PCA Membership Vows, Part 3
The first vow leaves us in a state of extreme vulnerability as sinners who justly deserve God’s wrath and who are without hope save in his sovereign mercy. Jonathan Edwards knew this perilous position of sinners when he penned these words in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment, out of Hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” It is out of his mere pleasure that God extends sovereign mercy to condemned sinners. And this sense of mercy is captured completely and solely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the core and crux of the Gospel and the very cornerstone on which the Church is built. The moment the Church loses the emphasis of the second membership vow is the moment we cease to be the Church. The second vow is, “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?” How do we unpack the wealth of this second vow in a few paragraphs? It would take ages to ponder the person and work of Christ, but since we will consider only a few things here today, I encourage you meditate at length on the richness of Christ!
Jesus is the very Son of God and the Savior of sinners. Colossians 1:19–20 says, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Where vow one offered no peace, we are brought quickly in the second vow to the very threshold of everlasting peace. By design, from before the foundations of the world, Christ would be the source of salvation and peace. He is the Prince of Peace. But this peace comes at the cost of the Son of God who came to suffer and die in the place of sinners. We affirm both his person and his work in the second vow. We affirm who he is and why he came. He is God’s Son of whom the prophets spoke—he is Immanuel, God with us. At the same time, he is the Lamb slain upon the cross for the forgiveness of sins. When Jesus put the question to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?,” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 3:15–16) It was upon that answer that Jesus told Peter he would build his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. The divine nature of Christ and his work as the Messiah are foundational for the Church.
He saves sinners. He saves those who know they cannot save themselves. In order to be a part of the true Church, we must receive this truth, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) But we must do more than just receive this truth—we must rest in it. All striving to save ourselves must cease and our faith must be placed in our Savior, Jesus Christ. The world outright rejects the exclusivity of the gospel. Can you hear the world mocking, “How arrogant do you have to be to say there is only one way to God? Just because it is right for you doesn’t mean it is right for all people. How dare you say that you are the only possessors of truth?” But Jesus gives us the exclusive Gospel for our peace, for our very life. He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus takes away all the questions and doubts a wandering heart might have. Are we good enough? No! We covered that in the first vow. How, then, can we be saved? Jesus speaks with the utmost clarity for this most pressing question of the desperate sinner. Look no further, seek no other, strive for no other way to salvation but Jesus Christ alone. How simple can it get? Yet this is not the message the world loves. Since the lie of Satan in the garden—did God really say…?—men and women have tried to find rest and salvation in every other thing but the very source of life.
Do you want to live? Our second vow encourages us look to Christ alone as he is offered in the Gospel. According to Romans 10, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There is no way around it. Church membership is not entering into an exclusive club, nor is it a secret handshake or solemn vows repeated without faith. We are exclusive in one thing alone: Christ is the only hope for sinners. We are all sinners—all desperate for a means of salvation—and our only hope is in this sovereign mercy: God by his mere pleasure has given us his Son so that we may be saved!