Ronald L. Cammenga is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.
In the past several articles we have discussed public confession of faith. We have used as our guide the three questions that are asked of those who make confession of faith. We want to conclude this discussion by calling attention to certain responsibilities which a confessing member of God’s church has. Some of these we have already referred to in passing.
Perhaps the most important calling of a confessing member of the church is to live an unreproachable life in the midst of the world. Even the world must behold the good works of the people of God in order that God may be glorified in the day of visitation, I Peter 2:12. Never must the believer give the enemies of God’s cause an occasion to blaspheme.
Are you living this kind of life, young people? Are you able to say that by your conduct you are a witness of Jesus Christ? Are those with whom you come into contact on the job or at college able to discern that you are a Christian? Do you refrain from taking God’s name in vain? Do you refuse to attend the movie, listen to rock music, and participate in wild partying and dancing? Do you keep yourself from fellowship with unbelievers?
An important part of the unreproachable life of the believing young person concerns dating and marriage. The young people ought to have a concern for the continuation of God’s covenant, and therefore ought to have serious thoughts towards dating and marriage. Are you seeking a wife or husband? What kind of wife or husband are you seeking? Is it of the utmost importance to you that your prospective spouse be a believer? Is it a concern of yours that that prospective wife or husband be or become a member of the Protestant Reformed Churches?
The Christian of himself is not able to live this good life in the world which is pleasing to God. In order to do this, he needs strength from God Himself. God gives His child that strength day by day through the reading of the Scriptures and prayer. Do you read God’s Word and do you pray? There ought to be time every day in the life of the Christian young person for private devotions. You ought to read a few chapters of the Bible. By reading three chapters a day, you will be able to read through the entire Bible in about a year. And you ought to pray, formulating your own prayer in which you confess your sins and lay your needs before God’s throne of grace.
An important calling of the confessing member of the church is to contribute to the support of the gospel ministry and the poor. Do the young people recognize this calling? Does the cause of God and His kingdom come first in their lives, before their own needs and pleasures?
It is the calling of every member of the church to contribute to the support of the ministry of the Word. In most churches this is done by paying the budget. I believe the budget system to be very worthwhile, nor have I ever heard a valid objection lodged against it. The confessing member of the church must fulfill his responsibility by paying his budget, and by doing so before buying groceries, gas for his car, or indulging in recreation. This is simply obedience to the Word of Christ, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . .” (Matt. 6:33).
Many passages of Scripture bind upon the child of God the duty, a blessed duty, we might add, to support the ministry. One of the most outstanding passages is found in I Corinthians 9. There the apostle teaches that those who sow spiritual things ought to share in the carnal things of the people of God, and those who minister about holy things ought to be partakers of the altar. He sums up the matter in verse 14, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
In addition to supporting the ministry, the member of the church has the responsibility to contribute to the relief of his poor fellow brothers and sisters in the church. Passages of God’s Word which speak of this calling are simply too numerous to mention. In connection with giving to the poor, the Apostle Paul says in I Cor. 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him . . . .”
Besides the cause of the support of the ministry and the poor, the members of the church are privileged to support other aspects of God’s kingdom. Contributions may be made to the Christian schools, to missions, to various Christian institutions of mercy, or to such causes as The Standard Bearer and The Beacon Lights.
If the young person is going to be able to contribute to these causes as he should, it is important that he learn to be a good steward and exercise the necessary self-discipline to put first things first in his life.
Because Reformed churches adhere to Presbyterian principles of church government, the members of the church share in the government of the church. An important aspect of this is attendance at and participation in congregational meetings.
This applies only to the male confessing members of the church. It is our position as churches, a position that is expressed in our Church Order, that only men are to participate in the congregational meetings of the church. Many churches which in the past followed this same practice have abandoned it. These same churches today are opening the offices to women. History has shown that allowing women to participate in congregational meetings has led to the opening of the offices to the women, and in fact has been used as an argument in favor of allowing the women to serve in the offices.
Biblical principles move us to forbid women the right to vote at the congregational meetings of the church. The congregational meeting is an official gathering of the church. For a woman to vote at a congregational meeting is for a woman to exercise some authority and to enter into the government of the church. This is prohibited.
The young men who make confession of faith ought to take seriously their responsibility to attend the congregational meetings. At times only routine matters appear on the agenda and it becomes easy to get into the habit of skipping these meetings. We ought not to do this. It is a sacred privilege to be able to participate in the affairs of the church, a privilege that saints of God in other ages did not en joy as we do today.
Even though the calling of the young women in the church is not the calling to hold office in the church or to exercise authority, this does not imply that they have no calling, or that their calling is not important. Ordinarily, God’s will for the young women of the church is that they marry, bare children, and guide the household (I Tim. 5:14). Are the young women content with this position which God has given them? What is their attitude toward marriage, motherhood, and being a housewife? Do they look forward to these things? Do they understand the important place God has given them in the continuation of His covenant in the line of the generations of His people?
One of the most important callings of the member of the church is to maintain the unity of the church. It is easy enough to tear the church down, to live in bitterness or open hostility towards certain members of the church. The member of the church is called to preserve the peace and unity of the church.
The Apostle Paul expresses this calling in Eph. 4:3, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” He goes on to point out that if we are going to keep the church’s unity it will be necessary for us to be lowly and meek, longsuffering towards one another, forbearing one another in love.
It is important for the member of the church to recognize that he is only one member of the body of Christ, which is made up of many other and different members. He is called to live not only to the glory of Christ Who is the Head of this body, but he is also called to live in harmony with all the other members of this body.
An important aspect of this calling, to maintain the unity of the church is the willingness on the part of the members of the church to go the way of Matthew 18 if a brother or sister in the church has sinned against them. Do you know the way of Matthew 18? And are you determined to follow the way of Matthew 18 if you are sinned against?
As simple as it is to understand the instructions of the Lord in Matthew 18, it is one of the hardest things in the world to carry out. It is very difficult to go to the brother when he has sinned and confront him with his sin, and do it in the right way. Instead, what usually happens is that we back-bite and slander, or simply ignore the sin and pretend that it never happened. If we love the brother and if we love the church, we must be faithful to carry out the steps of Matthew 18. This will gain the brother, and this will restore the unity of the church which has been broken by sin.
Now may God bless all the young people of His church who have made confession of your faith or who are contemplating making confession of your faith. May you be blessed and may you be a blessing in the life of our churches. Through you may the cause of our churches, which is the cause of Christ, be preserved in the years to come!