January 29 – February 4 Family Worship Guide for Family Devotions using the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 5

Family Worship Guide
For the Week of Lord’s Day 5


12  Q.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

A.  God requires that his justice be satisfied.[1] Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another.[2]

13  Q.  Can we pay this debt ourselves?

A.  Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day.[3]

14  Q.  Can another creature; any at all; pay this debt for us?

A.  No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of.[4] Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it.[5]

15  Q.  What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

A.  One who is truly human[6] and truly righteous,[7] yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.[8]

Scripture Memory

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1Timothy 2:5-6

Daily Scripture Reading

Sunday           Read the passage your pastor preached on this week.

Monday          Romans 2:1-11

Tuesday          Job 9:1-20

Wednesday    Job 9:21-35

Thursday        Job 16:16-22

Friday              Job 40:1-5

Saturday         1 John 2:1-3

Daily Prayer Requests

Sunday           Pray that the Lord would be glorified through you in the upcoming week.

Monday:         Pray for the senior adults in your church.

Tuesday:         Pray for the leaders in your church.

Wednesday:   Pray for those who are homeless and destitute.

Thursday:       Pray for the salvation of friends and family members; call them by name.

Friday:             Pray for your family members; call them by name.

Saturday         Pray that God would be glorified in tomorrow’s worship gathering.

Overview and Helps

Monday’s Scripture follows question and answer 12. The readings on Tuesday through Saturday refer collectively to questions 13-15. You will notice that most of the readings are from the book of Job. The biblical theme of the need for a mediator plays a key role in the theology of Job. Any further study you did on this theme in the book of Job would be profitable.


Romans 2:1-11 is pretty clear about mankind’s universal guilt and condemnation. Paul’s battle was with Jews and Gentiles. Perhaps today the argument of the passage could be applied to “Christians” and believers. Children “born and raised” must understand that all people stand guilty before God and are in desperate need of embracing “the riches of his kindness” that leads to repentance.


Job is a far more complex character than most Christians realize. For instance, in Job 9:1-20, does Job really believe he is blameless? We know from the first chapter that he was very careful about the mere possibility his sons and daughters sinned. Does he not think he is guilty of sin as well? Or is his view of God so high that he is saying even if he thought he was not guilty, he knows God would prove him wrong? Or is his view of God warped into claiming that God is a petty enough tyrant to find something wrong in even a perfect man? In any event, however good or bad as Job thinks he is, he knows God is infinitely more holy.


Nearly all your attention can be devoted the last several verses of the chapter. This is mankind’s dilemma. There is no one to bridge the great chasm between God and man. Man’s only hope is someone who can stretch out one hand to God, the other hand to man, and bring them together. Hence the cross.


Dwell on verse 19. Job’s hope is ours: an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.


In Job 40:1-5 we actually see how the law is a surrogate for the presence of God. “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19) The law accomplishes in man what the appearance of God accomplished in Job: it leaves us speechless in regards to the charges against us.


This passage answers the dilemma this week’s questions present and points to the solution that next week’s questions offer. It should be noted that we are saved from our sins, and saved to keep his commandments. God is concerned with our obedience, but only its place. We obey in response to God’s grace not to secure God’s grace.

Catechism Comments & Quotes

Summarizing the group of questions:

The Catechism reorients us to the crisis of the human condition: On our own, God is not for us but against us. God’s wrath cannot be wished away from the pages of Scripture. (DeYoung, 38)

It took the church a few centuries of heresies to safeguard this biblical truth from error. Almost all the early heresies dealt somehow with the person of Christ, either denying His full deity (Arianism), or His full manhood (Docetism), or confusing the two (Eutychianism), or splitting the two (Nestorianism). As attractive as the compromise solutions seemed at the time, nothing other than a full-throated orthodoxy would do, because nothing other than a God-man can save men from God. We need a bridge that goes far enough in both directions, spanning the gulf that exists between a holy God and a rebellious people. We need a Mediator, as the Athanasian Creed says, who is “God and human” yet “not two, but one.” (DeYoung, 39)

Question 12

The design of this Lord’s Day is to prove how utterly destitute of salvation the sinner has become. If God dealt with sinners as they deserve, none could dare hope. From the human standpoint, there is no way of salvation. Three ways of solving the problem of sin are possible: obedience, paying the penalty, atonement. Adam has already forfeited the first way; the second offers no salvation; and the third is one which man is incapable of making  himself- first because no creature is good enough to pay either his own or another’s indebtedness; and second, because all men are already “dead in sins.” If there is a way of escape therefore, it is not to be found in ourselves. (Brower, 16)

Light is the natural symbol of God’s absolute justice and truth, just as darkness is the symbol of Satan’s kingdom of error and evil. Because God is light, it is very foolish to think for even one moment he will go easy on sin. The truth is that not one single sin—not even one we might call “a very little one”—will be remitted without full payment. (Williamson, 28)

…if man wants to “come again to grace,” to live in the presence of God, it will be necessary for him to pay; if he is insolvent, it will be necessary that someone else pay for him. The debt cannot remain unpaid. (UCP, 38)

Question 13

Man cannot satisfy God’s righteousness. He cannot restore the right of God and man. In fact he himself is the ever new, ever recurring cause of the destruction of this right. (Barth, 49)

Hundreds of thousands believe that rites and ceremonies are roads to the everlasting God. They sprinkle water, they dip and immerse, they burn candles, and they say litanies. Or they chant verses until their minds are numb. They call on saints and holy people, make pilgrimages, sing songs, pay money, But the Lord says that there is only one Mediator between God and man. (Kuyvenhoven, 36)

“Good” deeds are quite useless; they cannot compensate for the bad ones; they cannot restore the balance. Our acts are all tainted by the curse; we cannot produce a single pure deed, that is to say, a completely unselfish act motivated by love alone. (UCP, 40)

“It is the road to hell that is paved with good intentions, not the road to heaven.” (Cited in UCP, 41)

Question 14

Another creature cannot “pay” because man is the one who committed the violation, He is questioned about his deed and he must answer for it. Moreover, no mere creature can reestablish the right of God and man. (Barth, 49)

This is an intolerant teaching. It gives no saving credit to other religions, and it declares all human efforts hopeless. (Kuyvenhoven, 36)

