What I have laid out, to this point, is the corruption that took place in the deposition of Rev. Lanning.
But corruption is not a reason to separate from a denomination of churches.
Despising the word of God is such a reason.
It is the only reason.
What the church visitors said about the preaching, both in the consistory room and at Classis East, and what Trinity’s consistory wrote in its document, shows the estimation they have of the word of God today.
The church visitors were at pains, right from the beginning, to make clear that the Jeremiah sermon was sound doctrine.
A church visitor stated that the sermon was “good exegesis on the passages, but that isn’t the point” and, we are not contending that the sermon was not “exegetically correct.”
About the rebuke in that sermon a church visitor said, “We are not entering into the validity of his charge!”
So, an elder asked, if the sermon was faithful to the text, “Does that mean Jeremiah was schismatic?”
One church visitor refused to answer the question, saying it was a “misdirection” and “a bunny trail,” and he would not answer it at that meeting but would answer it “off-line.”
Another church visitor recognized the unsatisfactory nature of that answer and said that no, Jeremiah was not a schismatic because Jeremiah was in the Old Testament, and we are not. He went on to say that God had given Jeremiah a burden, but because we are in the New Testament, Christ has given us another way, and that is the Church Order way. Today, we were told, the proper way is consistories, and now Christ works through bodies of men. He said that if Rev. Lanning had a burden about other churches, he could speak about that—for example, the Christian Reformed Church. He gave as an example the years after 1924, when ministers would preach against the errors of the CRC. But such a minister may not preach against the errors of his own denomination.
When an elder pointed out that Ezekiel was sent not to “a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel” (Ezek. 3:5), a church visitor responded strongly, “Yes! To the house of Israel—to the assemblies!”
One church visitor made clear his view on where the churches must look for help: not to the pulpit, but to the assemblies. “Let elders and ministers, who represent biblical, apostolic wisdom, make a judgment.”
On the floor of classis, a church visitor declared that one of Rev. Lanning’s errors was for him to say that even his application was the word of God, and when Rev. Lanning said that, he was claiming something that only the Old Testament prophets could claim.
The message was clear: the rebuke issued by Rev. Lanning must not come from the pulpit. It must only come through the assemblies, by way of protest and appeal.
Examine where this leaves us. Part of a sermon is the word of God, part is the word of man, and in order to bring a rebuke, you must go to the assemblies.
This view leaves the preaching impotent. The application is not the word of God? If this is what preaching is, I would never step foot into a church building again. I do not care what a man thinks. I am sick to death of man’s opinion. It must be the word of God, in its entirety, or it must be nothing.
When the church visitors said that rebukes must come through the assemblies and not through the preaching, they denied the power of God in the preaching. That is to deny the power of God himself, for God has decreed that he will have his word preached through men. “For God wanted His word to be always received from the mouth of men no less than as if He had Himself openly appeared from heaven” (John Calvin on 1 John 4:1).
It is the word of God, the word that brings the rebukes and admonitions, the word that empties a man of man, that works faith in the heart of the child of God and works the fruit of faith which is repentance.
It is the word of God, not the minutes of Classis East, that brings salvation to the child of God.
The power of God unto salvation is the preaching of the gospel, which preaching works repentance (Rom. 1:16).
Most decisions of synod and classis end up sitting unread on a man’s shelf. Even if they are read, what can they do about the condition of that man’s heart? The answer is nothing, because they are not the power God has ordained to work repentance or sorrow for sin.
What does work such repentance and sorrow?
God’s word! The preaching of the word of God “as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
God’s word is a power. God’s word is like a fire that burns within a man until he has nothing left of self, and God’s word is like a hammer that crushes the hard rock of that man’s heart and leaves him broken and contrite (Jer. 23:29). God’s word will break the hard heart of a man so the only thing he can do is to cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
In their advice, which was wholly devoid of the word of God, the church visitors declared that God’s word was powerless and must be muzzled, while the assemblies of the church were to speak in its place.
Trinity’s consistory, rather than providing the type of aid that could have helped Byron’s consistory and the denomination, also exalted the work of the assemblies over that of the word of God.
“By making charges of public sin and demanding repentance without bringing such charges to a consistory, Rev. Lanning also rejects the good way that Christ appointed in Article 74 to effectually work repentance and reconciliation, and thus to nourish, promote, and preserve the unity of the body of Christ, rather than to destroy, fracture, and harm it” (Trinity consistory, Agenda of Classis East, p. 166).
Is this the way that Christ has appointed to work repentance in the hearts of his people—the decisions of the ecclesiastical assemblies?
Let’s hear Christ in his own words: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
Not: “From that time Jesus began to draft protests and appeals, and to write, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John the Baptist likewise: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1–2).
Christ again: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
Read the document that Rev. William Langerak and Trinity’s consistory drafted regarding the deposition of Rev. Lanning. For them, the power of God to work repentance is found in the assemblies of the PRC. This explains why you can search high and low in their document for a Bible verse and find…only one.
They did not need to use the Bible. They had the Church Order.
But what about the verses that teach that the faithful minister is commanded to preach repentance for sins (Isa. 58:1, 2 Tim. 4:2), which preaching will cause men to repent of those sins (2 Cor. 7:9)?
A church visitor had an answer.
“The church has developed. We have a Church Order now.”