Ecclesiology


…The primary purpose of the church’s existence is the glorification of God. Since the church is the kingdom of heaven, the people of God have God as their Father and the Lord Jesus as their king, so the glory of God can be observed when these people live in the love and fear of God. This is true when they are obedient to Him as their Lord, trust in Him as the almighty and faithful One, and live pure and holy lives personally among each other and towards others. The Lord’s name is desecrated, however, when this people who are called after His Name do not conduct themselves accordingly. It is the Lord’s will that His Name be hallowed by the coming of His kingdom (Mat. 6:9-10). He has formed that people to show forth His praise (Isa. 43:21); to show forth the praises of Him who hath called them (1 Pet. 2:9); to be to the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 8:23); and to “be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God” (Isa. 62:3). Therefore “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mat. 5:16).

The secondary objective is the salvation of the elect. The church functions as a mother (Gal. 4:26), and has within her the Word of God as an incorruptible seed (1 Pet. 1:23). As such she is fruitful unto the conversion of many souls, “And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her” (Psa. 87:5). By means of the preaching of the Word, the Lord will add to “the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47) [II: 53-54].

When will the church start being the church? This is a question that many in evangelical circles are asking. The context of the question is the fact that many view church as one or two services a week and then a mind-your-own-business-spirituality the rest of the week.

This was not the practice of the Lord Jesus and his disciples, the early Church, the Reformation church, the Puritans, or even Victorian Christianity. There have been great periods of the church doing ministry and living out her faith to a degree that changed lives for the sake of the Gospel. This is our duty. I think of the words of Wesley: the world is my parish! We have a duty to mankind to bring the Gospel and its life changing message. This begins in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and extends to all spheres of life with which we have contact. Most importantly, this is done in Word and in deed.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

The Lord has been showing me this more and more and I know that there are many saints in the Reformed churches that are seeing the need for Jesus Christ to break into our lives and to make a people that are more than ‘Sunday Christians’. It is sad to see the Emergent Church and the Evangelicals doing more- and with less Truth. There is much work to do. The Lord Jesus said,

Matthew 9:37-38 The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

He also said concerning those who claimed to be Christians, but did not do these works that the Gospel requires of them:

Matthew 25:42-46 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We have much to reform in the Reformed churches; much of which does have to do with doctrine, but with practice. Our heritage is filled with men and women who lived for the sake of advancing the Gospel; many of us are but consumers. My pastor has challenged his congregation with this.

What should be done from? Should we continue with individualistic consumerism, or be the Church?

In the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, he took comfort in his mission. He took comfort in the fact that he was securing the salvation of his people. He prolonged his days when he saw his seed. Of course, the Scriptures speak of a chaff as well. There are those in the world that do not belong to Christ, but grow alongside the church- but are not his. As we reflect on the sufferings of Christ we need to be mindful of the fact that if we are his seed; then we have a standard of living that we are to live by. We are to reflect the one who bought us. We are to live lives of holiness as the Lord Jesus Christ lived a life of holiness.

He was put to grief for our lives, let us not put him to grief by our lives.

Isaiah 53:9-10 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

They who are Christ’s seed, carry along with them the impression of an obligation to, and an acknowledgment of him in whatever good they have gotten. They think themselves much obliged to Christ, and they acknowledge him for their life (as in Mal. 1.6).. A natively and genuinely disposed child acknowledges his father as his father, and reverences and loves his father as his father, but there are many that pretend to being from Christ, who think not themselves in his debt and common for it, and who know not what it is to walk under the conviction of their obligation to Christ for their supposed spiritual life and being. -Durham, Christ Crucified, 41-413.

It is interesting how many of us have been influenced by the liberalism of the 1920s. Even in conservative Reformed circles the hope for society is placed in government agencies, political parties, and social programs. (Of course, we need to acknowledge that government is a creation ordinance.)
The church used to be that institution that met the needs of the poor, advanced the betterment of society, and promoted all of the ‘social’ aspects of the Gospel of Christ. In our day, we have handed those reins over for unconverted men and women to do through social programs.

If the church is to take back her rightful place in society, then she is going to need to set up the programs to meet these needs, in advance of those in need coming to her. I am as guilty as the next guy in not reaching out to the needs of the fatherless, widow, and (illegal) alien within our gates. May we all pour our energies into the body of Christ so that she can do that which she is called to do.

It is upon this brotherhood of [the] twice born sinner , this brotherhood of the redeemed, that the Christian founds the hope of society. He finds no solid hope in the improvement of earthly conditions, or the molding of human institutions under the influence of the Golden Rule… A solid building cannot be constructed when all the materials are faulty; a blessed society cannot be formed out of men who are still under the curse of sin. Human institutions are really to be molded, not by the Christian principles accepted by the unsaved, but by Christian men; the true transformation of society will come by the influence of those who have themselves been redeemed. True Christianity differs from liberalism in the way in which the transformation of society is conceived. But according to Christian belief, as well as according to liberalism, there is really to be a transformation of society; it is not true that the Christian evangelist is interested in the salvation of individuals without being interested in the salvation of the race. And even before salvation of all society has been achieved, there is already a society of those who have been saved. That society is the Church. The Church is the highest Christian answer to the social needs of man. -J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism.

I have begun a Bible study on the seven churches of Asia Minor found in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. There are so many practical applications for the Church today found in those two little chapters.

