14 October, 2007

First Reformed Presbyterian Church

The Associate Reformed Church of Grand Rapids is one step closer to union with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Today we voted on a name for our congregation and "First RP" was chosen with a majority vote.

It was a good day for our congregation and we look forward to the life of First and with the Lord's help, we will see Second and beyond. Ray Joseph, a late minister in the RPCNA, used to pray for the Lord to raise up a group of Christians in Grand Rapids that would want to be united with the RPCNA. He also prayed that there would be enough congregations in Michigan for a Michigan Presbytery. We will see what the Lord has in store for First. Please celebrate this great name with us and pray that the Lord would get all the glory for First RP!
Below are the top seven choices that we voted from. Rev. Lanning wrote the commentary for each. Each one would have had great significance.

Commentary: Bethel is Hebrew for “House of God.” It was the name which Jacob gave to the place where he slept and dreamed of “a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven … and, behold, the LORD stood above it” (Gen. 28:11,12). When Jacob awoke, he declared, “This is none other but the house of God (Hebrew: Beth-El), and this is the gate of heaven” (28:17). Later, Jacob recounts another dream in which God appeared to him, saying, “I am the God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13.)

Commentary: In Scripture, to be first is always to have a place of honor. Firstborn sons, firstlings of the flock, and the first-fruits of the field were all claimed by God as His own, and had to be devoted to Him, or else redeemed, by sacrifice. The “first estate” of men and angels was the state of original righteousness; on the “first day” of the week, God created light, Christ was raised from the dead, and the Spirit was poured out from heaven. God called Israel, “My son, even My firstborn” (Ex. 4:22); Christ is hailed as “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5); Christ’s church is “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23).

Commentary: It was a law in ancient Israel that, “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance” (Dt. 19:14); a curse was pronounced on those who did so (Dt. 27:17). A landmark was an object marking the boundary of one’s inheritance; to remove it was a means of diminishing someone else’s inheritance, in violation of the gift and promise of God. In the same way there are landmarks of sound doctrine and good morals that identify “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). These landmarks of truth and faith should be maintained among Christians today as markers of our great heritage as the church of the living God.

Commentary: The title of “martyr” (Greek: “witness”) first referred to Christian witnesses in general, but early on, to those especially who sealed their witness with their blood, being “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10), beginning with “thy martyr Stephen” (Acts 22:20), and “Antipas, my faithful martyr” (Rev. 2:13). The Reformation produced its own martyrs, perhaps nowhere so many as in The Netherlands and in France; the authors of the Belgic Confession, rather than deny the truth confessed therein, offered “their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire.” Many Reformed Christians were martyred in England during the reign of “bloody Mary,” and in Scotland, the Covenanters died by thousands, among them the first Reformed Presbyterians. This “noble army of martyrs” should be remembered and honored by Christians today, who are the heirs and beneficiaries of their great faith and sacrifice.

Commentary: Jeremiah records this promise: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). These words were addressed to a church and a nation that had forsaken the ways of God and Scripture. Christ’s invitation and promise, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt. 11:29) makes it clear that He is that good Shepherd sent to bring the sheep of God back to those “old paths” of righteousness (Ps. 23) that lead to eternal life and the blessed rest of heaven (cf. John 14:6)

Commentary: The royal Psalmist sings, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133). The apostle Paul commands all Christians to keep “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3); in building up the church, the aim is that “we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:12,13). The preservation and practice of unity (Latin: “oneness”) is greatly to be prized among Christians, for it is the way we express our love for one another as brethren, or members of the same family; it is the evidence of our common experience of being indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, and our common enjoyment of the peace of God; and it is a validation of our common confession of the one Lord and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

Commentary: Zion (Hebrew: “fortress”) is the SW hill of Jerusalem, the older and higher part of the city, often called the city of David. As a fortress of the Jebusites, it was thought to be impregnable. “Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David” (II Sam. 5:7). In later usage it came to mean of the temple mount in Jerusalem, as the place where God dwells, where His glory is manifested, where His ordinances are dispensed and enjoyed, and from whence His word goes forth to the ends of the earth; and therefore, a perfect metaphor for the Christian church. “The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Ps. 87:2,3).


steveandjanna said...

Bah, Erskine RP should have been an option. Our heritage is lost forever!

Mark said...

It's kind of weird - I was baptized at First PR of Grand Rapids, and now I'm going to be a member of First RP of Grand Rapids. I didn't realize that until I started flipping the letters around while thinking about the new church name.

Ditto the hopes for more RPs in MI.