What is a Reformed Congregation?
At first impression, you probably wonder what a Reformed Congregation is all about. Therefore have we written this article to make ourselves better known to you. It is our hope that after reading this you will feel desirous to join us in the worship of God and study of His holy Word. Let us assure you that you are very welcome!
Our Historic Roots
The Early Christian Church and the Dark Ages
The Christian Church was born after the Lord Jesus Christ returned to heaven (Acts 1-2). Through the power of the Holy Spirit the preaching of the apostles was greatly blessed. Many churches multiplied in the Roman empire but also beyond its borders. Sadly, already many Christians soon began to compromise the truths and slide back into patterns of sinful lifestyle. This sad development was clearly predicted by the Lord Jesus and His first messengers.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (I Tim. 4:1)
For centuries long, the Bible was suppressed as the only source of truth. People were told to believe numerous fables or heresies as God’s teachings. In history these centuries are referred to as the “Dark Ages.” God, however, had even in those darkest of times a remnant of His people according to His electing grace and power.
Graciously the Lord revived the teaching of the truths of the Holy Scripture in the 16th century. This re-discovery and teaching of what it actually says in the age-old Scriptures, led to the largest revival of the Christian Church. This period is known in history as the “Reformation”. God raised up many godly preachers to boldly proclaim His Gospel. These preachers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, were instruments to break the grip of the Roman Catholic Church and to establish Bible faithful churches once again.
Since the Reformation, the Church of God continued to go through various difficult periods. There has been compromise and outright rejection of God’s teachings in Scripture. The result of this is the vast differences found among Christians in their separate churches.
Some have radically departed from the teachings of the Holy Bible, as revived during the Reformation. For example, today there are people who call themselves Christians who yet deny the miracles recorded in Scripture, inspiration of Scripture, or Godhead of Jesus Christ. Others have substituted the teaching of God’s Word with a feel-good religion or with an emphasis on healing, speaking in tongues and prophesying. Other churches aim at entertaining the audiences with choirs, actors having performances, movies and Christian rock music while watering down Gods truths. Many churches that speak of ‘free grace’ are forgetting that though salvation is free, that discipleship is costly. In other words, free grace doesn’t free a man to live ungodly. The apostle Peter and Jude warned about such an abuse of grace,
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious way; by reason of whom the way of truths shall be evil spoken of. (2 Peter 2:1-2)
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
Thankfully, God has always maintained His faithful people throughout the course of history who defend, teach and spread the teachings of Scripture revived again through the Reformation. The writings of the Reformers and their successors (Puritans) are republished and read eagerly within the Western and non-Western world. Though time changes many things, it never changes God’s truth and the living Church will feed upon the faithful teachings of God’s Word even if the writings are hundreds of years old.
The word “Netherlands” in our church name is a reference to the origin of our denomination. Originally, immigrants from the Netherlands formed the churches within our denomination. Since the vast majority of our members cannot speak Dutch, the name “Netherlands’ is now a symbol of our past roots though as a denomination we still have a close relationship with like-minded churches in the Netherlands.
In the name of our church, we have consciously included the word “Reformed.” The intention is to establish the link to the Reformation. The truths God did revive in the Reformation, we continue to believe and teach as the core teachings of Holy Scripture. In this clinging to God’s distinctive and authoritative teachings on God and man, sin and salvation through Jesus Christ, we define our distinctiveness from other churches in our country.
The word “congregation” means that we regularly meet together (congregate) for the worship of God and instruction from His Word. Think of a congregation as a church family. Such gatherings of God’s people together with seekers or inquirers are singled out by God as the most special places on earth. It is said in Ps. 87 that “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”
Our Distinctive Convictions of Scriptures Teachings
The Core teachings of God’s Word
As a Reformed Congregation we declare our unwavering conviction that the teachings known as “Calvinism” are the best reflection of Scripture’s teachings. These teachings are conveniently summarized with the word “TULIP.” Each letter of this word TULIP stands for one major teaching of Holy Scripture.
Total Depravity of man:
We hold to the Biblical doctrine of total depravity. This is the Scriptural teaching that Adam’s original transgression has been imputed as guilt to the entire human race, bringing a curse or condemnation on us all. Besides, Adam’s sinful nature is transmitted to every child born in this world making us all sinful.
As result of this fall or rebellion in Paradise, man is in absolute bondage to Satan and wholly incapable of exercising his own will freely to trust in Christ for salvation. In other words, the fallen human race is unable to save itself by its own moral or spiritual efforts. We are spiritually dead. We are incapable to rid ourselves of any of the results of this dreadful fall. This truth is so important that it rightly has been called the very foundation of the Christian religion.
This fact is the most unflattering truth to us men. Therefore we resist it as we our proud creatures. In our messages you will often hear this confronting reality as we believe its truths needs to be preached faithfully. The reason we preach this truth is that we trust the Holy Spirit will use it to bring us to an acknowledgement of our utter helplessness. We need to learn that we are helpless in ourselves, without hope, and live under the judgment and wrath of an almighty God. Paul wrote that ‘every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’ (Romans 3:19)
Salvation is therefore dependent upon the work of God Who must give man spiritual life before he can repent and believe in Christ for salvation.
This Biblical truth can be found in the following Scriptures: Gen. 2:16,17; Gen. 6:5; 8:21; 2 Chron. 6:36; Job 14:4; Job 15:14-16; Ps. 51:5; Ps. 58:3; Ps. 143:2; Eccl. 9:3; Is. 53:6; Is. 64:6; Jer. 13:23; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19; John 6:44; John 6:65; John 8:44; Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1-3; Eph. 4:17-19
God the Father, in His sovereign right as Creator, has purposed from all eternity to save His chosen people to eternal life in His glorious heaven.
This election of a part of mankind is entirely free and therefore not conditioned on any merit or any foreseen act or response on their part but absolutely sovereign and gracious. God set His sovereign love upon them for reason only known to Him. Though this teaching stirs resistance in our fallen hearts, it is the teaching that eminently glorifies God and is the only comfort or hope for a fallen and hell-worthy sinner. In other words, this Divine and sovereign intervention in the life of a lost sinner is the fountain from which all blessings flow. Often, in our darkened understanding, predestinating grace is seen as a wall of impossibility since we can’t do anything to influence this decree of God. However, if we see ourselves in the light of God’s truth, it becomes the gate of possibility. George Whitefield summed this teaching up as follows, “Election shines with such resplendent brightness that all the blessings believers receive, all the privileges they do or will enjoy, through Jesus Christ, flow from the everlasting love of God the Father.”
The Biblical truths of unconditional election can be found in the following Scriptures: Deut. 10:14,15; Ps. 33:12; Ps. 65:4; Ps. 106:5; Matt. 11:27; Matt. 22:14; Matt. 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:28-30; Rom. 8:33; Rom. 11:28; Eph. 1:4; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 5:9; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter. 1:1-2; 1 Peter 2:8-9; Rev. 17:14
Limited or Definite Atonement:
This important doctrine is also called ‘particular atonement.’ This refers to Christ’s death on the cross to secure the salvation of a limited group or the elect part of mankind. It is the teaching that the Father’s election, the Son’s redemption and the Spirit’s application of salvation are all co-extensive. The Father designed the death of His Son with the specific purpose of saving His chosen people. For those chosen ones, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, laid down His life. Jesus Himself refers to them as His sheep. For them He prayed and not for the world. In John 17 can clearly hear that Jesus as the heavenly High Priest intercedes in prayer for His people and not for the entire world.
There is therefore an indivisible union between sovereign election and particular atonement or redemption. This stands in contrast to the prevalent teaching of universal atonement which teaches that Jesus has died for every person in the world. Along with this dreadful departure from the Bible’s teaching of Jesus’ atonement comes a train of other errors such as universal salvation, free will, conditional grace, justification by works and the notion that there is not eternal security for God’s people.
The Gospel message about the salvation is that Christ earned everything involved in bringing His people into a restored relationship with God as well as restoring their heart condition. Consider the following Biblical references as support for this view: Matt. 1:21; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; John 10:14, 15, 27, 29, 46; John 17:2, 6, 9, 11; 1 Peter 2:9
God’s work in saving sinners isn’t just setting before them a richest tidings of His grace. For any sinner to be saved, he or she needs to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Christ’s work must be applied to each of the Father’s chosen. Scripture therefore speaks about God Who makes sinners willing in the day of His power. Such will respond to Him with repentance and faith through the divine enabling. Regeneration is God’s exclusive work in a sinner who is dead in trespasses and sins. This doctrine of God’s irresistible grace in effecting regeneration flows directly out of the Biblical teaching of man’s complete inability as a fallen sinner. Anyone who denies God’s irresistible grace denies by implication the truth that man is completely fallen and unable to return to God or even to give himself for reformation.
Where God commences this work, it will be successful no matter how the sinner resists at first. His compelling grace makes the heart willing under the ministry of His Word by His Holy Spirit.
For Scriptural support of this doctrine, consult these verses: Deut. 30:6; Ps. 110:3; Ezek. 36:26-27; Dan. 4:35; John 1:12-13; John 3:3-8; John 5:21; John 6:37 & 44; Acts 16:14; Eph. 2:4-52; Tim.1:9; Titus 3:5
Perseverance of Saints:
The elect sinners are not only saved by God’s sovereign grace but also are kept in faith by God’s almighty power. God’s work of grace doesn’t stop at the initial regeneration and subsequent conversion of a person’s heart. Without this preservation none would arrive in heaven. They would all perish for though the spirit is ready, the flesh is weak. This perseverance of the saints is the grand theme of God’s plan of salvation. It is the eternal security of God’s saints. Each regenerate soul is absolutely secure in his or her salvation and will persevere to the end. Scripture does not maintain that all who profess the Christian faith are certain of their salvation.
For Scriptural support of this tenet of the Bible’s teaching, read the following passages: Is. 54:10; Jer. 32:40; Matt. 18:12-14; John 6:39; John 10:28; John 17:2, 11, 12, 15; Phil. 1:6; Phil. 3:20-21; 2 Thess. 5:23-24; 2 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:18; 1 Peter 1:4-5; Jude 1, 24-25
Responsibility of man:
God’s sovereign grace is the secret source and power of salvation. Without His work no one would be saved. This teaching doesn’t cancel out man’s full responsibility to respond to God’s Word with repentance and faith. God will judge every man according to his or her works. (Romans 2:6) In the preaching of God’s truths, every hearer will be held responsible about what he or she will do with God’s call. Though for our limited understanding God’s full sovereignty in the salvation of lost sinners and man’s full responsibility to answer God’s call with faith and repentance seem to be contradictory, it is the most faithful presentation of God’s Word. Both aspects live together in peace in the Bible and they are to live in peace in faithful preaching.
In the preaching, you will therefore be directly addressed and called to answer God’s call. Even though total depravity will prevent any hearer to even hear God’s call, it is God’s mysterious way of accomplishing His good pleasure in calling sinners from darkness to light. You will be confronted with your sinfulness even though you may be a good person but this is only to make you ready for the message of the Gospel. God’s purpose in setting the stark reality of our doom before us is to bring you to the utter desperation of yourself as well as to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Consider these passages in connection with this doctrine: Psalm 2; 95; Isaiah 1:1-20; 45:22-25; Jeremiah 3:12-14; Matthew 11:16-24; Hebrews 2:1-4
Misery, Deliverance and Gratitude
These three words sum up well the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of a sinner. Each one saved will experience his or her misery of sin, guilt, hopeless condition, punishment of a holy and righteous God. This misery awareness worked by God is the means to make one flee to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only One able to save one from God’s holy and righteous anger. The deliverance is entirely found in the work of Jesus Christ as the Cross-bearer and Sacrifice for sinners. Having found this salvation, God’s children will also live in thankfulness and strive to attain to a life of holiness.
This trio of experiential truth is beautifully presented in the Heidelberg Catechism. One of the sermons on most Lord’s Day is devoted to expound the Biblical truths summarized in the Catechism.
The authority of God’s Word
As a Reformed Congregation we acknowledge the supreme authority of God’s Word on all matters of life and doctrine. We see the Bible as the inspired Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16) and therefore as infallible and errorless in its original writings. Since the Scriptures are God’s Words, we cannot accept any teachings or practices that are contrary to the written Word of God.
As a church we uphold that the King James Version is currently the most trustworthy translation of the Holy Scriptures in the English language. Therefore that translation is used in our member’s families as well as in the public worship services.
Importance of Preaching
Unlike many other churches, the expository preaching of God’s Word has a central role in our worship services. Preaching of the Word is God’s instrument to save lost sinners and to nourish the saved in their faith (Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Thess. 3:10; 2 Tim. 4:2). The preacher explains the meaning of the Word and seeks to apply it closely to the conscience and heart. In the fruit of this preaching, we confess ourselves entirely dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit Who needs to bring the Word where man can never bring it (1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Thess. 1:5).
God centered Worship
Our worship seeks to be God-focused, Christ-centered and Spirit led through the Word of God. Therefore we strive for a sense of reverence and godly fear as we approach God with prayer, worship Him with singing, and hear that what He has to say to us through His preached Word. In the Bible God has revealed Himself as glorious Being and this majestic glory is to be reflected in our approach to Him (Heb. 12:28-29).
Any form of entertainment is excluded from our services. We strive that nothing will be added that would detract from the reverence God is due to receive. Besides the preaching of God’s Word, we join in prayer and singing of Psalms that are accompanied by the organ. As congregation we hold to the Biblical teaching that a woman’s head is to be covered during the worship services. (1 Cor. 11:1-16)
As a Reformed Congregation we fully subscribe to three of the historic Reformed creeds, also called the “tree forms of unity”, which we believe fully agree with the Word of God:
We also fully subscribe to the three creeds of the early church, the Apostles creed, the Nicene creed, and the Athanasian creed.
Though we have not formally subscribed to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, we recognize them all as faithful reflections and summaries of God’s pure teachings.
Full membership within our church is on a voluntary basis and one will be asked to make a public confession of his or her faith before one is accepted as a full member. Such membership doesn’t only carry the privilege of being part of a portion of God’s worldwide church but also brings along responsibilities. All those seeking full membership will be expected to follow a ‘membership class’ in which the main doctrines of God’s Word will be reviewed. Upon completion of this course, an examination will take place before the consistory. If this is found sufficient, and if no lawful objections are raised by the rest of our membership, one will be allowed to make a personal confession of faith.
We expect our members to attend the ministry of God’s Word as well using their gifts and abilities to the up building of God’s Kingdom locally, nationally and internationally (Matt. 28:19-20). We also expect that our members live Biblically and each of us has a responsibility to watch for the good of others. Through the exercise of pastoral oversight, we hold our members accountable for their walk of life as well as their convictions of Scripture truth.
If a member, after instruction, and where necessary, loving admonition, continues in a lifestyle that is contrary to the Biblical teaching, or promotes errors of doctrine, then such a person will face church discipline which may lead to the denial of the use of certain church privileges (such as the use of the sacraments) and eventually may lead to the formal termination of membership in excommunication. (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3:14).
We recognize that there are three offices to which God calls men. The preacher or pastor who is called to teach; the elders who are called to have leadership role; the deacons who are responsible for the material and financial aspect of God’s ministry. We maintain the conviction that the all church offices are only open to men (1 Cor. 14:34-40; 1 Tim. 1:11-12)
Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
Does this mean that we consider our church to be the only true church?
No, we do recognize other Christian churches as true churches of God when the fundamental truths of the Bible are upheld by them. In other words, their adherence to Gods truths determines the degree of fellowship, closeness and cooperation that we maintain with other churches. The more truth we can agree upon, the closer the official relationship will be. We also maintain close connections with like-minded Reformed Churches in other parts of the world and support their missionary activities. Furthermore we believe that the Lord has His own people in a variety of gatherings all around the world.
Why a separate church from the many others in town or the area?
Such a question is both valid and important. There must be a reason why our families worship together in the Netherlands Reformed Congregation. The answer has to do with our convictions of Biblical truth. We base our distinctive positions on the Bible and invite anyone to examine them as they are taught publicly every Sunday. We realize that our convictions differ significantly from the main stream churches because we consider the Bible to be Gods unchanging rule for life and faith throughout all time. We believe that, although our cultural context changes from generation to generation, Gods absolute truths are timeless. What was sin 2000 years ago, is still sin today and will be as long as this world exists. What was the only way of salvation then, is still the only way of salvation today. We strive to live a sober and separate lifestyle from the world though we all are ready to admit that we fail to do so.
What can we do for you?
Feel welcome at any time to join our services. Usually there is someone to help you to find a place. To really examine our teachings and our church family, make an attempt to attend for a period of time.