INVENTORY REDUCTION SALE!

The Reformed Free Publishing Association is once again running an inventory reduction sale now through the end of May. This is your opportunity to get distinctive Reformed literature at a discounted price.

These books would make great graduation gifts!

Book Club members save even more! Log into your online account before you start making your order.

 

30% OFF!
Bound to Join .......... Now $12.57
Common Grace Revisited .......... Now $2.45
Leaving Father and Mother .......... Now $4.17
Saved by Grace .......... Now $12.57
Sixteenth-Century Reformation .......... Now $8.37
Trinity and Covenant .......... Now $13.97
Whosoever Will .......... Now $9.07

45% OFF!
Always Reforming .......... Now $11.87
Knowing God and Man .......... Now $6.57
Mysteries of the Kingdom .......... Now $18.12
Peace for the Troubled Heart .......... Now $20.27

Unfolding Covenant History (Vol. 5) .......... Now $8.79

60% OFF!
Battle for Sovereign Grace .......... Now $11.58
Communion with God .......... Now $11.58
Contending for the Faith .......... Now $11.58
Covenant and Election .......... Now $11.58
Defense of the Church Institute .......... Now $7.18
Justified unto Liberty .......... Now $15.18
Redeemed with Judgment (Vol. 1) .......... Now $12.80
Redeemed with Judgment (Vol. 2) .......... Now $12.80
Reformed Worship .......... Now $2.78
Sin and Grace .......... Now $6.78

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Book(let) Alert! - 'The Necessity of Membership in a True Church' by David J. Engelsma

Most readers of the RFPA blog are familiar with Prof. David Engelsma. For sixteen years he was editor of the Standard Bearer and he has written numerous books which the RFPA has published, including two which treat the topic of church membership: Bound to Join and A Defense of the Church Institute.

Those who read and profited from these two books will be interested in knowing that the Reformed Witness Committee (RWC) of Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan has recently published The Necessity of Membership in a True Church, written by Engelsma. The booklet contains two parts: the text of Engelsma's public lecture sponsored by the RWC at Hope Church on the evening of November 11, 2016 and the questions of the audience and the answers of Prof. Engelsma that followed the lecture.

Having been present on that evening and hearing the lecture and the questions and answers, I can assure you that your effort of listening to the lecture online or reading this booklet will be greatly rewarded. While church membership is not a popular topic to speak on and write about in these days of the great "falling away", and while many a churchman dare not touch the topic with a ten foot pole, Prof. Engelsma addresses the "life-or-death matter" of church membership head-on (pg. 9).

The first part of the booklet, the text of the lecture, is divided into five parts: The Necessary Membership, The Marks of a True Church, The Marks of a False Church, The Nature of the Necessary Membership in a True Church, and The Believer's Calling. The booklet is thoroughly scriptural and confessional throughout. To disagree with the author's assessment of membership in a true church and the believer's calling as a vigilant church member is to disagree with scripture and the Reformed Confessions.

The second part of the booklet contains twenty-five pages of penetrating questions and fearless answers that followed the lecture. In the words of the author, some of the questions were "provocative" (pg. 10). One of the questions was, "What do you see as the most pressing, or dangerous, or most likely route of apostasy in the Protestant Reformed Churches?" (pg. 43).  Another, "If one leaves a true church and joins a church that is becoming false, can it be said that, insofar as they have left the truth, they have left Christ?" (pg. 53).

I encourage you to take the time to read the author's answers. Learn about the "ja broer" or uncritical "yes, brother" ..."who affirms everything that goes on and every sermon simply because the elders arrange the service as they do and simply because the minister says whatever he says" (p. 52). Read the author’s fearless and pointed answer to a question regarding NAPARC, which reads in part: "...the liberated Reformed churches make no secret of their judgment of the Protestant Reformed Churches as false churches inasmuch as they confess the unconditional covenant of grace. To these influential churches in NAPARC, the Protestant Reformed Churches are the one, anomalous, 'conservative' false church. Because the Protestant Reformed Churches confess the gospel of salvation by sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel and in the covenant of grace!" (p. 57).

