“Order, Please”

Introduction

Young people, do you know that CERC adopted our own Church Order in 2011? It is almost identical to the Church Order of our sister church, the PRCA, whose Church Order is based upon the original Church Order that was adopted by the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619. Since adopting our own Church Order officially, we have seen the great benefit of doing so.

The focus of this article would be on the necessity and importance of the Church Order for a church, as well as its uses. As to its history, structure and content of the Church Order, I refer interested readers to other excellent sources that are readily available (see bibliography), which we would all do well to read or refer to for our own spiritual profit.

Necessity and Importance of the Church Order

Why is the Church Order necessary and important for CERC, and indeed for any church? The reason, in the first place, can be found in Article 1 of the Church Order itself: “For the maintenance of good order in the church of Christ”.

Our God is a God of order. He never does anything in a disorderly or haphazard manner. He never does anything arbitrarily, according to His whims and fancies, just because He ‘feels like doing it’. That is simply impossible, because He is infinitely wise and does all things with a clear and definite purpose and goal in mind – His glory (Eph 1:11-12). Whether in creation or redemption, God’s orderliness is unmistakable.

Therefore, it follows that the church of Jesus Christ, Who is very God of very God, is an orderly church. She ought to be. When Jesus gathers His church by His Spirit, He does not bring His sheep into an institution that is loosely organised, where there is no clear code of conduct and whose directions and goals change according to popular opinions   or   personalities.   Rather, the child of God is brought into an institution that is governed according to scriptural principles by lawfully appointed leaders, whose members behave themselves as becoming great sinners saved by Almighty grace, and whose one unchanging goal is the honour and glory of God. That the church is an orderly institution is evident in the way God ruled His church in the Old Testament (i.e. the nation Israel) by many strict rules and regulations that governed every detail of her moral, civil and religious life. In the fullness of time, when the redemptive plan of God extended beyond national Israel to gather His elect from every nation, tongue and tribe, God continued to ensure that there is order in the New Testament church by instituting the offices of ministers, elders and deacons as representatives of the three-fold office of Jesus Christ to rule the church on behalf of her ascended Lord. We know God takes order very seriously in His Church, because of the weightiness of the authority that Jesus gave to His apostles, and by extension to all office- bearers in the NT, when He said, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18,16:19).

Orderliness in the church, for all time, is the will of the unchangeable God of order Himself. The church that understands this will see the necessity and value of adopting a Church Order. The Church Order, as a document laying down clear principles derived from Scripture, for regulating the life of the church in an orderly manner, is critical for a church who seeks to obey the injunction ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40).

A second reason why the Church Order is necessary and important for a church is because it serves to promote unity and peace in the church. This second reason flows from the first. When there is order in the church, peace and unity prevails. No church is without her own fair share of troubles or conflicts, including the church that has adopted a Church Order. But when troubles and conflicts arise, the church with the Church Order has a ready, reliable reference and guide to deal with them properly, biblically and in an orderly manner. It is not left to the preference of individuals, or the wit of a few intelligent men, or the high-handedness of a forceful leader to resolve the matter or determine the outcome.

The Church Order not only promotes unity within a church, but also in a federation of churches when all the churches adopt the Church Order together as one of their minor confessions. The church institute is called to manifest the spiritual unity of the one holy catholic church of Jesus Christ by establishing ecclesiastical relationships with other churches of like precious faith. These relationships require a certain structure and order to regulate the proper interaction between churches in the federation. The Church Order provides that organizational structure and order that allows the churches in the federation to express and experience their spiritual unity.

A third reason why the Church Order is necessary and important for a church is because it guards the church against false doctrine. It does this by regulating those who teach doctrine in the church, namely the ministers of the gospel. Ministers must be examined by the church as to the orthodoxy of their beliefs. They must be ordained by the church, and bind themselves to teach the confessions of the church. They must be subject to the supervision and rule of the Elders, may be investigated, suspended   or   deposed   from   their office by the church should they become wayward. The Church order also guards the church against false teaching by providing an avenue of protest and appeal to those who object to the teaching of the church. When the leaders of the church err and allow false doctrine to be taught, church members can (and must) bear witness to the truth through the proper avenue of protest and appeal.

How necessary and important is the Church Order for a church? Can a church survive without a Church Order? Probably yes (though I’m not sure for how long). But can it thrive? In my judgment, no.

Uses of the Church Order

The Church Order has great practical value for the local church. I will name but a few here.

First, it guides office-bearers in their rule of the church. The fundamental principle that underlies the entire Church Order is that Jesus Christ is the Head and King of the Church, and He rules her by His Word and Spirit. The office-bearers are NOT the supreme authority in the church. Jesus Christ is. The authority of the office-bearers is a delegated authority, and insofar as they rule according to the principles and commands of Scripture, they wield the authority of Christ Himself. The Church Order is founded upon direct and indirect principles of the Word of God, and hence when office-bearers rule according to it, they may be sure that they are exercising their authority in a lawful manner. The Church Order regulates the keys aspects of church government relating to the marks of the true church, i.e. in the areas of preaching/doctrine, the sacraments and Christian discipline. It is therefore very helpful in keeping the office-bearers focused on their proper calling and not be distracted by many other non- essential and perhaps even illegitimate demands.

Second, the Church Order serves as a rule for members of the church regarding their daily conduct in relation to the office-bearers, as well as to fellow believers. Because it is founded upon the principles of the Word of God, the Church Order is authoritative (albeit derived authority) for the faith and life of the church member whose church has adopted the Church Order. I quote Rev. Vanden Berg: “The believer promises before God and His church that he will submit himself to the rule of the church. He binds himself to these rules of church government. He promises that by the grace of God he will regulate all his life according to these rules. That must not be regarded lightly for it is a very serious matter. It means certainly that our Church Order is the rule for our daily conduct and by it we are to be governed not only in relation to the office-bearers in the church but also in relation to our brothers and sisters of the household of faith. Our Church Order then is certainly no abstraction but, on the contrary, is a matter of greatest practical concern to every member of the church” (Vanden Berg, 1953, pg. 261)

Last but not least, the Church Order is of great practical value for the local church in her mission work. The main goal of every mission work is to establish an instituted church in the field that is self-governing, self- propagating, and self-supporting. In relation to the first aspect, instruction in the Church Order is essential for the group of believers in the mission field who desire to be instituted as a church someday, especially for those among them who are potential office- bearers. They must have a good grasp and understanding of the principles of Reformed church government, of the proper calling and work of the special offices, of the significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the importance of church membership and the necessity of Christian discipline. In CERC’s own experience, we have seen how this instruction in the Church Order has helped correct what is a common erroneous practice in India – independent preachers without the oversight of a church. The Church Order has also helped us and the fellowship in India to better understand the validity of administering baptism in the mission field, and guided the Session in coming to a decision to call Bro. Emmanuel Singh as CERC’s missionary to Kolkata, India.

Conclusion

How necessary and important the Church Order is for the church of Jesus Christ in guarding her against false doctrines and promoting her peace and unity! What blessings it brings when there is good order in the church! Young people, know your Church Order. Appreciate it. Then you will know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and in that way seek the good and peace of Zion.

REFERENCES

Vanden Berg, G, (1953). Decency and Order – Introduction. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer Vol 29, Issue 11, pg 261 (http://standardbearer.rfpa. org/articles/introduction-6)

Vanden Berg, G, (1953). Decency and Order – Introduction. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer Vol 29, Issue 12, pg 285 (http://standardbearer.rfpa. org/articles/introduction-contd)

Cammenga, Ronald, (1987). Our Church Order – An Introduction. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 64, Issue 1, pg 18

Cammenga, Ronald, (1987). For Thy Maintenance of Good Order. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 64, Issue 2, pgs. 44-46

Hanko, Herman. ‘Notes on Church Order’. http://www .pr ca.org/books/Notes%20on%20the%20Church%20Order%20by%20Herman%20Hanko/CHURCH%20POLIT Y.htm#ARTICLES_53,_54_

Monsma & ven Dellen, (1954). The Church Order Commentary. Eugene, Oregon, USA: Wipf and Stock Publishers

Written by: Lee Kong Wee | Issue 40

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Desiring a Good Work (II)

1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

In 1 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul begins his instruction on the special offices in the church, that is, the offices of Elder, Deacon, and Minister of the Word. Christ is the officebearer of God, the Mediator with the threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. Christ calls men to fill these offices in the church on earth as His representatives. He qualifies them and gives them the authority to do His work. These offices are vitally important, for the special offices are the means Christ uses to maintain and bless His church.

In 1 Timothy 3:1, the Spirit reminds the church that it is a privilege to be called by Christ to the special offices. Therefore, the man who desires to hold such an office desires a good work. The question that remains is: Why is it “good”? We concluded the previous article with a brief answer: the “good” character of the work is due to the fact that the office is from God. It is His work. To be more specific, it is good because it is the work of Jesus Christ who directs the church to the right activity. Christ cares for His church as a father cares for his children. In our consideration of 1 Timothy 3:1, we now turn our attention to the “good work” of the Elder.

The Lord Jesus rules His church through the office of Elder. The rule of the Elder begins with the life and work of the Minister. Yes, Elders are to rule over the Minister’s life. They must take heed to his “conversation.” The Minister must be a godly example to all, and at all times. The Minister must not be a stumbling block to others. And his life must never contradict his preaching for a lifestyle that is contrary to the preaching robs the preaching of its power. The hearers will begin to despise both the Minister and the Word that he brings. In addition, a Minister’s folly or sin will give occasion for enemies of the Truth to blaspheme. It is up to the Elders to rule over the Minister so that this never happens, but that rather, the Minister adorns the preaching with a godly life.

In addition, the Elder rules over the preaching. Obviously, the Minister must preach the truth drawn from the Bible. The Elders must see to it that there is no false doctrine in his teaching and preaching. In fact, the preaching must explicitly reject the lie and defend the truth over against current errors. In addition, the Elders must be sure that the Minister preaches the whole counsel of God. The warnings of Scripture and the admonitions must be clearly sounded in preaching if it is to be a key of the kingdom of heaven. In short, the Elders are responsible for the preaching. It must set forth Christ crucified and risen again. This preaching will glorify God in Jesus Christ, and will edify the congregation.

This is one of the most difficult aspects of the Elders’ work. Elders need much wisdom in order to help a Minister preach such sermons. If an Elder takes this aspect of his work seriously, he will be very attentive to the preaching, will be very much “in the Word” and giving   thoughtful   consideration   to the preaching weekly. In this spiritual activity, he will grow tremendously in wisdom and knowledge.

Another significant aspect of the Minister’s work that the Elders must oversee is his catechetical instruction of the youth. Elders must carefully observe both the content of the instruction and the manner of giving instruction. Catechism is part of the official teaching of the church. This is a primary means of building up the youth in the truth. Elders oversee this work by visiting the classes. They take note as to whether the youth are in fact growing in their knowledge and love for the Reformed faith.

The Elders’ oversight includes the Minister’s work in family visitation. Elders observe his work because they accompany the Minister and assist in it. The final significant area of the Minister’s work is in pastoral labours. Here, too, Elders have responsibilities. To some extent, Elders must know what their Minister is doing. No doubt there ought to be some privacy between pastor and member. Nonetheless, these labours of the pastor are yet subject to the authority of Elders.

Since they have oversight of the life and work of the Minister, wisdom is essential for Elders. They must know how to take oversight without improperly   dominating   a   Minister, or overextending their authority into every area of a Minister’s life. Those who desire to be faithful Elders will pray continually for wisdom from the Spirit. And a wise Minister will rejoice in the proper oversight of his labours by such men.

The second main work of the Elders is supervision of the Deacons. This also   demands   wisdom,   for   Elders must not make Deacons to be sort of “junior Elders.” Deacons have their own labour—the ministry of mercy in the church. The Elders may not simply assign work to the Deacons as though they are the servants of the Elders.

Yet, as rulers in the church, Elders are called to supervise the work of the Deacons in wisdom. It is not their calling to hang over the shoulder of the Diaconate and direct every move they make, for example, who receives money and how much. The Elders supervise first in that they must see to it that Deacons are faithfully carrying out the duties of their office. Are the Deacons doing the work Christ calls them to do? And then, in the second place, the Elders must watch for a possible abuse by a member of the office of Deacon. Deacons are very close to the work and bestow benevolence out of love and mercy towards the poor in the congregation. It is possible then that they do not recognise a misuse of the office. Then the Elders must point that out to them. As with the Minister, the Elders must see to it that lives of the Deacons are above reproach.

The Elder oversees the work of the Minister and the Deacons. They also exercise oversight of each other. Paul so taught the Elders of Ephesus as he left them to embark on his third missionary journey—“Take heed to yourselves” (Acts 20:28). Elders must take heed to the walk of life of the fellow Elders. And they must see to it that each faithfully executes the duties of the office.

The Reformed (Biblical) form of church   government   insists   on   the parity (equality) of the three offices. In harmony with that principle, the three offices exercise mutual oversight. The Church Order of Dordt (Art. 81) calls for mutual censure to be done at set times—at least four times a year. This is the oversight of the Elders over officebearers.

The main work of the Elders is the oversight of the congregation. The form for the ordination of Elders sets forth their responsibilities. The Elders have authority to watch both the confession and lives of the members. Specifically, the form teaches that Elders are to diligently look that every member properly deports himself. They are called to admonish the disorderly. Understand that the Elders need not wait for a session meeting to do this. The Elder is in the office twenty-four hours a day. He is personally called to do this as part of work. Of course, his admonitions of members must not be based on his opinions, but only on the teaching of the Bible.

The Elders are also called to exercise Christian   discipline,   also   known as the “last remedy.” Long before excommunication, the Elders visit members who are living in impenitent sin. They admonish sinners officially. They do all in their power to lead sinners back to the truth and to godliness. All their labours must be done out love for the member. And, if necessary, the Elders are called to remove the impenitent members out of the church.

Scripture makes it plain that this work of oversight is the care of the congregation as shepherds of the flock of Christ. Paul’s instruction to the Elders of Ephesus recorded in Acts 20:28 ff. indicates this pastoral (shepherding) nature of the Elders’ work. Paul admonished them to take heed to the flock, that is, pay attention to the congregation. Elders must know the congregation; young and old, single members, as well as families. What are their lives like? With what difficulties are they struggling? How might they need assistance? Elders make it a point to know.

Besides, said Paul, you must feed this flock. Elders have the responsibility for the spiritual nourishment of the congregation. Paul also required them to watch against false doctrine, and any “wolves” who seek to enter the fold pretending to be sheep, and finally, “support the weak.” Take special care of those who are vulnerable, who are spiritually or physically in a position of weakness.

Additional inspired revelation of the pastoral nature of the Elders’ work is found in 1 Timothy 3:5. Paul indicates that the Elders are to preside over their own houses well. This is not simply to rule over the household, but rather to see that all things are done properly. Clearly, that activity of presiding over something will take much time and attention.

The Spirit then compares the Elder presiding over his own house to taking care of the church. We think of an Elder ruling, but Paul does not say rule. Rather he is to take care of the church. This word is used twice in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10). He took the wounded men to an inn, and “took care of him.” Then the good Samaritan continued on his journey, but instructed the inn keeper, “Take care of him….” So likewise must the Elders take care of the church. This involves much more than dealing with the church as if it were a “business”. And far more that merely ruling, it involves the work of shepherds caring for sheep. An Elder must have love and compassion for God’s people. His work is pastoral.

The Reformed church’s understanding of this is reflected in the Church Order and the Form for Ordination of Elder. Elders are to visit the families regularly. The idea is not merely official family visitation. It implies other, informal meetings when an Elder calls a family to say that he would like to come over and visit. The visit is not sought because there is a problem. Rather, says the Elder, “I simply desire to get to know you and your children. I hope to get a better understanding of your life, struggles, and trials. The purpose is that I might better help you, either now or in time of adversity.” To accomplish this, it might be best to divide the congregation into districts and assign an Elder or pair of Elders to a specific group so that they would be responsible for these members and give them special care.

The Form for Elders’ ordination also indicates that Elders must be ready with good counsel and advice. This, first to the Minister. This is very important, for Elders know the congregation much better than the Minister. They should also be ready to give good advice on his work. But the Form exhorts them to give good counsel to any and all in the congregation. This is the calling of Elders! The congregation, therefore must not be afraid to go to them for help and advice. They are prepared to help.

Consider also these questions that church visitors may ask about the work of the Elders:

  1. Do the Elders regularly attend the services for divine worship as well as the consistory meetings?
  1. Do they at set times attend the catechism classes to see how they are conducted and attended; and do they assist the Minister in catechizing when there is a need?
  1. Do they see to it that Christian discipline is exercised, and that everything is done honourably and in good order?
  1. Do the Elders visit the sick and others in agreement with the calling of their office?
  1. Do they try to prevent and remove all offense in the congregation, and try to comfort and instruct the members?
  1. Do they conduct themselves as examples to the congregation in their family and outward walk of life?

Clearly, faithful Elders spend themselves in the care for the church of Jesus Christ.

In the next (and last) instalment, we will consider the blessing that an Elder receives, and therefore the incentive for men properly to prepare themselves for the office, because they desire this good work.

Written by: Prof. Russell Dykstra | Issue 39

Charismaticism (VI): Miracles

In the previous five articles on renewalism (Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and neo-Charismaticism), we covered its history (including each of these “three waves” and their precursors) and its peculiar views on the baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophecy. We now conclude with one last feature of the renewalist movement: its claim to perform miracles in the post-apostolic age.

Nature of Miracles in the Bible

The nature of miracles in the Bible, especially the healing miracles, is very different from that of the Charismatics. You could say that the miracles in Scripture specialize in hard cases: demon-possessed people, paralytics, the blind, the lame and even the dead. This makes biblical miracles easy to verify. This is not the case with the so-called healings of the renewalists. C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, states that his healings major in headaches and backaches. How do you verify these “cures”?

