Faith and Membership

The Catechism, painting by Edith Hartry

The Catechism, painting by Edith Hartry

By Pastor Glem Melo

In some Reformed congregations and denominations, full subscription to the Reformed Confessions (i.e. the Three Forms of Unity and/or the Westminster Standards) is required for church membership.

I always had a problem with that because, according to the Bible (i.e. John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9), I was saved in 1988 by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, without works, without Protestant church membership, and definitely without the Reformed Confessions. I was not perfect, had lots of doctrinal and ethical deformities, and was still in the Roman Catholic Church with no Protestant contacts, but I was truly converted, saved and growing in Christ.

Codex Manesse, fol. 292v, "The Schoolmaster of Esslingen" (Der Schulmeister von Eßlingen)

Codex Manesse, fol. 292v, “The Schoolmaster of Esslingen” (Der Schulmeister von Eßlingen), between 1305 and 1340

In membership classes, I teach the following “Basic Essentials of the Christian Faith”:

  1. The Bible is the perfect and authoritative Word of God for faith and life. (2 Timothy 3:6)
  2. There is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
  3. God alone is the Creator, Ruler and Savior of the world. (Romans 11:36)
  4. All men are sinful, subject to God’s wrath and unable to save self. (Romans 3:23)
  5. Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man. (Philippians 2:6-8)
  6. Christ died for sins and satisfied God’s wrath. (Isaiah 53:5)
  7. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  8. The Holy Spirit causes and enables true believers to grow in holiness and obedience. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
  9. All professing believers and their children are members of Christ’s church. (Acts 16:30-34)
  10. Jesus Christ will return again as Judge of all men and to be with His church forever. (Matthew 25:31-46)

It’s basically a study of the Apostles’ Creed.

Catechism, Genevan

Title page of 1545 edition of the Genevan Catechism

Because salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all who profess to believe these basic essentials of the Christian faith and show fruits of conversion (new life) must be accepted as full-pledge members of the church, even if they do not believe in covenant infant baptism, T.U.L.I.P., Presbyterian polity, etc. As one pastor stated wisely, “Membership in the visible church must be open as wide as the gates of heaven.”

Now, although full Reformed confessional subscription must never be required for church membership, it must be required of office-bearers. Members who do not fully subscribe to the Reformed Standards (i.e. the Three Forms of Unity and/or the Westminster Standards) cannot and must never be allowed to serve as office-bearers in a congregation of Christ.

Secondly, although full Reformed confessional subscription must never be required for membership, the church must be absolutely confessional and bear the marks of a true church: (1) the pure preaching of God’s word, (2) the proper administration of the sacraments, and (3) the faithful exercise of church discipline. This requires that, beyond basic membership classes, there must be a system of continuing, thorough catechetical/confessional instruction for all members, i.e. both full-confession subscribers and basic-creed believers. Basic-creed believers may, even after full-orbed catechetical/confessional instruction, continue to reject some Reformed doctrinal distinctives that are not essential to salvation, but they may not serve as office-bearers nor speak to others about teachings that do not accord with the Doctrinal Standards of the church.

Presbyterian Catechising, painting by John Phillip

Presbyterian Catechising, painting by John Phillip

“In all churches a distinction is made between the terms upon which private members are admitted to membership, and the terms upon which office-bearers are admitted to their sacred trusts of teaching and ruling. A Church has no right to make anything a condition of membership which Christ has not made a condition of salvation. The Church is Christ’s fold. The sacraments are the seals of his covenant. All have a right to claim admittance who make a credible profession of the true religion—that is, who are presumptively the people of Christ. This credible profession of course involves a competent knowledge of the fundamental doctrine of Christianity—a declaration of personal faith in Christ and consecration to his service, and a temper of mind and habit consistent therewith. On the other hand, no man can be inducted into any office in any Church who does not profess to believe in the truth and wisdom of the constitution and laws which it will be his duty to conserve and administer. Otherwise all harmony of sentiment and all efficient co-operation in action would be impossible.” – A. A. Hodge, Westminster Confession: A Commentary

Christ Descended Into Hell

By Pastor Glem Melo

Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Therefore, I don’t believe that Christ “descended into hell” after he died. Instead, he went to heaven to be with the Father (verse 46), and the thief went with him.

