Friday, December 12, 2008

Lecture: The Reformation's teaching on the church

In the middle of this grand and outwardly glorious church building in France is Napolean's tomb. This is like the church today, beautifully white-washed on the outside, but at heart just a tomb for idolatrous images and the burnt ashes of the corpse of godless man, all built for the worship of Man.

Friday night's lecture was fantastic. Fewer of our (college) friends could come because of the pressures with exams etc, but we were nevertheless, greatly blessed. We had a friend who came down from Galway (and stayed for the whole weekend!) and we had another friend who has been coming to the Lord's Day meetings over for dinner beforehand who was delighted to learn the Reformed and biblical interpretation of 1 John 2:2.

We arrived early, and I was smitten from about 6 o'clock onwards with a splitting headache which endured throughout the entire lecture. But it was a great joy to meet the saints again (and to get loads of books that I had bought!). When the lecture began (which apparently was longer than usual), it seemed to me, that it was finished almost immediately.

I was quite gripped throughout the entire lecture, despite the headache, of which I recalled only afterwards and had to take paracetamol. The lecture covered all kinds of issues regarding the church, many of which are again very relevant today. For example, it would probably be abhorrent to some to consider the church to be the company of the predestinate (in fact to mention the words "the predestinate" is anathema to many). And for a while a few years ago, like many in the house-church movement I had also fallen into the grave error of presuming there to be no need for the church institute.

It was very helpful to hear not only the right view proven, but also all the myriad wrong views of papists, (Ana)baptists and fanatics disproven. What struck me was how comprehensive the lecture was. It seemed like every angle was covered; what the wrong views were (and why!) and what the right view is (and why!). There were (and are) so many controversies about the nature of the church etc, but the truth is so powerful. As always I am fascinated by what I learn about the Reformation and utterly astonished by how far the church has departed, and how gracious God has been to me to bring me to a true church.

Afterward there was some interesting questions and answers on the topic of children in the church. First, the Three Forms of Unity are very good on this subject, and also the CPRC kindly distribute many pamphlets to biblically prove the correct view on this, but I've also been reading Prof. Engelsma's "The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers". I was especially impressed by his treatment of Article 17 of Head 1 of the Canons of Dordt in the chapter "No Reason to Doubt", and I highly recommend it!

Almost all the "evan-jelly" church in Limerick while not necessarily baptist by name is (ana)baptist by nature; this false indoctrination and total ignorance of the covenant of God (and its nature) is why it is a big hurdle for people here to get around. I still marvel at how clearly I see the doctrine of covenant children in the Bible now, when once I thought it was a totally foreign concept.

The "evan-jellies" do a good job of inoculating us to the plain truth of the Bible until it is pointed out. This is what shallow preaching does: it causes confusion and ignorance and obscures the truth. I think this is why the foolishness of preaching does more than reading alone ever could. It's like God uses preachers who labour in their studies of God's word to point to the elephant in the room that you were too busy examining the toenail of to see that it was an elephant. How long did it take Luther in his reading to see that “the righteousness of God” is referring to His righteousness which can only be imputed to us by Christ, not a righteous standard that we must attain to of ourselves? But if it had been preached to him, the pieces of the jigsaw would have clicked together in very little time.

It is amazing to hear of all the many issues that were dealt with at the time of the reformation, and yet how ignorant most of us are of them. It is so sad, when there is such a precious wealth of biblical truth to be learnt from when these issues came up in the past, that the churches today seem to be like the proverbial fool returning to their folly (of the papists), like a dog to its vomit (Prv 26:11). If your father built most of a house already before he passed away, would you simply demolish it and start building your own from scratch? That's not only foolish, its obstinate and prideful - all of which I too am abundantly guilty.

In Limerick it seems like most church leaders are utterly blind to this. The lecture was like a bombshell going off making clear just how far the false churches have departed from the truth. God-willing others who received copies on CD of the lecture will see that they need to join a biblical church. I am always greatly encouraged when there is a public lecture, because I know that Christ is the one who builds His church (Matthew 16:18) and that it is by the work of ministers of the Word, especially in the preaching, that we are brought into unity, not to be blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:11-16).

There are certainly many winds of doctrines blowing around here in Limerick, but how can the lies stand against the word of God which is like a fire and a hammer that breaketh the rock into pieces (Jer 23:28-29)? Knowing this, I am courageous to pray and bold to approach the throne of our sovereign and gracious God who does as He pleases among the inhabitants of the earth, for the sake of the Reformed faith in this city, and that He would gather the saints here together so that we would obey 1Co 1:10.

We had some great chats afterwards as well. It was an absolute delight to hear the Reformed minister wholly confute all kinds of silly questions about the "age of reason" and other unbiblical notions, and defend the plain meaning of various passages of Revelation against the divers imaginations about communists, China, Russia, Gog and Magog and years etc. I told my friends about a book "Behold He Cometh!" by Herman Hoeksema (which can be read on-line) that I've been reading through, and how thoroughly sensible and biblical is the interpretation of Revelation it presents without wandering off into any foolish speculations and unscriptural ideas. The only right interpretation is what plainly comes by Sola Scriptura: “Scripture interprets Scripture!”

I think it was about hour after we said that we were going that we actually went, and even then we all spent some time thanking Rev. Stewart for coming down and talking about plans for possibly visiting the CPRC again in January. Exciting stuff! I could probably say a lot more, but I must get more study done - and lots of it.

- Sam W.

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