“I do”

By Richard Van Laar

June 16, 2007

In the Canadian Reformed churches this phrase is the public answer to the following questions from the “Form for the Public Profession of Faith.”

“First, do you wholeheartedly believe the doctrine of the Word of God, summarized in the confessions and taught here in this Christian church?  Do you promise by the grace of God steadfastly to continue in this doctrine in life and death, rejecting all heresies and errors conflicting with God’s Word?

Second, do you acknowledge God’s covenant promises, which have been signified and sealed to you in your baptism?  Do you truly detest and humble yourself before God because of your sins and seek your life outside of yourself in Jesus Christ?

Third, do you declare that you love the Lord God and that it is your heartfelt desire to serve Him according to His Word, to forsake the world and to crucify your old nature?

Fourth, do you firmly resolve to commit your whole life to the Lord’s service as a living member of His church?  Do you promise to submit willingly to the admonition and discipline of the church, if it should happen, and may God graciously prevent it, that you become delinquent either in doctrine or conduct?”

The response “I do” indicates our “yes” and expresses our intention to be faithful to the vows made at the time of public profession of faith.  It is a good thing to occasionally revisit these questions and remember our answer to them because we live in a godless and lawless culture that threatens to overwhelm us (cf. L.D. 52 “our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – do not cease to attack us.”). We may be tempted to succumb to the mentality of how much we can get away with.  What loopholes can we find that will enable us to circumvent the requirements of the law?  Such an attitude is part of the self-serving and lawless orientation of our culture (Cf. II Thessalonians 2:7 “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work”).

The church is not immune to this type of thinking. It is sometimes reflected in the attitude toward dating.  Increasingly we see members of the church establish relationships with members from federations such as the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) or the Free Reformed Church with which there is no ecclesiastical unity.  Such relationships are often rationalized in this way, “it is ok because they believe the same as we do,” or, “my fiancée has a desire to join our church once we get married, or become more seriously involved.”  The problem is that such relationships are not built on the confessional foundation to which we have said “I do.”  Article 29 of the Belgic Confession clearly outlines the marks of the true church, and the establishment of these types of dating relationships undermines our affirmation of these truths. 

In the case of the CRC, one needs to understand why we are not one with them and why we may not call a member of the CRC a brother or a sister in the faith.  If as a church we are unable to say this to someone from the CRC, then how is it possible for us to say to this same individual, “you will be my wife or my husband?”   Building a relationship without first completely resolving this division in faith is building a relationship upon a faulty foundation.  It is an unconfessional foundation which contradicts the “I do”.  In this we do not allow our yes to be yes. 

Similarly, the commitment to join the church after the solemnization of marriage vows is backwards. The commitment to be obedient to Christ must be first.  Is it right to seek the Lord’s blessing on your relationship and eventual marriage when the commitment to obedience is pushed into the future?  Does this attitude reflect living in the presence of a jealous God?   

These same compromises also can be seen in the way relationships have been extended to other churches. The supposed commitment to be obedient to Christ comes after instead of before.   “We will be united now with a desire to discuss divergences later  has become the message of the day.  When seen in ecclesiastical relationships, what makes this type of compromise worse is that the existence of the real differences has actually been documented prior to the establishment of the relationship (cf. numerous appeals to general synods).  By contrast, in romantic relationships the real differences are often unknown, due to ignorance, or suppressed.

It may seem to some that this website spends too much time on these ecclesiastical issues, but we believe that it is necessary.  By ignoring the  evidence brought forth about these differences we are letting our “I do” fall to the ground as a meaningless affirmation.  We are in effect being unconfessional.  Even worse, we show ourselves to be double-minded.  (Ps 119:113) 

We must remember that these differences in belief and practice with other federations are not merely due to technical or administrative variations as some have suggested.  Differences in church polity, concept of the church, fencing of the Lord’s Supper and confessional membership cannot be explained away as mere administrative variations. 

A brief look at each of the questions answered at the time of profession of faith will make this clearer.


“Do you wholeheartedly believe… …do you promise to continue… …rejecting all heresies and errors..?”  First, we wholeheartedly believe!  Then we promise to continue!  Finally, we affirm that we will reject all heresies (not just so-called “core-gospel” heresies) and errors (substantive differences often dismissed as weaknesses; cf., the editorial “Excuses”) - this is fundamental!  Each individual that says, “I do,” has a duty here that cannot be ignored.  This is not a duty that can be turned over to broader assemblies or the consistory.  It is true that because of their special office the elders do in fact have a special responsibility (Heb. 13:7), but this does not relieve us of our own responsibility.   Everyone will have to give an account personally before God on the last day (Rom 14:12, Heb 13:17). 


In the second question we acknowledge God’s covenant promises freely extended to us in Christ at the time of our baptism, and in so doing, we also acknowledge the importance of what we affirmed in the first question.  The Lord has placed us here for the purpose of bringing Him glory. The duties affirmed in the first question are the path to bringing Him that glory.  Rejecting heresies and errors brings glory to the Lord because it exposes falsehoods that ultimately take away from that glory, and it holds forth the truth that exalts His glory.  For example, rejecting the Arminian heresy (cf. The Canons of Dort), so common in North American evangelicalism, takes the focus off of man as the final arbiter in salvation and properly places the focus on God as sovereign in salvation.

Understanding this acknowledgement of God’s promises places a tremendous responsibility upon us.  This does not mean that we now have a complete understanding of all of Scripture, but it means that we understand the promise, believe it and receive it.  We continue to grow in our faith and understanding through the grace of God, and this shows that we are living members of Christ.  This growth in grace comes about in connection with others who have publicly professed their faith and who equally share in the inheritance in Christ.


In the third question we see the fruit of the Lord’s work in our hearts in that we now love Him and show this in a heartfelt desire to serve him.  Serving the Lord with a heartfelt desire means that we don’t act by our feelings and emotions or out of fear of what people may say.  No, a heartfelt desire means we must act according to the pattern of Phil 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Our service involves forsaking the world and our old nature.  The world entices us with ideas of pluralism, relativism and a tolerance for many different views that militate against our confessions.  We can see this in the argument that our confessions are time-bound and, thus, all we really need is the Bible.  Following the path of our old nature we can get comfortable and become lazy so that we do not constantly refresh our minds and hearts with the substance of the full doctrine summarized in our confessions.  Then we become vulnerable to the attacks of the devil.  A warrior never sits down and waits for the battle to come to him; rather, he is always training to perfect his skills so that when the battle does come, he is prepared.  We need to do the same for we are engaged in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18).


Finally, we notice the commitment of our whole life to the service of the Lord as a living member of the church.  A life of commitment to the doctrine of the Word of God as summarized in the confessions isn’t guaranteed to be a life of smooth sailing.  If we wish to continue as living members of Christ’s church we will, at times, have to voice opposition to deformation that is taking root.  Christ preserves His church through the faithful testimony of living members. These times may occur more than once in a faithful believer’s life.  As a result of the present deformation, those who experienced the Liberation of 1944 face the prospect of a new liberation. Thus, it is important to persevere in a lifelong commitment as living members. Such a commitment does not stop at retirement as may be suggested by the pattern of our culture. 

In the second part of the fourth question, we “promise to submit willingly to the admonition and discipline of the church, if it should happen, and may God graciously prevent it, that you should become delinquent either in doctrine or conduct.”  Again, an emphasis is placed on doctrine as well as on conduct.  In fact, delinquency is so significant that it calls forth church discipline, leading ultimately to a cutting off if no repentance is forthcoming. 

When members become delinquent in doctrine they may become tools in the devil’s hands for they have lost all sharpness in standing for the truth.  Such members may easily accept relativism and become drunk with sweet-sounding false doctrines about the church.  Their view of the church then resembles the pluralism of our culture and the church takes on the characteristics of an earthly kingdom. They go so far as to call it “Christ’s work” when there is obvious disobedience to the Word and deviation from the path of the truth.  We see such an attitude today with ecclesiastical relationships.  Proper discernment is no longer evident.  Instead we encounter rationalizations that weaken and ultimately undermine confessional and, thus, Scriptural norms.

In contrast, when we are faithful to what we have professed, then our priority with respect to the church is obedience to Christ.  Article 29 of the Belgic Confession teaches that the marks of the church are marks of obedience: pure preaching, pure administration of the sacraments, discipline exercised for the correction and punishing of sins.  Thus, when we seek to identify the true church of Christ, we do so by testing the spirits according to I John 4 in order to determine if these marks are present.

Sadly, when deformation occurs, discipline may become a political tool in order to silence individuals who express concerns and objections and who “admonish .. for Her sins” (Art. 29, B.C). Then, discipline is used against those who are not in agreement with the unscriptural decisions of synods.  When we realize that such decisions are in conflict with God’s Word, then we must remember our “I do” and renew our commitment to doctrinal correctness and proper conduct in life. 

We have received freely from our Lord a life of freedom from the enslavement to sin and our old master the devil.  Christ delivered us out of bondage so that we might worship the Father through Him in all that we do.  Our “I do,” worked within us by the Holy Spirit, means that all of our thinking and actions should be consistent with this new freedom and service.  It means that our life will not be characterized by trying to find ways around confessional norms or by trying to relativize fundamental truths with deceptive ideas.  If looking for loopholes becomes a characteristic of our thinking, then we become legalists.  We become like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day who were always looking for loopholes in the law, and who set up countless laws that were in reality laws of the flesh having nothing to do with the doctrine of the truth.

In conclusion the importance of our “I do” is reflected in our participation in the Lord’s Supper.  We are not as robots that plod toward the table repetitively every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  We are expected to have discernment.  We are expected to be on guard. 

Today we see the defilement of the Lord’s Supper when there is a failure to administer it according to Christ’s Word.  May we simply continue on under these circumstances because the consistory tells us to?  No!  A consistory’s authority is from God only when they act consistently with His Word.  When a consistory acts contrary to the Word of God and our confessions, then their authority becomes the authority of man.  Then the church becomes a mere human institution and we may expect that it will be motivated by the things of this world and the flesh.  Beware of the institution!  Satan can use the institution to slowly steer us away from serving God in complete obedience.

Let us remember again that each one of us will give account as to whether or not our life was consistent with the “I do” that we gave when we publicly professed our faith before God in the communion of saints. 

Equip yourselves for the battle with the full armour of God, girding your loins with truth, putting on the breastplate of righteousness and taking up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  Eph 6:18