Look, for example, at the stark contrast between the unverifiable healings of headaches and backaches, etc., and the miracle recorded in Acts 3-4. In Acts 4:16, after Peter (and John) healed the man who was born lame, the false leaders of the church declared, “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.”

Notice how all who came to the apostles to be healed were always healed, as in Acts 5:16: “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one of them.” This is very different from Pentecostal or renewalist healing services, where unhealed folks make their sorry way home after yet another meeting.

There were no relapses for those healed in God’s Word. Compare this with the many poor souls filled with enough adrenalin to get out of their wheelchairs on the stage but a day or two afterwards are no better. Two thousand years after the apostles, there is a world of difference!

If anyone claims to do miracles, the question must be asked, What do they mean by miracles? Do they mean what the Bible means, namely, that all who come for healings are always, verifiably, completely and immediately healed of various and serious afflictions, without any relapses or remuneration for the healer or anything designed to whip up the crowd or play on their emotions? [1] Scriptural miracles are the standard, the benchmark. All that falls short is fraudulent and spurious, and must be rejected by God’s people.

Workers of Miracles in the Bible

Whom does God use to work miracles after Pentecost? In 2 Corinthians 12:12, miracles, “signs, and wonders,” are called, not the signs of believers, nor the signs of specially anointed or baptized saints, but “the signs of an apostle.” This is also what you discover when you go through the book of Acts. Acts 2:43 and 5:12 clearly state that it was the apostles who performed miracles. The apostle Peter heals the lame man in Acts 3. In Acts 5, God slays Ananias and Sapphira at Peter’s word —you do not hear much from renewalists claiming that sort of miracle! Peter heals paralyzed Aeneas and raises Tabitha from the dead in Acts 9. Paul performs various miracles in Acts 13-28.

There are three other individuals who were not apostles who did miracles. First, Philip wrought miracles in Acts 8 but he was an evangelist (Acts 21:8)— another extraordinary, temporary office—and he was ordained as a deacon by apostles (Acts 6:5-6). Second, Stephen performed miracles (Acts 6:8). He was also deacon who was ordained by an apostle (Acts 6:5-6) and the first Christian martyr (Acts 7). In that he wrought miracles, God especially stamped him as the first one after Pentecost to give up his life for Jesus Christ. Third, Ananias in Acts 9 wrought a miracle but he was a prophet, for he received a vision in which Christ spoke to him. This miracle was unusual, too, in that Christ had earlier struck Paul blind on the Damascus Road and then He sent the prophet Ananias to Paul to restore to the apostle his sight. There are no prophets today, as my previous article proved.

1 Corinthians 12 may seem to indicate that some outside of the extraordinary offices in Corinth wrought miracles, yet we note that this is in the apostolic age and that the apostle Paul himself was the founder of this church (Acts 18; 1 Corinthians 3). Moreover, in Paul’s next epistle to the Corinthians, he refers to miracles as “signs of an apostle” (2 Corinthians 12:12) because they were performed in the apostolic age: 1) by apostles or 2) on apostles (e.g., Acts 9) or 3) by prophets, who functioned alongside apostles (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 4:11), or 4) by evangelists, who were apostolic helpers (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5), or 5) by those ordained by apostles.

Miracles in the False Church

Another point must be made with respect to miracles. Nowhere in the Bible do we have predictions or promises of the saints working miracles in post-apostolic days. Nor does God’s Word present a future in which the true church will work some miracles and the false church will too. Although there are passages to which some people will appeal, Scripture clearly predicts miracles in the line of the development of the false church alone.

In Matthew 24:24, false Christs and false prophets will work great signs and wonders (cf. Mark 13:22). According to 2 Thessalonians 2:9, mighty miracles will be performed by the man of sin. In Revelation 13, 16 and 19, the miracles are wrought by the false prophet in the service of the beast.

The Bible also teaches that the mystery of iniquity, which is the spirit of Antichrist, was working already in the first century and keeps working through the millennia to bring forth the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:7; 1 John 2:18). The line of false miracles runs in the development of apostate Christianity.

You can see this, too, if you read church history, as we saw in my second article in this series entitled “The Precursors of Modern Charismatic Christianity.” The Montanists, the abundance of false miracles in the Dark Ages, the Anabaptists, the French Prophets, Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church, and the church of Rome today (especially with her Marian miracles) and modern renewalism—all prepare the way for the greatest anti- Christian miracle worker of all time, Antichrist. That great man of sin will perform real, mighty miracles, unlike much of the weak, deceptive miracles in Charismatic and Romanist circles.

Conclusion

I could highlight, and expand upon, other problems connected with renewalism but I will only briefly mention some of them.

Prosperity theology, also known as the health and wealth gospel, came out of renewalism and retains its distinctive false teachings. Scripture tells us that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), yet in the health and wealth movement that is preached as the gospel!

Renewalism boasts in horrendous, unbiblical worship practices (especially people falling backwards and doing “carpet time,” and adults uttering gibberish in religious services), which are far from, and diametrically opposed to, the regulative principle of worship (cf. Leveticus 10:1-2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Isaiah 1:12; Matthew 15:5-9; John 4:24).

The false ecumenism of renewalism is well-known. The Pope even invited a charismatic contingent to Vatican II (1962-1965). Idolatrous bodies have a way of seeking each other out and working together!

Then there are the Modalist renewalists: those Pentecostals and Charismatics who reject the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity and especially deny the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit. Even with their heretical views of the Holy Spirit, they can still receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” they can still “speak in tongues,” they can still utter “prophecies” and they can still perform “miracles,” just like the other renewalists! It makes no difference. Apparently believing the truth concerning the Holy Spirit does not matter when it comes to His “gifts.”

In his very helpful book, The Theology of the Holy Spirit, Frederick Bruner observes that, in his analysis of the doctrine of the renewalists, the theologian he found most helpful was Martin Luther. [2] Why? Because Luther deeply grasped salvation in Christ alone through grace alone by faith alone to the glory of God alone according to Scripture alone.

It was Luther who issued the famous rebuke to the Anabaptists, the charismatics of his day: “I slap your spirit on the snout.” Think about it. What well-known animal has a snout? A pig, an unclean beast in the Old Testament. Luther was declaring, “Your spirit is an unclean spirit and I slap it— hard.” Remember also Luther’s prayer. He besought his heavenly Father that He would fill him with His Word alone and that God would never, ever, give him visions or direct revelation but would make him blessedly content with, and rich in, sacred Scripture alone! Luther’s scriptural and spiritual desires, prayers, contentment and warfare should be ours too!

REFERENCES:
[1] Cf. Angus Stewart, “Eight Facts Regarding Biblical Healings” (www. cprf.co.uk/articles/healings.html)
[2] Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 344.

Written by: Pastor Angus Stewart | Issue 39

Loving Churches Who Seek The Truth

Sad to say, there are many divisions within the church as the body of Christ. Although Christ has only one body, that body is often splintered in its earthly manifestation. Many different denominations and/or independent congregations exist in the countries and cities in which we live and in all the world. The people of God are required to maintain church unity, but so often such unity is not seen. And the cause is sin, including the sin of departure from and rejection of the truth.

All of this raises the important question of how we, as a Reformed church and as Reformed believers, should view and relate to other churches. Specifically, how should we relate (both officially and as individuals) to churches that are close to us in the faith but not one with us in that faith? Should we, because of doctrinal differences, keep them at arm’s length? Or may and ought we to seek them out and have fellowship with them?

These questions immediately bring to mind the command given in Ephesians 4:3 that we must endeavour “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

What is especially clear from this verse is that church unity is not a pipedream, but a reality. We are not commanded to establish church unity, or to create it. Rather, we are admonished “to keep the unity of the Spirit!” This means that church unity exists. It is something that Christ has given us. Having done so, Christ now gives us the calling to maintain and preserve it. We must make sure, by His grace, that it is not lost or destroyed.

The reason unity is a reality is because it is the unity “of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit creates and establishes this unity. Without   the   Spirit,   church   unity would be impossible, also within our own local church. By nature we are not united to each other, for sin causes separation (Isaiah 59:2). Sin makes us proud, independent, self-centred, and argumentative. Sin causes us to disagree and fight, and thus to separate from each other. Sin also causes us to be interested in and even to run after every wind of doctrine. But the Spirit destroys the ruling power of sin in God’s elect and unites them. Having the same Spirit, we have the same life, and faith, and Lord. Having the same Spirit, we are united in the truth. The Spirit leads the people of God to know, believe, confess and live by the same truths. We are united to others, not regardless of what we believe (as advocated by the ecumenical movement), but because of what we believe. Unity in the Spirit is unity in Christ, which is unity in the truth.

 

Our calling to maintain the unity of the Spirit (which is unity in the truth) must be our starting point and guiding principle in how we relate to other churches and other believers.

