Volume. XXX, No. 18
Sunday, 01 November 2015


The Elements of a Reformed Church


Introduction

The modern era is a time of great theological ignorance, profound indifference, and spiritual declension (Hosea 4:6). Most of the denominations and churches which are generally referred to as conservative, Bible-believing and evangelical have different interpretations of the doctrine of salvation. The doctrines of sovereign grace have been abandoned as obsolete, unfair, unbiblical, and irrational. There is a great divide in the Christian world where it pertains to the understanding of the doctrine of salvation.  

The Bible Presbyterian Church which has about 78 years of history traces its root to the doctrines of sovereign grace taught in the Bible which come to be known to us as Covenant Theology and Calvinism. It is opposed to Arminianism which has a different doctrinal basis. The Bible Presbyterian Church is traced also to the 16th century Protestant Reformation movement, especially under the Reformer John Calvin in Geneva and is committed to the propagation of the pure gospel and the vigilant defence of the most holy faith when it was started on 4 June 1937 by Dr Carl McIntire and others.

It would also be consistent with the teachings and stand of John Knox in Scotland and the English Puritan movement that influenced the drafting of the historic Westminster Confession of Faith in the 17th century England. We need to know our roots, what we believe and why we believe.

The Sovereignty of God

There are in reality only two types of religious thought. There is the religion of faith and the religion of works. We believe that what has been known in Church History as Calvinism is the purest and most consistent embodiment of the religion of faith, while that which has been known as Arminianism has been diluted and is inconsistent and unstable form of Christianity. In other words, we believe that Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in the Reformed Faith.

In the early part of the fifth century these two types of religious thought came into direct conflict in a remarkably clear contrast as embodied in two fifth-century theologians, Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine pointed men to God as the source of all true spiritual wisdom and strength, while Pelagius threw men back on themselves and said that they were able in their own strength to do all that God commanded, otherwise God would not command it. We believe that Arminianism represents a compromise between these two systems, but that while in its more evangelical form, as in early Wesleyanism, it approaches the religion of faith, it nevertheless does contain an element of incorrectness.

We are living in a day in which practically the historic Churches are being attacked from within by unbelief by the evil one. Many of them have already succumbed. And almost invariably the line of descent over the decades has been Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to Jewish legalism, Liberalism and then to Unitarianism (i.e. as opposed to Trintarianism) and ecumenism and even extremism within the church. The history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is unsound and unbiblical. We are convinced that true Christianity is bound up with that system of theology historically called “Calvinism”. Where the God-centred principles of Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong tendency downward into the depths of man-centred naturalism or secularism. There is a great difference between biblical Calvinism and modernism.

The basic principle of Calvinism is the absolute sovereignty of God. This represents the purpose of the Triune God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will. He appoints the course of nature and directs the course of history down to the minutest details. His decrees therefore are eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise and sovereign. They are represented in the Bible as being the basis of the divine foreknowledge of all future events and not conditioned by that foreknowledge or by anything originating in the events themselves (Romans 8:29-30).

Every thinking person readily sees that some sovereignty rules his life. He was not asked whether or not he would have existence, when or what or where he would be born, whether in the 21st century or before the Flood, and whether male or female, race or nationality he or she is in. All of those things were sovereignly decided for him before he had any existence. It has been recognised by Christians in all ages that God is the Creator and Ruler of the world and that as such, He is the ultimate source of all power that is found in the world. Hence nothing can come to pass apart from His sovereign will. Otherwise, He would not be truly GOD. And when we dwell on this truth we find that it involves considerations which establish the Calvinistic and disprove the Arminian position which is man centred and arbitrary and contrary to scripture.

By virtue of the fact that God has created everything that exists, He is the absolute Owner and final Disposer of all that He has made. He exerts not merely a general influence, but actually rules in the affairs of men (Acts 4:24-28). Even the nations are as the small dust of the balance when compared with His greatness (Isaiah 40:12-17). Amid all the apparent defeats and inconsistencies of our human lives, God is actually controlling all things in undisturbed majesty. If God is excluded from the government of the world, then we have only a finite God, but our God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable and all wise and powerful and omnipresent as well.

God can convert a sinner whenever He pleases and he does not need his consent (Ephesians 1:4). Cannot the Almighty, the Almighty, the omnipotent Ruler of heaven and earth, change the character of the creatures He has made without his cooperation? Absolutely. He changed the water into wine at Cana and converted Saul on the road to Damascus. Matthew 8:2 says, ‘And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.’ And at a word his leprosy was cleansed. Let us not believe, as do the Arminians, that God cannot control the human will, or that He cannot regenerate a soul when He pleases. He is as able to cleanse the soul as the body. If He chose He could raise up such a flood of Christian ministers, missionaries and workers of various kinds and could so work through His Holy Spirit, that the entire world would be converted in a short time. If He had purposed to save all men, He could have sent hosts of angels to instruct them to do supernatural works on the earth. He could have worked marvellously in the heart of every person so that no one would have been lost.

