WHO WE ARE
There are many different churches with the name Reformed and they all claim to stand in the Reformed tradition. We are just one of them. The Netherlands Reformed Congregations, (NRC) is indeed a denomination which values the Reformed heritage, and seeks to preserve this. The word ‘Reformed’ is of great significance to us, and we do not relinquish this designation in our name. We bear this name, being conscious of both our privilege and our responsibility. The name Reformed bears witness to God’s preservation of his church. Indeed it was God Himself who Reformed His church when she was in danger of perishing due to the errors and superstitions that abounded in the church during the middle ages. The Lord used such well-known reformers as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli to again place both doctrine and life under the discipline of the Word of God. The NRC stands in a Calvinist tradition. We are ‘Reformed’ in the old, classical sense of the word; that is, in doctrine, life, and ecclesiastical government – no more, but also nothing less than that. One may wonder, why is it called ‘Netherlands’ Reformed Congregations? Is this a Dutch speaking church? Must you be from Dutch descent in order to be a member of it? Does ‘Netherlands’ refer to a specific kind of belief? The answer is simple. The word ‘Netherlands’ merely points to the fact that the roots of this denomination are found in the country of the Netherlands. Many members of the NRC can trace their ancestry to this country in Europe. In 1907 the ‘Churches Under the Cross’ and the ‘Ledeboerian Churches’ were united and together formed the ‘Gereformeerde Gemeenten’, our sister denomination in the Netherlands. At present this denomination consists of 156 congregations with a total of about 104,000 members. It is largely from these ‘Gereformeerde Gemeenten’, and also partially from those who left the Christian Reformed Church (because of the teaching of pre-supposed regeneration), that the Netherlands Reformed Congregations originated.
The NRC has 27 congregations across North America with almost 10,000 members. Some of our churches were established more than 140 years ago, while several others are also more than 100 years old. Other congregations are much younger, being established after World War II when the new immigrants formed churches in which they could hear the same Scriptural-experimental truth they used to hear in the ‘old country’.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
All of our members subscribe to the following three Forms of Unity as our doctrinal standards:
(by Guido De Bres)
(by Zacharias Ursinus and Casper Olevianus)
adopted by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1819)
These forms express what we, based on Scripture, believe. Briefly, they teach us that God has created man good and after His own image (Gen. 1:26,27), but that man willfully turned away from
God (Gen. 3;6,17) and has become an enemy of God and His salvation (Rom, 8:7). We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind (Rom. 5:12), so that our nature is totally corrupt (Rom. 3:10).
Man has become unable and unwilling to return to God, and yet according to His sovereign and eternal council, has elected some people to redemption in Christ (Rom. 9:15,16),without respect to their works (Eph. 2:8-10), whereas He leaves others in their corruption wherein they have plunged themselves. Since man is dead in sins, it is only by God’s powerful and irresistible calling that a sinner is brought to true repentance and raised to a new life (Rom. 8:28, 30). God works a true faith in the heart of His elect by His Word and Spirit, whereby He freely imputes to them the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, without any merits on their side (Rom. 3:28). It is free and sovereign grace alone as merited by Jesus Christ and applied by the Holy Spirit, that will deliver from sin and punishment and restore the sinner into the communion of God. We reject the doctrine of universal redemption and of the free will of men.
Our worship services give much more room for the proclamation of this sovereign grace. The preaching of God’s Word is the main element of our services. The worship service also includes prayer, thanksgiving, singing, and offerings. You will not find choirs, drama, or other ways to attract people to the worship services, but just the simple preaching of Gods message to us.
Scriptural – Experimental
What is the message you will hear when attending worship services in our churches?
