Author: Rev. Frank Walker
On the 31st of October in the year 1517 Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenburg church door and inadvertently began the Protestant Reformation.
It's been almost five hundred years since Luther demanded reform. The world has changed a lot since then. Is there still a need for a Reformed Church?
In just about every community across America, one can find churches of all sorts and persuasions -- Lutheran, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Baptist, Nazarene, Episcopal, and so forth. Many of these are more contemporary in the sense that they reflect modern attitudes and opinions.
Doubtless, there are literally scores of reasons for going to other churches. The Methodist Church might be just around the corner. The Lutheran Church is bigger. The Baptist Church has more youth programs. And on and on we could go.
So, why would anyone want to be Reformed? Maybe the question ought to be, Why should every Christian be Reformed?
The Meaning of 'Reformed'
Part of the answer to this question is in the meaning of the word Reformed. Yes, it is true that we look back to Martin Luther's courageous stand against the abuses of the papacy in the sixteenth century. Yes, we consider Zwingli a hero for smashing the images of Jesus, Mary and the various saints that were commonplace in the Swiss churches. And yes, we plead guilty to following the theology of John Calvin and Zacharias Ursinus.
These are things of which we are not ashamed. But if they are all that we see, then we have missed the Reformation altogether. The Reformation is not about following any man, even a giant of the faith like Calvin. It is about obedience to the Word of God, and to the Word of God alone. Reformedmeans that our church and its doctrine are re-formed according to the Bible itself. We name the leaders of the Reformation because they were men who stood for the principle sola Scriptura.
The Roman Catholic Church, both then and now, claims to adhere to the Scriptures too. The problem with Romanism is not that it fails to make such a claim, but that it undermines its claim in a number of ways -- adding the Apocrypha to the sixty-six canonical books, elevating tradition above the Word of God, and ascribing the pope's ex cathedra proclamations to divine inspiration. In the end, the Roman church acknowledges the Bible, but it's the Bible plus this, that and the other thing.
Also, contrary to the practice of modern fundamentalism, the Reformed Church does not subtract from the Bible. We do not divide it up into seven dispensations, only one of which has much to say to us today. Nor do we promote a practical Christianity which makes ignorance of all but the fundamental truths of Scripture a virtue. Yes, we value the so-called essential doctrines of the faith, but we also believe that God demands that we learn as much of his Word as we, given our individual abilities, are capable of understanding. In this sense, there is no such thing as a non-essential doctrine.
In the Reformed Church we put our money where our mouth is. We have embedded the sola Scriptura principle in our creeds. The Heidelberg catechism says, "22. What, then, is necessary for a Christian to believe? Ans. All that is promised us in the Gospel, which the articles of our catholic, undoubted Christian faith teach us in sum." The Gospel was defined in Question 19 as the Bible in its entirety. We, therefore, are not free to pick and choose which parts we will keep and which ones we'll throw away. The same idea comes out in Question 91: "What are good works? Ans. Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men." Adding to the Bible, subtracting from the Bible and substituting human laws in place of the Bible are things the Reformed Church cannot tolerate (Rev. 22:18, 19).
And is this not the teaching of the Bible itself? Before his ascension, Jesus commanded the church through his apostles to teach all things that I have commanded you. When Paul told the elders at Ephesus that he had not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God, he was saying in effect that he had faithfully discharged the responsibility which Christ gave him. Paul had not taught all that Jesus taught plus a few things of his own. Neither did he leave out the doctrines which he thought irrelevant to the salvation message. He preached the whole Word of God. The Reformed Church today follows his example.
A 'Reformed' Message
The Reformed Church also has Reformed preaching. Because we preach only what the Bible teaches, our message is Biblical through and through. We do not try to create emotional responses in our hearers. Our preaching is not full of hype and psychological trickery. No, we preach truth -- truth as it comes to us from the pages of the Word of God. The power of conversion and edification is not in the preacher, but in the message as the Spirit of God applies it to the minds and lives of the saints.
The message of the Reformed Church is therefore God-centered. Virtually every branch of the church outside the Reformed and Presbyterian circle has adopted some form of man-centered theology. Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians claim that the mere participation in the sacraments of the church in itself saves a person. They are divided as to whether it is the person partaking or the officiating priest who accomplishes the miracle, but a person can be saved by human effort of one kind or another. Methodist, Baptist and Independent churches, in a similar vein, teach that man comes to God first -- in response to an altar call in most cases -- and that God gives his consent and approval afterward. But it is the decision of the individual himself that makes the difference.
