Covenant Reformed News
February 2018 • Volume XVI, Issue 22
The Crowding Out of the Church
In general, twenty-first century Protestantism suffers from the terrible malaise of a gross ignorance of biblical and Reformed ecclesiology, faulty and false doctrines concerning the church, and a grievous under appreciation of Christ’s bride and body. Among the factors that produce and/or reinforce a low and erroneous view of the church is the misunderstanding of other spheres, institutions or parties, including work, oneself, the family and the state, which we shall consider in turn.
First, for some, the church is largely crowded out by work (the sphere of employment). Some are workaholics, labouring very long hours or often away on business trips, so the church gets short shrift in their lives. Some move home or attend university with little or no thought given to the presence or otherwise of a faithful congregation, manifesting the three marks of a true church, in the area (Belgic Confession 29). Some are given to “the love of money” which is the root of all sorts of evil (I Tim. 6:10), including slighting the church of which Christ is the head. Some professing believers break the fourth commandment by performing labour that is not a work of necessity or mercy, thereby incurring guilt before God, and depriving themselves of the means of grace and much-needed fellowship with other believers in the instituted church.
Second, there is the problem of unbiblical individualism (the sphere of self). Everything is all about me, my needs, and, hence, what the church can do for me. There is little or nothing about other saints and their needs, and what I can do for them. Little or no thought is given to the church or its head, the Lord Jesus Christ, just me!
Over against this, the Apostles’ Creed speaks of “the communion of the saints,” which is explained in the Heidelberg Catechism: “First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are, in common, partakers of Him and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members” (A. 55).
Typically, selfish people do not like being under authority (even where it is properly exercised) or having people over them (even if they are seeking to serve them in Jesus Christ) or being told what to do (even if this is done righteously and humbly) or being held accountable (even if it is to the Lord’s church and to Him).
This individualistic attitude has a hard time understanding, practising and living the biblical truth of the church. Such people struggle to submit to, enjoy and rejoice in scriptural ecclesiology. They kick against being part of a body and being under the Good Shepherd’s under-shepherds. In so doing, sadly, such people harm others and especially themselves.
Third, some have a wrong view of marriage and the home (the sphere of family). Consider a husband who is overbearing towards his wife and lords it over his household. Absolutely everything in the home has to come under his attention and suit him. Those who abuse their authority in their household will find it very difficult to submit and behave wisely in “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). If such a man is unemployed, with no boss to submit to or obey, his problem will be exacerbated because he is not used to being under anyone.
Likewise, there are wives for whom it is all about their husbands and children. The real issue is the home and the family. As long as they are okay, who cares about Christ’s body? The church is unnecessary or, at best, peripheral; never central.
For such husbands and wives (and their children), it is all about me and my family. The biblical place and significance of the church cannot be properly grasped and enjoyed.
However, the truth is that there should be no conflict: me versus the church or my family versus the church. The proper relationship is that of reciprocity. Believing husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children and individuals need and help the church. The church, in turn, needs and helps Christian husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children and individuals.
Fourth, there is the deification of the state (the sphere of civil government). In the twenty-first century, many states, especially in the West, are acting like God and are being regarded by many as if they were a sort of God. Professing Christians need to be careful lest their hearts and minds are secularized too!
The welfare state promises to give, through our taxes, cradle to grave security, if you can make it to the cradle without having been cruelly murdered in the womb. So who needs the God of providence and the church’s diaconate?
The politically-correct state seizes divine prerogatives by redefining person (in order to kill unborn babies), marriage (to promote homosexuality) and gender (to further transgenderism). All of this is contrary to God’s Word (Ps. 139:13-16; Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 1:26-27), as proclaimed by the true churches of Jesus Christ.
The moralizing state redefines love as first tolerance, and then approval and even celebration of sin, especially sexual sin. It then redefines God as the soppy, immoral god of left-wing love. Who then needs the real God of love and the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ, and the Ten Commandments as the summary of love for God and one’s neighbour, as proclaimed by Christ’s church?
The deification and absolutizing of the state is reflected in the well-nigh ubiquitous phrase: “the government,” as if the civil government is the only government that exists. What about God’s sovereign and all-encompassing government or the government of a business or family government or individual government or church government? The state’s unwarranted encroachment into the God-given spheres of the home, the church, work, etc., is bad enough but the Christian must not allow such usurpations to take over his own thinking!
Where this soul-deadening, secularizing, statist view steals the hearts and minds of professing Christians, they will have low views of the need of the church, the offices of the church, the authority of the church, the work of the church, etc. The leviathan, politically-correct state must not overshadow the believer’s vision of, and love for, God’s glorious church, the bride of Christ for whom He shed His atoning blood, and whom He sanctifies and cleanses by His Word (Eph. 5:25-27)! Rev. Angus Stewart
- Volume: 16
- Issue: 22
Published in Covenant Reformed News
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851