Thursday, 28 January 2016

A Sad Departure – Commendation and Response

A Sad Departure – Commendation and Response

Having received my copy of David Randall’s “A Sad Response” just before the start of Presbytery I managed to resist the temptation to read it during the more mundane sections of business.  When I reached home, however, I read it in one sitting, something I rarely do.

I thoroughly commend this able study of the spiritual malaise, indeed apostasy, in the Church of Scotland.  David deals with the current crisis as he goes through the recent history of G.A. decisions and the parallel history of evangelical responses. He explores the options of leaving or staying, the arguments presented by both sides, and the future options for those who leave.  Above all he shows the importance of the doctrine of Scripture in terms of its inspiration and authority and how this has been undermined in the denomination. 

No book is perfect, and as iron sharpens iron, it invites a response in certain respects.

“What’s past is prologue” (Shakespeare).  The past shapes and moulds the present and the current crisis can perhaps be more fully understood by going back slightly further than David does.  He focuses on the last 10 years, but the battle on this issue began at least 20 years ago.  The exodus of today was preceded by a comparable trickle of men (not congregations) leaving to serve in the PCA, the OPC, the EPCEW, and other evangelical presbyterian bodies.

David hints at this when seeking to show that he was not a rabid separatist in the past:

“I recall a case of a congregation (Gardenstown) many years ago that was being urged to secede from the Church of Scotland because the denominatiom was alleged to be moving in the direction of approval of homosexual practice. I, along with Rev James Philip spoke at a congregational meeting, urging members to resist secession and remain with the denomination.”

The year was 1995, and I was the minister of the congregation.  I had served the denomination for 18 years, the last 9 being in Gardenstown.  David and I served in adjoining parishes and he had been interim moderator at the time of my calling to the congregation.

The event he describes invites further exploration in order to explain why I urged the congregation to leave the denomination.  David suggests it was principally because of the supposed drift towards supporting homosexuality.  In actual fact the situation was somewhat more complex.  The issues of support for homosexuality and the enforcement of women’s ordination were, I believed, symptomatic of a deeper issue – the rejection of the authority of Scripture. (David himself recognises this to be the case in the current situation, as he narrates in his book.) 

My call to secede was based not on the symptoms but on the underlying cause – the denomination’s growing rejection of the authority of Scripture.

I no longer have access to my original papers, but let me try to recall and explain the background.  The denomination had decided to allow the ordination of women as elders (1966) and as ministers (1968).  The verbatim record of these assemblies show that this was declared to be merely permissive legislation and evangelicals were assured it would never be forced on congregations or ministers.  However, some 25 years later the denomination, unhappy with the obstructionism of some evangelical churches which still did not have women elders, sought to clarify its position.  Despite previous promises it was proposed that it be declared that the legislation was not permissive and, in very strong language, that those who actively opposed the ordination of women, who taught and preached that this was not biblical and who sought to influence congregations were “in violation of their ordination vows.”

At the Stillite gathering before the G.A., (usually referred to as the Crieff Fellowship), we debated this proposed change.  Rev David Young and I were planning to introduce a counter-motion and looked for support from the professed evangelicals.  However, the Stillites had already caved on the issue of women’s ordination; the unstated policy was, when necessary, compromise for the sake of peace and to remain in the denomination.

Three memories of that discussion vividly remain with me.

One of the Stillite leaders who opposed any organised resistance to the proposed changes spoke.  I still remember verbatim his words: “I know what the Bible says about ordaining unconverted elders.  I have done it in the past.  I would do it again if necessary!” His point was that if ordaining women was necessary to continue in a congregation and have the opportunity to preach the Gospel, he would do it.

I was shocked. My wife, who was present, was more than shocked; she was in tears.  A man whom we greatly respected and from whose ministry we had been greatly blessed was telling us to disobey Scripture.  This was illustrative of the Stillite policy of “quiet infiltration” – don’t rock the boat, compromise in order to continue.  Essentially they were pietistic congregationalists who had a defective doctrine of the wider church and the biblical basis of Presbyterianism.

I clearly remember the points I made.

On this issue, and others, if we were ready to disobey the clear teaching of Scripture, our people would respond by feeling that they were also free to disobey Scripture.

Secondly, the same hermeneutic used to justify women’s ordination would be, and in actual fact was being used to justify homosexuality.  By bowing to this false hermeneutic we would ultimately lose the right to oppose its wider application in terms of homosexuality.

The support of the conference was, at best, lukewarm. The leadership certainly opposed our activism.  The result was that we lost at G.A., although a good number of the Stillites not only voted with us, but formally registered their dissent at the Assembly’s decision.

It was the following year that the G.A. was presented with two reports that suggested the practice and promotion of homosexuality was an open issue and that we can agree to differ.  (The actual original draft reports of the Board of Social Responsibility and of the Panel on Doctrine  had been even more objectionable, but even after the in-committee changes, pushed by evangelicals, the fault lines still were clear.)

After the 1995 G.A. I found myself in this position.  As an evangelical who actively opposed women’s ordination I was deemed to be in violation of ordination vows and therefore could be subject to discipline.  In contrast, those who were promoting and encouraging homosexual practices were free to do so and could not be disciplined.  I could be disciplined for defending Scripture; they could not be disciplined for denying Scripture.

It was in response to this that I went back to Scripture to ask the question, “What does the Bible teach about those who embrace and support false doctrine and immoral behaviour?" This renewed study of Scripture was distilled in the booklet, “Biblical Separation”, currently being republished on this blog as “Why I left the Church of Scotland.” In this booklet there is no exegetical discussion of either women’s ordination or homosexuality, although there was an appendix reproducing a pro-homosexual article by the Professor of Christian Ethics in Edinburgh to show what was being tolerated and taught to our students.

My evangelical opponents never responded to my presentation.  (The “stayers” still do not respond to this.) James Philip preached in Gardenstown the week after my demission; he made no attempt to speak to me or answer my biblical case. I had become an untouchable and persona non grata.  One evangelical in Presbytery did write to me, quoting Titus 3:10, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him”, suggesting that this applied to me.  After 18 years of service I was treated as unworthy of serious consideration, a fundamentalist radical who would not be missed.

Well, my prediction was true.  The Church of Scotland continued in its course of tolerating the promotion of homosexuality and ultimately embraced the toleration of active homosexual behaviour in its members and ministers.  Gardenstown eventually left the Church of Scotland in 2015. 

In 1995 David and I stood opposed; in 2015 we stand shoulder to shoulder.  I rejoice in that unity in the truth. Indeed, the very fact that a man of such integrity and previous loyalty to the denomination should leave shows the depth of the “sad departure” from Scripture in the Church of Scotalnd.

I highly recommend this book.  Buy it, read it, share it with those elders and ministers who think they can stay in and support an apostate denomination. Sadly, some will not read it.  Some will read it but refuse to answer it, preferring instead to feed their congregations a diet of selective Scripture , misread history and pietistic double talk. My hope is that some will prayerfully read it and be convinced by it.

I end with a suggestion for David’s next book, “ A Happy Reunion – the Case for Evangelical Biblical Unity.”

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (8)

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (8)

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

2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us… 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

The general principle of separation from those who do not receive and obey apostolic instruction is here applied to a specific case, the willfully idle or the disorderly.  We are to identify such individuals and dissociate from them. Paul says keep away from them, and have nothing to do with them.

Is this compatible with denominational recognition of those who disobey and disregard apostolic teaching and acceptance of and fellowship with those who reject apostolic instruction and doctrine?

1 Timothy 1;3

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.

False teachers are not to be tolerated; they are to be commanded not to teach false doctrine.  If they do not repent accordingly then appropriate action is to be taken against them.  When the church, instead of silencing false teachers, promotes them, fetes them, and recognises the legitimacy of their right to express and teach their unbiblical viewpoint, it clearly disobeys this command. When the church is no longer willing to differentiate between true and false doctrine and does not exercise biblical discipline against such men then it is no longer possible for true Christians to obey this portion of Scripture.  Unrestricted loyalty to the denomination has led to a selective disobedience of Scripture.