How many times do we not find men and women, who, in one way or another, think they ought still to satisfy God? But when God reveals himself as he really is in Jesus Christ, when he ceases to be a creation of the human imagination, it becomes clear immediately that he could not allow anyone to bargain with him over his grace. (UCP, 42)

Question 15

Redemption as redemption through righteousness is only possible through one who is true man, one who is able to measure up to the responsibility of man before God, one who is capable of representing a new man (q. 16). But at the same time he must also be true God, one who is capable of actually achieving the restoration in its significance for all other men (q. 17). (Barth, 49)

One could imagine one righteous man dying to redeem one other person (if such a righteous man could be found, and he were willing to do it.) But even if such a person could be found, he could not redeem many people—unless he were not only a man but also an infinite person. (Williamson, 29)

[1] 1  Ex. 23:7; Rom. 2:1-11

[2] 2  Isa. 53:11; Rom. 8:3-4

[3] Matt. 6:12; Rom. 2:4-5

[4] Ezek. 18:4, 20; Heb. 2:14-18

[5] Ps. 49:7-9; 130:3

[6] Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:21; Heb. 2:17

[7] Isa. 53:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26

[8] Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Jer. 23:6; John 1:1

John Calvin on the Big Bang and Evolution

Others have indeed said that the world has not always existed. But so what? They have conjured up the most obtuse and absurd things a human could utter to resist God’s majesty, and they are unable to contemplate his glory, which ought to be evident as it displays itself so plainly before us. That is why they prefer—I am not joking—to say that the world came together by chance and that there were tiny objects tumbling around that the sun used for building the moon and the starts, the earth, the trees, and even men. Could anyone think up a scenario more stupid than that?
So let us pay close attention to this word ‘create’ and be armed against all diabolical illusions, and let us be steadfast in resisting them and steadfast in the knowledge that everything was made from nothing because there is no existence except in God alone, and that we have from him all the we have and are.
(Sermons on Genesis 1-11, trans. Rob Roy McGregor (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 11-12, 13)

I’d say that sums it all up nicely.

Creation: How Does the Bible Interpret Genesis 1?

As we consider the debate between those who hold to believe in some form of evolution and those who believe in the traditional Christian belief in direct creation by God over the course of six 24-hour days; one question that has to be answered is “What does the Bible say about the creation of the universe.” In other words, it does not really matter what the traditional Christian belief is. The central question is, “What does the Bible, in fact, teach?” Or, to put it more humbly, “What does the Bible seem to teach?” As we consider texts that speak directly about the creation of the universe, what is the picture they paint?

Genesis 1 is obviously an important place to start. Several aspects demand our attention. First, there are the repeated “let there be” statements followed by “and there was;” “and it was so;” or “God made.” It is hard to escape the immediacy that these statements imply. Furthermore there are the repeated “there was evening, and there was morning, the first [second/third/fourth etc.] day.” In any other discourse if someone talked like this there would be little chance of being misunderstood. If someone made an appointment and said, “After three evening and mornings, after three days, I will meet you.” It would be, or should be, pretty clear when the meeting was supposed to happen. Granted, there are some biblical contexts in which “day” does not mean a 24-hour time period. But our basic methodology is not to ask what a word can possibly mean from other contexts, but what a word most likely means in its present context. We must investigate how the Bible speaks about creation and its days in other contexts that speak of creation; not how it speaks about “days” in contexts that have nothing to do with creation.

This leads to a consideration of Exodus 20:8-11 a context that speaks of days and creation. The Israelites were commanded to work 6 days of the week and cease from their labor on the seventh day of the week. There is no ambiguity here and all interpreters can only assert that such a command was understood and practiced with a literal understanding of the words. The Israelites worked Sunday through Friday and ceased labors on Saturday. Even now, nearly 4,000 years later, the Jewish people practice this. Verse 11 appears to be equally unambiguous: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The six days of labor for the Israelites match the six days of labor of the Lord. What indication is there in the text that anyone should take verses 8-10 literally, but not verse 11? Indeed, the very basis for a literal interpretation for verses 8-10 is a literal interpretation of verse 11. When the Bible speaks of days and creation, the Bible seems to interpret the event literally.

But what about the act of creation? How does the Bible present the act of creation outside of Genesis? Consider the following texts:

 Psalm 33:6-9  By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Psalm 148:1-5- Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.

Isaiah 45:12, 18- I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Romans 4:17  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

2Peter 3:5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Again, what is the impression that these verses leave the reader with. It certainly seems that the Bible wants its reader to believe that everything that came into existence came into existence because of the command of the Lord. It appears that the Psalmist, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, and author of Hebrews all understood Genesis chapter one in a “literal” manner.

A common method of contrarians is to atomize the Bible. They seek to separate texts off from one another and explain away details through using irrelevant data. It is certainly important to know the lexical meanings a word can have: even the word day.[1] But the safest way of interpretation is to seek what a word means in its own context and in contexts that are closest in content. If you want to know what “day” means in Genesis 1, look for how the Bible speaks about creation.

When the Bible talks about creation it constantly does so in a way that reinforces a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Maybe that is why the church has believed it for 2,000 years.

[1] Basil the Great makes a forceful point: “It is the opposite of day which was called night, and it did not receive its name until after day. Thus were created the evening and the morning, Scripture means the space of a day and a night, but calls them both under the name of the more important: a custom which you will find throughout Scripture, Everywhere the measure of time is counted by days, without mention of nights. ‘The days of our years,’ says the Psalmist. ‘Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,’ said Jacob, and elsewhere ‘all the days of my life.’ Thus under the form of history the law is laid down for what is to follow.” (Hexaemeron, Homily 2). Critics debate over what the word “day” means all the while ignoring that God himself define is in the the text: evening and morning.

Family Worship Guide for Family Devotions January 22 – January 28 Using the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 4

Family Worship Guide
For the Week of Lord’s Day 4


9   Q.  But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

     A.  No, God created humans with the ability to keep the law.[1] They, however, tempted by the devil,[2] in reckless disobedience,[3] robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.[4]


 10  Q.  Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

     A.  Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity.[5] He has declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.[6]


11  Q.  But isn’t God also merciful? 

    A.  God is certainly merciful,[7] but he is also just.[8] His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty; eternal punishment of body and soul.[9]

 Scripture Memory

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

Heb 9:27

 Daily Scripture Reading

Sunday           Read the passage your pastor preached on this week.