God has given our churches the body of truth. He has given us the precious truth of the gospel of His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ. He has revealed that truth to us in His Word. He has given it to us as it is summarized and set forth in our Reformed confessions. God has also given us in our own congregation(s) unity in that truth. That truth should be precious to us. We must guard and protect it. We must stand for the truth of God without compromise. This means we may not unite with those who oppose it, but only with those who are one with us in the truth.

The question now is, how do we carry this out? In answer to that question, it must be clear from the outset that the way in which this is carried out with those who are not one with us varies from church to church, and from situation to situation.

If there are churches who have made it clear that they are determined to oppose and reject the truth, certainly we cannot be close to them nor continue to seek unity with them. By their conscious and deliberate rejection of God’s Word, they give evidence of departure from the faith. Instead of being a church that is reforming and coming to a clearer understanding and confession of the truth, they are moving further away from the truth. This does not mean that they have immediately become a false church. But the fact is that they have shown by their wilful rejection of the truth that they are headed in that direction.

 

 

Although we cannot have close relationships with such churches and their members (for how can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)), we must still love them. After all, Christ commanded that we should love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Thus, we certainly must love those who have departed or are departing from the faith.

The critical thing is how that love comes to expression. It does not manifest itself by “walking together,” but rather by seeking humbly to show such churches and members the seriousness of their departure from the truth. Love for them means we strive to draw them back to the truth. Whenever we have opportunity to communicate with them, we call and encourage them to embrace once again the precious gospel of God’s Word.

Perhaps a more common situation (as is also expressed by the title of this article) is that we come across churches and believers who, although they are not one with us in the truth, are nevertheless showing some interest in that truth. They become acquainted with our churches, and curious about our beliefs. They want to know what sets us apart from other “Reformed” churches. They would like to hear more. They might even request that we provide preaching and teaching in their church.

Obviously we must love them. But now that love comes to expression in different ways. For if someone is interested in the truth (even if that interest is only small for now), this is an indication that they are heading in the right direction. In contrast to those who have rejected the truth and are headed in the direction of departure and apostasy, these churches and believers are headed in the direction of coming closer to the truth. And that is critical – the direction a church is taking.

It is especially such churches and believers that we should reach out to and befriend. We may not cut them off and isolate ourselves from them on the basis that they do not confess (yet) what we do. If we did that, how would they ever come to know and love the truth? Instead, we ought to reach out to them and visit with them, both officially as churches as well as on a personal level. If they desire that our pastor(s) lecture or preach, then if possible we willingly grant that as a consistory/session. And if the latter does occur, then we as individuals can perhaps go along and make good use of the opportunity to get to know the other church and its members, to witness to them by our lives and words, and to encourage them in their pursuit of the truth.

We need to remember that this should always be done with a measure of care, for we must never compromise the truth, nor allow ourselves to be led astray by those who do not hold to it. Yet as those who have been personally blessed by the truth, we eagerly want others to know it and to be blessed through it. Our fellowship with these churches and believers, along with our witness to them, is motivated by our loving desire that they might have and experience what we do. We want them to embrace and be comforted by the gospel of Christ that comforts us.

This takes much wisdom. Our goal is that they embrace the truth for proper reasons. We need to be on guard that they do not embrace it (or put on an appearance of embracing it) for monetary or social or other earthly reasons. We want them to embrace it because they become personally convicted that it is indeed the truth of God’s Word.

It also takes much patience and prayer. It has been my experience that it can take many, many years of patient instruction from the Scriptures and from our Reformed confessions, along with patiently answering questions, before such churches fully understand the truth and reach the point where, by the grace and Spirit of God, they are convicted of it and come to love it. But our love for God and His truth, and our consciousness of the calling to maintain the unity of the Spirit in that truth, compels us to undertake such patient and prayerful labour.

In conclusion, we do well to ponder the Preamble of the PRCA’s Constitution of the Committee for Contact with Other Churches. It reads as follows:

The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, in obedience to Scripture as interpreted in our three forms of unity, confess that there is one holy, catholic church. They believe, further, that it is their sacred duty to manifest the true unity and catholicity of the church on earth in as far as that is possible, not only in their denominational fellowship, but also in conjunction with all churches which have obtained like precious faith with us, both domestic and foreign.

This certainly applies to the official work of a church (or churches) in reaching out to other churches who are seeking the truth. But the principles also apply to the individual believers and members. As God gives opportunity, may our churches and members be willing instruments in His hands who strive, by life and by speech, to win over and thus gain others to the precious truths of His gospel. And may God bless such efforts, carried out by weak and sinful means, in order to manifest the reality of true, blessed unity among those to whom He has entrusted His truth.

Written by: Pastor Daniel Kleyn | Issue 39

What is Reformed? Reformed in Church Government (IV)

Introduction

I have nearly finished the series of articles I wrote on the meaning of “Reformed” for Salt Shakers, and will make this the last one in that series. We have discussed that to be Reformed involves our theology, our worship and the government of the church. We have discussed all of these including church government; the only one that remains to be discussed is the office of deacons in the church. I propose to address that problem in this last and concluding article along with the question of the responsibilities of those who hold the office of all believers.

The Importance of the Office of Believer

In the life of the church institute, for which Scripture lays down certain rules to be observed, and are also rules underlying our Church Order, the office of believers is the most important. It is the most important, first of all, because the believer, who holds this office, holds a three-fold office: prophet, priest and king. He receives that office as a true believer who is united to Christ by faith and receives also the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us, that, because we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, we are called “Christians.”

The office of believers is the most important office in the church, because finally, the entire rule in the church can be traced back to the office of believers. If you question that statement, then think of how a new congregation is organised. It is organized by a group of believers who come together to decide to organize a church. They have the right to do this as believers. They decide to do this because there is no other church in the area that has the marks of the true church. After deciding to organize such a church, they probably ask for a list of the names of confessing men as the heads of households (in which case they enrol the wives and children along with the men) and single men who have confessed their faith.

These men then proceed to vote for elders and deacons from nominations made from the floor by the men themselves. The men chosen are then ordained. If a minister or missionary is present, he will probably guide the meeting as chairman and proceed to ordain the newly chosen office bearers. The constituted body of elders will then, in due time, propose a trio of ministers to the congregation and the confessing male members will proceed to call a minister.

However, as I have written earlier, the relation between the office bearers and the congregation is unique. The relation is one of a delicate balance that will work only where there is godly trust on the part of all the members. The whole relationship seems to an unbeliever to be hopelessly confusing; but it is not, for both the office of believers and those who hold special office in the church serve Christ, who is the Head of the church.

And so the office of believers holds the final authority in the church and participates actively in the government of the church. But at the same time, he subjects himself to the rule of the elders—as he is admonished to do by Scripture. He rules and is ruled— both.

The Believer’s Obligation to the Church

You can understand what a great responsibility each believer has toward the church. The church is always your first concern in life. Nothing must ever interfere with your responsibility towards Christ’s church. It is Christ who is the Head of the church; and Christ the Head of the church has given you the most important office in the church.

The church is the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven here on earth and therefore, Jesus’ words apply to us in our relation to the church: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The word “first” in Jesus’ words does not mean “on the top of the list” of the things we are permitted to seek: so that we could continue the list with 2. Our studies; 3. Our home; 4. Our car; 5. Our vacations; 6. Our clothes; etc. Jesus means “first” as the principle of everything we do, so that everything is a part of our seeking the kingdom, that is, the church. The church is number one in our lives and the welfare of the church is our greatest joy.

That means that we seek the unity of the church (Ephesians 4:1-3) and the peace of the church (Psalm 122). (By the way, it might interest you to know that I preached on the last verses of this Psalm in my first sermon in the first congregation I served.)

The believer does the work in the church that is asked of him/her no matter what it is. A believer is anxious to contribute to the welfare of the church in any way he can.

The Believer’s Obligation to the Minister

There are two texts in the Bible that define our calling when we come into God’s house to hear the preached word. One is Ecclesiastes 5:1-2: “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house if God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

The other is James 1:19-25. I won’t quote the passage here, because it is too long. But you may read it yourselves; and you can find a commentary on these verses in my commentary on James, which only a short time ago was published by the RFPA.

The Believer’s Obligation Toward His Elders

There are texts in the Bible that exactly define our calling towards our elders. I referred to them earlier and will not discuss them here. They are especially Hebrews 12:7, 17 and I Thessalonians 5:12-13.(Look them up.)

In addition to these texts it is important when your elders admonish you or even speak to you, to learn from them. When the elders come to inquire into your spiritual well-being you must receive them gladly, speak freely to them and seek their counsel in any problems you may have. This happens especially on family visitation.

It reminds me of an experience I had while on family visitation. I always asked the young people whether they watched movies especially in theatres. One young man admitted that he and his girlfriend often attended movies. Upon hearing this, the father interrupted and berated his son angrily. I said nothing. At the end of his tirade, the son said, “Yes, father, but you watch the same things on our TV set.” The father was a bit nonplussed and did not know what to say. I still remained silent. After a stretch of silence, the father said, “Yes, but we watch at home. When you go to theatres you are with wicked people.” “No,” the son said, “We go to drive- in theatres where we stay in our car.” That gave me the opportunity to enter the discussion with the whole family about the evils of drama whether in theatres or on TV or on DVDs.

