This article first appeared in the bulletin of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (Ireland), and was written by missionary-pastor Martyn McGeown.
Belgic Confession, Article 30; The Safety of Christ’s Yoke
Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Government is everywhere. In the family the husband and father is the head of the home. Wives are called to submit to their husbands. Husbands are called to rule their wives in love. Children are called to obey their parents. Citizens are subject to civil magistrates and government officials. Government is essential for the well being of any society.
The church must be governed also. Many Christians agree that the church universal is under the headship of Christ. All Christians are called to obey and serve Him. But many Christians do not agree that they must submit to the governmentof a local congregation. This is because they fail to recognize that Christ rules His people by His grace and Holy Spirit through His Word in the church institute. Belgic Confession Article 28 has already mentioned this: being a member of the church includes “submitting [ourselves] to the doctrine and discipline [of the church], bowing [our] necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ …”
The government that Christ has ordained for His church is neither tyrannical nor negligent. Christ loves His church and therefore He has given to her a specific form of government for her edification. Paul writes. “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed” (II Cor. 10:8). Elsewhere Scripture states, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17). And again Paul writes, “Know them that labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (I Thess. 5:12-13). No wonder the Bible calls church leaders shepherds. They must love and care for the sheep as Christ Himself, who died for them, loves them and cares for them. Peter writes, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (I Peter 5:2-3). Paul warns the elders in Ephesus about this: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
The Christian needs to be in a church with good government because of the many false teachers who prey on Christians. Ordinarily, the Christian not under the oversight of good elders will be easy prey for a convincing heretic. No wonder Jesus was so concerned for the people of Israel in His day: the spiritual leadership had degenerated so much that wolves instead of shepherds ruled over the flock. They were “as sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36).
Are you a member of a good Reformed church with a faithful pastor, wise elders and compassionate deacons? Be thankful for that blessing! If you are not, seek shelter under the wings of Christ’s church for the good of your own soul and that of your family!