We could go on and on, but as one of our own elders said to me just recently, Arminian churches say that they believe in salvation by grace but they don't accept the whole thing.
Beloved, in the Reformed Church we do accept the whole thing. But it is also the whole thing which makes our message so unacceptable to others. We believe that man is completely condemned in sin (Rom. 3:9-20), that he can do nothing whatsoever to save himself (Gal. 3:1-14), that he is forever lost except the Spirit of God make him believe (John 3:5-8). We further believe that salvation is an act of God from beginning to end. God chooses whom he will save out of lost humanity (Rom. 9-11; Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Pet. 1:2). He himself provides full salvation (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 5:18-21). He even brings the elect unto salvation and works in them repentance and faith (John 1:12-13; Phil. 2:13). Others, though they may agree that sin is a terrible thing, still like to think that man is just good enough to be able to do something for himself. He can present himself for baptism or make a 'decision for Christ,' as Billy Graham prefers; but he is not wholly lost.
Question 61 of our catechism addresses this point: "How art thou righteous before God? Ans. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. That is: although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and that I am still prone always to all evil, yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me, if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart."
Some people mistakenly believe that the cornerstone of Reformed theology is the doctrine of predestination. We do believe in predestination, and we are not ashamed to say so. But the cornerstone of our message is not predestination; it is the majesty of God. The majesty of God is revealed to us as grace -- the unmerited favor of God through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The 'Reformed' Savior
Just as non-Reformed theologies want the Word plus or minus something, and grace plus or minus something, so they often want Christ plus or minus something. Roman Catholics have Christ plus the virgin Mary, saints, priests, angels, etc. Arminians say it is the blood of Christ which makes salvation possible, but it is my acceptance that makes the difference.
The Reformed Church confesses what the Bible teaches once again. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6). In his sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, Peter proclaimed: Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (v. 12). And again, remember Paul's word to the Corinthian church: For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11).
It is based on these and many other verses, that Question 30 of our catechism reads, "Do such then believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else? Ans. No; although they may make their boast of Him, yet in act they deny the only Savior Jesus. For either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation."
Let us do away with "Have I accepted Christ?" and ask the more important question: "Has Jesus Christ, the only Savior, accepted me?"
Moreover, we must have the whole Christ. A few years ago, there were some teachers at a prominent seminary who were saying that it is possible to have Christ as your Savior but not as your Lord. Those who reject the Lordship of Christ and choose instead to live under the power of sin were dubbed 'carnal Christians,' some sort of sub-category within the Christian community. Although Question 64 of our catechism is addressing a different question, it speaks to this matter as well: "But does not this doctrine [justification by faith] make men careless and profane? Ans. No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted in Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness." Or as Paul wrote, Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not (Rom. 6:1, 2).
For several decades, liberals have been busy trying to demythologize the New Testament. This is their way of removing from the Bible anything which offends them. The virgin birth and resurrection of Christ were among the first things to go. Other miracles and ascriptions of deity to Jesus soon followed. The attack continued until Bultmann finally admitted that we cannot be sure of a single thing Jesus ever said or did.
There are only two choices: either the whole Christ or no Christ at all. The Reformed Church takes the whole Christ, and delights in doing so.
The Reformed Church doesn't claim to be perfect. We have our faults, just as all other churches do. Nor do we believe that we are the only church. The Lord has his people scattered all over the world in many visible manifestations of his kingdom. But we do believe that our teachings are more Biblical than the teachings of any other church. We humbly thank God almighty for blessing us in this special way.
But don't take our word for it. Search the Scriptures, examine our teachings and make up your own minds. Remember, though, that the only criteria by which we should be judged is the infallible, inerrant Word of the living God.
Author: Rev. Frank Walker
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
( Romans 8:29-30 )
John G. Reisinger
One the best loved verses in all of the word of God is Romans 8:28. However, some believers do not realize the foundation upon which this great promise rests. When Paul declares that God works "all things," without a single exception, together for his own glory and the good of his people, that is quite a claim. One might ask, "Paul, how can you make such a sweeping and dogmatic statement?" The next verse begins with the word "for" and Paul's reason for being so certain is laid out in five tremendous statements. These statements have well been called, "The Five Golden Links in the Chain of Sovereign Grace." Let us examine them carefully.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did (1) FOREKNOW, he also did (2) PREDESTINATE to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also (3) CALLED: and whom he called, them he also (4) JUSTIFIED: and whom he justified, them he also (5) GLORIFIED (Rom. 8:28-30).
