In the following article one of the pastors in our denomination explains why the church should be reformed in its commitments.
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.
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:
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 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 our 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" (Heidelberg Catechism Q. & A. 91).
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).
The Salvation of Adam's World 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 (Matthew 5:17).
While many churches have emphasized a non-existent 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 (Romans 8:22), and it is therefore the task of Christians to "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 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 worship and 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 worshipped to the one true God. This, too, is an emphasis that is really found only in reformed churches.
People today have a tendency to think of the church as non-essential. 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 "reformed" 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" (Philippians 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 (Hebrews 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."
THE fact that you are reading this text shows that you have some curiosity regarding the Reformed Church. Perhaps you are looking for a new church and want to see what we have to offer. Maybe you are just curious about the meaning of the word reformed in our name. Or, possibly, you thought the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) ceased to exist in the 1930s, and are somewhat surprised to find otherwise. In any case, we hope to answer your questions.
The most important thing you should know about the RCUS is that we base our teaching and practice solely upon the Bible, which we believe to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God. In fact, the word Reformed in our name means exactly that; it refers to the sixteenth century Reformation, when God raised up many great men within the church to restore it to Biblical Christianity. Among the reformers were Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and many others. Without any intention of boasting, we say that we follow in their footsteps.
For us it is a simple matter of fact that the Bible is God's Word, for this is what the Bible says about itself. Every "Thus saith the Lord" shouts divine inspiration, but the following verses are unmistakable:
Isa. 40:8. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
John 17:17. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
2 Tim. 3:16, 17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
And 2 Pet. 1:20, 21. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private origin, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Because the The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession of Faith and the The Canons of Dort accurately summarizes the teachings of Scripture, we have adopted them as our confessional standards.
In our day, many churches claim to preach the Bible. The sad fact is that few really do. Man-centered theology (Humanism) has too often replaced God's glory. But instead of asking, "How can God best serve me?" our church asks, "How can I best serve my God?"
Prior to the 1930s and 40s, the RCUS was one of the largest denominations in the United States. Today we are one of the smallest. At that time, most RCUS congregations merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America and, by doing so, compromised our Reformed heritage. Though the world holds large, unbelieving churches in high regard, we do not believe that such churches honor God or his Word. This why a handful of churches, mostly from the Dakotas, refused to participate in the merger; these, plus others that have since joined, constitute the RCUS of today.
Although it has been more than half a century since the mergers began, our commitment to the truth of the Scriptures is just as firm as ever. But our commitment to inspired truth is not the only way that we glorify God. We also glorify him by living lives of thankful obedience, by worshiping him as he has taught us in Scripture, by fellowshiping with each other in Christ's love, by properly celebrating Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and by exercising loving discipline toward any of our members who may stray.
Being the sinners that we are, our attempts to glorify the Lord are always imperfect; yet, this is our goal in life. The apostle Paul wrote, Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Because twentieth century thinking stresses the value and dignity of man, it is often assumed that man is the author of his own salvation. God sent his Son to make salvation possible for anyone who wants it, but it is man's prerogative to choose or not to choose.
Such theology appeals to the pride of man, but it is not Biblical. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), that he has done and can do nothing that merits God's favor (Isa. 64:6), and that man's depravity is the result of Adam's fall (Rom. 5:12-19). Thus, there can be no truth in the idea that man saves himself. To the contrary, the Lord said through Isaiah the prophet, I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior (Isa. 43:11). Likewise, Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him (John 6:44); and later in the same chapter, Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father (v. 65). Even the ability to believe that God sent his Son, not to make salvation possible for all men, but to procure complete salvation for those whom God chose to eternal life (Mark 10:45) must come from God himself (Eph. 2:8). The Triune God works together for the salvation of the lost (1 Pet. 1:2).
May the great name of God be forever praised!
Since the church belongs to Christ and he is its Head, it must be governed according to his will, that is, by the precepts of the Bible. Christ never commissioned a Pope to rule as vicar in his place. In fact, Peter, whom many claim to have been the first Pope, wrote that this kind of church polity is bad (1 Pet. 5:1-4). Neither is the government of independent churches much better; lacking mutual accountability, pastors of these congregations tend to usurp the headship of the church just as much as the Pope.
