‘God Alone’ Audio

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 4.38.13 PMBy Pastor Glem Melo

The audio of my message/sermon on Genesis 1:1 is now online. Click the Play Button:

You may also access the audio file here.

IMG_8568GOD ALONE

Genesis 1:1

God, our Creator out of nothing, guarantees the total triumph and completion of His work of new creation in Christ by His Spirit and word.

A. God Alone: Our sole Creator is our sole New-Creator.

B. By God’s Spirit: The Life-Giver of creation is our Life-Giver in the new creation.

C. Through God’s Word: The means of creation is our means of grace in the new creation.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

– Confess before God that you are a hopeless sinner without Him.

– Acknowledge God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as your sole Creator and sole Savior.

– Be thankful for God’s free gift of atonement and new birth in Christ by the Spirit’s power.

– Be assured that in Christ your salvation is total, complete and irreversible by faith.

– Overcome life’s formlessness, emptiness and darkness. Be busy with God’s word.

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God Alone

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Blue sunset on Mars. Photo from NASA’s Curiosity Rover.

By Pastor Glem Melo

Text: Genesis 1:1-3
Preached at Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)
(This is the complete manuscript.)

There is a lot that we can learn from Genesis 1, but tonight we will focus on what I believe to be its heart message: That in the story of creation, God, who alone created us by His Spirit and word, guarantees the total completion of His work of new creation in Christ by His Spirit and word.

1The Israelites in the wilderness, between Egypt and the promised land, were the original recipients of the Torah or the first five books of the Bible, which includes Genesis. They were children of Abraham, to whom God gave the promise of a seed or offspring. That promise goes way back to Genesis 3:15 where God said to satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Then in Genesis 12, God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, and that in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed. And that will come about through Abraham’s offspring who is the same offspring of the woman who will defeat satan and reverse the curse of the fall.

God did make Abraham into a great nation. He freed his descendants, the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt, and He was now about to take them to the promised land. But so much more than the promise of land, the Lord was going to do good on His promise to send Abraham’s seed,  who will defeat satan, reverse the curse of the fall and bring about a new heaven and a new earth.

IMG_8561But having been former slaves, the Israelites were poor and powerless compared to the great pagan nations that God said they will defeat and dispossess. They were overwhelmed with doubts and great fear. To comfort and strengthen His people, the Lord gave them His word, the means of grace. He inspired Moses to write the Torah, and it starts with Genesis 1, the story of creation.

The whole Bible, is all about God. Genesis 1 is all about Him.

In Genesis 1:1: “God created.”
In verse 2: “the Spirit of God was hovering…”
Verse 3: “God said…”
Verse 4: “God saw… and he separated…”
Verse 5: “God called…”
Verse 6: “God said…”
Verse 7: “God made…”
Verse 8: “God called…”
Verse 9: “God said…”

And on and on and on. It’s God, God, God, God, God. It’s all about God!

God is Elohim in Hebrew. It’s plural. The singular form is El. But the Bible does not say, “El created… And the Spirit of El was hovering… and El said… and El separated… and El saw,” etc. No, it says, “Elohim… Elohim… Elohim… Elohim…”

Out of context it can be translated as “Gods created… And the Spirit of Gods was hovering… and Gods said… and Gods separated,” etc. But we cannot translate Elohim as Gods because the Bible teaches that God is one. Moreover, the Hebrew word for “created” is bara, which is singular. The same is true of the Hebrew word for “said,” “separated,” “saw,” etc. So Elohim is plural, but the Hebrew verbs that tell of his deeds are singular. It’s grammatically irregular, but that is how the Lord chose to reveal Himself — as the infinitely great and incomprehensibly powerful God! As Elohim, and not just El.

Now why is that?

Some say that it’s just a plurality of majesty. You see in ancient times, plural nouns and pronouns were used of kings. So when the works of Pharaoh were spoken of, for example, they did not say that he built a temple. Instead, they said, “They built a temple,” although Pharaoh was just one person. It’s called the plurality of majesty.

