In January of 1992, a group of people began a Bible study using the Heidelberg Catechism. Unknown to them was another group in Rapid City with a zeal for the Reformed faith, which had also been meeting for Bible studies. Rev. Peter Grossmann, being made aware of both groups, was instrumental in bringing them together for Bible study and fellowship in each other’s homes. The first meeting was in the home of Scott and Diane Marble. By May of 1992 this unified group held their first worship service in the home of Roger and Eileen Gallimore. Unbeknownst to him, the Rev. Herman Van Stedum preached via a tape from 1 John, with a message entitled, “How to Worship.”
For over a month they continued to meet in homes for Sunday worship, and they also continued to meet each Wednesday evening for Bible study. In May they met with Rev. Dorman Savage and Rev. Maynard Koerner of the Home Missions Committee. Following this, the group officially decided to affiliate with the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS). The five charter families were the Gallimores, the Kuipers, the Marbles, the McPhersons, and the Starkenburgs.
When it came time to give a name for the church, there was no question. Almost simultaneously we said grace. For each of us recognized that we who were once miserable sinners who hated God in our heart, and demonstrated so in our thoughts, words, and deeds, were transformed by the living Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit into followers of Christ. And this was completely by grace! Praise God from whom all blessings flow. The last Sunday of June 1992, Grace Reformed Church held its first public worship service in the Days Inn of Rapid City, with Rev. Robert Grossmann conducting the service. This continued until January of 1993, when we began meeting at the YMCA. On July 18, 1993, we began meeting at our present building (newly purchased from Calvary Chapel) on N. Haines Ave.
The first sermon in our present building was delivered by our present pastor Rev. David Fagrey, at that time a third year student at Mid-America Reformed Seminary and serving as our summer intern (incidentally, it was during that same summer that Rev. Fagrey proposed to his wife Bonnie while hiking up Spearfish Canyon). On August 8, 1993, Rev. Dorman Savage was installed as our congregation’s first pastor. Rev. Savage faithfully served our congregation until June of 1998, when he took a call to become both the Regional Home Missionary for the Colorado Front Range and the pastor of Blue Cliff RCUS. Rev. Fagrey succeeded Rev. Savage in June of 1998. We give all the praise and all the glory to our Almighty God for His grace, strength, and mercy in building His church.
We believe that one of the most faithful summaries of what the Bible teaches is the Belgic Confession, which arranges the truth systematically according to seven main topics: Scripture, God, Man, Christ, Salvation, the Church, and the End Times.
What follows is a summary of the articles of the Belgic Confession
We confess that the “Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 2:20]; and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed Word to writing;… Therefore, we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures [1 Tim. 3:16]” (Article 3).
We believe without any doubt all things contained in the 66 books of the Bible, “not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God [1 Cor. 2:11-16], and also because they carry the evidence thereof in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled” (Article 5).
The Bible’s doctrine is “most perfect and complete in all respects.” No writings or councils of men have “equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and lighter than vapor [Psalm 62:9]. Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatever does not agree with this infallible rule [Deut. 12:32; Gal. 1:8; 2 John 1:10]” (Articles 7-8).
“We believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good” (Article 1).
In the unity of the one spiritual Being are three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit [Gen. 1:26-27; Matt. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 13:14]. “The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the Word, Wisdom, and Image of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the eternal Power and Might, proceeding from the Father and the Son [John 15:26].” Hence, “the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these Persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit” (Article 8).
“The Father is called our Creator, by His power; the Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by His blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by His dwelling in our hearts…. This doctrine of the Trinity has always been affirmed and maintained by the true Church since the time of the apostles to this very day against the Jews, Mohammedans, and some false Christians… who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. Therefore, in this point, we do willingly receive the three creeds, namely, that of the Apostles, of Nicea, and of Athanasius” (Article 9).
“We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created out of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures,” in six normal days [Gen. 1; Ex. 20:11; John 1:1-3]. “He also still upholds and governs them by His eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God” (Article 12).