My point is that God put your elders into office so that you may seek counsel from them at any time. Some people rather talk with the minister, and there is nothing wrong with that; but the minister, while he too is an elder is to be busy in studying God’s Word and making sermons. The elders are the ones God appointed to care for the sheep (Acts 20:28-35).

God even tells parents that if they have a wayward child who will not listen to them, they are to bring the child to the elders (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). This is God’s way of dealing with stubborn children, and in my experience, I have found that it is often the way God uses to change a young man or woman that they may be obedient to their parents.

I have on occasion put a troubled and burdened mother under the care of an older and wise mother in the congregation so that an older and sympathetic mother can help a young mother through difficult times. Often a young mother will be hesitant to tell her minister personal problems, while she is free to tell an older mother in the church.

But if such a mother helps a new and young mother or if the minister himself engages in pastoral work, the older mother ought to report to the minister or an elder, and the minister ought to inform the elders at every Session meeting of all his pastoral calls and what is the problem, if any, with which he is dealing. The elders rule in the church.

The Believer’s Obligation Towards the Deacons

It is my judgment that there are two extremes in the church of Christ in which people in the church err in their relationship to deacons. One error is to go to the deacons for financial help when they are in poverty because they have not been good stewards of their earthly possessions, and by foolish spending have buried themselves in debt. Sometimes gambling does this to a family, sometimes drunkenness, but sometimes just foolish purchasing of things people covet and buy whether they can afford it or not. In such cases those who need help from the deacons need also instruction from the elders, and the deacons must so inform the elders. Sometimes when poor stewardship is the reason for poverty, the deacons themselves can instruct the poor in Scripture’s teachings. I

have even, in my ministry,told the deacons to enlist the aid of their wives to help a mother who squanders money how to be a good steward – especially in grocery shopping.

Sometimes people are reluctant to go to the deacons even though they need help. I have found, in my ministry, there are two reasons for this. One is that people refuse to go to the deacons because they think the deacons should come to them. Their reasoning is that Christ comes to his people; we do not come to Christ. We must not, we are told, be Arminian.

I came once on family visitation to a family that, in the dead of winter, were wearing all their winter clothing. The water in the toilet bowl was frozen for they had no heat, and they had nothing to eat except dandelion greens, which they dug for under the snow. When I asked them why they did not go to the deacons, their answer was, “The deacons are supposed to come to us.” It was no time for arguments, so I called the chairman of the diaconate and told him to get deacons down to their house immediately, which also they did. But they had to be told that, while it is true that Christ first comes to us, he nevertheless says, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”

Sometimes people do not want the deacons to come because they are proud and do not want to admit that they are in need of help. This is indeed pride, for going to the deacons is the same as going to Christ. Christ has, in his inscrutable wisdom, and through such means as loss of job or grave illness, put them in circumstances in which they need the help of Christ. And Christ helps them through the office of deacons.

Poor people in the church are a blessing, for it is more blessed to give than to receive. Christ reminds his disciples, when Mary anointed his feet with expensive perfumes, that he himself would see to it that the church always has poor. These people are necessary for the spiritual well-being of the congregation. It is a privilege to come to the deacons for help.

I was talking once with a man from another denomination who told me a story out of his own experience. He was a member of a Reformed Church, but certainly not a faithful church. He told me that he had gone to his deacons when he was in desperate need, and the deacons told him to go to governmental agencies to get help. The deacons did not want to follow Solomon’s instruction in the book of Proverbs: “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Yet still today some rather go to the government than to the church.

The Believer’s Obligation Towards His Fellow Saints

The believers in the church of Christ must do exactly the same towards their fellow saints as the office bearers do. Because believers are prophets, they must bring God’s Word in all their contacts with their fellow saints. In Bible study groups, in their mutual discussions when visiting with or talking to their fellow saints, they

must put all their conversation within the context of God’s word. If they comfort each other in times of sorrow, strengthen each other when one bears a heavy burden, and encourage each other when their pilgrimage is difficult, they must always come with God’s word.

Because God’s people are kings, they are concerned about the spiritual welfare of their fellow saints and they must admonish them, but with the word of God. Two texts especially come to mind. One is found in Galatians 6:1-2:“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” The other text is in James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

And because all God’s people are priests, they are to help one another with all kinds of help when their brother or sister is in need. They may help with meals, help with running errands for the helpless, help with money necessary, help with doing work for one who needs work done and cannot do it; help in babysitting when a mother is overwhelmed with her responsibilities, etc. And it is the duty and obligation of the person needing help to receive it graciously and in the spirit of love. In these and other situations, God’s people come with God’s word also – as the deacons do when they help the poor.

The office of believers is and can be a very busy office. When Dorcas died, all the women in the town were broken with grief because “she was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did” (Acts 9:36-43).

When those who hold special offices in the church, and when all the members seek the good of the church and not their own good, the congregation is richly blessed. It shines in the world as a light on a hill, and God uses such a church to bring many to faith in Christ.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 37

The Principles and Values of the Church Order

Dear young people,

The Church Order of Dordrecht occupies a treasured and venerable place in the life of the Reformed Churches. It was adopted by the National Synod of Dordrecht in 1618-19 and therefore this makes the Church Order close to about 400 years old. The Church Order was not written in the ivory tower of theological learning, but it was written and developed organically from the life of the church. It was forged under the anvil of severe trials, troubles and great persecutions. On 1 March 2011, our Session adopted a Church Order, which was adapted from the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches that reflected the life of our Church. And, after adopting the Church Order, we are in the process of implementing it. This article is written as an introduction to the Church Order so that you will understand the principles, development, authority and value of its eighty-six articles, with the goal that the Church Order will be greatly appreciated by you and used in the life of the Church.

The Development of the Church Order

We owe a great debt of gratitude to John Calvin for developing the principles of the Church Order in his writings, though he did not have a hand in formulating the articles of the Church Order. The history of the development of the Church Order of Dordrecht stretched from the 1300s to 1618-19 where it was finally adopted by the National Synod of Dordrecht. It was developed through the struggles, controversies and persecutions of the Dutch Churches. Besides John Calvin, other reformers made significant contributions to the development of the principles, namely, Ulrich Zwingli and John A Lasco, amongst others. Various synods in the continent, through their synodical decisions, developed the articles that are found in the National Synod of Dordrecht in 1618-19, namely, the Walloon Synods (1555 – 1566), the Synod of Wezel (1568), Synod of Embden (1571), Provincial Synod of Dordrecht (1574), the National Synod of Dordrecht (1578) and the Synod of Middleburg (1581).

 

What is the Church Order?

The Church Order contains principles and regulations of church government that regulate the life of the church. It also contains regulations for the broader assemblies of the classes and synods. The Church Order is not a set of rules filled with Do’s and Don’ts, nor is it a detailed rule book for every conceivable situation in the church, nor is it meant to settle arguments over fine points of interpretations. Rather, the positive purpose of the Church Order is that “all things be done decently and in order” 1

Cor. 14:40. And in order for good order to be maintained, it “is necessary that there be offices, assemblies, supervision of doctrine, sacraments and ceremonies, and Christian discipline …” (Article 1 of the Church Order). And with that purpose in mind, the Church Order is divided into the Offices (Art. 1 to 28), of Ecclesiastical Assemblies (Art. 29 –52), of Doctrines, Sacraments, and other Ceremonies (Art. 53 to 70), and of Censure and Ecclesiastical Admonition (Art. 71 to 86).

 

The Principles

The Church Order contains a set of principles of Church Government that is drawn from the pages of Holy Scriptures. First, the chief principle is that Christ is the head of the Church.

Scripture often presents the relationship between Christ and the Church in terms of the human body, where Christ is the head and the church is the various members of His body (1 Cor. 12:27), and the vine and the branches, where Christ is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). This means that all the life of the church must be in harmony with the will of the King.

Secondly, Christ, the office-bearer of God in the one, threefold office of Prophet, Priest and King, is pleased to rule His Church through men appointed by Him – the office bearers. Thus, the minister represents Christ in the office of prophet, the elder in the office of king, and the deacon in the office of priest.

Lastly, the Church Order of Dordrecht carefully maintains the delicate balance in Reformed Church polity between the autonomy of the local church and the necessary federation of churches. Reformed Church Polity rejects hierarchy by insisting that members of the church submit themselves unto the rule of the plurality of elders, under the headship of Christ. And on the other hand, it urges independent churches to join themselves to a federation of churches and to submit themselves to the decisions of the broader assemblies.

