Let us again begin with a prayer:
Lord, our God, we thank you for your Word and Spirit, through which we know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. May those who confessed your name today never cease to wonder at what you have done for them. Help them to continue firmly in the faith, to bear witness to your love, and to let the Holy Spirit shape their lives. Take them, good Shepherd, into your care that they may loyally endure opposition they may face as they serve you. May we, with all your children, live together in the joy and power of your Holy Spirit. We ask this, Lord Jesus, in the hope of your coming. Amen. (Worship Sourcebook)
Happy 10th year church anniversary to all of us here at ZCRC(Imus). It has been another year that we needed to celebrate this milestone while we are still in quarantine. Last year, we are in lockdown and we had to stream live our service and have our members join online. And this year by God’s providence, we are able to meet physical even in a limited sense so we are grateful for it. Lord-willing soon, God will allow his church to physical gather publicly again. So let us continue to pray for God will on the matter and may we are able to receive the blessing of encouragement and comfort from the preaching of his Holy and Divine Word.
Our theme for this year’s anniversary is “Know Nothing Except Christ and Him Crucified.” It is from Paul’s First letter to the Corinthian congregation from chapter 1 and verses 23-24 then chapter 2, verse 2. The apostle Paul here contrasts here worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God and in his defense of the gospel message and ministry, Paul was able to emphasize the importance of God’s Word in conversion and the role of Holy Spirit in regeneration. He also pointed out the choosing and calling of God to those he saves. Paul explains the humble nature of the message of the gospel and the fruit of the ministry God grants to those he charges to preach the gospel.
So our preaching will come into two main points. The first point concludes for the us that Christ is the Wisdom and Power of God. We will learn how God opposes the proud and gives his grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). God demonstrated his wisdom and power by the preaching of the gospel. The second point asserts to us the supremacy of God’s work of redemption in Christ as the only message God’s ministers preach to God’s people. We can take comfort from the fact that God chose us, he call us and converts us, and demonstrated his wisdom by granting salvation to undeserving sinners like us. So again, the sermon points are: 1) Christ is the Wisdom and Power of God; 2) We preach Christ Crucified.
Christ is the Wisdom and Power of God
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (Verses 18-25)
Paul addresses problems creeping in the church of Corinth. So at this point of the letter, he wants to give them wisdom about the matter because as we all know during this period, the church is composed mainly of Greek converts and they are to settling disputed matters through their love of wisdom or Sophia.
The Christians in Corinth need to put off worldly wisdom and put on the wisdom of God who is Christ. Yet the report Chloe (verse 11) gives about the church includes quarrelling among themselves. The kind of wisdom they continue to utilize still comes fleshly desires and worldly motivations.
As a result they grouped themselves into parties. Verse 12 states that each group claims to follow their ring leaders (Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and even ironically Christ). So Paul exhorts them to keep the bonds of unity among themselves and he does so by exhortation and encouragement.
Paul as their apostle centers on their main issue and imparts to them the wisdom that comes from God. He states in verse 18 that this wisdom which God himself for us to embrace is an antithesis to the wisdom that comes from this world. Paul asserts: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Word of the cross simply means the message of Christ contained in the gospel. It is his life, death, and resurrection which Paul gives a full treatment from 1 Corinthians Chapter 15. This message or logos is then proclaimed to all those who believes and through it God power is exerted, and it becomes the instrument that effects their salvation. In theology, it is what we recognize as effectual calling.
And yet not all who hears the message of Christ when preached believes. Some rejects the gospel and Paul identifies them as those who receives the message yet considers it as foolish. It does not fit their worldly expectations of wisdom. To them, the gospel is totally the opposite to what they expect wisdom should be. Rather that give them the power to exert influence, gain acceptance, and praises from this world, instead the message of cross is considered as weak and shameful.
So Paul wants to draw a line distinguishing only two parties regardless of who they claim to follow (verse 12). They are not dependent to the kind of leader they so admire. Instead, the division Paul lay down is between those are perishing, and those who are being saved; those who rejects the gospel and those who receives it; those who follow after worldly wisdom and those who follows godly wisdom. The middle is excluded. Regardless of who you follow, your party really dependents on your reception of the gospel, and not on the persons or leaders in the church.
In verses 19-25, Paul defends his position from stated in verse 18. He wants the church in Corinth to understand that the wisdom they receive from the gospel comes from God’s word and not from the wisdom of their sages and philosophers. Godly wisdom in contrast to worldly wisdom comes from God’s Word revealed in Scripture specifically in redemptive history. And Paul wants his hears to discern well on this matter.