Monday          Genesis 3:1-6 

Tuesday          Genesis 3:7-19

Wednesday    Deuteronomy 27:15-19, 24-26

Thursday        Psalm 5

Friday              Exodus 33:18-34:8

Saturday         Hebrews 10:23-31

Daily Prayer Requests

Sunday           Pray that the Lord would be glorified through you in the upcoming week.

Monday:         Pray for the senior adults in your church.

Tuesday:         Pray for the leaders in your church.

Wednesday:   Pray for those who are homeless and destitute.

Thursday:       Pray for the salvation of friends and family members; call them by name.

Friday:             Pray for your family members; call them by name.

Saturday         Pray that God would be glorified in tomorrow’s worship gathering.

Overview and Helps

Beginning with Monday’s Scripture reading each of the three Catechism questions for this week are focused on for two days. While each question should be reviewed every day, special attention should be given to #9 on Monday and Tuesday; #10 on Wednesday and Thursday; and #11 on Friday and Saturday.


             Notice the wiles of the Devil. He baited his hook with something good: “you will be like God.” As he would do later with Jesus, Satan held out something good but offered a short-cut to obtaining it. Had Adam and Eve thought more carefully, perhaps they would have wondered at such a temptation and would have seen through it. Satan offered them the opportunity to be like God, yet he gained a hearing by planting doubts about God’s goodness.


            In setting the pattern for all such acts in the future, we see that if man is going to be saved, God must do the seeking. Sin immediately separated man from God. If Adam and Eve could have had their own way they never would have had fellowship with the Lord again. In his great mercy, however, God sought the wandering pair.


            Verses 20-23 were left out for their sexual nature. They should be included at your discretion. Deuteronomy itself presents this as a “congregational” activity so it is not hard to imaging youngsters being present.

            It would be helpful to ask questions or lead discussion in such a way to point out that the list of “curses” should not be limited to the letter of these verses. What are other ways we should show love to God and neighbor?


            If nothing else, this Psalm certainly contradicts the worn-out cliché “God hates sin but loves the sinner.” The light of verses 11 and 12 is not appreciated without the darkness of verses 4-10.  


            A wonderful passage that demonstrates the true “secret of Moses’ success:” an abiding desire to know God more. Moses demonstrates the only proper response to the revelation of a God who forgives sin but by no means clears the guilty: he bowed his head and worshipped.

            How can God forgive sin and by no means clear the guilty? Preach Christ to your family!


             Another passage that dispels a popular contemporary myth. It is common to hear of a radical difference between “the God of the Old Testament” and of the New Testament. Contrary to popular Christian opinion, the grace of God in Christ brings with it even greater responsibility. Bring this home by meditating on verse 29 with your family.  

Catechism Comments & Quotes

Summarizing the group of questions:

Herman Hoeksema entitles his chapters on these questions: The Justice of God’s Demand; The Justice of God’s Wrath; The Justice of God’s Mercy

 This is the third and last Lord’s Day in which we confess the truth about the misery of humanity. Perhaps it is the most difficult one. We must now admit that God is righteous in his verdict, in his punishment, and in his ultimate wrath. (Kuyvenhoven, 31)

 All three questions might be expressed in one query: Is there a way out as far as sinful man is concerned? Is there a possibility for man in his fallen state and depraved condition to be blessed, to escape the wrath of God and punishment? (Hoeksema, 211)

 Man loves sin, but he dreads hell. And so he makes an attempt to escape the one while continuing in the other. And it is this possibility that is the subject of discussion in this fourth Lord’s Day. (Hoeksema, 212)

 Question 9  

What is it that makes people reject God’s judgment? In the first place, they say that it is not fair of God to ask for the impossible. How can you ask a poor cripple to walk? How can God expect us, weak and short-sighted people that we are, to do what not even Adam could do? (Praamsma, 19)

 It surely is not fair, or just, to punish a creature for not doing what it was never given the ability to do. So why can’t we say the same thing about man, since he is not able to keep God’s commandments perfectly? The answer is very simple: when God created man, he was able to keep God’s commandments. It is entirely man’s own fault that he is no longer able to do what he was able to do in the beginning. (Williamson, 22)

 Man cannot go forward. He stands under a historical power and can do nothing about it. God created him good, but man has renounced and lost his freedom. (Barth, 37)

 We form a corporate unity. In many respects you and I have never doubted it. The national debts, the astronomical amounts of money that our nations owe to bankers and other creditors in the world, are your and my debts. Yet when the debts were incurred, some of us were not yet born and none of us were asked. Similarly, the debt of the human race is yours and mine. (Kuyvenhoven, 32)

 Man wants to rid himself of the obligation to serve his Creator. He registers a complaint against his divine Employer in order to justify himself in his sin. He tries to justify a strike. (Hoeksema, 213)

 For the demand of the law of God is that man love Him with all his heart and mind and soul and strength. And this demand is not to be divorced from the so-called “cultural” mandate, but, on the contrary, dominates it. And it is this demand of the law that the Catechism refers in this ninth question.  This demand man cannot perform. (Hoeksema, 216)

 …we must proceed from the fundamental axiom: God is just, and He is the sole criterion of all justice. All his works are justice and truth. The question, therefore, can never be whether God Himself is just, nor whether His works are righteousness; but whether in a given case we understand the justice of God. (Hoeksema, 218)

 God gave man the means to perform the law; man squandered the gifts of God; the demand of the law is still just, though man is now incapable of performing it: love the Lord the God with all thy heart and mind and soul and strength! (Hoeksema, 222)

 Question 10

Lines about eternal punishment should be written wet with tears of our soul. Words thus spoken must have the hush of awe. (Vis, 19)

 Perhaps sin will go unpunished, as happens everywhere around us! Not every criminal faces the judge. No thunderbolt strikes us, when we transgress the Ten Commandments. “Original sin I disclaim and with actual sin I can afford to take a chance,” so speaks a rebellious voice in the troubled silence of the hall of justice of man’s accusing conscience. (Vis, 20)

