clear. Jesus began His preaching ministry with the truth, "The time is
fulfilled, and the kingdom of is at hand: repent ye and believe the Gospel."
Mark 1:15 The Gospel is the message about what God is doing in His Son
Jesus Christ. He is opening the door; He is paving the way; He is making
the provision in His sacrifice and blood so that the hell-worthy sinners can
be saved; He even makes sinners willing in the day of His power for without
that no one would even seek Him. To encourage us to seek Him He says 'seek
and you shall find.' Is He mocking? Is He encouraging us to seek Him only
to turn us away when we do so because 'we are not in the Book of election?'
Let's not have such unworthy thoughts of Him. In Luke 11, where you can
find this text about seeking, He told this parable about the man seeking for
a loaf of bread at his neighbor's house. At the end of the story the
'friend' in the house finally gets up and gives the man a loaf of bread.
Why did he give that? Only because he wanted to get back to sleep and the
only way to get rid of the fellow at the door was to give in. Then Jesus
makes several applications. And notice that all these are in answer to the
question, "Teach us to pray." One of the things Jesus taught is, "Don't
think that I or my Father are like that 'friend!' You fathers given to your
children bread even though you are evil. That friend finally got up and
gave bread to his needy neighbor only for a selfish reason. Don't ever
conceive of God the Father in that way. He is eager to give; He stands
ready to pardon; He delights in showing mercy; He encourages us to seek
Him because He is ready to bless you."
Do you doubt that? Then turn to Acts 3::26 and really ponder what Peter
said that to those men and brethren who had participated in the murder of
God's Son! "Unto you first (!!) God [that gracious Father], having raised
up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away every one of
you from his iniquities." Did you notice that? Can you conceive any
earthly Father sending a message to the murderers of His Son like that!?
So friends, seek the Lord with expectation. He is more eager to receive
sinners than any sinners are eager to seek Him.
Thanks for posting the questions. I hope you will have a good talk (no
arguments!) together. End it though in prayer seeking the Lord's direction!
Back to the questions page
use of contraceptives for married couples with children
Question: You recently applied scripture to the use of contraceptives by
newly-weds, thank you. At the end of your response you said the related
topic of the use of contraceptives by married-with-children couples still
needed an answer. Could you please apply scripture to this topic as well?
Specifically, when are we using Godly wisdom and when are we lacking faith
by using contraceptives. Is there a point where we can have too many
children (aren’t they still a blessing from God)? What about if a pregnancy
has a high possibility of conceiving an additional special needs child? Our
Lord’s grace will always be sufficient, but even when we completely trust
God, are there instances when it is the Lord’s will for us to use our
It is a difficult area that you are asking about. What is the use of
contraceptives by married-with-children couples? God’s basic command to a
married couple is to be fruitful and multiply. That doesn’t mean ‘have as
many children as possibly you can get.’ We are to use also our discretion
and remember that every child that is conceived also needs to be parented
and cared for. Some would argue that we are to live by faith and God will
provide us with everything we need. I will never dispute that truth. God
has always kept His Word. But that doesn’t mean we are not to use common
sense when we are married and forming a family. God’s design was that no
conception would take place as long as mother was breast feeding the baby.
The hormones triggered or released through the breast feeding stops the
ovulation cycle and thus acts like a contraceptive. For some reason this
mechanism often doesn’t work in our western civilization anymore. Yet God
designed that purposefully to provide the ‘field of the womb’ a needed rest
to recuperate. It is certainly true that there are many women who can cope
quite well when they have a child every year or shortly beyond that. But
there are also many women who don’t cope well with that and in that case,
the children themselves end up suffering as well. That truth is also true
for the father. All children need a father and a mother to educate and
nurture them towards adulthood. From the Bible we know that weaning the
child didn’t take place sometimes till the third birthday of the child!
Clearly that was purposefully done. I have raised eight children from birth
but all my children were on solids even before the year one was past. In
other words, the Bible moms did this purposely to prevent another pregnancy
and not because Bible babies didn’t get teeth till they were three! I don’t
know whether all mothers did this but I don’t read of a disapproval of the
From that fact I feel convinced that ‘spacing’ your children isn’t wrong if
the motive is right. If a mother feels too overwhelmed with the children
she has to care for at present, there is nothing unethical to prevent a
pregnancy to take place. Often as the years of ‘rest’ have been given, the
natural desire for another child awakens again.
The question is urgent when it is likely that there are dangers involved for
the life of mother. Common sense would suggest that the life of mother is
more important as she has other children dependent on her as well as a
husband. If God’s providence has allowed circumstances to arise in mom’s
body that would make it dangerous to have a child, the couple should indeed
not have a child. If someone is half-blind, would it be wrong for him to
drive a car or be an airplane pilot? Would he do wrong if he laid down his
job as a pilot in case he was a pilot before his blindness developed?
Likewise, when the circumstances develop or appear that another child would
bring danger to mother, we should not be wiser than God. He is directing us
clearly ahead of time to prevent another pregnancy.
In general I would draw the same line when it comes to genetic disorders
that could arise from another pregnancy. Yet that case is more difficult
because we don’t know exactly what the genetic make-up of the child will
be. I have dear friends who have had two seriously special needs children
in their marriage which were caused by a genetic match both parents were
carrying. However, they have had several healthy children also. If they
would have drawn the line after their first special needs child because of
what the genetics suggested, they would have missed all the other children.
Ultimately, God is the Creator and He clearly states in Ex. 4:11, “And the
LORD said unto him (Moses), Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the
dumb, or deaf, or seeing or the blind? Have not I the LORD?”
Yes, God’s grace is sufficient and never can I confess differently in my
life. In all the circumstances and demands that large families have brought
(we have had nine children in total and eight are still at home!) God has
never failed to help us. Yet it is a struggle to give each child the
attention they so need, especially in the surrounding pressures that they
experience in our days. However, that must never encourage us to have no
children. Moses was born in a dangerous age because his parents trusted
At the place I will not discuss the various pros and cons of contraceptives
in use. In the first place, because I don’t know if I am complete capable
for doing that but secondly, because this is public site and I don’t know
how many children will read these answers. You can always ask me
‘privately’ and I gladly share my thoughts that way.
Back to the questions page
If someone is divorced, is it right for them to get re-married?
Question: What do you believe about divorce and remarriage? If someone is
divorced, is it right for them to remarry?
What I believe isn’t important but what does God’s Word teach. From what I
understand the Scriptures to teach on this, I conclude the following,
a. Marriage is for
life. What God has
joined together, let not man separate! Therefore we better think seriously
before we enter into marriage. There is not backing out of this
relationship unless God ends it with death. This taught in Gen. 2:24 with
the Lord’s commentary on this verse in Matt. 19:6.
b. God allows a
divorce only in the case of an adultery.
The sin of adultery is the
most serious breach of the marriage intimacy. Because this is so sensitive,
the Lord leaves it up to the individual who has been betrayed, whether to
continue the marriage. In no way does the Lord encourage the divorce but He
allows it knowing how difficult this breach of trust is. Adultery is as an
act of sexual intimacy with either male or female other than your spouse.
This deed is ground for divorce as taught in Matt. 19:9. In this case, the
innocent spouse is free to remarry.
c. A marriage ended
for other reasons than adultery is an unbiblical divorce.
Divorces have always taken
place in this broken world but are in the last decades on a dramatic
increase. This hasn’t bypassed the church doors and sadly many church
members are involved in unbiblical divorce situations. The bottom line,
however, remains that Jesus clearly has stated that “except it be for
fornication” (Matt. 19:9) a marriage cannot be broken. Therefore those who
are involved in an unbiblical divorce are not free to re-marry. If you read
Mark 10:11-12 you notice that Jesus didn’t refer her to the putting away of
the wife because of an act of adultery. That is the only ground on which He
could accept the dissolution of the marriage.
These three statements will not provide every answer. There are so many
complicated stories to which there can’t be done full justice in such a
short discussion. One book I like to recommend is Marriage, Divorce, and
Remarriage in the Bible, by Jay E. Adams. It does justice to the
various complexities which are faced in this area of discussion. If you
can’t find this book locally and you live in NZ, I will be glad to lend it
out to you.
Back to the questions page
covering in the worship service
Question: Please explain 1 Corinthians 11 concerning the necessity of women
wearing a head covering in church services. According to this chapter why is
a women's long hair not sufficient?