Verse 19 Paul points out in the history of Israel the saving action promised from God in the midst of their siege. God promises to deliver them from their soon to be exile this will come to them not by the wisdom of this age. Isaiah recorded God’s speech saying: “…therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
God will save them and no man will ever discern how this can be. And soon enough after hundreds of year, the Logos incarnated and gave his life as ransom for many. No one in this world knew in coming. In fact, he was rejected both by the Jews and Greeks and yet it was the God-appointed means upon which salvation comes.
Verse 20 explains how the wisdom of God, or divine wisdom who is Christ himself while rejected as foolishness and shameful by this world is the God appointed way to eternal life. Paul further emphasizes, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,”
This message of Christ as the incarnated Logos who is the Son of God coming to this world and dying for our sins it offensive to the Jews because is a shameful and blasphemous thought. For them God serving and dying is inglorious. It is a sign of weakness and not power. At the same time, the Greeks consider a god dying death as a criminal is foolish, not worthy of leadership and recognition.
And yet Paul centers to the message we will all preach since then and until now. We preach Christ crucified, and our message comes in weakness and humility. It is a message that exposes our own frailty and pride. This what Paul continues to explain in the succeeding verses.
We preach Christ Crucified
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (verses 1-5)
Worldly power and wisdom do not distinguish who are being saved. Believers were not chosen primarily because they were powerful and wise (verse 26). We have to thank God for mercy and grace on this matter because despite of our poor and lowly condition, God chose us and calls us. Our election was unconditional and by the preaching of the gospel, the Holy Spirit regenerates the hearts of those who are being saved and converts them to faith and repentance.
God chooses the foolish and weak of this world in order to demonstrate the regenerating power of God by indwelling work of the Spirit. It emphasizes the sovereign work of God in saving his people. All comes from God. Paul wrote: ” And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Christ and his benefits: regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification, comes to us by effectually calling God gives his people by applying his Spirit to us.
This leaves no glory to man. Instead all these demonstrates the glory of God alone! Which is why there is no room for boasting. We worship and praise God in response to his grace to us for we do not deserve his saving work yet in his wisdom and power God gave us everything we need for eternal life. Undeserving sinners saved by the grace of God glorifies God in gratitude and thanksgiving.
I would like to take this opportunity to read a brief history of our church to encourage us of God’s work in our church:
Our church was formed by believers who were concerned that most evangelical churches have departed from scriptural teachings to accommodate modern social trends. We are united in our belief in the Bible, the creeds of the church, and the teachings of the 16th century Protestant Reformation.
In early 2011, Pastor Nollie Malabuyo met Mr. Elmer Sarmiento, an accountant who lives in Imus and worked in Makati, via Facebook. He mentioned that he was interested in starting a Bible study group in his home because he and his wife were very dissatisfied with the lack of Biblical preaching and teaching in their church. On June 18, Elmer and Cynthia Esguerra Sarmiento, Olive Esguerra Acasio and her two young sons, and Sarah Esguerra met in the Acasios’ home in Imus, Cavite for our first Bible study.
On August 6, we moved the Bible study to a rented room on the 4th floor of a building close to the house of Gani and Leah Ong in nearby in Bacoor. We were joined by their two young sons and Gani’s parents, Rolando and Rosario Ong. These two families were also disgruntled with the prosperity gospel in their church.
On September 11, this small group was joined by several other visitors in our first Lord’s Day worship service. Many of these 20 worshippers were completely new to Reformed worship, and several became regular attendees. In March 2012, Pastor Jayson Santiago, who came from a Pentecostal-leaning denomination, started his ministry here.
On September 23, 2012, we celebrated our first anniversary in the 2nd-floor location in the same building. Though our first year was not lacking in financial and attendance struggles, we gave praise and thanksgiving to God who was faithful in upholding our new church. We have had many visitors, and a few stay. The enticing and glamorous entertainment of big megachurches around us is much more attractive to them. The popularity of the prosperity gospel and moralistic, therapeutic sermons are more “relevant” and “authentic” to them than the true gospel of Christ.
On May 5, 2013, the church celebrated its organization (particularization) with the installation of two elders, Ronald Fernando and Isagani Ong, and two deacons, Elmer Sarmiento and Orlando Libres. On September 8, 2013, we had our Second Anniversary Worship and Celebration with Rev. Lance Filio as our guest preacher. On September 14, 2014, we celebrated our Third Anniversary, again inviting Rev. Filio as guest preacher.
On May 19, 2013, we held our first worship service at our present location at Care Fitness Gym. We rejoice that this meeting place is more spacious, quiet, surrounded by greenery, close to the city’s marketplace, and much cheaper. In September 2014, the Consistory was pleased to call Rev. Lance Filio, former Associate Pastor of Baclaran Unida Evangelical Church, to be its Interim Pastor (part-time). And by the end of the year, December 2014, we organized our first joint Christmas service and dinner fellowship with our founding church in Pasig, Cainta.
