Friday, March 26, 2010

The Duty to Join the Church and to Remain with Her

In the previous chapter we have defined the nature of the church. It is, however, not sufficient to be acquainted with her as such, but everyone with a desire to be saved is obligated to join the church, to remain with her, and not to separate himself from her in order to establish a more orthodox church. Furthermore, he who wishes to remain with her must also persevere in having fellowship with her by the use of the holy sacraments. We shall now discuss each of these matters in detail.
It is the duty of everyone who desires to be saved to turn to the church, making diligent effort to be accepted as a member of the church community.
First, this is God’s way whereby He leads the elect unto salvation. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47); “Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from His people” (Isa 56:3).
Secondly, this has been the task of the apostles in accordance with their commission (Matt 28:19), as is to be observed in the entire Acts of the Apostles.
Thirdly, this is consistent with the nature of God’s children. As soon as they are converted, they cannot rest until they have been received into the bosom of their spiritual mother (Gal 4:26).
Fourthly, this is the consistent confession of the church of all ages, and particularly of churches of the Netherlands. In article 28 of the Belgic Confession we read: “We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or


condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it.” We have elaborated on this in chapter 24.
Fifthly, the church is the glory of Christ. It is there that Christ is confessed and proclaimed throughout the world, being held forth as a banner upon a hill around which one must gather himself. This is the city upon a hill, and a light shining in the darkness. She is the means whereby the truth is made known and preserved, and the means unto the conversion of souls. Everyone is therefore obligated to facilitate this by joining himself to the church.

Source: Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 2, trans. Bartel Elshout (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1993), 55, 56.



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