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To obtain a copy of this booklet, one can contact the RWC by email at hoperwc@gmail.com. An audio recording of the lecture is available at www.hopeprchurch.org.

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This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Bible Memorization

We have been looking, one by one, at the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. As we established some time ago, spiritual discipline is the commitment or resolve to serve God in his kingdom. The spiritual disciplines of the Christian life are activities that arise out of this commitment and purpose, and thus activities that aim at the glory of God and growth in holiness. We have been limiting ourselves so far to the home: personal devotions, marriage devotions, and family devotions.

As long as we are focusing on the home and family, I call to your attention the discipline of Bible memorization. Bible memorization is meditation on scripture (Josh. 1:8), retaining scripture (Prov. 4:4), and hiding that scripture in our heart (Ps. 119:11). Children must memorize for school and catechism, and parents help them. Adults, too, busy themselves in this discipline.

There can be no doubt that the memorizing of scripture is a discipline. It is difficult. It takes time. Ask children who learn their memory verses for school and catechism—they will testify to the labor of such work. We find among our children, and for ourselves, varying ability to memorize. For some, it is a breeze. But for most, it involves much study and repetition—hard work!

Why, then, do we discipline ourselves in the memorization of scripture? First, we commit the Bible to memory because the Bible tells us to do this. Josh. 1:7, 8, Ps. 1:1, 2, and Col. 3:16 all express the importance of soaking in the Word of God and retaining it. Look up those passages. Second, we memorize the Word of God because it is just that: God’s Word. The scriptures are inspired—God-breathed (II Tim. 3:16); knowing that scripture is the Word of God, will we not want to fix it in our mind and heart? This Word of God is his revelation to us, his covenant friends. As his covenant friends, we desire to hear and remember what he says. Think of it this way: the Bible is Christ’s love letter to his church; we read and soak in this love letter.

Allow me to propose a five-step approach toward memorization of the Bible. This list might prove helpful for children in school and catechism, but also might be useful for any of us who seek to hide God’s Word in our heart.

Step #1: Pray. We begin our memorizing with prayer, because we must always know that it is only in God’s strength that we grasp and remember his Word. We are consciously dependent on the Spirit of Christ, who illuminates our heart so that we can understand what we read.

Step #2: Read. If we are to grasp the text on any level, and certainly if we are to memorize it, we must first read it. This reading should be careful, slow, and deliberate. The best method is to read, not silently, but aloud.

Step #3: Teach. If we or our children do not know what a passage means, we will not be able (at least easily) to retain that passage. In Prov. 4:1-5, closely related to the retaining of doctrine by children is that a father instructs or teaches his children that doctrine. When our children must sit down and work on their memory verse for catechism or school, we parents should instruct them: teaching them what the words in the verse mean, the connections between the words, and the context of the verse. When they (and we) grasp the sense of the passage, not only will memorization be possible, but there will be great profit in it.

Step #4: Repeat. Memorization is all about repetition. The verse must be read, and meditated upon, over and over. The means used for repetition vary, but can include flashcards, verbal quizzing, or writing down a verse over and over. Because repetition takes time, retaining a verse or verses is generally not accomplished in a day—it takes days. Even when the memorization load is daunting, we do well to chip away at it slowly: “Today I will learn Psalm 23:1; tomorrow I will focus on Psalm 23:2, and review verse 1; the next day I will memorize Psalm 23:3, and review verses 1 and 2.” It is possible to cover much ground even in one week’s time! The Word is anchored in the heart over time.

Step #5: Hide. Lest we have the wrong impression, this spiritual discipline is not a mechanical process. Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” We study the Bible because we treasure it. We meditate on that Word in such a way that we hide it in our hearts, as a woman “hides” her valuable, precious jewelry in a little chest. Do we promote this discipline in our homes, especially among our children? Do we show them, in our words, deeds, and commitments, that we treasure the Word?

In love for God, in thankfulness for his Son, and in zeal for his Word, press on in this difficult, but rewarding, task of memorizing the holy scriptures!