The first thing to notice is the five things are linked together into one unbreakable chain. If one of them is true then they are all true. The word "for" in verse 29 begins the argument that proves beyond question that all things have to work together for good for the people of God. Paul lists five things that are certain to happen because of God's sovereign purpose. God's people are (1) all foreknown, (2) all predestinated, (3) all called, (4) all justified, and (5) all glorified.
All five of these things are set forth as not only essential to God's eternal purpose of salvation but also as absolutely certain of fulfillment. They summarize the salvation of sovereign grace that begins in eternity with God's foreknowledge and ends in eternity with our full glorification. Each link grows out of the former link to form one unbreakable chain. Every sinner who is "foreknown" is going to wind up totally "glorified." Notice how all five links fit together.
Romans 8:28 is the glorious declaration of hope and assurance. We "know" something for certain. We know that "God works all things together for good" for a group of people described as "those who love God." They are further described as those "who have been called according to his purpose." The second thing gives the reason for the first thing. The first thing, loving God, describes the true character of a child of God. All true Christians sincerely love God. The second thing, "called according to his purpose," gives us the cause that made the first thing possible. God purposed to have some people love him and he sovereignly called these particular people by his power. We love him only because he first loved us. He called us on "purpose" according to his own plan. I am sure you realize that most people think God calls everyone in the same way and justifies only those who are willing to respond to the call in repentance and faith. This is, of course, half true but not true at all in the sense that Paul is talking about calling. It is impossible to fit that idea into this golden chain.
When verse 29 says, "For whom he did foreknow," it must be referring to a specific identifiable people. They are the identical same people who in verse 28 "love God" and have "been called." All of those who are "foreknown" are also "predestinated to be conformed into the image of Christ." The foreknown ones and the predestinated are the same identical people. All those who are foreknown and then predestinated are next "called." Being called is the first step taken to bring guilty sinners out of the graveyard of sin and death and ultimately glorify them in heaven in full redemption. The order of these things is important. It is especially important in the next step. All those who are called, because they have been foreknown and predestinated, are also all "justified." In other words, everyone, without a single exception, who is called is always justified. That is not what I learned in Bible school.
In Bible school I learned that God called all men without exception and those who, with their free will, decided to respond were then justified and predestinated to be eternally secure. The predestinating purpose of God always followed the sinner's willingness to answer God's call. It is obvious that is not possible in this passage of Scripture. According to Paul, our calling follows and grows out of our predestination and not vice versa. If that were not true, the text would say, "God calls all men, and justifies only those who are willing to believe." However, the text puts the order exactly in the reverse order. We were not predestinated to ultimate glorification because we were willing to believe, but we were made willing to believe only because we had already been predestinated. Calling is merely the first step towards the foreordained end of total glorification and all who have been foreordained to that end will be called and justified. The Holy Spirit clearly states that all, without exception who are called are also justified. It is impossible to be called, in the sense that Paul is using the word "called," without also being justified.
Obviously Paul is talking about effectual calling, or regeneration. The first result of being called is that we are justified, and the final climax of God's work is total glorification. All those who are justified will most certainly be glorified. That fact is so certain that Paul speaks of it as all ready past, and so it is in the eternal purposes of God. This is the only place in Paul's writings where he jumps from justification to glorification and skips sanctification. It is not because he quit believing that sanctification was essential, but in this argument he is talking about the "eternal purpose of God" and present and ultimate glorification are certain for every foreknown, predestinated, called, and justified one.
Let me paraphrase these verses and answer the question, "How can I be sure God will do what he promised in Romans 8:28." I can be sure because "Those," all of them and only them, who have been foreknown by God in electing grace, are certain of ultimate salvation (total glorification) because God has sovereignly purposed to conform them, all of them and only them, into the image of Christ. God's first step in this gracious purpose is to effectually "call" them, the foreknown and predestinated ones, all of them and only them, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Those, all of them and only them, whom he calls he also "justifies" and applies to them the righteousness of Christ. It is impossible to be foreknown and predestinated and not be called just as it is not possible to be called if you were not foreknown and predestinated. Likewise it is not possible to be called without that calling producing justification. Those, all of them and only them, who are justified are already glorified in the sovereign purposes of God. In God's mind it is a "done deal."
