All posts by Chris King

Choir Schedule – Spring 2017

PALM SUNDAY – April 9, 2017

O Thou Who Through This Holy Week (introit) – Chancel Choir
Coronation (offertory) – Chancel Choir
 
GOOD FRIDAY – April 14, 2017
 
Ah, Holy Jesus – Chancel Choir
Drop, Drop Slow Tears – Ensemble
Psalm 51 – Children’s Choir
 
EASTER – April 16, 2017
 
Hail Thee, Festival Day – Chancel Choir (possibly Ensemble)

APRIL PSALM SING – April 16, 2017
 
The Strife Is O’er – Congregation and All Choirs
The Lord Is My Shepherd – Children’s Choir
A Gaelic Blessing – All Choirs
Chant – Children’s Choir
Gloria Patri Chant – Children’s Choir
 

Corporate Psalm List – 2017


For the families participating in the Psalm-of-the-month, below is the list of Psalms to work on for 2017:

  • January: Psalm 1
  • February: Psalm 119X
  • March: Psalm 125
  • April: Psalm 2
  • May: Psalm 72 1-8 (page 105) (CC)
  • June: Psalm 138B
  • July: Psalm 119A
  • August: Psalm 103 1-7 (page 144) (CC)
  • September: Psalm 39A
  • October: Psalm 25C
  • November: Psalm 145C
  • December: Psalm 5B

Coronation

We have just ordered a new piece that we’ll sing for Palm Sunday.  The name of it is Coronation.  Here is the link that you can use to go ahead and listen and learn the character and style of this song.  I recommend that you just listen for a while and enjoy the rich chords and text.  The music should arrive next week and we will begin work on it March 12.
 
http://www.beckenhorstpress.com/coronation/

Update (3/29/17): Sopranos, we’re going to remove the high A from the end (very last note) in order to have more strength on that chord.  All sopranos will sing the F# which will make the chord much more sturdy.

Headcoverings in Public Worship

“I noticed that your wife wears hats in church. Is that simply her decorum or is that a conviction?” I was asked while sitting behind closed doors of another pastor. After I responded that it was a biblical conviction he shot back, “So do you think your wife is more spiritual than my wife because she wears a hat and mine doesn’t?” Being somewhat taken off guard by the quick turn of emotion, I tried to answer as graciously as I could, “No, it’s simply a conviction about which we feel strongly, but in no way do we use it as a measure of spirituality.” At this time in my life, I was in the process of planting a church in the Atlanta area, so the next sentence from this pastor really rattled me. Lounging back in his seat and looking straight at me across his big desk, he replied, “You are going to have a hard time planting a church with that kind of conviction!” I was stunned and frightened at the same time. “Was he right?” I pondered. “But if the Bible truly teaches that a woman should cover her head in public worship, how could I do otherwise?” I thought to myself…

To read the rest of this article, please download the PDF.

Wine in Communion

As the title of this article implies, we have made a change in an element of communion. Perhaps a better question for the broader Evangelical Church would be, “Why did we ever change the wine in communion to grape juice to begin with?” This question addresses the heart of the matter more pointedly. It is important for the reader to know the biblical teaching on wine and the cultural context into which this article is written. This cultural context is the twentieth century American Church influenced by the temperance movement of the mid-nineteenth century. I will attempt to show why I think this movement has perverted the rightful administration of the sacrament of communion by changing the element from what Christ used, desired, and intended for the sacrament. If one of the marks of a true church is the rightful administration of the sacraments, as the Reformers declared, then changing an element in communion has profound implications, especially if that change moves us away from the biblical observance of what Christ instituted. I hope the reader will be open to the following assertions and prayerfully consider the importance of the proper observance of communion in his own life…

To read the rest of this article, please download the PDF.

Preaching

Preaching first of all must be biblical and doctrinal. Today we hear a lot going on in the name of preaching, and often people will “shop” churches until they hear the preaching that suits them. Paul warned Timothy of this very thing,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5)

The New Testament preacher and the Old Testament prophet have in common that they are both a spokesman for God. While the OT prophet spoke the oracles of God to the people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, today’s preacher likewise speaks God’s inspired Word to the people. The preacher is not a man who preaches his own opinions, but preaches the Word of God. His authority is not in his knowledge, insight, or philosophy, but in the Word of God alone. Therefore, a faithful preacher must preach the Word of God and only the Word. Like the prophet Ezekiel who spoke the words God gave him speak, and when he was finished God closed his mouth, so goes the faithful preacher (cf. Ezekiel 3:26-27).

Even when preaching is biblical it must be Christ-centered. Much preaching today is focused on man and not Christ. There is much to do today about “needs-centered” preaching (and it’s much ado about nothing as Shakespeare might say!). This approach to preaching is often well received, but is not biblical. This aim of preaching merely addresses the needs of people. It is focused on helping people be better people and often presents a “seminar” mentality. The focus is on man not God. Preaching that is man-centered is shallow and lacks doctrinal depth.

Christ-centered preaching is transcendent. It doesn’t bring God down to our level, but transcends people up to Him. Christ-centered preaching is the preaching of the New Testament. Since Christ, the Mediator between God and man, is the theme of all the Scriptures, He must be kept in the context of the Scriptures being preached. The teaching and emphasis of the Bible is not man nor about man, but about God and His redemption of His people. This is the focus that preaching must have. When man and his needs are elevated above God and His purposes, we have missed the focus of the Bible. Man’s needs are relatively small compared to the greatness of God. Therefore, if preaching is merely man-centered (or “needs-based”) we miss truly how our needs are met in Christ. Preaching is the primary means God uses to save sinners. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God . . . and how will they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:17, 14). Preaching also is the primary means of grace to save saints. Yes, the preaching of the gospel saves both sinners and saints. This may sound strange to some who think of salvation only in terms of their justification. But salvation not only includes justification, but also sanctification which ultimately culminates in glorification. So how then are God’s people saved (or sanctified) through the preaching of the Word? 2 Corinthians 3:18 gives us a precise and clear picture, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In essence, this verse means that we are sanctified (transformed into the image of Christ) as we behold Him in all His glory. Therefore, the role of preaching is to preach Christ in all His glory so that the people can, by faith, see Him in His glory. When the people behold Christ, they are transformed into His likeness. Preaching to “felt-needs” of people is not God’s ordained means to change them into His likeness, but preaching that reveals Christ in all His glory. Therefore, this must be the central emphasis of the ministry.

