Does the call to repentance unto life require purposing and endeavouring to be in public worship attendance and church membership in a faithful Protestant evangelical church, or is any professing Christian Church sufficient?
(13th February 2019)
In Scripture, there are two parts to answering this question: (1) the first is explaining repentance unto life with pursuit of holiness in the moral law; and the second is the nature of a faithful Protestant evangelical church (that is, a reformed evangelical church). Both of these parts have direct bearing on the true gospel of free grace, Salvation, church attendance, and assurance of Salvation. Yet, in answer to this question(s) many neo-reformed church officers, advocating a simple faith false gospel, would answer no, that it is not required. Many would certainly say that it is a good idea to attend church; but they would say that it is not required in Scripture in their view of the ‘Salvation message’. To them it is a personal decision to make Jesus Christ their saviour, without any reference to Scripture as the only rule of faith and obedience, biblical repentance, the pursuit of holiness, and not any particular church for attendance nor membership. In contrast, every knowledgeable and qualified reformed evangelical church officer would say that in order to exercise repentance unto life, which is part of saving faith, there must be faithful church attendance in a true church and recorded church membership in ordinary times (see WCF 25:2; LCQA 154-156, 158-159; SCQA 88-90). (The exception to the rule would obviously be ‘high level’ persecution with secret public worship, without public notice or church records.) Reformed evangelical church officers would also argue that this is part of covenant vows to the moral law as the rule of right living in the first table of the law: all four commandments (see Westminster Larger Catechism on first four commandments). The Scriptures teach that these covenant public vows are to be performed in the midst of the congregation in public worship with faithful church attendance each Lord’s Day. The public vows are directly connected to the covenant of grace and saving faith. This is also taught in a number of Scripture verses in performing moral good works before men (Psa. 116:18; Matt. 5:16-20; I Pet. 2:12), often related to Divine election, effectual calling-initial sanctification, repentance unto life, and even assurance of Salvation. Take note of some sample Scriptures below:
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” Psalm 22:22
“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” Hebrews 2:12
“My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him” Psalm 22:25
“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” Psalm 65:4
“But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.” Psalm 103:17-18
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:41-42
“Praising God, having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:47
In the Old Testament, the house of God was in the synagogue-congregational worship and in the temple. In the New Testament, the house of God is in the congregational worship. The Scriptures teach that all men are held accountable under the covenant of works to be in public worship on the Lord’s Day, being created in the image of God and owned by God from very creation. (Gen. 1:26-27; Exo. 20:1-11; Rom. 1:18-20, 31; 2:14-15; 3:19-20; Gal. 3:10 KJB); but the Scriptures particularly make plain that those who call themselves the people of God are required and more held accountable to be in public worship (Matt. 5:16-20; Psa. 65:1-4; 100:1-5; 103:17-18; Heb. 10:25 KJB). God-fearing repentant believers are to declare his name in psalm singing and in support of the public prayers, reading of the Word, the preaching of the Word, and being in full concurrence with the congregational worship. Psalm 65:5 describes effectual calling and speaks of being present in public worship so strongly, that it is called dwelling in the house of the Lord, the congregation of our Lord. Certainly, God’s people dwell in their own homes; but being in congregational worship every week is such a duty and delight that it is called “dwelling” in congregational worship, except for obvious temporary illness. Psalm 92:14 calls the effectual calling/new birth being planted in the house of Jehovah; and Psalm 27:4 is certainly to be a confession of the God-fearing repentant believer to desire to be present each Lord’s day in public worship, with health and strength, all the days of one’s life.
In the New Testament period of the church, with basic profession of faith and profession of obedience, young adults and adults receive Baptism. They are then ushered into the visible church (Acts 2:41). Those Baptized are definitely to be numbered and added to a particular faithful church: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people; and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). To be more specific, the new adherents of the Christian faith were numbered and added to the Roman Empire church, which began as a few established congregations and new mission congregations; and then the church soon expanded throughout the Roman Empire, with planting congregations. The new professing believers were to learn to confess and maintain the Apostles doctrine, that is, the gospel body of divinity (Acts 2:42, 27; I Cor. 1:10; Gal. 1:6-9; Phil. 1:27; Heb. 5:12 KJB); and the Protestant evangelical church officers were also required to remain faithful in the gospel doctrines of the faith including apostolic church ordinances (to be explained further along). They were required to mark out sects and heretics, who professed faith in Christ but professed a different gospel body of divinity (Acts 15:5, 24; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:6-9; Gal. 5:19-21 KJB); and therefore they professed a different Christ (II Cor. 11:3-4, 26). In the Westminster Church Standards, there is a two tier membership structure: Baptized members and Communicant members (WCF 28:4; LCQA 166, 171-177; SCQA 95).* Other periodic or regular visitors should be acknowledged as attendees. The Westminster Presbyterian understanding is that the new professing believers at Pentecost were added to the church first to be Baptized members (Acts 2:47: 8:26-39; 16:11-15:25-34 KJB). In time, they would be added to the Communicant membership role by displaying fruit bearing in gospel doctrines and moral law pursuit of holiness (see I Cor. 11:18-19 KJB).
