Have you reviewed your marriage vows recently? What were all those words I promised “before God and these witnesses”? Did we use the same ones I remember from the last romantic comedy I watched? Perhaps you have heard individuals or couples describe a review or renewal of their marriage vows as “life-changing” or a “much needed wake-up call.”
Remembering what we’ve promised and committed to before God and others can be immensely helpful to our forgetful hearts. Most of us make very few vows before God in our lifetimes and review the few we do make just as rarely. But the Bible says vows before God are as weighty and serious as they are rare (see, for example, Numbers 30:2 or Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).
Take this season in the life of our church – one of self-examination and one of preparation for election of new officers – to review some of your vows. In our church we take baptismal vows, ordination vows, membership vows, and vows to ordained officers. One of the vows you will take in the near future as a member of Southwood will be a vow to men installed as elders on a new Session. There are additional vows that members take to teaching elders when they are installed, but the following is the vow members take to ruling elders and deacons:
“Do you acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield to him all that honor, encouragement and obedience in the Lord to which his office, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him?”
The Bible tells us that those elders we will elect to our new Session will be taking on a noble and weighty task. They will be charged to watch over the souls of this flock as one who will give an account to God for their leadership and care of each sheep (Hebrews 13:17). So, let’s first consider our own hearts and think about the seriousness of the commitments we will make to these men. Are we prepared to honor, encourage, obey, and submit to these men in the Lord as they labor on our behalf?
Secondly, let this vow help us as we think of men we would nominate to be elders in our church. They will be caring for our souls, so nominate men we would want caring for our souls. Nominate men who through deep repentance, godly character, and faithful love have displayed to us the glory of our Savior and His tender care of their own souls. We will never find men we can trust in themselves, but we will vow to trust God’s work among us through the men He calls to be our shepherds as we honor, encourage, and obey them.
Our five membership vows are also printed on this page. They represent not only what we believe about ourselves and about God but also what we have covenanted with each other in this local church. For a better understanding of what we commit to before God when we take these vows, consider looking through the Welcome to Southwood manual online or, better yet, joining in the class that has just started on Sunday mornings (9:45 in Seminar Room E). What a great way to refresh your memory about the heart of Southwood and about your own vows to God and to each other! It is always a blessing and a help to have members join us in this class.
Whatever method is best for you, please do take some time for a “review of your vows.” As one of our vows reminds us, we are dependent upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to keep the vows we have already made, so ask God to give you that grace to fulfill your commitments to Him and to your brothers and sisters.
PCA Membership Vows
1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
2. 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?
3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?
“In Other Words…”
I’m a sinner, saved only by God’s grace to me through his Son, Jesus Christ, whom I now seek to follow in my life. As I seek to follow Him, I know I must continue to rely on his grace, to depend on the strength his Holy Spirit gives me rather than my own. I know that I cannot do this on my own and must commit to grow in my worship and service of God alongside fellow sinners saved by his grace. I know my need for guidance and accountability and therefore gladly put myself under the oversight and authority of the elders of this church and will seek to be a supportive and even peacemaking member of the congregation.