Explanation and Defence of the Pure Doctrine

Opening speech, with some minor additions, held at the synod meeting of 11 February 2012 at Hasselt and published in De Bazuin of 29 February 2012.

2 Peter 1:19-2:2a
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Article 18 has been mentioned more often at synod. It is an important article because it deals with the Training for the Ministry, and in its aim and goal wants to conform with Scripture.
The churches shall maintain a college for the Training for the Ministry. The task of the professors in theology is to explain Holy Scripture and to defend the pure doctrine against heresies and errors.


The first two chapters of the second letter of the apostle Peter contain important grounds for this article of the church order. We would like to examine this in our opening speech.
Firstly regarding the primary task of the training, namely the explanation of the Scripture.

In 2 Peter 1:16 and onwards, it points out to us the manner in which Holy Scripture must be considered. Here the Word is given as proclamation of Jesus Christ. The author of this letter, Peter calls himself, in the first verse, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.

From out of this calling, he makes every effort to convey the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1: 2, 3, 8, 16). He was, after all, sent out to proclaim the glory of the gospel of the coming Christ. And the power with which the eternal kingdom of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is manifested.

In the first chapters, therefore, he calls the reader to see their calling through the knowledge of Christ. And to give answer to that through a life of zeal in godliness (verses 3-15).
The power and authority with which Peter speaks about this he derived from the fact that he was eye and ear witness to the Lord Jesus in His majesty. In particular, Peter refers to the transfiguration on the mountain from which he heard the voice of God out of heaven say:
This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

That Word which Peter heard contained the fulfilment of the Word of the LORD that the prophets in the name of the Lord had spoken in the Old Testament. Now that Word is to be considered even more sure, says Peter. For the prophecy has been fulfilled precisely because it was the Word of God Himself. That is now extra confirmed by what the apostle Peter could witness. And so Peter says in verse 19 we have the (more sure) prophetic word confirmed.

Fully reliable

In this way Peter proves that these are not fables which he presents to the readers about the glorified Christ (verse 16). As if he comes with a nicely devised fairytale. No, he has seen and heard this with his own eyes and ears as a completely reliable witness.

But moreover, the prophecies of the Old Testament witnessed of the Christ. Those also were God’s Word and therefore may not be explained in a self-willed manner.
Not a single prophecy, being God’s Word, may be interpreted according to one’s own idea (verse 20). It is indeed God Who as Holy Spirit inspired the writers (verse 21).

This sure Word of God, that is available to the congregation, is therefore certainly a reliable and indispensable guide to go the right path. Peter writes that it is so important to pay good attention to this, for it is as a light that shines in a dark place (verse 19). Without that light you grapple in the dark, you put yourself in misery. To put down your feet properly, you really need that light. That light lightens the way and makes it possible to take the right path even if it is completely dark around you. Well, that is the Word of God, it proclaims Christ as Saviour. An absolutely safe and certain guide for true life with God in a sinful, miserable and hopeless world.

Through the working of God’s Spirit the light of the Word must enlighten our minds. The gospel of Christ shines through that Word in our hearts (2 Cor. 4:6) and enables that we can follow Christ with sure tread to the day of our glorification, Judgment Day.


That light, however, only shines so brightly when the Word is explained purely. When the Word is proclaimed unabridged and complete, namely ? and it is indeed ? as Word of the Spirit of Christ and from God the Father, the only primary Author of the Bible (see also 1 Thess. 2:13). Not as word of man, which in itself is unreliable.

Yes, then God’s proclaimed and explained Word will also have to be accepted as such.
Then it can work out its power in our lives as power of God to salvation.
The reliability of God’s Word sets high demands to remain in its purity in translation, interpretation and proclamation.

If something is added to God’s Word or that Word is twisted or obscured, or robbed of its power it not only means that God’s right is being affected. It also means a great danger for church members, whereby they can become lost. Not only do they then no longer see the right path due to the dimmed or obscured light, they are in fact, led on an erroneous path that does not lead to the Lord and His glory, but away from Him into the darkness, if the Lord does not prevent it.

It is of great importance that the pure, clear light of God’s Word continues to shine in the ministry of reconciliation, in the preaching of the Christ in its fullness. And that this pure light may reach hearts.

