February 24, 2007
In discussions that occur regarding the material on this website and the views that are expressed here regarding ecclesiastical fellowship, one often hears the accusation that "you do not know the first thing about love." It is alleged that the publication of our concerns on this website, do not serve the purpose of edifying the church but rather reveals a desire to break up the church. In correspondence received the following statements will serve as an example:
In all your material and correspondence you fail to show a real desire to be united with other believers who show a desire to be reformed. This reveals a lack of Christian charity.
These are painful charges because they are judgmental in
nature and claim to know our hearts. If we do not show love we are terrible
people who stand in need of serious correction. The following points are meant
to interact with the allegations that we fail in showing love.
We can also pose the question in a different manner: Is it not love to show a person or churches who show a desire to be reformed what we have received and rely upon by faith? True love understands our obligation to testify with all of Scripture. We are required to properly testify with scripture in regard to such matters as confessional membership, pluriformity of the church and scriptural supervision of the Lord's Supper.
Other churches are claiming a desire to be reformed. That is good. Then why are we as churches not showing this same desire as well by maintaining what we confess and practice based on Scripture? If our practices reflect scriptural principles, we are not allowed to shy away from these practices in the name of what some may deem as love. True love requires us to show why we have adopted these practices and why others should adopt them. In this way, the integrity of both the church and our fellow believer is upheld. That is love.
It is not love to assume that the guest at the Lord's Supper is united with us in faith on the basis of self testimony or on the basis that the guest has personally come to terms with a verbal warning (as is practiced in the OPC). For then we must conclude that if he happens to be delinquent in doctrine or life: "well, that is on his own head." This reasoning is individualistic and does not consider that the members of the church, who show love and care for each other, celebrate the Lord's Supper together as body of Christ.
A related assertion has also been made in the following comment: How can you require more of other churches then Jesus Himself required in his humility at the table while Judas was present? Jesus knew that Judas was a hypocrite and yet he was able to serve the Lord's Supper to him. He was not too proud to sit and eat with Judas even though He knew Judas was a hypocrite who would soon betray him. Thus aren't you trying to be more pious then our Lord Jesus in your demands for what you deem as a Scriptural supervision of the Lord's Supper?
This charge is a serious one and the argumentation behind it is satanic in nature.
In the first place we must remember that Christ, on His way to the cross, was perfectly obedient to the Father. On this path of suffering Christ had to be present with Judas, a brother in the faith, a disciple, and a betrayer. The enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman confronted Christ in the person of Judas because Christ handed Judas the bread while knowing that Judas, as the son of perdition, was so by the Father's decree as the result of our sin in paradise and with full knowledge that He, Christ, was the perfect sacrifice.
We may not allow this view of Christ's humility on this occasion to overshadow the central importance of His suffering on this occasion. We must understand that Christ was acting on the basis of what was publicly known about Judas, that he appeared to be a faithful disciple. Jesus did not act on his unique divine insight into the hypocritical heart of Judas. The significance of Christ's relationship to Judas at the table does not lie primarily in the question of his admission, but rather in the question of Christ's redemptive work.
This should make us even more determined to maintain the purity and holiness of the table in accordance with what Christ commands (cf. 1 Cor. 11)! If we were to use the reasoning: since Judas was there who are we to require that other churches properly supervise the table? A logical conclusion to this reasoning would be: who are we then to prevent access to the table? In fact the unrepentant sinner should then be allowed, because, after all, the son of perdition was present with Christ. This reasoning belittles Christ's suffering and humility.
Secondly, which office-bearer administering the Lord's Supper today has divine insight? Our risen Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father and he has bestowed upon the church the keys of the kingdom. How dare we misuse the keys and then point to a particular moment of the saving work of Christ as an excuse for permissiveness? The office-bearers who administer the Lord's Supper cannot look into the hearts of all believers partaking in the Lord's Supper and for that reason the Heidelberg Catechism (L.D. 30) explains that the hypocrite and those who do not repent eat and drink judgment upon themselves. The Catechism does not state that all are permitted to partake because Christ himself knew that Judas was a hypocrite and was able to eat with him.
As stated earlier, this understanding is actually satanic in nature because it uses part of Christ's redemptive work to establish a basis for an argument that contradicts Christ's other commands. Satan uses a part of God's Word in Matthew 4:6 to tempt Christ to sin. We must be careful that our reasoning does not cause others to stumble.
Lastly, what type of love are we showing when we try to compare the unknown guest to Judas, or to the hypocrite mentioned in Q&A 81 of the Heidelberg Catechism? This type of reasoning hamstrings proper oversight by the office-bearers within the church and subverts our own individual responsibility to be our brother's keeper. We need to determine that the guest who partakes is a confessing believer admitted to the Lord's Supper because we have received a credible testimony from the right authority regarding their godly life and doctrine. Is it true love to allow someone to eat and drink judgment upon oneself because we have failed to properly supervise the table? The fact that there is even a conflict between the reasoning of allowing an unknown guest to partake because Judas was present and the command of Christ to supervise the table, already alerts us to the fact that there is something wrong with the argument. Christ does not give His church contradictory commands!
In conclusion we must understand that the charge of failing to show love and of seeking to sow discord is in itself judgmental and divisive in nature. If in fact we had no love or desire to do all for our neighbor's good and edification, why would we bother with correspondence to the consistories? Why would we bother with the efforts behind this website? Why would we be concerned when we see compromise and deformation taking root within the federation of Canadian and American Reformed Churches? Love corrects. Love serves the other. Love knows no bounds!
If we were indeed selfish and unloving, would it not be easier to simply withdraw from the church, as others have done, and find a church that is more for suitable to us? Or better, can't we simply acquiesce on the issues and live with deformation for the sake of some form of human peace and tranquility? Not so! We are required to show love, first of all to the Lord, and that may mean a path of great difficulty. We are not allowed to shy away from this responsibility for then our love would be bound by earthly, human comforts. Such reasoning is not Christ-like because then we would fail to faithfully testify.
The path of love may lead to division. We will need to come to terms with this. Division has repeatedly occurred in history, and it would be foolish for us to assume that it all ended with the Reformation, as though anything thereafter is gross sectarianism. With that said, it is not proper to assume that simply because division may occur, therefore our Call to Reformation is not done for the edification of the Church. Showing Christian charity means that we may have to tell other churches that we are not truly unified with them unless we together follow all that Christ requires of us. The path of love is inseparable from the path of obedience.