Announcements (28 Dec 14)

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Dec 282014
 

Adults Sunday School @ 11.30am Chapel Topic: What the Bible Teaches about Homosexuality. All are welcome.

Catechism Class Registration is still open for those seeking baptism, reaffirmation or transfer of membership. Please collect the registration form from the office. Registration closes: 4/1/2015

Wed Prayer Meeting 31/12:  There is none this week.

Watch Night Service Wed 31/12 @8pm: There is a Combined Service for all three congregations. Let us come and thank God as we close the year together. Sp: Eld. Prasad

Teens’ Retreat (beginning today to 30/12) Venue: NSRCC Bungalows. Theme: Fantastic Four – Faith, Family, Friends & Foes. Sp: Ps. Gan

Church Camp 2015: Please block these dates and apply leave: 17-20/6. More info later.

Church Calendar 2015 are now available. Please collect one from the foyer as you leave the sanctuary.

28 Dec 14 – Spiritual Blessings

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Dec 282014
 

By Eld. Prasad

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

Theverse says that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. What are these spiritual blessings, and what do they do for us? Contrary to some beliefs, they are not some mysterious power reserved for a select few. They are the key benefits of a relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word “blessed” in Ephesians 1:3 is the Greek word eulogy, and it means “to speak well of.” Since God is the one acting in this verse, we can say that God has spoken good things about us for our benefit. The good things that God has decreed for us are probably beyond our ability to number, but we can outline a few by looking at the verses, Ephesians 1:4-13, which follow Ephesians 1:3.

The first spiritual blessing listed is the election as saints. Ephesians 1:4 says that God has “chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” God has chosen to make us holy and blameless, and all because of His love, His good pleasure and His grace (vv. 5-6). What a blessing, that “even when we were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5), God chose to extend His grace to us and offer us salvation. This is even more amazing when we realize that God made that decision before sin even entered into the world.

The second spiritual blessing listed is found in verse 5, our adoption as His children. Not only has God chosen us to be made holy, but He grants us full status as His children, with all the benefits thereof. John 1:12 says “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” When we believe the gospel, we receive full access to the Father, and are able to call out to Him as His children.

The third spiritual blessing is in verse 6, where we are made “accepted in the beloved.” The word is related to grace and gives the idea of making us graceful or favourable through Christ, the beloved of God. When we put on Christ, the Father sees His loveliness when He looks at us. The blood of Christ has taken away the guilt of our sins, and we stand before the Father as perfectly accepted in the righteousness of Christ.

The fourth spiritual blessing is redemption through His blood(Ephesians 1:7). Redemption speaks of buying one’s freedom, or paying a ransom. The price for our sins, the payment to buy us out of eternal condemnation, was fully paid by the blood of Christ. In Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but we become slaves to God. Since we are bought and paid for by His blood, we have an obligation to glorify God in our body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The fifth spiritual blessing in verse 7 also describes the forgiveness of sins. It is closely related to redemption, but looks at the other side of the coin. In paying the ransom for our sins, the debt of sin was cancelled, and we were forgiven. We no longer have the burden of guilt for violating God’s holy laws.

The sixth spiritual blessing listed is knowing the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:8-10). God has given us wisdom and insight through His Word and has shown us His desire to bring all things together to glorify Christ. Since all of creation was made by God and is for His good pleasure, the consummation of His plan is when everything and everyone is brought in line to glorify Him. By aligning ourselves with God by faith, we become part of God’s perfect plan and purpose.

The seventh spiritual blessingis in Verse 11 which says that another blessing is the inheritance that is given to us through Christ. What is included in that inheritance? “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him(1 Corinthians 2:9). The riches of glory, the presence of God, the eternal home – these don’t even scratch the surface of all the blessings that belong to our inheritance.

The eighth spiritual blessing is found in Ephesians 1:13, which is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. When we become God’s children, He places His mark of ownership on us, guaranteeing our eternal security. This is spoken of as the down-payment of our full redemption, to hold us until the day Christ brings us to Him.

The list could go on and on speaking of the privileges that are ours in Christ. We are labourers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9); we are ambassadors bringing the message of reconciliation to a foreign land (2 Corinthians 5:20); and we are the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). We have the peace which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and the assurance that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39).