Also in this current age the Training for the Ministry is called to explain God’s Word purely to students who are preparing to become Servant of that same Word. The Training will have to do this in the breadth of areas that are covered in the Word itself. That concerns many theological subjects. Besides reliable exegesis and Bible knowledge, there is also the unfolding of the doctrine of Scripture and of life according to the Scriptures in subjects such as dogmatics and ethics. This also applies to church polity and pastoral subjects. In all these areas, the pure Word must shine. Also the Scriptural view on the church in church history is of great importance.
All this is a huge task for the tutors. They can only do this through the power and working of the God the Holy Spirit, not just physically, but also and especially spiritually. Therefore, continual prayer in the church is necessary.

‘False’ teachers

Peter continues his argument in chapter 2. He now speaks about false prophets in the Old Testament and as continuation of this the false teachers in the New Testament. And so we come to the second task of the training in article 18 of the Church Order:
The defence of the pure doctrine against heresy and errors.

What does the word ‘false’ mean with regard to false prophets and false teachers? Here the word ‘false’ does not mean bad-natured against good-natured. But the word ‘false’ is the same as the word ‘pseudo’ and stands over and against true or pure. ‘Pseudo’ is semblance, counterfeit. False prophets are prophets that very much look like prophets but are not. They pretend to speak the Word of God, but have adapted that Word to the people who must hear it, or to circumstances in which one lives, or to ideas and notions that he himself has.

In the meantime, the hearers of these false prophets are put onto the wrong path. That is what happened in the Old Testament. These false prophets were unmasked by true prophets who, on behalf of their Sender, challenged their message.
But the nations happily went along with the false prophets instead of the true prophets, for the nations heard what they wanted to hear. The sad end however, was ruin and destruction. This is what happened in the Old Testament.

Now, with the coming of Christ, the presence of false teachers has not disappeared. The father of lies is still active (John 8:44). He can pretend to be an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

Peter does not only warn that false teachers (pseudo teachers) will come, but they will cunningly go to work. Our Bible translation (NBG) of 1951 has:
who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.

What they teach is dangerous, even destructive, however they do so in secret; their doctrine creeps in, wrapped in familiar words. You easily become misled because their heresy resembles true doctrine.
The Dutch Herziene Statenvertaling (HSV) says about the false teachers
that they will secretly introduce destructive deviations in their doctrine.

You can easily become misled so that you accept it as the true doctrine and surrender yourself to this doctrine. But the reality is, writes Paul, that with this doctrine they deny Christ, Who has bought them as members of His church. They spread destruction, and will undergo it themselves if they do not repent.


To recognize heresy is a difficult issue that requires must knowledge, alertness and discernment. Heresy is indeed often wrapped and camouflaged in such a manner and creeps in so easily, that as church you must always be on the alert. Moreover, hidden heresy is flattering to the people. This clarifies why Peter had to add:
And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Therefore, in the Training for the Ministry, besides explaining Scripture, heresy must also be discussed and refuted by using Scripture. Old and known heresies will have to be dealt with, but especially it should be exposed in the light of the Scripture.

In particular, the cunning heresy of Scripture criticism, that the Bible is allowed to be called God’s Word but that in reality it is the result of (a lot of) man-made work, be it by very pious people in their time. People who were influenced by their own environment.
In addition we also mention, as example, the heresy of Karl Barth who conquered traditional reformed training and who denies the Christ of the Scriptures.
Another doctrine that has defeated thousands is the heresy of pluralism and ecumenism, whereby the firm ground of the Word falls away, in favour of toleration and human feelings.
Furthermore, there is the compromise of secularization, whereby God’s commandments are enervated as time-bound, and reference is being made to the powerlessness and brokenness of this world.

The church has therefore received a very important task from the Lord to expose heresy and false teachers. Students must train in this as well, so that also in the future, with God’s Word as sword of the Spirit, they are able to resist and eliminate heresies and errors.

It is of great importance that the church sees this two-fold task, and takes up its responsibility in this. Ultimately, it is indeed about being in service for the perseverance of faith and the preservation of the church through the Word of God and the working of Christ’s Spirit. A church that does not reject everything that goes against the pure Word of God no longer follows the one Lord of the church and loses the undeserved privilege of grace to be Church of Christ.
That is why there is such a huge responsibility for deputies and the board of the Training for the Ministry where it concerns the organization of the training.
Even though the work of the Training is completed in weakness and if we are faithful to the Lord, we may expect everything from His strength.
May Synod, in its discussions about the plans to set up the Training for the Ministry, make wise and responsible decisions in this.