I was born in a very small town called Nohakal (a Mayan word meaning something like a big natural watering hole or pond) in the state of Campeche in Southeast Mexico. I was born on October 19, 1975, to Juan Bautista Alpuche (not the John the Baptist from the Gospels, though) and Margarita Martinez. By God’s grace I was born and grew up in the Independent Presbyterian Church in Mexico (IPIM). Yes, the Presbyterian-Reformed church has existed in Mexico for more than one hundred years already! I grew up reading the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity. I remember we studied Louis Berkhof’s Manual of Christian Doctrine and John Calvin’s Institutes in Sunday School among other Reformed books. We were very, very poor, but we were very happy knowing that we belonged to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
As I soon as I finished high school I knew I wanted to be a pastor, so I went to Mexico City to study at John Calvin Theological Seminary, the seminary of my home denomination. I married my dear wife Beatriz Alpuche in 2003, and to this day we have four children. Moises (9), Jade (6), Matias (3), and little Grace (1). In 2004 we had the opportunity in God’s providence to come America to continue my theological training at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. The Lord used Dan Woldhuis from Faith United Reformed Church in Beecher, IL, to help me in coming to America. All of our children were born in America.
I graduated from MARS in 2007. Faith URC consistory proposed me and my wife to stay in America to plant a Spanish-speaking reformed congregation. We accepted the proposal, and in January 2008 I was ordained as a pastor in the URCNA. I began to work as a church planter since then in a place called Chicago Heights in the state of Illinois. I worked there since 2008 till 2014. It was a tremendous blessing to work with Rev. Todd Joling, the elders and deacons of Faith URC.
In 2014 we received and accepted a call from Ebenezer RCUS in Shafter, CA, to plant a Spanish-speaking reformed congregation. We came to Shafter in June 2014, and since then I have been working as a church planter as well in Shafter. It is a great blessing to work together with Rev. Paul Henderson, the elders and deacons from Ebenezer RCUS.
We have a radio ministry called Reformando tu Vida (Reforming your Life) on Sunday at 9:00am. You can listen to it here: www.manantialbakersfield.com You can also follow us on facebook as Iglesia Bíblica Reformada Valle de Gracia” which is the name of our mission work. You can also listen to our Bible studies on sermonaudio.
My family has been tremendously blessed in working in the URC and RCUS. We continue to pray that the Lord may use us to plant a Hispanic reformed congregation in Shafter, CA. It is a very special blessing to be surrounded by a Christian community, but especially by a reformed community of like-minded brothers and sisters.
If you happen to need Spanish reformed literature for Hispanic friends, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (661) 910-2898.
Praise the Lord!
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: The resurrection of Christ gives us the victory over death in its three forms: bodily, spiritual and eternal
Editor: This article is from Otto Thelemann’s fine commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, An Aid to the Heidelberg Catechism, 265-270 (orig. published in Detmold, Germany, 1892; available in English and electronically from the Reformed Church in the U.S., 2004).
Otto Thelemann (1828-1898)
Heidelberg Catechism #45 “Q. What benefit do we receive from the “resurrection” of Christ?
First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which He has obtained for us by His death. Second, by His power we are also now raised up to a new life. Third, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.”
The Significance of the Resurrection of Christ
- The resurrection of Christ consists in this, that His soul, glorified by the Father, was united with the body, so that the body was reanimated and also glorified; and thus Christ went forth out of the grave alive and glorious.
- The body, with which Christ arose, was the same that was slain upon the cross and was laid lifeless into the grave, but not without the weakness and mortality of the flesh (John 20:27, Luke 24:39-40, Rev. 1:18, Rom. 6:9).
- The resurrection of Christ was the work of the Triune God. The Father raised Him up (Acts 2:32, Rom. 6:4, Heb. 13:20). Christ arose through the power of His divinity as the Son (John 2:19; 10:18). Through the Holy Spirit the living power of God is ever manifesting itself (John 6:63, Rom. 8:11).
- Christ arose on the third day, not earlier, that His real death might thereby be manifested; not later, because on the third day the decomposition of the body sets in (see John 11:39 (Lazarus)). The body of Jesus was not to be subject to decomposition (Acts 13:35,37; Ps. 16:10). The body of Jesus did not suffer decomposition, but came forth from the grave transformed, i.e., glorified.
- That Christ really and truly arose from the dead, is of greatest importance. For upon it are based all our Christian faith, our salvation and eternal life (1 Cor. 15:17-19).
- The resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested facts. The evidence in its favor is as follows:
- a) It was foretold in the Old Testament, as well as by Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:4, Ps. 16:10, Isa. 53:8).