Since evil exists only by His permission, He could if He chose, blot it out of existence. His power in this respect was shown, for instance, in the work of the destroying angel who in one night slew all of the first born of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:19) and in another night slew 185,000 of the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35). It was shown when the earth opened and swallowed Korah and his rebellious allies (Numbers 16:31-35). King Herod was smitten and died a horrible death (Acts 12:23). In Daniel 4:34-35 we read that the Most High God’s “dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing and the doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can stay his hand or say unto him, What doest thou?”

All of this brings out the basic principle of the Reformed Faith, which is the sovereignty of God. God created this world in which we find ourselves. He owns it and He is running it according to His own sovereign good pleasure. God has lost none of His power and it is highly dishonouring to Him to suppose that He is struggling along with the human race, doing the best He can to persuade men to do right, but unable to accomplish His eternal, unchangeable, holy wise and sovereign purpose as in open theism recently. This is contrary to the basic doctrines that undergird the five points of Calvinism.

Any system which teaches that the serious intentions of God can in some cases be defeated and that man, who is not only a creature but a sinful creature, can exercise veto power over the plans of Almighty God, is in striking contrast to the biblical idea of His immeasurable exaltation compared to the weaknesses of humanity. God is unlimited in these and in all other resources and there are no unforeseen emergencies that can arise.  To assume that His plan fails and that He strives to no effect is to reduce Him to the level of His creatures and make Him no God at all.

Christianity comes to its fullest expression in the Reformed Faith which exalts God and humbles man. The most important principle of the reformed faith, through the understanding of the five points of Calvinism which clearly concerns the way of salvation, is the summarised reformed doctrines of grace for our Church in its logical consistency. A professing Christian should know how and why his redemption has been accomplished and how it has been made effectual, besides following God who redeems him out of sin and depravity. The five points of Calvinism are held generally by the Presbyterians, some  independent churches, Reformed Churches and the  reformed Baptists, while the five points of Arminianism are held by largely the Methodists (although there are Calvinistic Methodists as well), Lutherans, Brethren, Charismatics or Pentecostals and some Baptists. The following is a summary of it during the historic Synod of Dort 1618-9.

The Five Points of Calvinism and Arminianism

The five points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism arising out of the Dutch Remonstrance controversy at the historic Synod of Dort. The "Five Points" of Calvinism can be easily remembered by the acronym TULIP (the Dutch flower).

Some of the finest saints and missionaries are reformed like Whitefield, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, William Carey, Judson, Brainerd, Burns, Goforth, Robert McCheyne and Arthur Pink, Lloyd Jones and Machen among many others.

It is also instructive to be reminded that in the mind of the reformed believer, he humbly acknowledges that all men are dead spiritually (Ephesians 2:1-5), are either ignorant of or are against the truth, and have no love nor seek Jesus Christ (John 3:19-21). He dwells in darkness (John 1:4-5), has a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19), is helpless to save himself (Ezekiel 16:4-6), cannot repent on his own (Jeremiah 13:23), is a slave of Satan and sin (Acts 26:17-18) and cannot see or comprehend divine truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). This biblical fact may be offensive to the natural man but is unavoidable unless one is willing to ignore the word of God. The doctrine of total depravity of man is important, for when it is properly understood, it proves that salvation is totally of God’s grace and not of man’s doing, to which all true Calvinists readily assent

Conclusion

A Church should be Apostolic, Biblical, Covenantal (or Calvinistic) and Confessional, Doctrinal, Evangelical and Fundamental in its beliefs. Ignorance of our doctrinal foundations is not bliss and we need to be grounded and rooted in the most holy faith which is the Reformed Biblical Faith of the Bible. The BP movement has been under attack from various quarters including dispensationalism, liberalism and extremism and we are not Arminian, ecumenical, charismatic nor liberal or extremist in our doctrinal stand. We need to be able to explain and defend the faith of our fathers and give an answer of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15) Let us be mindful of these vital biblical principles and live our lives according to the glorious biblical truths, trusting in God’s sovereign grace and mercies alone till He returns and not on self or man-made dogma or whims and fancies.

Rev Jack Sin, Pastor of Maranatha BPC, S’pore

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Kitchen Roster - Today: Group B. Next Lord’s Day: Group C. Please see Sis Megan Lim if you are not sure which group you are in.
*After worship service, please help to put away hymn books, Bibles, chairs and to clean up the premises.
*Adult Sunday School & History of Doctrines will resume today. All are encouraged to attend.
*Please note that the Stone Mansion is now under new ownership. Please do not go to the property from now on.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Church activities in the past week.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
The wonderful 22 years of Worship services & Fellowship activities in The Stone Mansion.

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe;  & others in affliction.
Special Prayer: Rev George van Buuren (heart failure)
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Batam Missions: Sis Ang Liang Phoa & Ministry; Filadefia BPC.
House of Hope, Cebu - Staff & volunteers; treatment & salvation of drug addicts.
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Journey mercies: Deaconess Purdee Yeo; & those who are travelling.
Good health in pregnancy: Sis Isabelle Ng.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.
Persecuted believers in Islamic countries.
God’s guidance & provision of new church property for worship, office & fellowship activities.
Australia: God’s wisdom for our political leaders. People to repent and turn to God.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063