Wednesday we began with the letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the ‘mother kirk’ of the other churches in that region, pastored by Timothy with apostolic oversight from John. The session of this congregation was known to have precision doctrinally and could spot heresy from a distance. At the time of the writing to the churches, this congregation had lost much of the zeal that ‘first generation’ Christians bring to a congregation. The love for Christ had grown cold. Jesus tells them that they are to do these first works again and to repent.

“The lush green color of springtime in the congregation has disappeared, and the fading shades… of Autumn are now prevalent. To put it differently, the church that Jesus addressed no longer consisted of first generation believers but of second and third generation Christians. These people lacked the enthusiasm their parents and grandparents had demonstrated. They functioned not as propagators of the faith but as caretakers and custodians. There was an obvious deficiency in evangelistic outreach as a result of a status quo mode of thought. They loved the Lord, but no longer with heart, mind, and soul.” -Simon Kistemaker

Jesus gives them a great promise though. If they overcome, they will be granted to eat from the Tree of Life. To a city that was full of false worship that was symbolized by the fig-tree, this promise would stand out as such comfort to those that longed to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Jesus’ last words… is not a threat but a promise: the victor will eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. In this first letter the painful memory of paradise lost is transformed into hope, as the promise points ahead to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem… The great temple of Artemis at Ephesus was built on the site of an ancient tree-shrine, and the image of the date palm symbolized the goddess and her city, Ephesus. But Jesus excels Artemis, for he promises to those who overcome, through truth expressed in love, access to a tree that yields endless delight and eternal life. –Dennis Johnson.

May we not lose our first love, do those first works of love and worship towards Christ and neighbors, thus also being partakers of that eternal fruit from that Ancient Tree.

This has never happended before, but I am offering a rare Monday a’Brakel. It was requested in the comment section that I follow up with the elements of the external call. I have added some of the really good selections from a’Brakel on the external call.

Let every minister consider and reflect before the Lord, examining himself and answering upon the following questions: Have I been sent of God, or did I run myself? Do I know what pertains to this office? Was I convinced that I had some aptitude for this as far as external knowledge is concerned, and am I likewise spiritually acquainted with the experience of regeneration, faith, hope, love, holiness, God’s dealings with the soul, spiritual warfare, and the various conditions of the soul, in order to bring forth old and new things out of the treasure of my heart, to address everyone according to his condition, and particularly to give everyone publicly and privately his portion by way of personal experience, and to speak from heart to heart? Did I have a special love to preach Christ, to be instrumental to the conversion of souls, and to promote the welfare of the church? Was I continually stirred up in my soul to accept this work? Has it been my concern whether or not the Lord has sent me, and have I prayed much in order to know this? Have I at times been desirous not to be engaged in this work, considering the magnitude of this task and my inability? Were those desires to draw back repeatedly conquered by love for this work, or was I frequently put at ease and confirmed in my intention? Have I been troubled by ulterior motives which time and again disappeared by perceiving my sincere motive in the presence of the Lord? Did I perceive a frame of heart by which I was willing to deny myself by parting with material goods, honor, and my life for the Lord Jesus and His church? Or did I only pursue honor and prestige, the acquisition of material goods by which to improve my temporal circumstances, and which, outside of this office, would have been poor and insignificant? Or had I advanced in my studies to such a degree that I of necessity had to proceed? Did I ever really examine myself concerning these matters, or did I merely run without such self-examination?
Concerning the external calling, ask yourself: How did I arrive in this congregation? Did I flatter the elders of the congregation, thereby soliciting their favor? Did I establish friendships in order to control these friends? Did I give gifts? Did I interact with the worldly members of the church in order that they would impose me upon the congregation? Has money been promised and given in order thus to come to this congregation, and if this was done by friends without my knowledge, did I make restitution after this came to my knowledge? (II: 125-126).
He who is convinced of his divine commission must then also view himself as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus. As such, and with that authority, he must perform all his work, such as preaching, catechizing, the administration of the sacraments, visitation, and the use of the keys of God’s kingdom. This will make him bold and faithful, and he and his work will receive more approbation. In this manner all ministers must conduct themselves concerning their commission (II: 127).
A proper consideration of the commission, the qualifications, and the authority of ministers (who not only proclaim beneficial truths but who are ambassadors of Christ), as well as the fact that Christ has deemed the congregation and each individual member worthy of having an ambassador sent to them to speak to them in His Name that which He has commanded them will have a powerful effect upon the hearts of the members. The ministers must therefore impress this upon the congregation, and the members must instruct each other concerning this, so that everyone may acknowledge and hear the minister as such (II: 128).

Here is a helpful website to sort out all of the peas in the soup. We Presbyterians have a reputation for dividing a lot; but the truth is we are in as much as sin as the next band of Protestants:

  • Who can tell all of those Baptists apart? Regular. Particular. Primitive. Calvinistic. Reformed. Southern.
  • How about the Reformed? Heritage, Free, Christian, Canadian, Netherlands, German, United, Independent, US, etc.

Point being, we all have things to work on. We are a long way to being faithful to John 17 that is for sure! But, here is a road map to help you through the section of the body of Christ called Presbyterians- split and united. It includes the Reformed as well. So it is Split R and P soup.

Split P Organizer

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