In my previous post, I discussed the foundation of Reformed and Presbyterian unity, the “Six Forms”. But it’s important to avoid potential misunderstanding. The unity that these churches established with one another was surely a commitment to a set of doctrines, but that doesn’t mean unity was relegated to the realm of abstract ideas.
When the Westminster Standards and Three Forms of Unity set out a summary of Christian doctrine, they also speak to the great callings of the Church, worship and the Christian life. In [corporate, i.e., “the Body”] worship, we are addressed by the Triune God, who renews His covenant of grace with us in Word and Sacrament, and we respond to Him with thanks and praise. The Christian life is also characterized by seeking to obey God’s Ten Commandments in our daily lives and liberty from man-made rules and regulations.
The unity that NAPARC Churches have with one another consists in both head and heart. It is a composed “of churches of like faith and practice [NAPARC Constitution, Art. 2].”
It is common in our day to associate the Great Commission solely with the witness of the individual Christian. The reasoning goes something like this: “Instruction occurs during worship services, and evangelism takes place elsewhere.” While the personal witness of the Christian is undoubtedly important, it’s a mistake to conclude that the worship of the local church is distinct from the Great Commission.
Consider that it was the Twelve Apostles that Jesus commissioned (Matt.
28:18-20). It is clear that being an Apostle meant that they held a ministerial
office in Christ’s Church.
Furthermore, they were given an ‘official’ method of making disciples, i.e., teaching and baptizing. In other words, these officers were called to make disciples of Christ through Word and Sacrament ministry, the performance of which is not the calling of every single Christian.
Though the apostolic office ended with Paul (1 Cor. 15:7-9), the Commission to make disciples continues with Christ’s Church. It is accomplished in an official capacity through the Word and Sacraments. The witness of the believer is immensely important yet subservient to the official work. Given that churches are formed and gathered around the Word and Sacraments, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without planting and growing local churches.
Photo credit to freefotouk