The type of church government that pleases Christ, which Christ himself commands, is rule by elders who are mutually responsible to each other. In Acts 15, when the church was confronted with a serious question of practice, the elders of the local congregations met as a synod and passed resolutions based on Scriptural precepts which were binding on all congregations. Today we call this type of government Presbyterianism, or Reformed polity.
Not all Presbyterian denominations are pure; not all of them believe the Bible. The unbelief of many has excluded them from the true church. But, even among those Presbyterian denominations that teach and preach sound doctrine, once in a while poor decisions are made. But this cannot be used as a reason for discarding Reformed church polity. For one thing, we must keep in mind that Presbyterianism is the polity Christ commanded; we are not free to change it. Secondly, how can we reasonably suppose that independent or episcopal churches are free from such errors?
If you are looking for a church that caters to man's ego, you won't be satisfied with the RCUS. If you want a church that doesn't take the Bible seriously, you ought to look elsewhere. In everything from doctrine to practice, beliefs to worship, we submit to the Bible alone?not because the Bible appeals to our sinful nature, but because the Bible is the Word of God to man?our only hope of eternal life.
We practice biblical church government which can be described as Reformed or Presbyterian. This form of organization seeks to balance the concerns of the individual, the congregation, the leadership, and the broader church so that the headship of Christ is fully represented at all levels of the church.
Presbyterianism uses what we might call a team ministry in which men, ordained as elders, shepherd the church as equals. This avoids the problem of independency and congregationalism which can often lead to the rule of the majority. By checks and balances this appraoch seeks to provide mutual accountability, and thus avoid an oppressive hierarchy that is found in some churches.
Presbyterianism is a old pattern of church government going back to the early days of church history. I is similar to the form of government used in the United States Constitution, probably because much was taken from the Presbyterian system.
Although church government, we admit, is not essential to salvation, principles of church order are a part of divine revelation, and therefore cannot be overlooked. How can the whole counsel of God be conserved if a scriptural government is not established and maintained.
An examination of the main principles of the biblical pattern of church government in the Church of the apostles shows that the form of Church government was Presbyterian. The central feature of this system of ecclesiastical government is that Christ is the only head of the church and he has given unique gifts to presbyters or elders to shepherd his flock. The following six principles characterized of biblical church government:
A comparison of the three forms of government practiced by various Christian denominations: Prelacy, Independency, and Presbyterianism, shows that Prelacy conforms to none of the above principles; Independency to only three; while Presbyterianism conforms to all six.
Covenant Reformed Church therefore is under the oversight of the pastors, elders and deacons who meet together as a Consistory, and the elders who meet together as the Spiritual Council. The Consistory and Spiritual Council hold stated meetings monthly.
Christianity is more than a religious experience or a sense of the divine, it involves faith in the truth of Scripture. This truth is communicated to us in a variety of ways in the Bible, but the result is a body of teachings which provide the content of what we believe.
We place our trust and faith in Christ alone: in his person, work, and Word. The Bible and it alone, as the Word of Christ, is our final standard for all that we believe and do. It is inspired of God and therefore the absolute authority as truth; inerrant and infallible in all matters, including history and science. The whole counsel of God in Scripture is our standard in every area of life and thought.
We are a church that believes in the Bible, studies the Bible, preaches and teaches the Bible, and seeks to obey the Bible. The Bible is central to all that we are and do. In it God speaks to us today concerning every area of life and thought. In a day when biblical authority is undermined or neglected in many churches, we seek to be faithful the the Word of God.
The Bible and it alone, as the Word of Christ, is our final standard for all that we believe and do. It is inspired of God and therefore the absolute authority as truth; inerrant and infallible in all matters, including history and science. The whole counsel of God in Scripture is our standard in every area of life and thought.
We affirm that the Bible is the Written Word of God
We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but thatmen spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says; and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed word to writing; and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures. (Belgic Confession)
As a Reformed church we hold the highest estimation on the Bible. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy provides a full statement of the correct view of Scripture. In the summary statement we read: