What God Has Done: Birthing A Reformed Church in Ibadan
by: Deji Yesufu
On the 10th of October, 2021, a group of us, who have been meeting monthly on Saturdays, decided to commence a Lord’s Day service in the city of Ibadan. This meeting will be a culmination of an eight year effort to plant a reformed assembly in this city. In 2019, a number of us started to meet every Saturday to study the book of Ephesians. It is this same group that trasnformed to the Sunday morning gathering that we now have. Yesterday was our tenth meeting together and I felt that it was time to talk about what we are doing on my blog.
The Coronavirus pandemic truncated the 2019 meetings, so that throughout 2020 we did not meet at all (on Saturdays) but the group persisted because we understood the pertinent need for a gospel church in a city like this. Rather than continue with where we stopped in our study of Ephesians, I redirected the church to Paul’s missions to the city of Ephesus as they are recorded in Acts 18 to 20. In our study of these texts so far, we have seen the apologetics drive in Paul’s missions (Acts 18); we saw the true place of “speaking in tongues” in a Christian gathering (Acts 19:1-7); We saw how God uses miracles as signs for a community (Acts 19:8-20; 20:1-12) we understood why a church should be confessional (Acts 19:21-41); and we saw three vital items in a Christian gathering: the men in the Church, the methods employed in a Church, and the message of the Church (Acts 20:13-24). When Paul said to the Ephesian elders: “…to testify to the gospel of the grace of God…” (Acts 20:24b), we understood this as the overarching message that a church should believe and proclaim. After the teaching yesterday, I came to the conclusion that every Monday I will publish a blog on the sermon I preached the previous Sunday. I trust God that you will be blessed as you read this.
In Acts 13, we see the commencement of the missionary efforts of Paul the apostle. In the same chapter, Luke (the writer of Acts) records almost verbatim one of the messages that Paul preached. In that message I figured that we would be able to have a glimpse into what Paul meant as “the gospel of the grace of God”. From verse 13 to 39, Paul begins to address the people of Antioch of Pisidia in a Synagogue. In that address, Paul lays certain emphasis and I would simply surmarise them thus:
verse 17: God chose the fathers and made Isreal great.
verse 18: God bore with the sins of Israel.
verse 19: God destroyed seven nations and gave Israel an inheritance.
verse 20 -22: God gave Israel leaders, including David.
verses 23: God gave Israel a Savior.
verse 26: God sent a message of salvation.
verse 30: God raised Christ from the dead.
In the strength of all that God has done above, “therefore”, forgiveness of sin is proclaimed to sinners and justification from all things is given to the believer (verse 38-39). In other words, the gospel of the grace of God is a message of God showing mercy to sinners in the light of what he, the Lord, has done. The Christian overarching message is about God and his works. Humanity is only a beneficiary of these and this is shown by God showing sinners mercy and bringing justification to them.
This message is important in the light of a man-centered Christianity that we find in our world today. Messages in churches center on what man must do to be right with God. We are told how to “give your life to Christ”; we are taught how to live holy; we are given a list of commandments to meet; we are told that morality is all that matters; and in some cases, we are pressed down with the need to make heaven. Fortunately, all of these items were missing in Paul’s proclamation of the gospel of grace. When Paul will bring a people to understand the gospel, he centered his message essentially on what God has done and not what man should do.
It is also interesting to note that the very first point of his message was the doctrine of election. Paul reminded his listeners that when God was to bring redemption to Israel, the first thing he did was that he chose the fathers. The same point is reiterated concerning the Church in Ephesians 1:4, where Paul writes: “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the earth…” Unfortunately when the doctrine of election is taught in churches today, it is disputed and called a doctrine of demons. Others who may agree to it, will say that it is a difficult doctrine and should be left for matured believers. But Paul does not agree; Paul will rather make the doctrine of election the beginning point of his evangelism. It was the starting point of his debate with the Jews. The reason is because there is no other doctrine that tells us of what God has done, with no contribution from any man, than the doctrine of election. Election tells us that God’s dealings with sinners in a redemptive manner is an act of his grace; it is what he has chosen to do and the actions and inactions of men could not in any way influence it. And because reformed theology espouses the doctrine of election, reformed theology joins Paul in proclaiming the gospel of the grace of God. It is called “grace” because it is a gift of God to an underserving humanity who could never work to earn God’s approbation.
So after ten Sundays, we encounter this mighty doctrine of the gospel of the grace of God and we see its application also: the fact that through it God offer forgiveness of sin to a sinful humanity and through it we find justification before God; something we could never earn either by our religious efforts or by keeping all the laws of Moses. Grace is indeed beautiful and this is God’s good news to counter the bad news of sure damnation that our sins bring. For sinners, all you need to do is believe this message; for believers, all you should be doing is worship and celebrating the name of Christ. Amen.
Next Sunday we would continue to observe other themes in Paul’s admonition to the Ephesian elders as it is recorded in Acts 20. Soon we would conclude that chapter and begin to examine Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. This epistle of Paul is regarded as one of the most rounded texts that the apostle wrote and it is a text that is relevant for the church; especially a beginning church like ours.
If you are out there and you are not committed to a Christian assembly in the city of Ibadan, we will like to invite you to be part of our church plant. We are in the process of building a work that will glorify God on earth. We are trusting God to plant a Christian church that makes the Bible central and that is faithful to the historic Christian faith – as had been believed by Christians from the first century. You may reach me on [email protected] for directions to where we meet. May God’s grace, mercy and peace be extended to you and yours as you make the decision to be part of this gathering.
The gospel of the grace of God is the good news of what God has done for undeserving sinners. We are also blessed to have God, through many providential means, birth a reformed gathering of Christians in Ibadan. It is the doing of the Lord and it is marvelous in our sight.