This Book of Worship, Faith, and Practice is a small attempt to help Christians understand the foundations, reasons, and applications of our Worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first section entitled Worship has a collection of examples of the liturgies of our various services here at Christ Church. Because we believe that we are only looking through a glass dimly, the reader needs to understand that as our Spiritual lives mature, our worship will also mature. This means that from time to time these liturgies will change and develop as they reflect that reformation.
The second section, called Confession of Faith, includes information that was previously included in our church constitution. The Christian faith does not change, God is eternal, but our understanding of that faith does change. Consequently, we removed the confessional section from the constitution so that as our faith grows, our statement of that faith can also change and mature. This section includes our current thought on confessional standards, what we believe about the governments God has given us, and a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith with our various exceptions noted. Also, included in this section is a copy of the Christ Church Constitution.
The third section includes our Elder Protocols. This is a collection of procedures and practices that we use to govern Christ Church in a consistent and conscientious manner. You will note when you read the Preamble that our focus is on serving, not “ruling over.” This means that these protocols are not set in stone. Rather their purpose is to help us to remember what went before and also to aid us in gaining wisdom for the future. You will find information on calling and removing the various church officers, information on sister church relations, an assortment of membership information, and many other practical church procedure.
Position Papers is our last section. These papers are intended to help to explain many of the things we have and are doing here at Christ Church. These papers include, for example, why we are called Christ Church, our view and philosophy of worship music, why we use leavened bread in the Lord’s Supper, etc.
– ANNOUNCEMENTS & MEDITATION –
– CALL TO WORSHIP –
Minister: Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Congregation: And also to you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts!
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!
Rejoice, the Lord is King………………………………………………………………………326
– CONFESSION –
Chide Me, O Lord, No Longer…………………………………………………………………8
CONFESSION OF SIN
Congregation is invited to kneel if able
+ ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Minister: Your sins are forgiven through Christ.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
+ CONFESSION OF FAITH: APOSTLES CREED
Minister: Christian, what do you believe?
Congregation: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
+ PSALM 32 – ABBREVIATED RESPONSIVE
Minister: Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Congregation: Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity,
Minister: And in whose spirit there is no guile.
Congregation: I acknowledged my sin unto You,
Minister: And my iniquity I have not hid.
Congregation: I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord;
Minister: And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Congregation: Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous:
Minister: And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.+ PSALM
Jehovah to My Lord Has Said………………………………………………………………150
– CONSECRATION –
+ SCRIPTURE READING
This week: Malachi 1:6-14 & John 4:19-26
Next week: Judges 7:1-7 & I Cor. 1:18-31
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!HYMN
O Let My Name Engraven Stand…………………………………………………….370-71
Opening: Hab. 3:2 Thanksgiving: Hab. 3:17,18 Petitions: Hab. 1:5
I in the Lord Do Put My Trust……………………………………………………………..12
Text: 2 Samuel 5:1-25
Message: Lord of the Bursting Dam
Ending with The Lord’s Prayer…………………………………………………………….411 .
Psalm 121………………………………………………………………………Bulletin pg. 6-7
– COMMUNION –
THE BREAD THE WINE
The Eyes of All Upon Thee Wait……………………………………………………………..189
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty………………………………………………………..322-23
– COMMISSIONING –
+ CLOSING DOXOLOGY
The congregation may raise hands Doxology…………………………………………………………………………………………..437
CHARGE & BENEDICTION
2 Cor. 13:14
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
MAY I COME TO THE LORD’S TABLE
The Lord’s Supper is observed every Lord’s Day at Christ Church. We warmly invite to the Lord’s table all those who are baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, under the authority of Christ and His body, the Church. By eating the bread and drinking the wine with us as a visitor, you are acknowledging that you are a sinner, without hope except in the sovereign mercy of God, and that you are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. You also acknowledge to the elders of this congregation that you are in covenant with God, being active in a congregation which is covenantally bound to the triune God through Word and sacrament. If you have any doubt about your participation, please speak to the elders before or after the service.
HOLY FRIDAY SERVICE
Call to Worship
First Lesson: Betrayal—John 13:12–30
He that eateth my bread lifted up his heel against me.
Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended
Second Lesson: Rejection—John 15:18–27
They hated Me without a cause.
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Third Lesson: Trial—John 18:28–19:15
Away with Him, away with Him. Crucify Him!
My Song Is Love Unknown
Fourth Lesson: Mocking—Matthew 27:24-34
They gave Him wine to drink mingled with gall.
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
Fifth Lesson: Crucifixion—John 19:17–24
They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.
Psalm 22:11–20 Be Not Far Off, For Grief Is Near
Sixth Lesson: Insults—Matthew 27:35–44
He trusts in God; let Him deliver Him.
Psalm 42 Verses 1–4 As The Hart About To Falter
Seventh Lesson: Darkness—Matthew 27:45–49
My God, My God, why has Thou Forsaken Me?
Psalm 42 Verses 5–7 As The Hart About To Falter
Homily – Pastor Doug Wilson
Eighth Lesson: Commital—Luke 23:46–49
Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.
What Wondrous Love Is This
The Ninth Lesson: Death—John 19:28-37
Not a bone of Him shall be broken.
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross (Christ Church Choir)
The Tenth Lesson: Resurrection—Acts 2:22-32
Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow thy Holy One to undergo decay.
And Can It Be That I Should Gain
The Eleventh Lesson: Ascension—Acts 2:33-36
The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.”
Psalm 110 Jehovah To My Lord Has Said
CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE
CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this day.
– Old English Carol –
LESSON I: Genesis 3:8-15
Carol I: “Lo, How a Rose”
LESSON II: Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15:4-6, Genesis 22:15-18
Carol II: “Angels We Have Heard on High”
LESSON III: Isaiah 11:1-9
Carol III: “Hail The Lord’s Anointing” (Christ Church Choir)
LESSON IV: Micah 5:2-4
Carol IV: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
LESSON V: Luke 2:1-7
Carol V: “Joy To The World”
Meditation: Pastor Douglas Wilson
LESSON VI: Matthew 1:18-23
Carol VI: “What Child is This?”
LESSON VII: Luke 2:8-16
BAPTISM OF COVENANT CHILDREN
The ordinance of baptism is administered by the church in obedience to the command of Christ that the nations should be converted, baptized, and taught all that Christ has commanded (Mt 28:19-20). Baptism represents and seals our union with Christ (Rom 6:lff ), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ( Jn 1:33), and resulting regeneration, adoption, and cleansing from sin (Tit 3:5-6). By baptism we are initiated into the covenant community (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor 12:13), and made members of the body of Christ.
PRAYER FOR BLESSING
Let us pray together, and ask that God would honor his name here today in this covenant baptism, and that He would pour out great kindness upon us by showing us His covenant (Ps. 25:14).
“O Come, Let Us Sing Unto the Lord” (CC 126)
EXHORTATION FROM THE WORD
COVENANT VOWS FOR THE PARENTS
The minister asks the parents the following:
1. Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the re-
newing grace of the Holy Spirit?
2. Do you trust in God’s covenant promises in his/her behalf, and do you look in faith to the
Lord Jesus Christ for his/her salvation, as you do for your own?
3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance
upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him/her a godly example, that you will pray with and for him/her, that you will teach him/her the doctrines of our holy faith, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring him/her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
4. On the basis of your faith expressed here, do you resolve by the grace of God, not only to bring him/her up as your natural son/daughter, but also, from this day forward, to consider him/ her as your brother/sister in the Lord, as a joint heir of all God’s covenant blessings?
COVENANT VOWS FOR THE CONGREGATION
The minister asks the congregation the following:
“Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of a covenant community in assisting
these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?” Please signify your response by saying amen.
The minister shall ask the parents the following: What is the Christian name of this child?
On the basis of this profession of covenant faith, I baptize _________ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
BENEDICTION FOR THE CHILD
The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon you, and dwell in your heart forever. Amen.
CHARGE TO THE CONGREGATION
This child is now received into Christ’s Church. You the people of this congregation, in receiving this child, promise with God’s help to be his/her people to the end that he/she may faithfully walk with Christ all his/her days, and come at last to His eternal kingdom. Jesus said, Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me.
The congregation stands and speaks together to the child.
“Little child, for you Jesus Christ came to this earth, struggled and suffered; for your sake He crossed Gethsemane and went through the darkness of Calvary; for your sake He cried: ‘It is finished’; for your sake He died and for your sake He overcame death; indeed for your sake, little child, and you—still— know nothing of it. And thus the word of the apostle is confirmed: ‘We love God, for He loved us first’”.
Taken from an old French Reformed Baptism Rite
COVENANT BAPTISM AND BAPTISM ON PROFESSION OF FAITH
The ordinance of baptism is administered by the church in obedience to the command of Christ that the nations should be converted, baptized, and taught all that Christ has commanded (Mt 28:19-20). Baptism represents and seals our union with Christ (Rom 6:lff ), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ( Jn 1:33), and resulting regeneration, adoption, and cleansing from sin (Tit 3:5-6). By baptism we are initiated into the covenant community (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor 12:13), and made members of the body of Christ.
PRAYER FOR BLESSING
Let us pray together, and ask that God would honor his name here today in this covenant baptism, and that He would pour out great kindness upon us by showing us His covenant (Ps. 25:14).
“O Come, Let Us Sing Unto the Lord” (CC 126)
EXHORTATION FROM THE WORD
COVENANT VOWS FOR THE PARENTS
The minister asks the parents the following:
1. Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
2. Do you trust in God’s covenant promises in his/her behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for his/her salvation, as you do for your own?
3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him/her a godly example, that you will pray with and for him/her, that you will teach him/her the doctrines of our holy faith, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring him/her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
4. On the basis of your faith expressed here, do you resolve by the grace of God, not only to bring him/her up as your natural son/daughter, but also, from this day forward, to consider him/her as your brother/sister in the Lord, as a joint heir of all God’s covenant blessings?
COVENANT VOWS FOR THE CONGREGATION
The minister asks the congregation the following: “Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of a covenant community in assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?” Please signify your response by saying amen.
The minister shall ask the parents the following:
What is the Christian name of this child?
On the basis of this profession of covenant faith, I baptize _________ in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
BENEDICTION FOR THE CHILD
The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon you, and dwell in your heart forever. Amen.
BAPTISM ON PROFESSION OF FAITH
The minister asks the following:
1. Do you believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Son of God?
2. Do you believe that He died on the cross and rose again from the dead, thus bestowing on you His cleansing blood, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
3. Do you now, trusting in God’s covenant promises, unreservedly dedicate yourself to God, to live as a Christian for the rest of your life?
CHARGE TO THE CONGREGATION
These children are now received into Christ’s Church. You the people of this congregation, in receiving these children, promise with God’s help to be their people to the end that they may faithfully walk with Christ all their days, and come at last to His eternal kingdom. Jesus said, Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me.
The congregation stands and speaks together to the child. “Little child, for you Jesus Christ came to this earth, struggled and suffered; for your sake He crossed Gethsemane and went through the darkness of Calvary; for your sake He cried: ‘It is finished’; for your sake He died and for your sake He overcame death; indeed for your sake, little child, and you—still— know nothing of it. And thus the word of the apostle is confirmed: ‘We love God, for He loved us first’”.
(Taken from an old French Reformed Baptism Rite)
BAPTISM ON PROFESSION OF FAITH
The ordinance of baptism is administered by the church in obedience to the command of Christ that the nations should be converted, baptized, and taught all that Christ has commanded (Mt 28:19-20). Baptism represents and seals our union with Christ (Rom 6:lff ), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ( Jn 1:33), and resulting regeneration, adoption, and cleansing from sin (Tit 3:5-6). By baptism we are initiated into the covenant community (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor 12:13), and made members of the body of Christ.
PRAYER FOR BLESSING
Let us pray together, and ask that God would honor his name here today in this covenant baptism, and that He would pour out great kindness upon us by showing us His covenant (Ps. 25:14).
“O Come, Let Us Sing Unto the Lord” (CC 126)
EXHORTATION FROM THE WORD
“Baptism and the Covenant”
COVENANT VOWS FOR THE ONE RECEIVING BAPTISM
The minister asks the following:
1. Do you believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Son of God?
2. Do you believe that He died on the cross and rose again from the dead, thus bestowing on you His cleansing blood, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
3. Do you now, trusting in God’s covenant promises, unreservedly dedicate yourself to God, to live as a Christian for the rest of your life?
COVENANT VOWS FOR THE CONGREGATION
The minister asks the congregation the following:
“Do you as a congregation undertake your responsibilities here as brothers and sisters in this covenant of grace?”
Please signify that you do by saying amen.
On the basis of your profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I baptize you _________ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
BENEDICTION FOR THE ONE
The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon you, and dwell in your heart forever. Amen.
CHARGE TO THE CONGREGATION
This individual is now received into Christ’s Church.You the people of this congregation, in receiving him/her, promise with God’s help to be his/her people to the end that he/she may faithfully walk with Christ all his/her days, and come at last to His eternal kingdom.
1. The individual or head of household will be asked the following questions:
A. “Have you acknowledged yourself to be a sinner in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting and resting upon Him alone as He is offered in the gospel?”
B. “Have you been baptized in accordance with His Word?”
C. “Are you resolute, in humble reliance upon the help of God, in endeavoring daily to live as becomes followers of Christ?”
D. “Do you promise to support this church in its worship and work? Do you promise to submit yourself to the government and discipline of this church, pursuing its purity and peace?” When the questions are addressed to the head of a household, he will also be asked if he is speaking on behalf of the household.
2. When an affirmative answer has been given, the members of the congregation will be asked to whether they will commit themselves to the new members in a mutually covenantal. They will signify their agreement with a corporate “Amen.”
3. One of the elders will offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
BOOK OF CONFESSIONS
We hold to the ancient creeds as defining the faith once delivered to the saints, and we hold that no one rejecting the truths proclaimed in these creeds can be right with God.
We hold to the distinctive truths of our reformational confessions, knowing that many faithful christians have differed with portions of these confessions. We confess
our view that these confessions faithfully represent of Scripture, but we do this, not as a means of dividing with Christians who differ, but rather to make a faithful and charitable testimony of what we believe Scripture to teach. These confessions represent the understanding of our church officers, and are not binding on the members of our church.
In this spirit, we therefore commend the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as an faithful and historic testimony of the martyr church, but we reject any use of that confession as a museum piece, where the form of religion is kept but not the power of it.
We therefore approve the Three Forms of Unity for use in liturgy and catechesis, and heartily commend their pastoral approach. We reject any unfaithful spirit that would take this more organic and pastoral approach to confession as an excuse to make room for an unbelieving spirit that rejects any pointed accountability.
We therefore approve the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism for use in doctrinal accountability for officers of the church.To preserve clear accountability for our officers, our confessions should be construed to harmonize wherever possible, but in areas where they cannot be harmonized we defer to language of the Westminster Confession of Faith. For this reason, we declare our exceptions to that confession only. We reject any approach to Westminster that degrades into litigiousness, fractiousness, sectarianism, or gnat-strangling.
He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hades.
On the third day He rose again, from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
THE DEFINITION OF CHALCEDON
THE ATHANASIAN CREED
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father unlimited, the Son unlimited, and the Holy Spirit unlimited. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three infinites, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinites.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity: to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the catholic Religion, to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity none is before, or after; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood.
Who although he is God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking assumption of the Manhood into God;
One altogether, not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hades, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies
And shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.
39 ARTICLES OF RELIGION
II. Of the Word, or Son of God, which was made very man.
III. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
V. Of the Holy Ghost.
VI. Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books
The First Book of Samuel
The Second Book of Samuel
The First Book of Kings
The Second Book of Kings
The First Book of Chronicles
The Second Book of Chronicles
The First Book of Esdras
The Second Book of Esdras
The Book of Esther
The Book of Job
Ecclesiastes or Preacher
Cantica, or Songs of Solomon
Four Prophets the greater
Twelve Prophets the less
And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:
The Third Book of Esdras
The Fourth Book of Esdras
The Book of Tobias
The Book of Judith
The rest of the Book of Esther
The Book of Wisdom
Jesus the Son of Sirach
Baruch the Prophet
The Song of the Three Children
The Story of Susanna
Of Bel and the Dragon
The Prayer of Manasses
The First Book of Maccabees
The Second Book of Maccabees
All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.
VII. Of the Old Testament.
VIII. Of the Three Creeds.
IX. Of Original or Birth Sin.
X. Of Free Will.
XI. Of the Justification of Man.
XII. Of Good Works.
XIII. Of Works before Justification.
XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.
XV. Of Christ alone without Sin.
XVI. Of Sin after Baptism.
XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feeling in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.
XVIII. Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ.
XIX. Of the Church.
XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
XXI. Of the authority of General Councils.
XXII. Of Purgatory.
XXIII. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
XXIV. Of speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth.
XXV. Of the Sacraments.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, have they a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.
XXVI. Of the unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church that inquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty by just judgement, be deposed.
XXVII. Of Baptism.
XXVIII. Of the Lord’s Supper.
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
XXIX. Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord’s Supper.
XXX. Of Both Kinds.
XXXI. Of the one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.
XXXIII. Of Excommunicated Persons, how they are to be avoided.
XXXIV. Of the Traditions of the Church.
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.
XXXV. Of Homilies.
Of the Names of the Homilies.
1. Of the right Use of the Church.
2. Against peril of Idolatry.
3. Of the repairing and keeping clean of Churches.
4. Of good Works: first of Fasting.
5. Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
6. Against Excess of Apparel.
7. Of Prayer.
8. Of the Place and Time of Prayer.
9. That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue.
10. Of the reverend estimation of God’s Word.
11. Of Alms-doing.
12. Of the Nativity of Christ.
13. Of the Passion of Christ.
14. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
15. Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
16. Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
17. For the Rogation-days.
18. Of the state of Matrimony.
19. Of Repentance.
20. Against Idleness.
21. Against Rebellion
XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers.
XXXVII. Of the Civil Magistrates.
Where we attribute to the Queen’s Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended, we give not to our princes the ministering either of God’s word or of sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen doth most plainly testify: but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scriptures by God himself, that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers. The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.
It is lawful for Christian men at the commandment of the Magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the wars.
XXXVIII. Of Christian men’s goods which are not common.
XXXIX. Of a Christian man’s Oath.
THE BELGIC CONFESSION
Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.
Article 3: The Written Word of God
Afterwards our God— because of the special care he has for us and our salvation— commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit this revealed Word to writing. He himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law.
Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.
Article 4: The Canonical Books
In the church of God the list is as follows: In the Old Testament, the five books of Moses—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called Paralipomenon; the first book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song; the four major prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel; and then the other twelve minor prophets—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
In the New Testament, the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen letters of Paul—to the Romans; the two letters to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; the two letters to the Thessalonians; the two letters to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the seven letters of the other apostles—one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.
Article 5: The Authority of Scripture
And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them— not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.
For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.
Article 6: The Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books
The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.
Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture
Therefore we must not consider human writings—no matter how holy their authors may have been—equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.
For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.
Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,” and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”
Article 8: The Trinity
The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father.
The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics—yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.
It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.
Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.
For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only the Son.
The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same essence.
There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.
Article 9: The Scriptural Witness on the Trinity
The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion.
In the book of Genesis God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” So “God created man in his own image”—indeed, “male and female he created them.” “Behold, man has become like one of us.”
It appears from this that there is a plurality of persons within the Deity, when he says, “Let us make man in our image”—and afterwards he indicates the unity when he says, “God created.”
It is true that he does not say here how many persons there are— but what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the New.
For when our Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my dear Son”; the Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.
So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by Christ: “Baptize all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
In the Gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel says to Mary, the mother of our Lord: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore that holy one to be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”
And in another place it says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”
“There are three who bear witness in heaven—the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit—and these three are one.”
In all these passages we are fully taught that there are three persons in the one and only divine essence. And although this doctrine surpasses human understanding, we nevertheless believe it now, through the Word, waiting to know and enjoy it fully in heaven.
Furthermore, we must note the particular works and activities of these three persons in relation to us. The Father is called our Creator, by reason of his power. The Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his living in our hearts. This doctrine of the holy Trinity has always been maintained in the true church, from the time of the apostles until the present, against Jews, Muslims, and certain false Christians and heretics, such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and others like them, who were rightly condemned by the holy fathers.
And so, in this matter we willingly accept the three ecumenical creeds— the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian—as well as what the ancient fathers decided in agreement with them.
Article 10: The Deity of Christ
He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of his glory,” being in all things like him.
He is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together.
Moses says that God “created the world”; and John says that “all things were created by the Word,” which he calls God. The apostle says that “God made the world by his Son.” He also says that “God created all things by Jesus Christ.”
And so it must follow that he who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed when all things were created by him.
Therefore the prophet Micah says that his origin is “from ancient times, from eternity.” And the apostle says that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”
So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
Article 11: The Deity of the Holy Spirit
He is true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.
Article 12: The Creation of All Things
He has given all creatures their being, form, and appearance, and their various functions for serving their Creator.
Even now he also sustains and governs them all, according to his eternal providence, and by his infinite power, that they may serve man, in order that man may serve God.
He has also created the angels good, that they might be his messengers and serve his elect.
Some of them have fallen from the excellence in which God created them into eternal perdition; and the others have persisted and remained in their original state, by the grace of God.
The devils and evil spirits are so corrupt that they are enemies of God and of everything good. They lie in wait for the church and every member of it like thieves, with all their power, to destroy and spoil everything by their deceptions.
So then, by their own wickedness they are condemned to everlasting damnation, daily awaiting their torments.
For that reason we detest the error of the Sadducees, who deny that there are spirits and angels, and also the error of the Manicheans, who say that the devils originated by themselves, being evil by nature, without having been corrupted.
Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.
We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.
This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.
In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.
For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.
Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man
But when he was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil.
For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature.
So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable.
Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.”
Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning man’s free will, since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is “given him from heaven.”
For who can boast of being able to do anything good by himself, since Christ says, “No one can come to me unless my Father who sent me draws him”?
Who can glory in his own will when he understands that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God”? Who can speak of his own knowledge in view of the fact that “the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God”?
In short, who can produce a single thought, since he knows that we are “not able to think a thing” about ourselves, by ourselves, but that “our ability is from God”?
And therefore, what the apostle says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: “God works within us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.”
For there is no understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will apart from Christ’s involvement, as he teaches us when he says, “Without me you can do nothing.”
Article 15: The Doctrine of Original Sin
It is a corruption of all nature—an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their mother’s womb, and the root which produces in man every sort of sin. It is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn the human race, and it is not abolished or wholly uprooted even by baptism, seeing that sin constantly boils forth as though from a contaminated spring.
Nevertheless, it is not imputed to God’s children for their condemnation but is forgiven by his grace and mercy— not to put them to sleep but so that the awareness of this corruption might often make believers groan as they long to be set free from the “body of this death.”
Therefore we reject the error of the Pelagians who say that this sin is nothing else than a matter of imitation.
Article 16: The Doctrine of Election
He is merciful in withdrawing and saving from this perdition those whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel, has elected and chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord by his pure goodness, without any consideration of their works.
He is just in leaving the others in their ruin and fall into which they plunged themselves.
Article 17: The Recovery of Fallen Man
And he comforted him, promising to give him his Son, “born of a woman,” to crush the head of the serpent, and to make him blessed.
Article 18: The Incarnation
The Son took the “form of a servant” and was made in the “likeness of man,” truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without male participation.
And he not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned but also a real human soul, in order that he might be a real human being. For since the soul had been lost as well as the body he had to assume them both to save them both together.
Therefore we confess, against the heresy of the Anabaptists who deny that Christ assumed human flesh from his mother, that he “shared the very flesh and blood of children”; that he is “fruit of the loins of David” according to the flesh; “born of the seed of David” according to the flesh; “fruit of the womb of the virgin Mary”; “born of a woman”; “the seed of David”; “a shoot from the root of Jesse”; “the offspring of Judah,” having descended from the Jews according to the flesh; “from the seed of Abraham”—for he “assumed Abraham’s seed” and was “made like his brothers except for sin.”
In this way he is truly our Immanuel— that is: “God with us.”
Article 19: The Two Natures of Christ
Thus his divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth.
His human nature has not lost its properties but continues to have those of a creature—it has a beginning of days; it is of a finite nature and retains all that belongs to a real body. And even though he, by his resurrection, gave it immortality, that nonetheless did not change the reality of his human nature; for our salvation and resurrection depend also on the reality of his body.
But these two natures are so united together in one person that they are not even separated by his death.
So then, what he committed to his Father when he died was a real human spirit which left his body. But meanwhile his divine nature remained united with his human nature even when he was lying in the grave; and his deity never ceased to be in him, just as it was in him when he was a little child, though for a while it did not show itself as such.
These are the reasons why we confess him to be true God and true man—true God in order to conquer death by his power, and true man that he might die for us in the weakness of his flesh.
Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ
So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.
Article 21: The Atonement
For it is written that “the chastisement of our peace” was placed on the Son of God and that “we are healed by his wounds.” He was “led to death as a lamb”; he was “numbered among sinners” and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though Pilate had declared that he was innocent.
So he paid back what he had not stolen, and he suffered—the “just for the unjust,” in both his body and his soul—in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.” He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.
Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”; we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever.
This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus—that is, “Savior”—because he would save his people from their sins.
Article 22: The Righteousness of Faith
For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely.
Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God—for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.”
However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us—for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness.
But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits.
When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins.
Article 23: The Justification of Sinners
And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.
That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.
In fact, if we had to appear before God relying—no matter how little—on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.
Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.”
Article 24: The Sanctification of Sinners
Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.
So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,” which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.
These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification— for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.
So then, we do good works, but nor for merit—for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure”—thus keeping in mind what
is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ “
Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works—but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.
Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.
So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.
Article 25: The Fulfillment of the Law
Nevertheless, we continue to use the witnesses drawn from the law and prophets to confirm us in the gospel and to regulate our lives with full integrity for the glory of God, according to his will.
Article 26: The Intercession of Christ
He therefore was made man, uniting together the divine and human natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine Majesty. Otherwise we would have no access.
But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for another one, according to our fancy. For neither in heaven nor among the creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ does. Although he was “in the form of God,” he nevertheless “emptied himself,” taking the form of “a man” and “a servant” for us; and he made himself “completely like his brothers.”
Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though “we were his enemies”? And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated “at the right hand of the Father,” and who has all power “in heaven and on earth”? And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son?
So then, sheer unbelief has led to the practice of dishonoring the saints, instead of honoring them. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.
We should not plead here that we are unworthy—for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.
Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish fear—or rather, this unbelief—he says to us that Jesus Christ was “made like his brothers in all things,” that he might be a high priest who is merciful and faithful to purify the sins of the people. For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted.
And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, “Since we have a high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has entered into heaven, we maintain our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to have compassion for our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in all things, just as we are, except for sin. Let us go then with confidence to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace, in order to be helped.”
The same apostle says that we “have liberty to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus. Let us go, then, in the assurance of faith….”
Likewise, “Christ’s priesthood is forever. By this he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him who always lives to intercede for them.”
What more do we need? For Christ himself declares: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to my Father but by me.” Why should we seek another intercessor?
Since it has pleased God to give us his Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave him for another—or rather seek, without ever finding. For when God gave him to us he knew well that we were sinners.
Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly Father through Christ, our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s Prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in his name.
Article 27: The Holy Catholic Church
This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last until the end, as appears from the fact that Christ is eternal King who cannot be without subjects.
And this holy church is preserved by God against the rage of the whole world, even though for a time it may appear very small in the eyes of men—as though it were snuffed out.
For example, during the very dangerous time of Ahab the Lord preserved for himself seven thousand men who did not bend their knees to Baal.
And so this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or certain persons. But it is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world, though still joined and united in heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.
Article 28: The Obligations of Church Members
But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body.
And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees forbid and death and physical punishment result.
And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance.
Article 29: The Marks of the True Church
We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”
The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it.
As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.
Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.
As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than
to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.
These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.
Article 30: The Government of the Church
By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their need.
By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.
Article 31: The Officers of the Church
So everyone must be careful not to push himself forward improperly, but he must wait for God’s call, so that he may be assured of his calling and be certain that he is chosen by the Lord.
As for the ministers of the Word, they all have the same power and authority, no matter where they may be, since they are all servants of Jesus Christ, the only universal bishop, and the only head of the church.
Moreover, to keep God’s holy order from being violated or despised, we say that everyone ought, as much as possible, to hold the ministers of the Word and elders of the church in special esteem, because of the work they do, and be at peace with them, without grumbling, quarreling, or fighting.
Article 32: The Order and Discipline of the Church
Therefore we reject all human innovations and all laws imposed on us, in our worship of God, which bind and force our consciences in any way.
So we accept only what is proper to maintain harmony and unity and to keep all in obedience to God.
To that end excommunication, with all it involves, according to the Word of God, is required.
Article 33: The Sacraments
He has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to our external senses both what he enables us to understand by his Word and what he does inwardly in our hearts, confirming in us the salvation he imparts to us.
For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. So they are not empty and hollow signs to fool and deceive us, for their truth is Jesus Christ, without whom they would be nothing.
Moreover, we are satisfied with the number of sacraments that Christ our Master has ordained for us. There are only two: the sacrament of baptism and the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ.
