Keeping the Unity

“We are overjoyed that the Lord has in His providence re-established our sister-church relationship.” CERC, speaking to PRCA at Synod 2012. Year One of unity.

“We thank the Lord for the blessed and priceless unity in the truth that we share [with you].” CERC, to PRCA, at Synod 2015. Year Three.

Three years of unity—counting this year, four.

Unity—that is, as described the words of the PRC Synod 2011’s stated clerk: “…The PRCA and the CERC are unified in all essential matters of faith, doctrine, church government, and practice.”

Unity for three years—and, DV, more to come.

More to come, in the way of keeping this unity, as Paul commands in Ephesians 4.

Yes, we must keep our unity with our sister. We have a calling to keep the unity.

I do not just mean a calling for our office-bearers and our sister’s office- bearers. For sure, the office-bearers have a calling.

But I mean we, we as members of CERC, have a calling to keep the unity. That we, CERC, have a relationship with the PRCA, means that we members of CERC have a relationship with the PRCA and her members. Therefore, the calling to keep the unity, as it goes to our office-bearers, comes to us, with equal force.

We consider here not how we keep this unity in the official way through our office-bearers (a way that is undoubtedly important), but how we, as members who do not hold special office, keep this unity.

We keep the unity by knowing the truth.

We must know the truth, because the truth is the foundation of unity.

Paul establishes the truth as the foundation of unity when he calls unity “the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). “Of the Spirit” means “by the Spirit.” The Spirit establishes unity. He does so with the truth, and the truth only, because He is the Spirit that guides us to all truth (John 16:13). Later, Paul calls unity “the unity of the faith” (v. 12). Unity is established upon the certain knowledge we have of our Lord.

The truth is the foundation of unity. Therefore, we must know the truth, so that we may keep the foundation of this unity, and thereby, keep unity itself.

How, then, do we know the truth? Listen to Paul again: “And [Christ] gave… some, pastors and teachers…[till] we all come in the unity of the faith” (v.
11, 13). Pastors and teachers—rather, their instruction of the truth, are given for the keeping of the unity of the faith.

In general, all instruction of the truth maintains the unity we have with the PRCA. The weekly preaching, catechism, Bible study, etc., explain the truth on which we stand together with the PRCA.

Yet, a few things stand out to help us keep the unity. There are our afternoon sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism and the classes on the Belgic Confession. These explain the confessions we share with the PRCA. Explaining the confessions, these classes bring us to understand the same doctrinal page on which we are with our sister.

We do well, then, to find ourselves in these classes and sermons.

Another source of instruction is the periodicals published by the members of our sister-churches. Both the Beacon Lights and the Standard Bearer (to name just two of the available periodicals) further explain the truth that our sisters confess. As with the named classes and sermons, these periodicals help us grow in our understanding of the truth that we confess with our sister.

We do well, then, to subscribe to these periodicals and to read them from cover to cover.

You may ask, “Do I have to know the truth so well? The office-bearers need to know, that’s for sure. But me?” Yes, you. Consider this: Our young children will not know what this unity is all about unless we first know the truth as the foundation of unity and then teach them the truth as the foundation of unity. As our children learn the truth, they will learn to keep the unity with our sister through the future.

Know the truth by receiving all available instruction. Then teach it to our children. In that way, unity is kept.

There is another way we keep the unity: “with all lowliness and meekness” (Eph.
4:2). In short, with humility.

As we continue in this unity, we will notice weaknesses in our sister. Articles in the Beacon Lights and Standard Bearer have brought up weaknesses and will continue doing so. Recorded sermons have dealt with weaknesses and will continue doing so. Perhaps our personal fellowship with members of our sister-churches have included addressing these weaknesses. Such conversations, we may assume, will continue. There are weaknesses in our sister.

But this reality comes as no surprise. The church on this earth is never perfect. The seven churches to whom Christ speaks in Revelation 2 and 3 make this reality plain. Five of the seven churches receive stinging rebukes for their diverse weaknesses. Even the two churches that receive no open rebuke received encouragement because they were struggling not to deny Christ’s name. No church on this earth is impregnable to weakness.

To keep the unity amidst weaknesses, therefore, we must have a proper response towards weaknesses. That response is that of humility.

Humility recognizes that we are in danger of the same weakness. That is the “lowliness of mind” Paul refers to. We bear the same depraved nature as our sister bears; the weaknesses that endanger her are the weaknesses that endanger us. Nothing else can humility admit, but that we are no stronger than our sister is.

Humility also prays for our sister. The prayer made is the prayer that God will strengthen our sister to overcome her weaknesses. Such a response of prayer is “meekness.” Meekness helps others. No harsh criticism; no feigned ignorance— only a request made in private prayer about the weakness to our Lord, who will strengthen our sister to overcome. Humility responds with help in prayer.

Keeping the unity in this way is important, because pride lies in us to destroy unity. In pride, our minds are easily consumed with the other’s weaknesses, so that we forget the danger we have in falling into the same weaknesses. Then we exaggerate the weaknesses and lambaste our sister, instead of praying for them. There is no help in such pride; there is no unity.

Respond to our sister’s weaknesses with humility. In this way, keep the unity.

What is the point of sitting through years of classes and sermons, of reading countless articles written by our sister, to grow in the knowledge of the truth? What is the point of responding humbly to our sister’s weaknesses? There’s difficulty; there’s failure on our part.

What is the point of doing all this? What is the point of keeping this unity with our sister?

There is a point.

It is not, “to be Protestant Reformed.” That is, the purpose is not, in idealistic thinking that the PRCA is a perfect church, to unite ourselves to her and to be exactly like her. There is room for healthy admiration of our sister’s strengths, and room to learn from those strengths. But to admire and learn—much less, to think our sister is perfect—is not the point of keeping this unity.

Neither is the purpose our benefit. There is, for us, spiritual profit— much profit—in this unity. We have experienced it for ourselves. Our sisters have always helped us as best they could when we were in need. Just think back to 2012: The men sent here to preach and teach—and the man sent here to be our preacher and teacher. Yet, our benefit is not the point of keeping this unity.

This is the point of keeping our unity with our sister: The glory of God. There can be no greater reason than this.

Look at Ephesians 4 again. There is unity—oneness—as there is one Spirit, one hope, and one faith. But there is unity, even as there is on God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

That is, God manifests all his glory through us, CERC and PRCA, united in the truth. We are united and keep ourselves united, so that we, in our generations, helping each other overcome weaknesses, confess: “One God and Father above all, through all, and in you all.”

The infinite glory of our God is “the point”, or the goal, of this unity with our sister.

For Him alone, keep this unity! Endeavour—Hasten!

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 37