How do we access all of these spiritual blessings? They are readily accessible to everyone who is in Christ Jesus. The way to be in Christ is to repent, or turn away from our sins (Acts 17:30), confessing to God that we are sinners (Proverbs 28:13 & Romans 10:9). When we believe that Christ died to take our punishment and now lives to give us a new life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), Christ grants us forgiveness of sins and all the blessings that accompany that salvation. As God’s children, we are then expected to obey God and keep God’s commands (Proverbs 8:32), which keeps us in a right relationship with God, resulting in God’s continued blessing on us. This work of maintaining our relationship with God keeps us in the place of abundant spiritual blessings (2Peter 1:3-8).

As we enter into Year 2015 may we experience all the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. May we also experience the peace of God which passes all understanding throughout the year 2015.

Announcements

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Dec 212014
 

Note of thanks to all who have helped or contributed to the Ju Eng carolling event that was held yesterday. May the Lord continue to remember the residents and staff there.

Catechism Class Registration is still open for those seeking baptism, reaffirmation or transfer of membership. Please collect the registration form from the office. Registration closes: 4/1/2015

Children Christmas Special TODAY 21/12 (9.30 to 12.30). Children, do proceed to the Music Room. Lunch is provided.

Adults Sunday School 11.30am @Chapel Topic: When was Jesus born? All are welcome.

Session Meeting TODAY @1.30pm in Conference Room: All Session members kindly attend.

Prayer Meeting – There is none this week because it is Christmas Eve and we will be going caroling.

Christmas Eve Caroling THIS WED 24/12 @7.30pm at two homes:

i.            Bro. Lim Chin Hong@ 43 Jalan Mata Ayer 759127  (Lynda: 96709007)

ii.            Eld. Sim Chee Seng @ 30 Li Po Ave 788724 (Eld. Sim 96841708)

Kindly register today so that the hosts know how much food to cater for J. If you need transport, the bus leaves church at 7pm.

Christmas Day Worship Service THIS THURS 25/12 (English & Chinese) @10am. Sp: Rev Gabriel Gan. Do invite relatives & friends. Christmas lunch is provided.

Watch Night Service NEXT Wed 31/12 @8pm: There is a Combined Service for all three congregations. Let us come and thank God as we close the year together. Sp: Eld. Prasad

Teens’ Retreat (28-30/12) Venue: NSRCC Bungalows. Theme: Fantastic Four – Faith, Family, Friends & Foes. Sp: Ps. Gan We thank God for all who have generously given to this work. The Lord bless you.

Church Camp 2015: Please block these dates and apply leave: 17-20/6. More info later.

Church Calendar 2015 are now available. Please collect one from the foyer as you leave the sanctuary. We thank God for: Photo credits – Dn. Ronnie Tan and Technical Advisor – Bro. Henry Lim.

Floral Gift & Fellowship Tea 2015 charts are up – please fill in as the Lord leads you.

21 Dec 14 – Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

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Dec 212014
 

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

By Eld. Sim Chee Seng

Luke 1:46-56

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

The first Christmas was nothing the like of what we have today. To the worldly, Christmas today is about celebration, eating/drinking, songs, party, lights, presents and gifts. The period before the first Christmas, however, was a gloomy one.  The period after prophet Malachi gave his last prophesy to the time when John the Baptist came to the scene was known as the inter-testament period. It was a period of silence lasting about 400yrs predicted by the prophet Daniel. There was no new revelation or prophesy from God. The people were in spiritual darkness and literally blind. They did not receive any light from God. The Jews were under the control of various nations. The Greeks ruled over them, then they had the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks. Then the Romans came and crushed them. As a result, the Jews were divided into different denominations.

So, this inter-testamental period of silence ended with the voice of John the Baptist who announced that God was about to establish his Kingdom (Matt 3:12Mark 1:3-8Luke 3:2-17). Malachi ended Old Testament prophecy with a prediction that God would send a messenger, a new “Elijah,” to prepare the way for the future coming of God to his people (Mal 3:14:5). The evangelists and Jesus identified John the Baptist as the Elijah foretold in Malachi (Matt 17:12-13). Thus the Gospels opened a new day of prophecy – the day of the Kingdom of God in Christ.