Article 34: The Sacrament of Baptism
Having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, he established in its place the sacrament of baptism. By it we are received into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may be dedicated entirely to him, bearing his mark and sign. It also witnesses to us that he will be our God forever, since he is our gracious Father.
Therefore he has commanded that all those who belong to him be baptized with pure water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In this way he signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God.
This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharoah, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.
So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies—namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works.
For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it—for we cannot be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.
For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.
And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults.
Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, just as the Lord commanded in the law that by offering a lamb for them the sacrament of the suffering and death of Christ would be granted them shortly after their birth. This was the sacrament of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the “circumcision of Christ.”
Article 35: The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Now those who are born again have two lives in them. The one is physical and temporal—they have it from the moment of their first birth, and it is common to all. The other is spiritual and heavenly, and is given them in their second birth; it comes through the Word of the gospel in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is common to God’s elect only.
Thus, to support the physical and earthly life God has prescribed for us an appropriate earthly and material bread, which is as common to all as life itself also is. But to maintain the spiritual and heavenly life that belongs to believers he has sent a living bread that came down from heaven: namely Jesus Christ, who nourishes and maintains the spiritual life of believers when eaten—that is, when appropriated and received spiritually by faith.
To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood. He did this to testify to us that just as truly as we take and hold the sacraments in our hands and eat and drink it in our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls.
Now it is certain that Jesus Christ did not prescribe his sacraments for us in vain, since he works in us all he represents by these holy signs, although the manner in which he does it goes beyond our understanding and is uncomprehensible to us, just as the operation of God’s Spirit is hidden and incomprehensible.
Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood—but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith.
In that way Jesus Christ remains always seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven—but he never refrains on that account to communicate himself to us through faith.
This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ communicates himself to us with all his benefits. At that table he makes us enjoy himself as much as the merits of his suffering and death, as he nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the eating of his flesh, and relieves and renews them by the drinking of his blood.
Moreover, though the sacraments and thing signified are joined together, not all receive both of them. The wicked person certainly takes the sacrament, to his condemnation, but does not receive the truth of the sacrament, just as Judas and Simon the Sorcerer both indeed received the sacrament, but not Christ, who was signified by it. He is communicated only to believers.
Finally, with humility and reverence we receive the holy sacrament in the gathering of God’s people, as we engage together, with thanksgiving, in a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, and as we thus confess our faith and Christian religion. Therefore no one should come to this table without examining himself carefully, lest “by eating this bread and drinking this cup he eat and drink to his own judgment.”
In short, by the use of this holy sacrament we are moved to a fervent love of God and our neighbors.
Therefore we reject as desecrations of the sacraments all the muddled ideas and damnable inventions that men have added and mixed in with them. And we say that we should be content with the procedure that Christ and the apostles have taught us and speak of these things as they have spoken of them.
Article 36: The Civil Government
For that purpose he has placed the sword in the hands of the government, to punish evil people and protect the good.
And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject to God’s law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship.
They should do this while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them, with the means belonging to them.
And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word.
Moreover everyone, regardless of status, condition, or rank, must be subject to the government, and pay taxes, and hold its representatives in honor and respect, and obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God’s Word, praying for them that the Lord may be willing to lead them in all their ways and that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all piety and decency.
And on this matter we denounce the Anabaptists, other anarchists, and in general all those who want to reject the authorities and civil officers and to subvert justice by introducing common ownership of goods and corrupting the moral order that God has established among human beings.
Article 37: The Last Judgment
Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great judge—men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until the end of the world.
They will be summoned there by the voice of the archangel and by the sound of the divine trumpet.
For all those who died before that time will be raised from the earth, their spirits being joined and united with their own bodies in which they lived. And as for those who are still alive, they will not die like the others but will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” from “corruptible to incorruptible.”
Then “the books” (that is, the consciences) will be opened, and the dead will be judged according to the things they did in the world, whether good or evil. Indeed, all people will give account of all the idle words they have spoken, which the world regards as only playing games. And then the secrets and hypocrisies of men will be publicly uncovered in the sight of all.
Therefore, with good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible and dreadful to wicked and evil people. But it is very pleasant and a great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption will then be accomplished. They will then receive the fruits of their labor and of the trouble they have suffered; their innocence will be openly recognized by all; and they will see the terrible vengeance that God will bring on the evil ones who tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented them in this world.
The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own consciences, and shall be made immortal—but only to be tormented in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
In contrast, the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor. The Son of God will “confess their names” before God his Father and the holy and elect angels; all tears will be “wiped from their eyes”; and their cause—at present condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil officers—will be acknowledged as the “cause of the Son of God.”
And as a gracious reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the heart of man could never imagine.
So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
THE HEIDELBERG CONFESSION
Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
THE FIRST PART - OF THE MISERY OF MAN (QUESTIONS 3-11)
Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?
Question 4. What does the law of God require of us?
Question 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?
Question 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
Question 7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
Question 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Question 9. Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform?
Question 10. Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
Question 11. Is not God then also merciful?
THE SECOND PART - OF MAN'S DELIVERANCE (QUESTIONS 12-25)
Question 12. Since then, by the righteous judgment of God, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, is there no way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favour?
Question 13. Can we ourselves then make this satisfaction?
Question 14. Can there be found anywhere, one, who is a mere creature, able to satisfy for us?
Question 15. What sort of a mediator and deliverer then must we seek for?
Question 16. Why must he be very man, and also perfectly righteous?
Question 17. Why must he in one person be also very God?
Question 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?
Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?
Question 20. Are all men then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ?
Question 21. What is true faith?
Question 22. What is then necessary for a Christian to believe?
Question 23. What are these articles?
Question 24. How are these articles divided?
Question 25. Since there is but one only divine essence, why speakest thou of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
OF GOD THE FATHER (QUESTIONS 26-28)
Question 26. What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
Question 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
Question 28. What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence does still uphold all things?
OF GOD THE SON (QUESTIONS 29-52)
Question 29. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus”, that is a Saviour?
Question 30. Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?
Question 31. Why is he called “Christ”, that is anointed?
Question 32. But why art thou called a Christian?
Question 33. Why is Christ called the “only begotten Son” of God, since we are also the children of God?
Question 34. Wherefore callest thou him “our Lord”?
Q. 35. What is the meaning of these words “He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary”?
Question 36. What profit dost thou receive by Christ’s holy conception and nativity?
Question 37. What dost thou understand by the words, “He suffered”?
Question 38. Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate, as judge”?
Question 39. Is there anything more in his being “crucified”, than if he had died some other death?
Question 40. Why was it necessary for Christ to humble himself even “unto death”?
Question 41. Why was he also “buried”?
Question 42. Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?
Question 43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
Question 44. Why is there added, “he descended into hell”?
Question 45. What does the “resurrection” of Christ profit us?
Question 46. How dost thou understand these words, “he ascended into heaven”?
Question 47. Is not Christ then with us even to the end of the world, as he has promised?
Question 48. But if his human nature is not present, wherever his Godhead is, are not then these two natures in Christ separated from one another?
Question 49. Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension into heaven?
Question 50. Why is it added, “and sitteth at the right hand of God”?
Question 51. What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us?
Question 52. What comfort is it to thee that “Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead”?
OF GOD THE HOLY GHOST (QUESTIONS 53-64)
Question 53. What dost thou believe concerning the Holy Ghost?
Question 54. What believest thou concerning the “holy catholic church” of Christ?
Question 55. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
Question 56. What believest thou concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
Question 57. What comfort does the “resurrection of the body” afford thee?
Question 58. What comfort takest thou from the article of “life everlasting”?
Question 59. But what does it profit thee now that thou believest all this?
Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?
Question 61. Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?
Question 62. But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?
Question 63. What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?
Question 64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?
OF THE SACRAMENTS (QUESTIONS 65-68)
Question 65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed?
Question 66. What are the sacraments?
Question 67. Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
Question 68. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
OF HOLY BAPTISM (QUESTIONS 69-74)
Question 69. How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?
Question 70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
Question 71. Where has Christ promised us, that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism?
Question 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
Question 73. Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism “the washing of regeneration,” and “the washing away of sins”?
Question 74. Are infants also to be baptized?
OF THE HOLY SUPPER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST (QUESTIONS 75-85)
Question 75. How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord’s Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
Question 76. What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?
Question 77. Where has Christ promised that he will as certainly feed and nourish believers with his body and bleed, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup?
Question 78. Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?
Question 79. Why then doth Christ call the bread “his body”, and the cup “his blood”, or “the new covenant in his blood”; and Paul the “communion of body and blood of Christ”?
Question 80. What difference is there between the Lord’s supper and the popish mass?
Question 81. For whom is the Lord’s supper instituted?
Question 82. Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?
Question 83. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
Question 84. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?
Question 85. How is the kingdom of heaven shut and opened by Christian discipline?
THE THIRD PART OF THANKFULNESS (QUESTIONS 86-115)
Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
Question 88. Of how many parts does the true conversion of man consist?
Question 89. What is the mortification of the old man?
Question 90. What is the quickening of the new man?
Question 91. But what are good works?
Question 92. What is the law of God?
1st commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2nd commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
3rd commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
4th commandment: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
5th commandment: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
6th commandment: Thou shalt not kill.
7th commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. 8th commandment: Thou shalt not steal.
9th commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
10th commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Question 93. How are these commandments divided?
Question 94. What does God enjoin in the first commandment?
Question 95. What is idolatry?
Question 96. What does God require in the second commandment?
Question 97. Are images then not at all to be made?
Question 98. But may not images be tolerated in the churches, as books to the laity?
Question 99. What is required in the third commandment?
Question 100. Is then the profaning of God’s name, by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that his wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavour, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing?
Question 101. May we then swear religiously by the name of God?
Question 102. May we also swear by saints or any other creatures?
Question 103. What does God require in the fourth commandment?
Question 104. What does God require in the fifth commandment?
Question 105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?
Question 106. But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?
Question 107. But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?
Question 108. What does the seventh commandment teach us?
Question 109. Does God forbid in this commandment, only adultery, and such like gross sins?
Question 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?
Question 111. But what does God require in this commandment?
Question 112. What is required in the ninth commandment?
Question 113. What does the tenth commandment require of us?
Question 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?
Question 115. Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?
OF PRAYER (QUESTIONS 116-129)
Question 116. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
Question 117. What are the requisites of that prayer, which is acceptable to God, and which he will hear?
Question 118. What has God commanded us to ask of him?
Question 119. What are the words of that prayer?
Question 120. Why has Christ commanded us to address God thus: “Our Father”?
Question 121. Why is it here added, “Which art in heaven”?
Question 122. Which is the first petition?
Question 123. Which is the second petition?
Question 124. Which is the third petition?
Question 125. Which is the fourth petition?
Question 126. Which is the fifth petition?
Question 127. Which is the sixth petition?
Question 128. How dost thou conclude thy prayer?
Question 129. What does the word “Amen” signify?
CANONS OF DORT
The First Main Point of Doctrine
Article 1: God’s Right to Condemn All People
*All quotations from Scripture are translations of the original Latin manuscript.
Article 2: The Manifestation of God’s Love
Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel
Article 4: A Twofold Response to the Gospel
Article 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith
Article 6: God’s Eternal Decision
Article 7: Election
Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.
God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.
As Scripture says, God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so
that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30).
Article 8: A Single Decision of Election
Article 9: Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith
Article 10: Election Based on God’s Good Pleasure
Article 11: Election Unchangeable
Article 12: The Assurance of Election
Article 13: The Fruit of This Assurance
Article 14: Teaching Election Properly
Article 15: Reprobation
Article 16: Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation
Article 17: The Salvation of the Infants of Believers
Article 18: The Proper Attitude Toward Election and Reprobation
Rejection of the Errors by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time Been Disturbed (Part 1)
For they deceive the simple and plainly contradict Holy Scripture in its testimony that God does not only wish to save those who would believe, but that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular people to whom, rather than to others, he would within time grant faith in Christ and perseverance. As Scripture says, I have revealed your name to those whom you gave me ( John 17:6). Likewise, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48), and He chose us before the foundation of the world so that we should be holy… (Eph. 1:4).
For this is an invention of the human brain, devised apart from the Scriptures, which distorts the teaching concerning election and breaks up this golden chain of salvation: Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30).
of the law) or out of the whole order of things, the intrinsically unworthy act of faith, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation; and it involves his graciously wishing to count this as perfect obedience and to look upon it as worthy of the reward of eternal life.
For by this pernicious error the good pleasure of God and the merit of Christ are robbed of their effectiveness and people are drawn away, by unprofitable inquiries, from the truth of undeserved justification and from the simplicity of the Scriptures. It also gives the lie to these words of the apostle: God called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of works, but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim. 1:9).
For this smacks of Pelagius, and it clearly calls into question the words of the apostle: We lived at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us alive with Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with him and seated us with him in heaven in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages we might show the surpassing riches of his grace, according to his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:3-9).
This runs counter to the entire Scripture, which throughout impresses upon our ears and hearts these sayings among others: Election is not by works, but by him who calls (Rom. 9:11-12); All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48); He chose us in himself so that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16); If by grace, not by works (Rom. 11:6); In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (1 John 4:10).
By this gross error they make God changeable, destroy the comfort of the godly concerning the steadfastness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scriptures, which teach that the elect cannot be led astray (Matt. 24:24), that Christ does not lose those given to him by the Father ( John 6:39), and that those whom God predestined, called, and justified, he also glorifies (Rom. 8:30).
For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, rejoice with his disciples that their names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up against the flaming arrows of the devil’s temptations the awareness of their election, with the question Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom. 8:33).
For these words stand fast: He has mercy on whom he wishes, and he hardens whom he wishes (Rom. 9:18). And also: To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matt. 13:11). Likewise: I give glory to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, because that was your pleasure (Matt. 11:25-26).
For Moses contradicts this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and whatever is in it. But Jehovah was inclined in his affection to love your ancestors alone, and chose out their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day (Deut. 10:14-15). And also Christ: Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if those mighty works done in
you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. 11:21).
The Second Main Point of Doctrine
Article 1: The Punishment Which God’s Justice Requires
Article 2: The Satisfaction Made by Christ
Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death
Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value
Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All
Article 6: Unbelief Man’s Responsibility
Article 7: Faith God’s Gift
Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death
Article 9: The Fulfillment of God’s Plan
Rejection of the Errors (Part 2)
For this assertion is an insult to the wisdom of God the Father and to the merit of Jesus Christ, and it is contrary to Scripture. For the Savior speaks as follows: I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them ( John 10:15, 27). And Isaiah the prophet says concerning the Savior: When he shall make himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days, and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand (Isa. 53:10). Finally, this undermines the article of the creed in which we confess what we believe concerning the Church.
For this conflicts with Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the guarantee and mediator of a better—that is, a new-covenant (Heb. 7:22; 9:15), and that a will is in force only when someone has died (Heb. 9:17).
For they have too low an opinion of the death of Christ, do not at all acknowledge the foremost fruit or benefit which it brings forth, and summon back from hell the Pelagian error.
For they contradict Scripture: They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ, whom God presented as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Rom. 3:24-25). And along with the ungodly Socinus, they introduce a new and foreign justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.
For this opinion conflicts with Scripture which asserts that we are by nature children of wrath.
For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable sense, they attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.
For they contradict the apostle, who says: Christ loved me and gave himself up for me (Gal. 2:20), and likewise: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, that is, for them (Rom. 8:33-34). They also contradict the Savior, who asserts: I lay down my life for the sheep ( John 10:15), and My command is this: Love one another as I d you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends ( John 15:12-13).
The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine
Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature
Article 2: The Spread of Corruption
Article 3: Total Inability
Article 4: The Inadequacy of the Light of Nature
Article 5: The Inadequacy of the Law
Article 6: The Saving Power of the Gospel
Article 7: God’s Freedom in Revealing the Gospel
Article 8: The Serious Call of the Gospel
Article 9: Human Responsibility for Rejecting the Gospel
Article 10: Conversion as the Work of God
Article 11: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Conversion
Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work
one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.
Article 13: The Incomprehensible Way of Regeneration
Article 14: The Way God Gives Faith
Article 15: Responses to God’s Grace
his own to give but sin and falsehood? Therefore the person who receives this grace owes and gives eternal thanks to God alone; the person who does not receive it either does not care at all about these spiritual things and is satisfied with himself in his condition, or else in self-assurance foolishly boasts about having something which he lacks. Furthermore, following the example of the apostles, we are to think and to speak in the most favorable way about those who outwardly profess their faith and better their lives, for the inner chambers of the heart are unknown to us. But for others who have not yet been called, we are to pray to the God who calls things that do not exist as though they did. In no way, however, are we to pride ourselves as better than they, as though we had distinguished ourselves from them.
Article 16: Regeneration’s Effect
Article 17: God’s Use of Means in Regeneration
or those taught in the church should presume to test God by separating what he in his good pleasure has wished to be closely joined together. For grace is bestowed through admonitions, and the more readily we perform our duty, the more lustrous the benefit of God working in us usually is and the better his work advances. To him alone, both for the means and for their saving fruit and effectiveness, all glory is owed forever. Amen.
Rejection of the Errors (Part 3)
For they contradict the apostle when he says: Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death passed on to all men because all sinned (Rom. 5:12); also: The guilt followed one sin and brought condemnation (Rom. 5:16); likewise: The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
For this conflicts with the apostle’s description of the image of God in Ephesians 4:24, where he portrays the image in terms of righteousness and holiness, which definitely reside in the will.
This is a novel idea and an error and has the effect of elevating the power of free choice, contrary to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: The heart itself is deceitful above all things and wicked ( Jer. 17:9); and of the words of the apostle: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts (Eph. 2:3).
For these views are opposed to the plain testimonies of Scripture: You were dead in your transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5); The imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Besides, to hunger and thirst for deliverance from misery and for life, and to offer God the sacrifice of a broken spirit is characteristic only of the regenerate and of those called blessed (Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:6).
For Scripture, not to mention the experience of all ages, testifies that this is false: He makes known his words to Jacob, his statutes and his laws to Israel; he has done this for no other nation, and they do not know his laws (Ps. 147:19-20); In the past God let all nations go their own way (Acts 14:16); They (Paul and his companions) were kept by the Holy Spirit from speaking God’s word in Asia; and When they had come to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow them to (Acts 16:6-7).
For these views contradict the Holy Scriptures, which testify that God does infuse or pour into our hearts the new qualities of faith, obedience, and the experiencing of his love: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts ( Jer. 31:33); I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring (Isa. 44:3); The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5). They also conflict with the continuous practice of the Church, which prays with the prophet: Convert me, Lord, and I shall be converted (Jer. 31:18).
For this teaching is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole of Scripture, which recognizes besides this persuasion also another, far more effective and divine way in which the Holy Spirit acts in man’s conversion. As Ezekiel 36:26 puts it: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh….
For this does away with all effective functioning of God’s grace in our conversion and subjects the activity of Almighty God to the will of man; it is contrary to the apostles, who teach that we believe by virtue of the effective working of God’s mighty strength (Eph. 1:19), and that God fulfills the undeserved good will of his kindness and the work of faith in us with power (2 Thess. 1:11), and likewise that his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
For the early church already condemned this doctrine long ago in the Pelagians, on the basis of the words of the apostle: It does not depend on man’s willing or running but on God’s mercy (Rom. 9:16); also: Who makes you different from anyone else? and What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7); likewise: It is God who works in you to will and act according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
The Fifth Main Point of Doctrine
Article 1: The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from Sin
Article 2: The Believer’s Reaction to Sins of Weakness
Article 3: God’s Preservation of the Converted
Article 4: The Danger of True Believers’ Falling into Serious Sins
Article 5: The Effects of Such Serious Sins
Article 6: God’s Saving Intervention
Article 7: Renewal to Repentance
Article 8: The Certainty of This Preservation
Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation
Article 10: The Ground of This Assurance
Article 11: Doubts Concerning This Assurance
Article 12: This Assurance as an Incentive to Godliness
Article 13: Assurance No Inducement to Carelessness
Article 14: God’s Use of Means in Perseverance
Article 15: Contrasting Reactions to the Teaching of Perseverance
Rejection of the Errors: Concerning the Teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints (Part 4)
For Holy Scripture testifies that perseverance follows from election and is granted to the chosen by virtue of Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession: The chosen obtained it; the others were hardened (Rom. 11:7); likewise, He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not, along with him, grant us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised—who also sits at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:32-35).
For this view is obviously Pelagian; and though it intends to make men free it makes them sacrilegious. It is against the enduring consensus of evangelical teaching which takes from man all cause for boasting and ascribes the praise for this benefit only to God’s grace. It is also against the testimony of the apostle: It is God who keeps us strong to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8).
For this opinion nullifies the very grace of justification and regeneration as well as the continual preservation by Christ, contrary to the plain words of the apostle Paul: If Christ died for us while we were still sinners, we will therefore much more be saved from God’s wrath through him, since we have now been justified by his blood (Rom. 5:8-9); and contrary to the apostle John: No one who is born of God is intent on sin, because God’s seed remains in him, nor can he sin, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9); also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: I give eternal life to my sheep, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand ( John 10: 28-29).
For the same apostle John, after making mention of those who commit the sin that leads to death and forbidding prayer for them (1 John 5: 16-17), immediately adds: We know that anyone born of God does not commit sin (that is, that kind of sin), but the one who was born of God keeps himself safe, and the evil one does not touch him (v. 18).
For by this teaching the well-founded consolation of true believers in this life is taken away and the doubting of the Romanists is reintroduced into the church. Holy Scripture, however, in many places derives the assurance not from a special and extraordinary revelation but from the marks peculiar to God’s children and from God’s completely reliable promises. So especially the apostle Paul: Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39); and John: They who obey his commands remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains in us: by the Spirit he gave us (1 John 3:24).
For these people show that they do not know the effective operation of God’s grace and the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they contradict the apostle John, who asserts the opposite in plain words: Dear friends, now we are children of God, but what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he is made known, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3). Moreover, they are refuted by the examples of the saints in both the Old and the New Testament, who though assured of their perseverance and salvation yet were constant in prayer and other exercises of godliness.
For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.
For by this teaching they deny the imperishable nature of God’s seed by which we are born again, contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: Born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Pet. 1:23).
For they contradict Christ himself when he says: I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:32); and John the gospel writer when he testifies in John 17 that it was not only for the apostles, but also for all those who were to believe by their message that Christ prayed: Holy Father, preserve them in your name (v. 11); and My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you preserve them from the evil one (v. 15).
—that the teaching of the Reformed churches on predestination and on the points associated with it by its very nature and tendency draws the minds of people away from all godliness and religion, is an opiate of the flesh and the devil, and is a stronghold
of Satan where he lies in wait for all people, wounds most of them, and fatally pierces many of them with the arrows of both despair and self-assurance;
—that this teaching makes God the author of sin, unjust, a tyrant, and a hypocrite; and is nothing but a refurbished Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, and Mohammedanism;
—that this teaching makes people carnally self-assured, since it persuades them that nothing endangers the salvation of the chosen, no matter how they live, so that they may commit the most outrageous crimes with self-assurance; and that on the other hand nothing is of use to the reprobate for salvation even if they have truly performed all the works of the saints;
—that this teaching means that God predestined and created, by the bare and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or consideration of any sin, the greatest part of the world to eternal condemnation; that in the same manner in which election is the source and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and ungodliness; that many infant children of believers are snatched in their innocence from their mothers’ breasts and cruelly cast into hell so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of the church at their baptism can be of any use to them; and very many other slanderous accusations of this kind which the Reformed churches not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart.
Therefore this Synod of Dordt in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities—statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning—but on the basis of the churches’ own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.
Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.
Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.
May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH (1646)
Exceptions to the Westminster Confession of Faith
2. Chapter 21: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day— Para . 8: We believe that along with works of piety, necessity, and mercy, the command also calls us to rest our bodies on the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 16:30 ; 31:15-17). We do not believe the intention of Scripture was to exclude recreation, especially in the context of the fellowship of God’s people.
3. Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate–– Para. 3: “[The Civil Magistrate] has power to call synods, to be present at them and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.” The final phrase gives the Civil Magistrate authority over spiritual matters, which in essence is a form of Erastianism.
4. Chapter 24: Of Marriage— Para. 4: Delete the last sentence, which reads, “The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred, nearer in blood than he may of his own: nor the woman of her husband’s kindred, nearer in blood than of her own.”
5. Chapter 25: Of the Church— Para. 6: Though we believe the Pope of Rome to be anti-Christian, we do not believe him necessarily to be the Anti-Christ, Man of Lawlessness, or Beast of Revelation, etc.
6. Chapter 27: Of the Sacraments— Para. 4: Ministers of the Word should ordinarily lead in the administration of the Sacraments, yet we believe that it is permissible for the sacraments to be administered with the oversight of any elder, lawfully ordained.
6. Chapter 28: Of Baptism— Para. 3: We believe that the proper modes of baptism include sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. Para. 4: Being a church composed of both paedobaptists and those holding to believer’s baptism, we expressly allow men otherwise qualified to serve as elders, but who hold to believer’s baptism, to make an exception
to WCF XXVIII. 4, which states, “Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.”
8. Chapter 29: Of The Lord’s Supper— Para. 7: We would clarify that “worthy receivers” of the Lord’s Supper should include all baptized covenant members who are able to physically eat and drink the elements, including very young children being raised in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (provided that they are not under discipline). We deny that an artificial standard of age or mental capacity is consistent with the Biblical basis for partaking of the Supper. We defer to the heads of households in discerning the capacity of their young children to partake in the Supper.
II. Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these:
Of the Old Testament:
The Song of Songs
Of the New Testament:
The Acts of the Apostles
Paul’s Epistles to the: Romans
The Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle of James
The First and Second Epistles of Peter
The First, Second, and Third Epistles of John
The Epistle of Jude
All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.
IV. The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself ), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
VI. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to
be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in, the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the language of every people unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
X. The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decress of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.
a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for
his won glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.
II. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom,
are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.
III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternall begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, as that which would come to pass, upon such conditions.
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.
IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it can not be either increased or diminished.
V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
VI. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
VII. The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.
VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending to the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel.
II. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness after his own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill
it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
II. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
III. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.
IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first Fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God, doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had; and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptatoins of the world, and the power of Satan; whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.
VII. As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures, so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his Church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.
II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
III. They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by original generation.
IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.
III. Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.
IV. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.
V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.
VI. Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.
II. The Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin: being conceived by he power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.
III. The Lord Jesus in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure; having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell: to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.
IV. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.
V. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.
VI. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated into the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpant’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same and for ever.
VII. Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.
VIII. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdon, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God; but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.
III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
IV. When God converts a sinner and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural under sin, and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutable free to good alone, in the state of glory only.
II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.
III. Elect infants, dying in infance, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore can not be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is without warrant of the Word of God.
II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.
III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction o his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justificationI. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alons; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.
III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction o his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify the elect; and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins and rise again for their justification; nevertheless they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
V. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God’s Fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.
VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respect, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.
II. This sanctification is throughout in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
III. In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength rom the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome: and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
II. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatesoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of god himself speaking therein; and acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.
III. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed and weakened, but gets the victory; growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.
II. By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.
III. Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.
IV. As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.
V. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.
VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof, upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy: so he that scandelizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.
II. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created
in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.
III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.
IV. They, who in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate and to do more than God requires, that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.
V. We can not, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgment.
VI. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.
VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful and can not please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God.
II. This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free-will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
III. Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevelancy of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their perseverance, fall into grievous sins; ad for a time continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit; come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon theselves.
II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probably persuasion, grounded upon
a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.
III. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith but that a true believer may wait long and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.
IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience, and grievth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.
II. This law, after his Fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the first four commandments containing our duty toward God, and the other six our duty to man.
III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.
IV. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.
V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation.
VI. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin, and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works: so as a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace.
VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.
II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or beside it in matters of faith on worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is ts betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
III. They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty; which is, that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
IV. And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation; or, to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate.
II. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone: not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and since the Fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.
III. Prayer with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men; and that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Holy Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.
IV. Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.
V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.
VI. Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable to, any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth; as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself, so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.
VII. As it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath.
VIII. This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.
II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the New Testament, as well as under the Old, so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.
III. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.
IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation. It can not oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt: nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.
V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.
VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.
VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance of which he hath no promise or ability from God. In which respects, monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
II. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto; in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth, so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.
III. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.
IV. It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their obedience to him: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted; much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.
II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.
III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And, therefore, such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.
IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the Word; nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together, as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, nor the woman of her husband’s kindred nearer in blood than of her own.
V. Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.
VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to
put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.
II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ; the house and family of God, through which men are ordinarily saved and union with which is essential to their best growth and service.
III. Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.
IV. This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less, visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.
V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error: and some have so degenerated as to become apparently no Churches of Christ. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth, to worship God according to his will.
VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.
II. Saints by profession, are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necesities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upno the name of the Lord Jesus.
III. This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of the Godhead, or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm, is impious and blasphemous. Nor doth their communion one with another as saints, take away or infringe the title or property which each man hath in his goods and possessions.
II. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.
III. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which conatins, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.
IV. There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospels, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord: neither or which may be dispensed by any but a minister of the Word, lawfully ordained.
V. The sacraments of the Old Testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the New.
II. The outward element to be used in the sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.
III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.
IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.
V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
VI. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinancy the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.