I do not wish to be repetitious, but it is essential to see how these five things are part of one whole.
(1) THOSE God foreknew - all of them and only them -
(2) he ALSO predestinated . . .
THOSE he predestinated - all of them and only them -
(3) he ALSO called
THOSE he called - all of them but only them -
(4) he ALSO justified
THOSE he justified - all of them and only them -
(5) he ALSO glorified.
If we look carefully at the word "foreknow" in verse 29, we notice it does not say "what" God foreknew, but "whom" he foreknew. Paul is not talking about information God had before hand but about something which God did. He "foreknew" these people in the same sense that he "called" them and justified them. See William Sasser's article on page 3.
Paul does not stop with just laying out the theological foundation upon whom our hopes rest, he applies it in a personal and practical way. Look carefully at his argument in the following verses:
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Rom. 8:31-34)
The question in verse 31 is asked in the light of the great facts laid down in verses 28-30. "These things" are the truths that Paul has just stated. "God for us" means that God is for us in electing grace, for us in calling us out of death and sin, for us in robing us in the righteousness of Christ, for us in giving us the Spirit of adoption, for us in sealing us unto the day of redemption, etc. Our only response to these great things is to shout "Glory to God for such amazing grace!" God is "for us" not as a judge for our judgment is past. He is "for us" as our Heavenly Father and has pledged his everlasting love to us. He is "for us" as the sovereign controller of all things. We could go on and on and shout some more.
Verse 32 is a powerful argument that gives assurance beyond description. The argument is simple. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? In other words, if God literally "delivered" up his Son unto the death of the cross, and he did, will he not do everything necessary to protect the investment for which he paid such a high price? If God has already given us the best gift of all, his blessed Son, will he keep back the second and third things? Do you see the logic of Paul's great assurance.
Verse 33 is one the greatest verses in all of the Word of God on assurance of eternal salvation. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. When the highest authority in the land grants a pardon, no lesser authority can touch the individual thus pardoned. President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Historians and philosophers may argue whether Ford acted wisely or unwisely, but one thing is certain, once Mr. Ford, acting as President of the USA, pardoned Nixon there was not a court or law agency that could touch him. No one has the authority to supersede the highest office. If God, as Governor of the universe, pardons and justifies a sinner, then nobody can ever touch that sinner.
But Paul does not couch his point in terms of God just justifying "a sinner." He makes his point by referring to the sinner as one of "God's elect." Gerald Ford, for reasons of his own consciously chose to pardon Richard Nixon, and Ford had the right to deliberately pardon Richard Nixon simply because of his position of presidential authority. Nixon's guilt or innocence was not at all the key factor. Everything hinged on Ford's authority. Just so God has the sovereign right to choose some sinners, here called "God's elect," and justify them in spite of their sin and wickednessand not a soul in heaven, in hell, or on earth can open their mouth and object! That is the force of the phrase "it is GOD (the sovereign Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge) that justifies." If he is for us, who indeed can be against us. If God almighty himself chooses a man and then justifies than man, who can contradict God's decree. Who shall lay anything to God's elect? It is God himself, the ultimate authority, who declares the elected ones to be justified.
The reason no one can bring a charge against the elect is the fact that there is not a single piece of evidence that can be found against them. Nixon's mistake was in destroying only 18 minutes of a crucial tape. God has destroyed our entire tape! Every charge against the elect has been answered and paid in full by their Surety. Every obligation they owed to God and his holy Law has been rendered in full in the person of Christ and has been recorded to their account.
When anyone accuses a child of God concerning his standing with God, that person is really accusing Godand the "anyone" includes the Christian himself. A true child of God allowing himself to be tyrannized by his conscience is actually accusing the authority and justice of God himself. God will never condemn those whom he has justified and he justifies all that he chose unto salvation. Oh, that the sheep of Christ would learn the difference between godly sorrow that leads to repentance and the despairing anguish of spirit that is laid on their conscience by the ambassadors of Moses. God's people are not criminals awaiting the bar of judgment. The Judge is their heavenly Father and has pardoned them of every sin.
