Friday, January 02, 2009

Biblical Church Unity in 2009

Happy new year from Limerick!

It has been an eventful year, and one in which I could not even begin to recount the myriad journey which the Lord, by His eternally steadfast, unchanging, and powerful grace, has brought me through. Perhaps the journey above all journeys this year, which has in some ways permeated everything I have been through, has been regarding the church.

First there is all that I have learnt about the church, in its government, in its nature, in its purpose, and in its local expression. Second there is all I have had to put in practice concerning what I have learnt. I have had to leave a church that has departed from the truth and is becoming more and more a part of the Anti-christian harlot (Rev 17:1-6). I have had to figure out what church I can join and how to make that decision. I have had to learn what church membership is really all about, and what the importance of creeds and confessions are. And I have had to join the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, in the hope that God will graciously institute a true church here that is "Reformed according to the word of God".

In the light of this great journey on which at least now I can confess that I am on the right road (the narrow way) and heading in the right direction, I would like to share the following excerpt from a very short book on biblical church unity that I have just read (I seem to always end up reading shockingly appropriate articles about issues after I have struggled with them myself and come through to the very positions expressed by those articles - why isn't it the other way around?):
"Doctrinal independence from the church of the past is the hallmark of sectarianism. Sects, by their very nature, reject and despise the creeds and confessions. They thrive in a climate of theological individualism. They epitomize the idea of all men believing that which is right in their own eyes and then drawing other men after them. In contrast, churches that "hold the traditions" will with gladness in their hearts join their fathers in common confession of the truth which they all as one believe.

If church unity is to be biblical, therefore, the churches must be confessional churches.

Finally, before we move on, there is a further objection to the confessions which we must consider briefly. Against those churches who take their confessional standards seriously the charge is sometimes made that they give them an authority equal to that of Holy Scripture. There are two comments to be made in reply. In the first place, it is doubtful whether the charge is ever actually true, but, in the second place, even if it were a valid charge, the objection is misdirected, since the fault lies not with the confession, but with the individual, church, or denomination giving it the undue authority.

The authority of a creed is a derived authority and is therefore always subordinate to that of Scripture.

The danger today, in these times of doctrinal laxity, lies not so much in giving the confessions too much authority as not enough. Once a church or denomination becomes embarrassed by its stated confession and quietly leaves it to gather dust on the shelf, or allows diversity of opinion on matters which are judged to be unconcerned with the substance of the faith, then the enemy is at the door, if not already rampaging through the house. The churches no longer speak with one voice, and divisions, with all the disruption and pain they incur, inevitably follow."

From this article:

After all this, though it is but a glimpse of God's work in this world for His people, and all for the glory of His Name, I still confess: God is sovereign, and His Word is sufficient. I am continually reminded of my ignorance and lack of faith. I know that God holds me, because I could never hold onto Him unless I was firmly clutched in the palm of His sovereign hand. Through all the trials which it pleases the Lord to bring upon us, may we confess with Job:
"Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my mine hand upon my mouth. Once I have spoken; but I will not answer: yea twice; but I will proceed no further. ... I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." - Job 40:4-5; 42:2-6.
In 2009, may we pray for the true biblical peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:1-9, 1Co 1:10), though I don't mean the Jerusalem of the premillenialists (Heb 12:22-24).

- Sam W.

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