We Join Together by Our Profession of Faith
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- Proclaiming in word and deed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
- Participating actively and responsibly in the worship and mission of the church
- Praying for and actively supporting the common needs of the people
- Studying Scripture and the issues of life and faith
- Supporting the ministry of the church by sharing of their time, talents, and treasure
- Participating in the governance of the church
- Examining regularly how their participation in the Christian life may be more meaningful
So, What Does this Mean?
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20). Christians are supposed to meet together in fellowship. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that Christians are the “household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
But, before we get too swelled a head over all these blessings of truth, we should remember that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). If we try to say we are not sinners, this truth of the God we seek so ardently will elude us (1 John 1:8). In many ways this is an unpopular teaching of orthodox Christianity. Aren’t we the “good ones?” Aren’t all those other people who sleep in on Sunday mornings the “bad ones?” Well, no. The way to the truth we seek lies through our sinful nature, not around it. If we deny we are sinners, the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes no sense. “Repent” from what? “Be saved” from what?
Since we are sinners, God’s judgment rightly should fall on us. Think about this. If someone were to speak lies about us, if others steal our possessions, if they hurt our sons and daughters, wouldn’t we want a righteous judgment? How much more so does God demand justice from us who are sinners against God and our neighbor. Since the problem is our sinful nature, the problem is us, not anyone else. The problem is in us, not outside of us. And, if the problem is in us, the solution must be outside of us.
“God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We can’t save ourselves from the judgment of God for our sins. No self-righteousness, no amount of “good works,” no matter how much “want-to” we have, we are without hope apart from the saving mercy freely given by the sovereign God.
Therefore, “believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Easy enough, right? Just believe everything in the Bible and we’re in. Well, acceptance of the divine inspiration and the truth of the scriptures is an important step, but “believing” in Jesus is more than accepting the truth of things about Jesus.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15). We can believe, like Peter, that Jesus is the Messiah and is Lord, but, if we do not trust him to be Lord of our lives, we remain lost.
“The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’” (John 1:29)! We can believe, like John the Baptist, that Jesus is the Savior, but, if we don’t trust that Jesus can take away our sins, we remain lost.
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We can believe, like Peter again, that Jesus alone is the way to salvation, but, if we continue to seek after our own efforts, our own righteousness, or false spiritualism, we will remain lost.
So, if we believe in Jesus and trust in our hearts that he is the Messiah, the only Messiah, who can save us, shouldn’t we live our lives as followers of Christ? “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24). “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).
Easier said than done. In fact, it is only by the grace of God that we can even begin to live a Christian life. “I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (Eze. 36:27). “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
All this Leads Us to a Big ‘Therefore’
“Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:19-25).
Christians, that “great cloud of witnesses,” are the body of Christ, and together are the Church. This is the plan of God, that we fellowship together, that we worship together, and that we work together. These are the Great Ends of the Church:
- We proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and practice gracious hospitality to the stranger and the outsider.
- We learn together to become disciples of Jesus, holding one another accountable in love, sharing of our time, talent and resources, and discerning God’s will for our corporate and individual ministry.
- We worship together and celebrate with joy and thanksgiving God’s presence and God’s promised future.
- We read the Bible together to learn of God’s good and gracious intent for all creation, the salvation mystery, our identity and purpose for life together. We seek to conform to the life modeled by Christ rather than that of the world.
- We seek to be an inclusive community, transforming life, society, and human relationships in our community and with all those whom God places in our path.
- We seek to display Christ’s love faithfully in how we behave toward one another, other churches of our tradition, and the church universal.
When the Sunday church service ends, our true worship begins. Everything we know about God teaches us that true worship is the intentional living of each and every day in prayer and mission. In our home, our work, our study, our recreation, we glorify and enjoy God forever.
Who are Presbyterians?
Presbyterians are distinctive in two major ways: we adhere to a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology and a form of government that stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members.
To be “Reformed” means several things. Historically, it means that we trace our roots to the Reformation, when John Calvin and others led the movement to reform the Church according to Scripture. Theologically, it means belief in the absolute sovereignty of God and that the highest good is God’s glory. We affirm the majesty, holiness, and providence of God who creates, sustains, rules, and redeems the world in the freedom of sovereign righteousness and love. This historical and theological heritage is often expressed in the “solas” of the Reformation: God’s grace alone is the only way to be reconciled to God. Faith alone is the only means of receiving God’s grace. Christ alone is the means of God’s saving grace. Scripture alone is the only infallible authority for belief. And, God’s glory alone is the ultimate purpose for the lives of women and men.
To be Presbyterian is to be governed according to the pattern of elders seen in the Old and New Testaments. We are ruled neither by bishops in a hierarchical model nor by members in a congregational model. Biblically qualified elders are chosen by the people and, together with ministers, exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large.
The body of Elders elected to govern a particular congregation is called a Session. They are elected by the congregation. Presbyterian elders are both elected and ordained. Through ordination they are officially set apart for service. They retain their ordination beyond their term in office. Ministers who serve the congregation are also part of the Session. The Session is the smallest, most local governing body. The other governing bodies are Presbyteries, which are composed of several churches; Synods, which are composed of several Presbyteries; and the General Assembly, which represents the entire denomination.
Being Presbyterian also means being connected in mutual accountability and responsibility. Just as individual Christians are connected to one another as members of the body of Christ, so also individual congregations are connected under Christ as the great Head of the Church. What this means is that we do everything we can to respect and follow the shepherding of church Elders. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you” (Heb. 13:17). We do everything we can not to bring sin and judgment into the body of Christ. “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). We do everything we can to make the church a harmonious, happy, safe and secure fellowship of believers. We seek to be a blessing to one another.
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9).