Again, Paul does not leave the matter to mere abstraction. Verse 33 is the sure fact and verse 34 is the reason or foundation upon which the fact rests. Paul is not satisfied with declaring that "no one" can lay a charge against Christ's sheep, he shows that even the Holy Judge himself, who most obviously and justly could condemn, cannot condemn us. Verse 34 is a "bullet proof" argument.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Rom. 8:34)
Christ is the judge. The Father has given all judgement over to the Son. Christ is not only the only person who can take a sinner to heaven, he is also the only one who has authority to send a sinner to hell. "All authority" to judge and to save is in his hands (John 17:1-3). Every sinner is in the hands of Christ to save or damn as he chooses.
First argument: The Judge is the one who died for us and paid our debt. Will he condemn the very people whom he died to save? Will Christ willingly take the debt upon himself and then hold us accountable for the same debt. The very idea is ridiculous. No, no, we are sure that not a single one of those for whom he died can ever be condemned by Christ the Judge.
Second argument: The one who died under the penalty of our sin carried those sins into the grave. It was the righteous Father that put him under judgment on the cross and then sealed his tomb with the seal of righteousness. Ah, but the glory of the gospel message is that God himself broke that seal and raised his Son from the grave leaving our sins behind.
Third argument: The Father not only raised our blessed Lord from the dead but also seated his victorious Son upon a throne. Our blessed Lord is "seated at the right hand (place of power and authority) of God almighty, the Governor of the universe. Our Lord is the Judge of all men. The Judge is also our Savior who died in our place. The Judge is the same one who has given the absolute assurance of acceptance when we come to him by faith in his atoning work.
Fourth argument: Our Lord has not just been raised from the dead and glorified in heaven as the victor. He "ever lives" for the purpose of "making intercession for us" (Heb. 7:25 and Rom. 8:34). Do you see Paul's logic? It is ludicrous to imagine that Christ, the Judge, would die for us and make intercession for us out of one side of his mouth and then condemn us out of the other side of his mouth. It is impossible that he could save us and condemn us at the same time! Oh, that tenderhearted believers would feel the fullness of this soul liberating truth. The one who died for your sins is the same person who is seated at the right hand of God and he is praying specifically for you. Isn't that glorious!
In Romans 8:26, Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit is in us and not only helps us to pray but actually makes intercession for us when we do not know how to pray. In verse 26 the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity is IN us praying, and in verse 34, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is at the right hand of God praying that we will be kept safe and secure forever! We have the third Person of the trinity praying in us, and the second Person of the Trinity in heaven praying for us; we are going to make it in spite of the Devil, trials, and even our own sinful hearts! We KNOW we are going to make it, yea, we know we have already made it.
The grand conclusion of the assurance given to us in the five golden links in the chain of grace is laid out in Romans 8:35-39. Again there is a logical question: "Who can separate those described in verses 28-34 from the unchanging love of God?" The answer is simple, "nothing or nobody in heaven, hell, or earth"! There is not a single power in the universe more powerful than the love of God for his elect. As you read verses 35 through 39 remind yourself that in every generation, including the present one, there were children of God some where in the world enduring every one of the things described, and their Shepherd King sustained them and caused them to triumph even in death.
What an argument for assurance of eternal salvation!
If you really want to understand the logic and glory of the chain of grace, go backwards with the five links. Start with ultimate glorification in heaven.
Who are the people who will finally and surely reach heaven and be glorified in sinless perfection? Answer: All of those without exception, but only them, who have been justified.
Who are the people who are certain of being justified before God in the righteousness of Christ? Answer: All of those without exception, but only them, who have called by God's grace and power.
Who are those people who are certain of being called by God unto salvation? Answer: All of those without exception, but only them, who have been predestinated by God to be conformed into the image of Christ.
Who are the people who are certain of being predestinated to be conformed into the image of Christ in glory? Answer: All of those without exception, but only them, who have been foreknown, or chosen in electing grace, to be purchased by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
Those are the people that Paul can assure, "We are more than conquers." Not only can no one ultimately do us eternal harm since all things would be worked for our good (v. 28), but even the worst of things will be used to minister to us in fulfilling God's eternal purpose. The horrible things in verses 35-39 will plainly serve to make the victory more glorious in eternity. However, let us never forget that we are more than conquerors only "through him that loved us and washed us in his blood."
I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify him in his holy Word, that is, the Bible, which he had given by the infallible inspiration of this Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning him and what duty he requires of me.
I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that he is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust.
I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, are the work of God hands; and that all that he has made he directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of his almighty love.
I believe that God created man after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was his due; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born.
I believe, that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior.
I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith he has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world his kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord.
