Question: “What makes the FRC unique among Reformed churches?”
There is nothing, really, that makes us unique—if you mean that the FRC have some corner on the truth. Allow me to explain.
1. We do not have any unique privileges. We have the Scriptures and the Reformed confessions. We share this privilege with many. We are able to worship in freedom and are able to oversee the training of ministers of the Word. We share this privilege with many. We enjoy the lively preaching of the Word. We share this privilege with many. We have godly office-bearers, who seek to rule the flock of Christ well. We share this too with many. We have abundant gospel promises, ample legal directions, and untold encouragements to pray. Dare we say that we as FRCNA have any unique privileges?
2. We do not have any unique problems. We have to combat the three-fold enemy – the devil, the flesh, and the world. This all Christians must do. We struggle with sin and unbelief and share this struggle with all who would live godly. Worldliness is a grave danger facing us today, but this plagues most churches in the Western world. We have strife and division. Doctrinal error is always near at hand. Dare we say that we have any unique problems?
3. We do not have any unique responsibilities. The whole Christian church is called to preach the gospel, to disciple the nations, to hold fast that which has been entrusted to them. The whole church is called to be pure, holy, one, and universal (catholic). We are to lift up a banner that it may be displayed because of the truth. The whole church is called to pray for awakening, and to preach the whole truth to the whole man. Dare we say that we have any unique responsibilities?
So Why Free Reformed Then?
The reason we are Free Reformed today is simply because our forefathers and mothers wished to be thoroughly and purely Scriptural and confessional. That meant that at one point in history (1834) they were put out of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands (the State Church), or could not in good conscience continue. At a later time, they could not go along with the merger with the denomination led by Abraham Kuyper (1892).
In our own continent, it meant that eventually immigrants (and who here, except the native Americans, are not immigrants?) could not find thoroughly and purely Scriptural preaching in existing churches. Most of them looked first in other churches. Many even joined other churches. But, after a while, they realized that there was not an orientation upon the whole of Scripture in accordance with the Reformed confessions. If you read the history of the beginning of our churches, you hear this common theme. One ‘founder’ of the FRC churches in the West wrote that he was attending another church when he realized what ravaging damage the doctrine of presumptive regeneration was doing in that church. On one occasion, the preacher “thanked the Lord that we were members of the church and therefore elected from eternity as his children. He asked for forgiveness for the sin of unbelief that so often we did not believe this.” This early ‘founder’ spoke to the office-bearers about this, and when there was no indication that the church would expunge this teaching, he felt constrained to seek ways to begin a church that would hold the Scripture and confession dear in preaching, worship, and life.
That is precisely what we as FRC churches have been seeking to do. We seek to do justice to Scripture and the confessions in the preaching and in the care of the congregation. We refuse to become one-sided. We seek to place equal emphasis upon the knowledge of misery, deliverance and gratitude; the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the accomplishment and application of redemption.
Now, that there are more Reformed denominations that seek to be Scriptural and confessional. We are happy when we hear of them or meet members from these churches. We instantly feel a bond with them. We have means whereby we seek greater harmony and cooperation with such denominations. For a variety of reasons, it is often not easy to come to a whole-hearted agreement on various issues, though, often, everyone involved senses that there is great unity in Christ.
We should continue to strive towards this unity, while, at the same, realizing that true Christian unity is not the same as uniformity or belonging to the same church household. There can be a spiritual unity that goes beyond buildings, names, church directories, and yearbooks. We should also groan within ourselves waiting for the day when all those who love Christ in sincerity will meet together with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the table in the kingdom. Rather than pride us in supposed uniqueness, let us humble ourselves in true meekness, continuing submissively under the whole yoke of Christ.
This article was oringally printed in the Spring 2004 Youth Messenger.