(In the preceding paragraph Kuyper has talked about reformation which comes about through a split between a local congregation and the church federation. In this paragraph he speaks of reformation by means of a split between the individual and his own congregation.)
58. Concerning Reformation By Means Of A Break With the Existing Congregation.
The calling of Gods child is serious when he comes to a break with the existing organization of his church. This calling becomes still more serious if the matter comes to a break with the federation in which that church is connected with other churches. But yet incomparably more serious is the Christian’s calling if it comes to a break with the congregation itself.
Think of the fact that by a break with the organization as well as by a break with the church federation, the believer never faces the question if the once true church has perhaps unnoticed turned into the false church. He sees that the government in his church is not according to the requirements of God’s Word and also that the manner of life is not according to the balances of God’s sanctuary, even that the connection with other churches has become unholy. But his church itself remains for him always the church of Christ. He does not think of getting out.
But in the third chapter of this pamphlet concerning the deformation of the church, it became evident to us that corruption in Jesus’ church can also proceed to the extreme of desecration. A church which was once the church of Christ can degenerate into the church of Antichrist, and thus can continue to exist as the false church under a 94 deceptive appearance.
The possibility of this appears in Jesus’ own words when He said that the synagogue of the Jews after His death on the cross, had degenerated into the synagogue of Satan. Thus the Lord wrote to the church of Philadelphia: “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie.”
The synagogue of the Jews was initially recognized by Jesus as the synagogue of Jehovah. Otherwise He would not have gone up into its courts of prayer, and much less would He have brought His disciples into it. More yet, we know that Jesus Himself took a part in the service of these synagogues, and thus it is certain that these synagogues were originally recognized by Jesus as the genuine church of God. But by and after His crucifixion, this changed. The synagogue fell under the Sanhedrin and did not oppose that Sanhedrin even when the Sanhedrin, by condemning to death the Son of God as a blasphemer, broke forever with the church of God. In relation to Christ, the synagogue had to build itself up or die. It did the last. When the Sanhedrin passed sentence and the priests incited the people and the leaders of the people to cry: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” and the women to cry: “His blood be on us!” then the Spirit of the Lord sorrowfully went away from the church of the synagogue to allow Satan’s spirit to enter. Thus the church of the Jews became a synagogue of Satan, or, what we would call a false church.
This shows that a church in which we were born and in which we once found salvation and often received the seals of the covenant, can degenerate into a false church. This dreadful truth now lays upon God’s children the duty to investigate, in connection with the’ deep, fall of the churches, prayerfully, sharply, and very closely, whether the church in which they live is still the true church of Christ or perhaps has gone over into the form of Satan’s synagogue. This task is extremely painful because there is so much at stake. If it is still the true church, then a Christian may not separate from it. But also, if it has become the synagogue of Satan, then he may not a moment longer remain bound to it. He must get out.
Thus one sees that the question of separating or staying is in the absolute sense not a disputable point concerning which one can argue for or against, or discuss according to mood or fancy, its good and bad points; but rather that in times of church decay each child of God comes in the depths of his own soul before this most serious question. He must carefully consider that in answering it he is found faithful before his God. It would be a fearful thing to continue to live in a church of which Jesus witnessed to His apostles: “This is a church of Satan which says that it is Reformed, and it is not, but it lies.” But it would also be terrible if we went out through departure or separation from the church which was still a manifestation of the body of Christ and thus condemn as a synagogue of Satan that which was still an organ of the Holy Spirit.
Both sins are equally serious and it cannot be too deeply impressed upon the hearts of God’s people that they must seek from the all-wise One light through prayer and entreaty in order to be protected from error and kept free from a false choice.
At least a few symptoms come clearly to mind with which many children of God escape this serious and earnest question, such as, externality, rashness, thoughtlessness.
Just as, alas, there are many who believe three states of faith in the soul, many also judge in good faith that three conditions of the church are thinkable.
They imagine that a soul can be either dead or living or concerned. In the same way they have the idea that a church can be either true or false or something in between.
Yet every instructed and initiated soul knows better. It is definitely established for him on the ground of God’s Word that every soul which is not dead is alive, and that every soul which is not yet alive is entirely dead. In the same way appearances of concern are entirely dead; but true concern already means translation from death to life.
This also applies to the churches of our Lord. What is not yet false is still the true church, and what is no longer the true church is entirely the false. An in-between state does not exist. Also for churches on earth a purgatory is unthinkable. Each church is the true or already the false church. To think of a mixture of true and false is absurd.
This also condemns the rash act of many who judge that they can, if they wish, come out, but who would rather stay in; and also of those who think that they can remain, but yet, coming out, nevertheless still support the rejected church as half and half true even after their departure.
One of the two is true: if you see, taste, know that your church has become a synagogue of Satan, then you must get upon on your feet, go out over her threshold, and shake off the dust of your feet against her. But if you see, taste, and know that it has not yet become a synagogue of Satan, then you must not send in a letter of separation but your obligation is to remain in it.
This makes it of deep concern for the children of God that they be clearly instructed in the marks by which they can distinguish what is still the true church and what has already become the synagogue of Satan. Because of this principle we will venture in a modest way in the following paragraphs to give our brothers and sisters some light on this question. Now, however, we will let the question rest for a bit and proceed in this paragraph on the assumption that a child of God is a member of a church which actually has become a false church. Our purpose is to investigate further how such a child of God must then participate in the work of reformation.
We purposely write how he must engage in the work of reformation and not how he must walk out of the church.
That last is an unspiritual conception of the matter. It could be that the end is that he quite alone without any others leaves that false church. But he may not begin with this without great guilt and he may not formulate the question in this way without great lack of love.
To say: “I am walking out,” is an egotistical, self-seeking thought. One cares for himself and shows that he has no more heart for his brothers than for the church. Or, worse yet, by a lack of heart for his brothers and for the church, one runs the risk of lacking a right heart for himself.
This will become most evident if we show the proper way for a child of God to walk under such circumstances.
If the reformation of the church is on the foreground for a godly man, and not only the desire to have for himself a desirable church, then such a child of God, when his trouble with the church begins, will feel a sadness towards God over the miserable state into which his church has sunk. That sad state of his church shall weigh on his soul as the judgment of God. He will be grieved because of the name of the Lord, and yet he will not complain and grumble, but will confess that God the Lord is righteous in His judgment because the people of the Lord have earned this judgment three times over by their unfaithful deeds. Himself belonging to that people of God and knowing his soul as shut up in the small bundle of the living, he will include himself in that guilt of his people before God. This comes about not in this way of reasoning: the people are guilty, he is of that people, and thus that guilt rests also upon him. No, it comes about in the spiritual way of the conviction of sin. His own makeup will be a hindrance to him and his own unbelief and lovelessness and coolness for heaven will be so fearfully bound on the soul that he will consider the Lord’s deeds to be righteous even though there is no other reason for God’s judgment than his own sin.