Our Reformed Heritage
Lord Over Everything (Colossians 1:16-17)
[Lesson 7: The example of Abraham Kuyper]
by Bob Burridge ©2019
When I was elementary school age my brother and I shared a bedroom. We each had our differences including what neatness was, and how our room should be set up. So we divided the room in half. I kept my room my way, and he kept his the way he wanted. Other than a few territorial disputes and some trespassing issues, it worked out for us. I was lord and king in my realm and he was sovereign over his. For a shared bedroom situation it was a good solution.
Sometimes people divide up their lives that way. They have beliefs and ideas about things that are in conflict with one another so they divide things up into isolated territories.
That might work in a limited way. It’s good to keep the pressures of work out of your mind when you’re relaxing with your family. When solving complex problems it can be useful to keep distractions out of the room and out of your thoughts.
However, not everything in our lives can be helpfully separated off into isolation from other things. What we believe is morally right shouldn’t be fenced off from what we believe will make us successful and happy. What we believe is provably true shouldn’t be ignored to keep it from interfering with choices we make for our pleasures, wealth, health, and what we hope will bring us inner peace.
People might assign God to his own little part of their lives which they visit on Sundays. Or he gets called upon when problems come up. When they need his help they pray. And they believe it’s good to have a church when its time to get married or have a funeral for a loved one. But then they live their lives as if God is just a Sunday concern, a place to go when they deal with challenges they don’t know how to solve, or when they need some religious service performed.
One of the central points of Reformed Christian Heritage is this: God is Lord over all things all the time.
We need to live all of life in ways that honor Christ as king. In Colossians 1:16-17 Paul said, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
That means that everything in life has one central purpose and one reason for being there. It’s to honor God who made all things. It’s to put his purposes, principles, and revealed truths above everything else.
In 1 Peter 4:11 it says, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
It’s summarized so clearly in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes this important biblical principle in it’s very first question. There is asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is simple but profound: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”
Nothing fulfills what it was made to be if it isn’t centered on God’s glory. This means that every part of our lives, not just our worship on Sundays, but our thoughts, entertainment, recreations, our family life, and the way we relate with our neighbors and friends, should be consciously built upon what God says in his word.
The words of our Eternal Savior and King should direct how we conduct our work, and how diligently we do our school work. It should direct our politics. No believer should ever vote based upon personal benefits, party affiliation, or tradition. He should always vote for leaders who most promote what God says is right and allowable in the area of civil governmental authority.
Christ isn’t much of a king in your life as long as you imagine a little hamlet in your life outside of his lordship.
One of the men who helped the church understand this better was Abraham Kuyper. He was born into the Dutch society of the Netherlands on October 29th 1837. His teachers said he was dull as a student, but he was able to enter their equivalent of our High School by the time he was only 12. He went on to graduate with the highest honors from Leyden University, and to receive a doctorate of sacred theology and was ordained to the ministry.
While he pastored a church in a small town called Beesd he learned to appreciate the practical and biblical profoundness of the Reformed Faith. He renewed his interest in the writings of John Calvin. He could see with a fresh look, how the Bible could be so practical and relevant to the common farmers and laborers in his church.
The church had become rather formal in the Netherlands. Most people didn’t see the importance of their faith in their daily lives. Kuyper worked hard to change that.
He became involved in the “Anti-Revolution Party.” It was a group of protestants who saw the dangers of the humanism and socialism being promoted by the French Revolution. They didn’t want to see their own country taken in by those liberal ideas.
In 1872 he became Editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper called De Standard. Soon after that he took over as editor of De Heraut, a weekly Christian magazine. Both had a high circulation and through them he had a tremendous influence. He continued as editor of both for over 45 years.
Kuyper strongly opposed and wrote against the error of “Higher Criticism” which attacked the origins of the Bible. The Higher Critical theories attacked the authority of the Bible by saying it’s just a collection of the writings of men and of various editors. They generally teach that the book of Jonah was just an alegory, a myth, but not real history. They also tend to reject the historical reality of Adam, Noah, Job, and most other Old Testament characters, stories, and books.
At the center of this is the “JEDP theory” which says that the books of Moses are the combined stories from many sources written and complied over the span of hundreds of years, all much later than the time of King David.
They say there were the “J” documents where the God of the writers was known as Jehovah (Yahveh “יהוה”). These are often dated at around 850 BC. These were combined with the “E” documents where the God “Elohim” or “El” was known to the authors. There are also the “D” documents which they claim were a main source for Deuteronomy dated around 621 BC, much later in Jewish history. Finally there are the “P” documents which they say were added to each of the books by various Priests all the way up to almost the end of the Old Testament era.
In Seminary we did a detailed study of the Hebrew text of these books of Moses.
It was obvious that the use of the various names of God were so intertwined that when taken apart the text didn’t make much sense.
The real foundation of this theory is that some could not accept that these biblical books were actually written by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus and the Apostles referred to them as the writings of Moses, they say they were mistaken. This Higher Critical theory is obviously just an attempt to deny the Bible as God’s truth. Kyper did a lot of work to show that these Higher Critical theories are totally without any real support. In recent years many critics of Scripture have admitted that the evidence supporring the JEDP approach us very weak.
In 1874 he was elected to the lower house of Parliament and started leading the nation in making important reforms.
He helped promote schools under parental control free from government control. In 1880 he helped found the Free University of Amsterdam. He came to the United States on a lecture circuit in 1898. His talks are published in the book Lectures on Calvinism.
From 1901 to 1905 he served as the Dutch Prime Minister. Kuyper died in 1920.
To Kuyper there could be no division between his politics, his concern for the state, and Christianity. He saw Christ as king over everything. He never limited Christ’s lordship to the church. Jesus was to be honored as King over nations, all institutions, families and individuals. He sees us as being here on earth to promote that kingship.
He didn’t mean that church and state should be the same. He and the other Reformers opposed that idea. The Roman Church had tried to do that, but it was both unbiblical and a disaster to men’s freedom. He didn’t want a church-state or a state-church. He believed that Christians should take part in the state and bring their faith with them.
Each part of life had it’s own independent work to do. There was the home, the state, the church, and our work at school or vocation. It’s all “Kingdom Work”. But though these are separate spheres of duty, there is but one Lord of all, the Lord Jesus Christ. there is but one standard: the Bible. There is but one foundation: God’s promise that saves unworthy sinners by grace. And ultimately there is just one duty: to glorify God in all things.
In his own words in 1897 he wrote, “That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God. ”
Whatever God has you do this week, consider how the way you do it fits with his glory. Think about how you can better honor him and serve him in what you’re doing. In all things: doing a homework assignment, washing dishes, watching television, talking with friends, walking the dog, listening to the news, writing letters, whatever — consciously consider Christ’s place in it, and how well you’re honoring him.
Abraham Kuyper leaves us with this challenge, “The fellowship of being near unto God must become reality, in the full and vigorous prosecution of our life. It must permeate and give color to our feeling, our perception, our sensations, our thinking, our imagining, our willing, our acting, our speaking. It must not stand as a foreign factor in our life, but it must be the passion that breathes throughout our whole existence. ”
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)
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