Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Glorious Victory

A homiletical and devotional commentary on Revelation, the product of 36 sermons, is now available in print form in the international Amazon platform of your choice, and instantly (and much less expensively) in Kindle format. Please see here:
for print and here 

The Glorious Victory: An Exposition of Revelation by [van Popta, George]

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The pillar and foundation of the truth

In 1 Timothy 3:15 the Apostle Paul speaks to what the church must preach and to how people ought to conduct themselves in the church. He uses several names to describe the church: he calls it a household, and the pillar and foundation of the truth.

These are architectural terms. A house needs a foundation and pillars. In the time of Paul if one were going to build a house, he would first dig in the ground to lay the foundation. On the foundation he would erect pillars, and these pillars would hold up the roof. The pillar and foundation had the same function: to hold up that built upon it. Today we would still need first to lay a foundation, either of concrete blocks or of poured concrete. And upon that we then erect studs to hold up the upper stories and the roof. (I write this as one who has never been involved in any aspect of the building trades, so I hope I'm reasonably accurate.)

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The broader context of 1 Timothy 3 is instructive and we need to look both ways, backwards and forwards. Looking backwards to the verses 1-13, we read that Paul mentions the qualifications for office-bearers in the church. Paul wrote this so that Timothy would know how the Christians of Ephesus were to "...conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Elsewhere, scripture says that Christ is the foundation upon which we, the church, are built (1 Peter 2), but here the church is the foundation and the pillar. 

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Looking forwards to the following verse we see that Paul mentions a very brief Christian confession: He (Christ) was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. The church must proclaim this revealed truth about Christ.

It is important to note that the church is holding up the truth. The church does not define what the truth is; it holds up the truth defined by someone else. It is God who defines the truth, and the church is called to hold it up in the world. 

Just as we do not make up the truth of what the Christian confession might be, so we do not make up the truth about what the household rules should be. Both are part of God's revealed truth. 

Scripture tells us who are meant to serve as office bearers. Christ calls us all--old and young, male and female--to places of service in the church. Don't worry! You have been called to a place of service. Christ calls brothers to serve as pastors, elders, and deacons. Sisters he calls to tasks which men (at least, I speak for myself) could not do and for which they are wholly unqualified.

May God be with the church! We may not be condemnatory or judgmental, but we are required to observe, consider, and, at times, make judgments, also about whom Christ calls to serve as office bearers in the church. 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

God hung up his bow

The LORD said, "I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth" (Gen. 9:13).

The Hebrew word used for bow is QESHET, which denotes the hunter's and warrior's weapon by which arrows are shot, at either prey or enemy. A hunter or warrior would hang up his bow after the job was done. The context the story of the great flood provides suggests we should be thinking of a warrior hanging up his bow after the battle had been fought. Scripture presents God as a warrior. Exodus 15:3 says, "The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name."

The LORD fought a battle against those who had rebelled against him despite the preaching of Noah. As 2 Peter 2:5 says, "...God did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others...."

Clouds are God's chariot which he rides in battle again his enemy. Isaiah 19:1 says, "The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt. The idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them." And Psalm 104:3, "He lays the beams of his upper chambers in the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he walks upon the wings of the wind..." 

The picture we are to see in our mind's eye as we read Genesis 9:13 is of a warrior coming home after the battle was done.  The chariot  is parked and the bow is hung up in the chariot. The battle is over. It is finished.  

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God hung his bow in his chariot
Fast forward in  your  mind  to  a  day  outside  the gates of Jerusalem on a hill called Golgotha. There hangs  a  man   whose   final   words   were,  "It  is finished."  The  battles  have  ceased and the war is over. We  are  in  a  time of peace. The weapons of war  have  been  remade  into implements for farm work  (see  Isaiah 2:4). We are  called to believe in this One, this Jesus, who said that it is all finished. All has been fulfilled. We are at peace with God, if we  believe  in   Jesus.  There is no peace for those who will  not  believe in  Jesus. Place your faith in him. 