 God’s honor—but also man’s salvation—depends on the fact that he cannot tolerate the destruction of his order, that forgiveness therefore cannot mean an overlooking of guilt. (Barth, 41)

 hen a person is called cursed in the Bible that means quite simply that he is no longer inside but outside. . . . Curse means the rejection of the chosen, dismissal from the sight of God, banishment to the shadow and night and chaotic side of creation, exile to an existence without ground and possibility—all this for the creature who was destined to dwell in light! Curse does not mean the annihilation of man, release from being, but banishment to being in negation, in the sphere toward which turned his back already at creation when he separated light and darkness. (Barth, 42)

 …death is no accident. It is not the natural end of all existence. It is the hand of God that is heavy upon us. Death is the expression of the wrath of God against sin. It is the wrath of god that abideth on us and never gives us even a moment’s respite. (Hoeksema, 225)

 If a man practices sexual immorality, God punishes him in His just judgment with certain diseases and corruption of the body; the drunkard makes of himself a physical wreck and mental imbecile; certain sins of character, such a lying, deceit, pride, haughtiness, and the like, meet with their own proper retribution. The ungodly world looks upon these evils as the natural results of the vices practiced, as the operation of the physical laws of the universe that cannot be changed but the believer knows that in all these “results” of sin the hand of God and His righteous judgment become manifest. (Hoeksema, 226)

 The wrath or displeasure of God is not to be compared to human anger. It is not a passing emotion. It is constant. For God’s anger is the reaction of the holiness of God against the wicked that tramples under foot the glory of His name and refuses to give Him thanks. God is holy. And His holiness is the divine virtue according to which He always seeks Himself as the only Good. (Hoeksema, 233)

 Only in Christ, Who voluntarily bore the wrath of God and the curse on the accursed tree, is there a way out. For in Him there is eternal righteousness, favor of God, and the blessing of life in His fellowship forever. (Hoeksema, 234)

 Here one does not “get by.” . . . Jesus Christ did not “get by.” And if we Christians belong to this Christ, we also cannot get by, for we cannot get around him. He stands before us as the rejected one. “Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole” (Is. 53). And because it lies on him, we are bound in him to take it seriously, It is only at this one place where God’s wrath had burned as a consuming fire—Golgotha. There is where the judgment of God on man is revealed. (Barth, 44-45)

 Question 11

When we minimize God’s justice, we do not exalt His mercy, we undermine it. God’s mercy exhibits its full power and sweetness when we see it not merely as a general goodwill to all people, but as the means by which God’s people are rescued, in Christ, from their just wrath and condemnation. (DeYoung, 35)

 The proof and the hope in that fearfulness [of eternal punishment] is evident when Jesus bore our punishment: the chastisement of our sin was upon him! Him who knew no sin, God made sin on our behalf. Would you see the fearfulness of the curse of sin? Go to dark Gethsemane and linger at the cross-crowned Calvary. There is the demonstration and the divine miracle of substitution. And we cast our anchor there. (Vis, 20-21)

 [The Catechism] readily grants that God is merciful. But it denies that this mercy of God eliminates the execution of His justice and righteous wrath. It insists that the blessed mercy of God can reach the creature only through the channels of His justice. (Hoeksema, 236)

 God is His attributes. His mercy is His justice, and His justice is His mercy. And therefore, His mercy is always a just and righteous mercy; and His justice is always merciful. (Hoeksema, 239)

 The greatness of sin is not measured by the position and worth of him that commits it, but by the majesty and goodness and sovereignty of Him against whom sin is committed. (Hoeksema, 242).

 He is Lord in all the universe; He is Lord in time and eternity. Always and everywhere and for ever we have to do with Him. Never can we escape Him. There is, therefore, no rest for the sinner. Offense against the infinite majesty of God, than Who there is no other sovereign, must be punished everywhere and for ever. (Hoeksema, 242)

 All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him. (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992) 3.)


[1] Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24

[2] Gen. 3:13; John 8:44

[3] Gen. 3:6

[4] Rom. 5:12, 18, 19

[5] Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27

[6] Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26

[7] Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 103:8-9

[8] Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31

[9] Matt. 25:35-46

Family Worship Guide For the Week of Lord’s Day 3 using Heidelberg Catechism for Family Devotions

Family Worship Guide For the Week of Lord’s Day 3

 6   Q.  Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

     A.  No. God created them good[1] and in his own image,[2] that is, in true righteousness and holiness,[3] so that they might truly know God their creator,[4] love him with all their heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.[5]


7   Q.  Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?

     A.  From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise.[6] This fall has so poisoned our nature[7] that we are born sinners; corrupt from conception on.[8]


 8   Q.  But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

     A.  Yes,[9] unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.[10]

 Scripture Memory

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:27, 31

Daily Scripture Reading

Sunday           Read the passage your pastor preached on this week.

Monday          Genesis 1:24-31         

Tuesday          Psalm 8

Wednesday    Romans 5:12-21

Thursday        Psalm 51

Friday              1 Cor. 2:11-16

Saturday         John 8:34-47

Daily Prayer Requests

Sunday           Pray that the Lord would be glorified through you in the upcoming week.

Monday:         Pray for the adults in your church.

Tuesday:         Pray for your local leaders.

Wednesday:   Pray for those who are sick and in need of physical healing.

Thursday:       Pray for specific opportunities to share the message of Christ with others.

Friday:             Pray for the families in your church.

Saturday         Pray that God would be glorified in tomorrow’s worship gathering.

Overview and Helps

Beginning with Monday’s Scripture reading each of the three Catechism questions for this week are focused on for two days. While each question should be reviewed every day, special attention should be given to #6 on Monday and Tuesday; #7 on Wednesday and Thursday; and #8 on Friday and Saturday.


             There are several significant theological implications within this passage. The statement “Let us make man…” makes room from the very start of Scripture for the later revelation of the Trinity. While some commentators see this as God speaking to the heavenly counsel of angels, Scripture only speaks of man as made in God’s image and likeness: never in the image of angels. It is for this reason that Christ, the true image and likeness of God, came to redeem man and not angels.

            Verse 31 makes it very difficult to adopt any kind of evolutionary theory of creation. It is difficult to understand how “everything” could be “very good” as is sat on top of the bone-heap of billions of years of death.