Our Philosophy of Worship

Corporate worship is the single most important human activity in our lives for Christian growth and sanctification. It is, in fact, more important than personal Bible study and private prayer. While these should never be neglected, and their importance never attenuated, the corporate worship of God’s people should have the preeminence in the lives of God’s people. Why is this? In corporate worship God has given us the means of grace whereby we grow in Christ. The means of grace are the preaching of the Word, prayer, and the sacraments (baptism and Communion).

While many Christians neglect the importance of these means, it is God’s normal method for saving His people and giving them persevering faith whereby they will not fall away, and therefore, endure to the end. Today we hear of new approaches to personal growth, the need for some new method, or some new mechanics or twelve step process for spiritual growth, while God’s means of preaching, and the sacraments have taken a back seat. Many Christians who get excited about the latest book on spiritual growth are the first ones to skip the Communion service. God has given us corporate worship as a means for our spiritual growth as we come to glorify Him in His presence each Lord’s Day.

While the Christian’s life is itself a life of worship (Romans 12:1-2), the corporate worship of believers on the Lord’s Day is a foretaste of the eternal glory to come, and therefore, is a climatic time for those in Christ. Jesus said to the woman at the well that God is seeking true worshipers (John 4:23). Jesus also said in Luke 19:10, that He seeks and saves that which is lost. Putting these two truths together, we find that the primary reason God saves us is to worship Him. Corporate worship should have a priority in the lives of all God’s people.

The Lord’s Day
The Lord’s Day is a Sabbath rest for God’s people. Unlike many others, we believe that the Sabbath commandment is a perpetual ordinance that began before the fall in creation (Genesis 2:1-4), and finds its consummation in eternity. While some may argue that the Sabbath was an Old Testament law and we no longer observe the Sabbath, we at Heritage see God’s revelation differently. While we do not observe the Sabbath in the manner of OT law, the ordinance still continues for our observance. Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains therefore a rest [literally: Sabbath-rest] for the people of God.”

God gave the Sabbath as a creation ordinance in the Garden of Eden, like marriage and work. After the fall He reiterated these ordinances to His people. Before the giving of the law in Exodus 20, God reminded His people of the Sabbath principle as they gathered manna (Exodus 16). When God gave the summary of His unchangeable moral law in Exodus 20, we find the Sabbath ordinance included (Fourth Commandment). Christ declared in Matthew 5:17-19 that He did not come to change the law but to fulfill it. Therefore, Christ did not abrogate any part of His moral law. The Sabbath principle was also included in the ceremonial law (cf. Leviticus 23). While the ceremonial law has been fulfilled in Christ, the Sabbath ordinance has never been abrogated. Christ certainly exposed the Pharisaical abuses of Sabbath-keeping which were not according to the Word of God, but of their own traditions. However, He never changed the ordinance from a morally binding precept among His earthly creatures.

The Sabbath is said to be a perpetual covenant among God’s people (Exodus 31:16). Because the Old Covenant has been passed into the New, the observance of the day has changed from the seventh day to the first day of the week. The theology that is rooted in the Sabbath principle is a theology of creation and redemption. This theology comes to surface in kernel form in a comparison of the giving of the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Notice that the Commandment is this: “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.” The rest of the context surrounding the Sabbath commandment helps illustrate its underlying theology which will be expanded upon throughout the remainder of the Scriptures. Much of this theology finds greater expression in the third chapter of Hebrews, as a theology of “rest” is unfolded, and particularly in chapter four where we are told that, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). In context with this, verse 10 says, “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His,” is a key reference for understanding why the day has been changed from the seventh day to the first day of the week.

We certainly want to steer away from Pharisaical abuses and hypocrisy that skewed the meaning and application of what the Sabbath Day meant for the people of God. However, we also do not want to neglect the commandment of God and misinterpret God’s law to live as though we no longer have a Sabbath rest.

Regulative Principle of Worship
From the Reformation, two schools of thought resulted in what is proper in corporate worship: 1) the normative principle; and 2) the regulative principle. The normative principle of worship declares that all things that are not expressly forbidden in the Scriptures are acceptable forms of worship. The regulative principle of worship declares that only those forms expressly revealed in Scripture are acceptable for true worship. Both the Westminster Confession and our Baptist Confession hold to a regulative principle of worship, and for good reason.

Fallen man does not know properly how to worship God. God must tell us how He wants to be worshipped. After He delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, one of the first things He did was to instruct His people how to worship Him. He gave very explicit details to the design and building of the tabernacle, sacrifices, and the priestly garments, all of which was revelation about how to worship a holy God. God did not leave it up to us to choose from our own devices how to worship Him. In fact, when God’s people did choose their own way to worship Him, they made for themselves a golden calf and tried to worship God through it.(1) Since worship reveals truths and characteristics about God Himself, we need to apply careful diligence lest we malign our thoughts about God.

After Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness, God gave very specific instructions on how He is to be worshiped (cf. Exodus 25-31; 35-40). God must be worshiped according to His own nature (John 4:24), and apart from God’s specific revelation of Himself, we do not know what is acceptable to God and what is an abomination. Left to ourselves to figure out how to worship God, we would always approach Him in an abominable fashion.

In Leviticus 10:1ff, the Bible reveals to us that Nadab and Abihu, offered strange fire to the Lord which the Lord had not commanded them. Because these two did not worship God in the way that He prescribed, God judged them for their presumption. Because we worship God according to His Person and nature, all forms of worship reveal something about Him. When we worship Him in forms not revealed in Scripture, we pervert or distort something about God.

Under the New Covenant, the physical forms of worship under the Old Covenant (i.e. the ceremonial law) have been fulfilled in Christ, so we now worship in ways prescribed in the New Testament. New Covenant worship revealed in the Bible centers around Christ-centered preaching (Romans 10:14-17), so preaching is a primary aspect of worship. Also the singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are prescribed (Ephesians 5:19) as proper forms of worship. Corporate prayer and the reading of Scriptures are other important elements of biblical worship (Acts 2:42 ;1 Timothy 4:13). God has given us two forms of worship that involve visible symbols, and both are temporary in their nature: the Lord’s Supper; and Baptism. Both of these sacraments are intended to be used in the corporate worship of God’s people, and are the only visible elements employed in true worship. All other forms, preaching, reading of Scripture, music, and prayer are aural in their nature. Therefore, we must take great care in how we worship.

Many churches today take away the biblical emphasis of the preaching, or other prescribed elements of worship such as singing the Psalms, and substitute them with other elements in their place. Forms of worship that are often employed but are not regulative, and hence improper would include dramas, films, and use of images, pictures, or other objects to aid in worship. There may be a place for some of these things, but not in the corporate worship of God. As more and more of these “alternate methods” of worship are being employed, the true prescribed elements are diminishing in their importance. In the book of Hebrews, the Bible warns us to serve (worship) God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Characteristics of Corporate Worship at Heritage

1. Our Demeanor is a Spirit of Reverence and Godly Fear
All true worship is offered in heaven and is mediated by Christ. Hebrews 12:18-24 contrasts Mt. Sinai with Mt. Zion regarding where God’s people come.
For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:18-24)

When God’s people gather for worship, we come into a glorious company who are already worshiping, and we merely join in with them in their glorious activity. When a sinner is saved to be a worshiper of God, Christ seats the believer in the heavenlies with Him (Ephesians 2:6). It is from here we offer all our worship to God. All true worship given to God by us must be mediated by Christ. Hebrews 8:2 calls Christ the “Minister of the Sanctuary.” The term minister is literally “Liturgist” from where we get our term “liturgy,” referring to worship. Therefore, as we meet together in His name to worship God, Christ mediates our worship before God’s throne where our worship is received. While too often we have a low and earthly view of worship, the corporate worship of God revealed in the Bible is grand and glorious where Christ is present among His people. In Hebrews 2, we read,

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’” (Hebrews 2:10-12)

Christ saved His people through His work on the cross to bring them into glory with Him. This passage quotes Psalm 22 which Christ claimed as His own while hanging on the cross. A cursory reading of Psalm 22 reveals this Psalm is referring to Christ. Scripture here reveals that in using Psalm 22, Christ Himself declares God’s name to His brethren, and Christ Himself is the One leading our praise. When God’s people gather for worship, Christ is the true preacher, and Christ is the true worship leader. Christ is the One leading God’s people in heavenly worship before God’s holy throne. This is why true worship is so lofty, grand, and God-centered. This is also the reason we take care in how we worship, that the reverence and godly fear are maintained so our worship is acceptable to God (Hebrews 12:28-29).

The key question for us to ask is not whether we like what is going on in the corporate worship of God, but rather does God like what is going on there. If God is pleased with the worship, then we need to square our minds and hearts up to His desires and not bring worship down to cater to our carnal appetites.

2. We View our Corporate Worship as a Time of Covenant Renewal (2)
God only relates to man by covenant. Scripture reveals that God related to man before the fall in terms of a covenant. A covenant may be simply defined as an agreement between two or more persons. God established the terms of fellowship with man in Genesis 2:16-17 which says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Some have referred to this “agreement” as the Covenant of Works. As long as man perfectly obeyed, he could live and do so in God’s paradise. Man however, broke God’s covenant and had to face its penalty—death. Hosea 6:7 testifies that man before the fall was under such a covenant, “But like men [or “Adam”] they transgressed the covenant.” After man had broken fellowship with God in sinning against His Word (Genesis 3:1-6), God establishes His covenant of grace to redeem fallen man. God reveals Himself to man throughout all of Scripture in terms of His covenant. Only through a covenant does man have communion with God. God’s covenant with man finds its focus in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the Covenant.

Therefore, central to a biblical understanding of worship is the notion of covenant. As Michael Horton so aptly puts it, “Whenever we gather for public worship, it is because we have been summoned. That is what ‘church’ means: ekklesia, ‘called out.’ . . . We gather each Lord’s Day not merely out of habit, social custom, or felt needs but because God has chosen this weekly festival as a foretaste of the everlasting Sabbath day that will be enjoyed fully at the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (3)

God is the One who has made His Covenant with His people. In one sense, the Covenant is a unilateral covenant where God has obligated Himself to its fulfillment. While the Covenant is unilateral in nature, it still consists of two parties, God and man. God speaks and gives to us His promises, we respond in faith and repentance. “Yet, faith and repentance do not constitute ‘our part’ in this covenant in the sense of providing some ground for our participation in it. God grants even the faith and repentance. And God does call us to respond, to grow in grace, and to persevere to the end. The triumphant indicative concerning God’s action in Christ establishes a safe foundation on which to stand as we seek to obey the divine imperatives. That’s why worship is dialogical: God speaks and we respond.”(4) Each Sabbath, which itself is a perpetual covenant (Exodus 31:16), as God’s people gather to worship, God reminds His people of His Covenant, and God’s people respond in faith and repentance, in praise and adoration. This is the essence of the worship and covenant renewal.

God has given to us the Lord’s Day which sets the frequency of our corporate worship. The Sabbath itself has already been noted to be an everlasting covenant between God and His people. In the New Covenant, Sabbath observance has been changed from the seventh day to the first day of the week. Likewise, Christ has instituted the Lord’s Supper which is the Covenant meal of the New Covenant worship to replace Passover which was the Covenant meal of the Old. Regarding the cup of Communion, Jesus said in Matthew 26:27-28, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” The Lord’s Supper is an important element in New Covenant worship. In Acts 2:42 the Bible reveals to us the practices of the early Church, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers”. The breaking of bread is a common phrase referring to Communion. In Acts 20:7, we see again an apostolic pattern for corporate worship, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread . . .” We see the public gathering of God’s people to worship being on the first day of the week (the Lord’s Day) and one of the things they did each Lord’s Day in corporate worship was to receive the Lord’s Supper. It makes sense that if worship is a covenant renewal ceremony, then the covenant meal ought to be present. In the Old Testament, no one ever came before God to commune with Him without sacrifice and the conscious awareness of their need for atonement for their sins. Likewise, in the New Testament, no one can rightly come before God without reference to a sacrifice for atonement. This sacrifice is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we commune with God in the sacrament of Communion, we by faith remember Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24-25) as our sole necessary atonement for our sins. We identify ourselves with His Person and Work by faith. And by faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, we meet with Christ at His Table and receive the benefits of His redemption and saving grace. Therefore, as part of our weekly Sabbath worship, we partake of Communion as an important element of our corporate worship.

3. Our Music Must Be Set Apart (5)
Music is an important element in worship, and also one of the most controversial subjects today in the discussion of corporate worship.

Corporate worship music consists of two elements: the text we sing; and the music itself. So much emphasis today has been placed upon the style of the music with little regard for the text. The text we sing to the Lord must be theologically accurate and be relevant to the worship. “Do Lord” is hardly suitable for public worship. The subject matter of our singing is God Himself, and therefore, the truths we sing are weighty, lofty, and transcendent. Since the only acceptable worship is in spirit and truth (John 4:24), we should take great care in what we sing to ensure it accurately reflects truth.

Ephesians 5:19 says, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Greatly neglected today in Christ’s Church is the singing of Psalms. The Bible clearly prescribes to us that we are to sing the Psalms. Psalms are inspired text that are in themselves patterns for biblical worship. In singing the Psalms, we will sing truths we have never sung before anywhere else. The metrical Psalter is a compilation of the Psalms arranged in a meter that can be sung in such a way that the meaning of each Psalm is retained. Since the Reformation, the Church has sung the Psalms as an integral element of corporate worship. Today, however, many of God’s people have never realized their importance in the place of corporate worship and have all but neglected them.

While the text we sing is vital to our worship, what about the music? Is music a mere matter of personal preference, and style a matter of choice? Without getting too deep into the controversy, I will expound the principle of the “sacred.” In Leviticus 19, the Bible gives us regulations for Israel that were for setting them apart unto Himself. The term “holy” (or “sacred”) means to “be set apart.” Sanctification also carries this same idea. To be sanctified means to be set apart and made holy. When God sanctifies His people, He sets them apart from sin and the world to Himself as holy and sacred. Throughout Leviticus, its theology reveals holiness. When something common in everyday life was taken and sanctified, it then became “holy.” In other words, it was now set apart from being common unto being sacred. The same principle applies in the worship of God. The music that carries the weighty themes of God and His glory ought to be “set apart” form the “commonness” of the world. While it may be entirely appropriate to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch at the Atlanta Braves baseball game, it is entirely inappropriate to do so in the place of corporate worship. At the same time, we would not sing of God’s holiness, wrath and justice to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Not only does the tune smack of commonness, but it has not the “gravity” to carry such weighty subjects in our corporate worship. The tunes with which we sing our texts must themselves be “set apart” from the commonness of the world.

To help illustrate this point, I will use a slice of another portion of worship. For each Lord’s Day Communion, my wife bakes the communion bread. It really is a very simple recipe that she tailored from a common pie crust recipe. We use that recipe for nothing else except our communion bread. There is nothing magical or special in and of itself. What makes it special is when we take the bread and bless it in our Communion service. Upon the blessing of the bread (cf. Matthew 26:26; 1 Corinthians 10:16) we are asking God to take this common bread and set it apart (i.e. make it holy) for the sacred purpose of Communion in the sacred meal He has given. This is not a magical transformation as the Roman Catholics (or even Lutherans) believe, but an acknowledgement that this is no longer common bread for common use. The bread has been set apart for holy Communion. As a practical application of this implication, we do not take “doggie-bags” of the leftovers home to give to Fido. The same principle applies to other elements of worship including music. Our worship music needs to be “set-apart” for sacred purposes and needs to conform to the weightiness and glory of our great Subject matter.

While some folks from the Reformed background hold to exclusive Psalmnody (the Psalms are the only appropriate text to sing) or to the position that requires no use of instruments in corporate worship, we at Heritage do not believe the Bible restricts us to this degree. Old Testament worship was further developed under David when musicians and singers were given a permanent position in the corporate worship of God. There is no indication that the use of these musical forms was any part of the ceremonial law that passed away in the Old Covenant. The establishment of choirs and musicians was some 400 years after the giving of the law, and are good patterns for us to follow in our New Covenant worship.

4. The Place of Women in Worship
One question some visitors have as they visit our ministry is, “What’s with all the hats?” According to the teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, it is the conviction of the leadership of this ministry that ladies should have their heads covered in the place of corporate worship. While this is not a membership requirement for the ministry, we do ask that if a woman is to lead in any portion of the corporate worship, she should do so with her head covered. What we mean by leading are activities like accompanying on an instrument, singing special music (e.g. solo, duet, etc.), sharing a testimony, or teaching a children’s Bible class. We believe the Bible is clear that women are not to teach men, preach the Word, have authority over man in the Church, or lead the corporate worship in any formal sense (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). By covering her head, a woman testifies that she is deferring to the rightful authority in the place of corporate worship.

We understand that our conviction cuts against the grain of most modern churches today. Most people have never really studied the issue or the passage from 1 Corinthians 11. The teaching of headcovering is often quickly dismissed as something cultural to first century Corinth and does not apply today. Others claim that the woman’s hair is her covering for worship. The passage itself ties the teaching of headcovering, not to anything in the culture itself, but to creation, and therefore applies today.

While we understand the great difficulty this can be in the context of the modern Church whose practice most often is to the contrary, we strive to have a gracious spirit with those who may disagree. Within Heritage, we pray this issue never becomes one of pride or condescension on the one hand, or rebellion on the other. We strive to have a gracious spirit in all things and not use a headcovering for a spiritual barometer. For those interested in studying this topic in more detail, please get the booklet written by Marion Lovett on “Headcoverings in the Place of Corporate Worship.”

It is obvious from Scripture, that women are not to teach men in the church, nor to exercise authority over men in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12). 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 tells us to let the women keep silent in the church. While this is in the context of the chaos going on in Corinthian worship regarding prophesies and speaking in tongues, it does not mean exclusively that women are not to ever open their mouths in corporate worship. In fact, the only place we have for this allowance is from 1 Corinthians 11 that says if a woman prays or prophesies in the church, she ought to have her head covered. This certainly implies that she is doing so in the presence of other men, and the context suggests that the setting is in corporate worship. Women are included in the public singing (cf. Ephesians 5:19ff). Women, likewise, are included in prophesying and praying in 1 Corinthians 11. Therefore, women can contribute in corporate worship even to the extent of praying aloud in corporate worship and in other forms of worship that are not the ministry of the Word. We see evidence of this in Acts 1:14 and Acts 12:5,12-15.

In summary, women at Heritage are not required to wear headcoverings to be a member of the church, but are required to do so if they participate in any form of public ministry. Likewise, we feel the same passage offers to women the opportunity to pray aloud in corporate prayer in mixed company so long as she has her head covered.

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Endnotes:
(1) See Exodus 32. Both the grammar and the context reveal that God’s people were not merely worshiping the calf as an end in itself, but they were worshiping the true God through a forbidden means. The Second Commandment prohibits us from worshiping God through objects of worship. For more information, listen to the sermon tape on the Second Commandment.

(2) For more information on this topic, listen to the message preached on January 19, 2003 entitled, “A New Perspective in Corporate Worship.”

(3) Michael Horton, A Better Way, Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship, p.24

(4) Ibid, p.25-26

(5) For more information, please hear the sermon tape on “Corporate Worship Music”

Family Integrated Ministry

With the growth of mega-churches in America coupled with the culture of big business, age-segregated government education, the sports craze, and the entertainment haze, the Church has been negatively influenced with the ways of the world. Dads leave home on Mondays for their weekly business trips while soccer moms are busy carting the kids around from one practice field to another. At the end of the week, they come together, and some will attend church on the Lord’s Day. While the world is busy splitting our families apart, the last thing we need is the Church contributing to the mayhem.

Family Restoration

The first thing Christians need to do is to restore their own families. God has appointed the husband/father to be the head of the household. The man of the house is commanded, first of all, to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). The man of the house should love, lead, protect, and provide for his family. These responsibilities, however, do not merely apply to the physical well-being of his family, but more importantly, to the spiritual. A man should lead his family spiritually.

When God created Adam, He gave work and responsibilities to him before Eve was even created (cf. Genesis 2:5-18). Therefore, it is important for a man to know the will of God for his family and lead them in love to follow Christ and heed His commands. A man should lead his family to understand the will of God and involve his family in its mission. In order to do this, he must be consistently instructing his family from the Scriptures and leading them in family worship(Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

On the other hand, the role of the woman, is quite different. The wife/mother was made for the man to come alongside him, to be a companion to him, and help him in his God-given ministry (Genesis 2:18). The materials that God used to construct the man was different from the woman for a reason.

God made man from the dust of the ground. Man would have his purpose and fulfillment in life by tilling the ground from which he was made. Woman was made from man, and therefore, will best enjoy her purpose and fulfillment in life when she is serving the substance from which she was made, the man. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:9, “ Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

This does not mean that woman is any lesser than the man for the Scripture also says, “For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God” (1 Corinthians 11:12), but is does reveal that we have different purposes and functions to the glory of God. The headship of a man in the home is absolutely essential to the manifestation of the glory of God in the home (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3).

When a marriage is functioning biblically, the husband lovingly leads, and the wife reverently submits according to the Scriptures (Ephesians 5:22,24,33). This is a picture of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:32), and when this picture is perverted in negligence or disobedience, God is not glorified in the home and the home is not happy.

Now what about the children? It seems that most homes in America tend to revolve around the children, their activities, and their desires. Our children have learned to become consumers in the home and society and not producers. Because the Church has, by and large, bought into the world’s market for children, we now think that our children are the ones who need to be served, coddled, appeased, and entertained. When the family revolves around the children, then churches are sought for their ability to provide the services their children desire.

Families shop for churches today like they are shopping for the latest Christmas toys. This mentality is detrimental to both the church and the family. This philosophy has dumbed-down the church in its doctrinal understanding, and has produced entertainment-driven churches that are man-centered rather than God-centered.

To help us understand what role the children should play in both the family and the church, Noah provides us with some good principles. God approached Noah, revealed His grace to him, and instructed him in his ministry – to build an ark. It would take Noah 120 years to complete the ark. After twenty years, Noah needed some helpers, after all, the worldly neighbors were not interested in helping to build a boat since no water was nearby. God provided three sons to help build the ark, and for the next 100 years the work continues until it was completed. Then Noah, his wife, and three sons with their wives entered the ark and was saved from the world’s destruction.

We could pull many other examples like Aaron and his sons, the Levites and their sons, Korah and his sons, etc. Children should be helpers in the home and with dad’s ministry in the kingdom. When a man leads his home, ministering to his family spiritually, his wife respectfully helps him, and the children follow suit, the family will be a happy and blessed family which glorifies the God of heaven.

Children will find their identity and satisfaction in life, not with a group of peers in the youth group, but serving Christ in the home and Church. Children are well capable of ministering in the church (Proverbs 20:11) and finding their identity among the whole church, young and old alike.

Church-Family Integration

The church should be a place where families learn to worship and serve God together. We at Heritage believe it is important to keep our families together in both the worship and ministry of God, and therefore, we do not age-segregate our ministry.

The Model for the Church

The Church should not be modeled after a Fortune 500 corporation where the pastor is the CEO. It is a shame that some churches seek managers and administrators, rather than men of faith and the Word, to lead their church.

Too often elders or deacons are selected because they are good business managers rather than on their spiritual qualifications for ministry (cf. Acts 6:3 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13). Good spiritual leaders for the church will come from good spiritual leaders of their own families. The Scripture says that men who aspire to serve as leaders in Christ’s Church should first manage well their own households (1 Timothy 3:4).

The Church is called a household of faith (Galations 6:10), and operates like an extended family, or household. Everyone, whether single or married, young or old, children or parent is part of God’s family and has a function within it. When the Church is not operating like a family, but more like a business operation, it is not operating biblically and a host of problems result.

The Church, which is a covenant community of believers, then looks very much like a family – because it is. If the family is properly understood, as the previous section delineated, then the operation of the Church should be more clearly seen. The men, of course, would lead, the women come alongside the men and help them in their ministries, and the children follow suit to help in the work of the kingdom.

Like the family, the Church does not revolve around the needs of the children, and so should not cater to every desire they have. Rather, the Church should recognize the blessed gifts of God that He has given the church, and so equip them and their parents to do the work of the ministry. Children should be expected to be producers in the Church, just like at home, and in fact, they will feel most satisfied when this principle is achieved.

There is one fundamental principle that should here be observed. The Church is not the primary channel of discipling the children in the covenant community, but the dads are. Deuteronomy 6 provides explicit instructions to the dads in the covenant community to teach their children and grandchildren. Therefore, the primary responsibility of teaching our children about God and His Kingdom is that of the fathers. This does not mean that the Church has no responsibility, for the Lord told Peter to feed His lambs (John 20:15). The Church has a complimentary responsibility in teaching and discipling the children.

When the Church is seen as the primary responsibility for teaching the children spiritually, the fathers most often will shirk their own responsibility and the results are devastating. Paul reiterates this important responsibility of fathers when he directly commanded the fathers to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It is important to note here, that when Paul was addressing the church at Ephesus, which was a book about the Church, that did not command the church leadership to do this work which was primarily the responsibility of the fathers.

At Heritage, we understand the importance of this timeless principle, and therefore we make it our aim to equip, encourage, support, and pray for fathers to lead their homes spiritually and teach their children. The Church will never be as effective in bringing up godly children unto the Lord as godly fathers, who are in her pale, will be able to accomplish.

Does this mean that we undervalue or depreciate the value of children in the church? Absolutely not, and quite the contrary. We see them as wonderful gifts from God and a valuable resource in God’s kingdom. We believe they have a valid place in the worship of God and corporate sanctification of God’s people, and therefore, do not cart them off to children’s church to be separate from the rest of the body. We believe they can learn and benefit from the means of grace offered each Lord’s Day in the corporate worship of God.

When children are removed from the corporate worship, or excused from the sermon, that they are most depreciated and deprived of the very means of grace God gives the little children. All though the Old Testament church and through the New Testament Church up until this century, the children have participated in the public worship of God along with their parents (cf. Deuteronomy 31:11-13; Acts 20:7-12).

When Paul was addressing the church at Ephesus, he turns to address the children directly in chapter six, and commands them to be obedient to their parents. If the children were segregated from the rest of the church meeting at that time, playing games and watching films, enjoying the puppet shows, and having refreshments, they would have missed the grace offered in the instruction as Paul addressed the church.

Catechizing the Children

At Heritage, we believe strongly in catechizing our children. Catechizing is a form of teaching doctrine and Scripture through a question and answer format. While some scripture memory programs are good, we believe most are lacking because they do not teach the children what the Scriptures mean. It is our desire to have our children, not only have the scripture hidden in their hearts, but to know what they mean and how it all fits together systematically. Catechisms are great for achieving this goal.

Our catechism ministry rewards our children with awards and corporate acknowledgement of their achievements while placing the burden of the work upon parents who rightful duty it is to train up their children in the Lord. In arranging our catechism ministry in this fashion, we provide the tools for the parents to train their children, the encouragement to the children for their progress, and the accountability for the families to progress in the training of the Lord.

Family Worship

Since Heritage believes in the essential participation of families in the kingdom, the pastor encourages every family have regular consistent family worship in their homes. While this may sound intimidating to some fathers who have never led in family worship, the elders want to encourage and equip fathers and families to worship God in their homes to have Christ’s name honor and magnified there.

Each Lord’s Day the pastor provides a family worship guide for the families to follow. The worship guide provides daily Scripture reading that will be preached and discussed the following Lord’s Day, and some hymns and Psalm to sing that will be sung corporately in the upcoming worship service.

Not only does this provide tools for families to utilize in their homes for family worship, but it also prepares the family together for the upcoming climax of worship when God’s people gather corporately on the Lord’s Day.

What is a Reformed Church?

“So what is a Reformed Church?” you may be asking. Although we would prefer not to have any “labels” at all, to be known only as a biblical church, we do recognize that in a culture that extensively uses labels, it is merely impossible to accurately communicate who we are without some identifying terms. In fact, every church faces this problem.People will perceive, whether accurate or not, ideas about a church based on its “terms” of description or identifying “labels.” So Heritage has chosen to use certain “labels” to help communicate who it is to aid others in discerning the biblical character of the ministry. One term that helps describe our ministry is the term “reformed.”

The term “reformed” describes three things about Heritage. First of all Heritage is a reformed church in that we identify with the teachings of Christ and His apostles that were recaptured at the time of the Protestant Reformation. The key doctrines of the Reformation were summarized in the following five Latin slogans:

  • SOLA SCRIPTURA (Scripture Alone) – the Scripture alone is our final authority in every area of life, because it is the Word of God;
  • SOLA CHRISTI (Christ Alone) – Christ alone, in His perfect life and atoning death in the sinner’s place, is the basis for our acceptance;
  • SOLA GRATIA (Grace Alone) – the grace of God alone in Christ, not human effort, is how God saves sinners;
  • SOLA FIDE (Faith Alone) – faith alone in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ apart from our works of righteousness or human merit is the means by which sinners receive or appropriate this grace of God; and
  • SOLA DEO GLORIA (To God Alone be the Glory) – for saving sinners and for everything else in this life and the life to come, eternal.Therefore, one aspect of the label “reformed” is to understand that we are dedicated to God’s Word, God’s ways, and God’s glory as summarized in these slogans.

A second area where “reformed” describes Heritage is in our doctrinal position. Reformed teaching holds to the Doctrines of Grace (more information of the Doctrines of Grace can be found in the booklet “Doctrines of Grace” by John Piper). The doctrines of grace express the great truths of Scripture regarding God and the salvation He provides for undeserving man.

In short, these doctrines state: 1) man is lost in sin and most undeserving and incapable of fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21); 2) God graciously elected sinners unto salvation according to God’s sovereign will alone (Ephesians 1:4,11; Romans 9:11); 3) Christ, the Son of God, came to die in the place of God’s people to save them (John 10:11; Ephesians 5:25-27); 4) God always takes the initiative in salvation and thus draws us with His special grace where we come willingly to Christ (John 6:37,44,65); and 5) God completes the salvation He began in us, so that the believer never finally or completely falls away from the grace of God in Christ, but is eternally saved and secure in Christ (2 Timothy 1:12; Philippians 1:6).

In a day where religion is man-centered, the doctrines of grace reveal that God is central and He alone is where our purpose and joy in life are centered. The truths of Scripture, rightly handled, do not leave man dwelling upon himself and his problems, but transcends man from his needs to the throne of grace and focuses upon the God of our salvation.

The doctrines of Grace are a fuller expression of what we mean in the five Latin slogans delineated above. God is the sole author of our salvation and hence receives all the glory for His wonderful grace in saving undeserving sinners.

Thirdly, Heritage is a reformed church meaning that we hold to reformed theology (or covenant theology). Reformed theology is a “system” of theology. A system of theology details how someone unifies the Scripture—that is, how one understands the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation. Everyone has a “system” of theology—the way he/she sees Scripture unified, whether he realizes it or not, whether it is implicit or explicit.

Two popular “systems” in Christianity today are Dispensationalism and Covenant (or Reformed) Theology. At Heritage, we believe that the biblical approach to understanding the Scriptures is what Scripture reveals about itself through the covenants. Scripture reveals that God always relates to man through covenants, and because the nature of the Bible is redemptive, God has revealed Himself through the course of history in covenants. In fact, the Bible is divided into two major sections: the Old Testament (or covenant); and the New Testament (or covenant). These two testaments are not mutually exclusive but are unified in the Person and Work of Christ Whom they both reveal.

Reformed Theology sees the Scripture unifying the whole Bible together through the covenants. For example, the covenant God made with Noah (Genesis 9:8-17) is still in effect today and applicable to us all as we are reminded every time we see a rainbow in the sky.

The covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 15) is applicable to all believers today, for Galatians 3:7 says, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Scripture itself identifies how it is unified and this, we believe, is through covenants.

Therefore, the third aspect of what the “reformed” label describes about Heritage is how we interpret the Scriptures, that is, by comparing Scripture with Scripture and seeing that covenants are the unifying element. This covenantal system is upheld and taught by our confession, The Westminster Confession (1647) and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Covenant theology not only helps us understand how the Scripture is unified, but aids us in the practical outworking of our doctrine.

The Three Marks of a True Church

The three biblical marks of a true church are: the preaching of the Word of God; the right administration of the sacraments; and the exercise of church discipline. These three marks follow the threefold offices of Christ who is the Head of the Church. These offices were a part of the Church in the Old Testament and are the office of prophet, priest, and king.

A prophet was a man called by God, chosen out from among God’s people to represent God to the people. A prophet brought the people the Word of God and thus revealed the will of God to His people. Moses was a prophet of God, and in Deuteronomy 18:18 God, speaking through Moses, promised His people another prophet like Moses, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.”

This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who was the Prophet of God (John 4:25-26; John 12:49-50). The New Testament refers back to this Old Testament prophetic office by often referring to “Moses and the prophets” (Luke 24:27,44; Luke 16:29,31; John 1:45, etc.) and identifying Jesus as its fulfillment (Hebrews 1:1-2). Today Christ still fulfills His prophetic office in the Church by “declaring God to His brethren.” When a minister faithfully preaches the Word of God to God’s people, Christ’s prophetic office is being carried out.

The Bible reveals to us in Hebrews 2:11-12 that Christ is the true preacher of the Word of God to His people. The text says, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” This text is quoting Psalm 22 which unmistakably is speaking about Christ. Christ is the one who declares God’s name unto His brethren.

When a man of God proclaims the Word of God to the Church, Christ Himself is proclaiming His Word and will to His people through the preaching of the Word. As the Church faithfully preaches the Word of God, Christ’s prophetic ministry is administered to His people. Therefore, the first mark of a true church is the faithful preaching of the Word because it is in the preaching that Christ is active in His prophetic office.

A priest was a man called by God, chosen out from among God’s people to represent the people before God. A priest was a mediator that stood between God and the people and provided atonement and intercession unto God in behalf of the people. Aaron and his sons represented served in the office of priest and represented the priesthood that would be fulfilled in Christ. To the office of priest were entrusted the rightful administration of the sacraments of the Old Testament which were primarily the ceremonies and sacrifices.

Christ in interceding for His people (John 17) and making atonement for their sins with His own blood administered the true atoning work to which all the sacraments pointed. Christ is the true high priest of His people (Hebrews 7:11-8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). Today, Christ continues to exercise His priestly office by His intercession in behalf of His people (Hebrews 4:14-16). Likewise, His priestly office is mediated through the rightful administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) by His Church. When a Church rightfully administers Christ’s sacraments, they reveal His priestly work being done in behalf of His people. A Church that neglects or wrongfully administers the sacraments of God in the Church, has not the mark of a true church.

Lastly, God raised up David to be king over Israel, His people. The king of Israel rules over God’s people and governed them in the commonwealth of Israel. This office in the Old Testament Church identified the true King of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ. During the administration of the Old Testament, the office of King would point forward to the Sovereign and Head of the Church.

In 2 Samuel 7:12-16, God establishes David’s throne and promises David that He would raise up a Son from him (his house) that would sit on the throne of Israel and reign forever. In fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant that God established with David, God sent forth His Son, Jesus to be the eternal King of the Church. In Psalm 110:1, David, who was then the king in Israel, acknowledges that Jehovah had made another to be David’s Lord (or King). Jesus Christ is the one who has all authority given unto Him (Matthew 28:18), and is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14).

Christ is still active in His kingly office exercising His authority in His Church. Jesus is the Head of the Church, and has given to the Church the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). In giving the keys of the kingdom to the Church, Christ has granted authority to His Church to exercise Church discipline in the binding and loosing (cf. Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:15-20).

A Church that fails to discipline its members will fail to have the presence of Christ among them. Church discipline is a means of grace for those who avail themselves to it (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11). It is perilous to those souls who fail to come under church authority (Hebrews 13:17), and a blessing to those who do. This last mark of a true Church, where Christ’s lordship is realized, is often the one most neglected in evangelical churches today.

Christ fulfills all three offices of prophet, priest, and king, and He exercises them within His Church. When a church fails to practice these three biblical marks which correspond to the active ministry of Christ, she will not have His presence in her, and she will not be a true church.

What It Means to Be Confessional and Why It Is Important

We at Heritage Presbyterian Church regard Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) along with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as excellent, though not inspired, expressions of the teaching of the Word of God. Because we acknowledge the Word of God written to be the supreme authority in all matters of faith, morals, and order, we adopt this historic document as our doctrinal standard. We find it to be an assistance in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness.

The Need For Doctrine

It is no revelation that doctrine has been vastly watered down over the past 100 years in American churches. Statements of faith have become less defined in order for churches and organizations to be more inclusive. For some institutions there may be some warrant for this, but for the church, doctrine must be well defined for the sake of unity and its health.

For the most part, the Church in America has become very unhealthy due to its dumbing-down and shallowness of doctrine, which simply means “the teachings” of our faith. Many people like to discount the need for doctrine today, but doctrine is the basis of the truth upon which our faith stands. Jesus clearly exhorts us in His commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them . . .” (Matthew 28:19-20). The teaching of doctrine is the means where believers are preserved from error and apostasy and the means of strengthening our relationship with God.

Notice Peter’s exhortation at the end of his short epistle , “but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In understanding this verse, we must put it in context with what precedes it,

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—16 as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
(2 Peter 3:14-18)

Peter is here commending the growth in the deep things of Scripture in order to protect us from error and falling away from the Lord. It is interesting to see that he admits that some things in Scripture are hard to understand. However, he is certainly not giving us license to dismiss those hard things, but is exhorting us to apply ourselves all the more diligently in order to understand even the hard things. That is why he concludes with the command to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The words of Paul as he exhorted Timothy, a young pastor at Ephesus, in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, are noteworthy for the present day in which we are living,

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Ministers must fulfill their divine calling by preaching the Word and teaching sound doctrine. Few pulpits today are faithfully heeding this command.

In his first epistle to young Timothy, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul calls the church the ground and pillar of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The church is God’s institution that upholds the truth and maintains it’s integrity. Godly men coming out of the Protestant Reformation understood the importance of preserving the integrity of truth, especially against the backdrop of the abuses in the Roman Catholic Church from which the Reformation occurred. In order to define the truth that the Bible teaches, Protestants drew up Confessions of Faith which are still used to help believers know the doctrines and teachings of the Bible and aid them in discerning error.

It is imperative for us to understand what the Bible teaches and be able to accurately teach our children to discern between correct and false teaching. In our nation’s brief history, America stands as the leading country in producing the most cults in the history of the church. Most of these false religions have sprung out of orthodox Christianity and use the very words of the Bible to promote heresy. That is why the old saying, “No creed but the Bible,” while worthy of respect, is not sufficient to expose the difference between truth and error when the very words of Scripture are maligned and distorted. A confession is not equal with the Bible in authority, but is an expression of our faith as we understand what the Bible teaches.

The History of Reformed Protestant Confessions

In the early to mid 17th century, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists in England emerged from the Church of England and were persecuted by the official religion of the state. Between the years 1644 and 1648, an Assembly of English and Scottish Presbyterian divines, as they were then called, drew up the Westminster Confession of Faith in order to doctrinally unite themselves in resisting the governmental tyranny.

The Westminster Confession has been one of the most important works in the history of the church. Along with the articles of faith, the Westminster divines also made shorter and longer catechisms to accompany their confession. A catechism is a resource in question/answer format to help young people and adults alike to learn their doctrine and be able to give a “reason for the hope that lies within them” (1 Peter 3:15).

Today the Westminster is still the standard confession of faith for the Presbyterian segment of the Church. Shortly thereafter English Congregationalists and Baptists adopted virtually the same articles of faith as the Westminster in the Savoy Declaration of Faith (1658), and the London Baptist Confession of 1689, respectively.  These confessions express the same faith of the Reformation Church but differ in church polity and practice.

How We use the Westminster Confession of Faith

Presbyterians have used confessions since their beginning in order to state clearly what they believe. Likewise, our church has adopted The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) as that which most represents our beliefs. We affirm that it is the right of any congregation to adopt a corpus of beliefs according to their conscience and understanding of the Scriptures.

To be a confessional church means that a church adopts a standard confession, whose orthodoxy has been proven by the test of time and experiential use, which will be the governing body of doctrine used to build up believers in the faith, protect the body of doctrine from heresies, and provide unity among the church body in protecting against harmful schisms. Following are four uses of our practices in being a confessional church:

1. Upon admission of new members into the church the confession is a good introduction to the doctrine which will be taught, giving the new member assurances that we will remain orthodox in our convictions. We do not expect everyone joining our church to be prepared immediately to understand personally all that the confession states, but in a spirit of humility each must be willing to grow in these truths to greater understanding, not willfully speak against them, and submit themselves to body of doctrine and practice therein revealed. A copy of the confession will be given to every new member of the church for a ready reference on doctrine. Those considering membership may borrow a copy to look over before joining.

2. We do not require that the guest speakers we invite hold to the confession. There are many fine believers who are serving God faithfully, yet may not hold to the exact expression of our convictions. We open our arms to these faithful ministers of the Word, and may invite them, at times, to address our people. Though our confession will guide us in selecting those we choose for guest speaking, it will not preclude those who are in the most basic areas soundly orthodox, but differ on some specific point with the confession.

3. We do expect conformity to the confession for pastors, pastoral assistants, interns, home group leaders, and teachers, etc., those most associated with the pastoral duty of teaching the truth. This conformity does not imply that each person will have a thoroughly formulated understanding and acceptance of every aspect of the confession; it does mean, however, that they are willing not to knowingly teach contrary to the established doctrine of the church while working out these finer points. Certain doctrines are so clear and so necessary that a potential leader would have no reason to be in confusion over them e.g., the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the nature of saving faith, the coming of the Lord, the sovereignty of God in electing, etc. However, more difficult points of doctrine may take even good students some time to work out e.g. sacramentology (i.e. the study of the sacraments), etc. Since teaching is a direct pastoral extension, it is up to the session (i.e. elder board) and/or presbytery to decide which points of theology, on a case by case basis, may remain suspended in a potential leader’s thinking. Pains should be taken, however, to remove the confusion and to come to a solid conviction.

4. If an elder, pastoral assistant, home group leader, intern, etc., comes to a conclusion contrary to the confession, he is required to come to the session for counsel about his or her beliefs. The elders will work with the concerns of the leader until there is a unity in doctrine. If unity among the pastors and the individual is unattainable, then the pastors and individual must fall back on the confession as a correct expression of truth until proven otherwise. The teacher will be asked to discontinue teaching until there is a better resolution. It is admissible that some teacher may completely apostatize and disbelieve many truths once held true. In that special case, church discipline is in order and all teaching responsibilities will be terminated. Thus the congregation can be assured and confident in the consistency of the teaching within the church, and our commitment to doctrinal integrity.