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This post was written by Rev. Ryan Barnhill, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. If you have a question or a comment for Rev. Barnhill, please do so in the comment section on the RFPA blog.

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A Hard Day’s Rest

For six days out of the week, we are called to labor faithfully in the specific station and calling into which God has placed us. From Monday to Saturday we put in a hard day’s work. Throughout the week we look forward to Sunday, the day of rest. On this day we are able to lay aside the work and play of the other days.

But the rest of the Sabbath does not mean that we may be idle and inactive. It is not a day merely for us to “sack out.” We are called to active, spiritual labor on this day.

From that point of view, the Sabbath is a hard day’s rest.

In the previous post in this series we laid out the most basic calling we have as believers: to join ourselves to a true, instituted church. But that certainly does not exhaust our responsibilities. We are called to active church membership. The chief way that shows itself is in our attendance at the worship services of that church on the Sabbath day.

God in his Word demands this of us. He does so in the fourth commandment of his law, which commandment is still binding upon the New Testament believer. In its explanation of this commandment, the Heidelberg Catechism says in Lord’s Day 38 that God requires “that I, especially on the Sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, to hear his word, to use the sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord, and contribute to the relief of the poor, as becomes a Christian.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so such the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Consider also the example of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath. He spent the Sabbath day diligently frequenting the synagogues where God was worshiped and his Word was preached (e.g. Matt. 11:9). This was “his custom” (Luke 4:16). If this was his custom, certainly it must be ours also.

The necessity of faithful church attendance does not mean that there is never a legitimate reason for a person to be absent. Obviously if we are sick we are not going to be able to attend. There are also faithful saints who are “shut-in” and cannot attend, perhaps even for years. But talk to them and they will express the earnest desire to be in God’s house again. Their absence pains them.

Aside from these legitimate reasons, the clear demand of God’s word makes one wonder: How can a self-proclaimed Christian never darken the door of the church? How can an individual on the membership rolls attend so infrequently when he is able to do so? How can a Reformed church member in good conscience spend months overseas “seeing the world” and having “adventures” at the expense of faithful church attendance? Why would a Reformed church member want to take a job that requires him consistently to be absent from the means of grace?

Rather, the attitude of the child of God ought to be: How dear to me is the house of God! I’m going to do all in my power so that rarely (if ever) am I absent from God’s house!

But there is more. Not only are we called to be physically present in church on the Sabbath, we are also called to be mentally and spiritually present. It is not enough that we simply fill a spot in the pew, but we are called to joyful worship of God from the heart, in spirit and in truth. God is not pleased with mere lip service and outward ritual. May it never be true of us what was said of Israel of old: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Is. 29:13).

This genuine, heartfelt worship does not come easily and automatically. Preparation is required. This means getting home on time on Saturday night and getting a good night’s rest. This means waking up early enough so that everyone has sufficient time to get ready. This means spending the day in God’s Word, prayer, singing, fellowship with other saints, and acts of service. This means the hard work of putting aside distractions and focusing our hearts and minds on worship and the Word.

Truly, a hard day’s rest!

But a blessed day, a day of spiritual refreshment in God’s house so that we can serve him faithfully for another week.

Jehovah summons: “Seek ye my face!”

Let the believing heart reply: “Thy face, Lord, will I seek!”

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Previous posts in this series:

  1. Lively Stones in God’s House
  2. Time To Build!
  3. Bound to Join

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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Our newest book, 'Gospel Truth of Justification' by David J. Engelsma, has arrived!

Our newest book, Gospel Truth of Justification by David J. Engelsma, has arrived!

 

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (2): Heirs of the Kingdom of God

Picture a glorious king seated on a throne in a royal palace with watchful advisors standing at attention and waiting for the bidding of the sovereign. Then in comes the royal children. They need not stand at attention, but they run joyfully into the lap of the king and are received with familial love. We as children of God are also received in God’s favor and love!