 

The Authority of the Church Order

The Church Order is a minor confession in the Reformed Church. This does not mean that it is unimportant, but rather, its scope is limited as it sets forth principles of Church Government. Its authority in the life of the Reformed Churches is based upon the principles of God’s Word. Therefore, the authority of the Church Order is a derived authority and it means that the Church Order must always be subject to the infallible teachings of the Word of God. And if there is additional light shown through the study of the Holy Scriptures, the articles in the Church Order can be revised to reflect the correct teachings of Scripture. Furthermore, for the sake of the profit of the church, the articles in the Church Order can be “altered, augmented or even diminished” (Art.

86). In short, the Church Order serves the edification of the Church and not that the Church serves the Church Order. Finally, the Church Order is authoritative for another reason: the willing consent of the churches themselves. The Churches that belong to the federation mutually agree to willingly bind themselves to abide by the Church Order. Churches that join or remain in the federation willingly agree to be bound by the Church Order so that the binding authority of the Church Order is the authority we willingly consent to give it.

 

The Value for Today

  1. The affairs in the church may be done in order and decently

God is not a God of chaos or disorder and therefore, God is glorified when the Church follows the commands of the apostle to regulate matters according to the order in 1 Cor. 14:33 “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” and verse 40, “Let all things be done decently and in order”. The context of these verses is that the speaking of unknown tongues must be interpreted and are to be spoken one by one; prophecy is to be preferred to tongues-speaking, and women are to keep silence in the church and let them ask their husbands at home for it is a shame for them to speak in the church. The latter had to do with speaking authoritatively in the church – something which is only reserved for the men in the congregation. And, for the sake of good order, the Church has the office bearers: ministers, elders and deacons performing their calling faithfully. Lording over others, hierarchy and tolerating sins are removed from the church.

  1. Preserves the unity of the church

The basis of church unity lies not only on the 3 Forms of Unity, but also on the Church Order. All the member churches of the federation subscribe to the Church Order and agree to abide by its regulation. In this way, the practices of the member churches, though they are autonomous, are united. This unity is beautiful in the sight of God, as it is not a unity in uniformity, or sameness, but a unity in diversity. This unity is like that of a human body where it is united by a diversity of its members with hands, legs and body. This unity is maintained when member churches in the federation conform themselves to the practices of the Church Order by modifying inconsistent practices and reforming their practices to agree to the Church Order.

  1. Regulative purposes

The Church Order regulates the life of the church in the consistory, classis and synod. It also regulates the calling and election of minister, elder and deacon, and the theological training and examination of a theological student. The Church Order also regulates the very important aspect of church discipline in silent censure, and the several admonitions given to the sinner before he is cut off from the church. It also stipulates that member churches are obligated to seek advice before the consistory goes ahead with the extreme measure of excommunication.

  1. It is a confession of the Church

The Church Order is a minor confession of the Church, like the various liturgical forms: for Baptism, Lord’s Supper, and the Ordination of Elders and Deacons while the major confessions are the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt. The Church Order confesses what the church believes on the matter of church governance and describes how the church ought to be governed. Therefore, the church order is the banner that the church unfurls as a testimony to friends and foes alike.

  1. Connects us to the church of the past

The Reformed Church is not an independent church, separate from the rest of the true or faithful church, but it belongs to the single stream that flows from the apostolic church. Therefore, the apostolic doctrine belongs to the Reformed Church, including its Confessional formulations in the Ecumenical Creeds like the Apostles’ Creed, Nicaea Creeds, and Constantinople Creeds. The formulations from the creeds are the fruit of the doctrinal controversies that plagued the church. Let us not forget that we are the beneficiaries of the formulations of the Reformed and Presbyterian Creeds like the Second Helvetic Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

  1. Serves a judicial purpose

In times of conflict in the Church, whether in terms of personal protests or doctrinal controversies, the Church Order points the way of solving conflicts by appeals to Classis and to the final appeal to Synod. In our case of CERC, since we do not have a classis and synod at this time, there is a possibility that we may seek advice from our sister church in the PRCA to make a judgment on a matter. It has been said about independent churches that they are “dead-end streets” because when there is a conflict, there is no way they can address the issues. The issues of the problems will remain unresolved and single churches or denominations may be split as a result of controversies. But, it may not prevent the dissolving of a denomination, like in the case of the ERCS, where there was a deadlock on the matter of Divorce and Remarriage.

 

Dear young people, I hope that you can appreciate what a great heritage you have in the Church Order. May you learn the principles of Church Government and the regulations found therein so as to apply it throughout your life in the life of the Church. May God bless each one of you.

Written by: Paul Goh | Issue 10

Total Depravity

Total depravity, or total inability, describes man’s absolutely sinful and corrupted fallen state as a result of original sin. When Adam, the representative head of the whole human race fell into sin, the entire human race fell too. This is clearly shown in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Hence, eve- ry single man, head for head is totally depraved. Since the fall, every single person, even a newborn baby, is depraved as he is born in sin. This is seen in Psalm 51:5 which says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This implies that sin is deeply embedded into man’s nature. He is totally ruined and willingly turns to evil from the very day that he was born.

Because man is born into sin, every part of him is totally depraved. Man is wicked, corrupt, perverse and opposed to God in his nature. He is inclined to serve his own will and desires and to reject the rule of God, as proven in Genesis 6:5 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” He is also unable to serve and love God wholly with all his heart, mind and strength. Man rests under the curse of sin and is wholly incapable of loving God or to do anything which merits salvation. Even the good which man may intend to do have false motives. This is seen in Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

This doctrine of total depravity, however, is denied by most Christians today and avoided by many as it is not seen as a “friendly” doctrine. Many of them cannot accept that they are totally depraved such that they are unable to do any good by themselves. They assert that there is a difference between total depravity and absolute depravity. Their understanding is that man is totally depraved, but not absolutely depraved. They falsely claim that man, although sinful, is still able to do some good, such as to do good works, or to choose God. This is absolutely wrong as since the fall, man is completely unable to do any good. Psalm 14:1-3, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the  children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their belief further emphasizes their wickedness, as the nature of fallen man is such that he readily listens to any theory which makes him even partly independent of God as he wishes to be the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. This is seen in many other beliefs too.

Total depravity also proves to man that all his claims of goodness are unfounded, and it shows him that his only hope of a change in life lies in the sovereign and divine grace of the Almighty God. The old man is constantly opposed towards God. It is only the power of the Holy Spirit, which works in man’s cold and hardened heart, which allows him to be saved.

This alone proves the eternal and infinite love of God when he sent his only begotten son Jesus Christ to die on the cross so as to provide redemption for His people. John 3:3, Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

From this, we are to learn that there is no room for pride. We owe everything that we have to God. We ought to be thankful for and appreciate God’s unconditional   grace,   and     further rely on Him and use the means of grace that He has given us, such as the preaching of His Word, family devotions, prayer and youth group activities so that we can grow more in Him. Furthermore, we are not to look down on others. By comparing ourselves to others and deeming ourselves better, we are full of pride, and as we are warned in Proverbs 16:18, pride goeth before destruction. In fact, we have absolutely nothing to be proud of, as the scriptures clearly says that we are all equally depraved, dead, and wicked, and we have all gone astray.

Only through understanding our depravity, are we able to comprehend how great the measure of God’s love is for us when he unconditionally elects us,   wretched   sinners,   and saves us from eternal damnation in hell even though we are such unworthy creatures who continue to sin against Him time and again. Our lost, ruined and helpless state must be constantly set before us so that we can comprehend our depravity and thank God for the gift of salvation that He has bestowed on us.

Written by: Koh Hui Qi | Issue 7

Philippines: Spreading The Reformed Faith

I mention at the outset my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to write concerning our mission work here in the Philippines. It is encouraging to know of the interest the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore has shown, and continues to show, in our work. A special word of thanks to the youth for asking me to write for their magazine. I trust this summary will help you know what labour the Lord has given us the privilege to do, and enable you to pray for us and our work with understanding.

Development of the Mission Field (1995-2001)

Initial   contact with   believers in the Philippines came through correspondence which was received by the Evangelism Committee of the Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. This was back in the early 1990’s.

When it became apparent that the Lord could very well be giving our churches an open door, Evangelism Committee passed on the correspondence to the Foreign Mission Committee.

The FMC subsequently sent a total of seven delegations to the Philippines over a period of five years. These delegations (either two ministers, or a minister and elder) met the many contacts throughout the Philippines with a view to becoming better acquainted with them, finding out about their interest in the Reformed truth, and determining whether the Lord was indeed setting before our churches a place of labour.

The fruit of these visits was that Synod 2001 of the PRCA approved the recommendation of the FMC to declare the Philippines a mission field. Synod also approved calling and sending a missionary. Doon Protestant Reformed Church (in Iowa) was appointed as the calling church for this mission field.

Past Missionary Labours (2001-2009)

Rev. Aud Spriensma accepted the call to serve as missionary in the Philippines in the fall of 2001. After a time of preparation, Rev. Spriensma and his family moved to the field in early 2002. He laboured here for five years (2002-2007). Through the Lord’s blessing on that work, a church was instituted in 2006 – the Berean Protestant Reformed Church in the Philippines.