1 Timothy 6:3, 4

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.

The willful rejection of sound (spiritually healthy)  instruction, and the promotion of false, therefore spiritually destructive doctrine, is a sign of spiritual ignorance and conceit. Do we imagine that Paul would endorse the church recognising and accepting such destructive false teachers or encouraging a denominational fellowship with them?

2 Timothy 3:1-5

But understand this,that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Biblically speaking the last days began with the coming of Christ and will be consummated at his second coming.  The church is therefore currently living in the last days; they are the present reality. Timothy is warned that in this age some will adopt a fa├žade of religion, a mere form of godliness, but will not be true lovers of God and the good. Timothy is clearly instructed to have nothing to do with such individuals.  They are subjects for evangelism in need of the Gospel, not partners in fellowship.  Denominational fellowship with such individuals is clear disobedience to the apostle’s command that we avoid them.

Titus 1:9-16

9 An overseer must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 13… rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

This is perhaps one of the most intense and sustained New Testament attacks on false teachers.  Two things are to be done with such individuals.  Firstly, they are to be “silenced”. Like a dangerous dog, they need to be muzzled.  To silence them is to deprive them of the opportunity to spread their deceitful and destructive heresies. The godly intolerance taught in Scripture refuses to allow such individuals the right to spread their error.  Secondly, they are to be “rebuked”, not mildly but “sharply”.  They are to be subject to discipline in the hope that they might renounce their errors and come to a sound faith.

When a church refuses to rebuke, even mildly, those who teach error in belief and behaviour, when instead of silencing them it places them in pulpits, professorships, and public office, then it no longer can command the allegiance of those who seek to obey Scripture.  When evangelicals will denounce, in the safety of their own pulpit, the errors of false teachers, but at a denominational level will not demand their silencing and discipline, then they share in some measure the responsibility for the damage in which such heresy results. If Scripture teaches that heretics are to be strongly rebuked and silenced then nothing less is acceptable.

Titus 3:10
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.

False teaching is a cause of division.  Those who engage in it are to be disciplined.  If they refuse to acknowledge that discipline and amend their ways then we are to have nothing to do with them. When, within a denomination, it becomes impossible to formally warn and discipline  a divisive false teacher, when the admonitions of evangelical presbyters are openly mocked and ridiculed, then we must have nothing further to do with such false teachers and overseers.  How is this compatible with denominational recognition of and fellowship with such an office-bearer?

[To be continued.]

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


responsive Readings of the Law

For those who wish to use responsive readings of the Law before the prayer of confession, those readings will prove useful.  I believe they may have originally come from the Christian Reformed Church.

When I served in the OPC we always read the Law, (following Calvin), before the prayer of confession.  We had a pattern where we used these or similar readings on alternative weeks, the other weeks we used a series of readings on individual commandments based on the Heidelberg and Shorter catechisms. You can of course adjust to your preferred Bible translation.

Thus the pattern was that every second week we were confronted by the whole Law, in the following week there was a sharpened focus on one particular commandment.  Nothing like reading and responding to the Word to make us aware of the sinfulness of sin!

Responsive Readings of the Law (1981)
(1) Words of Jesus from the Gospels
Leader: You shall have no other gods before me.
People: It is written: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."
Leader: You shall not make for yourself an idol.
People: God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.
Leader: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
People: "Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool. . . . Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."
Leader: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
People: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
Leader: Honour your father and your mother.
People: For God said, "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death."
Leader: You shall not murder.
People: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
Leader: You shall not commit adultery.
People: Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Leader: You shall not steal.
People: For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery . . . theft . . . . These are what make a man "unclean."
Leader: You shall not give false testimony.
People: For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. . . . For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.
Leader: You shall not covet.
People: Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

(2) From the Epistles
Leader: You shall have no other gods before me.
People: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!
Leader: You shall not make for yourself an idol.
People: In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Leader: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
People: Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-- the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Leader: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.
People: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Leader: Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
People: Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Leader: You shall not murder.
People: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Leader: You shall not commit adultery.
People: You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
Leader: You shall not steal.
People: He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his hands, so that he may have something to share with those in need.
Leader: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
People: Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Leader: You shall not covet your neighbour's house or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
People: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

(3) From the Psalms
Leader: And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God . . . . You shall have no other gods before me.
People: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
Leader: You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . . You shall not bow down to them or worship them.
People: Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Leader: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
People: O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Leader: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
People: How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
Leader: Honour your father and your mother.
People: Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.
Leader: You shall not murder.
People: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me.
Leader: You shall not commit adultery.
People: You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
Leader: You shall not steal.
People: Have mercy on me, O God . . . blot out my transgressions.
Leader: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
People: Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.
Leader: You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
People: Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Save me from all my transgressions.
Leader: The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfils the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
People: My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

(4) As a Teacher of Sin
Leader: Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.
People: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Leader: Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands!
People: Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Leader: And God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
People: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Leader: Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
People: If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

(5) As a Rule of Gratitude
Leader: Hear, O people of God, the law which the Lord speaks in your hearing this day, that you may know his statutes and walk according to his ordinances.
People: Teach us, O Lord, the grace of your law, and give us life by your Word.
Leader: The God who saved us in Jesus Christ gave this law, saying: I am the Lord your God! You shall have no other gods before me.
People: We will worship the Lord our God and serve only him.
Leader: You shall not make yourself an image of anything to worship it.
People: Living no more in bondage to earthly gods, we will worship the Lord our God in spirit and in truth.
Leader: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
People: We will use the holy name of God with reverence, praising him in everything we do and say.
Leader: You shall observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy, for in six days you shall labour and do all your work.
People: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Leader: The first part of the law is this great commandment:
People: That we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength.
Leader: The second part of the Law is similar to the first: you shall honour your father and mother, that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.
People: As children we will be obedient to our parents in the Lord; as parents we will correct our children and guide them in the training and instruction of the Lord; we will respect the lawful authorities appointed by God.
Leader: You shall not murder.
People: We will be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us.
Leader: You shall not commit adultery.
People: We will use our bodies in ways that are holy and honorable, and abstain from immorality and impurity.
Leader: You shall not steal.
People: We will do what we can for our neighbour's good, and work faithfully so that we may share with the poor.
Leader: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
People: We will speak the truth with our neighbour in love, render judgments that are true and make for peace, and not devise in our hearts any evil against anyone.
Leader: You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour.
People: We will be content whatever the circumstances through the strength of Christ within us.
Leader: Thus we must love our neighbour as ourselves.
People: For the Lord requires of us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Amen!

(6) As Summarized by Christ
Leader: What is the great and first commandment?
People: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Leader: What is the second commandment like it?
People: Love your neighbour as yourself.
Leader: What does this mean?
People: Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Leader: To what does this call us?
People: To a life of faith working through love.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

McCrie on Baptism

McCrie on Baptism

How did I miss this gem?  I have never seen it listed, referred to or quoted, but this is an outstanding contribution from the presbyterian and reformed perspective.

Thomas McCrie, the  younger, was the elder son of his namesake, Thomas McCrie, the elder, biographer of John Knox and Andrew Melville.  McCrie was a pastor and theological  professor of the Original Secession Church.  When the majority of this body joined the Free Church of Scotland in 1852 he became a minister of the Free Church and served as Moderator in 1856.

McCrie, like his father, was principally a church historian, but he did produce one work of biblical theology, “Lectures on Christian Baptism”, (1850).  This work is a treasure!

It is pastoral.  This is not a heavy theological tome for theologians but the product of his teaching ministry at his congregation in Edinburgh.  It is written in simple, direct language, with few footnotes. He believed that covenant baptism was at the very heart of reformed faith and practice.  It was not a difficulty to be hidden, but a blessing to be proclaimed, and he did so in this series of lectures given to the ordinary members of his congregation.

