Category Archives: church

The Second Presburg Colloquy: Radney and Gleason on Intinction and Tiers

On September 21, 2022, Pastor Derek Radney and I engaged in a debate on the subject of intinction, moderated by Brad Isbell of presbycast. You can watch the debate here. Subsequent to the debate there have been additional exchanges in the twitterverse, some of which have brough more heat than light. I am for public discourse, but only as a fair representation of a brother’s position. Since in the debate we were not able to deal with all the issues of intinction, I thought it appropriate to respond to Pastor Radney’s article in which he argues that intinction is legitimate and valid practice. To interact with the article is to interact with Pastor Radney’s stated position, as he has articulated it. As part of that article, he makes six arguments for intinction as allowable.

  1. Jesus did not command that we partake of bread and wine in two separate actions. 

I respond: I do not think the Scriptural data supports Pastor Radney’s claim. On the one hand it is true. Jesus never specifically says, “You must partake of the bread and wine in two separate actions.” However, Jesus does clearly lay out how the Lord’s Supper is to be ordered. Scripture gives the structure of the Supper four times: Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23; and, 1 Cor. 11:23-29. In each text, eating the bread and drinking the cup are separate actions each with their own meaning. The bread is the body of Christ broken and the cup is the blood poured out. Pastor Radney does not believe Jesus had any mode of distribution in view. However, when He lays out the order of the supper He does so with two separate actions explicitly commanded: eating and drinking. So Pastor Radney’s statement is technically correct, but theologically wrong. Jesus does not command the church must partake of bread and wine in two separate actions. But He does not need to do so, because when He gives the structure of the Lord’s Supper He orders it with two separate actions.

  1. Intinction should not be rejected on the grounds of Regulative Principle of Worship because the words of the Gospels and 1 Cor 11 are not applied consistently.

As part of this larger point, Pastor Radney makes two sub-points. First, he identifies certain inconsistencies between the various accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. For example, only Matthew’s account directly includes the language “Take, eat.” and “Drink of it.” Only in Luke’s account does Jesus tell the disciples to divide the cup (Luke 22:17). Only in Mark did the disciples drink the cup before Jesus explained its meaning. Second, he criticizes opponents of intinction as being inconsistent in their readings of those texts.

I respond: To his first point, inconsistencies between gospel accounts must be understood by harmonizing them. Absence of information in one gospel does not imply the other is incorrect. If Matthew’s account includes the commands to eat and drink, but Mark leaves it out, that does not mean that Matthew is wrong and Mark is right. The accounts are understood together, each pointing to the truth in a unique way. The gospel accounts of the institution, supplemented by the apostolic explanation in 1 Cor. 11:23ff clearly have agreement and command the following:

      • Eating the bread first;
      • Drinking the cup after supper.

His second sub-point has Pastor Radney question the clarity of the biblical command based on other issues surrounding the supper that are ignored by critics of intinction. He gives several examples: 1) There was likely only one loaf; 2) There was likely a communal cup; 3) The Lord’s Supper as part of the larger Passover communal meal; and, 4) The meal was likelyserved with wine not juice. And here he makes a hermeneutical point for his critics. The commands to eat and drink are clear and cannot be understood to mean something else. However, the argument for the common cup and loaf, wine, and the implications of the Supper coming out of the Passover are likely true. In other words, these issues lack the clarity of the explicit commands of Scripture which are giving regarding eating and drinking. Even if the church must wrestle through the less clear questions as well, it can begin by honoring the clear commands of Scripture regarding the celebration of this sacrament.

  1. There are practical reasons why a session might opt to administer communion by intinction.

I respond: Appealing to the pragmatic is a terrible way to do theology. There are plenty of examples from Scripture that prove this point. What might be some practical reasons that a priest might alter the recipe for the incense to be offered in the tabernacle (Cf. Lev 10:1ff; Ex 30:9)? What might be some practical reasons that the Levites might move the ark on a cart rather than carry it on poles (2 Sam 6:5ff; Ex 25:14)? What might be some practical considerations that would justify Israel’s delay in invading the promised land (Num 13:1ff)? Of course, each example shows that obedience to God’s commands overrides any practical consideration that might be brought to bear. Pragmatism is never praised in Scripture because it tends to place what works over what is commanded.

  1. Nothing is lost in the significance of each element or the meal as a whole by partaking of the elements together.

I respond:  The testimony of all Reformed theologians affirms that the distinct consumption of the elements is necessary to preserve what they symbolize. Many prominent voices have argued for the urgency of the spiritual significance of each element of the meal celebrated distinct from the other. Below are two sample quotes:

“It is to that end that in the Supper the body and blood are depicted separately, each by a sign of its own. To that end Christ expressly states that his body was given and his blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. To that end the significance of the blood is even explained at greater length in the words of institution than that of the body, for it is the blood that makes atonement for sins on the altar. Even though Christ is worshiped, the communion that is realized through faith and is strengthened through the Lord’s Supper is and remains a communion with his crucified body and with his shed blood.” [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, translated by John Vriend, edited by John Bolt (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 4:579]

“We are not able to take this great mysterious fruit of God’s love in gross, in the lump; and therefore he gives it out, I say, in parcels. We shall have the body broken to be considered; and the blood shed is likewise to be considered.” [John Owen, The Works of John Owen (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1965), 9:527]

Other men like James Bannerman in The Church of Christ, Wilhelmus a Brakel in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology, have also argued for the importance of bread and wine as separate.

  1. Intinction should not be dismissed because it is practiced by traditions with which we Presbyterians have other disagreements or because of its origins.

I respond: At this point I am in agreement with Pastor Radney. Though the source of certain ideas may give pause because of their origins, truth is truth, no matter who says it. Christians can learn from brothers in other denominations regardless of the points of disagreement.

  1. Intinction should not be dismissed on account of Judas dipping his bread at the Last Supper.

I respond: Again, we are agreed on this point. I have not heard people making this argument, but if they are, at the very least that would not be the place where I would formulate my objections.

From my interactions with Pastor Radney, I believe him to be sincere in his beliefs. And in an attempt to shed light on this subject, and as a follow-up to the debate, I have offered the following responses. The question of intinction is significant because the right administration of the sacraments is one of the three marks of the church of Christ. And this issue must be examined in light of Scripture. Debate and interaction are needed to bring clarity on a subject. It is my hope this article has contributed to that growth in clarity.

Church History Snippet – Leo III

In church history there are two significant Leo IIIs. One was the pope who crowned Charlamagne emperor in 800 AD. The other was emperor in Constantinople from 717-741AD. It is the second Leo that is in view in this church history snippet.

The iconoclast controversies of the eighth and ninth centuries are unique in that they are not driven primarily by churchmen or theologians. These certainly participate, but they are not the catalysts that would force the Church to deal with a controversy that had been brewing for some time. It was the iconoclastic policies of emperor Leo III, also known as Leo the Issaurian, that forced a formal treatment of this subject by the church.

Leo III came to the throne during a time of upheaval in the Byzantine empire. That turmoil can even be seen in how he ascended to the throne. Leo III was not a natural heir of the throne, but a military commander who usurped the throne from another. And in the midst of that political chaos, Leo adds theological controversy by articulating and implementing a policy of iconoclasm within the Byzantine empire. Iconoclasm, for the sake of this subject, is the destruction of religious images. Leo, as the catalyst of bringing this disagreement in the church into focus, is a significant man in church history, especially when it comes to the development of the church’s understanding of whether images of Jesus are permitted.

Relatively little is preserved of Leo III’s arguments in favor of the destruction and/or removal of such images from churches. Understanding his views has to come from looking at the response of his opponents. However, it is known that he began his assault on images in 726. Though the motivations for doing so are far from clear, it was likely partly religious, but not purely so. Certainly there was a religious component to his iconoclasm, however, it seems to have been tinged with pragmatism and superstition. According to some, his religious actions were influenced by a desire for political stability in a time of turmoil and uncertainty. Wherever he found himself on the spectrum from pragmatism to principle, it is not fair to discount Leo’s religious impulses entirely. Though perhaps motivated in part by the social condition of his empire, Leo III did make a theological argument as well.

Leo III’s iconoclastic policy was pretty straightforward. He believed images of Jesus and/or the saints were idolatrous and should not be allowed in his empire. The biblical foundation for his argument was based on the second commandment:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6).

The initial line of argumentation from those seeking to forbid images of Jesus is a fairly simple appeal to the second commandment. Leo III seems to have made a basic connection between an image of Jesus and the prohibition in Exodus 20:4. The position articulated by Leo III is the opening salvo of a controversy that would continue intermittently into the Protestant Reformation and even into today.

 

Part 6 » The Christian’s Relationship to the Civil Government: The Confessions and Catechisms

“To exercise authority, without recognizing and accepting the corresponding responsibility, is to act irresponsibly and is always sinful.”[1]

The last installment (Dec., 2021) dealt with the 5 limitations to the powers of the civil magistrate. And then COVID happened (to me), life got busy, and now it’s May. That certainly is not how I meant to end. At this point it feels kind of anti-climactic to continue with this examination. But before I can leave it alone, I still want to resolve two things. First, a summary of a variety of Reformed confessions and catechism to gain insight into what the church of 400 years ago thought of the Christian’s response to a magistrate who oversteps his bounds. Second, how the Christian should respond to instances of government overreach. This article will handle the first of these.

The first catechism to examine is the Heidelberg Catechism. In Q/A 104 it teaches that obedience to the fifth commandment requires, “that I show all honor, love and fidelity, to my father and mother, and all in authority over me, and submit myself to their good instruction and correction with due obedience; and also patiently bear with their weakness and infirmities, since it pleases God to govern us with their hand.” Here the Christian is called to obedience to all the “good instruction” the government may give. Ursinus, who is the primary author of this catechism, in his commentary on this question and answer, explains that the magistrate undermines this responsibility through tyranny. Ursinus describes tyranny as “demanding from their subjects what is unjust.”[2]

In Chapter 30 of the Second Helvetic Confession, it describes the duties of subjects of kings: “Therefore let them honor and reverence the magistrate as the minister of God; let them love him, favor him, and pray for him as their father; and let them obey all his just and fair commands.” The Second Helvetic essentially repeats the Heidelberg’s assertions, namely that the limits of the civil magistrate’s instruction are more than simply their national borders, but also justice and fairness. If the Christian is to obey all just and fair commands, the logical implication follows from these documents is that he is not obligated to obey unjust and unfair commands.

The Westminster Standards also address this issue in the Westminster Larger Catechism. As part of its Larger Catechism’s treatment on the fifth commandment, Q/A 130 notes that the sins of one in authority includes “commanding things unlawful…or anyway dishonoring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.” In his commentary on the Larger Catechism, Johannes Vos primarily focuses on commands from people in authority that require sin on the part of its subjects. He cites the examples of Nebuchadnezzar’s command that all people worship the statue he set up, Darius’ command forbidding prayer, Amos being forbidden from prophesying by king Amaziah, and so on.[3] But it also lists Nabal as an example of an unjust authority. And though these examples may reinforce for us the limits of government, they do not aid us in determining a right Christian response.

More on that next time. Hopefully not five months from now.

[1] Johannes Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing), 353.

[2] Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1852), 578.

[3] Johannes Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism, 354.

Part 5 » The Christian’s Relationship to the Civil Government: The Limits of Power (Part II)

Conflict

“A power ethical, politic, or moral, to oppress, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power, and is no more from God, but from sinful nature, and the old serpent.”
Samuel Rutherford, A Christian Manifesto

Last installment looked at the limits of different authorities, all of which God has instituted to serve Him in the world He created. Before moving on to the confessional statements about authority, specifically laid out in the fifth commandment, I want to revisit these three limitations by way of quick review, and add two additional thoughts.

In the limitations drawn out so far, this series outlined three specific ways the government’s authority is naturally limited. The civil government is limited first by its national borders. That seems fairly obvious. Second, they may not treat their citizens as their own property. Tyranny is men with a derived authority, acting as if they hold that authority as their possession. Tyranny itself is usually rejected, but the response is where the waters get muddy. More on that later. Third, governments must themselves be subject to the laws of their own nation.

In this article I want to add two more limits to lawful authority, specifically as it applies to the civil government. The fourth limit is that government is to act honestly with its citizens. It may not prosecute based on bearing false witness, neither may they use false pretenses to justify powers they would not usually hold. The state must prosecute and legislate honestly. Just to address the elephant in the room here, the next paragraph is not going to be that COVID is a hoax. But I am willing to say that a 2-year state of emergency based on an illness with a less than 1% mortality rate is not honest. These claims no longer serve as a justification for sweeping powers that certain governments want to appropriate for themselves: powers that control private business, medical rights, and even ecclesiastical matters. And when an authority uses dishonesty to expand its powers, they are working outside of the limits of the authority which has been entrusted to them.

The fifth limit is that government may not assume authority entrusted to others. That means the civil magistrate has no authority over the business of the church or family. Applying that principle in church and/or family is often easier and clearer. For example, the church is only free to proclaim what God’s word has plainly said, or what can be derived from it by good and necessary consequence. It may not enter into formal discipline for matters of conscience, but only clear, unrepentant violations of God’s commandments. When the church does either of these things it exceeds the limits of the authority entrusted to it. In the same way, fathers may not administer the sacraments to their families in their homes or excommunicate their children from the church. Ironically, within the Christian community when church and father exceeds the limits of their authority, there is a large outcry in the church. Justifiably so. Why not when the same thing is done by the civil magistrate?

Some may object to this and point to cases where the civil magistrate has rightly addressed fraud in the church or abuse in the home. But to think carefully through those examples, it is plain that when a church commits fraud, it is operating unlawfully in its ecclesiastical authority. Or when a husband abuses his wife or children, he is acting unlawfully, which moves beyond the boundaries of his authority as God has given it. Returning to the realm of the civil magistrate, that means the government is in no way to interfere with anything that rightly falls under the authority of the church and/or family. That means no control over any part of religious worship as was recently seen in COVID measures in several states in our Union, most notable California. That means no right to mandatory government education as is the case in several European nations. That means a respect for bodily autonomy. The authority of the civil magistrate has limits, and these should be respected.

By way of summary, let me just enumerate the five limits described above. The government is limited in its use of power in the following ways:

    1. The authority of any civil magistrate does not extend beyond its national borders. That would be a violation of the 8th commandment;
    2. Tyranny is not within the proper purview of government authority. Its citizens are not its property. To treat them as such would be a violation of the 1st and 8th commandments;
    3. Government must themselves operate under the rules and laws of their nation. That would be a violation of the 5th commandment;
    4. Falsehood and propaganda cannot be used as a means to justify authority that would otherwise be unlawful. That would be a violation of the 9th commandment;
    5. The magistrate may not encroach on authority given by God to another institution. That would be a violation of the 5th commandment.

The main point is that, as a servant of God appointed for the good of its citizens (Rom. 13:4), the Moral Law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments also applies to the government. Its authority is exercised within the limits prescribed by God and the good laws of the commonwealth it governs.

Everything up to this point is to establish that the civil magistrate may overstep its rightful bounds. When other authorities like church and family do so, there is a reasonable expectation of response. And that should not be different in the case of the government either. The question that is so challenging is, what is that response? How does a Christian respond in a Christlike manner when the civil magistrate exceeds the limits of its powers. These questions will be addressed in our next installment.

Walking In Gratitude

As a nation, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past November 25. For many, the significance of this day has turned from an opportunity to praise God to a generic sentimentality about gratitude for family and comfort. However beneficial it is for a nation to have a day of giving thanks, it is meaningless void of an acknowledgement of God. As His people, we should remember to give Him thanks every day. His word calls us to this daily celebration in these ways: 

His covenant promises. The foundation for Christian thankfulness runs throughout the Bible. The record of God’s covenant relationship with His people reminds us daily that it is God’s grace only that allows us to be in relationship with Him.

His law. The commandments of God point us to Him in two ways. First, in showing that we are incapable of keeping them He gives us daily motivation to find salvation in Christ. Second, once living in the reality of salvation, we have daily reasons for praising Him because we have been delivered from sin’s dominion.

His works. God’s record of His providential work in this world plainly shows us His power, patience, and strength. Where we fail and fall, He is powerful to pick us up and to carry us to eventual glory.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the chance to acknowledge that the blessings we enjoy come to us from God’s hand. And yet I wish my heart was more grateful on a day-to-day basis for the eternal blessings God provides.

Part 5 » An Appeal on Race in the Presbyterian Church in America

“Therefore my appeal is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.”

Moving Past the Issue

This series began by addressing three diagnostic questions as to where the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is in relation to racial sin. It is necessary to ask these due to considerable attention given to the issue of race in the denomination over the last number of years. These questions are:

  • Has the PCA made a clear and thorough declaration on the sin of racism?
  • Are there any new or extraordinary manifestation of this sin rearing its head in society or the PCA that would warrant additional teaching from God’s word?
  • Is the PCA neglecting shepherding of private or public unrepentant sins in this regard that should be addressed by church courts?

The first question is answered here; the second here; the third here. By way of summary, the PCA’s condemnation of racial sin is abundantly clear. There are no circumstances that justify revisiting previous statements. And as there are no appeals or complaints regarding racial sin moving up through the courts of the church, it is fair to assume that such sins are being effectively handled at a local level. For these reasons, the appeal of this series is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.

Other have spoken of the dangers of “mission creep” in the church. In other words, the church loses sight of its main gospel objective and thereby becomes ineffective. Is the focus on race “mission creep”? In the case of the PCA it certainly is. This sin has been clarified and condemned, and it is not controversial in the PCA. However, the PCA’s continued discussion on alleged acts of racism in or outside the church, outside of the actions of the discipline of the church, fosters an “us” and “them” mentality in the church based on race. Yet the church is one body (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:20; Eph. 4:4; Col. 3:15).

At the last General Assembly (GA) there was talk of majority and minority cultures, designations of “you” and “us” along ethnic lines, and justifications for public repentance in the PCA based on news reports from secular outlets. The language of majority/minority culture is foreign to God’s word. The Bible does not recognize the validity of “you” and “us” statements of difference in the body of Christ. These statements are derived from the philosophy of man.

In Fault Lines, Voddie Baucham critiques the social justice movement, especially as it appears in the church. In it he quotes a definition of Critical Race Theory (CRT) from the pen of one of its proponents: “CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture.”[1] Those are exactly the sentiments communicated through the language of majority/minority culture, or the “you” and “us” statements made during floor debate. Intentional or not, these terms reflect CRT and imports them into the PCA.

The notions of majority and minority culture seem to be driving the distinctions drawn in the PCA. However, when the Bible deals with differences in the church, they are not based on ethnicity as much as covenantal standing: Jew and Gentile. Certainly, ethnicity cannot be separated from that discussion, but it is accidental. The biblical point is always the inclusion of gentiles into the family of Abraham. But, for example, discussing Asians as a minority culture in a mostly Caucasian denomination divides up the Gentiles. The PCA is populated, by and large, by Gentiles. There are Gentiles with a variety of skin colors, but the PCA is mostly Gentile. All of the Gentiles have been grafted into the family of Abraham, have become the spiritual Israel. In Scripture there is no talk of a majority vs. minority culture. There are only sons of Abraham by faith. To speak of majority and minority cultures in the church is to deny 1 Cor. 12:12-13: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” The PCA must stop speaking of and championing the different ethnic varieties of Gentiles in the body of Christ, and return to being ambassadors of the whole of the Bride of Christ. So how is that done?

Color Blindness

First, the PCA must become “color blind.” Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Morgan Freeman (by no means a conservative, reformed theologian as far as I know) when asked about racial division in an interview with Mike Wallace stated the solution to racial difference was to stop talking about it. Wallace asked him, “How are we going to get rid of racism until…” Mr. Freeman cuts him off and says, “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.”[2] In other words, treat each other as people. This sentiment is even more compelling for Christians who have a  theological reason for it. The church should treat anyone according to the biblical understanding of man as created in the image of God, no matter where he was born or what his status is (James 2:1-4). But I have been told that color blindness is not possible. I disagree. It is possible, and it should be pursued.

My father grew up in Charlotte, NC during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. He grew up with segregated water fountains. Fast forward to the 70’s when he moved his family to the Netherlands. Our family lived in a “diverse” neighborhood, and one of my friends was Jairaj. His skin was not pasty white like mine. In the course of our “friendship”, Jairaj stole every penny from my piggy bank. However, while walking me through this betrayal my father never once mentioned ethnicity. My father explained Jairaj was not to be trusted because he was a thief, and never mentioned that he was East Indian. His ethnicity had nothing to do with it. In one generation, and through the gospel, my father had learned to look at character and not color. That change transformed his family into a place where Christian friends from Australia, South Korea, Japan, Ghana, the Netherlands, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa,  Mexico and other places would regularly be welcomed. There was no discussion about majority or minority culture. Sure, there were some things they did that we thought was weird, just as some of the things we did seemed weird to them. Certainly there were cultural differences, but the thing that united was a common love for God in Christ and a desire to worship Him. That is where the PCA must land.

Living as One Body

Second, the PCA must intentionally and uncompromisingly live as one body. There are different members with different functions, but they make up one body. Unity is lived out through word and deed. That is the reason why the language of majority or minority cultures is so damaging. The task of the body of Christ is with one voice to bear witness to His works of creation and redemption. That work is accomplished through people fulfilling different tasks as hands and feet of the body. However, the discussion is not around what color the hands and feet may be. It is rather to mobilize all the different parts of the body to be faithful in carrying out the Great Commission of evangelizing and discipling.

At the 48th General Assembly, I spoke to a brother about overture 45, which sought the flourishing of Asian Americans. There was a significant difference in opinion about the value of that request from Metro Atlanta Presbytery. In the conversation he stressed the pain of a minority culture (in this case Asian Americans) living in a majority culture. At the time I didn’t have time to process through what he said, but the more I thought about it, the more the terminology bothered me.

The point is not that there is no pain in the Asian-American community. I would expect there is. The problem is the shift in discussing pain in terms of ethnicity rather than the sin and misery that is in the world through the fall. There should be no surprise that there is pain among Asian Americans, just as there is in black, white community, and Indian communities. All communities, also those marked by racial diversity, suffer pain because all communities are affected by sin. Sin causes pain and all face the pain of sin in their day because they live after the fall. The body of Christ is unified as it realizes that all have been rescued from eternal pain through the work of Christ as a substitute on the cross. And this truth must be championed.

Commitment to Truth

Lastly, the PCA must be committed to biblical truth as its unifying principle. Instead of making statements about the pain of one ethnic group over against another, the task of the church is to speak primarily of the singular solution to that pain: the Lord Jesus X. The world’s comfort from pain is found in Him. Unity is not found in easy-to-make declarations. They cost very little, especially when there is as much agreement on the topic as there is in the PCA. But sharing the gospel in the world, practicing hospitality generously, and encouraging each other toward love and good works in the church is the hard work of building unity and love in the church. The unity of the human race is based in its original creation (Genesis 1:28), and the Gospel is the message that restores the unity that has been lost by sin.[3]

So please, my brothers, let us be done with discussions on race at the General Assembly. If there are sins of that nature in our denomination, they should be addressed through formal process in the courts. The PCA cannot allow the hot topics of the world to become the cause for “mission creep.” Instead the PCA must re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.

It is my prayer this appeal will be received in the brotherly spirit in which it was written. It is meant to be an appeal. I pray that the Lord will use it for building the unity of His body.


Geoff Gleason is pastor of Cliffwood Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. His passion is to see the people of God grow in their faith, and those who are lost become numbered among the faithful. He has been married for 28 years and, usually, is the joyful father of 11 children ranging in age from 28 to 6, and two grandsons.

[1] Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines, (Salem Books, Washington, D.C.: 2021), p. xv.

[2] YouTube, Morgan Freeman on Black History Month, n.d. (accessed August 2, 2021), https://youtu.be/GeixtYS-P3s.

[3] Pastoral Letter on Racism, p. 6.

 

Part 4 » An Appeal on Race in the Presbyterian Church in America

“Therefore my appeal is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.”

Are We Ignoring the Issue?

At the start of this series the target was set: to answer three questions to determine whether it is helpful and good for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) to continue to focus on the issue of race. The questions are as follows:

    1. Whether the PCA has a clear and thorough declaration on the sin of racism;
    2. Whether there are any new or extraordinary manifestation of this sin rearing its head in society or the PCA that would warrant additional teaching from God’s word;
    3. Whether the PCA neglects shepherding of private or public unrepentant sins in this regard that should be addressed by church courts.

These three inquiries form the diagnostic questions the answers to which will inform the recommended responses and conclusions.  The first question was answered here. The second question here. To summarize, the PCA has made clear and thorough declarations on the sin of racism, and there are no extraordinary or new manifestations of this sin that would require additional responses from the PCA. The only question remaining is whether the PCA, as a denomination, is ignoring the theology it professes by failing to address racial sin among its members. Assuming that the assertion of this series regarding the PCA’s theology is correct, the PCA as a denomination has come to the point where that sin must and should be addressed through the process of church discipline, not via declaration. Church courts should at this point address any unrepentant sins that arise.

Unrepentant sins of racism manifested in churches should be addressed pastorally as any other unrepentant sin. If a sinner will not be corrected, the church should walk through the painful but necessary and good steps of church discipline. This process should not look like the current response in the world. The church’s correction may not be punitive or overly harsh. Accusations should be made only against a person who sins, and not anyone else. That is because church discipline is practiced for the spiritual protection of the sinner, the preservation of the purity of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the glory of God.

Racial sin should not be permitted to take root in the church. To that end, congregants and elders must work to confront  and address it with individuals who continue to sin in this area without repentance. If the church does not act, pronouncements can be made ad nauseum without any effect. The church is purified from sin when it is not allowed to gain a foothold among God’s people. However, a continual restatement of well-established theological positions will only mean that sin will be highlighted and the more difficult part of shepherding under that truth will be ignored.

Implementing Significant Change

Making repeated pronouncement is actually easy and pretty cheap. It is much easier to point out the sins of grand-parents than it is to deal with the sins that plague the church today. In my experience, racism is not the primary ill that is plaguing the church. For the last twelve years I have been in the deep south of the US and have experienced one blatant instance of racial sin. The vast majority of PCA Christians love their neighbor regardless of ethnic background. During my time in Jackson, MS, I had the privilege of knowing a man who, as a white man, quit his job in order to be able to devote his time to disciple young boys who lived without a father. The vast majority of these children happened to be black. But he loved these children, and the whole congregation got behind him in support of it. However, it is possible that my experience does not reflect reality. It is possible that there are instances of racial sin in the PCA that I am missing. Perhaps racial sin is rampant in the PCA and I have simply missed it all. That does not appear to be the case, and this is why.

When a person engages in racial sin, those who observe it should first, in love, address it with the person one to one (Matthew 18:15-17). If that person refuses to listen, there should be another visit, this time with an additional witness. And finally, if the person remains defiant in their sin, the church is to get officially involved, with the possibility of censures should the need arise.

When a person observes sin and the church is unwilling to address it, the member has the right of complaint. A member who sees racial sin and whose elders are unwilling to address it may file a complaint against their elders, asking the next higher court to ensure sin is not allowed to remain unaddressed in the church. I am not aware of any cases involving racial sin being brought to the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). That means either elders are neglecting their duty or racial sin is being properly addressed at the Session level. Now the former is possible, but the latter is more likely.

However, even if the former is taking place, the hard work the PCA must do is not issue another statement, or produce another theological summary on the sin of racism. It must do the hard work of shepherding and working through the process of discipline to stamp out this sin. If this sin is as widespread as some would try to convince that it is, there must be action taken to address specific instances. As Paul says, “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:13).

So the answer to the third diagnostic question, where the silence in the church courts makes it unlikely that there is a festering underbelly of racism in the PCA, further demands a move away from the PCA’s current practice of declaration. If there is racial sin the church is obligated to do the difficult work of shepherding. Declarations and letters are the wrong tool to address an on-going sin issue.

The PCA has plainly repudiated racial sin. There is no new seismic shift in society or church that would necessitate revisiting this issue. And there are no active cases of neglected discipline being circulated through the church courts, which is the only measure denominations have to see if sin is being addressed within its membership. So let us leave behind these requests for recognition based on ethnicity and find a better way.

The PCA must cease from importing the terminology of secular sociology when it comes to examining the body of Christ, His church. No more cheap declarations about how sorry we are for the sins of others. If there is sin among us (also racial sin) let us address it. If there is disunity among us, let us unite as brothers under Christ and through fellowship and true Christian love overcome it. But enough of dividing up a primarily gentile church into many different gentile groups (white gentiles, Asian gentiles, black gentiles, etc.). We, the PCA, are one body made up of many parts. There are hands and feet and mouths and eyes and hearts and all manner of different parts. The significance of those parts is not in their color, but rather in the fact that they are members of the body.

However, rather than leave this topic in the mire of generalities, the next installment will deal with some practical things that can be done to change the tone of the discourse in the PCA.


Geoff Gleason is pastor of Cliffwood Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. His passion is to see the people of God grow in their faith, and those who are lost become numbered among the faithful. He has been married for 28 years and, usually, is the joyful father of 11 children ranging in age from 28 to 6, and two grandsons.

Part 3 » An Appeal on Race in the Presbyterian Church in America

“Therefore my appeal is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.”

Part 3 » Are There New Issues?

Last article addressed whether the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) position on racial sin was clear. This question is raised as this series of articles (for the first one click here) makes an appeal to PCA elders to turn the corner on a prevailing General Assembly (GA) conversation: race and racial sin. To that end, three questions are asked that should help give clarity on the need for continuing attention on this topic:

  1. Whether the PCA has a clear and thorough declaration on the sin of racism;
  2. Whether there are any new or extraordinary manifestation of this sin rearing its head in society or the PCA that would warrant additional teaching from God’s word;
  3. Whether the PCA neglects shepherding of private or public unrepentant sins in this regard that should be addressed by church courts.