From 2007-2009, Doon PRC continued   the     calling   process for a missionary to replace Rev. Spriensma. In the meantime, the PRCA was able to provide ministers to preach and teach, for periods of a few weeks at a time, in the Berean PRCP during its vacancy.

Synod 2008 approved calling two missionaries to labour together in the   Philippines.   Soon   thereafter, the Lord provided two men to serve as missionaries. Rev. Richard Smit accepted the call in January, 2009. My acceptance was in April, 2009. Each of us then spent five to six months in preparation for the work and move.

This included taking missions courses, doing extensive reading in missions, and beginning to learn the Philippine language, Tagalog (something we still continue to do).

Rev. Smit and his wife Tricia and their eight children moved to the Philippines in July of 2009, and my wife Sharon and I moved here in December of that same year. We live near each other in Antipolo City, an eastern suburb of the city of Manila. This puts us close to Faith Academy, the school where the Smits send their six oldest children.

Current Missionary Activities

Rev. Smit and I, with the approval of Doon PRC and the FMC, have divided up our work in the Philippines along the following lines.

Rev. Smit focuses upon the work in the Berean   PRC. He preaches there every Sunday, teaches all the catechism classes, leads the weekly Bible study, does pastoral work, and presides at the consistory meetings.

My work involves preaching and teaching in three different places. On the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, I preach and teach in the First Reformed Church in Bulacan (about two hours from home). On the 2nd Sunday (and 5th, if there is one), I bring God’s Word to the saints in the All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Gabaldon   (about   5 hours from here). And on the 4th Sunday of each month, I preach and teach in the Christian Faith Ministry in Batasan Hills (about 1 hour from home). Needless to say, Sharon and I cover quite a few miles in our car.

In all three places, I preach on the Heidelberg   Catechism. In Bulacan and Batasan Hills, I also lead a study of the Church Order of Dordt. In Gabaldon, I have the opportunity to teach a Bible History catechism class for the children, and in Bulacan, a class on the Belgic Confession of Faith for the young people there.

While this is the general division of our labours, Rev. Smit and I also assist each other in our work. We occasionally do a pulpit exchange. We regularly consult with each other about our work. We both correspond and/or visit with various other contacts we have in the Philippines. And we work together in some other areas of the work of missions here, as well.

One of those areas is 7M. This acronym stands for “Metro Manila Monthly Monday Morning Ministers’ Meeting.” Our 7M meets twice a month. Its purpose is to provide instruction for present and future ministers. Rev. Smit and I lecture in Reformed dogmatics. Rev. Smit has covered introduction to Reformed dogmatics, and I am currently providing instruction in the loci of Theology. When that is complete, Rev. Smit will lead the men in a study of Anthropology. We have two pastors and one student for the ministry attending these meetings.

Another area in which we work together is that of seeking to establish a federation of Reformed churches here. At this point in time, the First Reformed Church in Bulacan and the Berean Protestant Reformed Church have as their desire and goal to form such a federation. With a view to this, we are especially providing instruction in Reformed Church Government through a study of the Church Order of Dordt. The two congregations also seek to come to a better knowledge of each other, both on an official as well as on a personal level. With that in view, we were able recently to have a combined outing for the youth of both churches, something the young people very much enjoyed. In fact, some were asking when the next one would be.

One more work and goal we have before us is to assist the Berean PRC in their desire to establish a sister church relationship with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. We discuss this matter regularly at the Berean consistory meetings. Rev. Smit has also given instruction to the Berean congregation concerning this, with lectures on the principles, practice, and necessity of establishing such a relationship. We do not know yet when this relationship might be established, but are thankful for the desire as well as for the opportunity to work toward this good goal.

I should mention one more thing, and that is that the Lord has given the Berean PRCP a student for the ministry, Bro. Vernon Ibe. Currently he is studying in the Protestant Reformed seminary in Grandville, Michigan, USA. Later this year (beginning in July), he will be having a six month internship with Rev. R. Van Overloop in Grace PRC. He is looking forward to this part of his preparation for the ministry. But he is also looking forward to completing his studies with a view to returning to his home country and taking up the   work of the   ministry here. We too eagerly anticipate his return – Lord willing, in 2012.

Conclusion

If you are interested in more information about our work and life here, including pictures, feel free to browse the blog Sharon is doing. See www.kleynsphilippines.blogspot.com.

We covet your prayers, and assure you that you are remembered often in prayer too. May God’s blessing continue to rest upon us as we, with you, strive to give a good witness to His glorious truth in Southeast Asia. Truly the harvest is plenteous. Surely the day of Christ’s return approaches quickly. What a joy and privilege to be used of our Sovereign God for the spread of His Word. May the   Lord keep us faithful and prosper our work with a view to the ingathering of His elect and the coming of the great day of Jesus Christ.

Written by: Pastor Daniel Kleyn | Issue 7

Reformed Youth Seminar: The Life of Martin Luther

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Ps 46:1

REVIEW

During the recent Reformed Youth Seminar, Professor Hanko (or “Prof”, as we affectionately call him) gave us a sermon outlining the major points of the life of Martin Luther, one of the key persons who shaped the Protestant Reformation which brought us out of the evils of apostate Roman Catholicism. He also illustrated the blessedness of being able to see God’s hand behind every step of our lives through reviewing the life of Luther and his own, and emphasized on the importance of being faithful to God’s Word no matter the cost.

Comparing his own life and work to that of Luther’s and of the other Reformation fathers, Prof refers to himself as a pygmy in the presence of giants. But as corrected by his colleague, he states that although we might seem to be pygmies, we stand on the shoulders of those spiritual giants and therefore are able to see further than they could. He refers to the development of doctrinal truths throughout the years, which God has beautifully refined through history in order that biblical truths are preserved, and heresies pinpointed and thrown out.

The life of Luther shows how God prepared him for his life’s work at each step of the way: the death of his friend which made him think more about his purpose in life, his experience in the terrible storm in which he swore an oath to become a monk if God spared his life, his struggle with being right with God, and his steadfastness before the Roman Catholic empire where he held on to what he was convinced was the truth. Now, there are certain doctrines here that we can take note of and apply to our lives, and I would elaborate by first highlighting the key points of Luther’s life as spoken by Prof.

Luther, in his early years, was a bright student and was on his way to being a lawyer, which by his father’s thinking was the ticket to a luxurious life and retirement for Luther’s parents. It was going well until he was caught in a storm which seemed to him was the end of his life. There, he begged God through Saint Anne to spare his life with a promise to become a monk if he survived the storm. He survived, and had to keep his promise despite the protests of his friends and of his father.

After entering the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg and being convinced of the graveness of his sins, Luther sought to seek redemption from God by doing every work of penance ever prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church. The source of what troubled him is found in Romans 1:17 which states, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” His struggle was with the phrase “the righteousness of God”.

While Luther interpreted the phrase to mean that a man has to be righteous on his own in order that he could be right with God, his attempts to placate God through his acts of penance and by confessing every single sin to the head of his monastery did not seem to be working as he still found no peace within himself. It was only on one particular day of his preparation for being a priest, studying deep into Scripture alone in a tower of the monastery, known to us as the “Tower experience”, when Luther finally realised that the term the “righteousness of God” did not describe an attribute of God in which He is so holy and thus wishes to punish every sinner, but instead is the free gift of righteousness – granted through faith – imputed by Christ’s death on the cross unto believers. Christ’s death washes away all the sins of His people, and that is what makes sinners righteous before God. This is what the prophet means by “the just shall live by faith” in Habakkuk 2:4.

A few years on, Luther had to deal with the orator and defender of Catholicism, Johann Eck, publicly debating on the issue of how they judged the truth. Eck’s stand was that the truth was to be determined by the church passed down from the councils of earlier times, the tradition of popes, and by the church which made decrees regarding various items of Scripture. This meant that one could live his life as he pleased, committing various gross sins while still being a member of the church – but if one deviated even a little from the doctrines of the church, he would face the wrath of the church. Luther, at that time, still believed in the traditions and the authority of the church in all various matters, but held on to the truth of being justified by faith alone. Eck then accused Luther of being a follower of John Hus, implying that Luther was teaching heresy and was worthy of being burnt at the stake. John Hus was an early reformer who believed in the authority of Scripture over the authority of the church. Luther, after reviewing the writings of John Hus, maintained that God’s Word, Scripture, is the authority of all doctrine and all of life – justi cation by faith alone, apart from the works of the law! This gave Johann Eck complete victory over Luther in the debate by being able to brand Luther as a heretic.

Nonetheless, the debate with Johann Eck was the starting point of Luther’s conviction and maintenance of his stand of being justified by faith alone and Scriptures as the only authority. From there, he went on back to Wittenberg to drive away teachers of mysticism – heretics which took over Luther’s place whilst he was away – by just preaching a series of eight sermons. Also, the conviction gained from the debate gave Luther courage to stand alone defending the truth before the Imperial Diet of Worms, which is the council of the Holy Roman Empire. Present were the Emperor, his servants and princes, and other powerful men including the elite of the Roman Catholic Church, each of them having the authority to end the life of whoever ticked them off. Luther had to face the Diet alone as none of his colleagues were permitted to attend the trial.