It is persuasive.  I have tried to keep abreast with current reformed works on baptism and can say that McCrie stands head and shoulders with them as a popular defence of covenant baptism.  Argument after argument is presented in a driving logic that forcefully establishes the truth.  I especially appreciated his explanation of baptism as a seal, given that there is a tendency among some Scottish paedobaptists to teach a doctrine that verges on presumptive regeneration. 

It is polemical.  McCrie gently corrects the errors of those who reject covenant baptism, the Baptists, and those who exaggerate the sacramental efficiency of baptism, the High Anglicans who taught baptismal regeneration.  Firmly but fairly McCrie shows the errors of these positions.  (Federal Vision theology was not around then, but the principles he enunciates, answers their errors.) If there is such a thing as eirenical polemic then McCrie exemplifies it.

Here is a work that can be shared with our congregations in the knowledge that they can understand it without a degree in theology or a mastery of biblical languages. It is available for free:

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (7)

Why I am no longer in the Church of Scotland (7)

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

2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
7:1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

The Corinthians were in danger of entering into an association that Paul describes as an “unequal yoke”, both by fellowshipping with pagans in their temples, and, by implication, by fellowshipping with false apostles and teachers in the church. The apostolic command, (not suggestion), is for a clear and identifiable separation from such compromising associations. Denominational association with false teachers who spread doctrinal and moral error, is an unequal yoke.  If these false teachers cannot be removed by discipline, then the believing church in Corinth is called to separate from them.

2 Corinthians 11:13 – 15

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Here false teachers are identified as servants or ministers of Satan masquerading as apostles of righteousness. They do not openly deny Christ, but deceitfully disguise themselves as servants of Christ. But Paul cuts through the disguise to say they are in actual fact Satan’s servants, who stand under the certainty of ultimate judgement. Do we really think that the apostle Paul would urge those in Corinth to unite with such false apostles? Are we so foolish to claim that we can work with Satan’s servants in the diversity of a broad church?

Galatians 1:8-9

As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul is uncompromising in his attitude to those who preach another gospel. They are under God’s eternal condemnation! If leaders in the church teach that there are many ways to God, that salvation can be experienced through many religions, and that the new birth is not necessary, are they to be accepted within denominational fellowship and recognised as valid ministers of the church?  Or, is the church not to reflect God’s eschatological judgement in the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline and remove such men from office and membership?

Ephesians 5:3-7, 11

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Sexual immorality excludes the unrepentant from God’s kingdom. Such impurity should not even be hinted at in God’s church.  The open support for and defence of sexual immorality, although forcefully argued for by its protagonists, amounts to nothing more than “empty words”.  The church is not to be “deceived” by such false arguments, but clearly recognise that such practices are evidence of the judgement of God and will bring down the wrath of God on those who continue in their disobedience.

Paul clearly says that the church is not to be in partnership with those who commend or engage in such practices. Denominational fellowship with such false teachers is clearly to recognise them as “partners”, in direct disobedience to the apostle’s command. Rather, we are to “expose” them, denounce their error, and dissociate from their fellowship.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A Tasty Chop

A Tasty Chop

There is nothing quite as satisfying as a tasty chop, be it lamb or pork.  In the spiritual realm I have come across an equally satisfying resource.  It is a prayer guide to the psalms offered at the Community House of Prayer, (hence CHOP.)

The Community House of Prayer is a ministry of Dr Stanley D. Gale, who is senior minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where he has served since 1988. I was unfamiliar with Dr Gale and his published books, but I certainly was encouraged by what I have seen.

