Ware discussing the advantages of being a member of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We observed that if we are to speak of advantages at all, we must look at the matter of our membership from a different point of view than the viewpoint of our life as churches in the world. This is bound to disappoint us and make us wonder if it is at all worth while. For faithfulness to the truth as we as churches confess it inevitably results in much suffering in many different ways. But if we look at the whole question with the eyes of faith, then the answer is sure and definite. We can only be members of these churches, for we believe that we stand in the line of the church of the past, and therefore rest upon the foundation of the heritage of the truth as it was confessed through all time.
This is good to know. The Spirit of Jesus Christ was given to the church on Pentecost. And when that Spirit was poured out upon the church, it revealed to the church the truth concerning Christ and our salvation. One of the most remarkable things in the Bible is the tremendous difference between the disciples before and after Pentecost. Before that great day, they did not understand at all the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were in doubt with serious misconceptions in their minds and hearts. They were, first at least, filled with hopelessness and despair, for the cross had no place in their thinking. But after Pentecost, they suddenly understood it all. They could understand the prophets and how they all pointed to Christ. They saw the cross in a new light and with the clear eyes of faith. Peter could preach a very remarkable sermon which he could not possibly have preached the day before. And the difference was due only to the fact that they had received the Spirit of truth.
That same Spirit has dwelt in the church from that time on. And always that Spirit has given to the people of God and to the church as a whole, insight into the revelation of God so that we can understand it and believe it. And so throughout the ages of New Dispensational history, the church has developed that truth in all its riches. But we know also what that church of the past confessed and believed. We know it all, because that church incorporated what they had learned in their confessions, and have given them to us who are their spiritual children. And when we examine and study these confessions, then we learn that we believe exactly the same as they also believed. We as churches make our confession and it agrees with the confession of the church whenever it lived. This is not the case with other denominations with which we so often come into contact. They have chosen to make their confession somewhat different, some to a greater, some to a lesser degree. But the result is that we know that that same Spirit of Christ which was given to the church so long ago still dwells in our churches and in us to lead us into that same truth. We can trace our spiritual genealogy hack to all the saints who have gone before us. And we may confidently expect that we will grow in a clearer understanding of the Word of God as we apply ourselves with diligence to the task of uncovering the treasures of Scripture.
Thus we have spiritual kinship and fellowship with the church of the past. We are one with the saints of all ages. We stand on the same ground that they did; we fight the same battle that they fought ; we have the same convictions of heart and mind as countless saints who have gone before us ; we have living contact with the church that is now safely in glory. And it need not surprise us therefore, that we are small – the church has, as a general rule, always been very small. It need not be a matter of concern that our place in the world is gradually taken away from us – this has happened many times before. It need not bother us that we must suffer for the sake of our confession — the church has suffered be fore and to a greater extent than we do today. It is simply the general rule of history that we should be going through experiences such as we are going through today.
Therefore also it is clear that when we are members of our churches, we are in a spiritual home where we can express the confession that we believe the clearest. It is not difficult for any of us to jump ecclesiastical boundaries and become members of other churches. But to do this simply means that our confession is stifled, for we confess, at least outwardly, the confession of the church of which we are members. Do we want to distort that which we believe by joining a church which has strayed from the truth and which has lived more and more in fellowship with the world?
We believe in our hearts the truth of God’s Word. Our churches believe that also. Here we express even by our church membership what lives within us. And then we have peace of heart and mind. The treasures of God’s Word are after all those things which abide when Christ shall return and when all that is of this earth shall perish and be destroyed. God’s Word shall remain when heaven and earth pass away. And those who cling faithfully and tenaciously to that Word of God will abide with it into everlasting life. To think of the hope of a place in Christ’s kingdom; to be assured of the reward of grace which we shall presently receive, is to cause the things which we cherish in this life to fade away into insignificance. To live with this hope and comfort, to cherish it and nourish it, gives peace and joy to our souls which no one can possibly take from us.
But there is one other point in this connection which is worthy of mention. It is here in the spiritual safety of churches that we can have the conviction that this truth which we have learned to love will also be given to our children. There is not a greater joy in life than for covenant parents to see their children grow up in the fear of God and confess the same truth as we do who have brought them into the world. This cannot be said by those who have forsaken the way of God’s Word. As a church of which these people are members drifts gradually but inexorably farther from the harbor of a pure and faithful confession, those on board soon lose sight of the truth of God’s Word, and their generations are aimlessly tossed about by the stormy seas of vain and false philosophy and doctrine. Always, the next generation is worse than the last, until the time comes when love of the truth is lost completely from the hearts of generations born into the covenant line.
But as we walk in the way of truth with upright hearts, we have the assurance of the favor of God upon us and the light of His divine grace and love upon our children. We live in peace, die in comfort, and believe that there is a place also in the church which is now victorious and triumphant, a place reserved by Christ for us and our children! That is the value of membership in our churches.
Originally published in:
Vol. 18 No. 3 April 1958