Luther was strongly advised by all his colleagues not to go to the Diet as the danger of Luther being taken away as a heretic and being killed was very great due to the immense combined power of the Diet. But Luther was convinced of the truth of God and the dangers which awaited him did not deter him from his conviction for the cause of Christ. The reply to his friends was that he had a mighty defender, God Himself. This courage to face imminent doom undoubtedly came from God.

During Luther’s trial, he was given opportunity to recant his teachings before the Diet passed a verdict. Luther, after reviewing his past works in the books he wrote placed before him, was convinced that what he wrote and had been teaching over the years was indeed truth, and held on to his stand. The Catholic Church wanted him killed immediately, but by the Emperor’s promise of safe conduct, Luther made it out of Worms.

God indeed is our refuge and strength! The words in this statement are found in Psalm 46:1, out of Luther’s favourite Psalm of which he composed the well- known hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. One who looks at Luther’s life and sees God’s hand behind it, preparing Luther every step of the way, will not find it a mystery where Luther got his inspiration to write the hymn.

This truth of God reminds me of the theme for our recent Covenant Keepers camp, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, which states, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” God, as Author of all that is in existence, not only determines the pathway of our lives, but, as Prof rightly states, also grants us the vigour and enthusiasm to do His work!

Nearing the end of the sermon, Prof quoted from Matthew 24:12-13, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” Prof emphasised the use of two words in the text – “many”, being plural, and the word “he”, a singular. It is evident in Scripture and thus we can expect that, like Luther, we will one day stand alone in contending for the truth. Are we ready for it?

God’s grace is greater than any human resistance, piercing through the hard outer shells of our stubbornness and disbelief, and softens our hearts with the grace that brings us to faith in Christ. The grace that brought Luther to Christ bound his conscience to the Word of God and with the courage which ows directly from God, Luther stood his ground in many instances in order to defend the truth. Can, and will, you and I do the same to defend the truth which we love?

One of the ending words of Prof in his sermon was a quote from Luther, saying that the busier we get, the more we need to seek God in our devotions. We as servants of the living God require very much the direction of our Master, lest we go astray and fall into the cunning pits and snares of the devil, enticing us to embrace earthly comforts and to forget our purpose and calling as sojourners to lead godly lives and to gather the church. Will we dedicate our time to constant prayer and the reading and meditation of God’s Word?

May we embrace our calling with joy and courage, knowing that God is our ever-present aid and guide. Let us, like Luther, put on the whole armour of God and our battle cry echo the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:31: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Defend the truth of the Bible, and spread the good news of the righteousness of God imputed to believing sinners through Jesus Christ crucified on the cross, and we will be able to sing the words of the versi cation of Psalm 46 in Psalter 126 with meaning:

“God is our refuge and our strength, our ever present aid, And, therefore, though the earth remove, We will not be afraid.”

Written by: Milton Ho | Issue 6

Introduction to TULIP

Over the past year, Covenant Keepers (CK) has been learning about the Five Points of Calvinism. It can be said that this doctrine is the dividing line between the reformed and the non-reformed and thus it is important that the young people of the church are taught this doctrine from young and maintain the reformed heritage that has always upheld the truth of God’s effectual grace and that all things are to the glory of God alone.

The Five Points of Calvinism is a body of doctrines concerning Soteriology, or “Salvation” with its emphasis on the sovereign good pleasure and working of God in choosing and saving certain people unto salvation as well as man’s utter helplessness and wickedness. It is identified by namely, Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints; also known as TULIP. Each individual aspect will be discussed more thoroughly in the coming issues but for now, an overview will suffice and such would be the scope of this article.

The Five Points and God’s Attributes

Those who think little of this truth or any other truths for the matter would usually think that belief over this doctrine ought not to disrupt the “unity” among professing Christians. However, this doctrine is crucial because it concerns the attributes of God. Every work of God comes forth from who He is or i.e., His attributes. How much more important is this truth since it involves the work of salvation itself? Since we know God by His attributes, thus, if a person denies this doctrine of salvation, the god he worships differs from the one true God whom we reformed believers worship and is nothing but an idol made up by the fancy of men’s carnal heart.

The Sovereignty of God

Underlying this doctrine is the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God begins with God being the decider of good and evil, of love and hate, of what exists and what does not, etc. In all things, He decides and it originates from His good pleasure. This is only be tting as He alone is king and ruler of all creation. Being the creator, does He not have the right to decide?

Regarding salvation, He alone, in His eternal counsel, decides who He will save and leaves the rest in their sins to their own condemnation. Using the language of the Bible itself, “Behold the goodness and severity of God…” (Rom 11:22)

While Paul could have used all sorts of soothing, nice-sounding words to soften the reality of God’s sovereignty in salvation, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he was telling the Romans to accept it for He is God and has every right to do so. “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?

Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom 9:20-21)

Though this reality is frightening and ought to strike fear in every person, yet this truly is good news to the child of God who in all things seek first the glory of God and is in every way God-centred (cf The Five points of Calvinism and Good News).

The Love and Zeal of God

“O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” – Ps 107:1

Those who deny this doctrine of salvation must necessarily deny the everlasting virtue of the love and mercy of God. For they have to certainly claim, after having claimed that God loved everyone but condemns those who refuse to believe to hell, that the love of God ends for those people because of their unbelief. That is certainly untrue of the love of God. Alternatively, there are also those who claim that God only begins loving a person when they exercise faith to believe in Christ. That is untrue too. To those whom God has set His love on, he loves them to the very end (Jn 13:1). I.e., either God has loved a person and will love him or her to the end, or He has never loved that person.

Many would like to think that love is but a sentimental feeling and think that to be true of God. “O how God would love to save you and has done everything he can but he is waiting for you to choose him.” Truth is, God is zealous for those He loves and His love is a working love that is real and will de nitely bring salvation to those whom He loves. “For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.” (2 Kings 19:31) and “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Mat 1:21)

[These are just a few examples of the attributes involved and other attributes which are not discussed includes the omnipotence, omniscience of God etc. which may be discussed in the later articles]

The Five Points to the Glory of God Alone

God is a being of reason and thus everything that He does is for the highest reason possible — that is, Himself and His glory. TULIP teaches man’s utter ruin in sin, and helplessness regarding his salvation that not even his will would wish that he be saved in Christ (total depravity) while teaching also, that God certainly saves those whom He for His good pleasure and glory has chosen before the foundation of the world was laid. Since God begins and finishes His work of salvation, TULIP rightly teaches that all glory belongs to God in the work of salvation.

The Five Points and History/Worldview

Why do nations rise and fall? Why do the things on Earth, despite the tremendous pain and suffering, occur throughout world history? Only a Calvinist can answer, and that is for the salvation of the Church.

Although TULIP does not explicitly teach that everything in history existed to save the church, yet it teaches that all who Christ had died for must certainly be saved and so therefore everything that happens in the world happened by the sovereign will of God that the means of grace (i.e. Preaching of the gospel etc.) will reach the elect and through them, God irresistibly calls the elect to Himself.

The Five Points and Good News

Although previously mentioned that the sovereignty of God is frightening, yet to His people it is of great comfort.

“…or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.” (Canons of Dordt 1st Head art.6)

This is due to the certainty of salvation as taught by TULIP. For the world, the devil and his hosts, and even our sinful flesh constantly wages war against us and if we had to rely on our own will to be saved, we would be eternally lost. That, however, is not so as God promises otherwise that He would secure the salvation of His people.

Furthermore, the sovereignty of God is for, and not against, us. God loves His people in Christ and thus works all things for the good of His people. (Rom 8:31-39)

Also, in the sovereignty of God, God only gives us what is best for our salvation and His glory. As God does all things on the account of Himself (as previously mentioned), He, out of His own nature, can only give us what is best and anything less than the best would be contrary to His nature and His glory.

The Five Points and Other Doctrines

TULIP does not stand alone and as any other doctrine, it exists as part of a larger set of intertwining doctrines such as atonement, sanctification, justification, the assurance of faith and covenant theology etc.

Anyone who debates against those who deny TULIP will often find themselves debating against other doctrines as well, such as the disproving of dispensationalism or defending the perfect substitutionary atonement of Christ.

The Five Points and the Five Solas

The five Solas of the reformation was pointing towards a certain direction; the sovereign work of salvation by God alone. For if TULIP were to be denied, the five solas cannot stand too:

“Grace alone” and “Christ alone” would have to be denied since an external condition would be required.

Faith would then become a condition for salvation and that is not the true meaning of “faith alone” since faith has always been the means, and not the requirement, by which we are saved.

Thus, the denial of TULIP would not have been the teaching of “scripture alone” as it no longer teaches salvation to the glory of God alone since man has to fulfil certain requirements and crediting some glory (however little), to himself.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11: 33-36)

Written by: Woon Tian Loong | Issue 6