For the born again believers, Christmas is about the love of God. God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to enter into this dark world to bring the light of God. He came to give us love and hope to this lost world; a “great tiding of comfort and joy.” For unto to us this day in the City of David is born one who is to be King and Saviour of the world. He will take away our sins and bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.

So in the fullness of time, God spoke and declared His glory– revealing His Son and His redemption purpose, God’s gift to us is Jesus Christ His begotten Son born of virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. God entered into His universe at the first Christmas and turn our darkness into light, our despair to hope, and our sadness into joy.

1. Magnificat Blessings

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” verses 46 and 47

Mary has been visited by angel Gabriel and touched by God. She has the evidence of God’s love in her heart, joy in her soul and the unique, physical presence of God’s Son in her womb. God “who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Her every breath and every heartbeat rings forth praise and thanksgiving for the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for mankind in her womb.

Mary sees a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important 3 decades in all of time are about to begin. And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women – Mary and Elizabeth! She was so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song – a song that has come to be known as the Magnificat.

In her Song of Praise, Mary praise God for

  • His Grace – He is her Saviour and He has accepted her humility, love and submission
  • His character – Holy God, holy is his name, and God’s Son is holy.
  • His might – He has done great things, He has scattered the proud and brought down the mighty.
  • His love –He is merciful to the humble. God feeds the hungry and exalts the lowly.
  • His promise – His covenant with Abraham and his offspring forever.
  • His presence – His promise to be with Israel.

The exemplary character of Mary grows out of her understanding of God’s character. God owes her nothing; she owes God everything. All the good things that come from his hand are acts of grace. She acknowledges the present blessedness of believers (God’s grace, power, love, holiness and help) and also future promises (covenant keeping, promise to be with Israel  and honouring promise to Abraham and his offspring, including those who subsequently should come to faith like Abraham as well.)

There is a warning to the proud and rebellious. Mary’s words are words of prophecy about the moral reversal brought about by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, who would scatter “those who are proud.” We see glimpses of this in Acts 12:22-23 when prideful Herod Agrippa stood in his splendid royal robes before an admiring audience, enjoying their blasphemous praise – “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” But Luke tells us: “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

We can also mention Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin etc who were dethroned and humiliated because of pride.

Mary also mentioned the final reckoning that awaits the proud because of Christ’s work. The Son she bore would later state categorically to the hypocritical religious leaders of his day, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:61 Pet 5:5; Prov 3:34). Those who are “proud in their inmost thoughts” because of their wealth, education, privilege or status are in for a rude awakening, because the arm of God will be against them. And if they do not repent and turn to God, their fate is a “done deal” just as it has been in the past -“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.” It has happened before, and God has not changed. This is sobering warning for prideful hearts and arrogant spirits.

2. Miracles Bestowed

We see the miracles that God had performed on these two humble and lowly women. For Mary – her virgin birth, and for barren Elizabeth – a child in old age. For God nothing is impossible.

We note also that these miracles were performed according to Scriptures. John the Baptist was ordained to be the herald of God’s Kingdom, preparing a people for the Lord. While Jesus Christ was born to be the Saviour, to die for the sins of the world, to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

In both miracles we see the grace & love of God for sinners. While we were yet sinners and enemies of God, God sent his begotten Son Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit, born without man, truly God and truly man, to come into this wicked and cruel world to redeem us from our sins and to save us. Indeed our spiritual salvation is also a miracle performed through the Holy Spirit for “as many as who believe, to them gave power to be the sons of God.” (John 1:12)

3. Mary Worship

“… from now on all generations will call me blessed” (verse 48b)

It is true that God blesses Mary but we have to be careful about giving undue exaltation to Mary as morally unique. Yes she is unique. No one else bore the Son of God. Any doctrine of her sinless life, her perpetual virginity, her bodily assumption into heaven have no warrant in the New Testament.

Facts: Mary was a sinner in need of a Savior (verse 47  “… my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” and verse 48 ” …the humble estate of his servant”) Both verses intimate that she was below human, below God and not equal with God and that she needed personal salvation as much as all human beings.