Beginning of the year 2015, we again held another joint worship and camping at Nature Discovery Camp, Tagaytay. This strengthened the bond of fellowship between the two churches. And by February 1, 2015, we set another milestone when moved our worship area to the 2nd-floor building where until now we are holding our services. Our guest preacher then was Rev. Richard Bout. He preached about the important task and authority of the church of Jesus Christ. It has greatly encouraged the office-bearers of the church to continue with their task of being under-shepherds of Christ for this congregation.
With the pure preaching of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacrament and the practice of church discipline, the Lord has added to our numbers believers who were seeking to worship God as revealed in his Word. Inquirers of the reformed faith have professed their adherence to the creeds and confessions of the church and have become full-fledged members of the church. Families, as led by the godly headship of their fathers, have transferred their membership, including their children, to our churches as well. And at the anniversary service, October 2015, the office-bearers of the consistory, together with Rev. Napoleon Narag, our guest preacher from Pearl of the Orient Reformed Church in San Pablo, installed Rev. Lance Filio as a full-fledged minister of the Word and Sacrament.
By the end of the year, November 2015, Rev. Allen Vander Pol conducted a seminar for the church on the importance and practice of Biblical Worship. This again encouraged the whole congregation to answer the challenge of contemporary worship of the modern churches of our day and reminded that the worship of God should be regulated only by God’s Word in Scripture. The year ended, December 2015, with another joint Christmas service and dinner fellowship where our guest preacher was Rev. Paulo Vasquez of Unida Church, who later become the minister of the Pasig congregation. During this same event, Clark Añora was installed as deacon of the church.
In February 2016, Rev. John Bouwers from URC in Jordan, Canada, organized by our brothers in CanRC, conducted a whole day seminar about “The Golden Chain of our Salvation”. He explained in this event the great doctrine of grace as found in one of the great confessions, the Canons of Dort. The event was attended by mostly young Christian students who were eager to hear the message of the gospel of grace. In March 2016, prayer meeting every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month was organized and until now continually bring spiritual encouragement and guidance to the church.
At that same month, God answered our prayer when we finally had our SEC registration approved. Imus and Pasig congregation were finally organized as two separate consistories and formed one classis under the new name, Zion Cornerstone Reformed Churches. And by the summer of that same year, May 2016, the classis organized a joint retreat held at Rizal Re-creation Center, Laguna. The theme of the retreat was about the importance of being a confession church as our reformed witness to the world. And by the end of that year, December 2016, we held another joint Christmas service and dinner fellowship. We had our special guest preacher, our founding pastor, Rev. Nollie Malabuyo. He also led the installation of our new deacon, Jeremiah Paul Manuel.
The year 2017 began with the installation of new elder, Andy Domodon. It was indeed a blessing for the church to have men who are answering the call for ministry for his church. And during the summer of this year, April 2017, we organized an outdoor Tenebrae Good Friday service at the residence of Hans and Rosie Tolsma up North of Manila, Ilocos Norte. The fellowship of the whole church with the family great encouraged everyone in the reformed faith.
Today, we average between 45-60 souls every Lord’s Day. The Lord has added to our number believers who come from as far away as Trece Martires, Dasmarinas, and Las Pinas.
As we look forward to the future, we praise God for his faithfulness in building up the church through “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.” If the Lord wills, we plan to move to a more affordable place, have morning and evening services with catechism classes and fellowship in between, and invite the surrounding community to a new midweek Bible study. Our desire is to disciple the members of ZCRC (Imus) into mature Christians and proclaim the true gospel to “inquirers” who visit us.
ZCRC(Imus), we have much to celebrate for the demonstration of God’s grace in the life our church. Ten years had passed and yet we know none of expects how God will sustain his work in our church. Despite of the challenges establishing bible study group willing to hear about the sovereign grace of God, looking for places to rent to accommodate our growing space needs, and even now navigating the government restrictions and quarantine protocols, God continues to call his people to faith. And as what Paul explains to the Corinthian church, our message remains the same, our message is distinctively and purposely the same message we will preach regardless of the ups and downs of the church, our message remains to be the word of the cross, the gospel about “…Jesus Christ and him crucified”.
ZCRC(Imus), may the Lord continue to bless us with the saving message of God’s grace proclaim in the gospel of Christ. May God continue to call his people through preaching of the cross and by the indwelling work of the Spirit, may He regenerate their hearts and renew their minds. Let us thank God for saving work in our church for the last ten years and let us continue pray for his work in us in the years to come. Amen.