I believe that God has redeemed his people unto himself through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, though he was and ever continues to be the eternal Son of God, yet was born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that are under the law: I believe that he bore the penalty due to my sins in his own body on the tree, and fulfilled in his own person the obedience I owe to the righteousness of God, and now presents me to his Father as his purchased possession, to the praise of the glory of his grace forever; wherefore renouncing all merit of my own, I put all my trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ my redeemer.
I believe that Jesus Christ my redeemer, who died for my offences was raised again for my justification, and ascended into the heavens, where he sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, continually making intercession for his people, and governing the whole world as head over all things for his Church; so that I need fear no evil and may surely know that nothing can snatch me out of his hands and nothing can separate me from his love.
I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all his people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until, this gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory; in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that , out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of his mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that, so being united to him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God's sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone; and thus and thus only do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.
I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ's sake , it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom he has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct, the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my Leader, who has died for me and granted to me his Holy Spirit just that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them.
I believe that God has established his Church in the world and endowed it with the ministry of the Word and the holy ordinances of Baptism, the Lord's Supper and Prayer; in order that through these as means, the riches of his grace in the gospel may be made known to the world, and, by the blessing of Christ and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them, the benefits of redemption may be communicated to his people; wherefore also it is required of me that I attend on these means of grace with diligence, preparation, and prayer, so that through them I may be instructed and strengthened in faith, and in holiness of life and in love; and that I use my best endeavors to carry this gospel and convey these means of grace to the whole world.
I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is he to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each his eternal award; and I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord; and when he shall return to his majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blesses in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity: encouraged by which blessed hope it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardship here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with him I shall also live with him, if I endure, I shall also reign with him. And to Him, my Redeemer, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, Three Persons, one God, be glory forever, world without end, Amen, and Amen.
Author: Rev. Robert Grossmann
NO CHURCH CAN RIGHTLY CLAIM TO BE THE ONLY TRUE CHURCH
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:26 that it is absolutely wrong for us to think that we, and we alone, are the only true Christians. The idea that one particular group has exclusive claim to Christ is an idea that Christ Himself says is the mark of the false prophet.
Why then have a Reformed church?
The answer to this question is that the Bible, like the whole universe, is God-centered. The focus, the purpose, the source, and the foundation of all things is God. Yet most thinking, including religious thinking, is man-centered. I think it is fair to say that the Reformed churches in particular (including Presbyterianism) have historically really worked at being as God-centered as the Bible itself is.
It is the genius and hallmark of truly Reformed churches to make God's Word in the Bible the foundation of all things and to do all things for the glory of God alone.
The biblical pattern for all true reformation, be it individual or societal, is found in 2 Kings 23. Here we read that King Josiah gathered all the people and "he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord." Then the king and all the people "made a covenant with all their heart and with all their soul to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book." They promised to believe and obey all the words of the Bible.
The Apostle Paul echoes this very idea for he did not "shun to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
I would like to show the necessity of a distinctly Reformed church from:
The God-centeredness of the Gospel
The God-centeredness of the Bible
The God-centeredness of the Church
God-centered religion demands that family, state, labor, science and indeed all of life, be God-centered; but because of sin religion must begin with the Gospel revealed in the Bible and proclaimed by the church.
THE GOSPEL IS GOD-CENTERED
The Gospel is not man-centered as many would have us believe. Many churches seek to "meet the needs of men," but the true Gospel calls us away from a man-centered life to a God-centered life.
Jesus preached, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here!" This means, "Turn away from sinning, and come under the rule of God."
The Gospel does not say, "Dedicate your life to Christ." Man has no life to dedicate; man is dead in sin and Jesus gave His life for us. Christians are born again not by their own action but by the action of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 8).
The Gospel is: God sent His Son into the world, God died for our sins, God gives a new heart, so that God's chosen ones will live and enjoy God forever. Salvation is God's action and is for His glory.
Outside of Reformed churches there has often been failure to see that the Gospel says Jesus is Lord as well as Savior. As Lord, Jesus commands us to obey God's law. He said, "not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Many people talk about being saved by Jesus who never think of obeying Him. This is not new. Jesus asked, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things that I say?" (Luke 6:46).
Our Reformed creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, recognizes Christ as King by making obedience to the Ten Commandments the very heart of the thankful Christian life. People are never saved by keeping God's law, but they are required to show themselves thankful to God as saved people by obeying God's laws after they have been saved. The Ten Commandments, even in the Old Testament, were given to a saved people, after God had led them out of the slavery of Egypt.