Mary was a chosen vessel to execute God’s will. Mary was married to Joseph and had other children subsequently. Mary died and was buried

The New Testament says nothing about:

(1)  her elevation to status of a redeemer or

(2)  her blessed state in which she could forgive our sins or

(3)  Christ is dependent on her for spiritual advice.

It is right to honour her for what she did but it is a great dishonour if we willfully elevate her to a status not sanction in the Bible. We must worship Christ but we must not worship Mary.

In fact there is an implicit warning against excessive veneration of Mary in Luke 11:27-28. Luke tells us that once after Jesus had spoken “a women in the crowd raised her voice and said to him. “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

At another time in Luke8:19-21, “His mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of  God and do it.” Jesus was fairly blunt in both of these instances, and there is no indication that Mary should be venerated in a moral class by herself.

CONCLUSION

Mary like us was a recipient of God’s grace and salvation. She was placed in a unique situation to birth the Son of God and through her experience with God gave the Magnificat. Her song of praise acknowledged the grace, majesty and goodness of God to her, the humble and lowly. She warned that God is against the proud and haughty whom He will be put down and vanquished eventually. God will remember His covenant to Abraham and his offspring and help Israel his servant. At this blessed Christmas let us sing His praises and glory. Let us bow down and worship Him who gave us His begotten Son in order that we may receive eternal life (John 3:16). Let us also remember to share the good news of salvation in Christ with everyone we meet this Christmas. Amen

Announcements (14 Dec 14)

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Dec 142014
 

Congratulations to Chiang Wee and Angela who are now proud parents of a baby boy, delivered on 8/12.

J.O.Y. Sunday:@ Chapel 11.30am. Ps Gan is speaking on “Christmas isn’t Christmas unless…” Last programme for this year – please come!

Adult Sunday School:There is none this morning but you are welcome to join the youths at the Chapel.

Children Christmas Special (NEXT SUN 21/12) 9.30 to 12.30. Parents, please help your children to prepare a gift of less than $5 for gift exchange. Lunch is provided.

Combined BP Youth Camp: 15 – 18/12 Kindly pay the fees to Sis. Lilian

Teens’ Retreat (28-30/12) Venue: NSRCC Bungalows. Theme: Fantastic Four – Faith, Family, Friends & Foes. Sponsors needed for shortfall of $1,500.

Carolling:Please register TODAY if you wish to join in and you need transport.

  • Ju Eng Caroling Sat 20/12 (2 – 4 pm) Meet in church @ 1.15pm
  • Church Caroling at 2 members’ homes Wed 24/12. Meet in church @ 7pm

Church Camp 2015: Please block these dates and apply leave: 17-20/6. More info later.

Floral Gift & Fellowship Tea 2015 charts are up – please fill in as the Lord leads you.

Catechism Class Registration is now open for those seeking baptism, reaffirmation or transfer of membership. Please collect the registration form from the office. Registration closes: 4/1/2015

Toddlers’ Club: More teachers needed! If you are loving and patient and enjoy being with very young children, do approach Sis. Tiffany Khong to find out more about this ministry.

14 Dec 14 – The Centrality of Real Christmas

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Dec 142014
 

By Rev. S. V. Nathan

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold,

I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,

which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

Introduction:

“A television interviewer was walking the streets of Tokyo at Christmas time. Much as in America, Christmas shopping is a big commercial success in Japan. The interviewer stopped one young woman on the sidewalk, and asked, “What is the meaning of Christmas?”  Laughing, she responded, “I don’t know. Is that the day that Jesus died?” There was some truth in her answer (Donald Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations, San Jose: Resource, 1992, p.16). That is the reality of the world today at large. It won’t be shocking, if in near future even we ask our children or grandchildren, what the true meaning of Christmas is, they may answer as the woman in Japan did.

It is very sad to see that the essence and the value of Christmas is lost even among many Bible-believing Christians. The focus has changed to holiday; the season is more about receiving gifts and decorating the house! The very peripheral things have become more important than any spiritual and eternal value. With that thought I want to draw your attention to modern Christmas celebration and how it differs from the Biblical Christmas. What are the core components of the real Christmas? Let me highlight two things in the angel’s message in Luke 2:10 -11.

1. Christmas is All  about the Saviour (vs 11):

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord”.