As types of it under the Old Covenant may be cited: The going forth of Noah out of the ark (Gen. 8:16); the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22:4, 12); Joseph’s deliverance out of prison and his exaltation (Gen. 41:37); Aaron’s rod that budded (Num. 17:1-11; Jonah, Matt. 12:40). Christ Himself had told His disciples on three different occasions that He would rise again on the third day (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19, and in addition, John 2:19).
- b) Testimony to [the fact of Christ’s resurrection] was borne:
- By His enemies. They knew of Christ’s prediction of His resurrection, and they feared it (Matt. 27:63, 64). But in spite of the stone, the seal and the watch, He arose. The Roman soldiers, who watched the grave, published everything that had occurred, but were bribed by the Jews to tell a lie (Matt. 28:11-15).
- By the angels (Matt. 28:6, Luke 24:23).
- By His appearance to His disciples—to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18), to the other women (Matt. 28:9-10), to Peter (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor. 15:5), to the disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), to the disciples on the evening of the day of the resurrection, when Thomas was absent (John 20:19-25), to the disciples eight days later when Thomas was present (John 20:26-29), at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14), upon the mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16), He was seen by above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present—about the year 57 A.D. (1 Cor. 15:6), to James, the Lord’s brother (1 Cor. 15:7), lastly to the eleven upon the Mount of Olives at the time of His ascension (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50, Acts 1:4-9).
The Risen One appeared in a glorified body. He ate and drank, not because He needed nourishment, but to convince His disciples of His bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39-43, Acts 10:41). He suddenly appeared in the midst of them, when they were assembled with closed doors. No material obstruction intercepted His glorified body (John 20:21, 26).
After His ascension, Christ appeared to Stephen (Acts 7:55), to Paul (Acts 9:3-5; 1 Cor. 15:8), to John (Rev. 1:12-18). To these He also appeared in His glorified bodily form.
- By His disciples, who had in part failed to comprehend His words, that He would rise again on the third day, and had in part forgotten them (Luke 18:33-34, 24:21). They were not prepared for the appearances of the Risen One and were terrified by them (Luke 24:37), and to some extent they continued to doubt His actual resurrection (John 20:25, Mark 16:14). When these same disciples, after being fully convinced, and having had the experience of the resurrection of Christ, preached the fact and sealed it by their death, they certainly are unimpeachable witnesses.
- By the saints of the Old Covenant, who after the resurrection of Christ came forth from their graves and appeared to many in the city of Jerusalem (Matt 27:52-53).
- By the exalted Savior’s own words (Rev. 1:18).
- By the spread and perpetuity of His kingdom upon earth, which must have a living, not a dead King (Matt. 28:18, 20).
The Threefold Benefit of the Resurrection of Christ
- The first benefit is our justification.
- Christ by His death paid the penalty of sin, and thereby secured our righteousness. Death had no power over Him to hold Him, because He was without sin (Heb. 7:26-27). If Christ had remained in the grave, His death would have been of no benefit to us (1 Cor. 15:17). By His resurrection He proved Himself the Son of God, who made an atonement, not for Himself, but for our guilt, and, therefore, death had no claim upon Him (Rom. 1:4, 4:25).
- His resurrection was necessary, that He might impart to us His purchased redemption, i.e., the forgiveness of sin, and that it might serve as a divine seal thereof to His people (2 Tim. 1:10; Rev. 3:7).
- [Caspar] Olevianus [one of the two authors of the Heidelberg Catechism-Ed.]:
“The first benefit is, that the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure testimony that God regards us as righteous, as St. Paul teaches: ‘And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.’ (1 Cor. 15:17) From this we conclude that Christ, being risen, [so] believers no more remain in their sins; not that there is no more sin in them, but that these have been pardoned, and are not reckoned against them. For since Christ died, not for His own sins, but for ours, it must follow that not one of all our sins remains which was not fully punished and paid for, since they were all cast upon the body of Christ. Otherwise Christ could not have arisen, for where yet one sin remains the wages of sin abide, viz., death.”
- The second benefit is our resurrection and sanctification.
- The death and resurrection of Christ are not a mere judicial process, upon which we may rest in an outward way: for when Christ imparts to us righteousness, which is the fruit of His death and resurrection, we must experience the power of that righteousness within ourselves, and the same conduces to our spiritual resurrection.
