I was asked to write an article on how we came into the Protestant Reformed Churches, and this I will try to do.
I was born into the Lutheran Church, and grew to young manhood within that church. My wife was born and raised in the German Reformed Church. Although you have two different denominations here, there was a lot in common that we were taught within those churches. Both were Arminian in their teachings!
The belief of the Arminian is not unknown to me. Oh, we were brought up to believe that there is a God, and even that we sin against him. We were even taught to confess that “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” and what follows. We could rattle that off from one end to the other, but we were never taught what all this fully means. We were taught that God was good, loving and kind. We were never taught of the sovereign rule of God who governs and controls all things, so that nothing comes by chance. So, if the storm blew down someone’s house or barn, it was just a bad break. If the land was dry, and the crops were burning up, and the rains came and fell on one man’s land and not on the other, the man who received the rain was lucky, and for the other one it was just tough luck. Or again, if a man while driving on an icy road went out of control and crashed his car, and was killed, it often was said if he wouldn’t have been on the road at that time, he could still be with us today. That little word IF, how God dishonoring when used the wrong way.
What a HORRIBLE bondage to live under. There is no comfort for life. There is no comfort in death. If there is no sovereign rule by the Mighty God, and if the whole creation is not under God’s control so that nothing comes by chance, how can God rule over the hearts of men? Thanks be to God who governs and controls all things, so that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head. He makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth to live unto him.
The first time we heard of the Protestant Reformed Churches was in about 1955, when Rev. Herman Mensch, then minister in the German Reformed Churches, accepted the call from the Leola, South Dakota, Reformed Congregation coming from Isabel, South Dakota. He was a graduate of the Protestant Reformed Seminary. The Leola congregation did not have a parsonage at the time, so they rented a vacant farm house close to where we were living. Rev. Mensch purchased their milk and eggs from us, and that was mainly how we met them. It was under his teaching that we got to know what the Scriptures teach of the sovereign rule of God, of the God who rules even over the hearts of men, and of a God who elects and reprobates. These were terms which we had never heard of in the churches we were members of. He instructed us in the Reformed confessions and guided us toward the Protestant Reformed Churches. I am grateful to him for the instruction he gave us. He said that in those churches the Reformed confessions were maintained, and that those truths were faithfully proclaimed from those pulpits. He instructed us not to follow a man, but that where those truths were maintained, it is our calling to unite ourselves with it.
Oh, those were days of trying the spirits – to see if they are really of God. For you see, I was not just so ready to leave the Lutheran Church. To leave there, and go elsewhere, would have been rather easy. To say I’m leaving because what I have been taught here is not true is another matter. But God does not leave us to our own ways, for the work which He begins, He also finishes. He leaves us no peace in our own ways, but he comes again and again with his Word and Spirit. I remember very clearly a sermon by Rev. H. Veldman preached in Leola on question and answer 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What believest thou concerning the Holy Catholic church of Christ?” He declared unto us the full counsel of God: How the sovereign God from all eternity had that plan for that church, and that in time he called her into being, governing and controlling all things for the sake of the ingathering of her, and how he keeps and preserves her unto all eternity. Oh, I know we’ve had the privilege of hearing many a sermon declaring the full counsel of God unto us since then. But at that time all these tings were new to us, and there was always that question, is it really so? and if it is, what do I believe concerning it?
Maybe it is true that you appreciate the truth of God’s Word as maintained in the Protestant Reformed churches more by coming from the outside, but it is nothing to be desired. It doesn’t take long and we take these truths for granted too. As knowledge in these truths grew, and faith was strengthened, we felt it our calling to move to where it was possible for our children also to attend a Christian Day school. Therefore, we chose the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, for here we heard that they have Christian Schools that instruct the children in harmony with what the Reformed confessions also teach. Even though we had never been in Grand Rapids before and had met only eight or ten people from the Protestant Reformed churches we felt that in a place where the truth of God’s word is taught and the Reformed Confessions are maintained, there we would find people of God. Where the people of God are, there is a bond of faith which is stronger than any friendship, or even blood relation, so that we could and can say, “Thy God is my God.” That bond of faith we have experienced in the Protestant Reformed churches. I have yet to find a person to say to us, that he can’t speak, or have anything to do with us, because we came from outside the Protestant Reformed Churches. When I speak to them, I find that they will also speak to me.
So, looking back these eighteen years, what shall we say? This we will say, “My life in all its perfect plan was ordered, ere my days began!”
Looking to the present, shall we say we have attained perfection, because we have a much better knowledge now of God’s Word than before we were members of the Protestant Reformed Churches? Oh, no! As our knowledge increases, so our calling becomes so much greater to walk before Him in love and to serve him. We may not willfully neglect the study of God’s Word, or willingly walk in ways of sin, and then expect God’s blessing to rest upon us, “for God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap.” So we say “Hereto has the Lord helped us.”
As to the future, after having been a member within the Protestant Reformed churches all these years, we rest in the confidence that, if we and our children and children’s children remain by the grace of God, faithful to the confessions which God has so graciously entrusted to our care, and walk in his truth, then we can confess within the Protestant Reformed Churches that “I believe I am a member of that Holy Catholic Church of Christ.” We also can confess that short, little sentence at the end of the answer of question 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism, that speaks volumes in just a few words: “I believe that I am, and FOREVER shall remain a living member thereof!”