VII. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered to any person.
II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.
III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.
IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.
V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.
VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.
VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.
VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and can not, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.
II. To these officers the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.
III. Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren; for deterring of others from like offenses; for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump; for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel; and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church,
if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season, and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of
II. As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers and other fit persons to consult and advise with about matters of religion; so, if magistrates be open enemies of the Church, the ministers of Christ, of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, with other fit persons, upon delegation from their churches, may meet together in such assemblies.
III. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially, to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his Word.
IV. All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both.
V. Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.
II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.
III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.
II. The end of God’s appointing this day, is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
III. As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
CONSTITUTION & ELDERS' PROTOCOLS
These protocols are meant to help the pastor, elders, deacons, various ministries, members, and others associated with Christ Church, cultivate a spirit of mutual submission as we serve one another in Christ Jesus. With this in view, these protocols are to be used as a source of wisdom to aid in service, and not as a source of bureaucratic entanglements. They should be used as an explanation of how governmental decisions have been made in the past and how they might be made in the future. However, nothing here is to be applied in a wooden or inflexible manner. These protocols describe how the elders will generally operate in certain specified situations. And this is what they will seek to do, unless obedience to the wisdom of Scripture requires otherwise.
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us
an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2). Because Christians are called to love one another, these protocols are not to be used as a tool to manipulate others or to get one’s own way. These words are meant to help us lift one another up and to enhance one another’s ministries before God.
Relation of Protocols to the Church Constitution
The Constitution of Christ Church contains our covenanted procedural commitments, which cannot be altered except by constitutional amendment, or as the Constitution itself specifies. The Christ Church Elder Protocols contain the far more specific information which we need to make particular decisions in wisdom, while at the same time containing far more detail than we want to be bound by constitutionally.
The Hierarchy of Mutual Submission
In the world of unbelief, we see a hierarchical structure based on the wielding of power. But in the Bible, God sets out a hierarchical structure for His kingdom based on who serves whom—a hierarchy of submission. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:25-27). This does not remove authority and hierarchy, but it radically changes the nature of it. Instead of “lording it over” those who serve, the biblical response, when finding out that someone serves us, is to immediately ask where and how we can render service. In the context of this kind of mutual submission, the Bible speaks of service in several ways. Christ is submissive to the Father (1 Cor. 11:3), but he is also the servant of the church (Eph 5:25). The Apostle Paul, while submissive to Christ (Phil 1:1), was also submissive in a particular kind of way to the churches he ministered to (Col. 1:25). So also, the elders of the church, while submissive to Christ, are also to serve the churches in which they minister (1 Pet. 5:1ff ). In Christian ministry, a sense of private ownership, a command mentality, and ego entangled with ministry are all forbidden.
With this taken to heart, the various ministries of Christ Church exist to serve one another. The elders serve Christ by serving the congregation and the various subordinate ministries. The various subordinate ministries serve Christ by serving the elders, one another, and the people to whom they variously minister.
To illustrate, if an extra allotment of funds were to be given to the church, a carnal mindset would say that each entity should maneuver to get what is their due. In contrast to this, we would desire that the subordinate ministries of Christ Church would strive to build one another up in the Lord, to the glory of God. In the world, we would see people battling for what they think they ought to receive. In Christ Church, we want to see ministries and individuals battling for what others ought to receive.
We repudiate egalitarianism. Christ Church operates with a hierarchy, but our hearty desire is for it to be a hierarchy established on the foundation of mutual submission.
The procedures of membership outlined below are designed solely for the purpose of maintaining scriptural and accountable local church government (Heb. 13:17), such that our affairs are conducted in decency and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). In no way is our practice of membership to be construed in such a way as to disrupt our Christian unity and fellowship with true saints who attend church elsewhere (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 3:1-4).
The elders of the church recognize, through admitting the head of the household (HOH) into such membership, that he is responsible before God for the spiritual condition of that household. The HOH therefore makes recommendations to the elders concerning his family on such matters as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Under the headship of Christ, the administration of church sacraments remains with the elders. However, in such administration, the elders are to respect the spiritual responsibility of the HOH.
Members of households who have been baptised in water, and have come to the Lord’s Table are considered by the elders of the church to be individual members of the
church.Those family members who have not professed faith in the Lord through water baptism, and have not come to the Lord’s Table, are recognized by the elders of the church to be non-communicant members of member households, but not individual members of the church.
When a child in a baptistic home comes to a personal profession of faith in the Lord, the parents should notify the elders, and confirm to them their child’s profession of faith. The elders will arrange for the baptism of the child, and he will then come to the Lord’s Table.
Though a household may have more than one individual church member, voting in church elections is done by household, one vote per household. These households will be called elector households. Grown children who have moved out of their parents home and are financially independent are also considered elector households for voting purposes.
Membership — Non-Voting
A student who attends Christ Church, but who is receiving the bulk of his financial support from home may become a student member of Christ Church. This is a non-voting membership, but otherwise obligates the student to the authority and care of the elders of Christ Church and makes his welfare the responsibility of those elders.
“Under Care”— Non-Voting
When a student moves to Moscow and is a current member in good standing with another church, he may present himself to the elders of Christ Church for the purpose of oversight by those elders. This relationship does not change the membership status of his home church. It means that the elders of Christ Church join together with the session of the home church in ministering to that student while he is away from home.
Procedure for Membership
1. Party notifies the church by card, in person, etc. that they are interested in church membership.
2. Relocation packet sent to interested party.
3. An elder visit is arranged through the church office. The elders will fill out preliminary membership sheet at the time of visit. This will be turned in to the office. The elder visit will be recorded in the database.
4. If they want to become members, the elders will vote at their next meeting whether or not to receive the household into membership. If they don’t belong to another church, they are immediately received and brought before the congregation as soon as possible.
5. If they do belong to another church,membership transfer is requested by mail.When the transfer is received, they are brought before the congregation. Confirmation of transfer of membership is sent to their former church.
6. A membership sheet is sent to the new member for signature. When it is received, it will be typed for permanent recording and kept by the church secretary.
7. All data entered in the database; email addresses put on church listings; information entered in the directory.
8. Young single men are required to visit with the session of elders, at a regularly scheduled elders’ meeting, as their membership visit.
Elder Visitation Questions
An example of the questions elders ask during membership visitation: Read: Ephesians 5:22-33
1. Are your children all baptized? Which ones are and which are not? Of those children who are baptized, how are their baptisms wearing on them?
2. Do you have any devotional time in the Word as a family, beyond grace at the dinner table?
3. (To the head of the household) How are you exercising Biblical headship in the home?
4. What concerns do you have with the church or worship services?
Lapsed Membership Protocol
If a member ceases to attend Christ Church without transferring their membership to a new church, and they are neither under church discipline nor facing immanent discipline from the church, then after they have been gone for at least six months the elders will send them a letter charging them to find a new church home where they can receive biblical accountabillity. At this point they will be released from membership. A sample letter is appended below. If the elders are satisfied that they have found a new church home, nut they have no taken up membership there (either because the new church does not maintain membership or because of any number of ecclesiastical oddities that might arise) the elders will charge them to finish the race faithfully and release them from membership. If at all possible, the elders will not release a member in the midst of discipline.
Lapsed Membership Letter
Below is an example of a letter sent to a member who has not joined with another church within 6 months of moving from Moscow.
March 5, 2002
Dear Bill and Betty,
Greetings in the Lord. Hope this finds you well. I wanted to let you know about a process we adopted here at Christ Church, but which now in any event applies to you. When folks move away, we keep them on the list of members for six months while they locate another church. When they do, we transfer them to that church. If they do not find a church, we exhort them
to do so, but we do not keep their names on our membership list after that. In such a transient community as ours, we do not want to have a membership roll that is filled with people we haven’t seen in years. Anyhow, there it is. If you would like us to transfer your membership to a church there, we would be happy to do so, and you can consider this your exhortation to do so. If I don’t hear back from you, then your name will be dropped from our rolls. Thanks much. Let me know if you have any questions.
Children of Members Protocol
All communicant members of the church in their twentieth year will receive a prompt from the elders during the first quarter of the year to be intentional about their church membership. If they have left town for college or to pursue a career, they should be encouraged to consider transferring their membership to the church where they are then worshipping. If they have moved out of their house and are now financially independent from their parents, then they should move their membership out from under their parents and begin to act as their own HOH. If they are still dependent on their parents and living at home, the men should at least consider an independent, non-voting membership. If a child of a member household has left the church and not transferred their membership, then six months after having received thier prompt, they will be removed from the Christ Church membership. If it has been made clear to the elders that the child of a member household has repudiated the faith or has unrepentantly fallen into grevious sin then the elders will begin church discipline.
Letter to Members in Their Twentieth Year
Greetings in the Lord. Our congratulations to you on reaching your 20th year. In our culture, it is not as much of a milestone as your 18th or 21st birthday, but in biblical cultures, the age of twenty was highly significant. This was the age when the Israelite men could first be mustered for war (Num. 1:45), and it was the time when someone began paying the temple tax on their own (Ex. 38:26). In short, it is a good biblical marker for clarifying your membership status with us.
For a time, we were asking the young adults who had grown up in the church to affirm the faith of their parents. We requested that they come up front at a worship service and acknowledge, before the congregation, that they were stepping into personal and individual membership. Because this led to some confusion and because of some other related issues, the elders re-examined how we define church membership. As a result, the elders have amended the Christ Church Constitution so that we now render individual membership by baptism, rather than by household. In other words, if you grew up in the church, and have been baptized, you are already an individual member of the church.
While we consider every baptized person in a member household an individual member, not all members have voting privileges in church elections. For those who grew up in the church, the distinction is quite simple: when you move out from your parents’ home and are self-supporting, you are considered your own household and, therefore, have voting privileges in church elections and are invited to attend heads-of-household meetings. If these two requirements are unmet, it does not mean that you are any less a member. All it means is that in church elections, your vote is encompassed in your parents’ household vote.
So in an effort to clarify things, both for pastoral and governmental reasons, we’d like to explain the various scenarios regarding membership, particularly for those who grew up in the church.
Full Household Membership
As mentioned before, if you’ve moved out of your parents home and you are self-supporting, you are considered a member household and have voting privileges in church elections.
If you are receiving financial support from your parents, whether you live with them or not, you are considered a non-voting member. This means that your vote is your parents’ vote.
Transfer of Membership
If you are going to be away from Moscow and attending college elsewhere, we recommend that you transfer your membership to another church in your college town. You could also transfer your membership to another church in the Moscow/Pullman area if that is where you believe the Lord is leading you.
The last option would be to do nothing for the next six months and be dropped from our rolls at the end of that time with our admonition to find a church. For obvious reasons, we do not recommend this.We hope this is helpful. It would be very helpful to us if you would take a minute and fill out the enclosed slip to inform us of your membership status. If there are some extenuating circumstances that preclude any of these options, we would be happy to work something out with you. We would be pleased to meet together with you to discuss any of these options further, or to answer any questions you might have.
For the Christ Church Session
I’m now living on my own and am self-supporting. I would like to be considered an individual household for voting purposes.
I’m still living with my parents and being supported by them.
I’d like to transfer my membership to ___________________________________.
(Please supply the name and address of the church) I’d like to be dropped from the church membership rolls.
1. Students who have grown up in the church are already members based on their baptism. Membership vows were taken by their parents on their behalf, so there is no need for them to take them again. Even when they become self-supporting and move out of their parents’ home, the only change is that they become voting members as their own household.
2. Students from out-of-town who either have no pre-existing membership, or who want to transfer their membership to Christ Church, need to meet with the elders, and upon elder approval, come forward at a chuch service and take the membership vows. This would be true for both votin and non-voting student members.
3. If a student who is already a member marries a non-member, the new couple will be asked to come forward at a church service so the non-member spouse can be publically received into individual membership. In this case the husband or wife who is already a member, is not re-taking membership vows, but affirming them. The need for an elder visit with the new household prior to coming forward will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The terms of parish elders are calculated to the closest parish heads of household meetings, and not according to the calendar date. The elders will take care to pace elections so that the session is not flooded with “freshmen” elders. The session should also guard against opening the door to political factions developing within the church.
Once ordained, the elders are charged with many responsibilities and duties, but their principal duty is to maintain their qualifications for office, particularly with regard to the management of their households.
The collective spiritual duties of the elders include ruling/shepherding (1 Pet. 5:1-2), equiping (Eph. 4:11-12), prayer/fasting (Acts 6:4; 13:1-3), teaching/preaching (1 Tim. 5:17), administering baptism and the Lord’s Table (Matt. 28: 19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26), administering church discipline and restoration (1 Cor. 5:1-5), and prayer for the healing of the sick ( Jas. 5:14-15). Their administrative duties include governing within the boundaries of the church constitution, maintaining this book of protocols, delegating specific responsibilites to the deacons, hiring and firing church staff, defining the responsibilities of church staff, and delegating responsibilites to the staff of subordinate ministries. The elders will also approve the annual budget.
The elders will also commission or license ministerial students, and oversee thecourse of their training for the eldership. Under the guidence and oversight of the board of elders, suchc commissioned individuals will have the opportunity to perform all the various ministerial functions of elders, participation in the rule of the church being the only exception.
The usual business of the elders will be conducted at their regular meetings or at special meetings called for a particular purpose. The elders will appoint one of their number to moderate the meetings of the elders, and one to record the minutes of the meetings. The moderator will normally be an elder who does not also serve as a minister in the church. The elders will be prepared to give a general report of their work at each monthly household meeting.
Individual elders are responsible for those duties delegated to them by the body of elders, and recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts, abilities, and desires. Elders with such a charge will serve willingly, and without domineering in the discharge of their assigned duties, whether pastoral or administrative (1 Peter 5:1-3).
Under Christ, the highest authority in the local church is the board of elders or presbyters in session. While all the elders are equally involved in ruling the church, some presbyters are to be recognized by the church as having been given the honor of laboring in the word and doctrine.
Our church therefore recognizes three distinct callings or offices related to the session of elders for this local church. The first is called to a pastoral ministry of the Word, and called by us a minister or pastor (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:2-4). A second is called to a didactic ministry of the Word, called by us a teacher or doctor (1 Cor. 12:28; James 3:1). A third is called to government and rule according to the Word, called by us a ruler or ruling elder (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:7,17; Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28). The names used for these callings are descriptive only, not titular or honorific (Matt. 23:8-10).
The ruling elders principally function in the government of the church. The teachers share this rule, and are also responsible for teaching and instruction from the Word. The ministers also share in the rule of the church, and in addition are principally responsible for the proclamation of the Word on the Lord’s Day, as well as the general oversight of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Each elder will have his calling and office acknowledged by the elders in session.
In all meetings of the session of presbyters, each elder has one vote. The meetings of the session will be moderated by an elder selected by the other elders. In their capacity as a session, the elders oversee all the affairs of the church, including the particular labors of teachers and ministers.
Those elders whose assigned duties preclude them from providing for their families in the ordinary way must be compensated by the church (1 Tim. 5:17-18). The elders of Christ Church ordain ministers of Word and sacrament, teachers of the Word, parish elders, and deacons. The elders commission music ministers to vocational ministry, and we commission Greyfriars and other men in training to perform any of the specified tasks that an ordained man may perform. The elders of Christ Church may authorize men (such as member of a steering committee in a church plant) to perform any of these functions on an ad hoc basis.
When examining a candidate, we should look for the following:
Time in Moscow:
It is important that the new elders step as seamlessly into the office as possible. With this in mind, I suggest that after a prospective elder candidate has been nominated by his parishs, he begin attending session meetings as part of his training course (seated in the gallery). This training course will take not less than six months.
The rational for this is that is is important that the new elder be cognizant of our culture and history. We have had men, in the past, who were elders in their former CREC church, move to Moscow and shortly placed on the CC session. These men were great men of God, but they spent a lot of time learning the ropes. This suggestion would allow the men to be part of the process and learn that process at the same time without slowing down the process.
1. That the man has recently read and agrees with the basic theological positions of the church as set out in our book of confessions.
2. That he knows, understands, and enthusiastically agrees with our particular ecclesiastical personality; i.e. our positions on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, eschatology, evangelicalism, servanthood, church government, grace everywhere and all the time, etc.
This education would be the main goal of the short training course required for the office elder as set forth in the constitution. It would include meeting witht he pastor, reading various books, and reading the church’s Book of Worship, Faith and Practice.
1. That he do well on the Elder questionnaire with his wife, that he be clearly leading his family in the faith, that he fit the qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus.
2. That he be apt to teach. He does not need to be a great teacher, but he must be competent to teach and want to teach others.
One of the sections in the elder questionnaire is:
Sound in doctrine, able to teach
1) Are you skilled in encouraging saints of differing maturity levels in the truths of Scripture (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:9)? Can you discern and refute error readily (Tit. 1:9)? Are you vigilant in the care of those allotted to your charge (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2)? Are you taking any steps to study and equip yourself to discharge your responsibilities to the flock more faithfully?
2) Do you have a solid grasp on the church’s doctrinal statement and general Bible content (Tit. 1:9) If called upon, could you defend and explain these doctrines from the Word?
The Bible teaches that this is important for the office of elder and while the elder not need to preach like Pastor Wilson, he should be willing and able to explain and defend what he thinks about God in common situations.
3. That he be a leader in other areas of life. That he is highly thought of by those he leads and works with.
4. That he understand that being an elder will take time and he will need to rearrange some priorites and duties to fulfull the role of parish elder––not simply add it to an already really busy life.
5. That being a Parish Elder means that he will want to be involved in the lives of the people in his parish in a different way than he is now.
6. That he know what his spiritual gifts are, and is using and working to improve them.
Recommended Resources for Elders
Alexander Strauch, Meetings that Work: A Guide To Effective Elders’ Meetings (Littleton, CO 80160-0569 U.S.A Lewis and Roth Publishers, 2001)
David Dickison, The Elder and His Work (Dallas, TX 75218 Presbyterian Heritage Publishers, 1990) Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call To Restore Biblical Church Leadership (Littleton, CO
80160-0569 U.S.A Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1988)
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Carlyle, PA 17013 The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983) Edmund P. Clowney, The Church: Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove IL 60515, 1995) Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship (Atlanta, GA 30365 John Knox Press, 1984)
Douglas J. Wilson, Mother Kirk: Essays and Forays in Practical Ecclesiology (Moscow, ID 83843, Canon Press, 2001).
The central ministry of Christ Church is to be a ministry of the Word, whether spoken, heard, tasted, or sung.
Lord’s Day worship is the Senior Minister’s primary resposibility, including the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day, teaching and preaching at other appropriate times, and administering the sacraments. The Senior Minister reports to and serves at the discretion of the Session of Elders. The Senior Minister supervises and provides vision for the Executive Minister. The Senior Minister is also responsible to supervise and provide vision for the Music Minister. It is understood that the Senior Minister will likely exercise an influence beyond that of the congregation of Christ Church, through writing and speaking engagements (which may take up a significant amound of his time). Thus, the Senior Minister will have his eyes on both the local church and the larger catholic church, while keeping his responsibilities for the local congregation central.
The Executive Minister is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the church and for the general oversight of all ministry activities with the exception of Sunday worship, preaching, and music ministry. The Executive Minister ensures that the various ministries of the church are working together efficiently and in coordination to meet the church’s overarching mission as well as the vision of the Senior Minister. The Executive Minister reports directly to the Senior Minister, serving in that role at the discretion of the Session of Elders. He is also advised by and evaluated by the Operations Committee in a yearly report to the Session of Elders. This report will include the Senior Minister’s evaluation of the Executive Minister’s performance. The Executive Minister serves as the Director of Greyfriars Hall. He oversees local church planting endeavours. He will help with the teaching of Greyfriars, Bible studies, will assist with the office’s counseling load, and will fill the pulpit on Sunday mornings as necessary.
The Executive Minister handles day-to-day personnel issues in the office staff (vacations, sick leave, time allocation, etc.). All staff reviews are drafted by the Executive Minister and are reviewed with staff annually by the Executive Minister. With the concurrence of the Senior Minister and Operations Committee, he will have the responsibility to recommend to the elders any changes in compensation, discipline and termination of staff.
The Executive Minister provides direction and coordination for the various ministers of the church and their respective ministries to ensure that they are working together efficiently to accomplish the mission of Christ Church. The Executive Minister will work with the Ministers of Christ Church, and their advisory committees, to establish yearly objectives and to ensure that sufficient progress towards meeting these objectives has been made. He will submit an annual performance evaluation of each of the Christ Church Ministers to the Session of Elders, which takes into account the evaluations from the various advisory committees of each individual ministry. The Executive Minister will also receive quarterly reports from the Christ Church ministers. With the concurrence of the Senior Minister and Operations Committee, he will have the responsibility to recommend to the elders any changes in compensation, discipline and termination of ministers.
Additional responsibilities will include holding staff meetings and meeting with staff and ministers to ensure proper coordination. He will assist staff to prepare an annual budget to present to the Finance Committee. In addition, he will provide oversight to all aspects of the administrative and personnel function of the church including the ongoing management of the budget and finances of the church.
The Executive Minister will ensure that Christ Church’s ministry efforts are coordinated with and not duplicating other area ministries (Logos, CCM, etc.). The Executive Minister will also work to coordinate the local church’s involvement in larger, national ministries, and to ensure that the Senior Minister’s gifts are most strategically used. However, the local ministry, and not the national scene, will be the Executive Minister’s clear priority.
Minister of Music
The minister of music will select psalms and hymns for worship on the Lord’s Day, coordinating them as much as possible with the theme of the sermon; select psalms and hymns to teach the congregation, and ensure that they are introduced at events like the psalm sings or men’s forum; he will direct the Christ Church choirs; as appropriate, he will develop instrumental resources within the congregation; start and oversee both a boys’ and girls’ choir; he is responsible to develop a culture of musical education within the community, he will develop and circulate within the congregation instructional sheet music and psalm-singing CDs; maintain, and improve a psalter/hymnal for use at Christ Church; answer to the session of Christ Church elders, with specific direction provided by the minister.
The Minister of Music shall be qualified to be an Elder.
Minister of Parish Life and Counseling
The Minister of Parish Life and Counseling is responsible to direct the counseling ministry of Christ Church as well as to direct Parish Life. Regarding the counseling ministry, the Parish Life minister will develop and maintain a ministry which trains members of the Christ Church congregation in giving biblical counsel, provides biblical coun-
sel and discipleship to members of the congregation, and offers counsel to the broader public outside of Christ Church. This ministry will work to raise up leaders within Christ Church, disciple the members of Christ Church, and look to reach out evangelistically to the community around us. The Minister of Parish Life and Counseling will also direct the Parish Life of Christ Church. He will be responsible to appoint the various leaders of the parish Bible studies, to train them for the work, to provide the material for the studies, and to follow up with the leaders to ensure the effectiveness of the study. The aim of these studies is to promote biblical discipleship and community throughout the Christ Church congregation and the Minister is responsible to ensure that these studies are reaching that end.
The Minister of Parish Life and Counseling will assist with the counseling load of Christ Church, will teach in the Greyfriars program, and will teach other Bible studies as they become necessary. He will be expected to assist with other projects which the Senior Minister or Executive Minister might direct towards him, provided his commitments to Parish Life and Counseling ministries don’t suffer as a result.
The Minister of Parish Life and Counseling reports to the Executive Minister, serving at the discretion of the Session of Elders. His work with the counseling ministry is advised and assisted by the Counseling Committee, which meets quarterly (at a minimum) to give him input and assistance. The Counseling Committee will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing and annual evaluation of the Minister.
Campus Minister/Director of Collegiate Reformed Fellowship
The Campus Minister will serve as the Director of Collegiate Reformed Fellowship (CRF) and will be responsible for the discipleship of college students within the Christ Church congregation and for preaching the Gospel to the students of the University of Idaho and Washington State University. He will also be responsible to mentor and train all CRF interns. The Campus Minister reports to the Executive Minister, serving at the discretion of the Session of Elders. He is advised and assisted by the CRF Committee, which meets quarterly (at a minimum) to give him input and assistance. The CRF Committee will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing an annual evaluation of the Minister.
Minister of Missions
The church Minister of Missions provides leadership in the development and implementation of Christ Church’s missions ministries. The Minister of Missions oversees the activities of the missions committee and is responsible for helping the missions committee minister effectively to our missionaries. The Minister of Missions, along with the missions committee, will provide and oversee opportunities for the testing and training of those in our congregation who sense they are being called to the work of missions, as well as providing and overseeing opportunities for members to be involved in support our missions works. In addition, his duties will include occasionally preaching, and teaching, and being a consultant to other CREC congregations on missions.
Staff Deacon/Director of Sabbath House
The Staff Deacon will hold the office of deacon and serve as the Director of Sabbath House. He will be responsible to direct the mercy ministries of Christ Church, focusing on pro-life ministries, outreach to international students, and mercy ministry to the poor and suffering. He will also work in conjunction with the deacon session to help coordinate and direct the mercy ministries of the diaconate. Where his mercy work is directed outside of the congregation of Christ Church, the Staff Deacon should ensure that the labor makes evangelism the number one priority. The Staff Deacon reports to the Executive Minister, serving at the discretion of the Session of Elders. He is advised and assisted by the Sabbath House Committee, which meets quarterly (at a minimum) to give him input and assistance. The Sabbath House Committee will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing an annual evaluation of the Staff Deacon.
Deacons will be elected and ordained in accordance with the Christ Church Constitution. The same basic procedures concerning resignations and removals from the office of elder will pertain to the deacons.
Under the general oversight of the elders, the deacons will manage the financial, physical, social, and benevolent functions of the church (Acts 6:2-4). Such responsibilities include preparing and administering the annual budget, building maintenance, deacon’s fund, fellowship meals, providing administrative support for subordinate ministries, and office support.
The financial responsibilities of the deacons are to plan and administer church budget, count, record and deposit weekly offering, oversee the Deacon’s Fund, and oversee the Christian Education Fund. The physical responsibilities of the deacons are preparation of the weekly communion elements, making facility arrangements for the Lord’s Day, and oversee the needs of the church office. The social responsibilities of the deacons are hospitality arrangements, church social functions (picnics, dinners, etc). The benevolent responsibilities of the deacons are oversight of Deacons’ Fund, oversight of Christian Education fund, meals ministry, and hospitality.
All usual business of the deacons will be conducted at their regular meeting, or at a special meeting called for a particular purpose. The deacons will appoint one of their number to moderate the meetings of the deacons. The deacons will be prepared to give a general report of their work at each monthly household meeting, they will provide a quarterly financial report to the church, and they will give an annual report to the elders with proposals for the upcoming year.
Individual deacons are responsible for those duties assigned to them by the deacons, as recorded in the minutes, with due regard to their gifts, abilities, and desires.
As the deacons prepare the annual budget, they are to take into account the following guidelines for spending priorities. All budget items under consideration should
be understood as falling into one of three categories. The first is that of maintenance. Unless otherwise directed by the elders, current budget items should be maintained, or incrementally increased, in order to keep pace with the growth of the church. The second category is that of priority goals, specified as such by the elders. An example of this would be bringing a missionary family up to full support. What this means is that we would like to see significant increases in funding each budgeting cycle until the goal is met. It does not mean that we cannot fund other new projects. It means that we should not do so at the expense of the priority goal. The third category is that of new projects. A new project would be the result of the elders deciding that God is leading us to manage an old ministry more effectively, or to start a new ministry. An example of the former would be the creation of a new staff position in an established subordinate ministry. An example of the latter would be the establishment of a new subordinate ministry.
When new line items are created, the deacons should consider the following criterion as they develop the budget. A new budget item should not detract from the deacons’ ability to pursue the priority goals within the foreseeable future. If the judgment of the deacons is that a new project will interfere with any of our priority goals, they should inform the elders of that fact when they submit the budget.
The deacons will follow an established procedure each Lord’s Day with the collection. This will also pertain to any special events at which a collection occurs.
Two deacons will serve each Sunday in rotation.The rotation will be designed to continually switch the pairings. While the offering box is in the back of the church, the deacons should be near enough to notice if something strange were to happen, such as someone starting to leave with the box. When the service is over, the two will together empty the collection box’s contents into the deposit bag and lock it, without a count.
One deacon will keep the key, the other the bag.
After the service, the two deacons will take the deposit bag to the church office. One will count the contents and prepare the deposit summary. The other will count the contents and prepare the deposit slip. It they travel to the office separately, one will keep the key, the other the bag. After completion, the deposit summary and deposit book will be left in the bookkeeper’s mail slot. The deposit will be taken to the bank and deposited.
The deacon who is responsible for the facilities that Christ Church uses for worship will maintain a schedule for the setup and closing of the building. He will also delineate what the specific responsibilities are for setup and closing. He will maintain a schedule for the counting of the tithes and offerings. He will act as a point of contact for any organization we rent building space when concerns arise concerning Christ Church’s use of the building. He will act as a point of contact for repairs and maintenance issues regarding the Christ Church office building.
In the benevolent functions of the church, the deacons are responsible to maintain the biblical standard of money, charity, work, and related issues (Gal. 6:10; 2 Thess. 3:4-16; Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:3-4, 8; Is. 10:1-4). The Deacons’ Fund is therefore available to members of Christ Church to meet pressing needs. When a need is made known through the elders, deacons, or members of the church, the deacons will examine the scope and urgency of the need and present it to the elders. Upon approval by the elders, the family or individual will be placed on the Deacons’ Fund until the need is met or they are removed for other reasons.