We are now, i.e., here in this life, raised up out of the life of sin into a new life. This takes place in our quickening or regeneration by the Holy Spirit and through our sanctification, not of ourselves, but “by His (Christ’s) power.” As the mortification of the old man (Quest. 43, I., 1) by the power of Christ’s death is the first part of our sanctification, so the quickening of the new man, the new life in us, by the power of His resurrection, constitutes the second part (Rom 6:4, 6; Col. 2:12-13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 3:9-14).
- Olevianus: “The other benefit is the quickening of the new man. Just as Christ by His resurrection from the dead was declared righteous and free from all our sins (1 Tim 3:16), and was at the same time quickened by the power of God; so also whoever is brought by the same power of God to true faith in Christ Jesus (for faith is brought about by the same almighty power of God, by which Jesus was raised from the dead), is declared free from all his sins and righteous in Christ, and together with Him is quickened unto eternal life (Eph. 2:4-10). Further, the resurrection of Christ is a pledge that we shall be able to stand fast and to endure unto the end in the faith, which we have received through His power, and that we shall not fall away from Him. For as Christ dieth no more, but liveth a life which can never cease nor be destroyed (Heb. 10:12); so also those, who are engrafted into Christ by faith, receive from Him a spiritual life, which is wrought in them by the Holy Spirit, who dwelleth in Christ and in them, a life which can never be extinguished, not even when body and soul are separated from each other (1 Peter 1:3,5,9; Gal. 2:20). Since then Christ’s life has been begun in believers, a life of such a kind and character, that it will never come to an end, so they are to feel assured that He will bring it to perfection.”
- The third benefit is our glorification.
- As Christ by His death became our surety and paid the penalty of our guilt, so His resurrection is for us the pledge, i.e., the certain assurance, that our bodies, after being subjected to temporal death, will, by virtue of His resurrection, be restored again from the dust and glorified, even as He arose from the dead with His glorified body (John 11:25-26; 1 Cor. 15:20-21). Christ is called the first-fruits of them that are asleep, which signifies that, as in the Old Covenant all the other fruits of the field were sanctified by the first-fruit of the field, which was offered and devoted to God (Deut. 26), so must also all the members of Christ arise to eternal glory, because their Head, as the first-fruits, arose gloriously.
- There is a twofold resurrection at the end of the world, one to eternal life, which is the blessed resurrection, and another to judgment or eternal death (John 5:29). But of the blessed bodily resurrection only those will have part, who are here spiritually awakened to the new life and walk in it (Rom. 8:11).
- Olevianus: The third benefit is, that “the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge that our bodies shall also arise to eternal life. For since not only our souls, but also our bodies are members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15), it would be detrimental to the body of Christ; to allow His members forever to remain in death. Therefore it follows, that by the same spirit by which the body of Christ was raised from the dead, and which dwells in our body, we shall be raised from the dead (Rom. 6:8, 11), and shall be made like the glorious body of Christ, with complete victory over sin and death, and in perfect righteousness and glory (Phil. 3:21). Therefore the happy and blessed resurrection of our flesh and subsequent immortality is already decreed to us by God, since He raised up our Mediator from the dead (2 Tim. 1:10).”
Peace Through Worship
[Editor: the following was originally published over two weeks as worship notes for the RCUS congregation at Christ Reformed Church in Casper, WY]
Peace Through Worship, Part One
The continuing reality of sin in the believer’s life is a difficult part of our present existence. As believers, we have acknowledged the abhorrence of sin, realized its terrible consequences, and affirmed that it deserves death. All of the comfortable illusions that the unbeliever can enjoy about not being as bad as the other guy have been stripped away; yet our sin remains, and the awareness of it is painful. Some Christians will act as if a certain amount of moral improvement is required of them or else their justification will be revoked. Others have difficulty ever really believing they are truly forgiven. Others will try to make the forgiveness of sins the whole of the gospel and ignore all the Scripture’s calls to repentance and change, which is only a recipe for an even fiercer attack of guilt and despair in the future.
When we come before the Lord in worship, we are immediately reminded, at the very beginning of the worship, of the grace and peace of God. We are greeted by the salutation, “Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are at peace with God because of Christ, and that peace can never be taken away from us. We can forget about it for a time. We can lose the experience of its comfort during periods of our lives. But “He that has begun a good work in you will complete it to the day of salvation.” A Biblical worship service will be filled with reminders of God’s grace to us, His forgiveness of our sins, and His love for His children.
But peace is not found through a mere promise of absolution. Receiving the forgiveness of sins means surrendering to the grace of God and committing ourselves to following Christ. The presence of the Spirit of God working the grace of God within us is what gives us confidence that we really are in Christ, and really are forgiven, and really have a claim to the peace of the gospel. Thus, the claims of the law to our obedience and repentance are indispensable to the peace that the gospel promises. It is grace and peace with which we are greeted in the worship of God. One of the reasons the Heidelberg Catechism tells us to do good works is that we may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof (#86).