This subject is large and I won’t do full justice to it in this answer. But
the ‘head covering of the women in the worship services’ is not a cultural
or old-fashioned remnant of the old days. It is clear part of the revealed
will of God as recorded in 1 Cor. 11. Years ago I preached a sermon on this
subject and tied it in with the fifth commandment. The relationship with
that seems remote yet it is intimate. Christ’s great mission is the restore
the kingdom of God which is the authority structure where God is King and we
are His joyful subjects. One place where this future kingdom is mostly to be
reflected is the congregation of believers, especially in the context of the
worship services which brings them all locally together. One expression of
this authority structure God designed to be reflected in the head-covering
of the women in that setting.
The background of the problem in Corinth isn’t simple. The Gospel was
liberating for many people. Consider yourself a slave in the Roman
civilization. You weren’t counted and considered a nobody. But within the
Christian church you were a brother or sister with equal status in
salvation. For in salvation there is neither male or female, master or
servant. The social distinctions common in the society do not exist in
God’s household. As females were also largely suppressed, you can see how
the Christian Church was liberating. This radical social departure was in
some taken too far in Corinth. The women folk aspired to a positional
equality within the church family. But that has never been God’s order.
Even though He created male and female equal yet He placed Adam above Eve in
positional authority. Adam was the head and, as popularly said, Eva was the
neck; very connected and very much interdependent yet distinct.
Satan was trying to bring disunity in this church by upsetting God’s order
of position in His creation. The issue wasn’t so much the ‘head covering
issue’ but the underlying issue of order and position.
Now you can see that Paul begins right there in vs. 3. God has established
an order and has ordained ‘heads.’ This reflects God’s pattern in every
relationship. God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of man; man is
the head of the woman and both man and woman were the head over the
animals. In Gen. 3 Satan makes his assault to upset this order from the
bottom up. He uses the animal to bring Eve to fall and via Eve he launched
his assault on man.
Within God’s Church there is to be restoration. Christ is owned by His
people as the rightful head but the women are also joyfully to own and
submit themselves to their head: man. It is God’s will (not Paul’s idea)
that this act of submission by the woman is symbolically expressed in the
‘head covering.’ (vs.4-5) I don’t know whether the thought is valid but I
have noticed that the angels ‘cover themselves’ in the presence of their
head, the LORD in Is. 6. In the worship within the church setting, God’s
will is that the women reflect their submission in the head covering in the
presence of their head: man. There are Christian circles where they take
this position further into the social setting at home or outside the home as
well. Personally I don’t think God intended that because 1 Cor. 11-14 deals
with issues that relate to the worship services.
In vs. 8-12 Paul reinforces this established creation order of God. The
woman is of the man (vs. 8) and was created for the man (vs. 9). In other
words, God designed this order and this He wants to be reflected visibly
within His kingdom (church) on earth. Yet before men run away as if they are
superior, the apostle balanced it with vs. 11-12. Man can’t do without the
woman and isn’t complete without her. It is like in the army. The captain
is above the soldiers but a captain without soldiers is little good.
Toward the end, Paul appealed to something we can all observe. He doesn’t
even argue it or support it but basically states it as a general truth.
“Nature” teaches us that long hair belongs to women while short hair belongs
to men. The word “nature” is used 16 times in the NT and 15 times it refers
to an ‘unchangeable created reality.’ Check for yourself the use of this
word in Rom. 1:26; 2:14-15; Eph. 2:3. Clearly, God ultimately decides what
is ‘natural and not natural’ because He is the designer of the Creation. The
word ‘shame’ that Paul uses in vs. 14 is not the ‘shame’ one ought to feel
when he does something dishonorable but ‘shame’ as having to do with one’s
status or position. Man’s honorable position is dishonored when he has long
hair. Equally, the woman dis-robes her honor when she cuts her hair short.
That brings me to vs. 15 which you included in your question.
Here again ‘nature’ continues to be our teacher. The long hair is a glory to
the woman. “Glory” means honor. God, the Designer, gave (it is a gift!) her
long hair as a honorable covering. It has nothing to do with fashion. Just
as the woman is the glory of man by creative design (7) so her hair is her
glory by the same design. (15)
Every woman who joyfully and willingly accepts her position, carrying out
her God-ordained role, she is the glory of man. Maintaining her long hair is
a symbol of her agreement with that role. Clearly in vs. 5 God states that
it s shameful thing if the woman would shave her head. In other words, when
a woman would discard her nature’s (Creator’s) covering in any context she
would bring shame upon her head. She would show a rejection of the
But it still seems that Paul taught that her hair is the ‘covering. The
interpretation of that has much to do with the meaning of the (second) “for”
in the text, “for her hair is given her for a covering.” Does
Paul mean that “her hair is given in place of a material covering or
is he saying her hair is a gift corresponding to the covering
referred to in the earlier verses?
If first one is the case, then re-read vs. 5-6 and let’s substitute ‘short
hair’ for covering. It would read something like this and it makes totally
no sense: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth having short hair
dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she had her hair shaved
off. For if the woman have not long hair, let her also have her hair cut
short: but if it be a shame for a woman to have her hair cut short or shaved
off, let her long hair.” That makes no sense. The conclusion then must
be that Paul isn’t teaching that the ‘long hair would be the covering needed
in the worship service.” Instead, her long hair is a gift corresponding to
her womanhood. It is noteworthy that Paul also used a totally different word
in the Greek in this verse (vail) than in vs. 5-6.
Finally, why then ought men to keep their head uncovered and the women
covered in the worship service? This brings us to verses I have so far
skipped. In vs. 7 God teaches us that man is the image and glory of God. Yet
the woman is the glory of man and she is reflect that by the token of her
head covering. God expects that to be obeyed joyfully, willingly and
thoughtfully. I wonder how many women and girls are actually thinking of
this act of obedience when they don their heads with the hats each worship
service. God is looking at the heart and not at a customary dressing up.
For the same token, are we men realizing what an uncovered head actually
means? Are we taking this headship over the women seriously? Is our
example the life and walk of Christ?
As an appendix, isn’t interesting that Paul didn’t say anything about what
kind of hat, what color, size etc. It was something that should ‘cover’ the
woman’s glory of her hair. We need to watch that it doesn’t become a
fashion statement because that has nothing to do with its ultimate purpose.
In my answer above I have gleaned ‘unacknowledged’ from the book The Head
Covering in Worship by David Lipsy. It is one of the booklets that I
recommend on this subject.
Back to the questions page
How to profit from the Word
Question: A few years ago on a youth camp you had a topic on daily
meditation. You supplied us with a list of questions that you should try to
answer after reading a piece of scripture. This would assisting reading and
remembering what we read. I have lost the questions since then. Could you
post them on the website?
Below the requested questions. You can print them off and make them into a
bookmark. Indeed, it is very good exercise to seek to answer these
questions. I am leading at the moment a Bible study on the prophet Nahum in
which I am going to use this approach as a practical illustration. You can
listen to these topics as they will be listed on our website.
Profiting From the Word of God
1. What does God
reveal of Himself in this portion? How should I respond to that?
2. How does this portion reveal something I should praise or thank or trust
3. What sins does this portion speak of, illustrate, warn against? Are
those sins in my life?
4. How does this portion reveal something of the Lord Jesus Christ? What
does He mean to me?
5. What promises does God state here? To whom are these promises
addressed? What must I do with such promises?
6. What inspiring example – warning example does Holy Spirit set before
me? How can I obtain – avoid this?
Reading and meditation are the
parents of prayer!
Back to the questions page
Biblical guidance on makeup
Question: Aside from Jezebel, is there any mention (positive or negative) in
the Bible about women using makeup? Until recently, it was frowned upon, and
I would prefer that my daughters refrain from it, but I would appreciate
some Biblical guidance on the issue. Mrs. S.
Dear Mrs S,
Indeed in 2 Kings 9:30 we read, “And when Jehu was come to Jezreel,
Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and
looked out at a window.” The reason she applied her makeup and did up
her hair was to try to allure Jehu into different actions. Jezebel’s use of
makeup shows us one negative reason for wearing makeup (it was meant to help
her in seducing Jehu), and Jezebel herself is set before us in Scripture as
the extreme of a negative role model, one of the most ungodly and grossly
wicked women in the Bible, who led both her weak husband and her children
into sin and forsaking God.
As far as I can see, there are no other direct references to the use of
facial makeup. However, there are various references in the Bible that teach
us clear principles about our outward appearance, and these principles can
certainly be applied to our use of makeup today.
Peter speaks plainly to women about making themselves attractive (1Peter
3:3-4): “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting
the hair [to put it in modern terms—hair styles], and of wearing of
gold [jewelry], or of putting on of apparel [clothes]; but let
it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even
the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of
Is Peter saying that doing up your hair is sinful? Are women allowed no
jewelry at all? One might think so until we read “putting on of apparel.”
