Thursday, 24 December 2015

BBC Gaelic Christmas Service

BBC Gaelic Christmas Service

BBC TV Alba’s Gaelic Carol service with a difference: American Gospel and traditional carols with Gaelic voices and a little documentary thrown in about the Gaelic Gospel Choir.  (Who would have thought salsa, the dance not the condiment, would be a useful training tool for choirs – watch the programme and you will understand.)

For those like myself not blessed with Gaelic there are on-screen English subtitles for the dialogue and preaching.  The preacher is Rev Chris MacRae of Kilmallie Free Church of Scotland, the evangelical and orthodox Presbyterian denomination to which I also belong. He preached a short, simple cross centred gospel message on how God brings peace through Christ crucified.  (The BBC producer would have set the time limit.)

The program airs twice: Christmas Eve at 11:00 p.m. and Christmas Day at 4:55 p.m. and is available to play on demand on the BBC Alba website:

It is encouraging and deeply appreciated that at least one section of the BBC still gives authentic evangelical Christianity a voice – even if it is a Gaelic only voice. Enjoyable and edifying watching.

Oh the Irony

Oh the Irony

BBC Scotland does a report on the recent Church of Scotland / Church of England discussions.  It uses stock footage of the Tron Church in Glasgow.  Yes, at the time of filming it was a Church of Scotland congregation, but it left over the doctrinal and ethical apostasy of the denomination.  (I think around 3 members stayed with the denomination.)

It rubs in the fact that the largest multi-generational, multi-ethnic worshiping congregation in Glasgow, indeed in Scotland, is no longer part of the denomination. I am sure the press office of the Church of Scotland must be in despair.  The footage rubs salt into the wound – the congregation were dispossessed of their excellent facilities and stripped of their assets, but they continue to grow and flourish as they proclaim the Gospel without dilution or compromise.

Of course, if they are looking for new stock footage of a vibrant congregation the BBC might consider moving away from the central belt and the established church and feature the Free Church in Dundee or Culloden. I am sure the Baptists and Independents might also have their suggestions.

Dinna Leave them wi a Sair Hert

Dinna Leave them wi a Sair Hert

We were discussing various preachers and preaching styles, and the point was made that some preachers hammer their hearers, leaving them weak and reeling at the end of the message.  There are of course other preachers who are all milksop, who never challenge or confront.

But Scripture both challenges and encourages, and even when confronting the most heinous of sins in believers there is always the need to emphasise the grace of God and his mercy in Christ Jesus. 

We have to avoid the dangers of both antinomianism and legalism, of neither pressing the demands of God’s law nor mentioning the provisions of cleansing grace.  Some preachers are top-heavy on Christian duty and the demands of holiness, but leave the people of God discouraged, for we recognise that we can never truly and fully meet these standards.  Others are so strong on grace that they slip into an antinomian-light mode, where, while not actually denigrating the Law in theory, they never apply it in practice.

In was into this discussion that my wife told of the advice of a senior teacher to a younger teacher facing his first Parents’ Night: “Dinna leave them wi a sair hert.*” 

Parents know their children, and it is so discouraging only to be told of your child’s faults and failings.  They need a little encouragement, some bright hope regarding at least some aspect of their child’s character, behaviour or academic prowess. A teacher should be aware of that and not let parents leave totally disheartened.

If that is good advice for teachers, it is equally good advice for preachers: “Dinna leave them wi a sair hert.” If you have thundered the law, soothe with the Gospel. If you have emphasised duty and responsibility, end with the glorious truth of imputed righteousness and free forgiveness.  Always end with Christ.

Hark, the glad sound! the Saviour comes!
The Saviour promised long!
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.

He comes the prisoners to release,
In Satan's bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.

He comes to soothe the broken heart,
To calm the struggling mind,
To shed upon the mourner joy,
And light upon the blind.

The sinners thou didst die to save,
We worship Thee, O Lord!
In all our hearts be Thou enthroned,
By all our tongues adored!  (Doddridge)

* “Sair” Causing mental distress or grief. (Scottish National Dictionary)  Hence, “Don’t leave them with a sore heart.”

