“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16).
God’s command to His beloved church was to ask for the old paths, where is the good way, to walk therein, so that they may find rest for their souls. These old paths are the paths of fellowship and communion with Jehovah their God. These paths were the paths of obedience to Jehovah’s holy and righteous laws. They were the paths of righteous living in Jehovah’s Covenant of grace. These were the paths to experience Jehovah’s favour and blessings.
In proud defiance and rebellion, Judah rejected God’s command to walk in the old paths. “We will not walk therein”, was their answer to God’s stirring command. They chose to walk in the paths of the heathen gods and their abominable ways. They chose to worship the idols of the unbelieving nations around them, rather than to worship the only true and living God. They chose to delight in the pleasures of sin, rather than the straight and narrow path that God set down for them.
Consequently, God inflicted terrible judgments upon them. He brought the armies of the Babylonians to destroy their cities, and to bring them into captivity in Babylon for seventy years. In Babylon, God’s people suffered cruel oppression and bondage under the hand of their enemies. There in their suffering, they remembered that the old paths were the good way, the only good way.
The same command also applies to New Testament believers. God commands us to ask for the old paths. There are a few things that these old paths refer to. In the first place, the old paths refer to the paths that God has revealed in His Word. His Word reveals His will for His people throughout history. His Word is the truth, the absolute standard for right and wrong. Whenever a church deforms, she departs from the Word of God, embraces false doctrines, and walks in the way of sin and worldliness. For the church to be reformed, she must seek the old paths by going back to the Scriptures. That means repenting of her sins and false doctrines, and walking according to the truth of God’s Word. The Scriptures, after all, are the paths which “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
Second, the old paths refer to the truths that have been confessed by the church of the past. These truths were shaped and established by bitter controversies over doctrine. Many of these controversies were filled with intense struggles and bloodshed for the cause of the truth. Our church fathers gave up their blood and sweat to maintain these truths for their spiritual sons and daughters today. These truths are found in the confessions of the church. As a Reformed church, we esteem our confessions very highly. We recognise that the Spirit who guides the church into all truth has used our spiritual fathers for the establishment and development of the truth throughout the ages. That is why we not only preach the confessions, but we teach them diligently to our children and young people. From a young age, our children need to learn these old paths, so that they will not forsake them when they mature. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Our children need to know the old paths that their fathers and spiritual forefathers walked in, so that they can cleave to them and experience the blessings and favour of their Covenant God.
Third, the old paths refer to the specific trials and experiences that God has led his people through. God’s people need to reflect on their own unique history and the circumstances that God has brought them through. In CERC’s situation, we are mindful that the Lord has kept us for close to three decades in Singapore. He has kept his people in a land where they enjoy the freedom to worship him, and to exercise their faith freely. Singapore has enjoyed fifty years of independence, filled with much peace and material prosperity. As CERC enjoys the unique place that God has given her in Singapore, she must be mindful that all these gifts are to be used in the service of her Covenant God.
Church history reminds us that whenever the church is materially prosperous and free from persecution, she tends to become spiritually lax and earthly-minded. Worldliness has a great danger of penetrating the church’s walls when her members are not spiritually alert. When they become indifferent to sound doctrine, biblical worship, and godly living, then the church is in grave danger of becoming spiritually weak and worldly. The faithful preaching of the gospel is the proper remedy to remind ourselves in CERC that we set not our affections on the things of this earth, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Another historical event that has shaped the life of CERC is her bitter controversy that she experienced some ten years ago. The controversy was over the doctrine of divorce and remarriage. That historical event has shaped CERC’s understanding of the true doctrine of marriage and its lifelong permanence. Her rejection of remarriage after divorce shapes and establishes the foundation and life of all her marriages. Her members, cleaving to this doctrine, hold fast to the truth that marriage is for life, and that our earthly marriages are pictures of the heavenly marriage between Christ and His Church.
CERC’s recent establishment of a Christian school society and board for the purpose of establishing a Christian school is not without historical reflection either. A generation of Covenant children has gone through the godless public school system, and far too many of them have departed from the Reformed church and faith. In our desire to establish a Christian school for our Covenant seed, we are reminded of our calling to raise up our Covenant seed in the fear of God’s name. A Christian school is a proper and historical tool to help Covenant parents fulfil their calling.
Going forward, CERC and her sister churches are called to ask for the old paths. Reformed churches are always reforming, and they reform by going back to the Scriptures and the Reformed creeds, searching and developing what God has set forth for them. In these old paths, they experience the joys of His salvation.
Written by: Aaron Lim | Issue 37