Upon being placed on the list for the Deacons’ Fund, the head of the household will be asked to submit an acceptable household budget to the deacons within thirtydays. A deacon or elder will be assigned to review the family budget and give counsel and financial advice as necessary. If able, the head of the household is required to work at a full-time job. The household will be discouraged from receiving public assistance in the form of food stamps or direct welfare payments, not including medical reimbursements or assistance.
In case of one-time needs exceeding $1000, the deacons will seek elder approval for the expenditure at the next regular elder meeting. If the need cannot be met from the Deacons’ Fund, the deacons may seek elder approval to move funds from general savings to meet the need. A household budget will not be required for one-time needs paid in full from the Deacons’ Fund. However, a budget will be requested by the deacons if the family stays on the list for the Deacons’ Fund after that particular need is met.
Families supported by the Deacons’ Fund will be visited by a deacon at least once a month to ensure their financial needs are being met. Budget counseling will be provided by the deacons when necessary. If there are spiritual matters which need attention, the deacons will notify the elders. The deacons will report regularly to the elders on the status of families remaining on the list for the Deacons’ Fund more than three months.
Indigent giving will be decided by the deacons on a case-by-case basis. As a general rule the deacons will not disburse money to indigents, but will purchase items necessary to meet basic needs in such areas as food, clothing, shelter, and travel.
This ministry is primarily concerned with ministering to the financial need of the saints at Christ Church. We will distribute funds to needy families as determined by the elders and deacons. The elders will approve families to receive funds and the administration of those funds will be deferred to the deacons. The deacon’s fund is a non-budget item and funds are distributed as the Lord provides. The deacon administering the deacon’s fund will make a monthly report at the Heads’ of Household meeting. This deacon is also in charge of the Christian Education Fund, which is a separate fund designated to help families provide Christian Education for their children. The process is similar to the administration of the deacon’s fund.
Primary responsibilities include keeping track of who is on the deacon’s fund, assigning a deacon to particular families, and appropriate follow up. This may include talking with the elders to get details on the nature of the need, contacting the head of the household to set up a meeting to go over the family budget and communicating with the church bookkeeper on current funds available. The deacon ministering to the family will arrange to get a check to the family.
Follow up may include financial counsel, review of budgets with changing circumstances and referral to the elders for spiritual counsel, if necessary. Finally, a letter taking the family off the deacon’s list will be drafted to the head of household when appropriate.
Christian Education Fund
The Christian Education Fund is a special category of the Deacons’ Fund. Monies from the fund will be available to help qualified families with expenses associated with providing a biblical education for their dependent children, whether for homeschooling, tutorial services, or a private Christian school. The fund will be supplied as an item in the annual budget and through designated gifts.
In ordinary situations, the family concerned will be asked to show its commitment to Christian education through providing as much for their children’s’ education as their budget will allow. In extraordinary situations, the entire cost may be borne by the fund. Whenever possible, payments will be made directly to the school, tutorial service, textbook supplier, etc.
Recipients of the Christian Education Fund must qualify fully for the Deacons’ Fund. In addition to Deacons’ Fund criteria, the following standards also apply. The elders must have reason to believe that, due to personal or financial constraints, the children are likely to receive non-Christian or sub-standard Christian education. The family will receive consistent pastoral counseling for the duration of support from the fund, consistent with the circumstances. The deacons will verify that the fund is not being used to pay tuition in such a way as to receive a tax write-off.
Recipients must be re-approved in July for the following school year. After a family has received support for one school year, the deacons will assign a member to review the family’s household budget and help them set up a plan to assume the entire cost of their children’s’ education.
External Financial Support
Those on staff with Christ Church, or with the various subordinate ministries
of Christ Church, should ordinarily receive their salaries from Christ Church, or from the revenue generated by the subordinate ministries in the course of their ministry. The church can have on staff those who have significant sources of support from outside
the church, but each budget cycle the deacons will be encouraged to consider raising the church’s level of support for such individuals in order eventually to make the outside sources of revenue unnecessary.
Recommended Resources for the Diaconate
Strauch Alexander, Meetings that Work: A Guide To Effective Elders’ Meetings (Littleton, CO 80160-0569 U.S.A Lewis and Roth Publishers, 2001)
Resignations or Removals
If an elder desires to resign his office or take a leave of absence, he will present a letter expressing this desire and explaining his reasons to the board of elders. The elders will notify the heads of household of their receipt of the letter at the next appropriate meeting. If the desire of the elder concerned is unchanged by the following monthly household meeting, the elders will notify the meeting whether they have accepted the resignation, or approved the leave of absence. Leaves of absence will not be granted as a form of discipline.
If an elder believes himself to be qualified to continue in office, but two or three believers hold that he is disqualified, these two or three witnesses should request a special session of the elder board where they would be allowed to present their case (1 Tim. 5:19). If the elders unanimously decide that the case has merit, that elder, depending on the gravity of the charges and his response to the correction, will be rebuked in the presence of the heads of households (1 Tim. 5:20), or will be removed from the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9), or both.
Because no two situations are alike, the following criteria need to be applied by the elders in all wisdom and humility.
An elder must be removed from the office of elder if he refuses to receive a godly rebuke from the elders in humility. He must leave if his sin is of a personal scandalous nature (e.g. adultery, addiction to pornography, dishonesty in business, lying), if a member of his household (e.g. wife or children) begin living in ongoing and unrepentant rebellion, or if sin of a scandalous nature erupts in his household whether repented of or not (such as adultery on the part of the wife, fornication by son or daughter, drunkenness or drug use on the part of his children, etc.). Under such circumstances, leaving office cannot be averted by the elder’s repentance after the fact. Qualifications for leadership and fellowship are not identical.
An elder will be rebuked and not removed if his sin is heartily repented of, and the effects of the sin do not constitute a permanent disqualification from office. Sins in this category would include things like an unnecessary quarrel with someone in the church, pronounced folly on the part of one of his children that has been corrected repented of, and
so on. In the course of his pastoral duties, the minister may find it necessary to admonish one of the elders with regard to his qualifications for office as sins come to light in the course of pastoral counseling. In addition to this, the elders hold one another accountable by means of an elder questionnaire, which each elder goes through with his wife on an annual basis. If an issue comes to light as a result of this process, the minister may hold the elder accountable without notifying the session of the particulars. Problems in this category would include unhappiness between husband and wife, difficulties in disciplining a child,
a skirmish with pornography, or problems with credit cards. But if the problem continues, the minister must notify the session.
Depending on the gravity of the sin, the lapse of time, and the condition of his life and household, an elder who resigns his office for the sort of problems listed above may be considered at a future date for the office of elder. An elder who is removed for such causes will not be considered for the office of elder in Christ Church again.
Procedures For Investigating Elders
1. The Elders should make sure they have all the facts in the case before they do anything.
2. If they need to say something to the congregation they need to say something like, “we are aware that there is an incident and we are investigating it.”
3. If the incident warrants it (after all the information has been gathered), the elders should go to the congregation and explain the situation and what, if anything is being done about it.
4. In the case of sin the session needs to determine whether the offence (especially in the case of children of elders) is the kind of thing a foolish child does or if it is what has been described as high sin. In other words is the person immature or is he living a life of open rebellion?
5. If it is determined that the sin is open rebellion the elder should resign and whatever other discipline deemed necessary by the session should commence.
6. If the sin is momentary and part of life, the elder should be rebuked and should take some time away from his ordinary duties until the problem is rectified.
7. If the problem is the grown child of an elder, the child should be rebuked, the elder should be warned and forgiveness granted.
8. In every instance the goal is fellowship not correctness. The goal is protecting the flock, not being right or in charge. The Session should not allow the event to become a power play in any sense. Everything is to be done to the glory of God.
Types of Discipline
Informal Church Discipline: Informal discipline is applied by an individual or multiple members of the church without the formal action of the elders or the church as a body. The elders will, through teaching and example, encourage the members of the congregation to discipline themselves and one another through the following practices: Self-discipline: Exercising self-control or applying self-correction; Overlooking the minor failings of others in love (1 Pet. 4:8); Informal admonishment: Encouraging one another to faithfulness and warning others in love to guard their hearts and minds against specific temptations and sins (Matt. 18:15).
Formal Church Discipline: If informal discipline does not result in satisfactory correction, then those who are aware of the need for discipline are expected to call the matter to the attention of the elders. In the case of open and scandalous sin, there is no requirement to attempt private resolution of the matter, and it should be brought to the elders without delay. Formal discipline will be pursued only after scriptural prerequisites have been satisfied and the elders have made sufficient inquiry. In extraordinary situations, the elders have the authority to take immediate disciplinary action if the honor of Christ or the purity of the church is directly threatened by a failure to act. Formal church discipline is applied through the formal action and unanimous judgment of the elders. Formal discipline generally entails the following actions under the authority and oversight of the elders:
Formal Private Admonishment: When an individual member of the church is in sin and remains unrepentant, rejecting informal admonition, one or two members of the church, appointed by the elders, will formally admonish them in private, pleading earnestly for their repentance and solemnly warning them of the dire spiritual consequences and judgment that may follow if they fail to repent (Matt. 18:16).
Formal Public Admonishment: In some cases, considering the gravity and scandalous nature of the sin, the elders may decide to admonish and warn the church member publicly so that they may be ashamed and repent (2 Thess. 3:14-15).
Suspension: In some cases, considering the gravity or scandalous character of the sin, the elders may decide to suspend the church member from the Table, from positions of responsibility or leadership, or from normal fellowship so that they may be ashamed and repent (2 Thess. 3:14-15).
Formal Trial: When all other informal and formal measures and admonishments have failed to bring about the desired repentance, or in extraordinary situations where the honor of Christ or the purity of the church demand immediate action, the elders must proceed to formally charge the church member with specific, willful, and unrepentant violations of God’s Law and try them accordingly in a fair, just, solemn and timely manner. The most severe judgment which may be brought against a church member convicted at trial is excommunicative censure, which is removal from church membership, exclusion from the Supper, and being regarded as an unbeliever.
Subjects and Nature of Discipline
Members: Those who meet the criteria of membership according to the Christ Church Constitution may be disciplined in the manner described in the Constitution. Members who are children are also subject to the discipline of the church, although the elders will seek to work with the parents as possible, taking into account the age and circumstances of the child.
Non-members: Professing Christians who attend the church regularly, but who are not members, may be rebuked, but not excommunicated.
Professing Christians under discipline by other churches: If another church has disciplined one of its members, and that person subsequently comes to our church, then the elders will decide whether to honor the discipline of the other church after due consultation with the person concerned and after all appropriate information is obtained from the disciplining church.
Formal Disciplinary Procedures
When the elders determine that formal discipline is necessary, they will initiate the biblical means to admonish or suspend the church member in a fair, just, solemn and timely manner.
The elders shall establish the specific procedures for each admonishment and/ or suspension, singly or in combination, on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. However, at minimum these procedures should
include:Formal Private Admonishment: When a church member is in sin and they remain unrepentant, and the elders have admonished them as described above, the elders will inform them that this admonishment is the first step in formal church discipline. Failure to heed this private admonishment and to repent will lead to further discipline that may conclude in trial and excommunication from Christ’s church.
Formal Public Admonishment: When the elders decide to admonish a church member publicly as described above, the elders will inform them that this admonishment is the first (or second) step in formal church discipline. Failure to heed this public admonishment and to repent will lead to further discipline that may conclude in trial and excommunication from Christ’s church.
Suspension: When the elders decide suspension is in order as described above, the elders will inform the person suspended that this admonishment is the first (or second) step in formal church discipline. Failure to heed this suspension and to repent will lead to further discipline that may conclude in trial and excommunication from Christ’s church.
Formal Trial Procedures
When the elders determine that a trial is necessary, they will endeavor to use all biblical means to conduct a fair, just, solemn and timely trial.
The elders shall establish the specific procedures for each trial on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. However, at minimum these procedures should include: 1) Informing the accused of the detailed charges against them in writing, including the time, place, and date of the trial, and giving them ample time for the preparation of a defense; 2) Informing the congregation’s heads of households at the next regularly scheduled household meeting; 3) At the trial, one of the elders will open with prayer and a solemn charge from the Word of God on the responsibilities of those present; 4) Granting the accused time to make a reasonable defense at the trial, to reply and answer all charges, and to cross examine all witnesses called to testify; 5) Taking a separate vote
by the elders on each of the charges, if there are more than one, only after all the evidence has been presented, all relevant considerations have been fairly addressed, and the elders have had time to deliberate and prayerfully consider the matter; and 6) Declaring publicly the judgment and actions of the elders regarding the accused on an appointed Lord’s day, following an explanation and exhortation appropriate for the occasion, and providing the accused with a written copy of the judgment of the elders; 7) Making an official file containing all the records pertaining to the excommunication, including pertinent correspondence, transcripts, and minutes. If he requests it, the convicted member will be given one copy of this file at the expense of the church. 8) After the trial any appeals to presbytery will be conducted in accordance with the Constitution of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches.
Sample Disciplinary Trial
If after carefully following the requirements for reconciliation and restoration spelled out in the constitution (Matthew 18:15-16) the elders shall take the matter to the church for adjudication (v. 17). The elders shall establish the specific procedures for each occurrence on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate to the circumstances and individuals involved. The following is a sample of such a procedure.
Moderator: Robert Smith
Opening, closing prayer: Samuel Jones Exhortations to witnesses and elders: Robert Smith Lead questioner of witnesses: Mark Roberts Witnesses: Various
Basic Procedure [Moderator moves us down through each point] Call to order:
Read charge: Moderator
Moderator invites representative of the Session to call witness; representative of the Session questions him
If the Defendant attends the meeting, invite him to question the witness. Moderator invites other elders to ask questions of this witness.
Moderator invites the representative of the Session to call next witness…
After elders’ witnesses, Defendant invited testify himself or to call witnesses questioning order: Defendant, representative of the Session, Defendant and representative of the Session again, elders.
After all witnesses, moderator invites elders to ask any further question of any witness.
Finally, moderator invites questions from the floor to any witness Closing prayer: Pastor
Announce that elders will deliberate, adjourn: Moderator
Excommunicative censure shall be ended when, in the unanimous opinion of the elders, the one under discipline has been restored through repentance and rededication, or conversion. A confession by the individual under discipline will be read to the congregation on the Lord’s Day, and the elders shall announce the end of the disciplinary action to the church.
The function of the operations committee is to assist the Executive Minister in implementing the broad objectives and goals of the Christ Church leadership (elder session). The committee advises the Executive Minister on matters of personnel resources, ensuring that personnel are tasked with specific objectives, and helps to periodically evaluate the staff ’s effectiveness. The opera tions committee is appointed by the elder session and will meet quarterly, at a minimum. The committee is also charged with annually evaluating the Executive Minister’s performance.
The function of the finance committee is to assist the elders in the creation of an annual budget, in monitoring the church’s financial well-being, and in helping to ensure that the church has the financial support necessary to meet its future objectives. The finance committee will be responsible to recommend any changes in compensation for the Senior Minister and the Executive Minister. The finance committee is appointed by the elder session and will meet quarterly, at a minimum. The members of the finance committee need not all be officers of Christ Church, though the numbers of elders and deacons on the committee will be equal.
The function of the CRF committee is to assist the Campus Minister in implementing the broad objectives and goals of CRF and the objectives and goals of the Christ Church elder session. The CRF committee is appointed by the elder session and will meet quarterly, at a minimum. The committee will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing an annual evaluation of the Campus Minister.
Sabbath House Committee
The function of the Sabbath House committee is to assist the Director of Sabbath House in implementing the broad objectives and goals of Sabbath House and the objectives and goals of the Christ Church elder session. The Sabbath House committee is appointed by the elder session and will meet quarterly, at a minimum. The committee will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing and annual evaluation of the Sabbath House Director.
The function of the counseling committee is to assist the Counseling Minister in implementing the broad objectives and goals of the counseling ministry and the objectives and goals of the Christ Church elder session. The counseling committee is appointed by the elder session and will meet quarterly, at a minimum. The committee will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing and annual evaluation of the Minister.
Ministers are authorized to form, with the approval of the Executive Minister, Ministry Teams (such as Outreach, Parish Life, etc.) to support and advance various ministry objectives. The purpose of a ministry team will be to help the minister think creatively about how to reach a certain ministry objective, to create support for the ministry objective within the congregation, and to help identify and begin engaging future leaders within the congregation. Appointment to and removal from a Ministry team will be done with the agreement of the Executive Minister and the appropriate minster. Ministry teams will not have voting power or say over budgetary concerns.
The elders may delegate the executive authority over a subordinate ministry to either an individual director or to a committee, which will oversee the work of a director. Ministries, which are focused locally and therefore need to be coordinated with the other local ministries of Christ Church (CRF, Sabbath House, Counseling Ministry), will be led by a director who reports to the Executive Minister to ensure coordination of efforts within the Christ Church ministries. The directors will be advised and assisted in their work by a committee attached to that ministry. Members of the ministry committees will be appointed and removed by a two thirds majority vote of the elder session. The majority of the members of the committees must be members of Christ Church. The ministry committees will meet quarterly (at a minimum) to give the director input and assistance. The ministry committees will also assist the Executive Minister in preparing an annual evaluation of the respective ministers.
Ministries which have a focus beyond Christ Church’s immediate surroundings will be led by a director serving under the authority of a ministry board (Credenda Ministries). Members of this board will be appointed and removed by a unanimous majority of the Christ Church elders. The majority of the members of the boards must be members of Christ Church. The director of an external ministry board will be appointed and removed by a two thirds majority vote of the elder session. External ministry boards will report to the Christ Church elder session quarterly.
For tax reporting purposes, some subordinate ministries may be indistinguishable from Christ Church, some may appear as 501c3 wholly owned subsidiaries, and others may be formed as integrated auxiliaries. In any case, each of these ministries is a ministry of Christ Church, ultimately answerable to the Christ Church elder session. If separation of a subordinate ministry from the oversight of Christ Church becomes necessary, that action may be authorized by a unanimous vote of the elders. All such formal actions concerning subordinate ministries must be entered in the minutes of the elders meetings in order to constitute an action by the session. If a subordinate ministry of Christ Church is closed down its financial holdings and its financial obligations will be transferred to the Christ Church general fund and may be reallocated at the pleasure of the Christ Church
elders. Support for these ministries may be included in the Christ Church general budget. However, subordinate ministries may also raise their own support through one time designated giving, monthly supporters, and their own proceeds. This budget will be used to fund further ministry initiatives, ministry expenses not already covered by Christ Church, and additional payroll expenses. The directors of the internal subordinate ministries, advised by their respective committees, will be required to create their own annual budget, separate from the annual Christ Church budget. This budget will be submitted to the Executive Minister for approval. External ministries will not submit their budgets to the Executive Minister for approval, but rather to their own boards.
The relationship between New Saint Andrews College and the Christ Church board of elders, in their roles as the college’s trustors, is to be governed by the trust documents.
Collegiate Reformed Fellowship
CRF exists to glorify God and expand His kingdom by proclaiming the Christian worldview to the students and faculty at the University of Idaho and Washington State University. We seek to build God’s kingdom by teaching and exhorting young men and women to serve, to witness, to stand fast and to mature in their Christian Faith.
Greyfriars’ Hall is the ministerial training school of Christ Church. Greyfriars’ is a rigorous and comprehensive program of training for young men who are called to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Greyfriars’ Hall is named after the Greyfriars church in Scotland which was the place where the Solemn League and Covenant was first subscribed, and is a name that is important to everyone who loves the work of reformation.
An individual who performs well academically may be dropped from the course of study at any time by the elders of Christ Church if it becomes apparent that he is in other ways unfit for the work of the ministry.
If in the course of the student’s work it becomes apparent that he has already mastered some of the material to be covered, the pastor or elder overseeing his work has the authority to modify his studies accordingly.
The elders may, in certain exceptional situations, authorize individuals who are ministering in churches outside Moscow to work with Greyfriars Hall.
Admissions, Calling, and Cost
In order that those providing this training not be overburdened, the elders of Christ Church will ensure that the number of those studying remain small (8 students per year). This also ensures that the individual students will receive a fair amount of personal attention and instruction.
In order to study at Greyfriars’, the following should be sent to the elders of Christ Church, PO Box 8741, Moscow, Idaho, 83843. 1) Testimony of Christian experience and membership in a sound Christian church. 2) A letter of recommendation from a board of elders, specifying that there is good reason to believe the individual may be called to the Christian ministry of preaching or teaching the Word. 3) A letter of personal intent and calling. 4) A transcript of any university or graduate school work, with any work in classical or New Testament Greek specially noted. Competence in Greek is a prerequisite for study at Greyfriars. If preliminary or parallel study in Greek is necessary, arrangements would need to be made with Greyfriars Hall (no charge) or separate arrangements can be made with New St. Andrews College (www.newstandrews.org), a sister ministry of Christ Church, or the University of Idaho. 5) And a recent photo of the applicant and hisfamily. Because the training being undertaken is within the context of the church, for the benefit of the church, the costs for this education should be borne by the church. With this in mind Greyfriars Hall does not charge students any tuition fees. The students, however, are responsible for acquiring their own books and other study materials. Other financial arrangements (housing, food, insurance, automobile, etc.) for their families are also the responsibility of the individual Greyfriar Hall student.
Greyfriars’ Hall Tracks
Greyfriars’ Hall currently has two different tracks of study:
There will be approximately two years of study with four colloquia a year (included in this is approximately 15,000 pages of reading, lectures, and practical assignments specific to each colloquium), followed by an internship under the oversight of a board of elders in a local church. No degree will be awarded, but those who successfully complete the training will be given a letter from Greyfriars’ Hall commending them to the work of Christian ministry.
The Apologetics/Evangelism track is for those students who are involved in student ministry or who would like to broaden their understanding and application of how to bring others to Christ in their work environments and in their daily lives. There will be approximately one year of study with one colloquium during that year (included in this is approximately 15,000 pages of reading, lectures, and practical assignments specific to the colloquium).
Sister ministries and churches are those with whom we have close constitutional or associational ties.
New St. Andrews College
“In the fullness of time, during the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus Christ was born in Palestine. He ministered to a people steeped in the Hebrew traditions, who spoke Greek and embraced Greek thought-forms, and who lived under the dominion of Rome and its law. He was crucified on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem, David’s city, and He rose on the third day according to the Hebrew Scriptures. The Christian faith was established in this setting, and
in the providence of God, it grew to maturity in the West. For this reason, New St. Andrews College seeks to teach and emphasize the languages, history, and culture of classical antiquity.
The world of classical antiquity was the world into which the Gospel was introduced. This world was transformed by the Gospel and grew into what we call Western Civilization. That Gospel is part of our culture’s heritage, along with the Western forms of rebellion that vainly strive against it. This cultural war—between what Augustine described as the City of God and the City of Man—continues down to our day. For this reason, New St. Andrews College seeks to teach and emphasize the history, philosophy and literature of Western Civili-
zation. Jesus Christ is Lord over this cultural war; He is Lord of the West, and Lord of the whole world (Matt. 28:18). He is the Word of God, the One in whom dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Every thought, including every academic thought, must be taken captive to Him (2 Cor. 10:5). For this reason, New St. Andrews College seeks to teach and emphasize, above all else, a right understanding of Christ’s lordship over every area of human endeavor.
This understanding demands careful instruction in discerning the antithesis between truth and falsehood, between the City of God and the City of Man. Cultivating such discernment calls for focused hard work. It requires exposure to influential ideas, watershed arguments, and primary texts in history, philosophy, literature, and especially theology. For this reason, New St. Andrews College employs a rigorous tutorial system centered around reading and student-instructor interaction with the readings.”
Policy on Incorporation
As a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christ Church is not constituted or incorporated by anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the only head of the church. Christ Church maintains its status as an unincorporated and unregistered church as a matter of conscience. As a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christ Church accepts various burdens and entanglements of civil regulation and taxation under protest. Christ Church has constituted herself, under the authority and headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, as an association of natural persons, and recognized as such by the laws of the State of Idaho.
Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches
The Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches began as a formalization of the relationship which existed between three churches, Christ Church (formerly Community Evangelical Fellowship) in Moscow, Idaho; Trinity Church (formerly Wenatchee Evangelical Fellowship) in Wenatchee, Washington; and Eastside Evangelical Fellowship in Bellevue, Washington. In 1997, the relationship between the churches expanded into the written Constitution of the CREC so that it could be more easily defined and expanded further with other like-minded churches. Since then, the Communion has grown significantly as new member churches have been received.
The CREC was established in recognition of the accountability that exists between faithful churches and provides a means of convening to discuss issues which may be broader than a single local church. It also provides a way for a single church to seek the counsel or wisdom of the broader church and facilitates fellowship amongst the Saints.
A Vision for Foreign Missions and the Church
Relevant Biblical Foundation for Missions
The Triune God has commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations to His glory (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; Philippians 2:6-11). To the church alone is given the ministry of reconciliation and the keys of the kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Matthew 16:18-19; 18:15-18). The primary work of missions, therefore, has been given to the church alone. It to be done through the preaching of the gospel, the teaching of the whole counsel of God, and the baptizing of disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). The work of missions also includes deeds of mercy and related diaconal work, though always in conjunction with the ministry of the word and sacrament (Acts 3; 14:8-18). In addition, the work of missions is supported through the prayer and financial giving of the church (Luke 10:2; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Corinthians 9:14; 2 Corinthians 11:8-9; Philippians 4:10-20). As an example, Saul and Barnabas were commissioned by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:2-3), to whom they were primarily accountable (Acts 14:26-28), though they also reported to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:4; 21:17-19).
With this in mind we believe that: The church is the proper and primary agent of missions; The primary work of missions should only be conducted by one who has been commissioned as an officer in the church (‘the missionary’); the missionary should be commissioned by and accountable to a single, local church (‘the calling church’); the missionary may also report to sister churches who support the missionary financially and through prayer (‘supporting churches’); and recognizing that in God’s providence para-church organizations have developed certain areas of expertise, tools, and infrastructure, the church may work with such organizations to the extent that they acknowledge the true authority of the church.
Given the biblical precedent, we desire to maintain the local church as the calling, sending, and administrating body for the work of missions. At the same time, we desire to do this in cooperation with sister churches who wish to assist in the support of a given missionary through prayer and financial gifts, as well as para-church organizations.
Model for the Relationship Between the Calling Church and Supporting Churches
The responsibilities of the Calling Church shall be to commission, send out, counsel, pray for, and encourage the missionary; to provide for the full financial support for the missionary through the giving of both the calling church and supporting churches; and form a foreign missions committee (see below) composed of church officers.
The responsibilities of the Supporting Churches shall be: to pray for and encourage the missionary; to send financial support to the missionary through the calling church; and to send officers as representatives to a subcommittee of the calling church’s foreign missions committee on issues related to any missionary they support through the calling church
The responsibilities of the foreign missions committee shall be to coordinate between the missionary and the session of the calling church; advise the session of the calling church on how best to support the mission work; to regularly communicate with the missionary when he is on the mission field; and any other responsibilities to be identified later.
Note: Derived from ‘The Joint Venture Model’ described in Minutes of the Fourth Synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America of June 5-7, 2001, Report 4: Biblical and Confessional View of Missions
Mission Church Protocols
We recognize that Christ’s charge to disciple the nations is a commission given to His Church. This charge entails forming local communions, communions that covenant with the whole body of Christ, so identified by the faithful ministry of the word and of the sacraments. Christ Church is committed to obeying this charge by planting mission churches.
A Christ Church mission is a local communion that is accountable directly to the Session of Christ Church, and for which the Session of Christ Church is spiritually responsible.
The Session of Christ Church will agree to oversee or sponsor a Mission Church after evaluating whether (a) a need exists for such a mission, (b) the potential mission displays a likelihood of growing into a duly-constituted church, (c) Christ Church is the most appropriate overseer of the potential mission, and (d) Christ Church is able to extend oversight without compromising its current responsibilities.
Mission status must always be regarded as temporary in nature. Mission status dissolves when the Mission Church is admitted into a presbytery (ordinarily, the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches). Mission status may also be dissolved when, in the judgment of the session of Christ Church, the purity and peace of the Church catholic is best served by such dissolution.
The Christ Church Session will appoint a session pro tempore to be the governing body of the Mission Church. This pro tem session will include at least three elders. Any elder who has been installed in the Mission Church serves on the pro tem Session, along with at least one elder of Christ Church. This pro tempore session is a fully functioning session; its decisions are subject to review by the Session of Christ Church.
When forming the pro tem Session, it may be appropriate for the Christ Church Session to ordain an elder to serve locally. In doing so, the Christ Church Session will duly examine a candidate and agree unanimously to ordain and/or install him. When carrying out such an ordination, the Christ Church Session acts on behalf of both the Session and households of the forming Mission Church. Thus, the new elder serves not on the Christ Church Session, but on the Session of the Mission Church.
If there is not an ordained minister to serve locally in the Mission Church, then the Christ Church Session will license someone, normally an elder or a ministerial candidate, to serve in that capacity.
