Please join us this Lord’s Day, October 14, for the worship of the living God at the Prince Conference Center at 1800 E Beltline Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. We meet twice, the first at 10AM for study and the second for formal worship at 4:30PM in the Hickory Room.
In our morning study we will return to looking at the life and work of Augustine of Hippo, specifically his conflict with Pelagius on the fundamentals of salvation. This is the 5th in an 11-part series. How does salvation work? Do we contribute, God contributes, then salvation is accomplished? Or does this happen some other way?
We believe that worship is central to the life of the church, and so you are encouraged to share this order of worship with any who are seeking a faithful church in which to worship. As church historian D.G. Hart writes:
In the case of the church, what is ordinary is actually extraordinary. If you start with the supposition that people are sinners and in rebellion against God, and then find a gathering of believers for a worship service, you may actually think that something remarkable has happened in the lives of these people. And if you consider that most Americans don’t know how to sing independently of singing along with the radio or Ipod, and then you see people on Sunday holding hymnals singing praise to God, you may actually be struck by how extraordinary congregational song is. And if you think about the history of the Christian church and recognize how prone she is to error and unfaithfulness, and then you find a communion that is orthodox in its teaching and sane in its worship, you may be tempted to think that you have experienced a taste of heaven.
For our teaching on God’s Law this Sunday, we will read responsively three questions adapted from Matthew 22:
Which is the great commandment in the Law?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
Which is the second that is like it?
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On what do all the Law and the Prophets depend?
On these two commandments.
As we know from Matthew 5, our Lord did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (v. 17) but to fulfill them. He tells us that not an iota, not a dot will pass from the law until all is accomplished (v. 18). He tells us that heaven and earth will pass away before the law of God. This is why the psalmist writes in Psalm 119 that “God’s word is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens.” Christ adds in that same passage that “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” So we see it is not a matter simply of breaking the law, but even relaxing its application.
If we read this passage in concert with Romans 3 then we must face a sobering truth. Paul says there, quoting from Psalm 14: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” The condemnation is universal: Jew, Greek, male, female, slave, free, adult, child, the oldest man and the tiniest infant, conceived in sin (Psalm 51).
The standard of God’s eternal law is exacting and complete. Who can stand on that great day, when God will judge the secrets of men’s hearts (Romans 2.16)? I cannot, and you cannot either, unless we are clothed in an alien righteousness, a righteousness that does not belong to us except as a gift, and the gift is greater than the trespass (Romans 5.15). But thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have been crucified with Christ, and we no longer live but Christ lives in us. The life we live in the body we live by faith in the son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2). What good news this is, to know that we can stand before a just God completely justified, unashamed, even bold (Hebrew 4.16), in a righteousness not our own, earned by Christ’s obedience and given to us by his eternal, electing love. What God gives can never be taken away (John 6.37).
This Lord’s Day we will also partake of the Holy Supper. Communicant members are encouraged to prepare themselves to receive the supper by meditating on the words of Paul from I Corinthians 11:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.