As prophesied, by the 4th and 5th centuries, however, the Roman Empire Church would be taken over by sectarian heretics, teaching Baptismal regeneration, justification by faith plus works, an idolatrous worship including an idolatrous communion (Acts 20:29-30; II Thess. 2:1-12; I Tim. 4:1-5; II Tim. 3:1-7; 4:1-4). God-fearing repentant believers could not continue in church union in a church no longer adhering to the Apostolic doctrines nor the Apostolic church ordinances. Given suitable time, it would cause Protestant evangelical church officers to have separated congregations and some to immigrate to the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Highlands of Scotland. In accordance with the Apostolic body of divinity doctrines of the faith and being added to a faithful church, it would result in subverting of souls to fail to separate in the long run (see Acts 2:41-47; 15:5, 24; Gal. 3:1-10; II Tim. 2:14 KJB). Choosing to remain in a false church (i.e., sectarian church) would be submitting to a false gospel and false church ordinances, not fulfilling covenant of grace vows. When church officers and other professing Christians wrongly conclude that this is some how divisive or schism, that is, to withdraw from a false church, it makes the Scriptures in the gospel of Jesus Christ and assurance of Salvation unintelligible and eventually to be simply ignored (II Cor. 11:3-4, 26; 13:5; II Pet. 1:10-11). Eventually, there were conversions to the true gospel of free grace in the 16th and 17th centuries coming out of the Roman Catholic church; and then there was association with the existing Protestant evangelical churches in Europe and in Scotland. The same thing would have been required to happen in the 18th and 19th centuries on through to the 21st century, with the take over by neo-reformed church officers; that is, there would need to be secession and reuniting with other reformed evangelical congregations as needed.
In the 19th and 21st centuries, it is plain that since the neo-reformed church officers reject biblical repentance unto life, and often use a sectarian Bible in public and private worship, they have not made covenant vows in accordance with the Scriptures. In the simple faith false gospel, the new professing believers are not added to the visible church. Acts 2:47 has the term ‘church’ removed in the following Bible versions: American Standard Version (ASV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), New American Standard Version, the New International Version (NIV), and the English Standard Version (ESV). Church membership is not required for assurance of Salvation. Why would any so-called scholar want to accept a corrupt manuscript with the word ‘church’ left out, unless one is a heretic? What other entity would the professing Christian be added to accept a faithful church?
The false assurance with a contrived spiritual birthday is given in the simple faith false gospel adherent, without biblical saving faith. Furthermore, there is no vow to be committed to the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and obedience. There is no vow to purpose and endeavour to live by the moral law of God. There is not even a vow to learn and precisely confess justification by grace through faith alone; and there is no declaration to sing psalms and to be in the house of the Lord all the days of one’s life. Without singing the whole Book of Psalms year after year, the covenant of grace in the Psalms is not sung; and hearers are not reminded of their covenant vows in public worship.