The children of godly parents are heirs of the kingdom of God. In the Protestant Reformed Christian schools the children are taught with this in mind. Parents willingly sacrifice thousands of dollars to pay for tuition.  As an educator, I have witnessed that parents give up a vacation to a warm locale so that they can pay for Christian education. At other times, I have seen mothers work diligently school night after school night helping a son or daughter who struggles at school. These stories warm the heart of any Christian educator.  Covenant parents see their children as heirs of the kingdom!

By nature covenant children do not belong as heirs! Our baptism form states at the beginning that covenant children, “cannot enter in the kingdom of God” except they are born again. We thank our God that the covenant children are baptized because they are born again: “Since then baptism is come in the place of circumcision, therefore infants are to be baptized as heirs of the kingdom of God and of His covenant.” As Wielenga aptly states, “The cherub threatens no longer with a flaming sword at the entrance, but in the Lord’s name the messenger of the gospel steers the covenantal child inside” (p.  177). What a wonderful scene when the covenant child of believers is received into the bosom of the King!

Wielenga then directs our attention to the phrase, “infants are to be baptized as heirs” (emphasis MF). He states, “Pay attention to the word as!”(p. 178). In a masterful section, he explains, “That the children are not baptized in order to enter into God’s kingdom or to be admitted to the covenant, but the other way around, because they are already children of the kingdom and of the covenant” (p. 178).  The conditional covenant would have the children do something to enter into the kingdom. The Reformed Baptism Form is the exact opposite. The children of believers are already in the covenant, so they ought to be baptized. The instruction is not intended to get the child saved, but rather to teach an heir of the kingdom.

Protestant Reformed educators are very thankful for parents who confess the unconditionality of the covenant.  Otherwise, discipline in the school is impossible. A child who is an heir of the kingdom will heed covenant discipline. A child who is not an heir will not! In my experience, parents and teacher are supportive of each other in how to discipline a covenant child most of the time. This is a joy to the parents and teacher alike. The reason for this is that both parties agree that the child is an heir of the kingdom. When parents and teachers are on the same page in discipline, the phone call or email discussing the situation is a peaceful experience.  Often these emails and telephone conversations end with, “I support you and we are thankful for your work as a teacher.” Parents, we teachers hear these words and are encouraged by them.

Parents and teachers must continually hold before the children that they are loved by King Jesus. We must encourage them to live a holy life as kingdom citizens. The children must know that, “They do not stand on an equal footing with the children of the heathen, because they are born under the promise” (p. 178). The solemn institution of baptism is a sign to the world that covenant children are separate. They must be instructed separately from the world as heirs of the kingdom. Even in earthly nations, the heirs to the throne are given a higher education separate from other children. In the heavenly kingdom, it is demanded that the children receive royal instruction. The Church Order states in Article 21 that, “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian school in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.” As parents and teachers, let us endeavor to maintain good Christian schools for the instruction of our royal children.

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This post was written by Mike Feenstraa member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Mike also teaches fifth grade at the Protestant Reformed School in Dyer, Indiana. 

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Victorious in Defeat

Did ever man appear so hopelessly lost, so completely put to naught, so utterly defeated as our Lord in the hour of his suffering and agony on Calvary? His enemies had triumphed over him. He was forsaken by his own, condemned by the Church, sentenced by the worldly judge. There was no one to defend his cause. He had been mocked at and filled with reproach, beaten and buffeted and spit upon, scourged and crowned with a crown of thorns. And finally he had been led to the place of the Skull. And there “they crucified him, and two other with him, and Jesus in the midst.” John 19:18. He is numbered with the transgressor, exposed as a criminal, in fact, as the chief of them, as public enemy number one! And even so, his enemies know not pity. And all that are present and watch this dreadful spectacle, as well as those that pass by—the chief priests and the people, the soldiers and even the malefactor that were crucified with him—mock and jeer and taunt him, sarcastically challenging him to deliver himself and come down from the cross, thus contributing to and bringing out in bolder relief the picture of utter helplessness and defeat he presents. And does not God himself set his seal of approval upon this execution of judgment by men? For darkness envelops the cross, and soon from the darkness the terrible cry of utter amazement is heard: “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” Was ever man so utterly forsaken by God and men, as this man Jesus as he is hanging on the accursed tree?