Monday, 21 December 2015

Muslims and Kirk Ministers

Muslims and Kirk Ministers

I heard a joke recently: “What is the difference between a Muslim and a Church of Scotland minister?”  Answer: “Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth.”

Not strictly accurate, but it has a way of focussing our minds.

Not all Muslims necessarily believe in the Virgin Birth, despite it being clearly taught in the Qur’an (Sura 19:19,20).

 Not all Kirk ministers reject the Virgin Birth.  It is difficult to find recent statistical evidence, but an older survey (The Sunday Times, 2004) showed that 37% of their sample of Church of Scotland ministers rejected the virgin birth. There was a distinct geographical divide, “with most ministers in the Highlands and islands favouring a literal interpretation while those in the central belt were more sceptical." That same split on doctrinal matters is also currently reflected in ethical matters, e.g. same sex partnerships/marriage.

It may be that since 2004 there has been a resurgence of orthodoxy and the percentage of non-believing ministers has dropped dramatically.  But if we extrapolate on the 2004 percentage there would be around 320 of the current ministers rejecting the virgin birth.  

Why then the evangelical surprise that Rev Andrew Frater has gone public with his dismissal of the virgin birth.  Perhaps he is just more open and honest than the other estimated 319 ministers who reject the virgin birth.

However, evangelical outrage is easily expressed in the comfort of their own congregations.  The reality is that Mr Frater is totally protected from doctrinal discipline.  It is unlikely that there will be any attempt in the Presbytery of Dumbarton to discipline Mr Frater, and if there was, that it would succeed. This is where the national church needs to be challenged: you have no discipline, you have a fellowship that embraces heretics and the sexually immoral in membership and office, you will not be obedient to the clear NT teaching on dealing with false teachers.  

Of course, their response is that we are being unkind and uncaring bringing these matters up; why can’t we just let these matters lie and not be a thorn in their side. “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude.” (Adrian Rogers)

Meanwhile, for those who wish to consider the issue further, here from the pen of Albert Mohler:

Saturday, 19 December 2015

It’s That Season Again

It’s That Season Again
You know it is approaching Christmas when you see Christmas trees, festive lighting in city centres, people wearing Santa hats, and – yes, as usual, articles by Church of Scotland ministers denying the virgin birth, the true incarnation, and by implication, the deity of Christ and therefore the fundamental truth of the Trinity.

This year’s offerings, from one of the usual suspects, is found in today’s Herald:

There is nothing new here; same heresies boldly repeated knowing that such denials are protected by the usual “liberty of opinion on such matters not entering into the substance of the faith” get out clause.

Thankfully, there is an antidote.  For a biblical Scottish Presbyterian restatement of the truth of Christmas try

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Juggernaut Moves


The Juggernaut Moves

No sooner are the Church of Scotland presbytery results announced supporting members and office-bearers in same sex marriage than the denominational juggernaut trundles into action.

Firstly, Covenant Fellowship Scotland are told that they must remove the denominational logo from their website.  They may wish to speak to the denomination, but they cannot be seen as speaking for the denomination.  They comply, and replace the official logo with an older Irish burning bush.

Secondly, Inverness Presbytery had already been told that they cannot dissent from the same sex partnership/marriage legislation. A court of the church cannot dissociate itself from the decision of a higher court it seems.  They comply, and reverse their dissociation, (at least at a presbytery level.)

This would also apply to Kirk Sessions.  Any Kirk Sessions who have informed their congregation of their rejection of the Assembly legislation will presumably have to re-inform them that they cannot, as a Kirk Session, do so.  Will we see liberal presbyteries scour the minutes of evangelical churches to make sure there is compliance?

We already know that the denomination have declared that no congregation can leave the Church of Scotland.  They may do so as an aggregate of individuals, but officially they cannot do so as a congregation.  Their property and money, of course, cannot go with them.

Do not expect an even-handed, gracious response from the denomination.  The liberal progressives have won; there will be no policy of amicable dismissal of congregations, there will be no presbytery no-go areas, there will be no reversal of the anti-biblical moral and doctrinal apostasy.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Breaking News - Church of Scotland

Breaking News:

Majority of Presbyteries Support Office-Bearers in Gay Marriage.

