This evening, Friday, April 8, there will be a public lecture held in Loveland, Colorado. Rev. Nathan Langerak will be speaking on the topic, “The State of Theology.” The lecture will be held at the at the Best Western Hotel in Loveland, Colorado, at 6:30 PM MDT. The hotel is located at 5542 US-34, Loveland, CO 80537. The speech will be livestreamed at the YouTube channel of Second Reformed Protestant Church.
Much has been written that has laid out the spiritual condition of the Protestant Reformed Churches, including her corruption of each the three marks of the true church as found in the Belgic Confession, Article 29, so that does not need to be repeated here.
As to ones calling regarding his church membership, I cannot say it better than Rev. Key, the minister of Loveland PRC, so I will give him the last word.
The other great tragedy addressed in this booklet is that thousands upon thousands of well-meaning Christians continue their membership in churches where the three marks have been lost. For various reasons they remain in churches that have departed from the Scriptures to such a degree that the biblical marks that characterize Christ’s church are no longer found, or are corrupted to a significant degree. Although they are in danger of losing their generations, they remain where they are, content to ‘put up with’ the errors that they see. To such comes the call: ‘Come out from among them and be ye separate!’
In this evil age, believers and their children must find a home in a faithful congregation where they may be strengthened in the most holy faith, where they may enjoy the fellowship of God in the gospel and unity in the truth of the Scriptures. That is our calling, the calling of church membership in an evil age.
Your membership in a particular congregation, and your membership in a particular denomination, marks you as responsible for the doctrines taught and for that which goes on where you have your membership. That is a serious matter for all of us. But that truth of corporate responsibility is clearly taught in Scripture. It is a truth rooted in God’s creation of Adam as the head of the human race. It is corporate responsibility which marks us as guilty in Adam, according to Romans 5, for example. You and I and all men are responsible before God for what Adam did in paradise. We were not there; we did not know anything about it; we had no say in the matter. It makes no difference. You and I are guilty before God for Adam’s sin.
It was because of their corporate responsibility that the whole nation of Israel stood guilty before God for the sin of Achan, as we read in Joshua 7. So long as that sin remained in the nation, they could not expect the favour and love and mercy of God. And what was true in the Old Testament manifestation of God’s church is true today.
When sin manifests itself in the church, it is not for us to look down our noses in self-righteousness. It is a time of grief and sorrow and confession of sin. The anger of the Lord comes not only upon the heretics and those who walk ungodly, but it comes upon the whole church so long as that sin is not dealt with. And God Himself says in the second commandment of Exodus 20, ‘I will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.’ That is corporate responsibility.
There are many, for example, who take the position, ‘The pulpit in my congregation holds to the truth; my congregation does not go along with this departure and that error; my congregation submits to the truth of Scripture’s infallibility and authority. Therefore, so long as the congregation is pure where I have my membership, the denomination can go to hell.’ That is blunt; but that is the attitude of many.
There are others, whom I commend for their concern for the departures of their denominations, but who also turn their backs on the scriptural teaching of corporate responsibility. There is a growing movement within various apostatising churches to have a sort of church-within-a-church, an alliance or fellowship of some sort which supposedly will absolve its members of the sins of the denomination. By such an organization within the church, there is the feeling that something positive is being done in opposition to the forces of evil and heresy—though in a way political and outside the bounds of Scripture—and there is a separation that makes one free from any responsibility for the sins of the congregation or denomination.
Having considered the scriptural principles and responsibilities of church membership, we noted the inescapable truth of corporate responsibility. Though many in this age of ecclesiastical departure and apostasy would like to ignore that truth, it is exactly the truth of corporate responsibility and corporate guilt that lies at the basis of the call, ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate.’ We must not continue in conflict with the holiness of God. I pointed out that in some cases that may mean separation now from the body where you currently have your church membership. That is a move that is extremely difficult. I know that—as a matter of experience.
But when I point out that exercising the responsibility of church membership becomes increasingly difficult in the advancing apostasy in the church today, I would remind you that God’s people have often faced the same difficulties in centuries past.
Therefore, the question becomes, ‘Where is that church in which I must worship and live in active membership?’ And in Article 29 the answer is given us: ‘Here are the distinguishing marks.’
The determining factor of church membership must not be family and relatives. The words of Jesus are clear and must be applied by us to our own situation: ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37). The only thing you must consider in that connection is the spiritual welfare of your loved ones. But your calling is to glorify God in the truth. And in glorifying God in the truth He assures you that your testimony to your family will not go unheard.
The determining factor of where I must worship as a member of Christ’s body comes down to this: Where is the truth of God’s holy Word maintained from a practical point of view? That is, do I in this church and its fellowship of churches hear the pure preaching of the gospel, preaching which trumpets forth the voice of Christ, the clear, fearless blast of ‘thus saith the Lord,’ and the unadulterated truth of the Scriptures? Secondly, do I find here the proper administration of the sacraments again, with the truth of God’s Word the determining factor? And finally, is there the scriptural exercise of the love of Christian discipline, without which neither the sacraments nor the pure preaching of the Word can be maintained?
Where any of those marks are gone, removed from an instituted church, your calling is to remove yourself for membership in a church where those marks are maintained. For church history teaches us that where the marks of the church are removed, so is its candlestick. Reformation in that case comes only by way of separation and renewal, to the glory of God (Church Membership in an Evil Age).