Communion of the Saints

Some congregations are very large, consisting of hundreds of people, several office bearers, and many small children milling around. Other congregations are quite small. Maybe they’re without a pastor of their own, only a few office bearers, and only a few young ones who usually have the attention of every member of the congregation. But wherever you are, and whatever the size of the church is, in the true church of God, there will certainly be one thing. Communion of the saints.

“Q. 55. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”? A. First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are, in common, partakers of Him and all of His riches and gifts; ”secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.”  (Heidelberg Catechism, Lords Day 21)

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will all be experiencing communion of the saints within our congregation.  We will experience this with the old, with the young, with the members we don’t know well, and even with the members that we “don’t get along with.”

The communion of the saints is a beautiful, sweet gift from God that is not ours to receive or reject, but rather a gift to treasure and to flourish in! We are to enjoy it every Sunday, and to use this precious gift to glorify God. It is our duty to partake of Christ and His gifts, and readily and cheerfully to employ our own gifts! Not so that we may have a relaxing and self-fulfilling Sabbath, but for the advantage and salvation of other members.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for Brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133: 1)

Despite the beauty of this union, some members struggle to see themselves as an important member to the congregation. Some members see the truth pouring into others, but they don’t feel fed themselves. Some members are too busy inspecting the actions of other members, they’re not contributing their own duties and gifts. However, despite our human downfalls, this communion of the saints is still there! As we just read in Heidelberg Catechism, “everyone who believes, being members of Christ, partake of Him and all His riches and gifts.”

Everyone! This is extremely different than,“everyone who feels it,” or “everyone who realizes it,” or “everyone who wants it.”

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” (John 17:21)

But we still ask, what about the differences? What about the sins that we see in ourselves and others? Differences provide the opportunity for good, profitable discussions. Differences provide a chance to teach, and differences sometimes lead to beneficial changes. Sin will always be present, and we have a Lord who forgives our sins.

Take your opportunity this Sunday to partake and cheerfully employ your gifts. In this way we will be able to taste and understand the communion of the saints.

The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Averly Kikkert

The Crystal Sea

“And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” ~ Revelation 4:6, 9-11

The book of Revelation includes many descriptions of heaven and the new heavens and earth.  One such description is found in the above passage.  The image of “a sea of glass like unto crystal” is a beautiful one, and we do well to consider it alongside the words of the hymn which so effectively versifies the passage, By the Sea of Crystal, by William Kuipers.

The first verse of this hymn emphasizes the truths of the size and diversity of the body of Christ: “By the sea of crystal saints in glory stand, myriads in number, drawn from every land, robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood, They now reign in heaven with the Lamb of God.”  The Bible speaks of the appearance of the body of Christ on multiple occasions, and it is a one of my personal favorite truths from Scripture.  On the one hand, it is characterized as being absolutely immense.  When Christ returns, we will be able to see the body of Christ in all its glory, and we will likely be stunned by its sheer size; the hymn’s word “myriads” will likely not even be able to do it justice.  God will prove Himself faithful to His promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 to make his seed “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.”

Additionally, the body will be incredibly diverse.  This too is found in Scripture; in Revelation 5:9, we read, “…for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”  That God calls His people out of every corner of the earth and out of all races and peoples stands in stark contrast to what we would do.  If we are honest with ourselves, the body of Christ would look much different if we were to pick its members than how it does in actuality.  This is because, while man looks only on outward appearance, God judges the heart (I Samuel 16:7).  God, who makes the true decisions on the body’s members, “is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).  God elected the body in eternity entirely apart from any merit of theirs.  That body will one day stand together, united by our status of justified, “robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus’ blood.”  What a knowledge!

The final verse of the hymn is also quite striking.  It begins by attributing all glory to God alone: “Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne, And the Lamb, victorious, be the praise alone.”  As did the 24 elders of Revelation 4, we will bow down at the feet of God’s throne, confessing that He is worthy “to receive glory, and honor, and power.”  The song concludes with an amazingly powerful rhetorical question.  We sing, “God has wrought salvation, He did wondrous things, Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?”  No person worldwide will be able to stand before the presence of the Lord in defiance; everyone will be forced to extol Him.  Indeed, it will not simply be the 24 elders or the elect people of God who will bow before Him.  We read in Romans 14:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”  While it is impossible for us to fully comprehend this idea, it is still incredible to attempt to picture the scene, and doing so is enough to bring tears to the eyes of the child of God.  We are again led to ask, “Who shall not extol Thee, Holy King of Kings?”

Matt Koerner

The Secret to Happiness

The world is always looking for the secret to happiness. People search and spend their whole lives on the mission for something that will give them lasting, long term happiness. They look to money, sex, popularity and many other things for this sense of completion.  Christians have already known the secret though. We were given the answer long ago, and the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1 Q&A 2 tells us simply and beautifully.

Q: How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort (see Q&A 1), mayest live and die happily?

A: Three. The first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

This question and answer at first glance seems a little odd. The secret to happiness revolves around us contemplating our sin and misery? Once you try it, though, you’ll find it’s very true. Recognizing these three things can and will drastically change your outlook on life, put your priorities back in order, and yes, give you lasting happiness by the grace of God.

The first part of the question on its own certainly will not give happiness. When we think of our sins and miseries we feel humbled, embarrassed, maybe even depressed. However, looking our sin square in the face and seeing it for the atrocity that it is, that is what makes this secret to happiness work. Salvation would not seem so miraculous if we didn’t recognize the truth of total depravity. We have to see the immense, vile load of our sin before the next portions of the answer can bring us with joy to the cross.

The second part is where we start to feel some true joy. Those horrible sins we just talked about are given a pardon! We see in this part of the answer that there is hope for us! We won’t be left alone to wallow in our misery. We lift our bowed heads and see the cross and start to feel the burden of sin fall from our shoulders. However, we can’t stop here.

The third part takes this power of joy and sets it loose, releases the happiness in terms of thanksgiving. It always appears to me as if the second portion of the answer created so much joy, we can’t keep it bottled inside any longer. We burst into anthems of thanksgiving, joy, and praise for our salvation. We have to recognize what we should do as a result of our salvation. Our church attendance, prayers, and all-around Christian lifestyles aren’t in order to gain salvation; they’re the result of intense thankfulness for our salvation.

Now, just because we know the secret to lasting happiness doesn’t mean it’s truly a secret. Going out into the world and telling others about this fountain of joy is part of what we may do to express our gratitude to God. So, this Lord’s Day (and all week) I encourage us all to not go through the motions of church going, Bible reading, praying or anything else, but to do each of these things with a conscious knowledge that we are expressing gratitude to God for an incredible, and awe-inspiring work of salvation in our lives. Then, when this life brings you down this week, and you need to rediscover your happiness, read over this question and answer, and you’ll surely find true joy.

Suzie Kuiper