The press, not the church, has just published the news that the presbyteries of the Church of Scotland have reached a majority in approving draft legislation that supports office-bearers in gay marriages.  A few presbyteries have yet to report, but the current figure is that 55% of presbyteries support the legislation.  That figure may increase slightly with later returns.

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (6)

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (6)

In 1995 I produced a small booklet on biblical separation. This is the sixth extract from that booklet:

1 Corinthians 5:1,2,4,5
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Here is a clear case of corrective discipline exercised against someone engaged in an immoral sexual practice, in the hope that they might repent. If, as some argue, “tares” are never to be removed from the church, then why did Paul call for this man to be put out of the fellowship?  If what happens in another congregation is none of our business, why is Paul intervening in the internal affairs of the congregation in Corinth? If the local church had decided that this sexual morality was acceptable in their fellowship, why did Paul not accept this diversity of practice, “allowing limited departure from the practice of the Church when a Kirk Session decides to depart in order to permit the membership of an individual in a civil partnership” with his father’s ex-wife? No, Paul not only asks the church to remove this individual from membership, but to deliver him to Satan in the hope of repentance leading to restoration.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Rather than advising the church to welcome into membership or office those who are sexually immoral, Paul instructs it not to associate with them in church fellowship.  These men may claim to be “brothers”, but if their conduct is contrary to biblical morality they are not to be accepted in fellowship, but expelled from the church until they repent. Would Paul not also have applied these strong words to those who condoned sexual immorality and justified unnatural practices? Is it not equally true that if they persisted in defending these practices they too were to be expelled and disfellowshipped. [Note – when first written in 1995 there were none openly and publicly engaged in homosexual practices, although I believe they were there but not “out”, keeping their conduct secret. In 1995 the principal public problem was that there were those who were promoting, defending and encouraging homosexual practices.  By failing to deal with the promotion of homosexuality the Church of Scotland ended up defending the practice of homosexuality.]

1 Corinthians 15:33, 34
33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

The “bad company” to which Paul refers is the company of those who denied apostolic teaching and gospel truths, in this particular case the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  By associating with such teachers the church had lost it senses, it needed to “sober up” and recognise the harm to which such associations led. Such an association was sinful, (“stop sinning”), hence Paul’s command to stop doing what was wrong. The church should have been filled with shame at keeping such company.

Does not denominational fellowship with those who reject apostolic teaching and ethics amount to keeping “bad company”? If so, it is sinning! It is not  a mere compromise, or an acceptable flexible practice – IT IS SIN. It is not a legitimate option, if we are biblical Christians, to keep on sinning and we cannot justify such conduct on the grounds that there may, perhaps, be some future benefit from this temporary sinful conduct.
(To be continued.)

Friday, 11 December 2015

For a Continuing Church

“For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America”

 Sean Michael Lucas, P & R Publishing (December 11, 2015)

It is now over 40 years since the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America.  It is the largest biblically orthodox and Reformed church in the USA, with a self-proclaimed commitment to be “faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.” Since its formation in 1973 it has grown to number over 1500 congregations throughout the USA and even in Canada. 

Initially it grew out of secession from the liberal PCUSA, as conservative congregations came together to maintain a biblical witness in the new denomination.  Lucas tells the story of the birth and growth of the PCA and of its theological and social development.

It is interesting to reflect on the fact that some leading PCUSA evangelicals were antagonistic to forming a new denomination.  Indeed in 1972 the PCUSA choose a professed evangelical as Moderator in an attempt to prevent the impending disruption.  He immediately repudiated his former associates and with others tried to persuade them to remain within the liberal PCUSA.  The remain-within evangelicals formed a Covenant Fellowship committed to remaining within the PCUSA and reforming the liberal denomination. (They failed utterly; most of them left the PCUSA 9 years later and joined the EPC) The PCUSA continued in its increasingly progressive liberal direction, haemorrhaging members and congregations, and stands today as the ultimate example of Presbyterian apostasy embracing doctrinal and moral heresy. In contrast, the PCA has grown and flourished showing that a conservative, evangelical, Reformed denomination can succeed; separation from error proved the catalyst for growth.