Obviously women were allowed to put on clothes, and by inference, we can
conclude that he was accepting the fact that women wear clothes, style their
hair and wear jewelry. (Note that makeup is not part of this list,
however!) He was describing the entire appearance of a woman. Peter is not
saying the three items he listed are wrong; he is saying, Let your
adorning—your making yourself attractive—not be focused on the outward
appearance, but focus your attention on your inner attitude and spirit. And
what attitude and frame of mind should the woman put on which is very
pleasing and very attractive to the Lord? “A meek and quiet spirit.”
A meek and quiet spirit does not seek to draw attention to itself. Does your
outward appearance—your choice of clothes, jewelry, hair style—reflect that
mindset of not attracting attention to yourself? How does makeup fit in with
that mindset? Are you using makeup to attract attention to your eyes, lips,
flawless skin? Are you using makeup to enhance your outward appearance in
order to tempt others? The Bible tells us this is wrong.
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,
with shame-facedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or
pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness)
with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Again, clear principles about
women’s dress: modest, not calling attention to itself, sober, simple. Above
all, it is the inside that really matters to God, and that will reveal
itself in our actions. Do we spend precious time adorning our bodies, or
going about doing good to others?
Modesty in clothing and appearance is commanded. What are the motives for
wearing makeup? Is it to make oneself more attractive to men? Is it to make
oneself more beautiful in order for the men to notice you or admire you
(lust after you)? Perhaps the answer is given that “I don’t use make-up for
that reason at all. I simply use it because I like to make myself look
better. Isn’t that allowed? Didn’t God even create the desire in women to
be pretty?” Without judging anyone’s motives for using makeup, the question
that Christian women should first ask themselves, “What does my makeup (and
also clothing style and jewelry) do to the men folk that see me?” I am
convinced that the vast majority of women have no clue what their efforts to
make themselves look attractive do to men. The Lord Jesus touched on a very
common area in which men fall into sin when He said, “…that whosoever
looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her
already in his heart.” But that Scripture isn’t only spoken to men.
Women should also read this and ask themselves, “Have I in any way
encouraged or caused him to lust after my beauty by not concealing my beauty
or by sending him the message with my looks or my mannerisms that I desire
his attention?” If so, even though the woman did this unintentionally by a
dress code or use of make-up and/or jewelry, she is also guilty of leading
the man into adultery.
Another principle is given in 1 Cor. 6:12-20. Our bodies are not for
fornication or any other sin but are for the Lord and the Lord for the
body. Paul even mentions the grand truth that “our bodies are the temple
of the Holy Ghost.” That’s what they were created to be and upon
salvation, they again have become so. What a weighty truth this is! Our
body was made to be the temple in which the Holy Spirit would dwell. Both
men and women are to remember this in the way we display our bodies in
public. In 2 Cor. 6:16-18 Paul brought out another application of this
truth. Again, referring to the fact that our bodies are (or were meant to
be) the temple of the living God, he made the application, “Wherefore
come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not
the unclean thing.” When people see us, do they see this difference in
how we display or decorate our body?
“But I have such ugly blemishes on my face. Is it unacceptable that I use
some moderate ‘touch-up makeup’ to hide that?” The best answer I can think
of is asking a few other questions, “Would any object when I touch up my
clothing when it is dirtied so I look acceptable? Is there any objection
when I tidy up my hair so it doesn’t look as if I just came out of bed? Is
it wrong to wear a long-sleeve shirt to cover up an ugly scar on my lower
arm?” Subtle use of concealing makeup is totally different from makeup
used to draw attention to oneself, to make oneself more attractive, or to
look like the world. Let’s be clear about this: adding colors to eye lids
that God never put there, accentuating eyelashes to draw attention to
yourself and drawing attention to your lips is actually an offense to your
Creator as if He didn’t make us good enough without it.
So to sum it up:
1. Do not focus on the outward appearance, but rather the inner attitudes of
heart. True beauty in a woman is a meek and quiet spirit. Do not try to
enhance or adorn the body. Dress simply and moderately. Does the world’s
makeup fit these guidelines?
2. Modesty is commanded. In no way is a woman to try to entice a man, or
cause him to lust after her in his heart. Does the use of makeup make you
more or less modest? Does it call attention to desirable or enticing
features in your appearance? Who are you trying to please?
As a Christian, should you try to look just like the world looks? Can it be
seen that you belong to God’s church? Would you glorify God by wearing
Back to the questions page
Living sober as a Christian
The Bible never says we should live simply as Christians. There are
plenty of examples in the Bible of godly men that did not live simply. Think
of Abraham, Job, Solomon. Could you please give some guidance on this issue?
In some way you are right in that assertion. The Bible admonishes to
soberness in many places though: "Wherefore gird up the loins of your
mind, be sober, and hope to the end ... (1 Peter 1:13); Teaching us
that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world. (Titus 2:12). In other
places this exhortations are repeated in different settings or to different
groups of people. (1 Thess. 5:6. 8; 1 Tim. 3:23) To live soberly doesn't
mean we need to live in poverty or below the standard of living that is
common in our surroundings. Christians don't have to live in poverty when
everyone around them lives in comfortable dwellings. But also the other way
shouldn't be: when there is poverty around us, we should not live lavish.
God giveth us all things richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17), however, in the next
verse God adds, "that we are to be rich in good works, ready to distribute,
willing to communicate." (1 Tim. 6:18). Scripture is always balanced. We
may enjoy God's gifts while we also remember the poor, especially those whom
He places within our reach.
You mentioned a few Bible saints that were rich. Many could be added, for
example, Joseph of Arimathea who gave the Lord his grave etc. Yet with the
exception of Solomon, I don't have the impression that they lived lavish or
extra-ordinary. Solomon did go beyond what seems necessary. He spent more
time in the building of his own palace then in the temple and we can be sure
that no expense was spared. Yet this went at the expense of his people who
were heavily taxed to finance it all. That's where Solomon went overboard
and the people rebelled against his policy after his death.
In Acts we read about the early Christians who shared their 'extra'
resources. That is still our calling. We should be aware that whatever God
gives us He expects us to become channels of what He gives to others. There
are still plenty of people around that have barely enough to survive and
that should always engage us to remain sober in how we spend on the
unnecessary things that we add to our live. Sure, it is great if you can
afford a BMW for your vehicle but if a lesser fancy vehicle is suitable for
your needs, then we shouldn't splash out on the unnecessary luxury for that
only serves ourselves. Settling for the lesser fancy car and using the
extra unspend money to support mission programs that help people with their
economic needs would be the Kingdom spirit Jesus teaches.
Lastly, in James 5 we read a condemning portion of God's Word about the
rich. James pictures the judgment seat and refers to 'riches that are
corrupted (rotten) and clothing that is moth-eaten and gold and silver that
is rusted' and they all shall be a witness against you and eat your flesh
like fire.' What are all those things? They are the 'extra' that were
left behind by the rich when they died. Unused it goes to waste. It wasn't
meant to be unused. It was meant to be spend on those that needed it. I
fear that many of us are in for some unpleasant surprises on this issue
unless we repent of these sins of materialism and hoarding unnecessary
Hope this helps you in your thinking about this subject.
Back to the questions page
difference between knowing Jesus and accepting Jesus
Question: What is the difference between knowing that Jesus is the
only way for me to be saved and actually accepting Him as my Saviour? And if
I don't feel love toward God, can I ask Him for that love?
Let me begin with the last question. Of course, we may ask God
everything that we really need and which is according to His will. We
don't need to prove to each other that to love Him is His will. That's
clear from all Scripture. Consider then God's own promise in Ps. 81.
"Open thy mouth wide and I will fill thine every need." He rebukes His
people Israel in the last part of the Psalm about their terrible disregard
for not asking Him for the blessings He is so ready to give. Give the
Lord Jesus ALL your needs in prayer. David did ask Him to 'incline my
heart to Thy Word' which means that he didn't quite feel so inclined when he
prayed that. We often think we have to come to God 'worthy or good or
bettered' but Jesus has come to save sinners, lost, unworthy, unholy,
wretched, guilty, filthy, lepers etc. Isn't that a wonderful good
news? Never do I need to make myself better than I am. For one,
it is impossible and secondly, it is dishonorable as He alone is God and
there is none beside Him that is Saviour.
The next question I would love to hear your answer on is 'what is the love?'
I notice that you wrote that 'love is a feeling.' How common is that
opinion. I like to point out to you that love has feelings but
actually it is an act of the will. When I am to 'love my enemies' the
Lord doesn't expect me to have all kinds of warm feelings towards those
people who treat me like dirt and make my live miserable. But I am to
show love to them. I need to act in love by being kind, helpful,
serving, humble myself to even wash their feet (as Jesus did with Judas
Iscariot's as well!) So it is with our love to God. It is an act
of my will in which I make choices, make confession, verbalize my
convictions, cut out the things that dishonor Him, honor Him with my time
and devotion, do the things that promote His name even though it my cost me
my life or my reputation etc. I would be lying if I told you that each
time I show my love to my wife that I am overcome with feelings of love.