The first question was raised and answered in last installment with a resounding “yes!” The preponderance of theological statements, pastoral letters, and reports from the PCA (1977, 2002, 2004, 2016, 2018) has rendered further declarations on racial sin simply an exercise in restatement and redundancy.  However, questions 2 and 3 above are yet to be tackled.

Overture 45 (and 46) at the 48th General Assembly (St. Louis, MO)

Both Metro Atlanta (#45) and Metro New York (#46) presbyteries submitted an identical overture, asking the GA to take several actions on behalf of the Asian-American members of the PCA. Although the reasoning for any overture is never part of the final denominational adoption of a request, it is still pertinent because they argue that a significant new development in the area of race relations has arisen that would make a new statement necessary and good. Two points are specifically important:

“Whereas, Metro Atlanta Presbytery learned with sorrow of the tragic deaths of eight people in and around our own presbytery on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, six of whom were of Asian descent, who were wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters made in the image of God; and

Whereas, even though the ultimate motivation of this shooter remains unestablished, these tragic shootings happened within the larger context of an increase in violence in this nation against Asian Americans over the last year; and have brought to light the racism that many of our Asian American brothers and sisters in Christ, and Asian American neighbors have experienced, and remind them of the anti-Asian racism that has been present in the past.”[1]

These reasons sound very much like a case for answering the second diagnostic question above with a “yes.” It is an assertion that there is a new form of racial sin previously unacknowledged by the PCA warranting additional clarification from the denomination. However asserting something is not the same thing as proving it.

Is There An Extraordinary Increase In Racial Sin?

Certainly US news outlets reported an increase in violence against Asians with vigor. For example here is a story of such increased violence from NBC. In the article, several cities are cited as examples, but for simplicity’s sake, only New York City will be considered here. Included in the article is the statistical analysis that the city with the largest surge in race based crime is NYC at a staggering 833% increase. Reporting things that way makes for an alarming headline and concern is an understandable result. However, as Christians it is important to think critically to understand if such numbers are, in fact, indicative of a racial crisis in our land.

So the question has to be asked, what kind of numbers are we looking at here? It is appropriate to acknowledge that I’m not a statistician, so perhaps the numbers are over-simplified, but it will be close for illustrative purposes at least. The article cites an increase from 3 hate crimes in 2019 to 28 in 2020. That within the context of 1.4 million Asian Americans who live in New York. Looking at these numbers a different way in 2019 you had a 0.000214% of being the victim of a hate crime as an Asian New Yorker. In 2020 it is 0.002%. And the same can be said for the increase in other major urban centers: 7 to 15 in Los Angeles, 6 to 14 in Boston, 6 to 9 in San Fransisco, 0 to 1 in San Diego and Cincinnati. Just to be clear, this observation is not a denial that hate crimes were committed, neither is it minimizing the pain of those afflicted. Rather it is disputing if this rise is actually a significant difference or whether the world is continuing to show evidence of its condition of sin and misery. I say it is the latter.

My contention is that these numbers do not represent a significant shift in the world. But could it be that within the PCA there was a shift or a pattern of racial sin? That was certainly argued from the floor. Take for example the floor speech made by Pastor Hansoo Jin of the Korean Capital Presbytery. This brother insinuated racism or at least racial insensitivity against Koreans at multiple general assemblies. TE Jin said,

“You can imagine, if you will, how I felt when I heard that a member of this assembly refer (sic) to Korean prayer as unbiblical. See, when we think about racism it is easy to think of it as a problem that is in the world that the worlds struggles with and so why do we have to deal with it in this assembly? And I admit that the things that we see in the world with race do not necessarily manifest in the same way in the PCA, but we must not confuse that with a lack of racism in the PCA, or at least a lack of racial awareness in the PCA. See, comments like that that I heard at this assembly I have heard every single year that I have been a commissioner…at GA. I have had uncomfortable, demeaning, marginalizing conversations oftentimes by well-meaning individuals but still nevertheless these conversations made me feel and question whether or not this is a denomination for me.”[2]

In his speech, TE Jin articulates what he considers to be a sin by another man allegedly to have occurred at the Bills and Overtures committee of the 48th GA. The contention is not that such a sin may not have been committed, but with the process and assumptions TE Jin made. If the alleged racist truly believes Korean prayer is sinful because it is Korean, there is a bona fide charge of racism to be investigated. It would be appropriate to address such a brother about his perceived sin in private, taking other witnesses along should he remain unrepentant. Only after that process should the church courts have been made aware of these allegations. This process ensures that the truth is told, and that the 9th commandment is not broken. However, starting with the conclusion that these comments were an attack on Korean prayer seems to be an adaptation of the kind of “guilt by skin color” that is rampant in the world today.

It is possible the alleged racist who made the statement took issue with the style, and not the ethnic background of the prayer. In other words, in a PCA that has overwhelmingly repudiated racism, is it not more likely that it is the mode of the prayer, rather than the ethnicity of that prayer that is causing the objection of this TE? Of course, the world begins its attack with race. There must be a racist lurking behind every corner. Everything is boiled down to race, and all disagreement must include some underlying racial motivation. And yet, Christian charity would require us to admit at least the possibility that the issue might be entirely theological without any racial motivation at all. The process of speaking to a brother first ensures that the wrong picture is not presented as fact in the church court. However, if there is racial sin in a man, it is the sin of the individual rather than the whole denomination.

The conclusion is that the second of our three original diagnostic questions also can be answered at best in the negative, or at worst as undetermined until the process of clarifying intent and views is fully followed. That begs the question as to whether the third diagnostic question has some validity: are there individual racial sins in the PCA that remain unaddressed? That is the question for next the next article.

[1] Commissioner Handbook for the 48th General Assembly of the PCA, p. 164.

[2] Vimeo, Presbyterian Church in America, Thursday Closing Business Session, n.d.,  https://livestream.com/accounts/8521918/events/9731338/videos/222954013, accessed July 28, 2021. TE Jin’s speech takes place from 3:00:12 to 3:01:23


Geoff Gleason is pastor of Cliffwood Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. His passion is to see the people of God grow in their faith, and those who are lost become numbered among the faithful. He has been married for 28 years and, usually, is the joyful father of 11 children ranging in age from 28 to 6, and two grandsons.

Part 2 » An Appeal on Race in the Presbyterian Church in America

“Therefore my appeal is that the PCA re-focus on the gospel ministry of the church and make that its declaration rather than repeatedly making statements on race and its related issues.”

Part 2 » Addressing the Issue

At the end of the last installment, the purpose of this series of articles was defined. A course correction in the focus of some of the elders of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is needed. The issue of race threatens to divide, and yet there is an emphasis on racial sin at the more recent PCA General Assemblies (GAs). It is certainly possible that racial sin needs to be addressed in denominations, and also the PCA. For example, if there is a lack of clarity regarding this sin, or a blindness to it, denominations should make pronouncements. If a new concern arises that requires clarification, a denomination may choose to speak. Or if sin remains unaddressed, brothers are right to call the church to repentance for their complacence. To that end, the next articles in this series will examine:

    1. Whether the PCA has made a clear and thorough declaration on the sin of racism;
    2. Whether there are any new or extraordinary manifestations of this sin rearing its head in society or the PCA that would warrant additional teaching from God’s word;
    3. Whether the PCA neglects shepherding of private or public manifestations of racial sins that should be addressed.

The answer to the first question is a resounding, “Yes.” The PCA has made public, thorough, repeated, and even recent repudiations of the sin of racism, which are documented below.

The PCA and NAPARC (1977)

The PCA’s first declaration on this sin was in 1977 as part of a larger statement made by North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). The 2004 MNA Pastoral Letter on Racism notes: “The Presbyterian Church in America participated in addressing the question of racial reconciliation as early as 1977, through her delegation to the NAPARC conference on race relations, and the resulting statement adopted.”[i] This statement is quoted at length in the MNA pastoral letter. It includes an acknowledgement of guilt and corporate repentance for the guilt of the church in participating in societal sins of racism:

“In repentance we acknowledge and confess that we have failed effectively to recognize the full humanity of other races and the similarity of their needs, desires, and hopes to ours; and thus we have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves… Within the church, our members have exhibited such attitudes and actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups… Our churches have  not been free from such formal actions as discourage membership or participation by minority groups. They have been guilty of a lack of positive action concerning mission to ethnic groups in their own neighborhoods and to ethnic groups at large. They have practiced a kind of cultural exclusivism, thinking of the church as “our church” rather than Christ’s. This involves the sins of pride and idolatry.” [ii]

This statement broadly acknowledges the complicity of NAPARC churches in the sin of racism and expresses repentance over it. Nevertheless, this sin was further addressed twenty-five years later at the 30th General Assembly.

The 30th General Assembly of the PCA (2002)

At the 30th General Assembly held in 2002, Nashville presbytery submitted an overture in which specifically the PCA confessed and repented of its racial sin. This overture (#20 “Racial Reconciliation”) was adopted by the Assembly. Included were the following statements:

“We therefore confess our involvement in these [racial] sins. As a people, both we and our fathers, have failed to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the laws God has commanded. We therefore publicly repent of our pride, our complacency, and our complicity. Furthermore, we seek the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters for the reticence of our hearts that have constrained us from acting swiftly in this matter.

We will strive, in a manner consistent with the Gospel imperatives, for the encouragement of racial reconciliation, the establishment of urban and minority congregations, and the enhancement of existing ministries of mercy in our cities, among the poor, and across all social, racial, and economic boundaries, to the glory of God. Amen.” [iii]

This statement is a repudiation of racism as that which breaks the law of God (thereby a sin), a public repentance over this sin, and a commitment to correct that sin to bring the proclamation of the gospel to all people. That same assembly assigned the Mission to North America (MNA) permanent committee the task of “drafting a proposed Pastoral Letter designed to set forth the truth of our position on the issue of the Gospel and race.”[iv] This pastoral letter was presented and approved at the 32nd General Assembly of the PCA in 2004.

MNA Pastoral Letter on Racism (2004)

The letter drafted by MNA and adopted by the PCA reiterates the wording from Overture 20 and acknowledges the guilt of the PCA in the sins of racism. After grounding the document in the gospel, the letter states the following:

“As we address the issue of race, we do so not because it is politically correct, or out of any pressure from outward society, but simply because it is our desire that the convicting and restoring power of God’s grace in the Gospel be applied to the manifestations of racial sin of which we ourselves are guilty, and that those who experience the negative effects of these sins might know the healing power of God’s grace – that we who have been reconciled to God through Christ might become together a holy temple in the Lord, reconciled to one another by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22).” [v]

There is again an acknowledgement of responsibility for racial sin and a commitment to correct course to include all of God’s image bearers, regardless of their ethnicity, in the worship and service of the PCA. Nevertheless, the denomination revisited the sin of race again twelve years later.

Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley: A Pastoral Letter on Racism and the Gospel (2016)

As part of the 44th General Assembly, held in 2016 in Mobile, AL, an overture was submitted from Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley. This overture again revisited the racial sins of the PCA. It proposed another pastoral letter to be distributed in the PCA as a tool to educate churches on the issue of racial sin. The twelve page letter covers topics previously treated by the PCA including the theological basis for condemning racism as sin and lays out a number of responses the church can take to address this issue. As the report concludes, their letter is offered to the church with the intent to exhort to change:

“So, learn, pray, acknowledge, relate, and commit. These pastoral suggestions are offered in the spirit of “stirring one another up to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Your presbytery writes as fellow elders, brothers, and members of the congregations of PMV. May the Lord himself grant us Gospel unity, racial reconciliation, and enable us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).” [vi]

This pastoral letter really does little more than repeat the theological and biblical record the PCA hard already laid out in dealing with the issue of race. And yet, two years later the PCA again addressed the issue of racial sin.

Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation Report (2018)

As part of the 44th General Assembly, the PCA also assigned an ad interim committee to “study issues related to Racial Reconciliation.” This report condemns racial sin from Scripture, as other statements before had done. However, what is of special interest from this report is the snapshot it provides of the views of race among PCA  elders. The adopted report includes an extensive summary of the survey of PCA elders conducted by Lifeway Research. 2,618 elders responded (1,498 TEs to 1,120 REs) to an online survey in late 2017. Included in the results of this survey are the following findings:

    • 72% of respondents rated some level (a little to an extreme amount) of racism in their experience in the PCA. However, 95%+ was viewed as unintentional by way of insensitive comments, etc., whether in congregations, Sessions, presbyteries, or PCA agencies.
    • 94% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the Bible teaches racism is sinful.
    • 98% of respondents agreed on some level that racism is a sin.
    • 96% of respondents agreed they are willing to partner with churches with different ethnicities for the purpose of ministry.[vii]

These stats show that there is almost unanimous acceptance of the theology laid out in previous reports and pastor letters on race even as it makes the case again that racial sin is, in fact, sinful.

Has the PCA made a clear and thorough summary of its views of racial sin? Yes it has. Repeatedly. Before the 48th General Assembly there were 5 major works from the denomination and its sister churches that without reservation identify and condemn racial sin. In other words, the PCA has stated in no uncertain terms that racism is a sin that should not be tolerated in the church.

That means that, when it comes to the issue of race, further statements are not needed to clarify biblical, theological positions. The lines have been drawn and are clear. However that does not mean that further reasons may not exist to continue to revisit the issue. The next installment will consider those possibilities.

[i] “Committee on Mission to North America Pastoral Letter on Racism”, Approved at the March 2004 MNA Committee Meeting, p. 20.

[ii] Pastoral Letter on Racism, p. 21.

[iii] Pastoral Letter on Racism, p. 20.

[iv] Pastoral Letter on Racism, p. 24.

[v] Pastoral Letter on Racism, p. 3.

[vi] Pastoral Letter from the Presbytery of the Mississippi Valley, p. 16.

[vii] Minutes of the 46th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. The survey findings are included as an appendix to the report of the ad-interim committee, beginning on page 630.


Geoff Gleason is pastor of Cliffwood Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. His passion is to see the people of God grow in their faith, and those who are lost become numbered among the faithful. He has been married for 28 years and, usually, is the joyful father of 11 children ranging in age from 28 to 6, and two grandsons.

The Church of Christ and His People

Marriage Introduction

If you are in the presbyterian and reformed world, it is the season of General Assemblies and Synods. In my view it often turns into silly season. Never do I see as many people who profess faith in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty wring their hands over the condition of the church. Chicken Little has nothing on us. However, at the same time there are significant issues that face the church of the Lord, and also my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. It can be argued that much reform must take place in the Western Church as a whole. It is overrun with the entertainment culture of the world and the philosophies of man found in the world’s approach to social justice and a host of other issues ranging from marriage to sexual purity. What, then, is the balance between genuine concern for the purity of the church and a sinful worry? Certainly this is not the first time the church finds itself in need of reform.

In Revelation 2-3 the Spirit writes His letters to the seven churches. These churches, in most cases, have issues they need to address. The Ephesians had lost their first love (Rev. 2:4). Pergamum and Thyatira are tolerating aberrant theology (Rev. 2:14; 20). Sardis is dead (Rev. 3:1), Laodicea is lukewarm (Rev. 3:16). Those descriptions are certainly not confidence inspiring. Further, in the Pauline epistles we read of churches which have most definitely lost their way. The Galatian church is in danger of being overtaken by legalists who advocate a return to the Mosaic ceremonial laws (Gal. 3:3). The Corinthians… they’ve taken it to a whole new level. They tolerate sexual immorality not even accepted in the world (1 Cor. 5:1). There is drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:21). Likewise in James’ letter, the church is overcome with favoritism (Jam. 2:6). Surely this cannot be the same church that Christ said would withstand the very gates of hell! (Matt. 16:18).  And yet it is. It is the church filled with people acting out their sinsful nature which is, as yet, not removed. So how are we to build up this church?

Address Error in humility. I had a good talk with a friend of mine who was critical of conservative reformed Christians over their tone. And he is right. To some extent, the conservative Christian world has taken on the error of the Ephesian church (Rev. 2:1-7) who was theologically correct, but lacked love for the Lord. It is true that the Lord preserves His church through people who stand for the truth. It is right for Christians to desire to be those people, but they must be realistic about their own faults as well. Recognizing personal sin is crucial in being able to reprove with gentleness an humility. Among the seven things that God hates in Prov. 6:16-19 are haughty eyes, and sowing discord among brothers. The right theology argued from a position of pride, mocking and ridiculing other Christians does this very thing. Therefore it is important to deal gently with the flaws of others, as long as is possible, remembering that all theologians hold their convictions as sinful men.

Speak the truth. On the flip-side, in church history men have been silent about the truth when they should have spoken because of the fear of man. Why is it that Paul was the only one who spoke to Peter in Gal. 2:11-14? Barnabas was there, and he could have spoken, but it says there that they were silent because they were “fearing the circumcision party.” How many could have spoken before Martin Luther et. al did in the early 16th century? There were many. And yet the fear of man or the love of position and influence kept mouths shut. That is not how the church is served. It is the task of all Christians, and church leaders especially, to be faithful to the word of God and not show favoritism (Gal. 2:11-14). The preoccupation of the church should be with the purity of the bride of Christ, purchased with His blood, whose faithfulness He desires.

Pray. The bride of Christ may be oppressed from without or corrupted from within. But Christ bought her with His own blood. He loves her far better than any man could. And besides, He is the Almighty One. So interceding for His bride in prayer should really be step one. In John’s gospel, prayer to God through Christ is the right method of prayer (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26). This is the church of Christ. The gates of hell will not prevail against it because they cannot prevail against Him.

While living in this world it is right to fight for the purity of the church in this world (the church militant). This article represents some guiding principles as we engage in this struggle. The Lord is sovereign, also over today’s church which is so very flawed. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and make Your bride into the church triumphant!