Any professing reformed evangelicals who think, that it is right and proper to remain in neo-reformed controlled sectarian congregations, just to avoid the charge of schism, need to be told that this is a serious error of judgment. The neo-reformed sectarian church officers use a sectarian Bible, their gospel is a different way of Salvation, whether it be the simple faith false gospel or justification by faith plus works (see Gal. 2:15-3:2; 5;4 KJB), with a significantly reduced morality. Only the sectarian Bibles (e.g., RSV, NIV, ESV and perhaps the weakened NKJV translation) can be used to claim that it is schismatic to secede over the gospel doctrines of the reformed evangelical faith espoused in the Shorter Catechism, with the legislative intent teaching gospel doctrines in the Larger Catechism; these catechisms are a reformed evangelical Presbyterian example of the Apostolic doctrines to be confessed by every Communicant member (see Acts 2:42; I Cor. 1:10; Phil 1:27). Protestant evangelical Bibles (that is, KJB, Geneva Bible) teach that it is part of being Protestant, truly evangelical, and performing works of reformation, when necessary to defend biblical saving faith, to be separated, be numbered, and unified with other reformed evangelicals in church association and membership. Under repentance unto life, it is required in covenant vows to have biblical fellowship in the Lord with God-fearing companions (Psa. 119:64; Eph. 4:11-16; Phil. 1:27; Heb. 10:25). It is further required to set apart the ‘first fruits of all thine increase’ for the maintenance of church ordinances including the gospel ministry (Prov. 3:7-10). God-fearing repentant believers may struggle from time to time to get the household financial affairs in order; but putting little or no effort in tithes and offerings is one of the gauges displaying a nominal Christian status without fruit bearing (Mal. 3:7-10; Matt. 23:23; I Cor. 9:13-14; 16:1-2). Professing believers who repeatedly ignore biblical covenant of grace vows eventually have to deal with either the severe chastisement of the Lord or even the curse of God upon them, displaying that they are nominal Christians still under the covenant of works (Psa. 125:3-5; Mal. 3:7-12; Heb. 12:5-14; I Pet. 4:15-17; 4:16-19). The Larger Catechism refers to this serious sin as sacrilege (see LCQA 109). **
What about the 20th century argument of neo-reformed semi-Presbyterians that Martin Luther (1483-1546) and J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) stayed in their respective churches with some kind of conviction that they needed to be forced out. In answer to this contrived and made up position, without definite church history documentation, why would these church officers promote this view of church attendance, when it is not required in the sectarian Bibles (e.g., RSC, NIV, ESV) and not required in their simple faith false gospel? There seems to be four reasons to make this unproven church history view of secession, which is contrary to Scripture. (1) First, it comes from their sectarian Bible wherein the term ‘sect’ is removed from Acts 15:5 and translated to be a mere ‘party’, instead of ‘heretical party’ from the Greek. (2) Second, they support the removal of the Greek word ‘heresy’ in the NIV and the ESV from I Corinthians 11:18-19, Galatians 5:19, and Titus 3:10-11. (3) Third, they do not want to significantly protest anything in the neo-reformed Presbyterian realm, but want to allow all neo-reformed church officers to have their exceptions to the Protestant evangelical gospel body of divinity: that is, the legislative intent doctrines of the Shorter Catechism as a minimum; (4) Fourth, it would fit that they do not want serious Bible believing Christians to stop attending a neo-reformed congregation and switch to a faithful reformed evangelical congregation. Having falsely taught that fruit bearing is adding chairs in a church building with professing Christians, they cannot afford noted substantial departures (see II Tim. 4:3-4).
According to recorded church history, Martin Luther began his significant protest of the Roman Catholic church (1519), with full knowledge of the implications of such a protest. There is no evidence that he waited, waited, and waited to be “forced out”; that is a myth of neo-reformed Presbyterian church officers. Instead, he ignored the bishops and the Pope, performing works of reformation, posted the 95 protest thesis, worked on a Bible translation into German, worked on a German Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and prepared to organise the reformed church of Germany. M. Luther did his best to make the reformed church of Germany into a reformed evangelical church. ***
In the case of J. Gresham Machen, he did write in Christianity and Liberalism (1923) with definite teaching that the modernist theology in the United States Northern Presbyterian Church was and is another gospel; and that in time, they would be prepared to depart from the Northern Presbyterian Church. His error of judgment was starting the Independent Presbyterian Mission Board and the independent Westminster Theological Seminary, instead of seceding in 1929; and thereby he could have attempted to form a continuing Presbyterian church in favour of total Subscription to the Westminster Church Standards (1729), with its own Presbyterian theological training centre and denominational mission. The false teaching of waiting to be forced out of a sect is anti-Westminster Presbyterian, semi-Presbyterian, in defence of loose subscription to church creeds, and a false unity without uniformity in the true gospel of free grace. ****
How is faithful Protestant evangelical church attendance to be honoured and fulfilled, if there is no reformed evangelical church nearby, where individuals or families live? The individual or family is to endeavour to contact a faithful reformed evangelical church and request a mission congregation/preaching station in their region. Those who are serious reformed evangelicals, committed to the Shorter Catechism as the minimum gospel body of divinity, should contact a reformed evangelical Presbyterian church and seek to start a mission congregation/preaching station. Regardless of the hardship, public worship on the Lord’s Day, hearing reformed evangelical preaching, is necessary as a repentant believer to work out one’s own Salvation (Phil. 2:12-13) and gain biblical assurance of Salvation (Eph.1:13-14; II Pet. 1:10-11). It is also of great necessity to maintain a biblical marriage in the Lord and to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), with faithful reformed evangelical church attendance. To prolong and avoid this definite biblical teaching and moral requirement, the neo-reformed churches will put every effort to adversely affect one’s marriage, proclaiming a different gospel body of divinity; and they will try to evangelise the children of the attendees in the neo-reformed false gospel. The duty of working out one’s own Salvation taught in Philippians 2:12-13 (KJB) necessitates attendance in a faithful reformed evangelical church (Gal. 5:15; 19-21; Eph. 4:11-14; II Tim. 4:1-2). In time, congregational forthright attendance in a faithful Protestant evangelical church will display fruit being in the true Christian faith; or conversely, sectarian church disobedience in time will display the unbiblical fruit of another gospel.
* Whilst this is the reformed evangelical Westminster Presbyterian position, the Synod of Dordt Church Order took the position that Baptism should be delayed until communicant status is granted, with then one class of membership in a faithful church (namely, communicant membership). The Netherlands Reformed Congregations of Holland, North America, and New Zealand take this position. Reformed evangelical Baptists also take this position. Both positions are reformed evangelical, honouring the minimum gospel body of divinity in the Protestant evangelical faith.
** Thomas Vincent references tithes and offerings in his book with reference to gospel ministers, in this manner (see I Corinthians 9:14): “Communicating to them of their temporals.” The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture.
*** Martin Luther attempted to establish a reformed evangelical church in the Germany regions; but Philip Melanchthon waited for the elderly M. Luther to be near to death. He then steered the church to be Arminian-Pelagian, with a weakened repentance and weakened moral law
**** The 1729 North American Presbyterian amended version did regrettably amend certain portions related to the civil magistrate (WCF 20:4; 23:3; even so, it remained a reformed evangelical confession, not departing on the gospel body of divinity of the reformed evangelical faith.
When you meet reformed evangelical friends and acquaintances to have coffee or exchange emails over the internet, what questions do you ask in fellowship with each other about the congregations each one attends? *
(10th December 2018)(Update: 24th April 2019)
Do you often speak of church attendance, size of congregation, and church growth programs? Or do you favour speaking of sermons preached, growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, someone young in the faith (basic adherent) gaining assurance of Salvation, inviting people to public worship with faithful preaching of the Word, and works of reformation? The first set of questions may be echoed from neo-reformed congregations and naively picked up and used in reformed evangelical fellowship; but it is not drawn from biblical fellowship, not encouraging, and against works of reformation (see e.g., Acts 16:4-5; Rom. 1:8; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:3-4, 9-10 KJB). The first set of questions is daunting, intimidating, rather divisive, and in the long run discouraging to advancement of the Protestant evangelical faith (namely, the reformed evangelical faith). If these set of questions is what some readers are tempted to bring up when having fellowship, then they need to change their terminology and fellowship questions to encourage one another in reformed evangelical fellowship.
Regarding church attendance or size of congregation, is this question helpful to works of reformation or advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world? No, in fact it is not agreeable to Scripture; it is not drawn from scriptural examples. As the questions are intended, it is based on a false interpretation of fruit bearing and even a false interpretation of Acts 16:4-5, bringing into question whether or not someone believes in and/or understands reformed evangelical effectual calling (see LCQA 67; SCQA 31). Do any readers think that this question would have been helpful in the context of Acts 16:1-10, 12-40, wherein a new preaching station-mission congregation was, Lord willing, going to be started in Philippi? Should Lydia have asked the question, what is the church attendance going to be in this new mission-preaching station, considering leaving the synagogue-congregation that was believing in the wrong Messiah, wrong Christ (from the Greek), or prone to perhaps become a justification by faith plus works congregation (see Acts 15:5)? Reformed mission congregations were begun in the regional area, with no mention of concern over church growth anywhere in the New Testament, even in the Epistle to the Philippians. In one to three years, should the question have been asked by holiday travellers from another congregation in the Roman Empire Protestant evangelical church, what is the church attendance numbers like at the Philippi mission congregation? Or should the holiday travellers just visit and encourage the core group church members, which was on the denominational congregational-mission list with endorsement. Let us consider a congregation within the Presbytery of Galatia; perhaps it was re-established, had lost members over the schism or was a new mission congregation in the Presbytery of Galatia (or regional set of congregations; see Gal. 1:1-2; I Cor. 16:1), after the schismatic debate over heretical justification by faith plus works including Antinomian false repentance (see Gal. 2:15-3:10; 5:19-21 KJB). In one to three years, would it have been proper to press to know, what is the church attendance numbers? Consider a congregation which had been re-established after a schism, or was a new mission congregation, in the Presbytery of Corinth (more than one congregation in the region, see I Cor. 14:34). Remembering that one or more congregations in that Presbytery had a Lord’s Supper worthy of scathing condemnation and was warned concerning another gospel (I Cor. 11:17-20; II Cor. 11:3-4 KJB). In one to three years, would it be proper to press to know about church attendance numbers? Every mature reformed evangelical knows the answers.
Questions of weekly church attendance are daunting and unhelpful to reformed evangelical young mission congregations, newly split congregations, and the foreign mission. Consider having fellowship with communicant members of a small independent congregation wherein the pastor and elders did not protest with all clarity upon departure from a neo-reformed denomination (see “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”, Part II). They have continued with a type of hurried session controlled communion, as before, and making mistake after mistake with church membership. That congregation is very likely struggling in church attendance. What is better to do in fellowship, ask the discouraging question about church attendance, or encourage them in making their protest better known including the following: (1) proper Protestant evangelical Bible (KJB, Geneva Bible) over against a sectarian Bible (RSV, NIV, ESV, proven in “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”); (2) the first mark of the church, biblical separation from a false gospel; (3) and the distinctives of a reformed evangelical congregation with a dedicated God-fearing core group of members (Psa. 119:63; Acts 2:42, 47 KJB); (4) Purifying the Lord’s supper per I Corinthians 11:17-20. Also encourage them to search out and correspond with a faithful reformed evangelical denomination, with a view to organic union, to eventually enjoy fuller blessings of Acts 16:4-5. Moreover, can knowledgeable readers imagine such questions directed at foreign missionaries reporting at home to the national church, prior to the mid-20th century. If every time Protestant evangelical missionaries had to entertain such questions of church attendance, when they were at home reporting of their foreign mission work, in the far east, in Africa, or in South America, it would have been most intimidating, displaying lack of understanding of how hard the foreign mission is, and displaying the ignorance and the immaturity of those asking the question.
Is it appropriate to ask about church growth programs, which has its origin and history in the mid-20th century from the teaching on missions by Professor Donald McGavran (1897-1990) at the ‘Unitarian Modernist’, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, or from Bill Bright’s neo-reformed Arminian Pelagian sectarian para-church ministry (see Part II, “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”; Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru)? No, this is sectarian “church growth” and it has nothing to do with advancement of the Protestant evangelical faith; but instead it fulfills the prophecy and advancement of sectarians and their sectarian gospel (see II Tim. 3:1-7; 4:3-4). It also in the long run makes the heathen and anti-Christians speak evil of the way of truth (see II Pet. 2:1-3). These false “lay evangelism” programs promote another gospel. What about D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion. We refer the reader to Part II of “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”. Put simply, Evangelism Explosion is little better than the Four Spiritual Laws with both being the ‘simple faith false gospel’; and “lay evangelism” in comparison to reformed evangelical ministerial preaching, and God’s people implementing Proverbs 15:28, I Peter 2:12, 3:15, does not advance the Protestant evangelical faith (see “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”, Conclusion).
After forty years of having to advance the reformed evangelical faith in the midst of neo-reformed churches**, who have been proclaiming a sectarian gospel and promoting sectarian Bibles, it certainly needs to be explained how a reformed evangelical church can eventually increase in numbers, Lord willing, in accordance with Acts 16:4-5. Whilst we must reject the false teaching of fruit bearing taught by the sectarian neo-reformed preachers, we must be able to answer inquirers, how can a reformed evangelical church gradually increase in numbers as stated in Acts 16:4-5? Acts 16:5 does teach something significant regarding advancement of the Protestant evangelical faith. It says that the churches were established in the faith, as a result of the denominational synodical decrees clarifying and setting forth the gospel body of divinity; and the congregations in the denomination would be required to keep them faithfully in pulpit preaching in accordance with I Corinthians 1:10 and Galatians 1:6-9 as well as fence the Lord’s table in accordance with I Corinthians 11:18-19 (KJB). There would be the requirement of remedial training of ministers and elders infected with the false gospel doctrines, or forced secession of these unfaithful church officers (Tit. 3:10-11 KJB). Then it says that the congregations of the denomination increased in numbers daily. The associated Protestant evangelical congregations, who protested another gospel, in the Roman Empire Church, had a general synod and before too long had at least nine regional areas or presbyteries (Classis): seven presbyteries mentioned in the Book of Revelation plus at least Antioch, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Jerusalem, Judah, and the mission in Italia (see Westminster Form of Presbyterian Church Government, Of Classical Assemblies). In other words, it was a whole denomination that increased in numbers daily; and we should remember that many of the epistles are written to regional churches or Presbyteries (Dutch reformed-Classis), with likely two or more congregations in each region, plus preaching station-mission congregations (see I Cor. 14:34; 16:1-2).
Now we must make further application of Acts 16:5: “And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily”. Denominational increase occurs across a whole unified church with uniformity in the gospel body of divinity and church ordinances, making sure the body of divinity gospel doctrines, the moral law, and church ordinances are known, published, preached throughout a denomination, and the sects and heretics are marked out and refuted (KJB Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:6-9; Eph. 4:11-14). If a denomination is large enough, perhaps as large as the Church of Holland (1618-19), the Church of England (1647-1661), the Church of Scotland (1560-1661) including a few foreign missions, it can be expected that ordinarily there would be regular increase somewhere in the denomination, but not in every congregation or mission. Whilst the numbers of Baptized basic adherents and then communicant members in time should be recorded at individual Session meetings, Presbytery meetings, and Synod meetings, it should not be emphasised, however, so to discourage areas of the denomination where the Holy Spirit is not moving in effectual calling at certain times.
Furthermore, in accordance with Acts 16:4-5, when there has been a disruption with schism, and then synodical decrees to establish or re-establish a reformed evangelical Presbyterian denomination, there can even be a “bumper crop” (‘farmer illustration’) with temporary significant increase in congregational attendance in various parts of the denomination for the next ten years or so. Galatians 5:15 is never good for the long haul in a congregation or a denomination; in fact, it is debilitating to a reformed evangelical congregation to be associated with it. The way to stop ‘the biting and devouring of one another’ is not by appeasement, gospel and church ordinance compromises. In order to stop the infighting, there must be published protest, marking out the heresies, Protestant evangelical preaching, and biblical schism when necessary. The potential new attendees (e.g., reformed evangelicals, basic adherent Christians, visitors, and inquirers) have to know that there is a definite answer and solution to ‘biting and devouring’ one another and national moral decline. The answer and solution is not a buffet or smorgasbord of broadly ‘reformed” or broadly “evangelical” gospels (plural) claiming to be unified in a denomination or ecumenical association (https://www.icrconline.com; http://www.naparc.org), when they are not at all unified in the gospel of free grace.
Let us take note; there is no mention or concern over size of the presbyteries or congregations in the epistles or in the Book of Revelation. The concerns were always over gospel doctrines, morality, church ordinances, and peacemaking in terms of the gospel doctrines of the true Christian faith and pursuit of holiness. This is very important and even crucial. Galatians 15:5 cannot be interpreted as stopping the contention by simply saying the words “I ask you for forgiveness” or just make a truce, which can be broken by the sectarians any time they deem helpful to their sectarian gospel cause (II Tim. 3:3). The only way to stop the contention in the Presbytery of Galatia was by proclaiming the Protestant evangelical doctrines, including obedience to the moral law of God (Gal. 5:19-21 KJB), and by following Romans 12:18, with the teachable professing Christians; but there can be no peace making with the trouble making false teachers (Gal. 5:12), as they will not follow Romans 12:18. Being proven to be in the flesh, the nominal Christian unregenerate cannot savingly accept the Protestant evangelical faith, without effectual calling by the work of the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:1-10). The exhortation and warning in Galatians 5:15 is to be understood in terms of preaching the truth of the gospel of free grace, effectual calling, clarity and unity in the Protestant evangelical faith, purifying the Lord’s Supper, biblical peacemaking, disciplining sectarian church officers, and forcing or casting out the schismatics and scorners (Prov. 22:10; Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10 KJB).
Fruit bearing in Scripture has everything to do with walking in the truth, walking in the commandments; and it has nothing to do with size of congregation or size of the mission in church attendance. In fact, instead of reading “church growth” into Matthew 7:15-20 which is no where in the verses or the context, and reading it into Romans 1:13, we must follow the principle of the clearer passages on the same subject to interpret the not so clear passages (see WCF 1:9). With that in mind, the following passages make it clear that fruit in the Christian life is personal fruit of saving faith displayed in doctrine and morality in the life of those born again, with initial sanctification and progressive sanctification in the truth: Psalm 1:1-6; 92:12-14; Luke 3:3-14; John 14:15; 15:1-10; Col. 1:9-10. What happens when a false view of fruit bearing is forced into Matthew 7:15-20 and Romans 1:13? The answer is that the former false prophets and on-going false teachers, which caused the truth to be evil spoken of (see II Pet. 2:1-3), can remain in their pulpits even with moral corruption, until the minister perhaps in the end severely violates the 7th commandment. In the meantime, the sectarian minister, with no biblical fruit, has done much damage to the cause of the gospel of free grace with corruption and the promotion of another gospel.
Therefore, Protestant evangelical readers who are coming out of neo-reformed sectarian controlled denominations should learn to make their manner of communications and fellowship consistent with the reformed evangelical faith. Reformed evangelicals need to change their expectations in works of reformation and learn how to be encouraging to one another in accordance with the Scriptures. When Protestant evangelicals communicate by phone, by email, by text, social media, and at coffee houses to have reformed evangelical fellowship, we should be having fellowship over biblical works of reformation including faithful preaching of the Word, whole counsel of God preaching, biblical church ordinances, including recent fruit bearing in the life of a Christian adherent who gained biblical assurance in saving faith. We should not be anxious with questions, or forcing conversations, over church attendance with reference to any foreign missions, preaching stations, home mission congregations, and newly split established congregations. It is very intimidating to have discussions with these questions. Such discussions have nothing to do with the spiritual well being of a denomination, a given established congregation, preaching station, or mission congregation. Instead, the well being of a reformed evangelical church may be first to downsize and then prepare to have increase in church numbers by faithful preaching and the proper application of Matthew 5:16, II Timothy 4:1-2, I Peter 2:12 and 3:15; and with reference to questions from neo-reformed Moderate Calvinist activists or antagonists ***, do not entertain their irreverence and their displayed rejection of biblical effectual calling. An example of a biblical answer to the irreverent question of church attendance from an antagonist is the following: (1) every Lord’s Day we have the church attendance God has foreordained for public worship including the preaching of the Word; (2) we have dedicated reformed evangelical church members who we thank the Lord for; (3) they are performing moral good works before heathen, unbelievers, and sectarians, inviting acquaintances to the preaching of the Protestant evangelical faith; which is a blessing every Lord’s Day. Moreover, reformed evangelical congregations deliberately do not have “church growth programs”; but God-fearing repentant believers do give a reason for the hope which is within them before inquirers and invite them to the preaching of the Word (Prov. 15:28; I Pet. 2:12; 3:15 KJB).
* Some or many readers may not even attend a reformed evangelical congregation. The congregations they attend may be neo-reformed sectarian, using sectarian Bibles, and the pulpit ministry is preaching another gospel (e.g., simple faith false gospel or justification by faith plus works, see Part II: “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”).
** Sectarian neo-reformed preachers – These are the dedicated sectarian preachers who many promote sectarian Bibles, having almost eradicated the word ‘heresy’, heretics, and the label ‘sect’ in the sectarian translations; and they preach a sectarian gospel: simple faith false gospel or justification by faith plus works and other noted departures from the gospel body of divinity (see Introduction, Part I and Part II: “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”).
*** Neo-reformed Moderate Calvinist activist – Rather than mere basic adherents, these are dedicated followers of the neo-reformed sectarian congregations who often promote the sectarian Bibles. They are committed to neo-reformed simple faith false gospel, or justification by faith plus works, and other noted departures from the gospel body of divinity (see Part II: “A Call to Reformation and to Unify in the Reformed Evangelical Faith”).