But hark! The crucified one speaks once more! He complains of thirst, but the note of amazement that was in his voice a moment ago is gone. And again he cries out. And is there not this time a note of triumph in his voice? Is not this next to the last cross utterance an announcement of victory? “It is finished!” he shouts. And in the consciousness of having finished all, he now beckons death to take his earthly frame, and commends his spirit into the hands of the Father. Surely, this is not the death of a defeated man. He appears to be in perfect control even of the moment of his own death. And in the hour of what seems to be his utter defeat he announces the victory: “It is finished!” And while men slink away from Golgotha smiting their breasts and admitting defeat, God from heaven corroborates with signs and wonders the shout of triumph by his Son on the cross. Indeed, the moment of Christ’s utter defeat is the beginning of his glorious victory! He is victorious even in his defeat!

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*This section was taken from the beginning of Chapter 7: Victorious Defeat in the book When I Survey by Herman Hoeksema.

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Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life: Family Devotions

So far in this series of articles, we have looked at three spiritual disciplines: reading the Bible in personal devotions, praying in personal devotions, and devotions in marriage. This time we consider the discipline of family devotions: worship in the home among the husband, wife, and children.

It is on good biblical grounds that fathers, mothers, and children take time each day to worship as family. Family worship includes thorough instruction of children, instruction which Israel was called to give (Deut. 11:18-20). Surely, what stands at the center of the happy, God-fearing home in Psalm 128 is the worship of Jehovah—as a family. Joshua declared that he and his house would serve Jehovah (Josh. 24:15). Besides passages like these, there is the doctrine of the covenant: the relationship of friendship God establishes with His elect people in Jesus Christ. In family worship, we experience fellowship with God, give expression to family fellowship in the truth, and take seriously the command to instruct our covenant seed.  

The importance of family devotions cannot be overstated. This worship in the home is our daily spiritual nourishment. Even though many families eat a big lunch on Sunday, they still need to eat food from Monday to Saturday for their nourishment. Likewise, we enjoy a hearty meal under the preaching on Sunday, but still must feast on the Word as families in the home throughout the week. These meals nourish us, help us grow, and prepare us for the chief means of grace on Sunday.

Because family worship is essential to the spiritual life of the home, it must be the priority. This is why these devotions are a discipline of the Christian life: families see to it, with firm resolution and purpose, that they will, and that they will daily, sit together to worship God. Recreation (including sports) will always take the backseat to devotions. But what about college classes and work schedules that are difficult to work around? Flexibility is required in some cases: perhaps early morning or late night devotions are necessary.

Here are some guidelines for these family devotions.

  • Maintain reverence. It is at home that children learn how to sit still and quietly during a time of worship—valuable lessons to learn for public worship and even school. Children are taught from an early age, that this is, after all, worship of the holy God.
  • Read the Word. Read systematically through the Bible, book by book, chapter by chapter. Encourage family participation by giving all the members of the family a Bible, and have them take turns reading the verses. Reading a whole chapter is not necessary, especially when the chapter is long. Stop reading, when necessary, and explain words that the children do not understand; reading with comprehension is crucial.
  • Discuss the Word. Too often the Bible is shut immediately after the last word is read. Keep it open! Fathers, explain the doctrines in the passage. Teach the history, and help the children see the “big picture.” Reach for a commentary when discussing difficult verses. Ask good questions of the children. But especially, apply the passage personally to the family: struggles, sins, joys, school life, marriage, parenting, discipline, and more. Use this time to encourage openness, especially among the children. Talk to them and ask them about their love for God, their salvation, their struggles and disappointments, the temptations they face, and their life of sanctification.
  • Sing the Word. We want our children to love the songs of Zion. What better way to instill this love in them than by passing Psalters around the table and singing a number or two? Worship Him with singing!
  • Pray the Word. Allow the scripture passage previously read and discussed to color the after-meal prayer. Filling our prayers with scripture makes them fresh from evening to evening. Fathers, pray for each child by name, and especially for the wife and mother in the home. Pray for the church, local and worldwide, so that the children have a love in their heart for the body of Christ. Also, teach the children how to pray. From their early days, we instruct them to say, “Lord bless….” When we judge the time is right, we teach them to lead the family in prayer, for their own growth in the discipline of prayer.
  • Integrate sermons. Saturday devotions can be used to prepare for the Sunday sermons, if the information on the sermons is available. If not, Mondays are a nice day to reread the passages for the sermons, and to discuss God’s Word that was brought. This serves not only to fortify the connection between home and church, but also further to press upon the heart the messages heard in church.

