Dr. Kistemaker is my favorite professor. Maybe it is because it was in his class that I, for the first time, finally understood the letter to the Hebrews. Maybe it is because he retired 12 years ago, but still teaches almost every semester! Or, maybe it is because he shares his wisdom in such a way that his concern for the gospel and the church is almost tangible. Actually, it is all of those thing… and so much more.
So, the other day I sent Dr. K an email and asked him if he would answer a couple of questions for the site. He graciously agreed.
GTS – Dr. K, for those who might not be familiar with you, could you please share with us some general information about yourself?
Kistemaker – My teaching career began in September 1954, when I started teaching Latin and Greek at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. I continued there during the four years while I attended Calvin Theological Seminary.
In September 1958, I enrolled at the Free University of Amsterdam in the New Testament graduate program. Three years later I was rewarded the Th. D. degree in New Testament upon defending my doctoral thesis The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Amsterdam: Van Soest, 1961).
I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church in 1961 and served a congregation in Vernon, B.C. Canada for two years.
In September 1963 I joined the Faculty of Dordt College as Professor of Bible and Languages. For eight years I taught courses in Bible, Latin, and Dutch.
In 1971, I was appointed Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS where I taught courses in the Synoptic Gospels, Johannine Literature, Hebrews and Revelation.
I retired in 1996 and since then with Emeritus status I continue to teach in the New Testament department at the RTS Orlando, FL campus.
It has been my privilege to teach occasionally in seminaries abroad: Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Mexico, Sweden and Taiwan.
For twenty years (1982-2001) I wrote commentaries on Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, 1-3 John, and Revelation published by Baker Book House in the New Testament Commentary series.
GTS – Why are you a seminary professor?
Kistemaker – The Lord prepared me for this task by giving me an education, a talent to teach and write, and a desire to serve the church by training prospective pastors and teachers.
Whenever I stand in front of a class of seminary students and consider their future, I see pastors and teachers. Behind them I envisage individual church members who are eagerly waiting to hear a full and accurate explanation of God’s Word. They want to know how Scripture can be applied significantly to their daily lives and occupations.
Church members come to the worship services to be spiritually nourished and equipped to be servants of Christ in their homes, families, places of work, and society. They want to be lights in this dark world and point people to Christ and his salvation for them.
My greatest joy and satisfaction is to see seminary students become fully prepared pastors, teachers, and counselors in the church. If they indeed study the Scriptures diligently and apply what they have learned in sermons and group meetings, or wherever the Lord calls them to minister, then I know that my labors have not been in vain.
GTS – What changes (good and bad) have you witnessed in seminaries during your years as a professor?
Kistemaker – In this fast moving world, everything has to be accomplished in a hurry. But the result of speed often results in disappointments, because we tend to neglect the details that are important to the process. The old adage still is relevant: haste makes waste. Service in the ministry is a taxing and rewarding experience. Therefore my advice to you is this: Do your work properly and efficiently or else don’t do it at all!
Over the course of my teaching ministry I have observed numerous changes. Here is one of them. The computer has been a great asset to learning and teaching. But there is a drawback. Although we appreciate the function that checks spelling and grammar, we are at a loss when we are asked to write some paragraphs by hand. Then mistakes in spelling and syntax stand out as accusing markers of an inadequate education.
Second career prospective students who leave behind a professional career or a thriving business enterprise demonstrate maturity and determination to learn as much as they can absorb. At times they are the better students in the classroom.
My last observation concerns the student who runs ahead of the Lord. He is like an employee who tells the manager what he is going to do for him instead of waiting for instructions. This seminary student makes it known where he wants to be a pastor or missionary and makes his specifications and predilections known. I counsel students to wait until they are fully qualified and then and only then ask the Lord to give them a place of service. Then do your work and eventually you may hear the words “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).
GTS – What is your biggest piece of advice for current seminarians?
Kistemaker – Be absolutely sure that the Lord has called you to prepare yourself for a ministry of preaching, teaching or counseling.
If family obligations or finances cause you to take a lighter load and thus extend your seminary training for another year, do so. No one demands that you must complete your studies in exactly two, three or even four years.
If you are preparing yourself for the pastorate or mission field, I advise you to know the biblical languages: Greek and Hebrew. An ability to read the Holy Scriptures in the original text pays off vast dividends in your preaching and teaching the Word of God.
Spend much time in prayer and ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding. I assure you that you will encounter a variety of difficulties in the ministry. If you fail to ask God for guidance and wisdom, you undoubtedly will run into dilemmas that can be avoided by praying for divine assistance. Indeed, Scripture makes it abundantly clear to you to lean on the Lord for all your needs. He gives you his promise that he will never forsake or abandon you (Hebrews 13: 5).
GTS – Dr. K, thanks for taking the time for this interview… and for just being you.
(Want to check out some of Dr. Kistemaker’s work? Here are some of his books on Amazon.)