On Wednesday, April 9, 2014 a new denomination of Reformed churches was formed and established, namely “The Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines.” On that momentous and memorable occasion, one of our missionaries in the Philippines, Rev. D. Kleyn, spoke to the two churches involved (the Berean Protestant Reformed Church and the First Reformed Church of Bulacan) and to all who attended concerning the significance of the event and of the work the Lord has given the newly formed denomination. What follows is the content of his speech, which was based on—“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
A highly significant event will take place here today—a significant event in the history of the church of Christ in this world, and thus in the history of Christ’s true church here in the Philippines. The event that will take place is not only highly significant, but also rare. Churches today are characterized by departure and apostasy. Churches today have abandoned and rejected the historic Reformed faith, the Reformed confessions, and even the Word of God. Churches today question and actively oppose the Reformed truth, labeling it as old-fashioned and criticizing it as extra-biblical. Churches today cry out for doctrinal freedom, and for something new and more exciting than what was held to and confessed in the past.
With that being the ecclesiastical environment of our day, very few churches are uniting and forming Reformed denominations. When was the last time any of us heard of this happening? Mostly we hear of disagreement and fighting. Mostly we hear of churches splitting and separating. It is rare for churches to unite, and to do so on the basis of the truth.
Yet today, in a far off corner of Manila, in the remote islands of the Philippines, with hardly anyone noticing or paying attention, a new denomination of Reformed churches will be established. A denomination that is distinctively Reformed, confessionally Reformed, and unashamedly Protestant Reformed. A denomination that confesses that the Bible is the infallibly inspired, inerrant, trustworthy, and all-sufficient Word of God. A denomination that confesses the absolute sovereignty of God. A denomination that defends the particular grace of God, and rejects the errors of common grace and the well-meant offer of the gospel. A denomination that holds to the beautiful truth of God’s covenant of friendship with His people in Christ. A denomination that deliberately links itself to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. A denomination that is willing to proclaim to all the truth that has, by the grace of God, been handed down and entrusted to it.
We have reason to rejoice, therefore, in what God has done. It is God, and not you or I or anyone else, who has brought you to this highly significant point in your history. It is because of God, and not because of your efforts, that you have been brought together as churches who are one in the faith. It is God’s work, and not your diligence, that gives you the hope of others joining you in this denomination. It is God, through Christ, who has fulfilled Christ’s promise, “I will build my church!” And it is God, through Christ, who has stopped the gates of hell from prevailing against you.
We have much to be thankful for. What great things God has done.
However, as the text (I Corinthians 15:58) reminds us, your work is not over. The PRCP denomination still has much work to do. In many ways, the work is just beginning.
It is true that you have done a lot of work in the past. The work of growing in your understanding of Reformed doctrines. The work of understanding and putting into practice Reformed church government, Reformed worship, and Reformed living. All this work has involved intense study and great struggle. In addition to all this, you have also held many meetings as you have traveled together on the road toward federation. That too has been hard work—the hard work of becoming clearly united in the truth, and that with firm conviction in your hearts that you are indeed one.
But the point is that the work is not over. You have not arrived as regards knowing, learning, using, and applying the truth. For to be truly Reformed, you must be Reformed and always reforming.
The reality is that you have a plate full of work to do.
First, there is the work of maintaining the unity that will be formally established today. We do not want to let this denomination disintegrate. We do not want it to be ruined by strife, pride, or the terrible activity of biting and devouring each other. As I Corinthians 15:58 points out, you must remain steadfast and immovable. You must continue to stand together around the truths of Scripture and the Reformed confessions. The truth needs to be known, loved, preached, defended, confessed, and lived. Only in that way will you remain united.
Secondly, there is the work of learning to function properly as a denomination. What should a denomination do? How should churches relate to and assist each other? How should denominational work be done, and done properly? These things are not learned overnight. The denomination that will be formed today, the Lord willing, must continue to learn and grow.
Thirdly, you have the denominational work itself to do. And there is plenty of it: training ministers, mission work, classis meetings, church visitation, working with others who desire to join the PRCP, contact with other denominations, establishing sister-church relationships, etc.
In light of all this work, it is certainly appropriate that you be admonished, as the text does, to “abound” in the Lord’s work. That refers to overflowing in the Lord’s work. You must not be satisfied with doing just a bare minimum, but you must be willing to do extra work. As regards the work of the church, that means that none of you waits for others to volunteer to do the work, but each steps forward and says, “I will gladly do it!”
It is necessary to be reminded that the work that you must be busy in is the “work of the Lord.” It is not your work. It is Christ’s work. He is building His church. He is establishing His kingdom. He is calling His people out of darkness into light. He is working conscious faith and salvation in His elect. He is uniting His people in His truth so that His church is a communion of saints and a light in this world. And Christ accomplishes all this by means of the power of His Word.
The amazing thing is that you are involved in Christ’s work, so that His work is also your work. He is pleased to use you to do the work that He is doing. Doing that work is indeed a calling and a duty—the calling and duty to preach the gospel. But it is also a privilege—the privilege of preaching to the ends of the earth the gospel of Christ that saves.
What makes us realize the wonder that Christ uses us is that Christ does not need us. The work of saving the people of God is the work of the Lord. He alone is able to do it. He alone is mighty to save. He does not need the PRCP to accomplish this. He does not need any individual officebearer or member. He does not need your wisdom, ideas, or contribution. And that is how it must be, so that He receives all the recognition and praise. All the work is about Him, and not about us or anything we do.
Yet He is pleased to use you and me. He has determined to use the PRCP. And today He unites you together as churches so that you do not have to do the work alone, but are able together to be busy in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ also gives you encouragement.
This encouragement is needed, for the work of the Lord is always demanding. It requires sacrifices. It involves opposition and even mockery, which you will certainly face as a Reformed denomination. It entails a daily struggle against the flesh, which wants to take to itself the recognition and praise that only Christ should have. And after the excitement of today’s momentous event has worn off, it is a work in which you will be tempted to become weary.
In light of that, Christ promises that when you do the Lord’s work, and do it properly, then it is not in vain. The work is not pointless and fruitless, but instead it is fruitful. The work will be successful. The work will have good results. Even though we do not do the work perfectly (because we cannot), our Lord’s assurance is: “I, your Lord, will prosper your labors. As you faithfully work, I will see that there is fruit.”
This means the Lord Jesus Christ promises to use the PRCP, as you faithfully do His work, for the building of His church. The Lord willing, congregations will grow spiritually and numerically. Men will be prepared for the ministry of the gospel who are faithful, solidly Reformed, and hard-working preachers and pastors. Doors will be opened for mission work. Sister-church relationships will be established. Other churches will be joined to you on the basis of the truth. Why? Because Christ builds His church, and thus His work through you will not be in vain. Christ’s work will succeed. In addition to the privilege of being involved in His work, you also have the privilege of your work being blessed and prospered by Him.
May this spur you on to be faithful and diligent in the work the Lord has given. There is much work to be done. But you can do it in the strength of Jesus Christ. Already God has done great things for you. Now He promises to continue to accomplish great things through you. What a wonder and a blessing.
Notice, in closing, the first few words of the text: “My beloved brethren.” These are first of all the words of Christ to you—you are His beloved brethren. But there are also many others today who view you and call you “beloved brethren” (as will be clear from the many letters of greeting that will soon be read). And amongst those others are also the missionaries of the PRCA here. You are our beloved brethren. You are my beloved brethren. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ. And therefore I say to you, “My beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”