First the message is about the Saviour. In verse 11, the angel announces the Birth of “a ‘Saviour’ Christ the Lord”. “The word “Saviour” properly denotes one that perfectly frees us from all evil and danger, and is the author of perpetual salvation.”  Christ, having the same divine nature with the Father, with all the infinite and unspeakable glories, came to earth save us from eternal damnation, and give eternal life to those who place their trust in Him. He could not provide forgiveness and life without coming to earth, because there had to be a payment for the sin of the human race.

Our world doesn’t know, and instead they think that Christmas is about gifts under a tree and a spirit of good cheer, with Christmas dinner and family around the table. But as good as all that may be, it isn’t nearly as good as the Real Christmas.  The Real Christmas message is this: God has sent a Saviour for us to save us from our sins and to help us in this life by lifting our burden and easing our fears. God sent a Saviour who is Christ the Lord — God himself!  The world is gripped by fear. But fear’s hold has been broken in those of us who believe the angel’s words. What is the core component in your Christmas? Is it Saviour-Centered?  Whatever we do this Christmas, let us remember that Christ the Saviour is the Reason for the Season. We praise God that every Christmas is a reminder to all A Saviour Born”.

2. Christmas is for Sinners (vs 10):

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: … good tidings of great joy, … to all people. 

Second the message is to the sinner. The announcement from the angel came “to all people” (vs10). A Saviour is born for all humanity on this earth  – without any discrimination. The message of the angel to all sinners was “fear not” and it is a good tiding of great joy”. Why is it a good tiding?  Because a Saviour is born to rescue and redeem the people from the hand of Satan, Sin and from eternal condemnation.

That’s what Jesus came to do for us. Do not be afraid because God has sent a Saviour to us – Jesus Christ the Lord. He is the One who will never leave us or forsake us. He will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory and add to us all the things we need as we seek him and his Kingdom.  A Saviour is a deliverer and preserver of every sinner who calls Him Lord and Saviour. Once we were sinners, but now we are His children by His redemption. Are you bringing the same good news to the unsaved sinner to Christ as the angel?  Let this Christmas be sinner-focused in your life.

Conclusion:

Finally, as someone said about, “Our greatest need at Christmas”: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Saviour. (Source Unknown, http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/christmas.htm).  Is it not true?  Without the Saviour- there is no real Christmas. Is Christ the Saviour anywhere in our Christmas?  Is our Christmas Saviour-centred or self-centred?  Often I saw a Christ-less Christmas even among believers.  Let us follow the Bible which gives us a Christmas that is Christ-centred, Christ-exalted, Christ-magnified, Christ-glorified, Christ-proclaimed.

Announcements (07 Dec 14)

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Dec 072014
 

Note of thanks from Eld & Mrs Sim Chee Seng and Rev. & Mrs Lim Chee Boon for all who came to the wedding of Daniel & Christiana Sim. May the Lord continue bless the newly wedded couple.

J.O.Y. Sunday will be postponed to the next Sunday.

Adult Sunday School @11.30am Chapel:All are welcome.

Children Christmas Special (21/12) 9.30 to 12.30. Parents, please help your children to prepare a gift of less than $5 for gift exchange. Lunch is provided.

Combined BP Youth Camp: 15 – 18/12 Registration closed. Kindly pay the fees to Sis. Lilian

Teens’ Retreat (28-30/12) Venue: NSRCC Bungalows. Theme: Fantastic Four – Faith, Family, Friends & Foes. Camp Fees: $30 per person. Please register by TODAY to facilitate logistics planning. Sponsors needed for shortfall of $1,500.

Ju Eng Caroling Sat 20/12 (2 – 4 pm): Volunteers needed to prepare and give out presents for the residents and staff. We need a choir to sing there too.

Church Camp 2015: Please block these dates and apply leave: 17-20/6. More info later.

Floral Gift & Fellowship Tea 2015 charts are up – please fill in as the Lord leads you.

Catechism Class Registration is now open for those seeking baptism, reaffirmation or transfer of membership. Please collect the registration form from the office. Registration closes: 4/1/2015

Toddlers’ Club: More teachers needed! If you are loving and patient and enjoy being with very young children, do approach Sis. Tiffany Khong to find out more about this ministry.