So in worship we hear the promise of God for forgiveness of sins and the call of God to walk with Him in faith. We receive instruction in the truth of God, to guide us to understanding what we were created to be, and as we see the fruits of that change in our lives, we are assured that God’s promise to us is actually true.
The rest of the week we will be constantly assaulted with fears that we’re missing out, that we’re not doing good enough, that some imminent disaster will befall us, that we’re not as pretty or as rich or as successful or as important as someone else with better publicists than us, that the key to success is some perfect combination of diet and exercise and self-help techniques. We will be attacked with guilt and despair over our own repeated failures, bitterness and anger over the failures of others, fear and worry over the uncertainty of life.
But it is the awareness of the wrath of God against sin in the background of our consciousness that fuels all of these assaults, and through the gospel we know that the curse of the law is gone, the wrath of God is satisfied, and the love of God is ours. He has called us sweetly to Himself in forgiveness, to learn and to walk in His ways, to fellowship with Him and His people, and we need to be continually reminded and instructed in these precious truths. Gather together in worship, people of God, and receive the peace that only walking with God can give us. Grace to you and peace.
Peace Through Worship, Part 2
Ebola, ISIS, gay marriage, war in the Middle East, War in Eastern Europe, cultural decay, economic troubles and government mismanagement at home. It seems like everything is falling apart.
The headlines can be very scary. In addition to the things we see in the news, we all have our own personal problems- financial problems, conflict in our families, health struggles, career challenges. With all these disturbing and frightening problems being shoved in our face every day, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s promises, to become agitated and anxious in our hearts and minds.
It is very valuable to be reminded each week that God is our refuge and strength. If we’re out in the wilderness, the threat of bandits or wild animals might set our hearts racing, but when we retreat behind the walls of the castle such threats no longer worry us. Worship reminds us that we’re always in the castle! It’s only the lies of the devil that make us feel vulnerable. It’s like having a terrible nightmare of being chased by some unseen horror, only to wake up safe in your own bed. We are always in the will of God; His providence governs everything that happens, and everything that happens is working our blessing and salvation. So we can be confident and safe.
Not that there will never be pains and sorrows in this life, of course. We will at times walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and that suffering is real. But we can be confident of God’s purpose, and confident of the outcome. Thus we can be faithful, and live in terms of the present reality of the kingdom of God. We can love our neighbors, raise our families, work our trades, be honest citizens. We can do all of that and know that God will work His will through us. Our success is guaranteed-not because of our own strength or good character, but because of His providence. We must define success rightly, though. Success is not the achievement of our earthly goals and plans, but the accomplishment of His purposes in our lives and through our lives, of advancing His gospel, of showing forth His glory, of demonstrating His truth to the world, and bringing all His people home to Himself.
In the world, we won’t hear a lot of that. Most of our co-workers probably don’t know or believe those things. Our families may or may not. Politicians will not encourage you to think along those lines, but will fill you with fear that every election is the most important one ever, and the victory of the other side will be the end of the world as we know it, so open your wallets today! Our mass media and culture wants you agitated, riled up, worried, living in fear of all the wrong things, even while they sing you to sleep regarding the One you should actually fear. Our own sins plague and discourage us, and provide opportunities for Satan to further attack and terrify us.
We need reminding. Coming into the presence of the Lord, resting in His promises, receiving His forgiveness, and singing His praises reminds us that He is a rock and a fortress, and in Him we cannot be moved. Feeding at His table reminds us of where our life really comes from. The church has survived every attempt to destroy it, has overcome every plot to corrupt and divide it, has defeated every desperate attempt to deny its advance—for its power and life comes from Christ.
I remember sitting in high school basketball games with our team down by thirty points and minutes left on the clock, and watching the cheerleaders vainly try to boost the crowd’s morale- “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” We all knew better. The powers of the world vainly puff themselves up and ridicule and demean the church of Jesus Christ. “Let us break His bands asunder!” But the gates of hell will not prevail. Every year there are more Christians. Today the gospel has deeply penetrated lands where Christ was utterly unknown a hundred years ago. Every day more of His sheep are brought home to Him where no harm can ever come to them. No weapon formed against Christ will prosper. Come into the presence of the Lord, in the fellowship of His saints, and be reminded that He is the King, and He is a mighty shield against all the terrors of life.
Rev. Matt Powell