But I do believe and confess with all my heart that Christ our Savior “descended into Hell.”

The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James TissotBut when?

On the cross.

I believe that on the cross, Christ suffered the fullness of God’s wrath, and that is hell.

You see, if Christ “descended into hell” after his death then his soul suffered hell, but not his body. This would mean then that there is no atonement for our bodies, and we are only half saved.

That is not what the Bible teaches us. We read in Matthew 27:45-46,

There was darkness over all the land… Jesus cried out with a loud voice… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In the Old Testament, darkness is a sign of God’s displeasure and judgment (Exodus 10:21-23; Amos 8:9). It is a vivid picture of the great and horrible torments that Christ suffered for us on the cross.

And then our Savior’s anguished cry… Psalm 22:1 from his mouth.

We can only conclude that, on the cross, cursed and forsaken, our Savior went to the lowest depths of hell and suffered the fullness of God’s wrath as our substitute, body and soul. On the Cross, the Sinless One who bore our sins “descended into hell.”

Therefore, united with Christ by faith, we have full confidence and rest. In him, we have total and complete salvation, body and soul.

Supervision and Accountability

Brothers

By Pastor Glem Melo

Comforted by God’s word… and God’s men!

The first time that I met and “fellowshiped” with Reformed pastors was in 2009. It was hosted and organized by the late Rev. Dr. Ed Bradley of McLean Presbyterian Church and Oakseed Ministries International. It marked a major milestone in my spiritual journey.

With

With Rev. Larry Yeager and Rev. Stephen Fix of the PCA’s Potomac Presbytery, 2014

Last year, I visited pastors and churches in the Washington DC area for the third time. In response to my request for supervision and accountability, officers of the Potomac Presbytery (www.PotomacPresbytery.org) of the Presbyterian Church in America (www.PCAnet.org) met and concluded that an Oversight Committee be established for me. Since then, for 9 months months now, I have enjoyed and tremendously benefited from the love, friendship, supervision, direction, counsel, accountability and prayers that these men of God have been blessing me with. It’s beyond words!

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With Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn and Rev. Steve Doe of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), 2014

Our vision: the establishment of a network of Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the Philippines that will train and send missionaries and church planters to the unreached people groups of Asia and the world.

Meet the brothers:

Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn
Grace Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Reformed Theological Seminary

Rev. Stephen Coleman
Wallace Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Reformed Theological Seminary

2012 Mission Presentation at the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)

2012 Mission Presentation at the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)

Rev. Stephen Fix
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)

Rev. Phil DeHart
Mission to the World (PCA)

Elder Atty. March Bell
McLean Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Deacon Dr. Charles Staines
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)

With Elder Mark Bube and Rev. Douglas B. Clawson of the OPC's Foreign Missions Committee

With Elder Mark Bube and Rev. Doug Clawson of the OPC’s Foreign Missions Committee, 2014

Please pray…

1. For the Lord’s continued blessing, guidance and direction upon each of the members of the committee;

2. For my family and I to be refreshed, strengthened and equipped for our next phase of ministry;

3. For the success and growth of the work of evangelism and church planting here in the Philippines; and

4. For more and more pastors, missionaries and church planters to be trained and sent out to advance the Great Commission in the Philippines and all over the world.

What the Early Church Was Like

"The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer"  by  Jean Léon Gérôme Walters, created between 1863 and 1883

“The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer” by Jean Léon Gérôme Walters, created between 1863 and 1883

By Pastor Glem Melo

In our “History Christianity 1″ class at Reformed Theological Seminary’s Global Education M.A. (Biblical Studies) Program, we were asked to describe what Christianity was like during the first three centuries. Following is what I submitted.

The Gospel of Luke in Folio 41v from Codex Alexandrinus
The Gospel of Luke in Folio 41v from Codex Alexandrinus

Christianity in the first three centuries was first and foremost a faith or religion founded and centered on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, believed, worshipped, served and obeyed as the incarnate Son of God, the Old-Testament promised King and Savior of Israel and the world, who lived a perfect life, died for sins, was raised on the third day, ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again to judge all people, both living and dead. By the grace and power of His Holy Spirit, this gospel message was preached from Jerusalem to the entire Mediterranean region, resulting in the establishment of Christ’s church in those areas.

The Early Church was at first regarded as a Jewish Sect, with beliefs, ethical standards, worship practices and a leadership structure that were derived from the Old Testament Scriptures and/or adopted from the religious practices of the Israelites. But because of staunch opposition and persecution from the Jews, and the rapid expansion, growth and development of the Christian Faith in the Gentile world, Christianity eventually came to be recognized as a separate religion from Judaism.

The early Christians were a people devoted to the word of God in Christ, according to the Old Testament, preached by the apostles, their disciples and, later on, by the Bishops of the church. Aside from the Hebrew Canon, inspired writings and epistles/letters of the apostles and those close to them were regarded and received as Holy Scriptures. In devotion to the risen Savior, the believers gathered regularly to worship and pray, to hear and receive the preaching and teaching of the gospel, to have fellowship and participate in the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, to serve and encourage one another, and to give help and assistance to the poor and needy.

Funerary stele of Licinia Amias, one of the most ancient Christian inscriptions.
Funerary stele of Licinia Amias, one of the most ancient Christian inscriptions.

Early Christianity’s astounding expansion took place in Jewish, Greek and Roman contexts, resulting in a clash with various, long-held belief systems, philosophies, mindsets and practices in all three cultures. From the very beginning, the Church suffered violent opposition and persecution, first from Jews who continued to vehemently reject Christ and His gospel, and later from Gentiles, especially under Roman Emperors like Nero, Domitian and others. Many Christians were arrested, imprisoned, harmed and martyred. Ministers and leaders of the churches were assaulted and tortured most severely. Many endured and persevered in the faith. Martyrs were regarded as especially-graced holy men, whose bones and relics have healing powers.

There were also thousands of Christians who gave in to the threat of persecution and denied the faith. Later on, many of them asked to be received back as members of the church. This resulted in schisms between the churches that allowed no second repentance for the lapsed, and those that accepted them back, but only after a long period of penance and probation.

The first Christian martyr Saint Stephen, painting by Giacomo Cavedone
The first Christian martyr Saint Stephen, painting by Giacomo Cavedone

Despite of severe persecution and problems caused by heretics and apostates, the Lord Jesus fulfilled His promise to build His church and to never allow the gates of hell to “prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

17 Years. Bible Training. Church Planting. Mercy Ministries. From Mindanao to the Middle East.
17 Years. Bible Training. Church Planting. Mercy Ministries. From Mindanao to the Middle East.

Trusting our unfailing Lord and Savior, we press on with the vision of His Great Commission: to proclaim the gospel (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) through Bible Training, church planting and mercy ministries.

Please continue praying for our mission.

Philippine-wide Mission Advances

Worship Service in Betis, Pampanga

Worship Service in Betis, Pampanga

By Pastor Glem Melo

Aside from conducting our very first Sunday school and worship service in Iligan, we also rejoice at the fruitfulness that the Lord has blessed our team with throughout our Philippine-wide Bible Training seminars and outreaches last month. By God’s grace and strength alone, we conducted seminars and other ministry activities in 6 cities and towns. Rev. Phil DeHart and his wife barb of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was with us.

Seminar in Iligan
Seminar in Iligan

In Iligan, since November 22, 2014, I have been conducting classes on the Basics of the Christian Faith and the Covenants of the Bible. Therefore, Pastor Phil had all the whole 8 hours of the seminar in Iligan to teach on Union with Christ. For the final 5 hours of our 3rd day there, we all toured the famous Maria Cristina Falls and the new Paseo de Iligan. What a great blessing it was for the brothers and sisters to hear and receive the teachings, and interact with the DeHarts! They were comforted and encouraged to trust and follow the Lord who has fully accomplished salvation for us on the cross, and who is now at work in their lives and families, bringing to them His soul-healing and life-redeeming Gospel.

In Cagayan de Oro, Pastor Phil and I met with Ernnel Tacandong and Bryan Ranalan of Kagay-an Reformed Church. We did our best to answer all their questions regarding the Reformed Faith and Presbyterianism. Most of all, I think that Pastor Phil’s humility and gentleness made a lasting and significant impression on their hearts. We pray that the Lord would continue to work and lead these precious brothers in Christ on the path of Biblical reformation in faith, life, worship and church government.

Wedding in San Fernando, Pampanga
Wedding in San Fernando, Pampanga

In San Fernando, Pampanga, I had the joy and privilege of preaching in a wedding and a worship service. We also conducted a seminar there. I continued my series on Covenant Theology, and Pastor Phil taught on Union with Christ. We also had plenty of fellowship and interaction times with some key families in our partner church. We pray that the Lord would continue among all the brethren there His work of edification and reformation by His word and Holy Spirit.

In Betis, Pampanga, I was also honored to preach God’s word during a worship service. The next week, Pastor Phil and I conducted the same seminar on Covenant Theology and Union with Christ for the brethren there. It was a joy for us to see them growing in the faith and maturing in the Christian life. May the Lord continue to give them hunger, diligence and perseverance in studying God’s word.

Seminar in Malolos, Bulacan
Seminar in Malolos, Bulacan

In Malolos, Bulacan, we conducted a Church Reformation and Discipleship Seminar. In the morning, I expounded Matthew 3:1-12 for the brothers and sisters there, and applied it to their present individual and congregational journey. In the afternoon Pastor Phil taught on the subject of Catechizing a Church. Before and after the seminar, we also spent much time listening to and counseling some of them as they struggle with various difficult issues in their church. Please remember to pray for our precious brothers and sisters in Christ in this city. May the Holy Spirit cause and enable them to act and react in Christlike ways as they deal with painful situations and seek to glorify God and obey His word in every area.

Seminar in Antique
Seminar in Antique

In Antique, it was joy and privilege once again to conduct interviews of new believers. I was encouraged and thrilled to see how they continue to progress in their studies and reflections on the gospel of God’s amazing grace in Christ. In the evenings, I conducted short lectures on Justification by Faith. Let us pray that the Lord will continue to nurture and grow the seed of the gospel that was and continues to be planted in the hearts and lives of our brothers and sisters there.

In all our new church plants and partner churches, there are situations of pain and hardships. Pastors, leaders and members who continue to resist Christ’s call to true faith and repentance… They are the ones who cause hurt and sufferings to those who are moving towards the direction of the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). But the work of the Lord continues. In contexts of pain and suffering, congregations of Christ are taught, trained and reformed by His word and Holy Spirit. And where they are needed, new, Christ-centered, Gospel-rooted churches are planted.

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Worship Service in Iligan

Please continue praying for our mission.

Soli Deo gloria!

Pray for Kagay-an Reformed Church

IMG_6200

By Pastor Glem Melo

IMG_6292Last Sunday was a most special day at Kagay-an Reformed Church as we celebrated God’s love and grace in Christ for His covenant children, specifically for Lovely Rian Eve, daughter of our brother Bryan Ranalan and his wife Mighty Love. There was and still is much rejoicing and thanksgiving in our hearts. We give all the praise and glory to God our Savior and King.

IMG_6219Please continue praying for our church family here in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

Heidelberg Catechism
Lord’s Day 48

Question #123: What is the second petition [of the Lord’s Prayer]?

Answer: Your kingdom come. That is: So rule us by Your Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to You. Preserve and increase Your church. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against You, and every conspiracy against Your holy Word. Do all this until the fullness of Your kingdom comes, wherein You shall be all in all.

Mourning with Those Who Mourn

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By Pastor Glem Melo

2I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to visit, listen to and offer words of comfort to the bereft loved ones of Philippine National Police-Special Action Force personnel who died in what is called the “Mamasapano Carnage”(http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/01/30/15/fallen-44).

IMG_6035Let us continue to remember to pray for all the wives, children parents, siblings and relatives left behind.