Don't take me wrong, the actions are the expression of my deep and committed
love and often are more or less accompanied with feelings. But
feelings do not define my love; they accompany more or less my loving
deeds. So also in our love to God. This 'will' to love God is the
fruit of God's Spirit. He makes His people willing in the day
of His power. (Ps. 110) This is essence of the new birth. In the
Canons of Dort (which I hope you know where to find) it is beautifully
explained that "the Spirit opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart
and circumcises (cut away) that which was uncircumcised (sinful aspects of
our heart/life), infuses new qualities into the will, which before was dead,
He now quickens (makes alive), from being evil, disobedient and refractory
(stubborn), He renders it good, obedience, and pliable; actuates
(activates) and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth
the fruits of good actions (one of them is LOVE!)' Canons III/IV, 11.
I hope you understand these words. So, ask yourself, is this
willingness in me: this willingness to do the things that are described as
love in God's Word? We struggle with the inability to do this of course.
The more we try to overcome the inner depravity, the more hopeless we feel.
However, that's God way of discovering to us that we need Another. And
He stands ready to be there for you!
That leads me to your third question. Is the Lord Jesus the only way?
Absolutely. There is no one Who can reconcile God Who is holy and you
who is unholy? Who else can do that but He Who is God and man?
His sacrifice satisfied the just requirements of an infinite God but also
the needs of a lost man. No Will, there is NO OTHER NAME given under
heaven. Besides, not only is He the only Way but He is also the only
Savior that can change your heart! Solomon was the wisest man on earth
but he couldn't change hearts, open blind eyes etc. Only the Lord
Jesus can sanctify your heart that it would love Him and love your
neighbors. No one else can invade the inner spirit of you and renew it in
holiness and righteousness. But He can, Will. He has changed my
heart and millions and millions of other people. Before they were
addicted to self, sin and the world and under the cover of piousness all of
us are monsters! But in His almighty and good grace, He changes people
from self-lovers to God-lovers by giving them a new nature! How
wonderful His Spirit is to renew the hearts of men.
God indeed brings Him before us in the message of the Gospel preaching.
We are to 'receive or accept Him' by faith. John 1:12 says that 'as
many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."
God expects us to receive Him but He doesn't expect us to receive Him by our
own strength. He is also the author of faith and so seek Him daily for
the faith which YOU have the exercise. If your heart has been made
willing to place your trust in Him alone, then do place that trust in Him
alone. God expects that. If you have seen that there is no one Who can
reconcile you with your holy and righteous Creator, then confess Him in your
prayer as such. David confessed, "I will make mention of no other
righteousness but thine only." Is that also your desire? Do you
see that there is no other righteousness then Jesus only? Has your heart
begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness (being right and doing right
in the sight of God and men!) and having failed to find that in your own
heart, have you learned to see that in Christ God provided the righteousness
that you need? Then fail not to receive Him by faith? What does
that mean? That means you may confess in your prayer, "Lord, in myself
is only guilt, sin, unworthiness, unrighteousness. But I have learned
from Thy Scripture that thou has provided in Christ all my needs and that He
is freely offered to me also. Lord, I desire to trust alone on His
work and His merits and His sacrifice to make it right between me and Thou
my Creator God. Receive me graciously for Christ sake in whom alone I
trust." God expects us to respond to His call and through His Word and
Spirit He also makes willing AND able to respond in repentance and faith.
I hope you may come to that saving faith and learn to know Him more and more
and experience the power of His blood on your conscience and the power of
His resurrection in your heart leading you on the pathway of the just that
shineth more and more until the perfect day.
Back to the questions page
Will there be recognition in
Question: Will there be
recognition in heaven and will we remember our life here on earth. Will we
know of our loved ones we left behind on this earth and do we have any share
in their life.
That's a difficult question to answer because none of us have been in
'heaven' to verify the answer on this question. So all we can do is
'reason' a bit on a few tidbits that the Scriptures give. Peter and the
other two disciples knew that Elijah and Moses were present on the Mount of
Transfiguration. However, that couldn't have been recognition for they had
never seen either of them. I suppose that the word here is 'revelation.'
God made it known to them that those two were the two main leaders of
Israel. John did see Jesus in His glory in Revelation. Did he recognize
Him as the Jesus he had seen after the resurrection? Or did God reveal it
to him that He was the Lamb of God now glorified? I lean toward the second
opinion. Then the last reference is found in a parable the Lord Jesus
spoke. The 'rich man' recognized Abraham and Lazarus in heaven as he looked
from hell. However, it was a parable Jesus spoke to illustrate a spiritual
lesson. The spiritual lesson He intended was not to make doctrinal
statements on the question you asked and we must therefore be careful not to
read too much into that.
So, in conclusion, I can only offer you my thoughts and what are they worth
on such a question. Personally I think the Lord will introduce us to every
saint in heaven. That may take a long time but eternity is long time. In
this life we have many brothers and sisters in our family, fellow believers
all over the world now but also many we have never met. As I meet believers
in foreign countries were communication is difficult, I often feel very sad
that I can't really converse with these men. Besides there are so many
sisters with whom we cannot have a close relationship for obvious reasons.
That will all be over in heaven. At present I may believe that my first
wife is in glory. But I have received a second wife who also is a sister in
the Lord. You can see where my thoughts are going, right? Will I know both
in heaven if I may also arrive there? Undoubtedly but we will not be wife
and husband anymore. Would I recognize them as Melanie and Michelle? I
would not know why not because each is so uniquely created by God.
Will we remember our life on earth? I hope not, or at least, not entirely.
There are many memories that are bitter even though I may believe that my
sins are forgiven. So, in other words, there are things we don’t to
remember. Yes, there are many dear memories we would love to hold on but
it could be that would belong to the ‘natural body’ (1 Cor. 15:44) rather
than the ‘spiritual body’ with which the saints are raised. A spiritual
body is not a body without flesh and bones but a body adapted to the life on
the new earth. For example, since there will be no marriage God will
therefore adapt the body to live in such state without the need of a
marriage relationship. I don’t really know what other changes there will
occur. One thing that I think we will remember is the depth of God’s
grace. Eph. 2:7 read that ‘in the ages to come he might show the exceeding
riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Will God
shows His people more and more what He in His grace has done? It would
certainly deepen the worship of this awesome God of grace.
Your last question about what do the people in heaven know about their loved
ones that are left behind? I have struggled in a very personal manner with
that question but have concluded that they do not know anything about their
life here on earth. It would mar the beauty of their joy when they know our
grief or struggles. So God must hide that from them as they are in a
different realm of existence than what we are. In various places it is
said that the angels will hear things about the individuals who confess
Christ on earth but whether the glorified saints do also share that, I doubt
because it says specifically ‘angels.’
One author summed up all these questions well. He said something like this,
“After we have learned everything the Scriptures reveal about the
life-after-death, we have only read the title page of that eternal glory God
makes His people inherit.” All questions we have now will be more than
Back to the questions page
Immortality of the soul in
Question: What support in the OT is there of the immortality of the soul.
My question arises from quite widespread academic claims that the Christian
teachings about the immortal soul were adopted from the teachings of
Good challenge. I suppose that you have already opened up your OT and began
to search the various passages that speak about the soul. So let’s review a
few of them that deals with the soul.
Gen. 2:7: Clearly teaches that God created the soul as something distinct
from the body. In the OT the soul generally refers to the whole person but
is definitely something that cannot be defined materially. Other passages
in the OT distinguish between soul and body, such as Is. 10:18.
Gen. 35:18: It teaches again the distinction between soul and body.
Job 19:15-27: Job confesses his faith that with his death he hasn’t
come to the ‘end’ of his living. Even though worms shall destroy his body,
yet in his flesh he shall see God. For that to take place, Job must have
believed that his soul part is immortal and would one day again be joined to
Ps. 16:9-11 & Ps. 17:15: David here confessed his hope in God’s care
for his spirit and his body. He clearly expects to see God in righteousness
and to be satisfied when he awakes.
Ps. 31:5: What is the point of doing that if you don’t believe in the
immortality of the soul?
Eccl. 3:19-21: Solomon is dealing with the truth that everything
living dies, both man and animals. Yet he indicates a different destination
for the souls of men when he mentions that the spirit of man goes upward.
Hos. 13:14: Paul quotes these verses when he speaks about the
resurrection of the body in 1 Cor. 15. Again, the truths here prophesied do
imply that the soul continues to exist.