Now, the plural noun Elohim does tell of God’s infinite majesty. But it’s so much deeper and greater than that. You see, the pagan nations that surrounded and constantly threatened Israel also had their own creation stories. And all of them say that the gods (elohim) created the universe, using existing materials. But even if every individual god (el) worked together, they couldn’t complete the work of creation. And so they had a meeting. And in that meeting they decided to create man, and as their servants they would have human beings complete the work of creation. And so they created human beings, and as servants of the gods (elohim), mankind completed the work of creation that the gods (elohim) could not complete.

Well, Genesis 1 told Israel, and it tells us today, that that’s not what happened. God is one, but he is not just El. He is Elohim. He is of such infinite greatness and power that even if you combine all the greatness and powers of all the gods of the pagan world, they are of no match to our one, true and living Elohim. And He created the universe completely and perfectly, all by himself, out of nothing, without the use of preexistent matter. As Hebrew 11:3 declares, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Moreover, God (Elohim) created the universe without the help of angels, human beings or any creature. He “finished” his work of creation all by himself, by his Spirit and word.

IMG_8568Now think of this? If all the gods (elohim) of the pagans together could not complete the work of creation, how much less a single, individual god (el). And so when they got sick, they went to pray and give offerings to a god of healing, but that’s all that that individual god could do — to heal. When they needed money, the god of healing couldn’t help them. For that, they had to go, offer gifts and pray to another god — the god of money. Then during times of drought, they needed to pray and give offerings to the god of rain. And for safety and deliverance from natural calamities, they needed to pray to yet another god. And so they had so many gods to serve and please and pray to.

Listen, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Our God is not just El. He is Elohim — infinitely vast in greatness and majesty, in knowledge and wisdom, in power and ability, in everything that is good and holy. So when you are tempted and weak, you turn to him alone for help and strength. When you’re in need of provision, you turn to him alone as well. He’s got everything that you need! He is all that you need! Whether your sick, troubled, depressed, anxious, fearful… In whatever condition you may be, and no matter how big or small your problems and challenges are… He is the answer, and it is to him alone that you must turn. And you can be sure that he is more than able to help, guide, protect, comfort, strengthen and sustain you. Why? Because he is not just El. He is Elohim, the one, true and living God, infinite in majesty and power, who alone created everything that exists by his Spirit and word, out of nothing. You don’t need another god. He is everything that you need. In him, you have everything!

But so much more than help and deliverance from temporal matters, our infinitely great and powerful Elohim, out of nothing, without needing the help of angels or us or anything outside of Himself… By Himself alone, He is able to bring about the new creation. That was His promise to Israel, and that is also His promise to us under the new covenant. The total completion of His work of new creation is 100% guaranteed because He is not just El. He is Elohim — infinitely vast in majesty and power. And we rest on that!

Now, aside from it being a revelation of God’s infinite majesty and power, I strongly believe  that Elohim also points to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Look at Genesis 1:1. It says, “Elohim created…”

Now look at verse 2. It says, “[T]he Spirit of Elohim was hovering…”

Then, verse 3: “And Elohim said…”

It’s Elohim, Spirit of Elohim and then Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim all through out the chapter and onto chapter 2 verse 3. Why? Why not Elohim all through out? Why Elohim in verse 1, and then the Spirit of Elohim in verse 2, and then from verse 3 all the way to the end of the passage in chapter 2 verse 3 it’s all Elohim? In fact, the Spirit of Elohim is not referred to again until Genesis 6:3. So really, the reference to the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2 looks like a brief insert or parenthesis. But that tells us that the role of the Holy Spirit in creation is both crucial and essential. God spoke, and everything that He commanded into being came into being because the Holy Spirit hovered, brought them forth and gave them life.

Listen, the Elohim who created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 is not the same divine person as the Spirit of Elohim who was hovering over the face of the waters. They are one God but two persons.