God will wage one more battle against those who refuse to believe in Jesus. In fact, Jesus will be the warrior. In Revelation 1:7 we read that "... he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen." Jesus will come riding on a cloud and those who pierced his hands and feet by hanging him on a cross will wail in terror when they see him. This is certain, as is indicated by the word "Amen." All those guilty of crucifying Jesus from whichever tribe they may be will cry out in fear. That means that every human being, now dead or still alive, will have reason to be terrified, except for those who believe in Jesus. They need have no fear. As Jesus often said to those whom he loved and who loved him, "Do not fear."

Place your trust in Jesus, dear reader, and you will not need to fear. The LORD will never use his bow against you. 

We know that the bow the LORD hung up was a rainbow. As we learned in grade school, the rainbow has seven colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. In scripture seven is a number of completion. It is a number that often represents the goodness, grace, and kindness of God. 

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The six-coloured LGBT flag
Recently someone pointed out to me that the LGBT flag has six colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. I was reminded that the number 6 is significant in the Bible because it is the number of Man, the number of imperfection in man's work. It is a human number. It implies man's existence apart from God, without Christ.  

The LGBT flag is, at times, referred to as "The Rainbow Flag." The rainbow has been claimed by the LGBT movement as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride and LGBT social movements. It is not a rainbow for a rainbow has seven colours. At best it is a bastardized rainbow. For the LGBT community to claim the rainbow for their movement is illegitimate. 

Perhaps it was an accident to create a flag of six colours and to name it a rainbow flag; perhaps it was intentional, an "in-your-face" to Christians and their God. I do not know. But what I know is that the rainbow is a symbol that belongs to the LORD and to those who repent of their sin and worship him.

Monday, July 03, 2017

"It is Fulfilled" - a hymnic version

This version of "It is Fulfilled" has a hymnic character and is likely more suitable for a congregation to sing than the earlier version, which is arranged with a choir in mind.
To view a PDF of this, please click here.
To hear the song played on a created score, please click here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Are the CanRC only ten or twenty years behind the GKv?

Our sister churches in the Netherlands, GKN-Liberated (GKv), recently decided at their General Synod to open the offices of minister, elder, and deacon to the sisters of their congregations. This unfortunate decision will do irreparable damage to their relationships with many of their sister churches worldwide. The GKv is a member church of the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC); I cannot imagine that many of the other member churches will be content to let the GKv retain the privileges of membership.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) must be experiencing deja vu. In the mid-1990s the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) opened up the offices in their church to women. This became an issue in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). At that time the CRCNA was a member church of NAPARC, but their opening of ecclesiastical offices to women led to their suspension in 1997. The OPC and the RCUS were already members of NAPARC then. Also, the CRCNA ordination of women was largely the catalyst for the formation of the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA), presently a member of NAPARC.

Are the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC) going to follow the GKv in this? Are we a mere ten or twenty years behind? Historically we have had rather close ties to the GKv. Technically the GKv is a sister church to the CanRC, but realistically, the GKv is our mother. Many of our parents and grandparents were born and bred in its bosom. Will the closeness and the ties be the undoing of the CanRC? Will it be only a few years before we see women in our elders benches and on our pulpits?

Although I have no crystal ball, I think the answer to those questions is No. I say that with some confidence because of which churches we associate with here at home, in North America. Not a one of the twelve other NAPARC churches ordains women. At least one of them (URCNA) formed largely because of the issue, and others (OPC and RCUS) have fought the fight against a liberal hermeneutic on several fronts and, by the grace of God, prevailed for the truth.

Possibly we have an advantage that the GKv does not have. We are in a circle of churches that maintains an explicitly Reformed hermeneutic, a circle that I do not think the GKv has on the European continent.

Let us, as CanRC, be cautious about the company we keep, and let us stay in step with our NAPARC associates.