“He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment; nevertheless, God is neither the Author of nor can be charged with the sins which are committed. For His power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that He orders and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even when devils and wicked men act unjustly.” Therefore, not even “a sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father (Matt. 10:29-30), in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that He so restrains the devil and all our enemies that without His will and permission they cannot hurt us. And therefore, we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing but leaves all things to chance” (Article 13).
*We also reject all theories of origins or development that involve evolution.
“God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God.” God entered into a covenant with Adam and in him all his posterity, promising life for obedience and death for disobedience (Gen. 2:16-17). But man “willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil.” For he transgressed the covenant; “and by sin separated himself from God, who was his true life; having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death [Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1]” (Article 14).
This means the will of man is no longer free to obey God’s will, but man is now “a slave of sin [Rom. 3:22], and can receive nothing, unless it has been given to him from heaven (John 3:27). For who may presume to boast that he of himself can do any good, since Christ says: No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44)?” (Article 14).
Through “the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind [Psalm 51:5]; which is a corruption of the whole nature and a hereditary disease, wherewith even infants in their mother’s womb are infected, and which produces in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof…. Wherefore we reject the error of the Pelagians, who assert that sin proceeds only from imitation” (Article 15).
“We believe that our most gracious God, in His admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into physical and eternal death and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him, when he trembling fled from His presence, promising him He would give His Son (who would be born of a woman [Gal. 4:4]) to bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) and to make him blessed” (Article 17).
“We confess, therefore, that God has fulfilled the promise which He made to the fathers by the mouth of His holy prophets, when He sent into the world, at the time appointed by him, His own only-begotten and eternal Son,” who took upon Himself the very nature of man, soul and body, with all its weaknesses, except for sin, “being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit without the means of man” (Article 18).
“We believe that by this conception the Person of the Son of God is inseparably united and connected with the human nature; so that there are not two Sons of God, nor two Persons, but two natures united in one single Person.” The divine nature “remained un-created, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth,” and the human nature “remained a creature, having beginning of days, being a finite nature, and retaining all the properties of a real body…. Wherefore we confess that He is very God and very man: very God by His power to conquer death; and very man that He might die for us according to the weakness of His flesh” (Article 19).
“God, who is perfectly merciful and just, sent His Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience was committed, …to bear the punishment of sin by His most bitter passion and death. God therefore manifested His justice against His Son when He laid our iniquities upon Him, and poured forth His mercy and goodness on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation, out of mere and perfect love, giving His Son unto death for us, and raising Him for our justification, that through Him we might obtain immortality and life eternal [Rom. 4:24-25]” (Article 20).
“What more can be required? Since Christ Himself says: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).” And “there is no creature, either in heaven or on earth, who loves us more than Jesus Christ;” indeed, “whom could we find who loved us more than He who laid down His life for us, even while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:8,10)?” (Article 26).
True faith, which “the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts …embraces Jesus Christ…and seeks nothing more besides Him,” since “those who possess Jesus Christ through faith have complete salvation in Him [John 5:24] …. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides Him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow, that Christ was but a half Savior. Therefore, we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith apart from the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28)” (Article 22).
This means we are forgiven all our sins and declared righteous before God “for Jesus Christ’s sake, … as David and Paul teach us, declaring this to be the blessedness of man that God imputes righteousness apart from works (Rom. 4:6; Psalm 32:1).” Christ’s “holy works which He has done for us and in our stead, is our righteousness,” imputed to us, and therefore is “sufficient to cover all our iniquities, and to give us confidence in approaching to God; freeing the conscience of fear, terror and dread [Psalm 143:2]” (Article 23).
“We believe that this true faith, being worked in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit, sanctifies him and makes him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin…. Therefore, it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man;” for such a faith “is called in Scripture a faith working through love (Gal. 5:6), which excites man to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word.” We do these good works, not to merit or earn our salvation, “for it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works.” Plus, “we are indebted to God for the good works we do… since it is He who works in us both to will and do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)” (Article 24).
“We believe and profess one catholic or universal Church, which is a holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This Church has been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is clear from the fact that Christ is an eternal King, which without subjects He cannot be [Matt. 16:16-19].” This “holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world [Eph. 4:4-6]” (Article 27).
This holy congregation of true believers is commanded to unite and to assemble together into organized churches, “maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ [Heb. 13:17]; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them [1 Peter 4:9-10]” (Article 28).
“The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein [Gal. 1:8-9]; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ [1 Cor. 11:17-34]; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin [1 Cor. 5]; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church [Eph. 1:20-23]” (Article 29).
The pure preaching of the Gospel must come first, because “true faith” is “worked in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit” (Article 24).
“We believe that this true Church must be governed by that spiritual polity [government] which our Lord has taught us in His Word; namely, that there must be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and to administer the sacraments; also elders and deacons [Acts 6:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:27; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:17] … that by these means the true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated, likewise transgressors chastened and restrained by spiritual means; also that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities. By these means everything will be carried on in the Church with good order and decency [1 Cor. 14:40], when faithful men are chosen, according to the rule prescribed [in 1 Timothy 3]” (Article 30).
Regarding the Church’s worship, “the whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in the Holy Scriptures” (Article 7), and “therefore we reject all human inventions, and all laws which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore, we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God” (Article 32).
“We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law, has made an end, by the shedding of His blood, of all other sheddings of blood which men could or would make as a propitiation or satisfaction for sin; and that He, having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, has instituted the sacrament of baptism instead thereof; by which we are received into the Church of God, and separated from all other people and strange religions, that we may wholly belong to Him whose mark and ensign we bear; and which serves as a testimony to us that He will forever be our gracious God and Father. Therefore He has commanded all those who are His to be baptized with pure water, into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, thereby signifying to us, that as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from its sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath unto children of God. Not that this is effected by the external water, but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God” (Article 34).
We believe that “the infants of believers…ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. And, indeed, Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of believers than for adult persons; and therefore, they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that which Christ has done for them… Moreover, what circumcision was to the Jews, baptism is to our children. And for this reason, Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ [Col. 2:11-12]” (Ibid.).
“We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ did ordain and institute the sacrament of the holy supper to nourish and support those whom He has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His Church.” Jesus Christ, our heavenly bread, “nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life of believers when they eat Him, that is to say, when they appropriate and receive Him by faith in the spirit. In order that He might represent unto us this spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as a sacrament of His body, and wine as a sacrament of His blood, to testify by them unto us that, as certainly as we receive and hold this sacrament in our hands and eat and drink the same with our mouths, by which our life is afterwards nourished, we also do as certainly receive by faith (which is the hand and mouth of our soul) the true body and blood of Christ our only Savior in our souls, for the support of our spiritual life [John 6:51, 55, 63]” (Article 35).
Thus, “though Christ always sits at the right hand of His Father in the heavens, yet He does not therefore cease to make us partakers of Himself by faith. This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates Himself with all His benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both Himself and the merits of His sufferings and death” (Ibid.).
“Lastly, we receive this holy sacrament in the assembly of the people of God, with humility and reverence, keeping up among us a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, with thanksgiving, making confession of our faith and of the Christian religion. Therefore no one ought to come to this table without having previously rightly examined himself, lest by eating of this bread and drinking of this cup he eat and drink judgment to himself [1 Cor. 11:28-29]” (Ibid.).
The End Times
We believe that “when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come and the number of the elect complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as He ascended [Acts 1:11], with great glory and majesty to declare Himself judge of the living and the dead, burning this old world with fire and flame, to cleanse it [2 Peter 3:10].”
Then all people who have ever lived “will personally appear before this great Judge…For all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies, in which they formerly lived. As for those who shall then be living, they shall not die as the others, but be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and from corruptible, become incorruptible [1 Thess. 4:16-17].” Then everyone shall be judged, “according to what they shall have done in this world, whether good or evil. Nay, all men shall give account of every idle word they have spoken [Matt. 12:36], which the world only counts amusement and jest; and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all.” The wicked “shall become immortal, but only to be tormented in the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels [Matt. 25:41]” (Article 37).
All the wicked “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).