So, in summary, I don’t think it is correct to assert that the OT
doesn’t speak about the immortality of the soul and that therefore the
Christian teachings on the immortality of soul comes from Plato’s
philosophies. It is true that the teachings regarding the soul are
somewhat indistinct in the OT compared to the new. But that is true also
for the teaching on the Trinity, the way of salvation through Jesus’
sacrifice and the Holy Spirit. There is clearly a development of the
doctrines as the revelation of God expands throughout the ages but that’s
always God’s method in dealing with sinners.
Hope this helps. Stay close to your Scriptures as you study. Besides the
Scriptures, I like to highly recommend to those of you who study and get
immersed with the various anti-Christian teachings to read Calvin’s
Institutes or Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service. Read
the ‘classics’ in God’s Kingdom as you study. They are not as difficult to
read as you expect. With Brakel you can get discouraged real quick in the
earlier chapters because he delves deeply into all kinds of arguments and
counterarguments etc. When I read through those chapters, I realize that I
can skip those portions unless I am answering a question like this. But his
devotional and doctrinal combinations make his writings a blessed anti-dote
to all the challenging teachings.
Back to the questions page
Divorce and remarriage
Question: If a person becomes divorced while a non-believer, then later
becomes a Christian, it is OK for them to remarry? And is it OK for the
person (never been married) who is going to marry them. I have heard the
opinion that it is OK because of the text in 2 Cor. 5:17 – at the time of
salvation all things are become new and such divorced and subsequently saved
people are permitted b God to marry with His blessing. But the new spouse
should be a believer … 1 Cor. 7:39. What are your thoughts? S.
First I will make a
comment about the question. The second sentence of your question I
understand to ask whether it is fine for someone to marry such a person who
divorced prior to becoming a Christian.
Secondly, I don’t think that the Scripture of 2 Cor. 5:17 is related to this
question as a support. Indeed, once someone becomes a Christian his or her
entire heart and life will change in direction and content. But that
Scripture is not giving any direction regarding this particular question.
Let’s be careful not to seek for ‘any text’ to support your conclusions.
Sound exposition begins with the text and its context and then formulates
what it teaches.
The bottom line of God’s will is that marriage is for life (Matt. 19:1-6)
yet God allows one ground for divorce, i.e. when one of the two breaks the
marriage union through adultery. Allowing, however, is not commanding it.
Yet one who divorces his or her spouse on the proven grounds of adultery
needs our full support. He or she is not doing anything wrong by ending the
marriage. I mention this simply to help us to reach out lovingly and
supportive to those who have gone through divorced. They are not
‘second-rate’ Christians because they are divorced and therefore need to be
avoided. They need our love for their pathway is difficult, in some ways
far more difficult than one who has lost their spouse through death.
In your case, the person divorced before he became a Christian. Among
non-Christians divorces take place for generally two reasons. One finds
their spouse cheating on them (committing adultery) or they conclude their
relationship is incompatible and they simply end it.
I am assuming that the person in your question didn’t divorce on the ground
of adultery for then the issue is already answered.
But if that marriage was ended because of other reasons, the first step is
to seek reconciliation. Their marriage is still the marriage and God
didn’t allow such a marriage to end. For what God has joined together, let
not man put asunder.
If such reconciliation is not possible (either the former spouse has moved
on to a new marriage or simply refuses to reconciliation), we need to accept
this reality as unchangeable. Since this divorce happened prior to being a
Christian, I personally don’t believe God would disapprove the re-marriage
of this person. In our denomination we have allowed such people to remarry,
even though it would be advisable and proper that such a person would make a
confession of guilt.
I realize that it will be difficult to support this directly from
Scripture. God’s Word doesn’t speak directly on a situation like this.
That makes these types of questions always issues of controversy because
one’s opinion may be different than another. Also, in the scenario you
sketched are so many unknowns that would need to be investigated before you
could really make a definitive statement on this. That would be the task of
each consistory before a church would seek the Lord’s blessing on the new
Back to the questions page
Unbiblical vs Biblical
Question: What does the church think of emotional and mental abuse that is
used in homes to control children. Is it ever justified? Would a member of
the church confront another member if it was found to be happening or does
the church let parents decide to treat their children unfairly and crush
their spirit, even though the measures they use are extreme in 2011?
For clarity, let me define what I mean with emotional and mental abuse of
children in order to control them into certain behaviors. There are many
ways that parents use this ‘tool.’ I took these examples from Dr. Dobson’s
book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards but edited them a bit.
1. Emotional Blackmail: Do what I want or I’ll get very angry and would
2. Guilt trip: How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for
3. Foreclosure or Bribe: Do what I want and I will give you supper.
4. Raw Power threat: If you don’t listen to me, I beat you up with a
5. Humiliation: Let me see you do that again and I will embarrass
you before the whole family.
6. Self-pity: Don’t upset me; can’t you see how difficult I am having
7. Appeal to the dead: You dear father or mother would have agreed
with me when still alive.
8. Seduction: I make you an offer you can’t refuse. You do this for
me and I take to the zoo.
I am sure we could think of a few more examples. But all these are
examples of manipulation through the emotional gate. The entire purpose is
to have power over the others and force them into compliance.
None of these methods are acceptable or justified yet every parent knows
that there are times we might have slightly strayed into one of these
categories. But if these are the common methods used in the raising of our
children, we are deeply wounding the spirits of our children and raising
them to rebellion. God’s will is clear, “Fathers, provoke not your children
to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Children are provoked to anger by
injustice, loss of temper, undue severity, cruelty, favoritism, suppression,
sarcasm, ridicule and any other misuse or abuse of authority and power. A
parent’s task to rule in God’s name and we must use God’s methods of
“parenting” His children. None of the above methods are used by God and
therefore shouldn’t be ever used by us as parents. Your comment about
‘2011’ seems to suggest that certain methods were acceptable in former
years. That’s not the case. What is not acceptable today was also not
acceptable in 1800 or in 2060!
If you know that a parent is using these methods, you should confront them
and point out that it is sin when they parent their children in such ways.
But be sure to be ready to support these parents with help on how then to do
it. It is the poorly equipped parents who resort to these methods to coerce
their children into compliance. We all know if we are parents, how
frustrating and taxing it can be to lead your children into the right
paths. If we grew up with poor or bad role models or lack of
straightforward education, parents fall into this task completely
One of the reasons we should do all we can to stop unbiblical parenting
styles is because it damages the children. They are the victims that are
helpless. Many adults struggle all their life because in their childhood
years they have been wounded and neglected by their parents. This can lead
to a host of personal issues later in life such as difficulties making
relationships, various character weaknesses, insecurity, fear, lack of
confidence, anger and rebellion.
If your personal contact isn’t making a difference, you should share it with
your spiritual leaders and enlist their help. Hopefully together you make a
difference both for the parents and the children.
Back to the questions page
Question: Dear Pastor. As a single I am struggling with
the desire of intimacy. How do I have to handle this? I am not focussed on
intercourse, but the natural feeling of intimacy like a hug or an arm around
the shoulder. What is the limit between healthy Christian intimacy and
homosexual tinted intimacy?
I have long puzzled over how to answer this question and to be honest, I
still don’t know exactly what to say. You are a single person and desire
the closeness of physical intimacy. At the end of the question you bring in
the homosexual nature of this desire as well. It is always easiest to tell
a person ‘how to play a better game’ while standing on the side-lines. Or,
to say it in cynical way, ‘The best sailors stand on the shore.’ I am a
married man and may enjoy the close intimacy with my wife.
We all receive, if good, our first intimacy from our parents. As our
parents cuddled us in our baby and toddler years, they kept our tanks
filled. In growing into childhood and teenager years, this contact with
parents usually decreases over time. In the period of our teenage life the
desire awakens to share intimacy with someone else. This desire and need
for intimacy is not sinful. It is part of our creation. God has made us
‘social beings’ and even said about Adam before the fall that ‘it was not
good for man to be alone.’ The natural urges that biologically are
awakened as our maturing bodies and mind is part of His good and beautiful
However, God has instituted marriage life (Heb. 13:4) as the only setting
where physical and sexual intimacy between a male and female may be
experienced. So for you to seek the satisfaction of the physical intimacy
outside the marriage relationship would be contrary to God’s expressed
will. Of course, I can understand your desire to be held, or for someone
else to share physical intimacy with you, but God has only created the
marriage relationship as the safe and permitted setting for that interaction
between males and females.
So you focus and prayer should be to seek a marriage partner. One of the
Lord’s servants, Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote a journal. One day he entered
this question in his personal journal, “What must I do to fight sin?” He
didn’t specify the sin this young and unmarried minister struggled with but
his answer does shed much light on his struggle. His first answer was “Get
married.” He never did marry because he died while young. But he realized
that ‘healthy physical intimacy’ can only be experienced within the safety
of a Christian marriage.
