The Maranatha Church was born many years ago, in May 1983, through a group desiring to continue their Bible study once a week by inviting me, Rev. Leovino A. Trinidad, to lead them. At that time, I was a minister in a Pentecostal denomination, and an Arminian, and working for a radio station which was broadcasting worldwide by medium and shortwave frequencies in Asia and other countries. The church work progressed for a number of months, with the group’s place of worship moving from a living room to a garage and eventually to a good place of worship which they could rent every Sunday. At this point the church was Arminian in nature, and many people were coming to join this group, so that the attendance grew and we became a large congregation. This church was classified as a family church. Services were held in the morning and evening; Sunday schools were held for primary, secondary, young people, and adults; and we also had a midweek prayer meeting.
However, as the minister and pastor, I felt so confused for many years. It seemed that there was something wrong in the preaching of the Arminian doctrine, for it was contrary to the teaching of the Bible. One of the main false teachings of Arminianism was that salvation can be lost if the member does not do his own work, and often Philippians 2:12 was used and quoted: “work out your own salvation.” But in reality this is the opposite teaching of the biblical and the apostolic teaching, for Paul was addressing the Philippian believers who were already believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Another teaching of the Arminian is that the center of preaching is on man’s ability and decision to be saved by man’s effort and work and by a freewill acceptance of the gospel. But the Bible itself classifies this as another gospel.
The Perfect Time
Two decades passed, and the church was constantly growing in number to almost three hundred adults and children in attendance. We also had five affiliated churches. Yet still the confusion was increasing because of the Arminian teaching. But God’s perfect time had come for the minister and the church to experience the long desire of reformation in answer to our prayer that God would be gracious enough to show his mercy and love by teaching the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and show us that his death had a specific purpose.
A number of questions are normally asked by local visitors and by Reformed visitors from other countries, such as: How did you come to know the Reformed teaching? Where did you get those Three Forms of Unity? Who gave you the materials, such as Reformed Dogmatics books and pamphlets? What made you to be Reformed?
Indeed, God in his graciousness had shown to the minister (myself) and to the church the truth of the gospel in the year of 2002, when I was invited by another group of pastors to meet Rev. Audred Spriensma of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, who was then a missionary-pastor of a group that had also come out of an Arminian denomination. It was truly a turning point for the whole group when Rev. Spriensma gave us the Reformed Dogmatics books and the outlines of it and also pamphlets to study. God in his gracious mercy and love then worked in my life as the minister during many hours and sleepless nights of studying the Reformed teachings, and through it all the Lord opened and enlightened my heart to his truth. I then shared with my family about the great truths and the true message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord brought me to see what was indeed the most valuable and solid doctrine, namely, that Christ died only for his body, the church, his elect. The meaning of Ephesians 1, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, came alive, especially verses 3–14, namely, that election is the foundation of salvation through the wonderful grace of God. This chapter is at the heart of the true knowledge of election, and that is a truth that the triune God works in the lives of believers whose names have been written in the book of life before the foundation of the world. Having been enlightened by this truth, I then recalled that during my seminary studies I had come across a book that explained the meaning of election. I remembered that I had desired at that time to study more on the subject of election, but for some strange reason that book was removed from the school library without any explanation.
Immediately, God in his sovereign and gracious work began the reformation of the church. The Lord led me to teach, in the following year, the Canons of Dordt, and then also to teach and explain the Reformed regulative principle of worship and its application to the order of worship.
As the teaching was going on, opposition came from the congregation. Some were asking a lot of questions concerning the love of God for all mankind, and regarding the right exposition of John 1:12 and John 3:16. This was the beginning of reformation of the church by means of introducing the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the congregation and studying the dear lessons of the Canons of Dordt.
It was beyond the imagination of an ordinary man that Jesus Christ died only for a particular group of people, the elect. As a result, a number of members were leaving the group for the simple reason that they believed that they were not depraved and had not committed any serious sins. Now from almost three hundred, the remnant that remained was only about ten families who were faithfully studying and faithfully attending the regular Reformed worship services every Lord’s day.
The Road of Growth
We recall the graciousness of our sovereign God in that in 2009 he sent us two missionaries of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, Rev. Daniel Kleyn and Rev. Richard Smit, who were ordained and appointed by our almighty God to come to the Philippines to help the growth of the church. The missionaries have helped in our church since 2011. It would be a challenge to anyone to live the life of those missionaries, for they have given of themselves, their families, and their time for the sake of the call to help the growth of the church so that the churches here may increase spiritually through the teaching of the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The missionaries are fulfilling the call from the Philippines, “Please come and help us,” by helping us through preaching and teaching in our churches with a view to the growth of the church according to the gracious plan of the Lord. We were given twenty-five Psalter books due to difficulties with photocopying the Psalter songs every Lord’s day. The Psalters have greatly improved the flow of our order of worship. We are being consistently taught the Church Order in the church, which helps us to understand proper church polity. This is especially through the faithful work in our church of Rev. Smit, who also serves the consistory as an advisor during the regular meetings once a month, and for special meetings.
In the growth of the church, we are amazed by the providence of God in his work of raising up young people to become the pillars of the church as officebearers, such as elders and deacons. They indeed have (as we all do) different weaknesses and strengths, but by God’s grace the weaknesses are not a hindrance to their serving and loving the Lord and his work. Through the years they have grown to be caring leaders and have faithfully given their lives to carrying out the work of the special offices of our Lord Jesus Christ by watching, encouraging, disciplining, and praying for the flock. They faithfully stand in order to protect and guide the church of our Lord.
Another road of growth for our church spiritually is through being a member of the Federation of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines, which was organized in the year 2015, as well as through our sister-church relationships with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America and the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore. This is all a realization of the wonderful fact that we belong to a universal catholic church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is still calling his elect and adding members to the church through public confessions of faith of new members who receive at least a year of being taught the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine and the creeds, and also through the baptisms of the children of our families.
As a church, by the grace of God we maintain the confession and belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. We look forward to that, and to everlasting joy and singing the songs of the redeemed in Revelation 14:1–4.