Rev. Miersma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of New Zealand.
All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, XXVI, 1
In this way the Westminster divines set forth the truth concerning the relationship of God’s people to their head Jesus Christ and to one another as fellow saints. For many years, the experience of the unity of the body of Christ was limited more or less to the local congregation. Life was very simple, and God’s people were confined to their own community since travel was limited and the modern means of communication were not yet available. Therefore the truth that God gathers His saints from the four corners of the earth, from every nation, tongue, and tribe, was a truth confessed but not personally experienced. With the advent of the automobile, airplane, and the telephone, one was soon able to visit and communicate with fellow saints in other parts of the country and then even in other parts of the world. The ocean no longer served as a natural barrier, separating different parts of the world. Now we have even more modern means of communication, with the invention of the satellite, jet airplanes, computers, and facsimile machines. In just hours we can be on the other side of the world. In a matter of seconds, by simply pushing a few buttons, we can talk or send messages around the world as if we were next door.
All this has not only made the individual saint aware that God has His children in other parts of the world, but also made it possible for him to have personal contact with these faraway saints. One’s life and contact is no longer restricted to the length of the kitchen table or to the end of one’s nose, but extends to the ends of the earth. Your minister may be sent far away, even for months at a time, to serve God’s kingdom in other countries. Your son or daughter may very well meet a foreigner, marry, and live in a country far from his place of birth and family. Your offerings now go beyond the local church to bring the Word to saints of another land or to help its poor. It is all rather exciting, and so it should be not only from the viewpoint of meeting people, fellow saints, from other lands, but also because this is an indication that the time for the return of Christ is approaching nearer and nearer, which in turn means that our salvation draweth nigh.
To illustrate this truth I will use the church here in New Zealand as an example. In this way two things may be accomplished. First, this will demonstrate that global communication is an established fact and very necessary for the church of Christ. And, secondly, this will enable you to know us even more intimately as being one with you in the body of Christ.
In the late sixties a few families in New Zealand were alarmed by the doctrinal error that was being condoned in their church. In the course of their struggles they came into contact with the Standard Bearer, which led to contact with its editor-in-chief, which soon resulted in an Australasian tour by Rev. C. Hanko and the late Prof. H.C. Hoeksema. (We may add here that it was at the urging of one of the New Zealand men that the PRC emissaries altered their travel plans in order to visit Singapore. Look what the Lord has done with that contact!) Subsequent to the visit of Rev. Hanko and Prof. Hoeksema to New Zealand, other ministers from the PRC traveled there to teach and to preach the distinctive Reformed faith. This led eventually to the organization of a small church. The church was made up of saints from various parts of the globe, with members having come personally from such countries as England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and now also from the United States. Soon a sister-church relationship was established with the PRC in America. A short time later she called and received her first minister from her sister.
What had taken place up to this point, and what continues to take place even today, is the recognition and application of the Scriptural truth as presented in the Confession quoted above: “and being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.” By the freely given contributions of the saints in the PRC in America, we are able to have our own minister, which enables us in turn to spread the Word of God in yet another country. Through the preaching of the Word, and through the efforts of our Evangelism Society, material has been placed in the hands of people throughout the length and breadth of the two islands. We also have been privileged to be able to send tapes and pamphlets to foreign countries as diverse as The Netherlands, Eastern Europe, Africa, Singapore, and Australia. In addition to our sister-church relationship with the PRCA we are having ongoing contact with the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore and with the Evangelical Presbyterian Churches in Australia. The latter have invited us to send delegates as observers to their presbytery meeting in June, which invitation we have accepted. All of this is exciting and stimulating, for it brings the family of God closer and closer.
However, what has been taking place on a more or less official level has also been happening in the day-to-day life of the church members. You and we are getting to know each other personally. At the beginning of the year the undersigned sent to all the Protestant Reformed churches a newsletter in which a special “thank you” was given to one church in particular for sending to us their bulletins and other church news. An invitation was extended to the other churches to do likewise. The response has been very gratifying. Individual saints have taken it upon themselves to send news and bulletins both from their churches and from their schools. Some were from the older and retired, some from busy mothers, others from teenagers and even from primary school children. To cement the bond between us, this material is distributed among the members of the congregation for all to read and enjoy. As one correspondent wrote, “It’s as if we’re holding hands around the world with those of like faith.” What was especially gratifying were the letters from the school children who are being made aware of their relationship to saints in other lands. One group of third-graders wrote, “We are writing to find out more about Christians in other lands. We want to know more about your church in New Zealand.” This was followed by a number of questions and a request for a picture of the church and congregation. Enough to warm the heart of any saint!
In light of the above I want to use this opportunity, personally and on behalf of the congregation, to thank all of you for this manifestation of love for fellow saints in other parts of the world. It is almost like “holding hands,” isn’t it? If there are more of you who would like to share in this experience, we welcome your letters and we will try to reply in kind. Or, if you can, you may visit us in person. Already we have had visitors from a number of different countries, which has led to the formation of friendships which continue yet today. Our homes are always open. What one immediately experiences is that, even if we have never met before, yet because we are fellow saints it is as if we always knew each other. Such is the family of God. Such is the experience of the communion of the saints on what was once only the local level, but now also the global. Our church family extends beyond our city, state, and country, to foreign lands and to the islands of the seas, even to the remotest parts of the earth.
As stated earlier, this points to the imminent return of our Savior upon the clouds of heaven. One of the signs of His return is that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). Accompanying this sign will be the co-ordinate sign of rampant apostasy from the truth, for Christ also said, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). Thus the saints are drawn together, in order that they may instruct and encourage one another as they struggle together on their sojourn through this valley of the shadow of death. Each child of God is a member of the body of Jesus Christ. Each one has a particular place and function within the body that serves the purpose of the whole. As we come nearer to the end of time we see that more and more – not only that we need each other in the local congregation, but also that we need the saints in other lands as well. We as fellow saints have gifts to give and needs to be supplied by’ other saints. As it is in the physical body so it is in the spiritual body. Just as no member of the body can live in isolation from the rest of the members, so also as saints we can not live in isolation from each other. In these perilous times, times in which Satan goes about as a roaring lion knowing that his time is short, the. Lord is drawing us together. Especially in these latter days it is not just a pleasant experience for saints to know each other, but it is a necessity. As Solomon wrote many years ago under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9-12).
It is our prayer here in New Zealand that through this article you may learn to know more about us, and that we might all grow in an understanding of how we fit together and relate one to the other in the body of our Lord in the communion of the saints. May the Lord continue to bless us in our respective churches and in the union whereby He has bound us together.