Now, I realize that you may not be single by choice. Maybe you have been
praying about getting married. Let me assume you ask the Lord that every
day, confessing especially the growing desires and needs within you that
can’t be met by being alone. But prayer is not a ‘magic button’ that solves
all things. God has taught to pray for our daily bread. But He still
expects me to work for it, earn the money or even bake the bread. So you
also are expected to ‘do the right things’ to obtain a person with whom you
may marry. Perhaps you are shy to approach someone or open a conversation
with someone. But at least begin to do that. You didn’t learn to bike on
the first try. So you also don’t get comfortable speaking with others until
you have tried it. Visit places where young people come together and
prayerfully use these means, asking God to bring someone into your life with
whom you may share the intimacy.
What if God doesn’t bring you a spouse? Yes, that’s hard; that’s a cross
and a big one. One single person will experience that more than another. But
God’s grace is sufficient to help you with that ‘thorn’ in your life.
Others have lived functional and fulfilled lives without being married.
That is attainable. Let that be the focus of your life now. Rather than
focussing on what you have not focus on the opportunities God allows you in
If you struggle with homosexual tendencies, your needs are greater yet. I
am not ready to answer this need this stage, friend. God’s will for the
closest possible relationship between adults is and remains a male and
female within the marriage relationship. Any other relationship is not
acceptable to Him no matter what the current world opinion and sadly also
many “Christians” hold. But how to deal with a homosexual orientation is
something that I rather answer at a later stage after having done some more
reading on this. Perhaps you can post another question on this if this is
indeed what you are struggling with.
Back to the questions page
Burial or Cremation
Burial or cremation. more and more Christians are opting for cremation for
various reasons, such as more economic, easier etc. What is the Biblical
In deciding any question with ethical aspects, our first question should be
whether God’s Word has anything to say on this subject. Our western society
doesn’t ask those questions anymore. Everything has to be practical,
simple, economical or useful. But we as Christians are to be obedient to
the Word of God.
Genesis is the book of ‘beginnings.’ It is the book that introduces many
‘firsts’ or ‘beginnings.’ It is therefore not surprising to find many
references to the burial of the body. The only piece of land Abraham legally
owned was the cave where he buried his wife and was later buried himself.
Jacob gave command to be buried and so did Joseph, giving command that his
bones were to be taken to Canaan. (Gen. 50:25) Although the Scriptures don’t
specifically tell us, the burial of the body in those days was unique. The
surrounding civilizations, with the exception of Egypt and very distant
China, all burned the body of the deceased. Clearly, God’s people were
distinct in this practice. In the time of the wilderness journey we read of
Aaron’s burial (Deut 10:6). God buried Moses (Deut 34:5-6). So very
consistently were people buried in the nation of Israel. On the other hand,
God’s Word speaks about a judgment if someone wasn’t buried (Num. 25:4;Jer.
Also in the NT, burial was the norm for believers. We don’t read in any of
the Gospels about the burning of bodies. The Lord called Lazarus out of the
grave and the young man of Nain was raised while on the way to his burial.
Eventually the Lord Himself was buried. In the rest of the NT many
references can be found to burial. Paul in 1 Cor. 15 speaks only about
burial. When Paul uses the analogy of the seed cast into the ground, then
this entire image doesn’t fit burning. A seed ‘burned’ will never germinate
into a ‘new body.’ Lastly, the NT refers several times to the resurrection
of the body of the believers. (Phil 3:21)
From this sketchy overview it is clear that burial is the accepted and
sanctioned practice of the respectful disposal of the deceased bodies.
There are times when bodies were burned or left unburied. But that was
always in the context of a judgment. God burned up many disobedient Jews a
few days after leaving Mt. Sinai (Num. 11:1-3). After Korah’s revolt, two
hundred and fifty men were devoured by fire (Nu 16:35). Several severe
offences were punishable by burning (Lev. 20:14; 21:19). In Joshua we read
about the burning of Achan and his family after they were stoned to death.
Later Jeremiah spoke the judgment of remaining unburied. (Jer. 16:4-6;
22:18-19) All in all it is clear that burning or cremation is associated
with the curse.
Cremation isn’t a recent invention of a Western society. Prior to
Christianity cremation was almost universal among Indo-European people and
in North America. Hindus have burned their dead for centuries; it was
common and fashionable among ancient wealthy Greeks and Romans. The main
argument among the Romans was economical or convenience. However, in most
ancient races cremation was for spiritual reasons. There was a fear that
the spirit would return to the buried bodies to plague and terrify the
living. For others the burning of the body would bring freedom for the
spirit to enjoy the ‘after-life.’ As Christianity spread over the world,
everywhere cremation ceased among the believers. One historian noted that
you can trace the spread of Christianity in Europe by studying the
Already in 177 AD Christian martyrs were burned to mock their belief in the
resurrection of the body. Somehow the heathens believed that by destroying
the body they could prevent the resurrection. It needs not to be said, but
it is clear that the resurrection of the body is in no way affected by the
manner in which the bodies of the dead are disposed. Some have been eaten
by sharks or burned as results of accidents. But that never stands in the
way of God’s power.
After nearly 1800 years, in the countries where Christianity had entered,
cremation was never considered as the way to dispose of the body. It is
only in the late 1800’s that the voices for cremation are heard. Beginning
with Italy, the practice slowly spread to other countries within Europe. It
is noteworthy that the cremation practice reared itself always in the
context of strong assaults upon the Christian faith from secular philosophy
and scientific materialism. As the liberal theology invaded the church and
the faith in the resurrection of the body decreased, so the acceptance for
Another aspect to consider is the dignity of our body. We have been created
in the image of God. Though fallen, there still is ‘enough dignity’ left
that God instituted the death penalty for anyone who took the life of a
fellow human. The reason is that “in the image of God made he man.” (Gen.
9:6) The body of the believers will be raised in a perfected state. That
truth gives a dignity to the body in life and in death. It should also guide
us in taking respectful care of the body of those who have deceased.
Cremation is by definition a violent process of destruction. Incinerators
in crematoria are fuelled up to reach temperatures between 800 and 1000
degrees Celsius. The left over bones are then broken down in what is
effectively a tumble dryer with large steel balls.
In some way cremation is an attempt to escape the grim reality of death.
All kinds of practices within our Western culture around the funeral are
geared to hide the reality and smooth out the roughness of a death and
burial. It can be argued that also cremation fits into this attempt to
soften the reality of death. Yet it needs to be pointed out that all these
attempts to ‘escape’ the reality do nothing to help the healing process; it
rather complicates or hinders the proper healing.
In conclusion, all other pragmatic reasons and economic considerations have
no ground. God’s will matters above all. Cities that cope with shortage of
land because of their large populations will need to make critical choices
to keep land plots available for burying the dead. It always strikes me how
easily huge golf courses are built in new neighbourhoods. There seems to be
no lack of land for that! In the end, it is all matter of priority. Our
priority, however, needs to remain, “What will Thou have me to do?”
Back to the questions page
Can someone be
forbidden to attend Lord's Supper?
Question: Can a full member of the
congregation, who apparently lives a decent life and is not in open sin or
under censor, be forbidden by the consistory to attend the Lord's Supper?
If so, then for what reasons? Linda
If all the 'conditions' you have stated are correct, then he or she can't be
forbidden to attend the Lord's Supper. Only if there is a sin issue known
to others or an obvious doctrinal error he or she is holding, then a
consistory has the duty to withhold the privilege of attending the Lord's
Supper. One item in your question is the statement 'who apparently lives a
decent life' and that could mean that the consistory knows things about this
person that you don't know. So be careful to make a judgment if you don't
have the 'inside information' the spiritual leadership in the church may
have. We as leaders also have no duty to disclose the information on which
we would make such a decision to protect the individual member. So I
caution you to be careful in making your judgments. It is possible and even
pastoral to advise a member not to partake of the Lord's Supper if it is
clear that a person is deceiving himself spiritually. But ultimately the
decision to partake rests with the person.
Back to the questions page
What is the point of doing good?
Question: I have heard that what ever
we do, even if it is 'good', are just like dirty rags in God's sight. Is
this true? If it is true, what is the point of trying to do good?
