Decision of the Classis of the BTRC Concerning Regulations in Conducting Wedding Ceremonies in the BTRC
March 17, 2012
BTRC Church Order
Article 70. Marriage
The consistory shall ensure that the members of the congregation marry only in the Lord, and that the ministers, as authorized by the consistory, solemnize only such marriages as are in accordance with the Word of God. The solemnization of marriages shall take place as inclusion in the regular Lord’s Day worship service wherein it shall be witnessed by the Christian congregation.
THE FORMER MANNER OF SOLEMNIZING MARRIAGES IN THE BTRC
The accustomed manner by which marriage is solemnized in the BTRC is a legacy of the systems of Arminianism and Catholicism. The Pastor of a church by virtue of the authorization granted to him by the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines solemnizes marriage between a man and a woman who decides to contract marriage. This authority is bestowed primarily to civil judges and secondarily to the church clergy. The state does not automatically grant authorization to solemnize marriage. The minister is required to apply before the NSO and fulfill all conditions related to such before he is granted authorization to solemnize marriage.
Since this is the currently existing system to which we have been accustomed to and which is adopted by virtually all churches be they Roman Catholic or Protestant and since a thorough examination of it has not yet been undertaken the BTRCs have continued adopting this old system prior to this decision.
Nevertheless if the Gospel shall be the basis and indeed it is the basis upon which all our reforms in all areas in the BTRCs are made we will arrive at a serious observation that this old system in solemnizing marriages is faulty.
When such system in solemnizing marriages is subject to evaluation in the light of the Word of God, the following serious observations will be made:
Not God but the state directly grants authorization to the minister to solemnize marriage.
The conditions laid down by the state for a minister to be duly authorized to solemnize marriage clearly reveal that the minister is a direct agent of the state and merely secondarily a servant of God. This is the reason why the pronouncement is usually heard by the end of the ceremony: “By virtue of the authority vested upon me by the Republic of the Philippines as Minister of the Gospel I now pronounce you man and wife.”
The principle in fulfilling the conditions laid down by the state for a minister to be duly authorized to solemnize marriage may be considered technical instead of being Biblical. Requiring such conditions favors larger and more influential churches and makes it difficult if not impossible for the smaller and insignificant churches.
Nevertheless the BTRCs acknowledge the Word of God in Romans 13:1-7 and Matthew 22:21 which sets forth that the rule of the state is ordained of God and thus all men are duty-bound to submit to its authority.
An act or system may only be judged wrong if it is obviously not in accordance with an absolute basis, that is, the Word of God. The significant principles concerning the solemnizing of marriages are clearly set forth by Holy Scripture which must be the basis of Reformed churches:
God established the institution of marriage, and therefore the wedding (Genesis 1:27-31).
He established it in view of the progress and development of the Covenant of life with His elect in all generations (Genesis 1:22; Acts 2:39).
The Lord Jesus Christ established the institution of marriage and the wedding (Matthew 19:4-6; John 2:1-11).
Holy Scripture teaches that the wedding or marriage is a picture of the Covenant of grace in Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32)
In the light of the obvious truth stated, it is clear that marriage originated from God and not from the state, therefore, the one who possesses the prerogative to bestow authority to fulfill God’s will, that is, to “solemnize marriages” is God and not the state.
Since the BTRCs regard the Word of God as the sole basis for its reforms, the above observations ought not to be disregarded but necessitates correction so as to give God the glory due to Him alone. The following is a decision of the Classis of the BTRCs regarding procedures regulating the solemnization of marriages in the BTRC:
REGULATIONS IN CONDUCTING WEDDING CEREMONIES IN THE BTRC
I. Persons qualified for marriage in the BTRC
A. Between a male and a female
B. Of legal age
C. Both official members of the BTRC
D. In good standing (not under Church discipline)
II. Two stages of the wedding
A. Civil (fulfilling legal requirements: marriage under the state)
B. Ceremony of Confirmation during Lord’s Day (marriage before God)
III. The wedding ceremony to be conducted during the worship on the Lord’s Day
A. Simple adornment/arrangements in the place of worship
B. Simple wedding garments
Decision of the Classis of the BTRC Concerning Regulations in the Cleansing of the Church Registry
March 17, 2012
Articles 71 to 78 of the BTRC Church Order sets forth the Biblical principles upon which the Consistory shall adhere concerning the discipline of a sinning brother all the way until the excommunication of the impenitent and who refuse to submit to Christian discipline.
