BEING ONE COVENANT
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP SERIES – IDENTITY BELIEF BELONGING
‘Gospel’ means ‘good news’ and describes both God recreating a fallen world (Isaiah 52:7, c.f. Isaiah 40:9, 41:27, 61:1), and God saving a sinful people (Romans 1:16, c.f. Romans 1:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, c.f. 2 Timothy 2:8):
WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
Answer: God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As one, yet three, relationship is at the heart of who he is (John 17:20-24). God created a good world to display his love, (Genesis 1, John 1:1-3) and delegated care of this world to the people he made (Genesis 1:26-28).
WHY DID THINGS GO WRONG?
Answer: Sin. People rebel against God and live for self (Genesis 3). This breaks our relationship with God, our relationship with the world, others and ourselves. This results in bondage (Romans 6:15-18): we are no longer in control of our lives, but are slaves to sin; and condemnation (Romans 6:23): we stand guilty before a holy God.
WHAT WILL PUT THINGS RIGHT?
Answer: Jesus Christ. In his incarnation, he became fully man, identifying with us while remaining fully God (John 1:14). In substitution, he received the condemnation we deserve (1 Peter 3:18), so that we might receive the acceptance he deserves (2 Corinthians 5:21). In restoration, Jesus will restore everything that is wrong in the world when he comes again to judge and reign (Romans 8:19-21, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21-22).
HOW CAN I BE PUT RIGHT?
Answer: Faith. By faith in Christ, our sins can be forgiven and we can be assured of living forever with God, and being raised from the dead like Christ. By faith, we are justified before God (Romans 8:1), and adopted into God’s family (John 1:12-13). And God then gradually works in us to make us more like Jesus (Galatians 2:14, Romans 8:29-30).
THE 5 SOLAS
1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is inspired, without error and our ultimate and trustworthy authority. (Psalm 19:7, Matthew 15:6, 2 Timothy 3:16).
2. Sola Gratia (“Grace alone”): The basis of our salvation is God’s grace alone. We cannot earn it, only receive it as a gift (Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:8-9).
3. Sola Fide (“Faith alone”): We receive salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ, not a combination of faith and good works. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:22).
4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Saviour, and King. No one else mediates, between God and us (Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 2:5).
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): The goal of all of life us to give glory to God alone (Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 115:1, 1 Corinthians 10:31).
The 5 POINTS OF CALVINISM
1. Total Depravity: Sin has penetrated every part of human nature ( Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, Romans 3:12). So, we cannot choose God by ourselves (Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. Unconditional Election: God chooses to save purely according to his will (Acts 13:48, Romans 8:29-30, 9:11-13, Ephesians 1:4-5). The chosen will surely believe and keep believing (Romans 10:14, 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
3. Limited Atonement: Jesus died only to redeem the people the Father chose (John 6:37, 10:14-15, 17:9, Revelation 5:9).
4. Irresistible Grace: God’s grace, through the Holy Spirit, will overcome our resistance to believe (John 6:44, Acts 16:14, Romans 8:30, 9:19, 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
5. Perseverance of the Saints: God will preserve the elect in their faith (Romans 8:30, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 1 John 2:19, Philippians 3:12).
THE REGULATION OF WORSHIP
We follow the regulative principle, which means that we worship God only as he has prescribed for us to worship him in Scripture. We do this because we cannot know God’s mind apart from his revelation (Romans 11:34, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), because we are sinners, who cannot trust our own hearts, minds and wills to rightly worship God (Ecclesiastes 9:3, Deuteronomy 4:15-18, 12:32, Exodus 32:4; 1 Kings 12:28, 2 Kings 18:4, Romans 1:22, Hebrews 12:28-29.
THE ELEMENTS OF WORSHIP
Scriptures require these elements of worship: reading of Scripture (Nehemiah 8:1-8; 1 Timothy 4:13), preaching (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2), baptism (Acts 2:41, 1 Corinthians 1:17), Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42, 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:20), prayer (Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:1-3), congregational singing (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), offerings (Psalm 96:8, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2), and occasional vows (Romans 10:9-13, 1 Timothy 6:12). These elements can be expressed and take different forms e.g. version of Scripture, written or extemporaneous prayer, psalms, hymns or songs, mode of baptism, influenced by our circumstances i.e. our context.