God created us to do good: to love Him and our neighbor as we love
ourselves. The obedience to that command of God will also bring you the
greatest amount of happiness. I assume you know that already by experience,
don't you? Each time you do something loving, like serving your neighbour,
you will experience that law of happiness. Jesus Himself has said after He
washed His disciples' feet, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do
them." (John 13:17) So, to answer your question in reverse, the point of
doing good is first, because our Maker expects this from us for He made us
for that purpose. Secondly, obedience to His command does create the
greatest amount of happiness for others which you will share yourself as
However, the sad truth is that our 'best' is core-ruptured with pride,
selfishness, impure motives etc. I assume that you know that yourself as
well for who doesn't read his own thoughts or gauges his own feelings after
you have done something extraordinary. We crave the praise as much as the
dry deserts crave for water and we gobble it up as fast as our sinks
swallows down the water. So in God's eyes, Who sees every inner motive and
personal reflection of even our best-looking deeds of sacrifice and service,
it is completely rejected because it is sinful. He cannot accept that
because He is holy and just. No matter how well we try, sin attaches itself
as a leech to every good deed we done, making it guilt in God's sight.
Therefore the Scriptures tell us that regarding our 'justification before
God' none of our works will do anything else but charge us with more sin.
The only hope is therefore in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the only
One who could offer to His Father and Judge works that were perfect and
therefore acceptable to God. How beautiful is the name Jeremiah was
inspired to give to Him, The LORD our righteousness.
Friend, have you learned to loathe your own righteousness as dirty rags?
Let me direct you again to Him who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour
and are heavy laden with the realization that whatever you do will never
measure up! And I will give you rest as you rest upon my obedience and my
sacrifice." The Saviour Jesus Christ is pointing out to you that in Him is
But then what about the 'trying to do good?' Well, even though God doesn't
need them and will never accept them because their imperfections, your
neighbors still need them! Let them enjoy your good and loving deeds but
never built your hopes for heaven on it!
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couple get married in church if one is not a member?
Question: Can a couple get married in
a Reformed church when one of them is not a member of that church (or even a
member of a different church)? Maybe that couple feels like needing God's
blessing for their marriage. Or can't you ask for God's blessing when you,
as a couple, are not on the same line in religion (even though you're both
very understanding to each other)?
Each congregation may have their personal guidelines so I cannot speak for a
specific situation. Some congregations require both persons to be a full or
confessional member of the congregation but in our congregation that is not
If one of the couple is a member and he or she marries with an non-member,
then there would be a few issues to consider,
a. is this non-member a committed Christian?
b. is this non-member committed to become a member of the church?
c. is the relationship between the two of such a quality that the
leadership feels comfortable to officiate the marriage.
This last aspect is applicable to any marriage and not limited to this
scenario you asked about.
It is always good to seek the Lord's blessing on the marriage but you can
only seek that blessing if you are walking in His revealed will. In other
words, it is impossible to ask the Lord's blessing on an 'unequal yoke' such
as a relationship between a committed Christian and a non-believer. In that
case, a Christian church would do wrong in
officiating at a marriage ceremony.
I hope that this provides you with the guidance you were looking for.
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everyone allowed to trust in God? Or saved people only?
Question: I was wondering if you could
tell me some more about trust in God? It is not quite clear for me whether
everybody is allowed to trust God or is that only for God's children? And is
an not-convicted person able to trust God in a right way? I look forward to
Let me begin with the last part of your question. Nobody is able to trust
in God in the right way. Unbelief reigns within our heart as a power which
controls us. Bunyan refers to unbelief as Captain Unbelief holding supreme
sway over fallen man soul! This supported for example by Paul's words in 1
Cor 12:3, "Wherefore I give you to understand ... that no man can say that
Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." So we need the Holy Spirit to
enable us to put our trust in Him for trusting is an act of faith which we
are impossible to do exercise with God's Spirit.
But our inability isn't our excuse. When the Lord calls us to believe
(which is to put our trust in Him) He doesn't make that an advise or
suggestion but a command. Our inability doesn't take away His demand but
brings us into a spiritual bind. "Without faith (trust) it is impossible to
please God" but we cannot believe in our own strength (Eph. 2:8). This
impossibility from our side should not drive us to despair, though it may
feel like that. It should drive us on our knees in prayer crying to the
Almighty to work in us what we cannot work in our own heart. Hasn't He
promised, "Call upon my in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou
shalt glorify me." (Ps. 50:15) What a day of trouble is it when we can't
trust in God! Do you see it that way also? Isn't it then a wonderful
encouragement that God stoops down to us in such a promise?
Now your last question: is everybody allowed to trust God? Oh, my friend,
let me ask you a question. Am I allowed to trust you? Am I allowed to
trust my father or mother when they promise something even though I am
unworthy or undeserving or untouched by their love? I am sure your answer
would be "No, I am still allowed to trust them." So you are wrong for not
trusting God. When God speaks "Trust in him at all times: ye people, pour
out your heart before Him: God is refuge for us" must I read that as saying,
"Ho, ho, only people who are the Lord's people are allowed to pour out their
heart before God!" Or, "Only the Lord's people are allowed to pray!" If you
don't agree with those two last statements, then you have answered your own
question. All people are allowed to trust in God at all times! The problem
is that most don't trust in Him at any time! But that is not because God
didn't invite or call or encourage them. It is because they refused to do
May the Lord enable you to place all your trust for body and soul, for time
and eternity on Him Who is so trustworthy. Never has the Lord broken any of
His promise. Be like the man who answered Jesus question in Mark 9, "If
thou canst believe [trust Me], all things are possible to him that
believeth" with "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." And that's
exactly what the Lord Jesus did.
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Nonessential things in Conversion
Question:We were taught
that there are "essential" and "nonessential" things to be concerned about
when discussing conversion. For example, it is essential that everyone who
professes to be a converted person believes in the Trinity, believes the Ten
Commandments, believes he is a miserable sinner before a holy and righteous
God, etc. Nonessential things include the "petty" things we argue
about--whether you can do this or that on Sunday, whether women must have
long hair or not, etc.
My question is, how do you know exactly what is included under the
"nonessential" things? You can't use the Bible, because for ANYthing, there
will be a text somewhere--at least that someone will pull up--to prove it.
For example: the Sunday thing. My in-laws (now you see the source of my
questions!) do not allow certain things on Sunday that most other people
do. I call that a "nonessential". But they will say very strongly, that
anyone who is truly converted will NOT do such and such a thing on the
Sabbath, that he will feel it in his heart that it is not right. (Things
like using a curling iron, taking a bath, etc.) They will be very sure about
Or: the Lord's Supper. In our church, women will go who wear things or style
their hair in a way that we were brought up to think was wrong. Or the pants
issue: This girl/woman cannot be a true child of God, because she wears
pants. I agree. Yet, I wonder--are these only nonessentials? You can prove
(somewhat) from the Bible that pants for females are wrong, just as you can
prove almost anything from the Bible.
So the question is: How do we know the difference between a "nonessential"
and an "essential" thing?
Thanks for your amazing patience. Your questions are related to Paul's
teaching in Rom 14 and part of 15. Clearly he teaches that believers don't
always think or live alike on issues not clearly defined in the Scripture.
On the major doctrines of the Bible regarding salvation there has to be
absolute unity. But even on some doctrinal issues there can be
disagreement. Those known with the writing of Rev. J. C. Philpot love his
experiential knowledge and teaching of God's precious truths but within our
Reformed circles we reject his view of infant baptism of the children of the
church. But on the doctrines of man's total sinfulness and lost condition,
God's sovereignty in salvation, the way of salvation through Jesus Christ
and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Deity of the Lord Jesus and of the Holy
Spirit, etc. are all subjects on which we cannot disagree. But on the
matters not defined in Scripture as 'black or white' and that therefore have
no immediate bearing on salvation, there can be disagreement. Popularly
said, we are to agree on the majors but may disagree on the undefined
However, the matters of 'things indifferent' aren't a matter of indifference
to the Lord. Isn't it remarkable that the Holy Spirit has given more
attention to this issue which divides and strains relationships between
believers that to the very creation of the universe? Besides these chapters
in Romans, 1 Cor. 8-10 and Gal 5 deal with this subject as it were subjects
that brought great division in the first NT churches. Now many interesting
and worthwhile things can be said about these chapters but I will limit
myself to your question. If you are interested in this subject, you can
always listen to the three sermons I have devoted once to these chapters.
They may still be available on
What are now the matters of indifference and how do we go about to determine
that? It is all those issues relating to our daily life which are not
clearly prohibited or commanded in God's Holy Word. What is 'black and
white' in the Bible is beyond discussion. It simply is the will of our God
and since He has spoken about it, we have no other choice but to obey Him.