It is our deep conviction that preaching should be Scriptural – experimental. What do we mean by this?
a. Scriptural preaching is nothing less than, “Thus saith the LORD…” Not man’s thoughts, ideas, or desires, but Gods own Word should be the heart of the message. We believe the Holy Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16), and therefore are infallible and perfectly sufficient to instruct us in the way of salvation. In the preaching, the Scriptures should be faithfully expounded. The text should be explained in its context and spiritual lessons should be given from it. The preacher is dependent on the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit, in order to know what his Master wants him to say. Usually during the evening service this preaching is from the Heidelberg Catechism. This also should be based solely on what the Scriptures teach us.
b. In Experimental preaching, the marks of true spiritual life are given, as the Lord Jesus has given us in the Beatitudes, in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5). The preaching should distinguish between the true work of God and that which is man’s own work, between true saving faith and that which is counterfeit religion. In the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25), there were not only five wise virgins who had oil for their lamps with them, but there were also five foolish virgins who missed the oil, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, in their hearts. The preaching does not only point out the differences between nominal Christians and true believers, but also explains the marks of true spiritual life. There are steps in grace as that spiritual life develops and grows, so there are, as in every life, babes, children, but also young men, fathers, and mothers in grace. The preaching in the NRC is no mysticism; a preaching should be based on God’s Word and a description of experimental grace should be derived from it. Thus, there should be a balance in the preaching between the objective (expounding the text) and the subjective (how those truths are experienced in the lives of Gods children). We believe that God only knows the heart, and therefore we are not to be judgemental in dealing with others. God is Judge and He will crown His own work. Yet the preaching has to give guidance and must warn against self – deceit. Therefore it should give the marks of true faith, also for the encouragement and comfort of Gods children.
The NRC maintains that there is a two-fold calling.
1.The external call comes to all who hear Gods Word. It is the call to repentance and faith. This call invites to salvation and it proffers Christ to lost sinners. Ministers are sent by God as his servants, as ambassadors of the King who have to plead with sinners: “Be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). The external call is a great privilege, but also an enormous responsibly. It is Gods message to us. If it bears no fruit to salvation, it is not the fault of the gospel, nor of God who calls by means of the gospel. The fault lies in those who are called and refuse to repent (Matt. 23:37).
2. The internal call is indispensable.The external call by itself does not break our hard and stony hearts. Only God the Spirit is able to do this. He accompanies the preacher’s word. He convinces man of his sins and leads a sinner to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Law and Gospel
We believe Law and Gospel should be preached. This includes man’s responsibly as well as God’s sovereignty. The Law is the revealed will of God, “This is the way, walk ye in it; (Is. 30:21). The heart of the gospel preaching is, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Christ should be preached as the only Way of salvation. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We proclaim a rich Christ and a poor sinner, but also how these come together. In other words: the work of Christ for sinners, but also how He works within their hearts.
Practice of Godliness
The NRC highly appreciates the teachings of the Reformation and we seek to stand in the Calvinistic tradition. Our theological teachings have also been greatly influenced by later writers from the Second Reformation in the Netherlands, and Puritan writers in England and Scotland. These forefathers have emphasized that our Christian profession must be seen in our daily life. Our forefathers called it “the praxis pietatis”, the practice of godliness. Gods children have a calling to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ (Matt. 5). However, although we are in this world, we should not be of the world. The Lord commands His people not to adopt the customs of the world or to attend their places of entertainment. In this time of relativism we believe that God’s law is still the absolute norm and standard for our daily living in this world. A Christian should be visible in his walk and talk. To bring the world into the home, by, for example, having a television or open internet access would be inconsistent with his confession. And although we do not believe in a withdrawal from the world, yet we believe that a life according to God’s Word will set us apart from worldly entertainment, company and places.
A RICH INHERITANCE
The NRC is one of the many Reformed churches. We do not presume to be the only church, but, nonetheless, a church that, with God’s help, seeks to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures and to preserve the right inheritance of our fathers. The membership of a church itself does not save us. We must be born again (John 3:3). We must learn to flee to Christ as the sin bearing Lamb of God. We must seek and find salvation in His work alone. He is a perfect, complete Saviour Who did not only merit salvation, but also applies it by the work of the Spirit in the hearts of sinners. More than ever we need this work of the Spirit, Who leads to Christ and glorifies Him in the hearts of sinful people who were enemies of Him. The NRC churches are not perfect. They have their failures and shortcomings, but we may believe that God has left His truth among us. We welcome you to join us and it is our hope and prayer that a blessing may be received as we gather in God’s house each week.
Rev. C. Vogelaar