As Kevin DeYoung says in his commendation:

"This is about far more than the PCA. This book is nothing less than a history of Presbyterianism in the twentieth century—with all its theological wrangling, all its political manoeuvring, all its failings, and all its faithfulness. This is certainly a story worth telling, and Sean tells it very well."

There are of course no parallels with the situation in Scotland, or are there?

I look forward to reading in full Lucas’ excellent study.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

An Outstanding Address

An Outstanding Address

I know I have already drawn attention to the 9Marks Conference on Church Discipline.  I have been challenged listening to the addresses, but yesterday I managed to listen to our own Mez McConnel’s contribution.  It blew me out of the water – biblical, practical and forceful. I only wish our friends at the Covenant Fellowship, especially new ministerial candidates, would listen to all these addresses and this one in particular. 

There is nowhere left to hide.  I loved his comments on snuggling up to wolves, as if they are cuddly pets – accommodation with wolves is a dangerous pastime! Yesterday was a sort of super-Tuesday, with the majority of the remaining Church of Scotland presbyteries deciding on support or otherwise of gay marriage in office-bearers and members. The final figures are not out, but all bets are off. The liberal progressive majority will triumph, if current returns are any indication. Too many evangelicals are keeping company with wolves.

But there was another aspect of what Mez said that really caught my attention.  It was the error that “poor” congregations, those in socio-economically deprived areas where perhaps the general educational standards are lower, do not need and cannot cope with doctrine. Mez blasts the unbiblical bias in this, and the error of giving the “poor” only milk and not the meat of the word. The “poor” need doctrine, the "poor" can cope with doctrine, and the “poor” relish good biblical doctrine.  It is a sure defence against false teaching and false teachers!

One facet of this is the need to supplement expository preaching with doctrinal and topical teaching.  A diet of only biblical exposition without the synthesis of that teaching into doctrinal and ethical teaching is in its own way imbalanced.  If we want our people to know of the Trinity, we need occasionally to preach on that theme, (Trinity Sunday?). If we want them to have a clear grasp on justification we need to complement Galatians and Romans with direct teaching on the topic, and also direct refutation of errors.

In the Scottish tradition we have the Shorter and Larger Catechism – at one time, as in the Dutch churches, catechetical teaching was part of our regular spiritual diet.  The catechisms are not just for children.  I have taught through the catechism in a midweek study and am currently preaching through it when I preach in my own local congregation’s morning service.

But we could also use the creeds, some of the modern evangelical statements of belief or some of the subject specific statements such as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, or the Danvers Statement on gender.  I have also used the OPC’s Directory for the Public Worship of God, an excellent teaching tool.

Don’t let the elites claim that ordinary people can’t cope with doctrine.  The New Testament epistles were written to ordinary people, some of whom were illiterate slaves.  It strikes me today that some of the more doctrinally sound and biblically informed congregations are in the less middle class areas. They, perhaps, will be the future bastions against doctrinal and moral heresy.

Listen to Mez, and see if he has not made a sound, biblical, practical, and frankly unanswerable case for doctrinal discipline and doctrinal instruction:


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Church Discipline a Means of Grace

Church Discipline a Means of Grace in Scottish Reformed Theology

The Sum of Saving Knowledge is a sadly neglected work by David Dickson, the Scottish  theologian and professor of divinity at both Glasgow and, later,  Edinburgh. To give its full title:
The Sum of Saving Knowledge: or, A Brief Sum of Christian Doctrine, Contained in the Holy Scriptures, and Holden Forth in the Foresaid Confession of Faith and Catechisms; Together with the Practical Use Thereof.

In one section, Head 3, Dickson discusses the means of grace.  This is what he writes:

HEAD III. The Outward Means Appointed to Make the Elect Partakers of This Covenant

THE outward means and ordinances, for making men partakers of the covenant of grace, are so wisely dispensed, as that the elect shall be infallibly converted and saved by them; and the reprobate, among whom they are, not to be justly stumbled: The means are especially these four. 1. The word of God. 2. The sacraments. 3. Kirk-government. 4. Prayer. In the word of God preached by sent messengers, the Lord makes offer of grace to all sinners, upon condition of faith in Jesus Christ; and whosoever do confess their sin, accept of Christ offered, and submit themselves to his ordinances, he will have both them and their children received into the honour and privileges of the covenant of grace. By the sacraments, God will have the covenant sealed for confirming the bargain on the foresaid condition. By kirk-government, he will have them hedged in, and helped forward unto the keeping of the covenant. And by prayer, he will have his own glorious grace, promised in the covenant, to be daily drawn forth, acknowledged, and employed. All which means are followed either really, or in profession only, according to the quality of the covenanters, as they are true or counterfeit believers.

Dickson clearly identifies what he calls “kirk-government” as a means of grace; by kirk-government he means the regular discipline of the church.  We are used to seeing church discipline listed among the marks of the church, but Dickson goes beyond that to assert that it is a positive means of grace, especially for a true believer who may fall into sin.

John MacPherson, whose fine commentary on the Sum of Saving Knowledge is invaluable, takes up this theme of discipline as a means of grace in his own Church Dogmatics (1898):

“The exercise of discipline in the widest sense of the term is the special function for the discharge of which the Christian Church exists. The preaching of the word and the dispensation of ordinances in the communion of saints have in view the spiritual culture of the individuals composing that communion, and the discipline of their lives in self-denial and the love of God. Hence it was from the very first recognised as the duty of the Church as an organisation to exercise discipline over its members in order that this spiritual culture might be secured. The potestas ecclesiastica is really the power belonging to Christ, but conferred by Him upon His Church. From Christ also is the appointment of Church officers, who, under Christ's commission, represent the Church, and in the name of Christ exercise the functions, the discharge of which Christ has committed to it. Hence the power of the keys belongs to the office-bearers of the Church, not as a sacerdotium coming in as a mediating order between Christ and believers, but as a ministerium serving under Christ and representing Him in His service...

The disciplina ecclesiastica is, according to the Reformed doctrine, one of the notes of the Church, by means of which, in conjunction with the preaching of the word and the dispensation of the sacraments, the spiritual health and well-being of the community is secured and maintained. For this purpose, in the Reformed order of Church government, there are elders or presbyters, as well as pastors and preachers, on whom the duty of carrying out this discipline is specially laid.

The purpose of Church discipline is twofold: the immediate spiritual good of the individual member dealt with, and the general spiritual culture of the community. 

The judgement passed on the individual had in view the saving of that individual from condemnation in the final judgement (1 Cor. V. 5). That this is a principal purpose in the exercise of discipline is also shown by the detailed instruction given by Christ to His disciples as to the gradual patient way in which He would have them proceed in dealing with an offending brother (Matt, xviii. 15-17). If by private exhortation and remonstrance he can be convinced of his fault, so that he repents of it and forsakes it, the latter is gained, the object is secured in his penitence, which is his salvation.

But even in the case of his stubborn refusal to acknowledge his fault and repent of it, rendering an appeal to the judgement of the Church necessary, and ending in exclusion from its membership, the offender is to be treated as an outsider in order that a yearning after lost privileges may be awakened in him, and a spirit of repentance and faith developed within him, which shall bring the wanderer back. He has been put out because his conduct and spirit showed that he was not really within; and if in no other way he can be made to see that he is really without, public exclusion must be tried as a means of showing him this. But besides the benefit thus contemplated in the case of the individual dealt with by discipline, the advantage of the whole community is considered in the exercise of this Church function.

It is essential to the very existence of the Church, that it should hold up a high standard of moral excellence before its own members and before the world. Laxity of discipline implies the absence of any keen appreciation of holiness and righteousness in the life; and failure to understand that life in the Church as distinguished from life in the world is the imitation of Christ in accordance with the holy perfection of God Himself. Hence carelessness in the discharge of this duty is injurious alike to the spiritual life of the members of the Church, and to the influence of the Church as a missionary agency in the world."

There is therefore a two-fold charge against any denomination that no longer exercises biblical church discipline – it lacks an essential mark of the true Church and is therefore a false church; it wilfully deprives the people of God individually and collectively of one of God’s appointed means of grace and is therefore a cruel church.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Get This Book – A Must Read

Get This Book – A Must Read

The Banner of Truth has kindly made available a number of chapters from the forthcoming book, “A Sad Departure – Why We Could Not Stay in the Church of Scotland” by David J Randall.