So the 'head covering of a woman in the public service' is not just a habit
in Corinth or an old-fashioned custom of our forefathers! It is written in
God's Word as a legislative portion of Scripture. But whether I need to
wear a curly wig (as our venerable forefathers did) is (gladly) not written
in the Scripture as God's will but was a social-status thing in those days
as much a suit and tie are today a display of respect. Other 'black and
white' issues of God’s will in our daily life are pre-marital or
extra-marital sexual activity, the keeping of the Lord's Day holy, the
attendance of congregational worship. These matters can all be backed up
But what are not always defined are the precise details. For example, what
you can or cannot do on the Lord's Day? Here is where difference exists
depending on your culture. Am I allowed to use my car to go church on
Sunday? If you recently grew up in the USA or NZ, you might react quite
surprised! What is wrong with that? Yet I know serious-minded and sincere
people who consider it is a sin to use the car on the Lord's Day and they
will walk to church. Who is right or wrong? In cases like this, they are
wrong who violate their own convictions and conscience and don't act in
faith before God. That's what Paul taught in Romans 14:23. I was raised
not to go for lunch at another family’s house on the Lord’s Day. At least,
it never happened in our home. For many years I felt very disinclined to do
that until I noticed that the Lord Jesus honored an invitation to eat at the
Pharisee’s house on the Sabbath Day. That all of a sudden really challenged
my thinking and actually violated my conscience-code. Obviously, the Lord
Jesus wasn’t wrong in what He did. My conscience was ‘weak’ while His was
Other matters in which sincere Christians who would agree on all the major
doctrines and show evidences of a genuine life of faith may differ are in
the use of alcohol, jewelry, insurance, vaccination, whether to celebrate
Christmas or Good Friday, clothing styles and colors. God has provided in
His Word His principles on all these issues and these principles are to
guide us in the choices we make in these areas. For the one that choice may
be influenced by a different cultural upbringing or by a personal
experience. For example, playing a game of soccer with a group of friends
will be judged entirely different by one who has been delivered from the
idolatry of sports than by another who has always been hopeless in kicking a
ball around. The 'idolatry' is wrong and the one who has been living in
that sin, even a friendly game of soccer will feel like a huge temptation
and so he has drawn his lines completely different. We need to be very
careful not to judge carelessly and thoughtlessly when others draw their
lines different than us. There is usually a history before such a decision
that we aren’t aware of.
It is therefore impossible and unwise to issue my judgment on the questions
you raised whether 'Is this allowed and that allowed?' If God hasn't said
anything about it in His Word, we can't categorically condemn it as wrong or
immediately approve of it as right. Each of these cases needs to be judged
individually as we bear in mind the personal uniqueness or cultural setting
I often admire the Lord’s wisdom in this aspect of His Word. As the same
Word is His Word to all the different cultures in our vastly different
world, the Lord has written it so that it will be a sure and steadfast guide
in all those different settings in history and nations.
May the Lord bless us with the wisdom and grace that Paul concluded with,
“Let every one us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even
Christ pleased not Himself.” (Rom. 15:2-3a)
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What does it mean to fear
Question:What does it mean to fear the Lord? How do we
fear the Lord?
The fear of God is used in the Bible to describe the tender esteem, regard
and love for the Lord as the Almighty and Good God. It isn't the same as
the 'fear' as being afraid. Adam and Eve feared God after they heard Him
approach in the garden but that was a deep dread to meet Him. But the 'fear
of the Lord' that filled the heart of Abraham when he offered his son Isaac
expressed his deep devotion and love for the Lord that he was willing to
sacrifice his only son. (Gen. 22:12) In Ex 1:17 we read about the Egyptian
midwives who 'feared God' and therefore refused to obey the orders of the
king. Again, this fear of the Lord was their deep awe for the LORD whose
anger they feared more than the wrath of their Pharaoh. It is hard to know
whether there was love in their heart for the LORD God but we know for sure
that the Lord blessed them for their actions.
So let me try to define the ‘fear of the Lord’ as the affectionate reverence
with which the soul humbles himself as well as denies himself and carefully
walks according to God’s revealed law out a deep love for Him. This
essential ‘heart attitude’ is, I am afraid, often missing in so much
religion today. If I meet people who constantly challenge the way we are
living and what we are doing in terms of our behavior before God and men and
seem to hold that we aren’t living in the 1800’s, I am afraid I meet someone
who doesn’t really fear the Lord. Because if you fear the Lord, wouldn’t
you want to stay away as far as possible from those things that displease or
dishonor Him? Those that fear the Lord will be like Joseph, “How can I do
this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9) Or take the example
of Daniel, “He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with
the portion of the king’s meat…” (Dan. 1:8) For many ‘food and drink’ is
neutral but that wasn’t the case for Daniel. He felt tender about offending
God and drew his boundary line clearly. When God stopped Saul on the road
of Damascus, he was undoubtedly filled with both fears at first. But the
question “What wilt thou have me to do?” became the prominent question of
his life and prayer. It revealed his deep reverence for the majesty of King
Jesus and His holy will.
Even though the New Testament doesn’t mention the ‘fear of the Lord’ as
often as the Old Testament, you can still find it. Check for example Heb.
12:28-29. There it is defined as ‘reverence and godly fear.’ Perhaps the
more common word in the New Testament that corresponds with the fear of the
Lord in the Old is ‘love.’ True love esteems, denies itself, seeks to
please and holds the loved one dear.
If the fear of God is truly alive in our heart, it will also influence every
department and aspect of your life and living. It will governs you in what
you choose to do with your free time; what calling you will pursue in life;
with whom you want to build a life-long relationship; how you will order
your family life; in how you deny yourself also in the area of liberty. It
becomes a life-motto that breathes through everything we do or are.
Lastly, many blessings are promised in the Bible to those that fear the
Lord. Take the time (and use a concordance) to check all the references to
the fear of the Lord in Proverbs. It truly is one of greatest blessings to
have such a fear of the Lord in our life.
May I end with pointing out that the poet in Ps. 86 prayed, “Teach me thy
way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”
Let it be your prayer.
Carterton, New Zealand
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John the Baptist rebuking Herod
Question: When John the Baptist told Herod "It is not lawful for thee to
have thy brother’s wife." (Mark 6 v16) was he rebuking him for adultery or
He was rebuking him for adultery for he had a relationship with Herodias who
was his sister-in-law, his brother Philip's wife. (Mark 6:17)
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What is a Biblical
view of Fasting today?
Question: Dear Pastor Vergunst, What is your/a biblical view of fasting
today, particularly before the Lord's Supper is to be held?
Fasting is ignored too much in our days. When is the last time you heard a
sermon about it or a reference to it in a sermon? Yet when we read the
Scriptures, it is referred to abundantly. In the same chapter that the Lord
Jesus spoke about prayer and almsgiving, He spoke about fasting (Matt. 6).
The same warnings are given about all three activities but we don't conclude
that praying and almsgiving should be omitted because it can so easily be
done without a heart for the matter. Yet we tend to make this unspoken
conclusion about fasting.
Fasting is done in the Bible in a wide variety of ways. But true fasting
has the same intention: it is an earnest addition to an expressed need
before God. In other words, the matter which you are bringing before God is
so weighty and important to you that you are adding a fast to it to indicate
how weighty this matter is. That's one of the main purposes of fasting. It
is not meritorious because like all we do, it is as a filthy rag in God's
sight. But through my fast I am telling the Lord, "Lord, this is so
important to me that I am willing to give up my food and drink to bring this
need before Thee." If you take your Bible and check all the references to
fasting then you will come to the same conclusion that it was always added
Another benefit of fasting is that you will often be reminded to pray about
the matter. You body will send signals that there is need of food or
drink. This works as a physical reminder to come before the Lord in
prayer. Let's say there is a particular need bound on your heart but you
are having a busy day ahead where you will be so often distracted, fasting
will help you to pray about it during the day as your body keeps sending you
a message. Please, know your own limits. Some people get real faint when
they fast and feel too weak or jittery to do anything. That usually
indicates an addiction to sugar in healthy people. So it may take some
re-training your body to be able to fast for a length of time without
feeling physically weak.
You specifically asked about fasting in connection with the Lord's Supper.
I think fasting could be a very good way in time of preparation. The prayer
we ask the Lord is that He will search us and show whether there are any
sins that need to be repented of. Or perhaps you have great struggles to
know whether the Lord has worked in your heart and whether you are permitted
to make use of the sacrament. Setting aside a time of prayer and fasting to
bring these matters before the Lord is very valuable.
May the Lord revive us more and more so that God's people also begin to feel
the need for fasting again. We talk much about the great needs of our day
and age. But besides talk, not much else is happening. Are we really that
sincere when we sigh about these matters? Are we willing to deny ourselves
the comforts as we wrestle before God? Where are the Anna's who departed
not from the temple with prayer and fasting? Where are the Daniel's who
fasted from the dainties to devote himself to prayer?
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