            This passage is particularly meaningful in our day and age. The message of unbelieving astronomers is that man is a tiny speck of insignificance in a vast universe. As Herman Bavinck wrote,

…even if, in an astronomic sense, the earth is no longer central to us, it is definitely still central in a religious and ethical sense, and thus it remains central to all people without distinction, and there is not a thing science can do to change that. Here the kingdom of God has been established; here the struggle between light and darkness is being waged; here, in the church, God is preparing for himself an eternal dwelling.

Psalm 8 should also be read in the light of Hebrews 2:5-9. The author of Hebrews interprets Psalm 8 Christologically to teach that Jesus is the Perfect Man who has been granted rule over all things.



            Why are all men sinners? Is it because Adam is the seminal head of humanity; or because he is the federal head of humanity? The answer is probably, “both.” In any case, that is not really a question this text is trying to answer. Paul argues two facts: through Adam all men are sinners and Jesus Christ is the “one man” through whom sinners can be saved.

            A possible discussion question: how can grace said to abound much more than sin if there are more lost people than saved people?



            As much of the back-story of this Psalm as is fitting for the children in your family should be discussed. The need of the sinner is God’s mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing. The sinner must recognize the depth of his sin: sin is against God and sin is in man from birth. The blessings of forgiveness are restoration, joy, and worship. In all of this, God is pursuing the heart of his child. The mercy and grace of God are not shallow, so neither is the repentance that pursues it.



            While Scriptural support is offered, Question 8 could be taken to state the matter too absolutely. Jesus acknowledged that even evil parents know how to give good gifts (Matt. 7:11). Paul allows that even unbelieving Gentiles sometimes obey the lay “by nature” (Rom. 2:14-15). Even today’s Scripture reading offers an illustration of this: unbelieving scholars often provide valuable grammatical, lexical, and historical information about Scripture even as they disbelieve its divine nature. Nevertheless, the truth of today’s passage should be emphasized: the Bible will only “make sense” to those who have the Spirit of God.

            Depending on the mental perception abilities of your children, you may have to spend time discussing this aspect of total depravity. Every part of man is incurably corrupted by sin: his thinking, feelings, and actions. But this does not mean that every man is as bad as he could be or that every man does only bad continually. Rather, man is completely unable to do anything to recommend himself to God. He is spiritually dead.



             Jesus focuses on the law of nature: sinners sin, murderers murder, and liars lie. In every example the root cause is the same: sin reigns because Scripture does not (8:37, 43, 44). Jesus was speaking to men who had large portions of the Old Testament memorized. Some of them might have even had the entire Old Testament memorized. Yet Jesus could assert that the word was not in them. What was their problem? Their nature: they were not born of God.

Catechism Comments & Quotes

Summarizing the group of questions:

We have already answered the question how we know what’s wrong with us. Now we wish to know how the trouble started and what the extent of the misery is. (Kuyvenhoven, 23)

Question 6  

This “image” is the dignity we must defend in human society. It involves a deep respect for human beings. We must honor as human beings even those who behave dishonorably. It is because they are God’s images that people’s blood may not be shed (Gen. 9:6) and their names may not be cursed (James 3:9-10). (Kuyvenhoven, 25)


The true nature of man is to know God. He can love him or hate him, but he cannot exist without him. (Miller, 25)


We are more than a mass of molecules. We are more than the sum of blood, bones, tissues, organs, and skin. Of all His creatures, we are unique in that we can know God, hear from God, communicate with God, and have union with God. (DeYoung, 29)


He created man good. In this connection this means: without corruption and sin; and, positively, so that man could reach the purpose of his existence in relation to God and all things. (Hoeksema, 91)


The animals are called forth by God’s Word out of the ground, man is formed by God’s creative hand. The very act that forms Adam out of the earth elevates him above it! (Hoeksema, 104)


No matter what becomes of man, whether he actually shows forth the beauty and glory of the image of God, or whether he turns into the very opposite and reveals the image of the devil, always you can distinguish him as a creature that ought to show forth God’s image, always he remains the living soul that was formed by God’s fingers out of the dust of the ground, and into whose nostrils God breathed the breath of life originally; always he remains a personal, rational and moral being, who ought to live in covenant fellowship with the living God! (Hoeksema, 105-106)


Question 7

Our actual sins do not make us sinners, but we have by nature a sinful condition that is the root and hotbed of all our actual sins. (Kuyvenhoven, 27)


If man has sabotaged the work of creation, it is because he has not had confidence in God. He has not believed God’s Word. He has believed that God was holding something back, even though in creating man “in his own image, in true righteousness and holiness,” God had already given him everything. Give me the share of the property that falls to me (Luke 15:12), the prodigal son said to his father, as if in his father’s house the son were not already enjoying his whole inheritance. (Miller, 27)


Why He did not sustain him by the virtue of perseverance is hidden in his counsel; it is ours to keep within the bounds of soberness. Man had received the power, if he had the will, but he had not the will which would have given the power; for this will would have been followed by perseverance. Still, after he had received so much, there is no excuse for his having spontaneously brought death upon himself. (Calvin, I, xv, 8)


Just as an apple tree has many apples—and all of them are Delicious apples if the tree is a Delicious apple tree—so it is with the human race because of the first sin of Adam and Eve. Because of our relationship with our first parents, we share their fallen nature. (Williamson, 18)


Our fundamental problem is not bad parents, bad schools, bad friends, or bad circumstances. Our fundamental problem is a bad heart. And every single one of us is born into the world with it. (DeYoung, 30)


After the heavenly image in man was effaced, he not only was himself punished by a withdrawal of the ornaments in which he had been arrayed, viz., wisdom, virtue, justice, truth, and holiness, and by the substitution in their place of those dire pests, blindness, impotence, vanity, impurity, and unrighteousness, but he involved his posterity also, and plunged them in the same wretchedness. (Calvin, II.i.5)

Question 8

Sin is no less than the destruction of the entire man, yet through His common grace God preserves enough of the gifts of creation so that man can still be seen and addressed as man. (Praamsma, 17).


Are we then incapable of doing any good? We can render civil and moral good; we can feed the hungry and engage in philanthropy; many make much of “common grace” and “practical Christianity,” yes, they manifest some good toward their fellow-man and we appreciate that. They are like a clock without main spring that shows time accurately twice a day, and does some good. But it is dead. And they that are in the flesh cannot please God. We must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. (Vis, 18)


…there is nothing in fallen men themselves, by nature, that can bring about the change that is needed. If a man is to be saved, it will have to be by God’s almighty power and unmerited mercy, and that only. (Williamson, 19)


The Christian life—the life of faith on God, hope in Christ, and love for others—necessitates, first of all, a life that has been given a supernatural new start by the Holy Spirit. We must be born again. (DeYoung, 31).

[1] Gen. 1:31

[2] Gen. 1:26-27

[3] Eph. 4:24

[4] Col. 3:10

[5] Ps. 8

[6] Gen. 3

[7] Rom. 5:12, 18-19

[8] Ps. 51:5

[9] Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 14:4; Isa. 53:6

[10] John 3:3-5

How to Read the Bible Adapted from Wilhelmus à Brakel The Christian’s Reasonable Service Guidelines for the Profitable Reading of Scripture

For the reading of Scripture to be profitable, there must be preparation, practice, and reflection.


            You must, with mental concentration, place yourself in the presence of God. You must promote a reverent, spiritual frame of mind, being conscious that the Lord shall speak to him. To promote such reverence, reflect upon Isaiah 1:2, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken.”

            You must lift up your heart to the Lord asking him to cause you to perceive the truth expressed in God’s Word and apply it to your heart. Your prayer ought to be with Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

            You must attentively aim your heart toward obedience in order to exercise faith, be receptive to comfort, and comply with all that the Lord proclaims, promises, and commands. With Samuel your prayer is, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Sam. 3:10).


            As you read it is essential to do so calmly and attentively rather than hastily with the only objective being to complete the reading. If there is a lack of time it is better to read less with concentration than to read more with distraction.

            You should observe the context before and after the text  you are reading and notice the manner of speech and the object of the text. The text must be compared with other text where the issue is explained more comprehensively, and with texts which are similar in content.

            You should not merely cleave to the literal meaning. This is being satisfied with the rind of the fruit which provides neither strength nor nourishment. One must penetrate to the kernel itself, seeking to perceive the internal essence of the matter.

            Avoid assigning every allowable meaning to a given word. The meaning of Scripture is clear, straightforward, and concise, expressing matters in a more organized manner than any man would ever be capable of doing. This obligates us to search out carefully what the specific intent and objective of the Spirit is in every text.

            Avoid the similar errors of relegating everything to the past or to the future. You cannot read the Old Testament and say, “This is all in the past there is nothing here for me.” You cannot read prophecy and say, “This is all for some time in the future it is not for me.” Such an attitude takes away the true meaning, spirituality, and the power from the Word.

            Avoid thinking that no text of Scripture can be correctly understood unless it is viewed in its context. There are thousands of expressions in God’s Word which, when heard or read individually, have a precise meaning, give full expression to their doctrinal content, and are sufficiently penetrating to stimulate faith, render comfort, and be exhort to obedience.

            If you encounter something which is not immediately understood, put it aside for the time being and continue reading. When you encounter a remarkable text, mark it, meditate on it, memorize it.


            Joyfully give thanks that the Lord has allowed His Word to be recorded and preserved and that you have the privilege of reading and applying it. 

            Strive to preserve the spiritual state of mind which is obtained by reading God’s Word.

            Share with others what was read, discussing it whenever possible.

            Strive to obey what has been read by bringing it into practice.

Thoughts on Life and Roads Not Taken


When I was three years old I went on my first missions trip. (Back then it was still called missions. None of the hip folk were around yet to shorten it to mission.) My parents toted me along to France for a couple of months.

Like my dad I would later graduate from Bible college. Like my dad I wanted to be a missionary.

But for my dad it was not to be.

As with most occupations, someone applying to be a missionary needs references. I don’t know how many they needed. It does not really matter. One of their references was from a man in their church who wrote something to convince the mission board my parents were not fit for full-time service. So my parents never made it into full-time missions. My dad spent his life in a 40 degree dairy cooler at Kroger. While just a short time after giving that negative recommendation, the man left the faith and his wife.

Several years after I married Abigail, I found out “the rest of the story.” That man was married to Abigail’s aunt- then left her and the faith.

Think of that.

My wife’s uncle kept my parents (and me) from living on the mission field.

Then he left his wife and the church.

And my dad spent his life working in a big refrigerator.

What might have been? What if my parents had chosen someone different for the reference? What if that man would not have said what he said? Maybe I would have grown up in France.

But then I would never have met that man’s then 1-year old niece.

One man.

He changed the life of my family forever.

Yet without him I would probably not have my family.

  Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

Guide for family devotions using Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day Week 2

For the Week of Lord’s Day 2


3  Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.[1]


4 Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22– Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.[2]* This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.[3] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

*Earlier and better manuscripts of Matthew 22 omit the words “and with all your strength.” They are found in Mark 12:30.

5 Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No.[4] I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.[5]

Scripture Memory

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 ESV)

Daily Scripture Reading

 Sunday           Read the passage your pastor preached on this week.

Monday          Romans 7:7-25

Tuesday          Galatians 3:15-21

Wednesday    Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Thursday        Luke 10:25-37

Friday              1 John 1:5-10

Saturday         Eph. 2:1-10

Daily Prayer Requests

Sunday           Pray that the Lord would be glorified through you in the upcoming week.

Monday          Pray for the college students in your church.

Tuesday          Pray for the leaders of our state.

Wednesday    Pray for those who are homebound and for their caregivers.

Thursday        Pray for missionaries spreading the message of Christ throughout the world.

Friday              Pray for the marriages in your church.

Saturday         Pray that God would be glorified in tomorrow’s worship gathering.

Overview and Helps

Beginning with Monday’s Scripture reading each of the three Catechism questions for this week are focused on for two days. While each question should be reviewed every day, special attention should be given to #3 on Monday and Tuesday; #4 on Wednesday and Thursday; and #5 on Friday and Saturday.


While there is disagreement about the latter portion of this passage (is Paul referring to himself before or after salvation), its teaching on the Law is clear. The Law cannot save anyone because it was never meant to do so. The Law can never save because the Law does not eliminate sin, it incites and reveals sin. To illustrate the truth of these verses you can try to coax your children into giving an honest answer to the question, “What is the first thing you want to do when Mommy or Daddy says, ‘No Cookies!’?” Or you can simply ask yourself what your immediate reaction is when someone places restrictions on you, e.g. a speed limit.


This passage is in the larger context of answering the question of how a man is made right before God. Can man be made right before God by keeping the Law? What then, is the purpose of the Law?


This passage of Scripture remains central within Judaism to this day. It should be more important to the church as well. The Jews take the words literally and put portions of the Law in small containers to hang around their heads, or nail to their door rather than allowing the Word to grow in their hearts. Having a regular time of family worship is one way in which Christians can follow the commands of this chapter. But what are some of the ordinary activities and surroundings of your everyday life that could be more explicitly tied to God’s Word?


In what ways or on what occasions have you been a part of this story? When were times you have needed help and seen others pass you by? When have you helped someone forsaken by others? What made this story so jarring to Jesus’ audience was the racial aspect of a Samaritan helping a Jew. How can race or social status effect the way you see the people around you?

You should not miss the opportunity to use this passage to point to Christ. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who gave from his riches to aid us in our poverty (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). In love, Jesus reached out to save us when we were lost and without hope.


The death spiral of self-deception should be noted. The passage can be divided into three separate false claims. There is a remedy for claiming to walk with God while sinning (1:5-7). There is a remedy for claiming that one is not a sinner (1:8-9). John offers no remedy for the person who says they have never sinned (1:10). Everyone sins: that is bad news. Jesus came to save sinners: that is good news. If you are not a sinner, Jesus cannot save you.


Special attention should be given to the “nature” language of verses 1-3. At his core, what is man? He is spiritually dead; he follows the sinful world and Satan; he does whatever his sinful nature tells him to do; he is a child of wrath.

“But God!” You cannot stop with the discussion of man’s nature though; you must go on to magnify the merciful, gracious, saving, powerful, kind, and creative nature of God.


Catechism Comments & Quotes

            This week is the first of three weeks on the subject of the Sin and Misery of man. Vis summarizes these three questions as: the Mystery, the Measure, and the Misunderstanding of our misery.

            Concerning the fact there follows 27 weeks on Deliverance, and 21 weeks on gratitude commentators note:

Its brevity shows that the Reformation, though deeply impressed by our guilt and condemnation, is not a pessimistic type of faith and has no independent interest in the doctrine of sin. We have to know the depth of sin in order to know the heights of God’s grace. (Berkhof, 97)

We notice first of all quite generally how much shorter this part is than the two following parts. That is not accidental or immaterial. “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime” (Ps. 30:5). (Barth, 35)

Question 3

The trouble with most people is that they don’t know the trouble we are in. Therefore their proposed solutions make no sense. One cannot prescribe a cure before on has diagnosed the illness. . . . Our problems are so deep that nobody can plumb the depth of the pit. Of course, we can describe our misery. . . . But nobody knows what our misery is unless God has told him or her. (Kuyvenhoven, 17)

A man may, in a general way, realize that his condition is abnormal, that there is something wrong with him, but only when he applies the proper criterion and gauges his condition with it can he know the character and seriousness of the abnormality. (Hoeksema, 62).

The law is “normal.” Whatever is in agreement with the law is “normal.” And whatever departs or is in conflict with the law of God is “abnormal,” and therefore, miserable! (Hoeksema, 64)

Question 4

It is a summary because it is the sum total of God’s requirements: the law and the prophets. (Kuyvenhoven, 18)

So at the very beginning of our knowledge sin there is mention of the name of him who in the first question was introduced as our Savior and Protector. His law says: you shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor. And this love is shown nowhere in Scripture as a spontaneous act of our own initiative, but an answer, a reflection, a reaction of the love God in Christ toward us: “We love because he first loved us.” (Berkhof, 97)

Sin, in the biblical sense of the word, is not transgression of separate commandments, of natural law, or of general standards. It is a personal act, the distortion of our personal relation with God and our neighbor. (Berkhof, 97)

The Measure of our Misery in indicated by God’s commandments. Voluminous like a lawyer’s library? Complicated like our Federal statutes? No, just two: Love God and love thy neighbor. (Vis, 15)

To the fish God says: “You must live in the water. That’s your environment. That’s your life.” And when a fish comes on dry ground, it is absolutely miserable and is going to die. To us God says, “You must love, because that’s my will for your life.” And when we don’t, we become absolutely miserable. We are going to die. (Kuyvenhoven, 18)

God, who requires love, has given love. That love was flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. And since Christ is still living, those who look to him will now receive the same quality of love by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). (Kuyvenhoven, 21)

“Love God” means that you love Him for His own sake with your whole being, with all your thinking and willing, with all your strength, every moment of your existence, in every relationship of your life, with all that you possess. Love of God is all-inclusive. It is either that or nothing, or rather: it is either love God or hate Him! Here you cannot divide or compromise. (Hoeksema, 70)

Question 5

The law of love says that God has to stand uppermost in our judgments and decisions, and that he is immediately followed by our neighbor; we ourselves have to have third place. In our sinful reality this order is basically and continuously reversed. As “love” in its biblical sense does not mean primarily a sentiment but an act of will, a decision in favor of anyone (whom we may like or may not like); so “hate” means not to acknowledge anyone’s legitimate place in our decisions and actions, to neglect or misuse him. That is exactly what we do with God and our neighbor. (Berkhof, 97-98)

We may think that the person who loves for here and now is just too careless to be religious. But the Bible interprets the “mind that is set on the flesh” as a case of “hostility,” of “enmity.” Such a person hates God! He does not and cannot submit to God’s law (Rom. 8:7). The person who thinks he or she does not need the Creator to live life or to teach philosophy is, by biblical standards, not merely politely indifferent but a “fool” who hates the One who sustains his or her breathing (Ps. 14:1, etc.). And when biblical light falls over gossip circles in taverns and beauty salons, these people are spitting out the poison of vipers (Rom. 3:13-14) and spreading a fire that was lit in hell (James 3:6). (Kuyvenhoven, 20)

…God’s standard is perfection and nothing less. Every attempt on the part of sinful men to compromise or to deny this is a hopeless delusion. When we begin to see this, we begin to understand what God intended us to learn through the law. And when we begin to grasp the unpleasant truth about our own position and condition, we also begin to realize our need for Jesus Christ as our only comfort. (Williamson, 15)