The foreword  by Sinclair Ferguson and introduction are available on the USA site:

The Appendix containing the stories of ministers and churches is available on the UK site:

I will do a full review when the book is published, but the appendix is explosive!  This collection of testimonies shows in many cases the duplicity of a denomination which is more concerned at preserving property and raiding funds than in maintain a biblical witness or supporting biblical morality.  Various testimonies are given of the underhand conduct and lack of integrity in the denomination.  More disturbingly, the testimonies are a record of a spineless and prevaricating response by many professed evangelicals who prioritise their own security and comfort and the maintenance of denominational loyalty over obedience to Scripture.

These testimonies span a rich variety of ministerial statuses, from newly ordained preachers to retired pastors, from those who laboured for years in the hope of reformation to those who realised almost immediately after their ordination that biblical change would not be forthcoming.  Some were firm denominational loyalists who saw that ultimately they were being played and that the reward for loyalty was betrayal. For all there was great cost and sacrifice involved; none say they regret the decision they have made.

It is possible that every testimony in this book is untrue, that a diverse collection of men and churches simply made up a record of denominational unfaithfulness  to Scripture,  avarice and dishonesty – but is that likely?  More likely is that the common tale comes from a common experience of the Machiavellian manipulation of a denomination that has abandoned Scripture and wishes to crush those who dissent and leave.

I look forward to reading the full book with its historical account and exegetical defence – but sadly doubt that those who should be, will be persuaded. “None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.“ Matthew Henry

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Robert Murray McCheyne on Biblical Church Discipline

Robert Murray McCheyne on Biblical Church Discipline

This extract from Memoirs and Remains was quoted at the 9Marks Conference on Church discipline.  I was unfamiliar with this passage, but it does address the current situation in evangelical church life in Scotland:

“When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline. I thought that my great and almost only work was to pray and preach. I saw your souls to be so precious, and the time so short, that I devoted all my time, and care, and strength, to labour in word and doctrine. When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence. It was a duty I shrank from; and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether. But it pleased God, who teaches His servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care; and from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline. I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God—that two keys are committed to us by Christ: the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible; the other the key of discipline, by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith. Both are Christ’s gifts, and neither is to be resigned without sin.”

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (5)

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (5)

In 1995 I produced a small booklet on biblical separation. This is the fourth extract from that booklet:

Acts 20:28-31
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

Paul’s warning to the elders at Ephesus is repeated later in his letter to the Ephesians, (see later entry), and is also reinforced by the commendation of the church in Ephesus in Revelation for its intolerance towards false teaching. Paul warns the Ephesian elders of the danger from within, the rise of certain teachers who will distort the truth. The elders were to guard against these wolves. Is it conceivable that Paul would have the Ephesian church recognise these savage wolves as “brothers in Christ”, accept their right to hold office within the Church, and publicly unite with them in visible fellowship? Is not the whole purpose of being on their guard that they might protect and defend the flock by identifying and excluding such wolves? When evangelicals report that some presbytery meetings are like a wolf pack convention then something is far from right.  

Romans 16:17, 18
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Paul warns against those who cause divisions by their teaching or are acting in ways contrary to apostolic truth. These men are skillful in their presentation of error, so much so that some na├»ve individuals might be swayed by their teaching and heresy. Is it conceivable that Paul would give these men the opportunity to spread their errors by word or writing? No – Paul tells the church to keep away from them and “avoid them”. That is, he asks them to maintain a separation from those who do not maintain apostolic teaching. Can you keep away from and avoid those to whom you offer denominational recognition, and under whose collective authority you place yourself? Is not denominational acceptance of such individuals a direct act of disobedience to the apostolic instruction and the command that we avoid them?

Note 2015: When I look back to how I managed to avoid the clear implications of these verses prior to 1995, I am amazed that I was so willfully blind. The professed evangelicals who now say that though they disagree with false teaching, they will not separate from false teachers, are denying the very Scripture on which they claim to base their case.  They need to show exegetically why these verses do not apply to the situation in the Church of Scotland today.