If there are no elders serving locally in the Mission Church, or just one elder, then the Mission Church’s pro tempore Session will appoint a Steering Committee of at least two men to look after the day-to-day, local operations of the Mission Church. One member of the Steering Committee will serve as the local liaison to the pro tempore Session.
Pro tempore Session will meet regularly. Minutes will be kept and approved, and approved minutes will be circulated in a timely manner to the Session of Christ Church.
The pro tempore Session shall attend to the following matters: prayer, bringing in new members, approval of the distribution of benevolences, review of pastoral concerns, pulpit supply, oversight of bible studies and other teaching forums, approval of budget and administration of funds, facilities concerns, oversight of election procedures, and the like.
The Session of Christ Church retains direct oversight over formal discipline, the calling of church officers, and matters that are brought before it by the pro tempore Session.
The Constitution and Statement of Faith of Christ Church will be the governing
documents of the Mission Church. If the situation warrants, this requirement may be set aside by unanimous approval of both the Session of Christ Church and the pro tempore Session of the Mission Church.
The Mission Church will contribute to Christ Church’s “Mission Church Fund,” which is administrated as follows: Missions of Christ Church will contribute $100/month to a Mission Fund. To prevent shortfalls in the Mission Church Fund, Christ Church will contribute to the fund as needed to keep it out of the red. Gifts may be designated to the Mission Church Fund.
The fund will cover travel expenses and honoraria once each year for visits by an elder
of Christ Church to the Mission. The fund will reimburse a designated elder of Christ Church at a rate of $20.00 per hour to serve as liaison between Christ Church’s session and the various Mission Churches of Christ Church.
The process of bringing Mission Churches to maturity (cf. Titus 1:5) is designed to satisfy the following criteria: congregational voice is acknowledged in elections (Acts 14:23—Gk.), electors will be determined prior to naming a candidate for office, a procedure for settling disagreements is provided, ordination and installation of a Mission Church’s initial officers is overseen.
The procedure for installation of initial church members (Procedural particulars of this process will be determined by the pro tem session of the Mission Church on a case-by-case basis.) will normally involve the following elements: circulate the Christ Church Constitution among those interested in the Mission Church, oversee pastoral instruction about church membership and about the Christ Church Constitution and Confession
of Faith, and the CREC, visit the households of prospective members (may be done via telephone if no elders are local), and to report back to the pro tem session, vote in session to receive particular households into membership, and initiate the membership transfer process wherever applicable, administer membership vows in a Lord’s Day service, and maintain a record of membership.
If (and only if) membership has not yet been established, then the Christ Church session may ordain and install an elder, acting in the stead of both the Session and the electors of that Mission Church. This may be an appropriate action when forming a pro tem Session (see above). If the Mission Church has an established electorate, the appropriate procedure for elections is as follows: The pro tem Session will oversee pastoral instruction about church leadership, the Christ Church Confession and Constitution, and the CREC. The pro tem Session will prepare the ballot for and oversee the election of elders following the procedure outlined in the Christ Church Constitution, with this understanding: “elders” refers to the Christ Church elders; “church” refers to the electors of the Mission Church. Thus, negative votes must be set aside by both the pro tem Session and the Christ Church session.
The Christ Church Session will oversee the ordination and installation of an elected officer.
The Mission Church should avoid doing ministry of the Word by audiocassette. In lieu of pulpit supply, some unconstituted, grass-roots church starts have used Christ Church sermon tapes, or other taped sermons, in lieu of preaching on the Lord’s Day. We strongly discourage this practice generally, and would not permit it in one of our prospective Mission Churches. The primary reason for this lies in the fact that an audiocassette is impersonal. It cannot perform anything close to the pastoral functions described in Scripture (e.g., Ps. 23, Is. 40:10-11, Ezek. 34, Luke 15:1-7, John 10). An audiocassette cannot chase after one straying sheep out of a hundred, nor can it extend comfort by means of rod or staff. Due to limitations that are inherent to the medium, a taped message from a faraway pulpit conveys little more than one-size-fits-all truisms. Unlike live preaching, a faraway-taped sermon does not credibly represent God’s Word in the gathering’s midst. Real live preaching, by contrast, is not the sort of thing that could come through headphones while jogging, or dashboard speakers during the morning commute. For those who lack resources for pulpit supply, it would be far better that one of your men come prepared to read a printed sermon. Or perhaps a mature man could re-preach the basic content of a sermon prepared by a qualified pastor, perhaps even using a sermon tape as the main source of his preparation. If this is too much, a lengthy passage of Scripture could be read aloud. Any of these options preserve the humanity that is essential to the ministry of the Word. It does so by preserving the important distinction between lecturing and preaching, even when the delivery might be of modest quality.This distinction between a lecture and a sermon is one that our culture wars against, and worship in our churches has suffered as a result. The fact some saints—who are otherwise sound—would even consider using taped (or televised) sermons in worship is evidence of widespread compromise in the ministry of the Word in churches today. What next…downloadable cybersacraments for private desktop worship? We do believe that Christ Church sermon tapes, and many others, are biblically sound. But they should be heard in morning commutes or through jogging headphones.
Mission Churches should avoid observing the Sacraments without proper polity. Some unconstituted, grass-roots church starts administer the bread and cup in their meetings. We strongly discourage this practice, and would not allow it in one of our prospective Mission Churches. We agree with most reformed churches when they require an ordained officer, or at least a formally approved licensee, to administer sacraments. One important reason for this is to personally represent the Church’s disciplinary authority under Christ. In grass-roots situations, since no church government is in place, nor even a constituted membership, there is no means of exercising church discipline. Thus, in the ministry of the sacraments, no real threat of discipline is represented. The table is unguarded. But judgment and chastisement are essential aspects of the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27ff.). The integrity of His table is guarded by covenant sanctions, which unconstituted church plants are unable to represent. This is true also of baptism, cf. Hebrews 10.
E-Mail Distribution Policy
With regard to students needing rides, general requests will be forwarded, such
as “I need a ride to Lewiston in case anyone may be going there. I’m happy to help cover gas expenses.” During college breaks, students should plan ahead at least three weeks to secure rides to and from the airport. These can be sent out over the email, but no last minute requests will be forwarded. No direct requests will be sent to the Spokane area folks via e-mail asking them to put you up for the night. Students should contact the families themselves to make arrangements.
With regard to students and housing, the church won’t announce a roommate situation unless the student making the request is a member in good standing in Christ Church. If this is the case, we are happy to email your request.
The church office maintains two lists—one for community life, prayer requests, etc. and the other for business opportunities, which will be identified in the subject line as some form of “kirker business.”
Advertising items for sale: If someone in the church is connected (i.e. my neighbor is selling their home…) and would like to advertise, then it’s ok. We won’t accept these requests directly from people outside the church.
This same policy goes for Logos-related things. If someone in the church is connected to the request, we’ll forward it out.
Hopefully, these guidelines will help keep our large amount of e-mail down to a manageable size. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call the office.
Students needing rides
General Requests such, as “I need a ride to Lewiston in case anyone may be going there. I’m happy to help cover gas expenses” will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
During college breaks: Students should plan ahead at least three weeks to secure rides to and from the airport. These can be sent out over the email, but no last minute requests will be forwarded.
No direct requests will be sent to the Spokane area folks via e-mail asking them to put you up for the night. Students should contact the families themselves to make arrangements.
Students and housing
The church won’t announce a roommate situation unless the student making the request is a member in good standing in Christ Church. If this is the case, we are happy to email your request.
Christ Church owns one building, Anselm House.
Statement on Pastoral Confidentiality
The goal of all those who live in Christ is to bring glory and honor to God in everything they do. To this end the Bible tells us we ought to seek out counsel for things we would plan to do and for things we have already done. Sometimes these involve sin and sometimes they don’t. In the case of sin, restoration and training is needed so that fellowship can continue and God’s glory maintained. In those cases where there is no sin simple wisdom is often all that is needed.
The Bible tells us that under ordinary circumstances a confidence is to be kept and secrets kept secret (Pro. 11:13). But there are times when wisdom requires a pastor or elder to reveal a thing, sometimes to illumine sin, sometimes to seek further help (Pro. 11:14; Eph. 5:11).
For example, there are times when a person comes with a circumstance that the elder has never heard of before and he does not have the experience, wisdom, or understanding to deal with it. With certain confidences in mind it would be appropriate for the elder to confide in another pastor or elder, or if the situation warrants it, some other expert in whatever the situation calls for (Doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.).
Occasionally, someone will come to the pastor for counsel and the situation can only be resolved by conferring with that person’s family members, friends, or home pastor (if they come from another church). The pastoral counselor needs to be able, if wisdom requires it, to contact these people in order to help the person, mend broken relationships, and restore fellowship.
Sin is an ugly thing and sometimes people do things (or plan to do things) that are revealed in counseling. Sometimes these disclosures show that harm to the counselee or to others has either already occurred or may occur. In these situations Pastors are required to do whatever the wisdom that God provides suggests in helping to work out the difficulty. And so there will be times when law enforcement officials, medical people, or others will need to be notified of particular problems.
The nature of sin means that there will be times when people refuse to repent and turn from their sin to the living God. In these cases the Bible requires the church to do whatever it takes, within their ecclesiastical purview, to bring the sinner to repentance. This might only require confrontation by the pastor, but sometimes it requires that the pastor take the problem to the elders who confront the offender and sometimes it requires that they take the sinner and the sin to the whole congregation.
There may be other situations that require the revealing of a confidence, but in these cases wisdom is to be our guide. The elders of Christ Church reserve the right to disclose or conceal confidences based on godly wisdom which will vary from situation to situation for the glory of God and the peace of the church. We also reserve the right to refuse to disclose confidences even though requested (or demanded) by any human institution. We never promise absolute confidentiality but we are committed, under Scripture to be discrete.
Christ Church Adoption Fund Policy
The goal of the Christ Church Adoption Fund is to assist Christ Church members who are interested in adopting children. The fund is administered by the Christ Church deacons under the direction of the elders. The fund is made up of contributions designated specifically for this purpose.
For the purpose of this policy, we recognize two types of adoptions, adoptions designed primarily to bless a family with children and adoptions designed primarily to rescue homeless children. While both categories of adoptions are consistent with the teachings of Scripture, the Church is specifically charged to provide for the poor and fatherless ( James 1:27, Ps 82:3-4, Is 58:7-10). Therefore, this policy places greater emphasis on financial assistance for orphan rescue adoptions, while recognizing the importance and value of both types of adoptions.
For adoptions aimed at blessing a family with children, distributions from the fund are not intended to pay for the entire adoption process. Under normal circumstances, the maximum distribution per family per adoption is $1,000. To apply for Christ Church Adoption Funds, the adopting family must submit a request to the Christ Church deacons along with a letter of recommendation from the elders. The request should contain details about the adoption including estimated costs. Distributions from the Adoption Fund are made at the discretion of the Christ Church elders and deacons and are contingent upon available funds.
For adoptions aimed at rescuing orphans, an added emphasis of the adoption fund is to provide an opportunity for Christ Church members to participate more fully in the financial requirements of these adoptions. Therefore, if funds are available, the maximum distribution per family for these adoptions would be equal to the direct costs associated with the adoption. To apply for these funds, the adopting family must first be approved by the Christ Church elders and then must submit a request to the deacons. The request should contain details about the adoption including estimated costs. Distributions from the Adoption Fund are made at the discretion of the elders and deacons and are contingent upon available funds.
Christ Church members desiring to support either type of adoption may contribute to the Christ Church Adoption Fund. Gifts may be marked for a specific adoption; however, contributions are made with the understanding that the Christ Church elders and deacons have complete control over the administration and use of the funds.
Manners and Life Together
Business with Brothers
If you decide to stop using the services of a brother it may be because of ordinary reasons (price, distance, etc.), slipshod or substandard workmanship, or unethical work (biblically defined). For the first, no explanation is necessary. Just go your way. If the person asks, tell them. For the second, you must tell your brother about your concerns. If you have done so, it is legitimate to express those concerns to others, if they seek or need your recommendation on this brother’s work. For the third, you must follow the pattern given in Matthew 18.
Being a member of the same church does not entitle you to free consulting services. When you ask questions of a brother in business, it should only be in order to determine whether or not you need his services, and not an attempt to get his services without paying for them. Avoid making anyone “set up shop” at church or fellowship events.
At a fellowship event, you can ask questions about “when would be a good time to call about thus and such?” But even here, be sensitive. When you call, after you have asked a few questions about whether or not the services are necessary, you are on the threshold of imposing on a brother. This means that after the first few minutes, you should expect the meter to be running (and should say so). If the person you are talking to does not charge you, that is his business. But you should expect a bill as soon as you get to the point of using his expertise.
Remember some professions are more vulnerable to this kind of imposition than others. Low risk: MRI technicians, librarians. Medium risk: teachers, guys with tools. High risk: medical doctors, auto mechanics, veterinarians, realtors.
Beware of the egalitarianism which says that it is all right to do this to what you consider “high income” professions. Don’t assume that someone “doesn’t mind” because you have been doing this to him for years. He just has better manners than you do.
Wives, do not do an end run around your husband. If he has said that you are not going to spend any money on whatever it is, you should not try to get the service without spending any money. This just turns one sin into two.
In all things, apply the golden rule. Ask yourself what would be a temptation to you in your profession, and then don’t do that to other people in theirs. And we encourage you doing business with kirkers and fellow Christians in the community, everything else being equal.
Moving to Moscow
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We understand that you are contemplating a move to the Moscow area. This letter comes to you from the elders of Christ Church, together with a packet of information which should help you in your decision-making process.
If the Lord leads you to come, we want to welcome you to our community, and encourage you in every way that we can. But at the same time, there are several issues we want to urge you to think through before you move.
First, we strongly encourage you to have solid prospects for work lined up. Please keep in mind the fact that we live in a small town, and have a somewhat rural economy. In asking you to consider this, we do not mean that you must have a job, but we do believe that a man has a duty to provide for his household, and this duty is not altered by the difficulties associated with a move. In our church we want to watch out for one another, but believe the primary duty in this regard remains within the household. Please be prudent and wise with regard to these responsibilities as you consider a move.
Secondly, and this is very important, we want you to realize that no one out here walks on water. For many of you, your knowledge of our area has been gleaned from our publications, and under such circumstances it is sometimes possible to find yourself with a set of unrealistic expectations. Moscow may seem better in print than it actually is. While we believe that God is blessing our community of believers, we do not want any of you to uproot your families and arrive here, only to discover, to your chagrin, that we are a bunch of schmoes.
Related to this, we want to ask you to do everything in your power to leave your current situation peaceably. Some move here because of difficult church situations, etc. We realize that you cannot change other people, but we can encourage you to exhibit the wisdom that comes from above. Please be peaceable, loving, kind, free from bitterness. No matter what has happened to you “there,” if you are bent out of shape over it, that is something you will bring with you. Please remember, wherever you go, there you are.
Third, we do believe that we are living in unsettled times — culturally, economically, politically, and so forth. In such unsettled times, men and women are often motivated to act impulsively. Because of this, and because we live in northern Idaho where many of the discontented of Judah have already begun to gather, and because of increasing concerns over various cultural and political issues, we have an additional responsibility to state our convictions on this general subject. Allow us to quote from a resolution adopted by our elders in session, so that you know whether you agree with our general approach to the distress of the times.
We reject “any form of racism when biblically defined, conspiracy theories which assume that God is not the sovereign of all history, any unscriptural taking up arms against the authorities which God has established, or any incitement to do so, any refusal to pay taxes based upon legal or historical quibblings, and so forth. Many of these positions which we have in mind may contain a measure of the truth, which we acknowledge, contrary to the established wisdom. But our concern is that these truths are maintained in an unbiblical context and applied in an unbiblical manner. The duty of Christians today is to recover a thorough understanding of the gospel, repent of their sins, gather in churches, hear the Word preached, take the Lord’s Supper, and cry out for deliverance.”
We know that God may in fact be leading you here. Many others have already come, and have been a wonderful addition to our community. If that comes about, we will rejoice to get to know you as well. And if this letter helps to spare you a costly mistake, we are glad for that also.
To The Discontented
The elders of Christ Church believe we live in just such a time. Because of this, and because we live in northern Idaho where many of the discontented of Judah have begun to gather, we have an additional responsibility to state our convictions on this general subject. We do have a responsibility to teach and instruct those who have adopted such views, but the fact that we enter into fellowship with such individuals means in no way that we have embraced or endorse those views. The purpose of our relationship is to discharge one of the central responsibilities of elders in a Christian church, i.e. to minister to the saints in their struggle against sin. Specifically, such sins include any form of racism when biblically defined, conspiracy theories which assume that God is not the sovereign of all history, any unscriptural taking up arms against the authorities which God has established, or any incitement to do so, any refusal to pay taxes based upon legal or historical quibblings, and so forth. Many of these positions which we have in mind may contain a measure of the truth, which we acknowledge, contrary to the established wisdom. But our concern is that these truths are maintained in an unbiblical context and applied in an unbiblical manner. The duty of Christians today is to recover a thorough understanding of the gospel, repent of their sins, gather in churches, hear the Word preached, take the Lord’s Supper, and cry out for deliverance.
This is entered in our minutes as a testimony and witness should it ever become necessary.
Protocol on Courtship/Engagement Disputes
In the rare cases where two individuals in good standing with the church seek permission for engagement/marriage but are not answered or are refused permission without good grounds by one or both sets of parents, the couple can appeal to the elders for protection against church discipline if they nonetheless choose to go ahead and pursue marriage in such circumstances. The elders recognize that courtship and engagement situations often involve tough judgment calls by the parents, often including heartbreak based on those decisions, and we want to support parents in the normal difficulties these situations raise, but our focus here is on setting protections in the extreme cases.
In those odd cases where the couple appeals to the elders for protection from negative discipline, the couple bears the burden of proof as to why the elders should allow this, and their reasons should not be an occasion for disrespect against the parents. The elders will investigate the situation, counseling any and all as possible. If the elders discover no good grounds to hinder the relationship from proceeding toward marriage, then the elders can refuse to bring disciplinary action against the couple seeking marriage, in effect, granting them permission to be married without the threat of negative ecclesiastical discipline.
Liturgy of Oath Taking
A person taking an oath calls on God as a witness who will confirm the truth of what he claims. Oaths also involve an element of self-malediction, in that the person taking an oath calls on God to curse him if he does not tell the truth. Given the gravity of oaths, no one should take them unthinkingly or lightly. Jesus said, “But I say to you, make no oath at all . . . But let your statement be ‘Yes, yes’ or “No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil” (Matthew 5:34, 37). Yet, Jesus Himself took an oath before the high priest (Matthew 26:63-64), and Paul invokes God as witness at several points in his letters (Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20). Thus, Scripture permits the use of oaths, but warns against their misuse.
Oaths should be employed particularly in those situations where the required two or three witnesses are not available. Scripture teaches that “men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute” (Hebrews 6:16). Under the law, if a borrowed animal died while under the care of the borrower, both the owner and the borrower would take an oath before Yahweh to confirm that there was no foul play: “an oath before Yahweh shall be made by the two of them, that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution” (Exodus 22:11).
The Minister will then offer prayer in these or similar words:
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, from whom no secrets are hid, we call upon You to hear the words spoken before You today, confident that You who are the Judge of all the earth will do right. Vindicate the innocent, defend the helpless, and show Yourself to be the Helper of those who call on You in truth. But do not leave the guilty unpunished, expose the deeds of darkness, and put down the wicked. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, whom You has been exalted as Lord and Judge and now reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, unto ages of ages. Amen.
The Minister will then pose the following questions to the person taking the oath: Minister: Do you believe in Almighty God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Minister: Do you acknowlegde that the Triune God knows every secret of your life and heart, and that He will judge you at the last day?
Minister: Do you swear in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
that what you have written is true, and do you call upon Him as a witness to its truth? Person: Yes.
The Minister shall then pose the following question to the witnesses:
Minister: Do you have any reason to doubt the truth of this statement?
Minister: Do you as witnesses confirm that (insert name) has sworn in the name of the
Triune God that his (or her) statement is true? Witnesses: Yes.
The person taking the oath and the witnesses shall sign the written statement. Then the Minister will close with these or the following words:
You (insert name) have sworn in the name of the Triune God that your statement is true, and have submitted yourself to the judgment of God. Know that God will bring every word of your mouth into judgment. May God vindicate the right and make the truth plain. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This article was amended December 2003
Members Of One Another
In our loose and casual age, formal church membership is often just assumed to be another one of those “traditions of men.” This assumption fits nicely with our laxity, and so we rarely question it. But in fact, formal church membership is required by the Bible, and our breezy approach to such matters is actually the real culprit—a tradition of lazy and irresponsible men.
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct . . . Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:7,17).
RESPONSIBILITIES OF LEADERS TO MEMBERS:
We begin with what the author of Hebrews is assuming about the task of the elders of the church.
to rule—in our egalitarian age, it can be a faux pas to speak of “rulers.” But the Bible speaks of authority in the church, just as it does in the civil realm, and in the family. But this rule is not despotism, but rather should be to provide leadership, direction, and vision.
to speak the word of God—the duties of the rulers include the critical task of instruction. The people need the word of God to be spoken to them, and without it they perish.
exhibit a godly life—the ground of all Christian living is faith, which must be visible. Not only so, but this faith must be fruitful. The outcome must be clear to others.
watch for souls—negligent elders have the blood of souls on their hands. The elders are pastors, shepherds of souls.
give an account—as shepherds, we must give an account for particular sheep. It is one thing for diligent elders to lose a sheep to the wolves; it is another thing entirely for them to abandon the task of pastoring altogether.
seek joy—Peter says that elders must serve willingly, and not under compulsion. It is the same here. The elders of the church must seek delight in their task.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF MEMBERS TO LEADERS:
But there are corresponding duties on the part of church members.
remember those who rule—obedience to rule is commanded, but it is not separated from consideration of the lifestyle of those in leadership.
remember those who taught—God designed His Word to be applied to His people through instruction. Private reading of the Word must always be seen as a preparation for that instruction, and not a substitute for it.
imitate faith and life—watch and listen. The doctrine of radical individualism tells you to seek autonomy all by your own self. The Bible tells you to imitate. But take care that you imitate wisely, and with discretion.
obey—when decisions are made, we make them together. This requires particular applications.
submit—we have been greatly blessed through the absence of factions in our congregation, and the only way to maintain this is through a general demeanor of godly and mutual submission.
bring joy—what brings grief ? The answer is simple and short—sin. Sin always destroys, and can do nothing other than destroy. It destroys minds and marriages, children and churches, businesses and blessings.
NAMES AND DATES:
Now at this point we must belabor the obvious. These very specific duties were not spoken into a void, and are utterly impossible to keep at a meeting of Christians Anonymous. They are also impossible to keep when every man is scattered across the landscape, answerable only to himself. For example, how is it possible to obey a body of men when you do not know who they are? And how is it possible for those rulers to give an account when they do not know the names of those they must answer for?
In short, this portion of Scripture cannot be obeyed without lists of names. And this means formal church membership.
Consider the implications of “lack of accountability” anywhere else. The magistrate is responsible to protect the borders of the United States, but is unsure of whether Alberta is included in that. A father must answer to God for his children, but doesn’t know who they are. An accountant is doing your taxes, but is unsure of the exact boundary between your money and the client right before you.
Obey the nameless elders! Rule the nameless members!
Principles for Health Care Choices in Christian Community
Christians should not engage in medical practices or treatments that are prohibited by Scripture (e.g. abortion, euthanasia).
2. Individual Responsibility
The sessions of TRC and CC agree that lawful health choices fall under the category of “things indifferent.” This means that, biblically, a Christian is free to choose from medical options that range from conventional to alternative treatments. The result of this freedom is that each individual/family is able to choose, given their circumstances and the needs of their family, the medical option(s) that seem(s) wisest to them.
Individuals are ultimately responsible for the choices they make regarding the medical treatments available to them. Medical practitioners and other resources may be sought for counsel about the options for medical treatment, but the responsibility for choosing which course to pursue belongs to the individual. This responsibility also entails the commitment to accept the outcome of one’s decision under the providence of God.
3. Practical Principles
• Remember that your brother’s health care choices are his responsibility, not yours. You are not responsible for what others choose.
• Remember that, as in other areas of life, gossip is a sin. Keep your thoughts about the wisdom of others’ medical choices to yourself.
• Don’t assume that you have all the facts about another’s health care situation. Often medical conditions and their treatments are complicated and choices are very difficult. If you have a question about another’s medical situation, ask him directly.
• Be careful about offering unsolicited advice or offering opinions based on information gathered from others. Often the grapevine distorts information and puts you at risk of getting important facts wrong.
• Be careful of sharing “concerns” about others’ medical decisions with anyone other than the brother himself. Sharing “concerns” is often another way of sharing gossip.
• Avoid sharing details about personal/family medical situations in a way that would incite conflict among brothers or that would unnecessarily feed the rumor mill.
• Nota Bene: Be especially careful about your words and conduct regarding controversial issues, which are particularly vulnerable to gossip and misinformation. In our community these issues include the treatment of life-threatening diseases, methods of childbirth, the administration of vaccinations, diet choices, and end-of-life decisions.*
*It is important to note that some end-of-life decisions are acts of murder; but refusing treatment, or choosing one treatment over others (even if the chosen treatment is controversial or insufficiently tested), is not the same as killing, and the latter decisions should be left to families, guided by counsel from elders and friends.
We deny that the authority of these governments should be set against one another. God has ordained them all, and assigned to them differing responsibilities. We further deny that any form of human government can be considered absolute.
We deny that Christ can be received as Savior and rejected as Lord (Matt. 7:21).
We believe that the elect were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to live holy and blameless lives (Eph. 1:4).
We deny that holiness can be defined on the authority of the word of man. Our only standard of holiness is the law of God, found in the Old and New Testaments (2 Tim. 3:16).
We believe that God will always complete any saving work He has begun. A regenerated man will not fall away from God’s work of salvation (Rom. 8:29-31). The basis for this is God’s faithfulness and not the faithfulness of the believer (1 Cor. 1:8-9).
We deny that faith in God’s sustaining faithfulness is in any way a cushion for sin. A life characterized by sin is inconsistent with assurance of salvation (Rom. 6:1-6; 1
John). We believe that a follower of Christ has an obligation to regularly and honestly confess his sins before God (1 Jn. 1:9; Prov. 28:13). In honest confession, the quality of a man’s relationship with God is maintained and protected.
We deny that confession of sin is the foundation of the believer’s relationship to God. Salvation does not depend on ongoing confession of sin; the joy of salvation does (Ps. 51:10-13).
We believe that God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel. All unregenerate men therefore have a true obligation to do so (Acts 17:30; 2 Thess. 1:8).
We deny that unregenerate men are unjustly excluded from grace. Because they are dead in their sins, they have no desire for God’s grace apart from the quickening influence of that grace (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:6-8; 1 Cor. 2:14). They are therefore responsible for remaining in sin.We believe that at regeneration God creates each true believer a new man, created to grow in love and good works (Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:17).
We deny that this new man exists alongside the old man inherited from Adam. The old man was crucified in Christ (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:20). We deny that the crucifixion of the old man eliminates an ongoing struggle against the flesh (Gal. 5:17)
We believe that God has given to each individual various gifts of varying worth (1 Cor. 12:7-24). Each believer has an obligation to understand accurately what his gifts are, and to put them to work in the worship of God ( Eph. 4:11-16).
We deny that equality in Christ (Col. 3:10,11) nullifies God-assigned roles and stations (Col. 3:12-22; Phil. 2:3).
We deny that the hierarchy established by God in the household diminishes in any way the worth of women in the sight of God or their husbands (Gal. 3:28). Righteous men rise up and call their righteous wives blessed (Prov. 31:28).
We believe that men are responsible to protect their families and to provide for them (1 Tim. 5:8), loving their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). Wives are responsible to minister to their husbands and children (Tit. 2:4), to be homemakers, keeping their homes well-managed and clean (Tit. 2:5).
We deny that reversal or rejection of God’s assigned roles to husbands and wives can occur without serious damage to the family and, consequently, to the society and church (Tit. 2:5).
We believe the prosperity of a household is a gift from God (2 Cor. 9:10-11).
We deny that godly living is an automatic means to wealth and prosperity (Heb. 11:35-38).
We believe that God blesses in a material way when men honor Him through hard work over a long time, when they are generous with the blessings God has already given, and when they provide for their families and dependents (2 Thess. 3:7-10).
We deny that covetousness and greed can be a means to obtain the blessings God bestows (1 Tim. 6:5).
We believe that believing parents have an obligation before God to provide their children with a godly understanding of the world in which they are growing up. To this end, Christian education, however administered, is essential (Dt. 6:1-6).
We deny that the civil authority or the church has the obligation to educate our children for their vocational callings. That responsibility belongs to the parents (Eph. 6:4).
We believe that marriage is ordained by God, and that man has no authority to sever what God has joined together. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). In certain circumstances, divorce and remarriage are permissible, but must be governed in all respects according to the Word of God (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:12-13).
We deny that compassion for the divorced requires any softening of the biblical teaching on the subject.
We deny that someone can be called by God to such leadership when his life or family is not in order. Seminary training, long experience, and gifts of leadership or communication are no substitute for obedience (1 Sam. 15:22).
We believe that each local gathering of the visible church is to be served by a plurality of deacons, each of whom must meet the requirements for church service (1 Tim.
3:8-13).We deny that such service can be rendered properly when a deacon’s life does not meet the criteria set by Scripture.
We believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to be the sole ultimate and infallible authority for faith and practice in the church. The laws of the Old Testament, including the Mosaic code, are normative for Christians today, provided they are understood and applied according to the teaching of the New Testament (Rom. 13:8-10).
We deny that the grace of God in Christ has changed in any way the definition of right and wrong. Rather, the Spirit works love in us to accomplish the righteous requirements of the law (Rom. 8:4).
We believe a great commission has been given to disciple the nations to Christ. The means for accomplishing this are the preaching of the gospel, baptism, and the teaching of obedience to the commandments of Christ, prior to His return (Matt. 28:18-20).
We deny that the church should work as though we are living in the last generation (2 Thess. 2:1-2).
We believe the Lord commissioned His church to undertake the discipleship of the world (Matt. 28:18-20). The Lord has commanded baptism with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism with water is therefore a sacrament (or ordinance) of the Christian church, and the elders of the church are responsible to ensure that baptisms are administered in a scriptural fashion, and the proper signification of water baptism preserved and maintained. We affirm that water baptism signifies union with Christ (Rom. 6:3-7), the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), the washing away of sin (Acts 22:16), the washing of regeneration (Tit. 3:5), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:6; Acts 10:44,47), and the circumcision of the heart (Col. 2:11-12).
We deny that water baptism imparts grace by means of water. God imparts grace to His saints to enable them to obey Him (2 Cor. 9:8), and strengthens them further by grace in that obedience (Heb. 12:14-15). The faithful observance of water baptism constitutes one part of that obedience, and is therefore a means of grace.
We believe the Lord’s Supper to be a participation by faith in the body and blood of Christ. Christians should regularly eat at this table, as long as they are not under the discipline of God, or God’s people (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It is a participation in Christ (1 Cor. 10:14-17), and God blesses faithful participation in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16-17), and disciplines faithlessness in it (1 Cor. 11:30).
We deny that the Lord’s Supper imparts grace by means of the bread and cup. It is, however, a participation in Christ (1 Cor. 10:14-17). God imparts grace to His saints to enable them to obey Him (2 Cor. 9:8), and strengthens them further by grace in that obedience (Heb. 12:14-15). The faithful observance of the Lord’s Supper constitutes one part of that obedience, and is therefore a means of grace.
We believe baptism in water and the Lord’s Supper to be external signs and seals of covenantal, historical, and spiritual realities.
We deny that these sacraments are an automatic means of grace, ex opere operato, grace being through faith alone. Any biblical means to build biblical faith is therefore a means of blessing and grace – especially including water baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We believe that legitimate modes of water baptism include immersion, pouring, or sprinkling in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:4: Acts 10:44-48; Heb. 9:9-10).
We deny that the scriptural significance of water baptism can be nullified by the mode of application.
We believe the sign gifts which were apparent in the first-century church were not given as a normative pattern for subsequent generations (1 Cor. 13:8-13), and have now ceased (2 Cor. 12:12).
We deny that a church must manifest such gifts in order to please God in worship (1 Cor. 14:20-22).
We believe that Christians must fellowship in unity with all true Christians, and that we have no right to judge the hearts of fellow servants. If God has accepted someone, we must gladly do the same.
We deny that such fellowship requires joint ministry with those Christians who teach or practice that which is unbiblical. We may hold someone to be a Christian, and yet believe them to be unqualified for leadership. The qualifications for leadership differ from those for fellowship (Rom. 14:1-8; 1 Tim. 3:1-7).
We deny that this submission is absolute. When civil authorities require something forbidden by God, or forbid something required by God, the duty of Christians is to humbly, respectfully, and submissively disobey (Acts 4:19-20).
We believe that Christians are to pray for those authorities that God has placed above them (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
We deny that this prayer should be limited to blessings (Ps. 139:19-24).
We believe that Christians should be involved in the political process. Christ required His followers to be salt and light in the world, and He did not exclude civil government from that Christian influence (Matt. 5:13-16).
We deny that the power of the gospel is to be found in political involvement. We do not believe civil government to be a savior (2 Cor. 10:3-6), and deny that the church is a political organization.
We believe that in the prohibition of stealing, God has ordained the institution of private property. We believe that the Christian church should teach against theft in all its forms (Ex. 20:15).
We deny that the institution of private property is a human invention. Rather, it is the result of a biblical understanding of God’s ordination of private property. But because man is fallen, the institution of private property, like all God-ordained institutions, has been much abused (Eph. 5:5).
We believe that the root cause of political disregard for the institution of private property is envy and covetousness (Matt. 20:1-16).
We deny that theft can be sanctified, even if it is done in the name of civil justice (Is. 5:20). If the civil magistrate oversteps the boundaries established for him in Scripture, one result can be various forms of theft, including oppressive taxation.
We believe that the church is to be constituted or incorporated by the Lord Jesus Christ alone, the only head of the Church (Eph. 5:23).
We deny that an unbelieving civil magistrate has the spiritual authority to establish a Christian church, or to prohibit the free exercise of the Christian religion in any way. While the doctrine of the church establishments in a genuinely Christian nation may be defended, we deny that a pluralistic and humanistic civil magistrate may establish or restrict true religion.
We believe acceptance of civil incorporation would be an acknowledgment that the civil magistrate has the authority to bring a Christian church into existence, and testifies falsely that the church is a creature of the state. Consequently, we believe that the church must maintain a status as an unincorporated church as a matter of conscience.
We deny that the civil magistrate has no authority in religious matters. We recognize that while the civil magistrate has no authority in sacris, in sacred things, he nevertheless has a measure of authority circa sacra, around sacred things. It is therefore lawful for a church, under the authority and headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, to form an association of natural persons, recognized as such by the civil magistrate.
We believe that churches should accept various burdens and entanglements of civil regulation and taxation only under protest, acknowledging the weight of such tyrannies as a judgment from God upon a disobedient church.
We deny that to receive this chastisement is compromise. The justice of such chastisement is received from the hand of God, but not acknowledged as just or right in the hand of the magistrate.
This Statement of Faith was approved and adopted by the elders of Christ Church on March 28, 1989. It is not intended to be a final statement, and will be amended or revised from time to time, as needed.
Discerning the Theology: Like everything else in Christian living, worship music comes to us in the midst of deep cultural struggles between light and darkness. No aspect of our lives, including our judgments about music, stand alone, untouched by theology. Some theology will always shape our personal judgments about music.
When we find ourselves disliking (or liking) a piece of music, we should try to find the assumptions that guide that particular judgment. Then we should ask ourselves if that assumption is biblical. We’ve absorbed many of our assumptions about beauty from the modern world, a world often hostile to Christianity. Assumptions about simplicity, speed, and time are central to music, and yet these topics are a major source of disagreement between Christianity and non-Christianity.
Modern Assumptions: One of the key modern assumptions that keeps many Christians from appreciating much great music is the simple idea that old is bad and new is good (C.S. Lewis calls this “chronological snobbery”). In an evolutionary world that would be true, but in a biblical world it often gets reversed. Sometimes we’re told to “ask for the old paths, where the good way is” ( Jer. 6:16), and sometimes we’re told to avoid the old ways (Heb. 3:9,10). It takes wisdom to discern when to do what, but the modern world is largely dedicated to whatever is the “latest.”
Similarly, modern attitudes like to make light of everything but death. So they can’t imagine using solemn sounds for anything but a funeral. They never think of associating joy and solemnity. So much gloriously solemn music is automatically classified as a dirge or funeral music. But Scripture says that other things, like joy and delight in the presence of God, often demand solemnity too. Psalm 92:3 shows God’s lovingkindess can be expressed “upon the harp with a solemn sound” (cf. Eccl. 7:3,4). A more biblical sensibility discerns between the types of solemnities. Some solemnity is joyful, some full of awe, and some is tragic.
Of course, personal prejudices can run the other direction too—liking only old music. That’s not our conviction at Christ Church. But the simple fact is that the deepest theological meditations on musical theory and composition come from more mature Christian eras than our own. Modernity is simply not saturated in Christian assumptions about beauty the way the medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation periods were. But that’s not just a prejudice. We all long for the day (and hope for it from our own congregation) when we can compose greater music than past eras. Some of that happens in our own day, but very little, especially in worship music.
Discerning the Beauty: Some of us may have thought through the worldview issues, but we still can’t see the beauty in some older pieces. Of course, every era has plenty of inferior work. But, once again, it’s possible that modernity has prejudiced us to count only surface-level beauty as real beauty. In other words, we discount things that aren’t imediately beautiful to our personal tastes. We can tend to want everything to be immediate and automatic, and we cast off whatever doesn’t instantly please. That is one reason why non-Christians treat Scripture lightly; they refuse to look deeply. They can’t see the beauty in the story, though it jumps out at those who love God.
We also tend to think that if we’re merely regenerate, then we can easily discern
between what is beautiful and ugly. But wisdom always takes time and discipline and pruning. Scripture orders us to “incline your ear to wisdom” (including musical wisdom) and “apply your heart to understanding; . . . If you seek her as silver, and search for her
as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 2:2-5). Mining takes great labor and exercise. Discerning beauty is like that. It often takes great effort to train ourselves to see profundity.
Rising to the Challenge: Sometimes, though, even if we grasp the complex beauties at work in a piece of music, we get frustrated because of its level of difficulty. Yet here too we need patience and discipline. Reading English was once hard, but we overcame that. Singing shouldn’t come easily. Learning to sing glorious music will take years of education. We rob ourselves of wisdom if we judge a hymn or psalm after one singing. We don’t even truly know it at after only a month of singing. It can require a long period of meditation and work. The worship service itself is an important place for learning new music. After confession and assurance, the focus of worship turns to rebuilding and sanctifying worshipers. Both sermon and song train us up at this time.
Whenever we are weaker in some good thing, we should aim to rise to the challenge. Depending upon where one is, it may mean studying more music, joining a choir, reading more musical history, taking instrument lessons. We have many grand hopes for such things within Christ Church. But whatever it takes, we should all aim to apply ourselves to grow in our worship—“Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious” (Ps. 66:2).
Leavened Bread in the Lord’s Supper
The unleavened bread of the Passover meal was a representation of the break with the leaven of Egypt. Consequently, the unleavened bread was called the “bread of affliction.” “You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Dt. 16:3). The meal was also eaten with bitter herbs to remind the people of the horrible time they had had in Egypt, and to help them look forward to the times of the Messiah. They were not to take any of the leaven of Egypt with them as a “starter.” That would simply have built them another Egypt. We may say, on the basis of this passage in Deuteronomy, that the absent leaven from the Passover was to show the affliction of Egypt, and the haste in which Israel left.
When Israel came into the Promised Land, they were to begin serving the true God. One of their offerings was the peace offering, a picture of the coming reconciliation which the Messiah would accomplish. “This is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which he shall offer to the Lord: If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer,
with the sacrifice of thanksgiving, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, or cakes of blended flour mixed with oil. Besides the cakes, as his offering he shall offer leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offering” (Lev. 7:11-13). Leaven is a picture of thanksgiving, just as a lack of leaven is a picture of affliction under sin and hastening away from sin. Of course it is better to be in haste while fleeing sin than at rest and leisure in sin. But the point of bringing the people of Israel into the land was to liberate them from sin and give them rest and another kind of leisure. This meant they were to offer back up to God offerings which had the leaven of Israel in it, a thanksgiving leaven, not the leaven of Egypt.
We see the same truth at the offering of the first-fruits at Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks — also gloriously fulfilled in the coming of Messiah. “Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord (Lev. 23:16-17).
All this is consistent with what Jesus taught about the nature of His kingdom. “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’ Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened’” (Matt. 13:31-33)
The argument for using unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper appears to be basically the same as the argument for using wine in the Lord’s Supper — i.e. that is what Jesus used in offering the elements to His disciples. However, the situation is different because wine was used, and no particular symbolic reason was attached to the wine. The fact that Jesus used wine removes the objection of those who say wine is sinful or wrong. Therefore we have no good biblical symbolic reason not to use wine. For the same reason, because Jesus used bread, we should use bread. But must we use unleavened bread? No, because the leaven missing from Passover had a particular stated significance which the death and resurrection of Christ has altered, and we are taught in Scripture the nature of the alteration.
Another argument comes from the assumption that leaven always represents sin. Certainly it sometimes represents sin: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Here leaven represents, as it did in the Old Testament, the principle of sin working through the entire loaf. But as we saw above, leaven is also symbolic of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13:33), working its way through the world. Thus leaven can represent sin, the leaven of Egypt, as it works at corrupting something good, or it can represent God’s leaven as it works at establishing righteousness throughout the world.
Our celebration of the Supper must therefore be unleavened in the sense that we reject all worldliness and sin. Our celebration of the Supper must be leavened in the sense that we proclaim a gospel which will transform the entire world. Both are true, and both are necessary and legitimate statements to make at the Supper. But which kind of physical bread should we use? I think we should answer the question based upon which of these two true statements we want to have preeminence in our observation of the Supper.
1. The Christian Church should stay away from worldliness.
2. Jesus Christ died to save the world.
I prefer emphasizing the latter statement, and would like to use leavened bread.
Scriptural Basis for Household Membership
As we consider the prospect of household membership, we must assure ourselves that our purpose is to be faithful to Scripture. Any proposal that has pragmatism as a foundation, however well-intentioned it may be, cannot hope to obtain God’s blessing. Consequently, it is important to show that households are a legitimate entity with which the government of the church must deal in order to be faithful to Scripture. The Importance of Households We are taught in the Bible that households are rightly the object of spiritual praise and blame. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you (Matt. 10:12-13).
We also find that whole households come to faith in Christ. So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household ( John 4:53). In another passage, it says, Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8).
We find that evangelism household by household was common in the New Testament. Just a brief consideration shows how far removed we are from the first century view of the household and home. Many modern Christians try to evangelize homes by starting with the children; in the New Testament, they evangelized the head of the house. So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Paul’s confident pronouncement about the household of the jailor was borne out just a few verses later. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:34).
But households do not just come to Christ. Households are also seen as entities which can fall into sin. In some cases, the head of the household sins in that he leaves certain individual members of his house vulnerable to false teachers. For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts . . . (2 Tim. 3:6). In other situations, the spiritual contamination spreads throughout the home. . . . whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain (Titus
1:11). We also see in Scripture that households receive spiritual blessings because of the action of the head. The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains . . . (2 Tim. 1:16). Onesiphorus was probably the head of this particular household, and because he refreshed Paul, Paul prays for mercy for the entire house. Another example of this is seen with Noah. The author of Hebrews tells us that by faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Heb. 11:7).
The Bible also demonstrates that households are to be addressed by the church. They are seen as an important social units, the existence of which is acknowledged by the church. Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10). Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord (Rom. 16:11). Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 4:19).
We can also see New Testament households at work in the ministry of the gospel. I urge you, brethren — you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints — (1 Cor. 16:15). Not only were certain households involved in ministry, but when certain individuals performed some valuable service, the credit went to the household. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you (1 Cor. 1:11).
We saw above that whole households came to faith in Christ. We also see, on a related issue, how they are baptized as households. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us (Acts 16:15). It is important to note that this is not an assertion that individual infants or toddlers lived in Lydia’s house, and were therefore baptized. We do not know if there were infants involved. The point being made here is not that infants were baptized. The point is that households were baptized. The Bible teaches us that it is legitimate to baptize a household — we should therefore have no problem receiving a household into membership. The households mentioned in the New Testament may or may not have contained infants; whether they did or not is immaterial. What is certain is that each such households contained a . . . household. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other (1 Cor. 1:16).
In order to be faithful to the language of Scripture, our church should seek to deal with households as households. Household membership is a scriptural way to implement this understanding. A member is a portion of a body. When biblically understood, the relation that a member has to other members is organic. We tend to think that the only legitimate units of membership in a church are individuals. Thus, what in Scripture is presented as an organic but diverse whole has become, in many of our churches, nothing more than a list, or roster of the names of individuals. But if we were imitating the language of Scripture, our membership lists would contain the names of individuals and households, as appropriate.
If the practice of household membership were adopted, our language would begin to approximate the natural language of the New Testament. If someone were to ask how big our church is, we could respond by saying that we had “about a hundred households.” As the passages above make clear, this would be a very biblical form of expression, reflecting biblical patterns of thought.
Policy on Music
God has given music to his people for His worship and praise throughout the history of his church. From the temple worship under the Old Covenant to the new songs sung before the throne of the Lamb under the New Covenant, God calls us as much to faithfulness in our musical worship of Him as in our preaching and teaching of the Word (Col. 3:16).
General Principle for the Selection and Use of Music in Public Worship The selection and use of music for public worship should have as its primary motive the glory and honor of God (Rev. 4:8, 11; I Cor. 1:31). Our music should declare the glory of God in spirit and truth, and it is God alone who is to determine how this is best to be done.
SPECIFIC PRINCIPLES FOR THE SELECTION AND USE OF LYRICS IN MUSIC IN PUBLIC WORSHIP
The lyrics must be biblical:
The words of our musical worship and praise should preserve, reflect, and declare the whole counsel of God, from Genesis to Revelation. “All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You” (Ps. 145:10)
Psalms: God has provided a perfect expression of praise, confession, thanksgiving and supplication in the inspired words of the Psalms, the songbook of Israel. The church must therefore give emphasis to the Psalms in our public worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
The songs of the New Covenant people should direct our worship to our New Covenant Head, that is, Jesus Christ (Rev. 5:12).
Our music must acknowledge our covenantal obligations and promises, and the blessings and curses sovereignly administered by our Lord (Ps. 72:5; Ps. 79:13).
Christ, as our Lord and Redeemer, must be the only name we lift up under heaven whereby men may be saved (Rev. 5:9).
The lyrics must have catholicity and balance:
The range of our singing of psalms, hymn, and spiritual songs should reflect faithfully the whole counsel of God and avoid the temptation of limiting our music to only some truths, or to some favorite texts (Ps. 103:22).
Music among the saints must not be denominational, sectarian, or partisan. Lyrics in public worship must not be limited only to some portions of the Word of God, but must reflect the fullness of God’s inerrant revelation (Ps. 145:10).
Just as there is one Lord, one faith, one hope, and one baptism, so our music must reflect and encourage the true unity of all believers throughout the world and through all ages (Ps. 31:23; 89:7). Our music should reflect our unity with the people of God throughout all lands and all ages (Rev. 5:8).
The lyrics must be holy and reverent:
The lyrics of our songs must, in spirit and truth, embody the reverence and honor due to the Holy God, Creator and Redeemer, into whose presence we are unworthy to approach in our sinful condition apart from Christ (2 Chron. 20:20-21; Ps. 99; Ps. 48; Ps. 5:7).
The lyrics should be creedal and doctrinal:
The church’s music should state unambiguously the truths of the Christian faith and convictions expressed in our own statement of faith, as well as the ancient orthodox, and Reformed creeds. Words which are creedally or doctrinally ambiguous on central concerns of the historic Christian faith should be avoided (Phil. 3:16).
The lyrics should be pastoral:
They should encourage and embody faithful worship in spirit and truth (Col. 3:16); They should provide occasion(s) during the public worship for the congregation: to meditate on the truths of the whole counsel of God (1 Cor. 14:15)
to confess personal and corporate sins (Ps. 32:1);
to receive comfort (Ps. 46);
to find assurance of our faith and hope (Ps. 74;77);
to gain encouragement in times of trial and temptation (Acts 16:25; Ps. 102);
to demonstrate the communion of the saints (Ps. 133:1-2);
to remember God’s great love and mercy to all generations (2 Chron. 20:21; Ps. 101); to express heartfelt joy and gratitude with reverence and respect (Ezra 3:10-11; Ps. 100); to declare our personal and corporate faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Phil. 2:10-11). The lyrics should be edifying:
The apostle Paul requires that believers teach and admonish one another in their
singing. This requires that the lyrics be suited to such a task — the lyrics must be edifying (Col. 3:16).
They should be clear and understandable to the congregation (1 Cor. 14:16).
They should be engaging, well-written and lively, avoiding either undue sobriety or frivolity (Ps. 33:3;).
They should be filled with the joy of our salvation, and yet avoid a joy tainted with emotionalism or romanticism ( Jas. 5:13; Ps. 95:1; Ps. 81:1).
The lyrics should be historical:
All the lyrics should be set in the context of the historical outworking of God’s purposes for human history. Songs may be topically isolated from historical events without being contextually isolated from the church found in history (Ps. 80; Ps. 81:1).
The lyrics should reflect the history of redemption — God’s saving work from Genesis to Revelation (Ps. 44:1-8).
Lyrics should reflect the history of God’s preserving love and mercy to all generations of those who love him, and His judgment on those who are in rebellion against Him (Num. 21:17-18; Ps. 33).
Lyrics should acknowledge the faith and examples of the saints who have gone before us, expressing the praise of God’s people throughout all generations.
And the lyrics should avoid mere individual spiritual experience, abstracted from God’s saving work for his people in ages (Ps. 22:25-31; Ps. 18:49-50).
Specific Principles for the Selection and Use of Tunes in Music in Public Worship The music used in public worship should serve the Word:
Even with extraordinary gifts in the first century, the apostle Paul required that
those who sang in the Spirit, should sing with the mind also (1 Cor. 14:15). How much more should we be careful to submit our uninspired music to the authority of the Word as expressed in biblical lyrics.
Music should support the preaching of the Word in a musically appropriate manner; The music should express true and spiritual worship, praise, confession, and assurance; Music should be drawn from faithful composers and congregations from through-
out the history of church, avoiding undue focus on one period or style of musical composition; The music should encourage a spirit of reverence and joy appropriate to the corporate worship of God by his covenant people.
The music used in public worship should be conducive to congregational singing
The selection of tunes should facilitate the congregational singing, giving careful attention to the nature of the music and to the appropriateness of the tunes to the words and the occasion of their singing within the order of service.
All tunes should be conducive to robust, wholehearted singing after a reasonable period of familiarization and practice. However, tunes should not be limited only to those most familiar to the congregation. The people should be encouraged to practice and to improve its repertoire of songs appropriate for public worship (1 Chron. 25:7).
A tune’s range should match, as much as possible, the congregation’s vocal ability, avoiding very high or very low ranges that will tend to exclude some from participation.
The melodies should be appropriate to the words and occasion of singing within the order of public worship.
The tempo should be appropriate to the words and occasion of their singing within the order of service, avoiding unduly fast or slow tempos which may exclude some from singing or participating, or make following the words and their meanings difficult.
The rhythm should be appropriate to the words and occasion of their singing within the order of service, avoiding unduly complex or simplistic rhythms which may make congregational singing either too difficult, or terminally boring.
The music used in public worship should be beautiful:
In the lyrics as poetry, in the music as music, and in the combination of the two, laws of aesthetics, derived from a biblical worldview and understanding, should always be acknowledged (Ps. 33:3; 1 Chron. 25:1; Col. 3:16). Beautiful music can biblically be said objectively to exist, and consequently deciding whether a song is beautiful is not a matter of subjective personal taste.
Those in the church who select the music should be equipped to do so:
Those who are equipped to evaluate and make such determinations are mature (1 Chron. 23:3-5), musically talented and trained (1 Chron. 25:7-8), theologically astute (Heb. 5:14), and personally holy (Amos 5:23-24). Specifically such judges should should take into account the importance of balance, unity, variety, harmony, design, rhythm, restraint, and fitness.
Specific Principles for Presentation of Music in Public Worship:
Our songs must always be offered by those who love and fear God. The congregation should be regularly exhorted to present their offering of song from hearts that have been filled with the Word of Christ (Col. 3:16) by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18-20).
Congregational singing is a duty and privilege:
The singing of the congregation is an important time for the people of God to give full expression of their faith in God and love for one another. The song service should be approached with fear, joy, trembling, and peace (Ps. 81:1; 45:1; Is. 30:29; Eph. 5:19)
Choir-singing as a distinct element of public worship is encouraged as a musical expression of praise and thanksgiving (1 Chron. 9:33; 15:16,27;25:5-7). However, any use of a choir must take care to avoid the denigration of congregational singing.
Individuals or groups who bring special music on behalf of the congregation (1 Cor. 14:26) have a special obligation to avoid performing in the church to be seen by men (Matt. 6:5). They also should be trained and skilled in their music (1 Chron. 25:7)
Scripture encourages the use of a variety of instruments in the public worship of God (Ps. 98:6; 2 Sam. 6:5; Ps. 137:2; Is. 5:12; Gen. 4:21; Job 21:12; Ps. 150:3; I Sam. 10:5; Lev. 25:9; Ezra 3:10; Ps. 68:25).
The selection and use of instruments shall be appropriate for the accompaniment of congregational singing and the enhancement of public worship.
Those who play instruments during public worship shall be trained and skilled in music (1 Chron. 25:7).
Summary of Criteria
The overarching principle as we study the issue of our musical service before God is that we are seeking to honor and glorify His name in what we sing, and how we sing. We want the lyrics
to reflect biblical truth, and with a biblical emphasis and balance, in full accord with the doctrinal standards of our church. The lyrics should never allow us to forget our duty of holy reverence as we sing, and they should help to shepherd God’s people as they sing. In the words they sing, the saints should be built up in their faith, together with all the saints throughout history. The music should always function as a servant to the Word. In addition, the music should be beautiful, fitting, and well suited to congregational singing. And all who sing, or play instruments, should present themselves before the Lord in holiness, seeking to present an offering worthy of His name.
Application of Select Criteria on the name Christ Church
Beautiful: Christ Church is beautiful in both its referents. Christ is the embodiment of the beauty of God, the beauty of holiness, and the Church is the New Jerusalem, adorned for her husband.
Strong: The referent of the name points to the King of kings, and the name as a name is strong in consonants.
Dignified: Christ Church does not call to mind any happy clappy connotations. Honest: The name should not make any visitor go, “Hey!”
Distinctive: Particularly in our region of the world, and in our times, this name
Memorable: The name is short, easy to remember, and is therefore, um, memorable.
Contrary: Although there are others with this name in the world, they are older churches. It is not at all common for churches being established today to select a name like this. Non-zeitgeistian.
Simple, yet elegant: The name is simple, with only two words. And yet both words are rich in meaning.
Easy to say: Not only does the name have two words, the entire name has only two syllables. It is very easy to say.
Historically grounded: The great Puritan John Owen was the dean of Christ Church at Oxford. At Cambridge University, Christ Church was a hotbed of Puritanism (?). The name is tied to the Reformation without being limited by it. This side of the water, Christ Church was the church in Boston which provided the signal for the famous ride of Paul Revere.
Humble: The name points away from ourselves, and enables us to boast in the one thing Scripture requires us to boast in. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.
Biblically grounded: Everything about the name is rooted in Scripture.
Not likely to be reduced to nickname or acronym: With just two syllables, it is virtually impossible for this to be altered.
Glorious: The name points to many kinds of glory — theological, historical, doctrinal, and aesthetic.
Unifying: In our discussion among the elders, this name has had by far the greatest success compared to a number of others, and the least number of negatives responses.
Didactic: Christ is the Head of the Church, and this name acknowledges this, and enables us to instruct others on the importance of this doctrine. All other doctrinal truths which we might want to emphasize are subordinate to this one, and flow from it. This doctrine is, in many important respects, the fountainhead of everything we should want to say.
Helpful: Those who want to find a church like ours are unlikely to be hindered by this name, as they are with our current name.
Descriptive: The name is as descriptive as it can be without hurting us elsewhere. For example, Christ Reformed Church gains (some) in descriptiveness and loses (much) in other areas.
Not incongruous: This name is not at all incongruous with our ministry, work, community, and particularly, when we consider the kind of building we are looking to build, future facility.
Christocentric: The appropriateness of the name here is self-evident.
Church Record Keeping
Record keeping can be a great bother at the time, though usually not after a good system is in place. Get used to it. Should a controversy erupt in the church, or should you need records for disciplinary proceedings, at that time you will bless yourself for having good records on hand. And when your grandchildren enquire into your life’s work, they too will bless you for leaving a legacy of good records for them.
What records to keep?
Deacon Meeting minutes (should include monthly balance sheets and profit/loss reports, or summaries thereof ). Session minutes. Minutes of household meetings. A year-end report (see below)
Keeping Minutes; items to record:
Opening and closing of meeting. Approval of minutes of previous meeting(s); session should record their approval of household meeting minutes. Attendance: members present, member absent, and guests. Record late arrivals or early departures to ensure an accurate record of quorum and who was present for a vote. Record only that which is vital to the transactions of the meeting. This includes any measures that were approved, specifying whether approved by vote or consensus. It also includes reports (e.g., ministerial reports, committee reports) that were received. Also append official correspondence sent to and from the session, which should be appended to the minute which refers to them. Do NOT include details of discussions, points and arguments made, motions that failed, suggestions that were not followed, unless directed by the body in the meeting. Be discrete about recording material for information only. Official copy of approved minutes should bear signature of the moderator. “These minutes were approved by session/deacons. (Signature and date”
Procedure for quarterly review
An outgoing moderator of session must review all minutes and related materials from his tenure as moderator to ensure that they are in order. This includes rereading and proofing all minutes, ensuring all minutes are finalized and approved, correspondence and reports are properly filed with the minutes, etc. Approved minutes and related materials must be properly filed before the outgoing moderator passes the mantle off to the new moderator. He will inform the new moderator of any continuing issues or unfinished business.
Year-end Report; report should include…
Current, complete membership roster; membership changes over the past year (this provides an opportunity to discover and straighten out confusions or irregularities
in membership records): new members added, births, baptisms, marriages; members lost to transfer, erasure, excommunication, or death; current, complete roster of church officers, noting any additions or deletions over the past year, year end profit/loss and balance sheet; copy of current constitution; sample Sunday bulletin/liturgy from sometime during the year; reports on any special activities such as family camp or conference, etc., including the brochure from each event; annual reports from all subordinate ministries, each of which has been presented to session and received; subordinate ministries should include financial report if they keep their finances separate from the church’s financial report.
After each meeting, save an electronic copy and print out a hard copy of approved minutes. Important: Keep copies in separate buildings. A fire in one building should not destroy all existing records. (Ergo, one copy in a file cabinet and another on a computer hard drive located in the same room is not adequate.) The easiest way to do this is to email an electronic file to somebody’s home computer as a back-up copy. Conduct a year-end review of the records (done in conjunction of the year-end report). First, go through the “hard copy” file and make sure everything is in order. Read over all the minutes. Were any minutes from the past year not approved? Is any correspondence missing that needs to be returned to the file? Any minutes that for some reason did not make it into the hard-copy file, and which ought to be reprinted? It’s important to do this annually, when mistakes and omissions can be more easily remedied. Gather all minutes and other records together with the annual report. (For most churches, everything together will take up no more than one binder.)
IMPORTANT: Make a copy of the whole thing for continuing office use (i.e., the 3-ring binder on the shelf), and have the original bound and archived. Use archivally viable paper. Do not archive it in the same building as the office. Bound originals over three years old (or so) should be sent to NSA archive for permanent storage. (NSA has a fireproof vault in its basement!)
“Christ Church is organized under the Idaho Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit
Association Act, Chapter 7, Title 53, Idaho Code. Christ Church is registered as such with the Idaho Secretary of State (File No. U172). As a registered unincorporated non-profit association, Christ Church may hold title to property, open bank accounts, enter into contracts, and be held legally liable and accountable. For all relevant taxation purposes, it would be treated as a corporation.
Christ Church is exempt from certain forms of taxation under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code, and is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions under section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 508 of the Code exempts churches from having to give notice of their tax-exempt status to the Secretary, although they may give such notice if they so desire. Christ Church has opted to take advantage of the exemption, and had not given notice. Consequently, Christ Church will not be found on IRS Publication 78, the Cumulative List of Organizations.”
I highly recommend that you purchase the Church and Clergy Tax Guide by Richard R. Hammar. It is a comprehensive guide that is written in plain English to be utilized by ministers and those responsible for church finances.
Contributions from Outside
Thank you for your interest in supporting the ministry of Christ Church. This letter is to inform you of certain details concerning your contributions and the current state of tax law. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask us.
Before getting into the details, please note that this letter should not be construed as indicating agreement with the IRS view of the world, or agreement with the court decisions that have supported their judgments. We are simply sending this letter on to you because a godly stewardship requires it. We know donors to our ministry will commonly include those contributions as a deduction on their tax returns, and so we have a responsibility to let you know what this means in our current tax system. Once we have informed you of these things, then you have a re
According to the IRS, all deductible contributions must be “to or for use of a qualified charity.” This has two ramifications. The first is that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a designated gift. A gift to or for an individual, considered as such, is not a deductible contribution. Simply put, if you give a contribution to a ministry, the IRS assumes that it was for the work of that ministry and not a particular individual. This means that if that ministry were to apply your gift to someone other than the individual you had in mind, this would be fine with you in principle. If it would not be fine with you, the IRS would say the gift was for an individual and was therefore not deductible. This does not mean that you cannot make suggestions to the ministry. You may do so, but these suggestions are not authoritative designations. The final application of your gift is made by the ministry, not the donor. Of course, in our case, we are happy to consider and weigh any suggestions you have concerning how your gift would best be used in advancing the work of ministry. But please note how the IRS considers it.
The second issue is harder to grasp because it involves the realm of intentions. We give a receipt for your contribution. Your use of that receipt with your tax returns means (according to the IRS) that your intention was to advance the work of our ministry, and not to help your cousin who happens to be on staff here. This standard of theirs is to prevent ministries from laundering money – Christmas gifts, tuition help, etc. disguised as tithes. You may not believe that the IRS can read the intentions of your heart, and
we might perhaps agree with you, but you need to know that they are willing to argue
in court that a gift to a relative was intended to help the relative as a relative, and not to advance to the work of ministry employing that relative. So, please note, that your use of the receipt we give you will be take as a claim that your gift was intended by you to help advance the work of Christ Church.
We are sorry to have to fill you in on these things, and we are happy to continue to receive your gifts to our work of ministry. But we do want you to know that the current state of tax law involves a third party to the transaction, and we wanted you to have full information about it. And thank you for your attention.
Cordially in Christ,
Reasons for Seriously Considering the Baptismal Cooperation Agreement
issue). The first option (continuing the status quo) should be rejected as nothing but a seedbed of confusion and misunderstanding.
The third option (separating over the baptismal issue) should be rejected because: Scripture requires Christians to strive for like-mindedness (2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8). As a practical matter, this is an enormously difficult thing to do when apart. Conversely, staying together with unresolved disagreements is a constant prod to obey the scriptural requirement.
Before separation occurs, an exegetical case needs to be made for the “necessity of separation.”The burden of proof should be to show that separation over such issues as this is required by Scripture. It should also be remembered that the standards of evidence are much higher when considering “divorce” as opposed to “not marrying.”
Separation would obviously create a host of temptations in the area of personal relationships. Thus separation over areas of disagreement would strongly tend to provoke separation in areas of former agreement (i.e. the necessity of tender mercies, love, kindness, etc.)
An important part of evaluating a teaching is through an consideration of the lives of teachers through examining the fruit of their lives (Matt. 7:15-16). This is hard to do from a distance, and acceptance of wrong information is easy to do at a distance.
This leaves the second option — we should adopt the baptismal cooperation agreement, and implement it slowly over time, with a great deal of consideration and thoughtfulness.
We can see the importance of defined governmental unity by looking at its relationship to doctrinal unity. Governmental unity is either relatively important scripturally, or relatively unimportant. If it is relatively unimportant, then there should be no reason why we could not work out a governmental cooperation agreement. If it is relatively important, then cooperation is harder, but we should strive to maintain the unity. This would involve, of course, the hard work necessary to come to a baptismal cooperation agreement.
Recommended Policies & Procedures for Real Property Arising from Facilities Planning Effort:
For clarification, an attorney that is experienced only with single family or small multifamily transactions would not be adequately qualified. Also, an attorney that does not routinely handle complex real estate transactions would not qualify. No contracts or agreements for provision of services by third parties to Christ Church in connection with Real Property shall be executed or entered into without a prior satisfactory review by Real Estate Counsel. Such prohibition expressly includes, but is not limited to any contracts with Architects or General Contractors and specifically prohibits the execution of standard form AIA or General Contractor’s association agreements promulgated by such parties without thorough review and substantial modification by our Real Estate Counsel. Also, prior to the purchase of any Real Property, such Real Estate Counsel shall also perform a thorough review of the status of title and negotiate such revisions to the terms of coverage and exceptions so as to best protect the interests of Christ Church and its Real Property assets. In the event satisfactory Real Estate Counsel cannot be conveniently obtained which has certification to practice law in the State of Idaho, such Real Estate Counsel may be hired without Idaho practice certification, but with the stipulation that separate Idaho legal counsel shall be retained to ensure adequate review of and compliance with all state and local laws.
Approved form of Purchase & Sale Agreement: In connection with the purchase of any Real Property, no Purchase & Sale Agreement (or other form of contract to purchase) shall be executed or entered into by or on behalf of Christ Church unless Real Estate Counsel has approved such Purchase & Sale Agreement. Also, any such Purchase & Sale Agreement shall include provisions for the right of inspection and feasibility testing (as more fully explained in the “Physical Inspections & Feasibility Testing/Analysis” section below) prior to the earnest money becoming non-refundable or any obligation to close under said agreement. It is anticipated that Real Estate Counsel would draft an “approved” form of Purchase & Sale Agreement for use by Christ Church so as to prevent unnecessary legal fees from being incurred by negotiation of a separate agreement each time an individual property is placed under contract. Such approved form of Purchase & Sale Agreement shall also contain appropriate environmental indemnifications from the seller.
Physical Inspections & Feasibility Testing/Analysis:In connection with the purchase of any Real Property, Christ Church shall retain a “Qualified Inspector” (defined as an architectural & engineering firm that has a minimum of ten years’ experience in performing the types of physical inspections, tests and analyses set forth in this section) and any other professional consultants necessary to perform physical inspections and tests of the subject property, to include but not be limited to the following: environmental waste, hazards or risks (including those posed by migration from adjacent or proximate properties); soils analysis; metes & bounds survey and legal description as necessary to obtain a release of the “survey exception” by the title insurer (it is customary for the seller to furnish a survey and legal description); flood plain determination; radon gas test; inspection of any septic or other sanitary sewage system; domestic well inspection and laboratory tests of a sample from such well water; tests for infestation by termites and/or other pests; identification and physical inspection of all structural and mechanical systems in any of the building improvements, including but not limited to foundation, structural, mechanical/electrical/plumbing, HVAC systems, roofing system and membrane; exterior siding; glazing; and any deferred maintenance. When dealing with unimproved or partially improved land, such Qualified Inspector or professional consultant shall provide an estimate of all costs necessary to provide off-site connections to public roads, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, municipal water supply, and other utilities (e.g. electricity, natural gas, telephone, cable, etc.). Where any defects or deferred maintenance are identified by such Qualified Inspector or professional consultant, the cost to mitigate or repair shall be appropriately quantified by them so that Christ Church might consider whether or not it should reduce the price offered for the purchase of the property in light of these unanticipated costs.
Construction Management: If there is any renovation or remodeling where total costs exceed $50,000 on any Real Property or for all new construction where total costs exceed $50,000, Christ Church shall retain a “Construction Manager” (defined as an architectural/engineering firm or other company with specialization in and a minimum of ten years’ experience providing construction management services) to advise and represent the Church in the following matters: the construction budget, negotiation of plans & specifications with appropriate architectural and engineering consultants, solicitation of bids from prospective general contractors, supervision of the general contractor and its subcontractors during the process of construction, review and approval of all draw requests submitted by the general contractor
for payment, etc. The requirement for retainer of a Construction Manager results from the objectives to minimize costs; contain the length of the construction period; provide incentives for third-party contractors to achieve cost and time objectives; and act as our representative to resolve any disputes with third party contractors, while preserving control over the entire process by the owner, Christ Church.
Adequacy of Insurance: Appropriate insurance coverage shall be maintained by Christ Church for all its Real Property. This includes policies for general liability, hazard (fire and other perils), and title. The Treasurer of Christ Church shall maintain and supervise such insurance coverage on the Church’s behalf in consultation with the Deacon responsible for facilities. Such supervision shall include an annual review of such policies and evaluation of adequacy of coverage and claims paying ability of the insurer. All companies providing insurance to Christ Church shall have an A.M. Best insurance company rating of “A” or higher. All hazard insurance shall provide for replacement value coverage. To the extent the Church engages in any new construction or material remodeling/renovation work, the Church, its construction manager or general contractor, shall obtain appropriate builder’s risk insurance. Also, for all such work representing total costs in excess of $250,000 performance and payment bonds shall be required from all general contractors. All owner’s policies of title insurance shall be issued in the “long form” or otherwise provide for “extended coverage” in order to remove such exceptions and obtain endorsements as necessary to make such policies acceptable to Real Estate Counsel. Efforts shall also be undertaken to obtain premium benefits from umbrella coverage and multi-policy issuance discounts available from insurers.
Competitive Bidding for Real Property-Related Work and Avoidance of Disputes & Conflicts of Interest with Affiliated Parties: In order to avoid disputes and conflicts of interest, care shall be taken in the engagement of Christ Church members and Christ Church-affiliated parties (e.g. members of Trinity Reformed Church; students, staff or faculty of Logos School or New St. Andrews College; or employees or officers of Canon Press), hereinafter referred to as a “Related Party” or Related Parties,” to provide products or services related to Real Property owned or leased by Christ Church. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a Related Party providing products or services to Christ Church, situations must be avoided where the Church receives less (either in product, service, or timeliness) than what it desired or the Related Party receives more than what it would have received if it had been an arms-length transaction between unaffiliated parties. Also, conflicts of interest (between the Related Party providing services and Christ Church or between other clients of the Related Party providing services and Christ Church) shall be avoided so that no inappropriate benefit inures to either party and there is not even the appearance of impropriety. Therefore, in order to minimize or eliminate the possibility of disputes or conflicts of interest with Related Parties, competitive bidding shall be used when awarding contracts for work on Real Property performed for Christ Church where payment for the products or services rendered exceeds either $25,000 per contract or $25,000 per annum under month-to-month agreements. However, Christ Church shall not be required to award any contract to the absolute low bidder based on price alone, rather it shall award work to the party that meets the standards, qualifications (experience, track record, reputation, ability to perform, etc.) and timeframes required for the work, including price. All Related Parties shall have the right to bid in order to compete for the work, but shall not be “entitled” or otherwise have a “prior right” to receive the contract award simply because they are a Related Party. This policy shall be communicated to the congregants of Christ Church and other Related Parties in order to maximize its effectiveness and fairness in administration.
Real Property Public Relations Matters: All inquiries from the media concerning Real Property matters shall be referred to the Pastor of Christ Church. The Pastor shall determine how and who will respond to such inquiries. Any such inquiries shall be brought to the attention of the Pastor at the earliest possible date and, in the absence of the Pastor due to illness or travel, such inquiries shall be immediately referred to the Elders of Christ Church.
Maintenance of Files; Safety & Restricted Access: All original legal documents (Purchase & Sale Agreements, closing documents, deeds and any other recorded instruments, contracts with third-party service providers, etc.), insurance policies and other important or sensitive information (inspection reports, surveys, test results, etc.) related to the Real Property of Christ Church shall be maintained, at a minimum, in a locking fire-rated file cabinet and shall remain locked and be subject to restricted access only by a limited number of parties approved by the Elders (such as the Pastor, Church Treasurer, Administrative Secretary, etc.). A log sheet shall be maintained to keep track of the location of such documents at all times if and when they are removed from such restricted access file cabinets. To the extent a fire-rated safe or vault is available or becomes available at a later date, such file documentation shall be retained therein. In addition, all other file information pertinent to Real Property shall be retained in
a master file for each individual property created and maintained by the Administrative Secretary. Although individual personal files may be kept by Christ Church staff, officers or other interested parties these files shall not contain original copies of any of the documents specified above.
Christ Church & Trinity Reformed Church Joint Statement on Holy Days
It is in this spirit of freedom and victory that we gladly encourage the celebration of the historic church calendar as a glorious testimony of the victory and rule of Christ over time. Rightly understood, His life celebrated and remembered in our days and weeks and months is a continuation of the triumph of Christ over the principalities and powers. He made a public spectacle of them and triumphed over them, and our memorials in time are meant to continue to walk in Him in the power of the Spirit. We recognize the Lord’s Day as the chief glory of these privileges and gifts; it is the Old Testament Sabbath raised from the dead, transfigured, glorified, and grown up into maturity. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, our weekly Easter, and the only feast day which must be honored and kept (1 Cor. 5:8).
It is in the spirit of Easter joy that we recognize the wisdom of our Fathers who wanted to put memorials of Christ everywhere (Dt. 6:5-9) so that we might rejoice and give thanks always (Phil. 4:4, Eph. 5:20). Because we want to walk in thankfulness and gratitude, we want to mark our time with regular reminders of God’s goodness and grace in particular events. For this reason, our congregations recognize and commemorate the five evangelical feast days (Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost) as the principal feasts of the church calendar which highlight specific events in the story of Christ which we want to give thanks for and meditate on. We also recognize that the various seasons of the historic calendar are useful for instruction, correction, and training in righteousness as they reflect on many other themes found throughout Scripture.
While commending the general principles of having our lives shaped by the story of Jesus, we nevertheless recognize that this gift has in the past been turned into a bludgeon with which to abuse the flock of God. We stand gratefully in the Reformation tradition which courageously freed the saints of God from those enslaving regulations related to saint days, penitential seasons, and superstitious fasting. In so far as various practices and laws had become obligatory apart from scriptural warrant, or were used to enforce unbiblical understandings of grace, salvation, and forgiveness, or became stumbling blocks for the faithful, we condemn such abuses and warn our people to likewise remember these lessons from the history of the church.
Finally, while we recognize the importance of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting in the lives of all followers of Jesus, we believe that sinners have particular tendencies to turn these gifts into pits to fall into (Mt. 6:1-18). Various forms of fasting and observance of days can have an appearance of wisdom, but it is of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:23). The true fast that God has commanded is to loose the bonds of wickedness and to let the oppressed go free, to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked (Is. 58:5-8). In order to keep the fast faithfully, the warnings of Christ specifically related to hypocrisy in prayer, almsgiving, and fasting must be thoughtfully and consistently applied to practice (Mt.6:1-18).Nor may believers grieve one another by eating or not eating, celebrating or not celebrating, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:15-17). Therefore we exhort our people to flee all idolatry, and hold fast to Christ who is the substance, the point of all of it. We further exhort our people that if they are going to celebrate certain days and seasons to do so as kings, free nobility, cultivating joyful and thankful celebrations with generosity and open-handedness towards neighbors, friends, and all those in need. And particularly with regard to seasons like Advent and Lent, we commit ourselves to cultivating godly and joyful repentance that is built on the bedrock of Christ’s finished work on our behalf (2 Cor. 7:9-10), and which consistently overflows in joy. We encourage families to use these and all other days and seasons as opportunities for serving those in need, memorizing Scripture, singing Psalms, and giving themselves to and for one another in love.
Theses on the Kindness of Christ
This statement on these issues represents the current position of the session as a session at the time of adoption. This is a working document, and we invite response and feedback. Individual elders may certainly differ with various elements of this statement, but the statement as a whole represents our corporate conviction. The Scripture texts cited are simply meant to “show our work,” and to demonstrate that we are seeking to develop this statement in submission to the teaching of Scripture. But agreement with this document does not require agreement with the citation of any particular verse or passage. In other words, the proof texts are intended to support this statement, but are not to be considered as a part of it.
The statement addresses five broad, interrelated topics. Our statement begins with the problem, an unbelieving world under Mammon, and then moves to a treatment of the sacrificial violence that overthrew the violence of Mammon’s realm. Our statement then moves on to a treatment of the kingdom ethic that believers should embody throughout the course of their lives, first distinguishing sins from crimes, and then moving on to the twin headings of generosity and mercy.
The elders do not intend for this statement to be used in a way that would stifle discussion about these issues in the congregation, or to discourage wide reading or thinking about them. Rather, we simply want the people who support our mercy ministries to know the results of our study and thought, and to know what we consider the scriptural foundation for our work to be. While we do hope to exercise leadership on these issues, we do not want such leadership to be interpreted in a restrictive way.
Because we work closely with Trinity Reformed Church in our work of mercy ministry, these statements were developed in close consultation with their session of elders, and are approved by them as well.
We affirm that we need to understand our relationship to material wealth in light of the biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption. God is the maker and sustainer of all material things, and He declared them all to be good (Gen. 1:31). There is no sin resident
in things themselves. Nevertheless, as a result of our disobedience and fall in the Garden of Eden, the human race has become hopelessly and idolatrously entangled with the good things of this world, and so even as believers we must therefore constantly guard our hearts with regard to His good gifts. And last, we affirm that just as God did not write off this fallen world, neither should we. Because of the redemption accomplished by Christ, we are laboring for the day when all things in heaven and earth are again reconciled, with our material possessions included.
We deny that the fallenness of the world around us creates any necessary guilt as we receive blessings from God. Our place in the world is to function as the future of the new humanity, and we are therefore called to model a grateful use of the blessings that God bestows. The one who gives sacrificially does so to the Lord. The one who gives generously and remains a steward of the rest does so to the Lord.
We affirm that our central duty with regard to our material goods is gratitude to the
God who richly provides us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). We know that God blesses covenantal faithfulness with abundance. He does this with nations in covenant with Him, filling their vats with wine (Dt. 7:13). He also does this with faithful believers in the midst
of ungodly nations, as He did with Daniel in Babylon and Joseph in Egypt. So to fly from wealth as an evil in itself is a flight from maturity, and misses one of the central lessons we must learn, which is that of gratitude.
We deny that this requires us in any way to “explain away” the many scriptural warnings about the seductiveness of wealth. If the Lord says that it is easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom (Matt. 19:24), we don’t make the problem any easier by multiplying the number of camels. If Amos castigates those who oppress the poor and crush the needy (Amos 4:1), it is not our right to offer them false comfort. If James tells the rich to weep and wail, we do not want to be found telling them to cheer up ( Jas. 5:1). If Paul tells us that a greedy man is not qualified for the eldership (1 Tim. 3:3), we don’t want to maintain that holding to this requirement amounts to “peering into hearts” or “judging motives.”
We affirm that mere possession of wealth is not synonymous with Mammon-worship. We define Mammon as money in its capacity as a false god, as a representative of the world, and the worldly way of conducting human affairs. Therefore, those Christians who are rich in this present world are instructed to keep their hope set on God, and not on false idols, and
to be rich in good deeds (1 Tim. 6:17-19). So throughout the Bible, the basic antithesis is between the righteous and unrighteous, the elect and reprobate, the obedient and disobedient, the covenant-keeping and covenant-breaking. It is not between rich and poor, black or white, Jew or Gentile, male or female (Gal. 3:27-29). Even though these other divisions can be and have been the occasions of much sin, they are not themselves an expression of the essential division between sin and righteousness.
We deny that faithfulness at this point is easy. The love of Mammon is a subtle sin, and so many believers have entangled themselves by speaking biblical truths while not understanding the remaining sinfulness of their own hearts. “God does not mind His people having money, but does mind money having His people.” This is completely true, and is a good summary of what is being set forth here, and yet it is the kind of truth that can be readily turned into a daub to heal the wound of the people lightly. It is too easy to say the right things and not really do them (Luke 6:46). The true sign that an individual is free from Mammon is true contentment (Phil. 4:12). Whether well-fed or hungry, a content man is established in Christ. Whether well-fed or hungry, a discontent and driven man is always a slave. A godly man knows how to abound, and how to suffer want.
We affirm that the service of Mammon is to be understood as occupying the very center of the system of the unbelieving world, and so we may define it as worldliness—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). These three lusts summarize nicely the allure that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had for our first parents—it was good for food (Gen. 3:6), it was delightful to look upon (Gen. 3:6), and it promised to make men wise (Gen. 3:6). To serve Mammon is to love the things of this world with an inordinate affection and lust, that is, to love the things of the world in a way prohibited by God. Mammon is a fundamental idol, one that competes with God for our most basic allegiance. But you cannot serve both God and Mammon (Luke 16:13). One must give way to the other in the allegiance of our hearts.
We deny that this means that believers must live in a way separated from all contact with the world of Mammon. Believers are called to learn how to possess and use the currency of Mammon rightly (Luke 6:9, 11). Wealth as such is never condemned in Scripture; it is only in the context of the very common failure to use the instruments of Mammon in the way Christ instructed that we find a scriptural condemnation.
We affirm that that which bears Caesar’s image may be rendered to Caesar; that which has Washington’s picture on it may be mailed to Washington (Luke 20:25). But that which bears the image of God may not be rendered to anyone other than God Himself. One of the charges made against godless merchant empires is that they traffic in the souls of men (Rev. 18:13), buying and selling what they have no right to buy and sell.
We deny that our payment of taxes places the kingdom of God under the authority of the kingdom of men. We pay taxes because God requires it of us (Rom. 13: 6-7), not simply because the magistrate requires it. We pay taxes, not because we are under bondage, but rather because as free men we are resolved not to stumble them (Matt. 17:24-27).
We affirm that the tenacious hold that Mammon has on the unbelieving world is therefore the hold of an all-encompassing cultural/economic system. Such cultural/economic systems are far greater than their respective currencies, and also must be seen as including
all the items available for purchase, as well as the deep-seated cultural attitudes that place a peculiar value on those things to be purchased—including sex, glamour, sleek cars, respect, delicacies, gold, guns, empires, computers, diamonds, and more. This is why economic rebellion against God (Ez. 16:49) cannot be separated or detached from homosexual rebellions
( Jude 7), militaristic or imperialistic rebellions (Gen. 11:1-4), or luxurious and ostentatious rebellions (Amos 4:1; 2 Sam. 15:6). Mammon represents an idolatrous world and life view, and this is why disobedience in economics, sex, or war will never be separated.
We deny that the law of God can be set at odds with itself. While there are greater and lesser sins (Gen. 18:20; 1 Sam. 2:17), to break the law at just one point is to be guilty of breaking the whole ( Jas. 2:10). The worldly system of Mammon must therefore be opposed as a system; we must not allow ourselves to drift into piecemeal opposition. Arrogant materialism, sodomite marriages, abortion mills, and jingoistic nationalism, are all different ways the disobedient culture of Mammon has for rejecting the lordship of Jesus Christ. When tak-
ing the field against an opposing football team, you play the entire team and not just the left tackle. You respond to all the plays they run, and not just some of them. As the church seeks to respond, we have to remember the principles of body life, wherein each member of the body performs the function assigned by God. Not every member is called to do every thing, but the church as a whole is called corporately to respond across the board.
We affirm that that which triumphs over Mammon is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All that Mammon had to offer was offered to Jesus if He would just bow down to Satan (Matt. 4:8), but He refused, preferring rather to conquer those empires of Mammon through His death on the cross ( Jn. 12:31), taking and possessing them for His own, by right of conquest. All the principalities, including that of Mammon, are therefore required
to submit to Jesus Christ, and are in principle included in His reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:16-20). Because Jesus is the Lord of all, the world, by refusing to bow to Him, is attempting a revolution against His lawful kingdom and rule. The true culture of humanity is therefore Christ’s, and the world of Mammon is an attempt at counter culture, one that is doomed to fail.
We deny that Jesus refused the kingdoms offered to Him because He did not want them. Because Jesus conquered sin and death, the Father offered Him the nations for His inheritance, the ends of the earth for His possession (Ps. 2:8). His charge to us was to throw down the temples of Mammon in every city center and replace them with sanctuaries of the triune God (Matt. 28: 18-20), in which money, a former god, comes to occupy a place together with us as a fellow servant.
Summary: Believers must worship Christ alone and detest the worship of Mammon, while at the same time becoming adept in the use of Mammon’s instruments and tools, to the final and complete subversion of its rule and kingdom.
We affirm that the bloodshed of the cross reveals as nothing else could the antithesis between righteousness and unrighteousness. The ultimate revelation of the character of God in this fallen world was the holy wrath which He poured out upon our sin in the death of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24-25). In that death we see in Jesus the passive and obedient acceptance of that wrath (Phil. 2:8), the way of righteous peace, and the righteous outpouring of God’s hatred of sin, the way of righteous war (2 Cor. 5:21).
We deny that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was ineffectual. This was a cruciform suffering that utterly defeated the principalities and powers (Col. 2:15), those who had held the world in bondage to their closed system of ungodly and bloodthirsty violence (2 Cor. 4:4), but who were now defeated.
We affirm that as a result of this victory of the gospel, the world will gradually be restored to its Edenic state (Rev. 22:2), in which no one will hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain (Is. 11:9). This gradual restoration will culminate in the eucatastrophe of the last day, when Christ will come and destroy His last enemy, death. The goal of all human history is therefore to arrive at that place of universal rest and peace, and believers are to strive to be the peacemakers who will be called the children of God (Matt. 5:9).
We deny that the kingdom of God is extended in the same way that other earthly kingdoms are. The central driving force in bringing in Christ’s kingdom is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations of men (Matt. 28:18-20), and the establishment and nurture of worshiping communities everywhere gathered around the Word and sacrament (Mal. 1:11; Matt 28:18-20; Heb. 12. 18-26). As such churches are established in every place, they become the living centers of obedient kingdom life as the members of their churches are equipped by the Church to occupy themselves in every lawful vocation in distinctively Christian ways (Eph. 4:12).
We affirm that the biblical vision of the future is therefore ecclesio-centric, with
the Church at the center of the kingdom, and not a pan-ecclesial vision, where the Church becomes the entire kingdom. The entire city of God may certainly be called Zion by synecdoche, because the worship at Zion is at the center of her identity. But we should not conclude from the fact that it may be called Zion that the Church proper becomes the entire city. There are many aspects of human life that do not fall directly under the auspices of the Church proper (considered as a liturgical, worshipping community)—such as making love, making orange juice, or making war. Nevertheless, every aspect of human life will eventually come to be oriented rightly to the Church, to the right worship of God, and will be holiness to the Lord (Zech. 14:21). Every aspect of human life comes under the authority of the Church as the Church makes disciples, teaching Christians how they are to live throughout the course of their lives. The point of connection between the Church as the temple of the Kingdom and the Kingdom itself is brought about by the world submitting to the demands of discipleship (Is. 49:23). In that broader sense, the new humanity can and should be spoken of as the Church.