Family devotions—the pillar of the Christian home! Let us seek God’s grace to be disciplined in this necessary worship. “…[B]ut as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15).

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This post was written by Rev. Ryan Barnhill, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois. If you have a question or a comment for Rev. Barnhill, please do so in the comment section on the RFPA blog.

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Bound to Join

In previous posts I’ve introduced the calling of active church membership. Now we begin to spell out concretely what responsibilities are given to us by King Jesus.

Perhaps you’re an adult who’s thinking, “I’ve never given much thought to my church membership. What responsibilities are there?” Perhaps you’re a young person who’s considering making confession of faith and wondering, “What’s all involved with my church membership?” Whatever the case may be, it’s beneficial for us to be reminded of what our church membership ought to look like practically.

I want to begin with the most basic (and perhaps obvious) calling: the necessity of being members of a true, instituted church of Christ. This duty is foundational for all the rest.

This calling is memorably expressed in Art. 28 of the Belgic Confession: “We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person…ought to withdraw himself to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it…”

This is our calling: we are bound to join!

The Belgic Confession goes on in the following article to explain how we decide our church membership. It does so by describing the “marks” or distinguishing characteristics of the true church that guide us in this calling. Those three marks are: the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of Christian discipline. The true church bears these marks; the false church does not. In determining which church we must join, we are guided by these marks: “Does this church preach the gospel faithfully? Are the two sacraments administered faithfully? Is there the faithful exercise of Christian discipline here? If so, this is where I must be a member.”

The calling is simple and straightforward, yet there are several dangers that must be avoided.

One danger is the temptation to base our church membership on something other than these marks. Often it’s the case that, rather than being guided by these objective marks, we are guided by our emotions. We base our church membership on how warm and inviting the members are. We base our church membership on how charismatic the minister is or how easygoing the officebearers are. We base our church membership on whether there are other couples or individuals who are the same age as we are. We base our church membership on where our family members attend. We base our church membership on our spouse and where they want to go to church.

As easy as this is to do, something as serious as our church membership may not be based on our fickle feelings. We must be guided by the marks.

Another danger is that someone says that it really doesn’t matter what church they are a member of, so long as they are a member somewhere. However, it is our calling to join the church that most clearly manifests the marks of the true church.

In the past this calling has been illustrated by the figure of a wedge, like the shape of an ax head (cf. Homer Hoeksema, “At the Point of the Wedge,” Standard Bearer vol. 59, no. 18). One end of the wedge is thick and dull. The other end of the wedge is thin and razor-sharp. The wedge represents a broad spectrum of churches that would be considered true churches of Christ (thus giving the lie to the idea that the Protestant Reformed Churches are the only true churches in the world). On the sharp edge of the spectrum is a church where the three marks are clearly seen. In the middle of the spectrum is a church where the three marks are evident, albeit imperfectly. On the dull end of the spectrum is a church where the three marks are scarcely visible. And beyond that a church becomes a false church.

It is our calling to strive to be on the point of the wedge. This is the calling of the church as a whole, meaning that she must strive to manifest ever more clearly the marks of the true church. But this is also a calling for each individual believer. He must see to it that he is a member in a church that is as close to the point of the wedge as possible, a church that most clearly manifests the three marks.

A movement away from the point of the wedge will be judged by God. For the church that moves away from the point, God will judge by causing that church in time to become a false church. For an individual that moves in that direction, God will judge by causing him eventually to be cut off in his generations.

But a movement toward the point of the wedge will be blessed by God. The congregation that moves toward the point will be blessed. And the individual that moves in that direction will be blessed, in his generations also.

If you are a member of such a church, rejoice and be exceeding glad!

If you are not, join a true church, one that most faithfully manifests the marks!

And, so long as she remains faithful, never leave her!

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Previous posts in this series:

Lively Stones in God’s House

Time to Build!

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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Time To Build!

In the initial post in this series I merely stated the fact that Christ calls us to be active in the work of the church. In this post I want to prove that from the Word of God, and in so doing to impress upon us the blessed privilege and high calling that we have.

I want to do so by using one of the important figures that the Bible employs to describe the church. The scriptures use a number of different images to describe the church, most notably the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12ff; Eph. 1:22-23) and the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22ff). But the church is also described in a number of places as the temple or building or house of God.

The temple is a type of Christ’s body (John 2:19, 21). In that connection it is also a type of the body of Jesus, the church (Eph. 2:20-22). And, to be more specific, it is a picture of the church institute, the church as it is manifest in local congregations with officebearers and members and regular worship of God on the Sabbath (1 Tim. 3:15).

This spiritual house is built upon a cornerstone that supports the whole work and gives shape and structure to the building. The cornerstone is Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6-8).

That cornerstone anchors the whole foundation of this spiritual house. The foundation is solid and unshakeable. It is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the inspired apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20).

The house which is built upon this cornerstone and foundation is comprised of many different, individual stones. These stones are naturally misshapen, ugly, and covered in muck. And yet each one is precious and has a specific place and function in the building. These stones are the elect in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).

This temple is precious. Just as in the Old Testament the temple was the place where God was pleased to dwell, so also in the New Testament the church is the place where we enjoy covenant fellowship with God (Eph. 2:22). Just as in the Old Testament the temple was the place where sacrifices were made for sin, so also in the New Testament the church is the place where we receive the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of the Lamb on the cross. Just as in the Old Testament the temple was the place where God’s people brought their worship and thanks to him, so also in the New Testament the church is especially the place where we bring our praise and thanks to God. For these reasons our Reformed fathers said that outside of the church institute “there is no salvation” (Belgic Confession, Art. 28).

What a privilege to be a part of this house!

But in belonging to this house, we have a calling from Christ.

Understand that the work of building this house is Christ’s work. He is the one that gathers, defends, and preserves the church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 21). He is the one who chooses the stones that will make up his house. He is the one who alone is able to gather them together as one. He is the one that shapes, molds, and forms each misshapen stone to fit its unique place in the house. He is the one that polishes and perfects each stone so that they all appear as shining marble when every stone is gathered and the house is complete at his second coming.

Yet, in this work Christ gives us callings. This does not mean that we cooperate with Christ. It does not mean that we are equals. It does not mean that Christ bears some responsibility for the work and we do as well. We are means/tools/instruments in the hands of the Builder and Maker.

But this fact does not minimize our calling. It does not mean that we can be lazy and inactive. Christ calls us to be actively and zealously engaged in the work of building his house. In Haggai 1:8 God calls us to “go up…and build the house,” and the whole rest of the book of Haggai is a word of encouragement to be involved in this work.

Christ is pleased to use the church in the gathering of stones for his house. He does so by our preaching the gospel in the local congregation, engaging in mission work, and witnessing and local evangelism.

Christ is pleased to use the church in the shaping and molding of each stone so that is serves its function in the house and is made beautiful. He does so by our attentiveness to the preaching, by the rebukes of our fellow saints who come in the way of Matthew 18 and the elders who exercise Christian discipline, by our fellowship with other believers, by our service to the body of Christ, by our bearing the burdens of others, and a host of other ways.

We are stones in the house of God! What a privilege!

And we have work to do in this house! What a responsibility!

It’s time to build!

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Previous post in this series:

Lively Stones in God’s House

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa. If you have a question or comment for Rev. Engelsma, please do so in the comment section.

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