07 Dec 14 – The Distinctives of a Reformed Church (Part 2)

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Dec 072014
 

By Rev. Gabriel Gan

The Way of Salvation

In 1618–1619, a General Synod was held at Dordrecht, with representatives (eighty-four in all) from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland. The Synod began its sessions on November 13, 1618, and, after careful consideration of the Scripture, it dealt with the five articles of the Remonstrants (followers of Arminius), setting forth under five heads the true doctrine of God’s Word. The Synod’s five leading doctrines later became known as the five points of Calvinism. They are usually presented as follows.

Total Depravity

As a result of the Fall, people are totally alienated from God, subject to the corrupting power of sin, and in a totally helpless position: “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Such is the human state that people cannot will or do anything spiritual; they certainly cannot believe or repent. Christ said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44), and early Jewish believers recognized that “God [hath] also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). This doctrine does not mean that people are as bad as they can possibly be. Rather, it means that we have been corrupted in the totality of our beings, so that every faculty has been impaired. Mind, heart, and will have all been adversely and tragically affected by sin. We are evidently therefore “without strength” (Rom. 5:6). As Paul made clear in Romans 9, this means that in the matter of salvation, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (v. 16).

Unconditional Election

God’s electing of a people is the eternal expression of His mercy and grace. God, who willed to permit the Fall, determined to rescue some from their sin and misery. Had He not done so, the whole human race would have perished under divine judgment like Sodom and Gomorrah (Rom. 9:29). It was therefore an election to salvation. That is exactly what Paul said in his letter to the Thessalonians: “We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13). This was according to God’s own good pleasure, not according to anything foreseen in men and women. In Romans 9, for example, he said concerning Jacob and Esau that “the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil,” God showed His sovereign preference for Jacob in order that “the purpose of God according to election might stand” (v. 11).

Election is gracious. It is never deserved. God did not foresee that certain individuals would repent and believe, and then upon that basis, elect them to eternal life. That would make His choice dependent upon merit, whereas election is by God’s free favor: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace” (Rom. 11:5–6). In His eternal decree, God determined to show mercy to multitudes, while justly leaving others to the consequences of the Fall. Instead of questioning this doctrine, we should fall before the throne in praise and thanksgiving, for if God had not elected some, every single soul would face a dark and fearful eternity. As it is, multitudes upon multitudes will be in the kingdom of heaven, to the glory of sovereign grace!

Limited Atonement

This point, sometimes called particular atonement, teaches that the Son redeemed those elected by the Father. Christ’s own statement was “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11; cf. v. 15). He would never have said that He gives His life for the goats. In Acts 20:28, Paul told the Ephesian elders to look after God’s church, “which he hath purchased with his own blood.” So, what has been bought? What now is the Lord’s special possession: the whole human race, or the chosen part of it? We are told that the glorified in heaven sing this new song: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Let me state the obvious. They are not singing that He redeemed every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, but that he redeemed us out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. Christ died to save the elect. His was particular redemption.

Effectual Calling

Since by reason of sin we have lost the ability to will and do any spiritual good, we cannot even answer the call of mercy in the gospel. God therefore calls us not only by His Word, but also by His Spirit, who powerfully draws us to Christ that we might be saved. “No man can come to me,” Jesus said, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).

Is the Spirit’s work always effectual? Yes, it certainly is. There is a great verse in Romans which says, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (8:30). Who, then, are the “called”? Are they all those people who hear the gospel of Christ? No! Looking back, they are those who were predestinated; and looking forward, they are those who will be justified, and ultimately glorified. This calling, peculiar to the elect, is God’s way of saving people in time and for eternity. How indebted we all are to this sovereign and irresistible call, which does not simply invite, but graciously brings us to Christ!

Perseverance of the Saints

True believers will never totally or finally fall away. They will continue in faith and holiness to the end of their lives. This is not because of anything in them. Rather, it is because God will carry on the work of grace to completion: “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). God does not bestow grace for a temporary purpose. He will never withdraw it and leave a soul to perish. Believers are therefore eternally safe and secure. Christ said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

(Adapted from What is a Reformed Church by Malcolm Watts). For Part 1, see Newsline, 2/11/14.