In view of the necessity and existing cases in the churches concerning brothers who are negligent by their separating themselves from the church principally manifested in their neglect of the official gatherings of the Church solemnly commanded in the Bible, and in ignoring the admonitions of or fail to communicate with the Consistory, Classis resolves to remove the aforesaid from church membership.
Among those who shall be removed from membership are: (a) official members who persistently neglect the gathering of the Church or leave without communicating with the Consistory; (b) official members who persistently ignore the admonition of the Consistory; (c) members by virtue of their baptism, who have come to age but separete themselves from the church (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
By virtue of the authority bestowed by the Lord through the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven the official and formal sentence of excommunication shall be executed before God and the Church according to the following principles:
Because a person is an official member of the Church, the glory of Christ and the holiness of the Church is being trampled upon by his negligence in doctrine and walk.
God solemnly commands in Holy Scripture particularly in Deuteronomy 5:12 to “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.” This command is so forcefully imposed by God to all those redeemed in Christ that He also firmly commnads in the New Testament, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), and “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). These are also the implications of the principles eternally established by the Lord in His Gospel and signified in the Belgic Confession Article 28:
We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it; maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them. And that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers, according to the word of God, to separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the Church, and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God hath established it, even though the magistrates and edicts of princes were against it, yea, though they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore all those, who separate themselves from the same, or do not join themselves to it, act contrary to the ordinance of God.
The member, therefore, who separates himself from the Church and refuses to attend the official and regular assemblies, neglects preaching and teaching and the administration of the sacraments, persists in negligence notwithstanding the admonition of the Consistory, or refusal to communicate with Consistory reveals that such is defiant, impenitent, hardened in his heart by sin, and reveals by his life that he is an unbeliever. In this condition he is violating the covenant with God and with the Church. In this condition he also reveals that he lied and violated his sworn pledge before God and the Church on the moment that he was admitted as official member of the Church.
For the glory of Christ, the purity of the Gospel, the welfare of the Church, and for the sake of the offender himself, the ultimate remedy and last hope of Church discipline, though horrible, shall be implemented by the Consistory through the sentence of ‘excommunication.’ Since he proved himself defiant and disobedient to the authority of Christ, and by this the Kingdom of Heaven is shut against him, and he shall not be received unless he is given by God true repentance and true confession of faith in the holy Gospel of Christ.
In the process of excommunication the Consistory shall observe the principles of Holy Scripture and the guidelines set forth by the BTRC Church Order
Procedure and Guidelines to be Observed by Consistory and Classis:
Members who persistently absent themselves from the assemblies shall be subject to Christian discipline through the direction of the Consistory. In the process they shall be patiently, lovingly and constantly admonished.
After a 6-month period of persistent negligence and refusal to repent on the part of the offender Consistory shall submit his name to Classis as candidate for official excommunication. Excommunication shall not be executed without advice of Classis. Classis shall examine the case of the brother who neglects his duties and shall advice consistory whether there still be necessity for further actions, or whether proceeding with excommunication is already appropriate.
With advice of Classis, Consistory, in accordance with Article 77 of the BTRC Church Order, and for reason that the offense of the brother is public in nature, shall thrice in the ensuing six months convey to the congregation the warning or announcement concerning the process of excommunication. The name of the offender shall not be disclosed in the first announcement. It shall be mentioned on the second instance. And during the third excommunication shall be implemented.
Consistory shall draft an official letter informing the offender that he has officially been excommunicated. If possible it shall be sent to the offender as a testimony that he has been excommunicated fom the fellowship of the Church. Excommunication shall be carried out on the scheduled date with calling upon the Name of the Lord and in accordance with the Form of Excommunication.
The congregation shall be instructed to treat the excommunicated person as an unbeliever in accordance with the command of the Lord in Matthew 18:15-28 and 1 Corinthians 5. However he shall not be despised but if possible, with patience and compassion, the Gospel shall be proclaimed to him.
In the event that the excommunicated person repents and desires to be received again in the fellowship, he shall be subjected, in accordance with Article 78 of the BTRC Church Order to the initial process whereby all who desire for membership in the Church undergo, beginning with the 23 Lessons concerning the Gospel. Consistory shall inform the congregation of the desire of the excommunicated person to be received again into the fellowship and of the process he shall undergo. Consistory shall also inform Classis of the process the excommunicated person shall undergo. After the entire process has been completed, the excommunicated person shall be readmitted using the Form for Readmitting Excommunicated Persons.
Decision of Classis of BTRC on the Validity of Roman Catholic and Arminian Baptisms, 2012
The question presented to the Classis of the BTRCs representing the inquiries arising from our congregations and expressed by our officebearers “whether the Bastion of Truth Reformed Churches in the Philippines (BTRC) shall recognize Roman Catholic baptism and in consequence baptism performed by Arminian churches as valid baptism” is serious and important. The answer that shall be given to it entails principles essential for the unity, soundness and witness of our churches.
After periodic discussions carried through a span of two years Classis has decided, by a unanimous vote, that water baptism so administered shall NOT be recognized as valid.
Classis stands in its decision on two main grounds, namely, that the nature of such baptism does not conform to the definition set forth and justified by the Holy Scriptures and the Reformed creeds, and that such rite is unlawfully administered by what may be called a false church.
As to the first reason, it is our conviction that Scripture always attaches the significance of baptism to the Gospel of grace wherein the Roman Catholic institution and Arminian churches fundamentally depart and fatally err. It is true that the form with which it was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ invokes the Name of “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) but the mere usage of such formula as the least common basis so as to render the rite of baptism valid, notwithstanding the signification attached to it and the organization that administers it, is to be rejected as unscriptural. The invocation of the Name of the blessed Trinity ought not to be relegated to a magical formula as to render a particular baptism valid. Not the mere invocation but the consciousness that one is baptized in the Name of the Trinity Who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and Who is revealed by Him Whose person and work is the very essence of the Gospel of grace renders a baptism valid. In this the Roman and Arminian churches depart by their consciously trusting and confessing a false ‘Jesus’ and a false system of salvation—a salvation conditioned on the sinner and not on Christ alone.
Our Reformed creeds accurately express the very idea of the sacraments in general as seals of God’s promises and pledges of His grace toward us and for the nourishment of our faith “which He has joined to the Word of the gospel” (Belgic Confession, Article 33). Rightly so, for the Scriptures identify baptism as “the washing of regeneration” and the renewing of the Spirit. It signifies God’s outworking of a salvation not by works of righteousness done but according to God’s mercy (Titus 3:5); a justification by grace (Titus 3:7). Since baptism is identified in Colossians 2:11-13 with circumcision, it necessarily follows that the significance of circumcision is identical to that of baptism, namely, that it is the seal of righteousness by faith alone (Romans 4:11). Moreover our confessions clearly formulate what it is to be baptized, that is to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ. It is to receive from God remission of sins “freely”, for the sake of Christ’s blood (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 26, Q/A 70). Moreover, the Roman Church has once and for all revealed its doctrinal opposition to God’s Word when it officially condemned in Trent the Gospel of justification by faith alone apart from works (Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent , Sixth Session, Canons 9, 11, 12). Thus she revealed once and for all that her sacraments are incongruent with the Gospel of grace and are therefore not valid.
The Arminians, on the other hand, though airing semblance of orthodoxy in their expressions “justified by faith alone” and “saved by grace” do in reality deny the Gospel of grace. While the Roman Church believes in a salvation by works, Arminian churches subscribe to and unashamedly declare a salvation dependent upon their “free-will” which is tantamount to rejecting the Atonement in denying its particular and vicarious nature. Both reject the true Gospel and subscribe to a false and unsaving gospel since both reject the testimony of Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him that willeth [Arminianism], nor of him that runneth [Catholicism], but of God that sheweth mercy”. Since, therefore, Roman Catholic and Arminian baptisms do not conform to the definition of baptism as set forth and justified by various parts of Scripture and the Reformed confessions, they are not valid baptisms.
Concerning our second argument, being the ramification of the preceding, we are of the conviction that churches (not to mention sects who name themselves Christians but hold to Unitarian and polytheistic views of God) who by their official confessions deny the pure Gospel forfeit the right to administer Christian baptism. Synagogues of Satan though professing themselves “synagogues of God” possess no right to dispense the seal of the Covenant of Grace. We are commanded to “come out from among them, and be separate and to touch not the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23). Concerning this, the Reformed confessions have laid down the distinction between the true and false church. The Belgic Confession declares that the true church may be known, “if the pure preaching of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as institued by Christ; [and] if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin.” The false church, on the other hand, is revealed in its corruption of the Word and the sacraments adding to and taking from them as it thinks proper (Article 29).
In corrupting the Gospel of grace fundamental to salvation the Roman Catholic Church corrupts the sacraments in distorting even the physical elements supposed to signify the promises of God in the Gospel. She does this by superstitiously mixing oil (chrism) so as to supposedly render the water suitable to work a magical effect upon the subject of baptism. Let it be remembered also that the Roman church so corrupted the true Gospel that it corrupted the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ. She supplanted it with the blasphemous Mass concerning which our Reformed confessions are willing to judge as “an accursed idolatry” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 30, Q/A 80). Now if the confessions are willing to ascribe to the Popish Mass an outright characterization such as “an accursed idolatry” do we not have the liberty to condemn its baptism as “an abominable sorcery”? And if it is such and while the confessions define baptism itself as an institution meant to be a seal “by which we are received into the Church of God and separated from all other people and strange religions” (Belgic, Article 34) why should it not be necessary to reject Rome’s baptism by performing a lawful baptism in “witness” of such separation?
Concerning Arminian churches, they are to be considered false churches for the simple reason that they confess other ‘Christs’, and other ‘Spirits’ and other ‘gospels’ (2 Corinthians 11:4). Alarmingly included in this category are Reformed churches who negate their confessions by officially subscribing to the false gospel of “Common Grace.” It is simply unreasonable to consider a communion of individuals marked by unbelief, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, establishing their own and not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1-4) as a true church.
Our confessions describe the true Church as having members “known by the marks of Christians, namely FAITH…” (Belgic, Article 29). Arminians remain in the darkness and death of unbelief so long as they subscribe to their confessions (whether by an official statement of faith, systematic theology or preaching) of a false gospel of a salvation conditioned on the dead sinner, that is, on his supposed “free will”. The Heidelberg Catechism confirms this Scriptural conviction in stating, “Question : Do such then believe in Jesus the only Savior, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else? Answer: They do not: for though they boast of Him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Savior; for one of these two things must be true, either that Jesus is not a complete Savior, or that they who by a true faith receive the Savior must find all things in Him necessary to their salvation” (Lord’s Day 11, Q/A 30). We do not consider Arminians, therefore, as brothers in the spiritual sense of the word and we DENY that their churches being propagators of false doctrine are true churches. Therefore such organizations cannot administer valid baptism.
As to the accusation that may possibly be hurled against us that we are falling into the error of the heretical Anabaptists (Belgic, Article 34) in repeating baptism, we deem the arguments above sufficient to prove that Roman Catholic and Arminian baptisms are NOT Christian baptisms. And so therefore we absolve ourselves of the guilt of “repeating” a baptism for there never was a baptism in the first place. Should our accusers typically appeal to the text of Ephesians 4:5 stating, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” interpreting it thus that the external rite of baptism should not be administered more than once, we reply that the text justly interpreted means that there is one baptism common to all just as there is one Lord and one faith common to all.
In view of the foregoing considerations, the BTRCs, after the consistories will have performed the necessary and careful examination of converts coming from and who have previously received baptism from the Roman Catholic Church or Arminian churches shall henceforth require the aforesaid and their infants to undertake and receive baptism. And as to current official members who prior to this decision have received Roman and Arminian baptisms they will no more be required to be baptized since the true significance of water baptism has been established in them by the constant instruction of our churches and since baptism is a symbol of one’s entrance into the Kingdom of God it may not be necessary to administer such symbol while our current members have already enjoyed for some time life and communion within God’s Kingdom.