THE DIALOGUE IN WORSHIP
In worship, we meet with God, he speaks to us, and we respond to him (Hebrews 12:22). The elements of worship produce a dialogue between God and his people. There is a call to worship (2 Chronicles 5:2-5, Revelation 4:1-7), sin offering that allowed entrance into God’s presence (2 Chronicles 5:6-10, Revelation 5:1-6), a hymn of praise (2 Chronicles 5:11-14, Revelation 4:8-11), a message (2 Chronicles 6:1-11, Revelation 5:2), a prayer of dedication (2 Chronicles 6:12-42), God’s acceptance of the sacrifice and his glory filling the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-2), and the congregation singing praise and thanksgiving (2 Chronicles 7:3, Revelation 5:9-10). That is why, in our own order of worship, there is a movement: God calls us (i.e. the call to assemble and worship), God cleanses us (i.e. a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice), God communes with us (i.e. God speaks, and meets us in his Word), and, God commissions us (i.e. God sends us into the world to do his will).
God has provided ways to regularly strengthen our faith, known as the means of grace. God communicates his grace to these channels. They are preaching, sacraments and prayer. Preaching, and sacraments are known as the primary means.
THE PROCLAMATION IN PREACHING
Preaching is a proclamation of Jesus Christ and all his benefits. It is not merely a lecture or a speech, but the proclamation of a royal message (Romans 10:15, Isaiah 52:7). It is an essential element of Christian worship (1 Timothy 4:13, 2 Timothy 4:2). God speaks and gives faith, and strengthens faith through preaching (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 10:14-17, Romans 16:25). So, the preacher must firstly, preach the Bible. (2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word”). In our church, we emphasise expository preaching, that is preaching that unveils the meaning of a text of Scripture. Our main approach is to systematically work through books of the Bible on a consecutive basis. But secondly, the preacher preaches Christ. He preaches the Bible as it reveals Christ in every passage of Scripture (John 5:39, Luke 24:27, 1 Corinthians 1:22). He preaches the law in its threatening power, and Christ as the divine rescuer. He preaches what God wants us to do, in light of what God has done for us in Christ (Romans 12:1).
THE PICTURE OF THE SACRAMENTS
God also gives us visible means of grace in the sacraments. They are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The sacraments are firstly, a “holy ordinance”. They are ordinary things, water, bread and wine, “set apart” for God’s purpose (Matthew 28:19, Luke 22:19-21). Secondly, “instituted by Christ”. Christ himself gives sacraments to the church (Matthew 3:13-15, Luke 22:19). Thirdly, “sensible”, meaning they appeals to the senses (Matthew 26:26-27). Fourthly, a “sign” of God’s promises (Genesis 17:11, Romans 4:11, Colossians 2:11-12) e.g. in Genesis 17:10, God actually refers to “circumcision” as “the covenant”, and 1 Peter 3:21, says, “baptism… now saves you” representing what Christ has done in saving his people. Fifthly, a a “seal” guaranteeing God’s promises (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, Romans 4:11). Sixthly, the “benefits of the new covenant”, through the sacraments are “applied to believers”. Therefore, the sacraments need to be accompanied with faith in the gospel to become effectual (Romans 4:11-12).
Baptism, which involves sprinkling, pouring or immersion in water in the name of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19), is a “sign” of cleansing from sin (Hebrews 9:10, 14, 1 John 1:7), and inclusion among God’s people (Genesis 17:10-11, Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is for believers and their children (Acts 2:28-29), because:
1. God has always saved people by grace through faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:1-3, Galatians 3:7, Ephesians 2:8-9).
2. God has always administrated his grace through Covenant, whereby the offspring or children of believers are included. A “covenant” is God binding himself to keep his promises to his people. In the Bible, there are a series of covenants that are part of what theologians call the “Covenant of Grace”. All the covenants consistently involve believers and their children: Covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:18), Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:7), Covenant with Moses (Exodus 20:6), Covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:12, Ezekiel 37:24-27), and the New Covenant (Isaiah 59:21, Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:39-40, Luke 1:50, 22:20). Hence, children of believers have always been part of the covenant community (2 Chronicles 20:13, Joel 2:16, Luke 18:15-16, 1 Corinthians 7:14, Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20).
3. The sign and seal of the Covenant is applied to the whole family. In the Old Testament, the sign and seal was circumcision (Romans 4:11), applied to Abraham and his children (Genesis 17:10-13). In the New Testament, baptism replaces circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12). Peter introduces baptism with the same three categories that God used to introduce circumcision: Acts 2:39, “you… your children… all who are far off”, and Genesis 17:10-12, “you… your offspring… any foreigner”. In light of this “genealogical principle”, it should not surprise us that there are so many household baptisms recorded for us in the New Testament (Acts 16:14-15, 30-33, Acts 18:8, 1 Corinthians 1:16). Although no children are explicitly mentioned in these household baptisms, the point is that “household baptisms” are mentioned at all! Their presence show us the continuation of the genealogical principle (Acts 16:33-34), and God’s intent to apply the Covenant sign on the whole family!
The LORD’s Supper involves eating bread, and drinking wine that represent Jesus’ body and blood, in obedience to his command (Luke 22:19-21, Matthew 26:26-27). It’s roots are in the the Old Testament sacrificial meals, such as the Passover (Exodus 12, Leviticus 7:19-21, 28-34, Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:12-25, and Luke 22:7-22), and in God feeding his people (Exodus 16, John 6:53-56), both of which are fulfilled in Christ and pictured in the LORD’s Supper (Luke 22:19-20). Christ is spiritually present in the LORD’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:27-30). When believers eat the LORD’s Supper with faith in the gospel, Christ is present there spiritually. So, when we eat the LORD’s Supper:
1. We remember the death of Christ. Jesus says in Luke 22:19-20, “Do this in remembrance of me”. God uses the LORD’s Supper to constantly remind us of what Jesus did on our behalf, because that is what we need to feed our souls.
2. We commune with Christ and his people. We commune with God, and one another in the LORD’s Supper (Luke 22:18, 1 John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 11:28-29, 2 Corinthians 1:7, 8:4, 10:16; Philippians 3:10).
The LORD’s Supper is for those who are:
1. Baptised. Baptism is the sign of being included in the church, while the LORD’s Supper is the sign of continuing in the church. In the Old Testament, males had to be circumcised before they could eat the Passover (Exodus 12:44-45).
2. In good standing with church. One of the tools of Church discipline that Christ has given the church is excommunication (Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 5:13), which literally means to “exclude from communion”. Those who are in persistent unrepentant sin are excluded from the LORD’s Supper and should not partake.
3. Are able to examine themselves. Partakers need to be able to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). In the church, there are communing members who have made a public profession of faith, and non-communing members who are baptised children of believers, who have not yet made a profession of faith. Only communing members partake (Exodus 12:3-4).
Jesus is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), and delegates his authority to Elders and Deacons (Titus 1:5):
1. Elders are responsible for teaching and governing the church, and caring for God’s people spiritually (Acts 6:4, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Acts 6:4, 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Peter 5:2, Hebrews 13:17). There are ruling elders, who are lay people focusing on governance, and teaching elders who are full-time pastors, who focus on preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17).
2. Deacons assists the church by attending to practical needs (Acts 6:1-7). The qualifications are similar to elders, but, they are not required to be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
Elders are organised into courts. The local church is governed, by a group of elders called a session, having equal authority and voted in by the members of the church (Acts 14:23, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:5). Representative elders from different churches meet together as a presbytery (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:1). Representative elders from different presbyteries meet together at the Synod or General Assembly (Acts 15:1-30).
Jesus disciplines the church (Hebrews 12:6-7, 11), through the care and nurture of the elders of the church (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11-12). We are to obey and submit to the elders insofar as they are faithful to God’s Word (Hebrews 13:17). There are two types of discipline:
1. Formative discipline. This is preventive, and takes through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, conforming our lives to God’s will.
2. Corrective discipline. In, Jesus shows us how to deal with sin in the church (Matthew 18:15-17). The key principle is to talk directly to the person who has sinned against you, and to escalate the matter in stages (1 Corinthians 5:13, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
Membership matters, because the Bible gives clear instructions that cannot be obeyed without joining a church:
1. Submit to a body of elders (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17).
2. Elders to give account to God for a group of people (Acts 20:29-30, Hebrews 13:17).
3. Put out the unrepentant (Matthew 18:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5:1-12).
You need the following things from your membership to grow to be more like Jesus:
1. The community of the church (Hebrews 10:26, Acts 2:42).
2. The confession of the church (Hebrews 10:24).
3. The constraint of the church (1 Peter 5:1-2, Hebrews 13:17, 2 Timothy 4:2).
Here are some practical ways to be an active member of the church:
1. Walk daily with God (Mark 1:35).
2. Worship weekly with God’s people (Exodus 20:8-11, Acts 20:7).
3. Develop deep relationships inside and outside the church (Matthew 18:15-20, 28:19-20, Acts 2:42, Hebrews 10:26, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
4. Give faithfully to the mission (Malachi 3:8-10, Acts 2:24, Acts 4:32-37, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
5. Find and fulfil your calling in the family, church, and society (Matthew 5:13-16, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17).