We deny that this eschatological reality precludes believers from participation in unconverted or partially converted kingdoms. Until the day that the peace of the gospel finally works through the nations as leaven through the loaf, and Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, in the meantime it is appropriate and right for members of the Church, as they are called by God, to pursue vocations as civil magistrates, law enforcement officers, or military men (Rom. 16:23; Rom. 13:4; Matt. 8:10; Luke 3:14). They are to be salt and light in these stations in just the same way that Christians are called to be salt and light in every other lawful vocation (Matt. 5:13-16). Nevertheless, there are times when it comes about that the civil magistrates in command of some such vocations become so corrupt and godless that it may become unwise or even impossible for a believer to participate in such callings for a time. And while participation in such callings is honorable, believers must never make the mistake of thinking that the advancement of God’s kingdom depends in any fundamental way on the power of the sword (2 Cor. 10:4-5; Ps. 20:7). The kingdom we are building is already established in principle and not yet fully realized, and so believers in every vocation must remember to balance their affections and loyalties accordingly.
We affirm that believers, as they discharge their responsibilities in vocations that are at times called upon to shed blood, must constantly remember that they answer to a standard higher than the interests of the nation they serve, even if (especially if ) that nation is a professedly Christian one. As servants of God, they are responsible to fight in such a way that the blood they shed is consistent with the biblical tenets of just war (Ps. 144:1), remembering that they are called to stand before the Lord with a clean conscience (1 Tim. 1:5). We affirm, in line with the Christian tradition, that a competent authority must declare war, the war declared must have a just cause, the force used must be proportionate, those deciding to declare war must have sought out all honorable and peaceful means of settling the dispute, and the goal of the war must be a just and equitable peace.
We deny that we may keep our consciences clean by simply accepting what the magistrate says about the justice of his cause. As believers work through these issues, we have an obligation to discern the times in which we live, and to make all such determinations on the basis of a thoughtful study of the Scriptures and evaluation of the world around us (1 Chron. 12:32), and not on the basis of a mere acceptance of the propaganda of carnal men, whether for or against a particular conflict, or whether advanced or protested from the unbelieving left or the secular right (Dt. 8:3). In particular, we need to reject and testify against the implicit and explicit violence of a state that allows the wealthy to prey upon the poor through ungodly conquest, rapacious taxation, ungodly use of economic sanctions, inflating the currency, outlawing jobs for the poor through minimum wage laws, collusion between governments and corporations, or establishing millions of well-paid jobs ostensibly dedicated to “relieving”
poverty.We affirm that if particular wars must be opposed, believers must labor to speak with a unified voice through the Church (Ps. 2:12), and base their opposition on the plain word of God (Prov. 16:12), and not on the basis of sentimentalism, inconvenience, “just so” conspiracy theories, or partisan interests.
We deny that war is to be considered as a good in itself. Believers are never to delight in war for its own sake (Ps. 120:7), but are rather to delight in the righteousness that will result when the days of our warfare have been accomplished (Is. 40:2). The true Christian warrior is one who longs for the day when we shall study war no more (Is. 2:4), whether that warfare is spiritual (Eph. 6:12) or physical (Micah 4:3).
We affirm that violence is universally condemned in Scripture, as that word violence is defined in Scripture.
We deny that righteous bloodshed, under the authority of Christ, is violence. Summary: The gospel fights in this world as the champion of true peace, and all who
love that gospel will understand the relationship of means and ends, and the slow, inexorable progress of the gospel through the centuries.
Sins and Crimes
We affirm the distinction between sins and crimes. A particular activity should be criminal if the Scriptures identify it as the sort of evil that should be forcibly stopped and punished by the magistrate. Theft is both a sin and a crime. Covetousness is a sin, to be judged by God at the last day. Refusal to outlaw covetousness is not to be considered as approval of it, but rather as men staying within their appointed bounds, knowing that they cannot see the heart. At the same time, the civil government does not have to be silent about the destructive nature of sin (as distinct from crime). The magistrate is fully within his authority when he honors the righteous (Rom. 13: 3).
We deny that this means that the Church should be silent when it comes to the sinful mistreatment of the poor by the powerful. Manipulation of the weak by the strong should be confronted as part of the prophetic ministry of the Church. Just as sexual lust should never
be criminalized, but should still be rebuked from the pulpit, so also with legal mistreatment of the poor. Because such sin will eventually be brought before the highest court of all, the ministry of Christ should declare this reality beforehand.
We affirm that oppression of the poor is a great evil ( Jer. 5:19-31; Ez. 22), regardless of whether the perpetrator is in the public or private sector. If that oppression is carried off by means of fraud, deception, rigged monopolies, abusive employers, or a refusal to pay contracted wages, then the Church should be in the forefront of those disciplining her own members, and requiring the civil magistrate to do what God requires—to punish evil (Rom. 13: 1-6).
We deny that the problem of private sector oppression can be solved by giving the state regulatory powers not granted to the magistrate anywhere in Scripture. When corporations, organized crime, or powerful individuals are abusing people, to respond by giving unscriptural authority to the magistrate usually gives the thieves more instruments to work with as they continue to abuse their victims. One thing worse than powerful corporations disregarding the law would be powerful corporations backed by a powerful state as they disregard
the law.We affirm that the tradition of economic liberty under biblical law was one that developed in the Christian West, and that it developed because of the gospel. Because of widespread faith in the triune God of Scripture, a societal expectation developed that valued security for private property, fixed weights and measures, liberty in buying and selling, and liberty for laborers. This provided a basis for true liberty that overthrew the pagan concept of the command economy.
We deny that economic liberty under biblical law can be sustained apart from a genuine, culture-wide faith in Jesus Christ. Free markets are not our savior; Jesus Christ is. Private property is not our savior; Jesus Christ is. At the same time, when Jesus Christ saves us, the result is salvation that is intended to work its way throughout the entire culture. The fruits
of salvation should never be looked to as though they were some kind of a savior, as secular capitalists have often done. The liberty we are defending is the kind of liberty that is the result of the Spirit’s work (Is. 61:1; Luke 4:18; 2 Cor. 3:17).
Summary: When something is classified as a crime, then coercion and force are justfied in dealing with it. In order to protect society from unlimited abuses, it is therefore neces-
sary to classify as crimes only those practices which Scripture identifies as criminal.
We affirm that true Christian generosity is an expression of God’s grace (2 Cor. 8:1-6). When we give materially to others as we ought, this is a clear indication that God
has given His grace to us. Such grace may abound even in the midst of outward poverty, and indeed frequently thrives in such poverty. True Christian giving is a metaphor of the gospel (2 Cor. 9:13). When men see this spirit of generosity alive, they equate it with our submission to the gospel of Christ.
We deny that giving can be defined by predetermined amounts. True Christian giving, according to circumstance, is proportionate to the resources available (2 Cor. 8:10-12). The widow’s mite was evaluated on this basis (Mk. 12:42ff ); we are not required to give what we do not have. In addition, God’s acceptance of proportional giving is calibrated to the presence of a “willing mind” in the giver. God loves a cheerful giver and without that willing mind, a man might give all his goods to the poor without love and have it be considered as nothing (1 Cor. 13: 3).
We affirm that true Christian generosity is a work and gift of the Spirit (2 Cor. 8:7). As the Spirit works in us to cause us to abound in faith, or diligence, or love, or other fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), so also we should see abundance in this grace of generosity as functioning in the same way. The Spirit commands (Dt. 6:5), and the Spirit gives what He commands (Gal. 5:22).
We deny that recipients of such spiritual gifts need not submit to accountability. We also affirm that donors should seek out accountability as well. True Christian giving submits to accountability gladly (2 Cor. 8:16-24). Judas discovered long ago that the poor are a gold mine ( Jn. 12:4-6), and many have sought to imitate him since (1 Tim. 6:5). Resentment of financial accountability for those handling donations because the “cause is worthy” or “because people are suffering while we drag this out” demonstrates a lack of biblical understanding.
We affirm that true Christian giving is to be inspired by and imitative of the death of Jesus on the cross (2 Cor. 8:8-9). True Christian generosity is sacrificial. The particular sacrifice may vary, but the attitude should not. Riches are to be seen as an opportunity to give wisely so that others who are poor might become rich.
We deny that true generosity is ever wasted. The biblical giver loses money the way
a farmer loses seed. True Christian giving embodies the principles of planting and harvesting (2 Cor. 9:6-11a). We give in order to receive, but only so that we might be able to give again. God loves a cheerful giver, and a proper cheerfulness arises from this understanding of how the world works. Those who give in faith are therefore putting seed in the ground to be blessed by God. Those who give foolishly or rashly are simply throwing seed away.
We affirm that true Christian generosity helps to create a biblical equity (2 Cor. 8:13-15). When the Spirit is at work creating His kind of community, no one suffers in grinding want and no one gives way to arrogant wealth. This equity does not exclude great wealth, but it does exclude an arrogant or preening display of it, a wanton wastefulness in it, or a tight-fisted clutching of it.
We deny that biblical equity resembles the same kind of leveling urged by secular egalitarianism. True Christian generosity strives to encourage others to greater levels of giving in a gracious and open way (2 Cor. 9:1-5). While comparison of giving levels can obviously be abused (Matt. 6:3), nevertheless there is to be enough openness in the body to be able to spur one another on to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).
We affirm that true Christian generosity promotes and cultivates thanksgiving to God
(2 Cor. 9:11b-15), and thanksgiving in its turn promotes generosity. Feeling guilty for the material blessings that God has given to us is the antithesis of biblical generosity. Because we are so grateful for what we have received, this should quicken in us a fierce desire to share it with others. But if our wealth is a cancer to our souls, why should we want to spread it around? Gratitude exhibits a heart that gives an enormous amount. Guilt always gives just enough to make the guilt go away. We therefore reject every form of guilt manipulation.
We deny that this means that there is no such thing as true guilt surrounding the use of money. But when men sin with their money, the call of the gospel is always to true repentance—and their repentance is not for the fact of the wealth, but rather for the way it was obtained. For example, a thief must repent of his stealing (Eph. 4:28), and must make restitution (Luke 19:8). Whores and dogs must not bring their earnings into the house of the Lord (Dt. 23:18). An employer who withholds wages from his workers must put it right ( Jas. 5:4). The prophets had a great deal to say to those who obtained their wealth through fraud and abuse (e.g. Amos 5:12; 8:4, 6). Restitution in all such instances of financial wrong-doing is necessary, but such restitution is not generosity. So we mean simply that the mere fact of wealth as such does not incur guilt, but should nevertheless be a spur to grateful generosity.
We affirm that our goal is to live before the Lord in such a way that a biblical equity prevails, and that none of our members feel the need to apply to secular and unbelieving sources of mercy work, such as food stamps, welfare, financial aid for poverty relief, (Dt. 15:4; Acts 4:34). We further affirm that our mercy work should not depend in any way on these outside sources of help.
We deny that this means that we must have nothing to do with those who are involved in various forms of social work. We seek to coordinate our efforts with those who work in other such agencies, but do so in order to give, and not to receive. We do not want to receive any aid from unbelievers for what we are extending in the name of Jesus Christ (3 John 7).
Summary: Christian generosity is one of the central ways that believers are called to imitate the life of the triune God, embodying the sacrifice of Jesus, giving as an overflow of love and gratitude, and never from a sense of resentment or guilt.
We affirm that the basis of our charity is to be our recognition of the mercy we have received from God (2 Cor. 4:1).We do not extend mercy because others have earned it and may demand it of us, but rather we extend it with the knowledge that we received it when we did not deserve it (Eph. 2:1-7). Freely we have received, freely we are to give (Matt. 10:8), and we are to give in this way without thought of repayment (Luke 14:12-13).
We deny that men must earn their right to be shown charity. No one can disqualify himself from the realm of mercy ministry by rebellion or sin. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Those who are merciful shall receive mercy (Matt. 5:7). In mercy we give nothing but what was given to us. At the same time, rebellion and sin do distort a person’s sense of what he needs to receive (Prov. 23:35). But we are called to give, as far as it is possible with us, what a person actually needs and not necessarily what he thinks he needs (Acts 3:6).
We affirm that charity should extend equally to the “deserving poor” (1 Cor. 16:1) as well as to the “undeserving poor” (2 Thess. 3:10). Charity makes a distinction between them, but only in what is given, not in a willingness to give. The deserving poor receive, for example, gifts of money (1 Cor. 16:1), clothing (Matt. 25:38), food (Matt. 25:37), and shelter (Matt. 25:38). The undeserving poor receive accountability (Prov. 6:9), a work ethic (2 Thess. 3:12), and godly teaching (Eph. 4:28). The gleaning laws of the Old Testament recognize
this distinction plainly. The poor are defined as those who are “without,” and these different categories exist because people go without different things. Some are without Christ, and are spiritually poor, while others are without food, and are physically poor. Some, in danger of starvation, are absolutely poor, while others in First World countries are relatively poor because they have an older car. Charity should be extended to all, but intelligent charity requires a knowledge of what it is they are going without.
We deny that we live in a world of fixed or dwindling resources. The work of God in the world is a work that multiplies in the power of the Spirit. He multiplies disciples (Acts 6,1,7; 9:31), and He sees to it that the Word of God multiplies (Acts 12:24). In the same way, the blessing of God on a people will see mercy and all His graces multiplied ( Jude 2), with the result that as we grow to be more and more like God, we will be growing rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4-10). Wealth under God’s blessing is not a zero-sum game, in which the size of the pie is fixed, resulting in a smaller piece for one man every time another man gets a bigger piece. God has created the world in such a way that His blessings grow and multiply, and the more we learn what charity means, the more those blessings will continue to grow (2 Cor. 9:10). This is another way of saying that the pie grows under the blessing of God. The mere fact of disparity in income levels does not mean that an injustice was done.
We affirm that the tithe is the floor on which we stand (Luke 18:12), not a ceiling we vainly try to touch, or a ceiling we pride ourselves on having touched. The tithe is a rudimentary financial discipline (1 Cor. 9:14), which enables us to grow up into overflowing generosity (2 Cor. 8:2). A tithe of the increase is given as testimony to the realization that God is the God of all increase, and we are merely stewards of all that He owns and has entrusted to use for a time. As a result, the tithe represents and seals true liberation in Christ, although even this can be abused. There was a man who used to fast twice a week, and he tithed everything that came into his house, and yet he went home unjustified (Luke 18:12). Having given the tithe, we are privileged to give up offerings of our own volition.
We deny that we may make common cause with those who deny the infallibility
of God’s holy Word. Because we live in an egalitarian and sentimentalist age, we must take care never to allow our work of biblical mercy to be co-opted or confused with the jargon of collectivism, liberation theology, socialism or any other form of statism, with their carping appeals to “justice” in the face of what they think is “oppression.” To the extent that we find ourselves working for the same goals that unbelievers may have, whether they are of the right or the left politically, we must constantly keep the distinction between allies and cobelligerents in mind. Mercy is driven by joy and gratitude (2 Cor. 9:7), never by envy or ressentiment ( John 12:5; 1 Cor. 13:3). Our defense of property is driven by our commitment to Scripture (Ex. 20: 15, 17), and not by the fear that the haves project toward the have-nots. For us, the tithe, like the sabbath, represents rest. A tithing society would not be vexed by the problems represented by acute poverty.
We affirm that mercy is extended face to face, individual by individual, and family by family (Luke 10:29). Recipients of true mercy have faces, and so the Church is to be involved in mercy ministry directly ( Jas. 1:27), at a personal level. And at the macro-economic level, the Church is privileged to exercise influence by preaching the gospel powerfully, liberating men from their sins and lusts (Lev. 25:10; 2 Cor. 3:17), therefore establishing the foundation of a righteous economic order. Men who have been freed from their sins will create markets that are genuinely free, and they are the only ones who can do this. And markets that are genuinely free are markets that will generate the kind of wealth in which all may participate, obviating over time the need for ongoing mercy ministries or works of charity. Just as there will be no armies or navies in the latter days, so neither will there be flop houses and soup kitchens.
We deny that there is any tension between faith and works, between true love and true doctrine, between the word and the deed. Sound works of mercy will always be accompanied by the soundness of the spoken and written Word.
Summary: Mercy is given to all of us by God, and we are to demonstrate that we grasp what we have been given by extending it to others. This mercy is to be relational, economic, personal, and more.
Call for Action
As God has richly blessed us with salvation, and has added to this material prosperity, we pray that our response would be one of corresponding gratitude and imitative grace. We therefore encourage all of our people to engage themselves gladly in the work of the kingdom, extending the kindness of Christ to others, just as the Father has extended it to us in the power of the Spirit. Freely we have received, and so let us freely give (Matt. 10:8).
Joint Statement on Liturgical Freedom and Glory
In our churches, as we have been rediscovering the richness of liturgical worship, we have been also rediscovering some of the pitfalls that come with rediscovering anything. There are at least four temptations that can hinder faithful liturgical reformation: (1) traditionalists may hold to their immediate tradition too tightly because they are afraid any change represents slippery-slope liberalism; (2) reformers may “overshoot” by thinking that anything new is automatically an improvement and thus confuse reform with radicalism; (3) moderates who try to make everyone happy by including even contradictory ideas or practices just to keep a form of peace between opposing camps; and (4) those who have good, conservative, reforming or moderating instincts, but are uncharitable to those who disagree with their position (to a devoted traditionalist, everyone else can look like a radical leftist; to a committed reformer, every else can look like a traditionalist; to a moderate everyone else can look like an extremist). Because we want to be scriptural Christians, we want to make sure that the center of our endeavors is a sincere effort to discover what the Bible actually teaches, and to obey that, while also observing what the Bible teaches about honoring our fathers in the work of liturgical reformation. In our desire to help churches that are working with the same issues, we have drafted the following statement.
Freedom and Glory
The life of Christian worship is nothing less than a participation in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the model of perfect freedom and overflowing glory, a freedom and glory that mutually establish one another. Freedom with no glory is ungrounded; it is really no freedom at all. It is “carried about with various and strange doctrines.” It
is not sufficiently aware of what worship is or the grace being given. Freedom needs the weight of glory. On the other hand, glory with no freedom is turgid and lifeless. Glory
is heavy, and the glory of God is our shield. But glory with no freedom is like David in Saul’s armor. It is awkward and cumbersome, and doesn’t fit. Glory with no freedom will eventually reduce to stifling traditionalism, and will cease to be glorious. Freedom with no glory will reduce to whimsical worship, and will soon cease to be free. And when freedom and glory are divorced from one another, one sign this has happened is an erratic swinging back and forth from one to the other. This has the result that worship is treated like a smorgasbord, a liturgical talent show with a little bit of everything for everyone. And the end result in both cases is neither freedom nor glory.
Liturgical freedom is not anarchy; liturgical glory is not hidebound. In order to keep a balance between the two, we must make and maintain the following distinctions.
There are three categories under which to consider possible liturgical practices: first are practices that we must do (things commanded), second, practices that we may
not do (things prohibited), and third, practices that may or may not be fitting, helpful, or edifying depending on circumstances, needs, or gifts. While this third category is generally referred to as adiaphora (things indifferent, i.e. things neither commanded nor forbidden), we would insist that this does not mean that the decisions made in this category do not matter. Rather, depending on many particulars, different decisions may be lawfully and wisely made. And just because something is adiaphora does not mean there is an automatic protection against a lack of wisdom. Such decisions can matter greatly, but their nature is such that completely opposite decisions may both be correct, given the different circumstances. And the nature of time and history must be given sufficient weight in such considerations. The bronze serpent was a symbol of Israel’s salvation and a powerful reminder of grace, but later became a great stumbling block. Hezekiah was right to tear it down (Num. 21, 2 Kgs. 18:4). In the realms of liturgical practice, specific examples of this same kind of thing would include certain bodily postures, sermon length, specific instruments/music, vestments, sanctuary adornment, the selection of particular prayers and creeds, as well as less important decisions like meeting times and seating arrangements, etc.
The Glory of Tradition
While the Scriptures are critical of certain kinds of tradition (e.g. Col. 2:8), the Scriptures also require us to keep and honor other kinds of tradition (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6). The fifth commandment requires that we honor our fathers and mothers (Ex. 20:12), following them unless they have been rebellious (Ps. 78:7-8), and this command to honor them does not cease to apply after they have died. Removing the ancient landmark was a temptation for Israel as much as it is a temptation for us (e.g. Prov. 22:28). This means that, in addition to our earthly parents, within the one family of God, we are required to honor the fathers and mothers of our own particular “tribe.” In God’s providence, Christians are sometimes orphaned, neglected, or abused and they must seek out and find new families. But we are more fortunate and our call is to cultivate thankfulness for what God has given to us. In our particular context, we recognize the Reformed tradition broadly as our branch of the family, while gladly embracing the western, catholic tradition more broadly as our family tree. All of God’s people throughout Christendom are our people, but the Reformation branch is our place in Christendom, and the great Reformed confessions, catechisms, and liturgies tell the story of our faith well. In saying this, we do not mean to imply that doctrinal issues can be reduced to mere geographical placement. There are truth claims involved, and this means that over time, the entire tree will necessarily grow up into a greater unity and like-mindedness.
The Freedom of Sola Scriptura
At the same time, constrained by Scripture, we also confess the sins of our fathers and cling to the promises of Scripture that call us to work for and expect more glory, new glory. Reformation is not to be understood as merely a onetime event, but rather as our marching orders. Sanctification is not just for individuals, but also for the Church as a whole. With the 16th century reformers we affirm the supremacy of Scripture and rejoice in the freedom of the Spirit to lead the Church into all truth. Grounded in the Scripture, we trust the Lord to grow us up into all maturity (Eph. 4:13; 5:27). While we stand with the fathers of our tradition, we confess with faithful fathers like Athanasius and Luther and many others that our fundamental allegiance is to stand faithful to the Word of God. This is necessary despite the fact that many may oppose us even from within the Church of Jesus. We trust the Holy Spirit to work out all truth in His timing through history, and we are happy to trust Him to lead us in this. We are therefore not dismayed by popes, councils, individual pastors or factional movements, or political pressures when they differ
with the Scriptures.
CREC Memorial on Worship
We affirm the CREC Memorial on Worship which helpfully describes positively what faithful Christian worship seeks to embody and grow in, and in addition to that statement, we find it necessary, in our particular circumstances, to address several specific areas where liturgical questions usually arise.
Freedom and Glory in the Details
We warn our people and our children against religious pageantry. While worship is a dramatic event, the sinful heart of man naturally inclines to hide behind theatrical forms. And any sort of service can be turned into a theatrical facade. Both High Church rituals and Low Church “anti-ritual” rituals can be opportunities for confusion, undue offense, and provide a stumbling block for those who prefer empty form and ritual to honest communion with the triune God (Is. 1:12; Jer. 7:4; Hos. 6:6; Ps. 40:6; 1 Sam. 15:22; Rom. 2:29).
Against traditions that say otherwise, the Scriptures teach that the action of bowing is reserved for God and His living image bearers. God’s people are not to bow before man-made objects, the elements of communion, or any other relic or icon (Ex. 20:4-6). While human beings may not be worshiped as God (e.g. Acts 10:25-26, Rev. 22:8-9), because they are living icons of the true God (Gen. 1:27), the kind that only He can make, they are to be venerated or honored as appropriate (e.g. Ex. 20:12, 1 Kgs. 1:2, 1 Pet. 2:17) and may be honored with the holy kiss (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12, 1 Th.
5:26). Likewise, kneeling is a posture which is not suitable for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and may suggest a sort of veneration that is not fitting for this festive memorial meal. Sitting or reclining was the posture used by those who celebrated it first at the Last Supper (Mk. 14:18, Jn. 13:23), and we believe it continues to be the most beneficial. Other postures like hand-raising, clapping, prostration, and even standing or sitting are not neutral, and anything we do like this should be carefully compared with Scripture. Even prudent applications of biblical postures can become occasions for pride and idolatry and as such should be reformed as need arises.
We stand with the Reformed tradition wanting to see the Word of God honored, and therefore those ministers who declare it ought to be dressed as befits the dignity and responsibility of that office. While it is not required, it is legitimate for ministers to be vested for the worship service. But because this, when done, is “for glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:2), it is important that it not be overdone. We therefore warn against undue pageantry, and commit ourselves to pursuing a glorious simplicity even and especially here. We also warn against those who believe that the status quo (whether high or low) is somehow safer or more orthodox just because we’re used to it. High and Low Church traditions can each be turned into their own kinds of will-worship or pageantry.
We recognize that there will be others who may find places to hide in traditional Reformed elements, seeking refuge behind the words of catechisms, confessions of faith, and a certain regulated simplicity. And still others will soothe their guilt in ancient prayers, and ritual. And therefore, wherever the sinful heart seeks to hide from God in our worship, we pray for God’s wisdom to be upon us and our children and that the Holy Spirit might lead us to expose all darkness to the light of the gospel that God’s mercy may be upon us and our congregations to a thousand generations.
A Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving
Finally, we confess that ingratitude and bitterness is at the heart of all sin. But at the heart of faithfulness and love is thankfulness and praise. We want to receive all the elements of our worship with thankfulness, as the grace of God to us, and we want to embrace them and rejoice in them as gifts of grace. The format of our liturgies therefore needs to be received as grace, the words of our prayers and confessions need to be received as grace, the instruments and music and words of our psalms and hymns need to be received as grace, the weekly observance of the Supper needs to be received as grace, the Scripture readings, congregational responses, and the benediction need to all be received as grace. And we commit ourselves and charge our descendants to continue the reformational work necessary to be steadfast in this spirit of thanksgiving, in the glory and freedom of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Agreement for two or more Christians who are having difficulties
Application for Filing Ecclesiastical Charge(s)
Notice of Appeal of Ecclesiastical Judgment
IRS Tax Form for Greyfriars who want to opt out of SSI
The Christ Church Diaconate
The deacons’ first duty is to love the local body of Christ, especially where that body is weak.This service is a natural outflow from the preaching of the Word and the service of the Lord’s Table, where spiritual food and drink are prepared for a spiritually hungry congregation, and is offered to the world as well. Secondly, as the deacons serve the non-Christians in our community, the work is robustly evangelistic and seeks to embody a gospel which marries word and deed in conformity with the Scriptures.
Within the body, the deacons’ work consists of works of service and works of mercy. Works of service include various practical and logistical tasks delegated to the deacons by the leadership of the church.These tasks include,but are not limited to,executive management of the deacons’ fund and the Christian education fund, helping in the preparation of the church budget,supplying representatives to church committees,organizing fellowship meals and events, chair arrangement, Lord’s table preparation and distribution and other liturgical assistance, security, facilities management, reporting their work to the heads of household meetings, and to the elders, making proposals to the elders, and supplying training for deacon candidates.
Works of mercy within the body include assisting/teaching struggling members of the church in their obligation to work, the need for work, and how to work. Assisting these members may include lessons in discipline, education and job training, arranging for apprenticeships, etc. This mercy work should also include helping members learn and apply sound biblical principles of financial management. And last, assisting members who already have a biblical work ethic, who don’t need help managing their household budgets, but who need assistance because of hard providences (car accidents, job lay-offs, exorbitant medical bills, age, marital status, etc.). Assisting widows and orphans is an important part of this work. The deacons will make a distinction (theoretically and practically in assistance decisions) between those who need help because of their own personal failings and those who need help because we live in a fallen world. Assessed corporately, the efforts of the diaconate should be oriented such that works of mercy make up a preponderance of their work.
Externally (outside the body), the deacons will be alert for any way they can be of service in our broader community, seeking ways to show grace for its own sake, thereby possibly opening up opportunities for explicit presentations of the gospel. Examples of ministry of this sort should include support for pro-life work, assisting the elderly, the infirm, and ministering to international students. External ministry work will also include coordination with other evangelical ministries to the disadvantaged. The deacons are asked to limit their ministry to “high maintenance” recipients to less than 10% of their time with mercy work.
STATEMENTS ON RELATED MINISTRIES
Statement on Blog & Mablog
That said, the session of Christ Church recognizes that Blog & Mablog is owned, operated, and paid for, by Douglas and Nancy Wilson, who are solely responsible for its contents. At the same time, when it is reasonable to assume that there will be significant repercussions for the church, Doug will make a point to provide a draft to the session prior to publication if possible, or to notify the session at the earliest appropriate time if not possible. If a formal statement on some issue needs to be made by the church, it will be posted on the church’s web site and/or social media, with links provided at Mablog. At any time the session desires it, material produced by Doug for the church (sermon outlines, exhortations, meditations), could be published exclusively at the church web site. For the rest, the contents of Mablog will be considered part of the general kingdom work here in Moscow, with areas of overlap.
The session makes a distinction between spiritual authority and editorial oversight. What this means is that if Doug took someone out to dinner and promulgated a heresy in the course of that dinner, who bought the dinner would be irrelevant. The qualifications of all our officers are established throughout the course of our lives, and if one of us disqualified himself in any area, the session has the authority and the responsibility to address it. This would apply to books, blogs, NSA classes, musical compositions, etc. But the session is not interested in exercising editorial control over ministries it does not own or finance. Spiritual authority would address things like truthfulness, scriptural grounding, orthodoxy, and holiness. Editorial oversight would include issues like rhetorical strategies, impact, influence, aesthetic judgments, and so on.