Moreover, the Spirit of Elohim in verse 2 is not same person as the Elohim who said, “Let there be light,” in verse 3. Instead, it’s the Elohim of verse 1 who said, “Let there be light,” in verse 3. And so, while the Spirit of Elohim in verse 2 was hovering, the Elohim of verse 1 spoke the universe into existence. And everything that Elohim said came to be because the hovering Spirit of Elohim brought forth and gave life to everything that Elohim commanded into being.

Then we have the testimony of the Bible regarding the Angel of the Lord, whom Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and others saw. Clearly, He is presented to us in the Scriptures as another person of the Godhead.

Finally, we have God’s fuller and more complete revelation in the New Testament, the chief of which is John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

So there you have it! The work of creation is not just the work of God the Father. It is the work of all the three equally glorious and equally divine persons of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And as the infinitely majestic and powerful Elohim, the three persons of the Trinity created the universe, out of nothing, without needing the help of angels or us or anything outside of Himself. This moves our hearts to rest in Him and worship Him in all His glory, beauty and splendor! And there’s more…

“In the beginning” is just one word in Hebrew: Bereshit. It refers to the beginning of time. Yes, time had a beginning! There was a time when there was no time. And that time before time is not time. Because before God created time, there was no time. Before God created time and space and everything else in heaven and on earth, there was nothing. There was just God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is timeless. That’s what we mean when we say that God is eternal.

Listen to this: God’s eternity is different from our eternity. Our eternity is time without end. God’s eternity is His timelessness. And so before creation, there was nothing. No time, no space, no heaven, no earth, no angels, no human beings. There was nothing! There was just God. And then God created time and space. And then He created heaven and earth. He created everything, both visible and invisible.

And so before Genesis 1:1 there was no time and space. And then out of nothing, God created time and space. And so God is outside time, and He is also inside time, which He created out nothing. He is outside space and also inside space, which He also created out of nothing. The Bible says that God dwells in heaven, but His word also reveals to us that heaven dwells in God, because God is greater than heaven, because God also created heaven out of nothing. God’s word also tells us that He dwells with us, His people, on earth; but actually, the whole universe dwells in God. That is how great and awesome our God, our Elohim, is!

You see, if eternity is not timelessness, or if eternity is time without a beginning or an end, then time and space pre-existed with God. If so, then perhaps we must not only worship God. Perhaps, we must also worship time and space because they are co-eternal with God. And if time and space were not created, then creation was not out of nothing. God had materials to use in creation, and He is not the sole origin and source of life. If that is true, then we did not come from God alone. We came from God and space and time.

But that is not what the Bible teaches us. It starts with “in the beginning God.” There was no time. There was no space. There was just God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit, equal in power, glory and essence. And God created time and space out of nothing. And that marked what both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 calls “the beginning.”

And so, the words “in the beginning” clearly teaches and emphasizes that creation was out of nothing. God alone is our Creator. There was no time, no space, no heaven, no earth, no angels, no human beings, no creatures whatsoever. Nothing! Just God. He did not use any pre-existent materials to create us, and He did not need anyone to help Him. He alone created heaven, earth, angels, man and everything else in the incomprehensibly vast universe.

Now listen carefully, brothers and sisters in Christ… God who alone created us out of nothing… He, of Himself and by Himself, is re-creating us. In creation, He did not use pre-existing materials, and He did not need anyone to help Him. In the new creation, He also does not need anything and anyone to help Him save and re-create us. He does not need anything and anyone to help Him bring about the new heaven and the new earth! Creation was out of nothing; in the same way, the new creation is out of nothing. Creation was by God alone; in the same way salvation is by God alone. They’re both monergistic!

IMG_8564Think about this. How did the new creation come about. It starts in Genesis 3:15, the first proclamation of the Gospel, preached by God Himself, the promise of the serpent-crushing offspring of the woman. And Eve did have two sons, but her older son Cain killed her younger son Abel. Then God gave her a new son, Seth. And Seth was a faithful Son. Through him, God brought forth a line of faithful sons. Later on, however, Seth’s descendants intermarried with Cain’s descendants, and they brought forth an evil generation that God destroyed through the Flood. Only Noah and his family were saved by God from the Flood. But like Seth’s descendants, Noah’s descendants became unfaithful and rebellious to God as well, and He scattered them from the unfinished Tower of Babel. And so from Genesis 1 to 11, God’s word teaches us that man was totally depraved and ever increased in sin and wickedness. Man was nothing and could do nothing to save, change or improve himself. But out the nothingness of the ancient world, the Creator spoke to one man, and He made him the recipient of His grace and promise. From this one man, God promised to bring forth the promised seed, the Savior and Re-Creator of His fallen creatures.

Now that one man, Abram was very old, about a hundred years old; and his wife Sarai was barren. They were nothing. “Good as dead”, Paul tells us in Romans 4:19. But out of the nothingness of Abraham and Sarah, God brought forth the nation of Israel.

But Israel was also like Cain and all the wicked people of the ancient world. They were totally depraved and ever increased in sin and wickedness. They were nothing, and can do nothing to save, change or improve themselves. They were nothing and could do nothing to bless the nations, as God promised to Abraham. But out of the nothingness of Israel, God brought forth the Messiah, who is both the New Creation and the New Creator.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are, in our sinful human nature, like the wicked people of the ancient world and Israel. Without Christ, we are nothing. We are dead and barren, unable to do nothing to save, change or improve ourselves. But we thank God that we are not without Christ.

Dear believer in Christ, the very same Elohim of Genesis 1 gave His Son in order to save you and make you a member and partaker of His new creation. And Christ, who was with Elohim in the beginning, and was Himself Elohim according to John 1:1, came and lived a perfect life for you. He died on the cross to pay for your sins and rose again for your justification. And He gave you His Holy Spirit, the very same Spirit of Elohim in Genesis 1:2 who was the Life-Giver of creation. He hovered over you and made you alive in Christ. He regenerated you and gave you faith. Now, He constantly sanctifies you, forming and conforming you to the image and likeness of Christ. Finally on the second coming, He will glorify and make you perfect like the Lord Jesus.

How shall we each respond to such a news of infinite goodness?

– Let us confess before the Lord that we are all hopeless sinners without Him.

– Let us acknowledge God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as our sole Creator and sole New Creator.

– Let us be thankful for His free gift of atonement and new birth in Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.

– Let us trust and claim His word of promise with unshakable faith and assurance: In and because of Christ, our salvation is total, complete and irreversible.

– Finally, to overcome our nothingness, formlessness, emptiness and darkness, let us grow in grace and sanctification by being diligent and constant in both our individual and corporate reading, study, meditation, faith, obedience and application of God’s word, the Bible, the means of grace.

Remember: Both creation and the new creation are by God alone, through His Son, His Spirit and His word.

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Now PCA

Open Eyes Mission:

“Membership in a sound church is a gift, comfort and strength from God.” – Pastor Glem Melo

Originally posted on OPEN EYES MISSION:

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By Pastor Glem Melo

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Last Sunday, I was received as a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (RPCBowie.org), and therefore the Presbyterian Church in America (PCAnet.org), the denomination of which RPCB is a part of.

RPCB is committed to the “Bible, God’s word, [as] the foundational authority in the church,” to the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, to Reformed theology as set forth in the Westminster Standards, and to elders-led church government.

The PCA is committed to being “faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith and obedient to the Great Commission.” It consists of over 1,500 congregations with more than 300,000 members.

IMG_8561When I preached during the evening service, I thanked the RPCB family for “having always been a source of great comfort, encouragement, guidance and edification to me, to my family and to our mission in the Philippines. My re-affirmation of faith…

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Midterm Success

Open Eyes Mission:

Thank you for praying for Pastor Glem’s midterm examination at Reformed Theological Seminary (Global Education). Please continue praying for his studies.

Originally posted on GlemMelo.com:

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To all who prayed…

To my wife and kids…

To the brothers/servant-leaders in Open Eyes Mission‘s oversight committee: Fix, Charles, Chad, Stephen and March…

To our “angel from the Lord” adviser Phil D…

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 9.41.19 AMTo the awesome Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA) family…

To our brothers and sisters in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Antique and Malolos…

To my hosts and dear friends, Chad and Emily Van Dixhoorn…

To my proctor, Thea Van Dixhoorn

To Dr. Richard Belcher, Jr. (dean) and Mrs. Alice Hathaway (registrar) at Reformed Theological Seminary (Global Education) who has been very understanding and compassionate to me, and relieved my vexed heart and mind by granting me a free course deadline extension…

You all know how crushed and heart-broken I was when I prepared for this exam. I could have never made it without your love, encouragement and prayers… THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH!

To…

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All About Jesus

genesis 3.15 - bigger

Genesis 3:15: The protoevangelion (first gospel)

By Pastor Glem Melo

Rhyse Furio, our friend in Lebanon, asked me, “Is Jesus referred to in every story of Scripture?”

In response, I gave her (and everyone else in her group) passages that teach that the whole Bible is all about the Lord Jesus Christ:

[Jesus said,]”You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39)

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Christ] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27)

Sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2008

Sections of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2008

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44-47)

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (1 Peter 1:10-11)

Moreover, the Bible gives us the following keys to its proper, Christ-centered interpretation:

  1. “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
    .
  2. 'David and Goliath' by Michelangelo, on the Sistine Chapel ceiling

    ‘David and Goliath’ by Michelangelo, on the Sistine Chapel ceiling

    Key Old Testament characters (like Adam, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, etc.) are “types” of Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:14)
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  3. Food, festivals and the Sabbath of the Old Testament “are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
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  4. The temple, priesthood and offerings in the Old Testament “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” (Hebrews 8:4-5)
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  5. “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities.” (Hebrews 10:1)

“What about the Book of Judges or those laws about some nasty sins in Leviticus?”, Rhyse inquired. How are those about Jesus, too?

My answer is two-fold:

  1. Jesus is YAHWEH who consistently dealt with and punished wicked people in both OT and the NT.
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  2. Wicked kings, priests and prophets, and nasty sins in the OT point to (a) Israel and the world’s condition without Christ and (b) our need for Him, who is the only perfectly righteous and faithful King, Priest and Prophet.
Possibly Jehu, described as

Possibly Jehu, described as “son of Omri”, or Jehu’s ambassador, kneeling at the feet of Shalmaneser III on the Black Obelisk

So, for example, when we read about wicked kings in the Bible, we must think and reflect on the following:

  1. How bad fallen human nature is;
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  2. How perfectly righteous and faithful Jesus is;
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  3. How thankful we ought to be for Christ our perfectly righteous and faithful King, Priest and Prophet; and
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  4. How the Holy Spirit is sanctifying and conforming us to the image and likeness of Jesus in holiness, righteousness, obedience and faithfulness.

Many Christians are bored about the Bible, do not feed regularly on God’s word, and are therefore weak and carnal in their Christian walk. They are bored about the Bible because their interpretation and understanding of it is not Christ-centered but man-centered/self-centered. Moralistic-only and man-centered/self-centered interpretations of the Bible do not satisfy the deep longings of our soul. And they do not release the Holy Spirit’s soul-nourishing, faith-growing, sin-conquering and obedience-enabling power in and upon us.

Medieval western illustration of the Pentecost from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)

Medieval western illustration of the Pentecost from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century)

We must keep in mind and heart that the Holy Spirit testifies about Christ. The Lord Jesus Himself tells us,

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)

Now, the whole Bible is the Holy Spirit’s testimony about Christ! And only a Christ-centered interpretation of any verse and passage of the Bible releases the fullness of the soul-nourishing, faith-growing, sin-conquering and obedience-enabling power of Holy Spirit, who is the Great Witness/Testifier of Christ. Only a Christ-centered interpretation of God’s word is the ultimate solution to boredom, immaturity and carnality in the Christian life.

We read this in 2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Christ-centered interpretation equals beholding the glory of the Lord, and that leads to us being “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

Then Paul tells us that this comes from the Holy Spirit. This is how He works.

preacherSadly, most sermons and teachings today are moralistic. I agree that morals are good and important, but they can’t be number 1. Jesus is! He must have the preeminence in all things. Therefore, Christ must always be number 1, and morals number 2.

Morals-only interpretation is wrong. On the other extreme, Christ-centered interpretation without application (morals) is also wrong.

For us, it must always be Christ-centered interpretation and application.

“We must not tell chiefly of people, of their faith as an attracting example and of their sins as a repelling example, but we must tell of the revelation of the grace of God in Christ.” – S. G. De Graaf

“To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, however, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus, all of them amounting to something akin to Trivial Pursuits: ‘What happens if a person divorces and remarries?’ ‘Why do your disciples pick grain on the Sabbath?’ ‘Who sinned–this man or his parents–that he was born blind?’ For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life’s dilemmas. To be sure, Scripture provides God-centered and divinely-revealed wisdom for life, but if this were its primary objective, Christianity would be a religion of self-improvement by following examples and exhortations, not a religion of the Cross. This is Paul’s point with the Corinthians, whose obsession with wisdom and miracles had obscured the true wisdom and the greatest miracle of all. And what is that? Paul replies, ‘He has been made for us our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Cor 1:28-31).” – Michael Horton

“Jesus Christ is therefore the theme of the whole Old Testament. When we read of God’s saving acts in the Old Testament, we are always being pointed to the full accomplishment of His salvation in the New. The Exodus no less than the Passover, the victories of Samson no less than those of David, show us that God can deliver through His chosen One. They speak to us of the mighty One who came to destroy the powers of evil on the cross. The whole ceremonial law has a symbolic purpose. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin; only the blood of Christ can. The prophets, priests, and kings of the Old Testament are set apart to represent the people of God, and God before the people. The calling that they have prepares us to understand the only Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). There is not strand in the history of God’s salvation (or of His work of judgment) that does not lead to Jesus Christ, ‘that in all things He may have the preeminence’ (Col. 1:18). Jesus Christ is in all the Old Testament, not merely in a few messianic passages. His lordship and His servant-hood are intertwined in it like the threads of a fabric. The pattern of the fabric remains a puzzle to us until we see His of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, the Alpha and the Omega of our faith.” – Edmund Clowney

“Expositional sermons take the point of the text as the point of the sermon . . . [A]n exposition of Scripture simply seeks to uncover, explain, and apply the divinely intended meaning of the text. . . The point of any Biblical text is to accomplish God’s purposes in the hearts and minds of God’s people. So if the sermon amounts to no more than a wordy commentary devoid of application, it has missed the bull’s eye at which true exposition always takes aim.” – Mark Dever

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International Oversight Committee

1By Pastor Glem Melo

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1-2)

IMG_8467My meeting with our International Oversight Committee went were very well. I am deeply and greatly comforted and strengthened by these faithful men whom the Lord uses to shepherd and guide me and Open Eyes Mission. Crucial, foundational decisions were made. Please continue praying for us as we press on with the vision of Bible Training, Church Planting and Mercy Ministries in the Philippines and beyond.

Following are the members of our committee:

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

IMG_8463Rev. Stephen Coleman
Wallace Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Reformed Theological Seminary
Westminster Theological Seminary

Rev. Stephen Fix
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)
Reformed Theological Seminary
Catholic University of America

Elder Atty. March Bell
McLean Presbyterian Church (PCA)

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

MTW logoAlso, a Regional Director and church planter* of Mission to the World (PCA) serves as our adviser.

“Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to reconcile
the world to yourself: We praise and bless you for those
whom you have sent in the power of the Spirit to preach the
Gospel to all nations. We thank you that in all parts of the
earth a community of love has been gathered together by
their prayers and labors, and that in every place your servants
call upon your Name; for the kingdom and the power and
the glory are yours for ever. Amen.” – The Book of Common Prayer

* Name withheld for security purposes.

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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

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