Jesus himself said concerning the Commandments, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Truly Reformed churches preach Jesus as the real ruler of life while non-Reformed churches ignore God's laws and even repudiate His Commandments as the standard of right, preferring instead their "own opinion or the commandments of men"(Heid. Cat. 91).
THE BIBLE IS A GOD-CENTERED UNITY
Many who call themselves Christians believe and act as though there were at least two Bibles, for they set aside the Old Testament as if it were unnecessary and had little or nothing to say to Christians.
This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus himself did when He used "Moses and all the prophets," the Old Testament, to explain His work to His disciples (Luke 24:27).
Jesus came not to create a new world but to save the same world Adam lost. The New Testament does not replace or set aside the Old Testament, but is built directly upon it.
In all the historical instances of God giving His covenant to men, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, there is a direct connection to and building upon the things revealed earlier. Jesus himself does not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17).
While many churches have emphasized a nonexistent disunity in the Bible, Reformed churches have been truly biblical in emphasizing the unity of God's covenant word.
All of life is religious; there just is no distinction between "sacred" and "secular" in the Bible. Christ came to save the whole creation (Rom. 8:22), and it is therefore the task of Christians to "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).
Man is saved so that he may rule over all creation for the glory of God, which is what Adam was created for from the beginning.
It is exactly to this unity of life that the Ten Commandments are aimed, for they tell us how to use everything from our religious nature to our neighbor's chickens.
The First Commandment defines man as God-centered. It says, "I am the God who has saved you, you dare have no other gods." The Second Commandment demands that we both worshipand work for God alone. All of our spiritual and physical abilities must be used for God! The Fourth Commandment demands all of our time for God. Both the six days of labor and the one day of rest are commanded by and are to be done for God.
So the Bible itself is a unity and it demands a unified life, a life in which all things are worked for and worshiped to the one true God. This, too, is an emphasis that is really found only in Reformed churches.
THE CHURCH IS GOD-CENTERED
People today have a tendency to think of the church as nonessential. Church membership is taken very lightly and many call themselves Christian who will have nothing to do with the church. They feel that God gave the Bible and the Gospel, but that the church is an unnecessary man-made appendix.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The church is just as essential to the universe as is the physical ground because it is the church (God's called-out and saved community) that declares and carries out God's kingdom over all things.
Jesus said, "I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This is not the picture of a man-made appendix!
Only a church that is formed according to God's Word can claim to be Christ's Church. The word Reformed refers to exactly that kind of church. Before the Reformation the institutional church was by biblical standards a de-formed church. The Reformation re-formed the church by taking it back to the Bible. Josiah's idea of a heart and life commitment to God's Word is required throughout the Bible. God says through Moses, "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it; you shall not add to it, nor diminish from it" (Deut. 12:32). Jesus applies the same teaching when He says, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines, the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7).
The only answer to, "Why should we do or believe this?" is, "Because the Bible says so!" Truly Reformed churches do what they do because the Bible says so, or they do not do it at all.
A truly Reformed church is always reforming. It can never be complacent and say, "We have made it." The church is God-centered and must continually ask: "What does God want?" "Is that what we are believing and doing?" And we must ask those questions with "fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).
This means that the church must not live out of its past traditions but out of the Bible. It must preach the Bible for the continual reformation of itself, its individual members, and the whole of society.
A Reformed church is a God-centered church striving to conform to ALL that God has revealed in the Bible. It believes wholeheartedly all the fundamental teachings of salvation by grace, such as the virgin birth of Christ and His literal physical resurrection.
However, the Bible demands that we go on from these fundamentals to a full understanding of all of God's Word so that we may be the salt of the earth in ALL of life. The writer to the Hebrews specifically commands that we "go on to perfection, not laying again the foundations" of the basic doctrines of salvation (Heb. 5:12-6:3). Though we recognize that we will never be perfect in this life, we do go on, striving for the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
What then of the Reformed Church? Are we the only Christians? God forbid that we should ever say or even think that.
Nevertheless, with fear and trembling, I am going to say that the historic teaching of Reformed churches in general, and of the Reformed Church in the U.S. in particular, is truly biblical doctrine. That is the most important question we can ask of anything, "Is it biblical?"
In the words of Joshua the son of Nun, we challenge every man alive today, "Choose your gods. As for us and our house, we will serve the Lord."
Author: Rev. Robert Grossmann
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