Do you really love God with every fiber of your being, never putting any person or dream or possession before Him? And do you really love your neighbor as yourself, always aiming for the advancement of others, always putting the needs of others ahead of your own, and always treating others just as you wish to be treated? (DeYoung, 27)

It is true, that in a very wide sense all men are my neighbors. But if I would feel the force of this answer of the Heidelberger, I must not think in general of “all men,” nor of the poor Chinese whom I never see, and whom to love seems rather easy; but I must bring before mind the man with whom I come into contact daily, and because of whose existence I am limited in my place in the world. Well, my nature is such, that I am prone to hate God; and, therefore, also to hate my neighbor. As my neighbor who crosses my path and who limits my place, I dislike him, and like to destroy him. If that neighbor is my employer, I simply try to get my wages out of him; if he is my employee, I try to keep those wages down as far as possible; if he is in the same business I am in, I try to force him out of business; if he is my competitor for a certain job or office, I do all in my power to disqualify him and spoil his reputation. If he is in authority over me, I rebel against him; if he is subject to me, I lord it over him. These and many other things are daily manifestations of this hatred of my neighbor. (Hoeksema, 81)

For this adverb “perfectly” is not added in order to suggest that it is possible that you keep all these things imperfectly; but on the contrary, to emphasize the fact, that you must either keep them perfectly or cannot keep them at all. (Hoeksema, 79)

[1] Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25

[2] Deut. 6:5

[3] Lev. 19:18

[4] Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10

[5] Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3



Here is the .pdf file

Heidelberg Family Week 2

Wilhelmus à Brakel Comes out swinging against Dispensationalism

The conclusion of à Brakel’s chapter “The Word of God” in The Christian’s Reasonable Service is an excellent portion entitled Guidelines for the Profitable Reading of Scripture. I hope to summarize its contents in a future post, but one thing that really caught my attention was an item in his list of things to be avoided in reading the Bible.

à Brakel writes:

The second practice to avoid is that of forcing everything into a framework of seven dispensations, as the entire concept of seven dispensations is erroneous. It would be tolerable if this were limited to the Revelation of John; however, it would prevent one from ever ascertaining the correct meaning of the book of the Revelation. It is unacceptable to search for seven dispensations throughout the entire Bible, subordinating every scriptural issue to a dispensation. That would take away the true meaning, spirituality, and power from the Word.[1]

 I will not comment on Brakel’s evaluation of dispensationalism as a system, other than to say that on the whole I agree with his estimation of the fruits of it. What really surprises me is that a à Brakel knows about dispensationalism at all. I expect a Reformed theologian to criticize dispensationalism: but not one in à Brakel’s day. The Christian’s Reasonable Service was published in 1700. Everyone pretty much agrees that dispensationalism as a system was not formalized until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Where does à Brakel’s knowledge of dispensationalism come from then?

 I consulted the standard treatment on the system, Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie, and think I found the answer:

 Pierre Poiret was a French mystic and philosopher (1646-1719). His great work, L’OEconomie Divine, first published in Amsterdam in 1687, was translated into English and published in London in six volumes in 1713. The work began as a development of the doctrine of predestination, but it was expanded into a rather complete systematic theology. In viewpoint it is sometimes mystical, represents a modified form of Calvinism, and is premillennial and dispensational.[2]

 Ryrie also lists the seven dispensations of Poiret which have a different demarcation than those of Scofield, but are nonetheless seven. As Ryrie is right to remind critics of the system, dispensationalism did not exactly fall out of the sky in 1900. Even if Ryrie’s citation of patristic authors is rightly dismissed as egregious cherry-picking, critics of the system should look for the true roots and sources of it rather than focusing all their attention on Darby and Scofield. Dispensationalism is older than you think.

[1] Willhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992), 79.

[2] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 65.

Wilhelmus à Brakel…You’re no Herman Bavinck

In 2011 I read through Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. For this year I had fleeting thoughts of trying to venture through Barth’s Church Dogmatics. Or perhaps I should just go through several single-volume works. In the end I decided to tackle another 4-volume Dutch work: Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service. I had picked it up a few years ago at a conference in Greenville, SC and it is sat largely undisturbed on my shelf since then. It was highly recommended at the conference I was attending, and in the past few weeks I have again seen it recommended by several others. I’m about 70 pages in and not quite sure what to think.

 I know you cannot accurately judge a 2,500 page work after only 70 pages…but I am not too thrilled. The works of Bavinck and à Brakel are certainly very different. I recognize that there is a place for less rigorous expositions of theology, but à Brakel seems quite sloppy in his assertions.

 For instance:

 “One can therefore state this in reverse: every human being is conscious of a deity, and a being which is conscious of a deity is necessarily a human being.” (p. 18)

 Really? Are angels human beings? Is the Father a human being? Is the Holy Spirit a human being?

 “One book or several together—for example, the books of Moses or the Gospels—perfectly contain the complete rule for faith and practice.” (p. 34)

 Really? I could know everything I need to know from a few or even just one book of Scripture? They why are there 66? But since à Brakel thinks we could get by with just a few books of the Bible I guess it is not too surprising that he thinks we have lost some of the inspired writings:

 “Furthermore, we believe that the apostles have written many letters to the congregations, also by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Such particular congregations were obliged to receive these letters as being of divine origin. These were not in the possession of other congregations, however, and after the apostolic period were not preserved for the church of God.” (p. 37)

 Earlier on the same page à Brakel asserts: “Never does Christ or an apostle direct us to unwritten traditions, but always to the Word.” I am not sure this squares up with 2 Thess. 2:2, 15.

 And I will not comment on à Brakel’s strong assertions that the sun and moon rotate around a stationary earth (pgs. 64-65). Except to wonder if he might have been the last theologian to ever assert such.

 It is said that you can tell how long a missionary has served by what they do when a bug lands in their soup. A new missionary stops eating and asks for something else. A more experienced missionary takes out the bug and keeps on eating. A seasoned missionary just eats the bug. I realize that there are going to “bugs” in any work composed by man. A critical reader has to get past this. I just hope the bugs do not start overwhelming the soup.