His reflective daily prayers on the psalms follows a pattern, which he describes in his own words:

Drawing Near: What character traits of God are prominent in the psalm? By what names or titles is God called or addressed? How is that name or title or action especially meaningful in the context of the psalm? It is true that psalms often do have an identifiable context, some like Psalm 51 being the exception. Yet, that lack of context helps to make them songs for all seasons in what we face in life. Into those contexts, God speaks pastorally and relevantly. So as you hear God called, “Sovereign Lord,” ask yourself how that title finds special significance in what the psalmist (and you) is dealing with. Knowing that the Bible is redemptive revelation, how is Christ present in the psalms as its singer or its subject? Read the psalm with an ear to its divine Author and an eye to predicament of its human author, with an intention of response.

Reaching Out: How does the psalm inform your prayer as you seek to reach those around you for the sake of Christ? What dimensions of the human predicament are amplified? What issues of the heart are laid bare? What substitutes for God are sought to bring satisfaction, salvation and strength that could be fodder for your prayer on behalf of those you are trying to reach with the gospel? What truths does the psalm contribute to the redemptive landscape in holding up God’s grace and hope?

Enemy Profile: We contend for the gospel against a spiritual enemy, protective of his kingdom and jealous for his subjects. The kingdom of God grows at the expense of the kingdom of Satan. The assurance of our Lord attends us that gates of hell cannot withstand the spiritual building project of his church.
In the classic passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul calls us to pray for our message, our hearers and ourselves. Prayer as a weapon of spiritual warfare for the sake of the kingdom of God is prayer aware of Satan’s tactics and prayer against his efforts.

The primary tactics of the devil are accusation, deception and temptation. How does the psalm before you speak to those tactics that can direct your prayer? How is each one answered by abiding in Christ, the stand of the spiritual warrior?

Mutual Support: How does the psalm lead you to pray for others engaged in witness for Christ, whether they be those you have partnered with as part of CHOP or your local church or the church worldwide? What struggles do they face as believers? In what needs can you uphold them in prayer? How are they targets of Satan’s efforts to disqualify them and to discredit their message?

As an example of how this works out in practice:

Read Psalm 2

Drawing Near
Lord God Almighty, ruler of the kings of the earth, enthroned on high over all the nations. Who will call you to account? Who can challenge you, saying “You are doing wrong”? The builders of Babel erected their tower in a pitiful effort to even reach your glory. How foolish! You are God Most High. Your name is exalted above the heavens, exalted over the nations. How much more odious is the thought that the nations would rebel against your Anointed, your Messiah, your Christ! To him you have given all authority. Before him every knee shall bow. He reigns on high for his church, against his enemies. I thank you that you have granted me a heart of wisdom that sees your Anointed for who he is and that bows before him in repentance. Thank you, O my God, that Jesus has subdued me to himself, that he leads me as my Shepherd King and that he preserves and protects me from his and my enemies.

Reaching Out
Lord Jesus, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, I ask for those you have given me to bear witness of you that you would grant them a heart of wisdom. Open their eyes to know you as the eternal Word of God, humbled in the flesh, exalted in glory. Grant them grace to turn from idols to serve you. May they kiss you in faith and repentance, that they might not perish but have eternal life. Holy Spirit, draw them into the refuge of union with Jesus Christ that they might find every blessing of salvation in him.

Enemy Profile
Holy Father, protect me from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life upon which my enemy the devil plays. Forgive me my rebellion that seeks independence of your rule. As the world woos me to its ways, may I resist, standing firm in the faith, my will inclined to your. I ask that you would burst the bonds of foolishness that deceive those I am seeking for Christ into thinking they are autonomous, into thinking they have nothing to fear. The prophets of the evil one say, “Peace and safety.” Bring these souls to rest in the Prince of Peace.

Mutual Support
I pray for my partners in the gospel that you help them to understand themselves as subjects of your Anointed One, soldiers in his everlasting kingdom. Strengthen their faith to press on amidst the ridicule of the world, confident that they fight in victory because Jesus lives as the one who conquered sin, death and Satan. May they truly desire that your kingdom would come and your will be done, and may they go labour on, spend and be spent for the sake of that kingdom.

If you wish to refresh your reading and praying of the psalms you can find the daily CHOP prayer from the Psalms at: