Written by Aaron L. Garriott |
Sunday, April 17, 2022
Music is undeniably an effective means of administering balm to the soul. When the Word of God is set to a beautiful melody, the music can stir within us a zeal and hope that nothing else can. Music is, as Abraham Kuyper wrote, a “means for bringing a worshiper’s soul out of the ordinary and the mechanical into passion and activity.” Additionally, praising the Lord in song displays and fortifies Christian unity, as members of one body unite with one voice.
It was 374, and the Roman city of Milan was riotous. The bishop had just died, and there was a deep divide between the Arians (who taught that Jesus is less than God) and the Trinitarians (who taught that Jesus is God). Which one would the next bishop be? Shouting and sparring in the cathedral, the people grew increasingly belligerent. Ambrose the governor walked in, and a peaceful silence immediately descended. Suddenly, a child yelled, “Ambrose for bishop!” Only days later, Ambrose commenced his pastoral duties as bishop of Milan. Much to the consternation of the Arians, Ambrose staunchly defended the Trinitarian orthodoxy set down in the Council of Nicaea fifty years before.
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By Blaise Edwards M.D. — 7 months ago
Written by Blaise Edwards, M.D. |
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Those physicians who are authoritatively forcing the shot on all patients have blood on their hands. They should know better, especially regarding pregnant women and children. Never in my lifetime have we abdicated testing, crossed our fingers, and said, “Well, so far, so good. Let’s give it a shot on pregnant women.” There was always a significantly higher burden of safety here.
When I was in medical school, I had the privilege of working in a large inner-city hospital, located right between two rival gangs. There were no emergency room residents, so trauma was handled by the general surgery residents. As such, I had firsthand views of some significant trauma. Each “emergency room” was basically curtains separating a large open space into cubicles. One day, a report came over the radio, we would receive a wounded officer and a wounded gang member. The officer was unfortunately shot in the back and paralyzed, the gang member shot in the knee, but otherwise fine. They were placed side by side, but with the curtain open, giving more room for triage. I’ll never forget that the officer, with a neck brace on, couldn’t move, but his eyes were constantly looming rightward, toward the gang member. The gang member could turn his head, and he was giving the officer his best death stare, no remorse.
Someone whispered what I was thinking, basically the desire to withhold treatment and kick the gang member out of the hospital, or actually harm him. But what we did, and what the trauma team did, was to treat him like every other patient. In essence, we did our jobs.
So now, in current times, we have doctors refusing to see “unvaccinated” people. Really? That is the hill these physicians want to die on? We have an experimental gene therapy that did not go through full proper testing, underwent data manipulation so they could get their precious EUA, and doesn’t do anything it is supposed to. On top of that, it is seemingly harming, both directly through injury and indirectly through immune weakness, lots of innocent people. And these supposedly “trained” doctors, because they are too scared to stand up to the administration and their peers, are not only allowing this disaster to be carried out but actually arguing with patients about the purported benefit of the therapy.
It doesn’t take long to find out that safety has been shelved and replaced by profit motives. Why is there no data safety review board? Why are the drug companies and the government (in other words, the industry) the ones reviewing their own investigations? The safety review board should be independent and beyond reproach. This is not happening.
By David Schrock — 4 weeks ago
In truth, we deserve nothing but condemnation for our sins against our Creator God. Yet, the doctrine of election teaches us how God has made a way of eternal salvation, and for those who have been given life to believe, there are few doctrines more sweet and sobering. Such sweetness does not eliminate the challenge presented by this doctrine, but hopefully in this extended meditation on John 6 you can see what Jesus is saying, what God is doing, and what John’s Gospel is calling us to do—to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he has revealed to us the Father and the Father’s eternal plan for salvation.
A number of years ago, I preached a sermon Titus 1:1. In that passage, Paul says, he is “an apostle Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.” In that sermon it would be impossible and unfaithful to ignore the word “elect” (eklekton) and the way in which Paul labored for the faith of the elect.
And yet, despite the clear presence of the word in the text and its relationship to faith, truth, and Paul’s gospel ministry, my exposition initiated a cascade of events that resulted in my eventual resignation from my pastoral office. Such is the antagonism against the doctrine of election, which has often been flown under the banner of Calvinism.
In more recent days, I preached a series of messages from John 6, a passage that also touches the doctrine of election. And in these messages, preached in a church where the doctrines of grace are not eschewed but embraced, I was able to show from Scripture what Jesus says about God’s sovereignty in salvation.
In what follows, I want to bullet point some of the key truths uncovered in John 6 with respect to the doctrine of election. In many other articles, I have written how evangelism and election relate, what Scripture says about election, and what hyper-Calvinism really is. In this article, however, I want to stick to Jesus’s words in John 6—a passage where our Lord teaches about the ways God brings salvation to his elect, while passing over others.
Admittedly, this passage is a hard saying (v. 60) and election is a hard doctrine, but it is a true doctrine and one worth pondering. So, with the goal of understanding what Jesus says in John 6, let me offer nine truths about the doctrine of election.
Nine Truths about the Doctrine of Election
Before getting into the text, here is an outline of the nine points. Because what follows is rather long, you might consider picking which point is most interesting (or troubling) and starting there.
Election depends on the God who selects, not mankind who seeks.
Election is ordained in eternity and revealed in time.
Election in time mirrors God’s election in eternity.
God’s election results in faith, not the reverse.
Election does not deny the universal offer of Christ; it secures a positive response.
Election depends on the will of God, not the will of man.
The election of God’s people ensures that he will bring the gospel to them.
Election directs Jesus’s ministry, and ours.
Election is for the glory of God, not the glory of man.
1. Election depends on the God who selects, not mankind who seeks.
In John 6, we learn that Jesus is not compelled to save because some seek him; he is compelled to save because God sent him to save a particular people (i.e., the elect). This point is seen a few ways.
First, Jesus knows who are his. In John 6:37, he describes a people whom the Father has given him. These are the ones who will come. This language of “given ones” is Jesus’s way of identifying his sheep. Throughout John, the elect are described by this phrase—the given ones (see e.g., John 6:39; 10:29; 17:6–9, 11–12, 14, 24; 18:9). So Jesus does not randomly seek people to save, because in eternity past the Father already gave him a people to save. These are the ones who will come to him, and these are the chosen ones he has come to save.
Second, Jesus knows why people seek him. As John 6:26 declares, the crowds seek Jesus to fill their stomachs. Clearly, not all seekers seek from pure hearts. Jesus know this and shows, by the end of John 6, how many would-be seekers are not true seekers.
Third, Jesus knows who will not believe. In John 6:64, John writes, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.” This is a remarkable truth. As Jesus looked at a sea of humanity, he could see the heart of everyone before him (cf. John 2:23–25). And in his ministry, he spent as much time revealing unbelief in those who would not believe (cf. John 7:7), as he did producing faith in those who would. Perhaps, this approach to ministry seems foreign to our consumeristic minds, but read John 6 again. In John’s evangelistic Gospel (see 20:31), we will find an approach to evangelism that depends on God’s will, not appeals to man’s will.
In sum, Jesus is not the Savior of an unknown humanity, he is a Savior for all those whom the Father gave him before the world began.
2. Election is ordained in eternity and revealed in time.
As noted in Truth #1, Jesus works to expose the real condition of the heart. For instance, in his discourse with the crowds, Jesus brings his seekers to a place of grumbling (v. 41), disputing (v. 52), and leaving (v. 66). In this way, he shows the crowds that they are not truly seeking seek him. And he does this because he knows who will not believe.
Conversely, because he knows who will believe, he says and does everything for his elect, so that they would confess him as their Lord and Christ (v. 67). Remarkably, Jesus does not fear losing the ones God has given to him. Instead, he opens the door for them to leave and he challenges his elect to profess their faith—which they do. In John 6:67–69, we read this exchange,
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Indeed, the elect of God are unknown to the world until they are revealed by enduring faith.
To put it doctrinally, election is something God does in eternity past, which is then revealed in time. And because God has decreed the end from the beginning and everything in between, the result of Jesus’s word ministry perfectly matches what God ordained.
3. Election of the Twelve reflects, but does not reveal, God’s election in eternity.
The last statement in John 6 is one highlighting the divide which still stands among the Twelve.
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
Most directly, Jesus says to the Twelve, that he has chosen them. In context, Jesus’s words reply to Peter’s great confession (vv. 68–69), but they also explain why Peter confessed faith in Christ. When all the crowds departed, Peter remained with the Twelve because Jesus choose them. In other words, the ultimate efficacy of their discipleship was not their human will. It was Jesus’s divine choice.
Still, Jesus admits that one of his chosen ones, Judas, remains a son of perdition. As it will be revealed, God’s choice of Judas is different than that of Peter. For instance, Jesus prays to protect Peter from Satan’s sifting (Luke 22:31), but Jesus permits, even sends, Judas to follow his Satanic heart (John 13:2, 27). In short, the difference between Peter and Judas is ultimately up to God, not man. And this divide in the Twelve, like the divide between the Twelve and the departing crowds, reflects the eternal choice of God’s elect.
That said, we need to see a difference between the Father’s choice in election and Jesus’s choice of the Twelve. In other words, when Jesus speaks of the election of the Twelve, he is not describing the same reality as the Father’s election. Jesus chose Judas to be one of the twelve, but he chose him knowing that he would betray him. Hence, Jesus chose Judas for betrayal, not belief. Judas’s betrayal would be a result of his own choosing, when he followed the ways of Satan instead of Christ.
Christ’s of him then is not in opposition to the Father’s will. His choice is something different than the Father’s election unto salvation. Jesus’s choice of the Twelve was a choosing for service, of which eleven disciples were also appointed to believe in Christ, but one wasn’t. And this bifurcation in the Twelve indicates a difference between the Son’s choice and the Father’s.
To make the point finer. This does not mean that the Father and Son have two different elections; it means that Jesus’s election of the Twelve reflects God’s will to ordain some to life and service, while for others he orders their lives to glorify him in their unbelief. As Proverbs 16:4 states, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” In short, Jesus choice of the Twelve reflects God’s sovereign decree for the elect and the non-elect, not God’s choice of the elect only.
In the Trinitarian theology of John, this is fitting. Jesus does exactly what he sees the Father doing (5:19) and that activity of the Father includes judgment and salvation (5:19–30). Sublimely, God is sovereign over salvation and judgment. And though the process by which God brings salvation to the elect and judgment to unbelievers is not the same (i.e., he condemns unbelievers for their sins in the body, not for being non-elect), the cosmic reality remains: God has declared the end from the beginning and he has determined the eternal reality of every creature.
In Christ’s choice of the twelve, we see this. His election of the eleven who believe on him and the one who will betray him, depicts the universal reality that God has made vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath and all the creatures in his world will ultimately render him the glory for which he created them (cf. Rom. 9:19–23).
4. God’s election results in faith, not the reverse.
As Jesus says in John 6:29, Jesus says that faith is not the work of man, but the work of God. Or to say it differently, faith is the fruit of God’s gift of eternal life (v. 47). Negatively, then, faith is not what man does to get God. But positively, faith is the work of God in man.
Man must believe in the Son to be saved, but faith in the Son comes from the Father (vv. 44, 65) by means of the Spirit (v. 63). And because the Father, Son, and Spirit planned salvation before the world began, we can say with confidence, election results in faith, not the reverse.
Even more concretely, John 6:47 leads us to see that faith comes from people who have received the gift of eternal life (“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life”). And as John 6:54 indicates, feeding on Jesus is only possible for those who have received eternal life (“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”).
Indeed, Jesus says you must eat of his flesh to have eternal life (v. 54), but such a participation in Christ will only come if God has granted life (cf. 1 John 5:1).
By David Martin — 3 months ago
It is very easy to conclude that a spiritual cancer has been in the body too long and that there does not appear to be anything that those who are committed to God’s Word can do. We have tried and we have failed. Certainly, God can do something to heal the cancer, if He chooses. But the future of the denomination outside a miraculous intervention is bleak.
In May of 2000 I was attending a Reformed pastor’s conference in Ohio when it was announced that Dr. James Montgomery Boice had just been diagnosed with stage four cancer. It had only just been detected but by that time the cancer was beyond anything the doctors could do to stop its destructive spread. Dr. Boice preached his last sermon shortly after and within a few months of this announcement at the conference he was gone from this world.
The story might have had a different ending had the Lord in His providence made the cancer known at a stage at which something could have been done by doctors. But by the time the cancer was discovered, it was simply too late. The devastation worked by the cancer in his body had gone too long untreated.
This could be a kind of analogy of the state of things in the Presbyterian Church in America. It is very easy to conclude that a spiritual cancer has been in the body too long and that there does not appear to be anything that those who are committed to God’s Word can do. We have tried and we have failed. Certainly, God can do something to heal the cancer, if He chooses. But the future of the denomination outside a miraculous intervention is bleak.
And I have to be honest, in thinking through all that has gone on in the past three years in the PCA, and especially in light of the past few months, this is the question that I have asked myself. What are we to do?
I do not know the answer. But if we are to face the problem head on, we have to be honest about the current state of the church – about the problems that exist. And as I have considered this, I see three major problems.
First, we made a major tactical error in giving the General Assembly’s power as a judicial court to the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC).
One of the significant aspects of Presbyterian government is that there are three courts of elders. Sessions of churches, presbyteries, and General Assembly each function as a court, or at least they originally did. And it is a good system. The next highest court can always be appealed to when there has been a failure or perceived failure of the lower court to render the biblically correct decision. This provides a check on lower courts that begin to move toward liberal views of Scripture, or that begin to tolerate or accept immoral behavior among their members. Ultimately, the General Assembly would have the last say in doctrinal and moral issues.
But in 1988, the elders of the PCA turned this power of judgment over to 24 elders. And in so doing, set up the seemingly impossible situation in which we find ourselves today. Had the overtures from Central Georgia, Savannah River, and Southeast Alabama requesting the assumption of original jurisdiction been considered directly by the General Assembly itself, TE Greg Johnson may have been charged for holding views regarding same-sex attraction that were alleged to be contrary to the Westminster Standards. It is conceivable that the PCA would not be in the circumstances we find ourselves today.
I was not in the denomination when the Standing Judicial Commission was created (I was in the Presbyterian Church, USA [PCUSA] at the time, watching it crumble), though I am sure the arguments for establishing the SJC centered around practicality, efficiency, and logistics. But whatever the reasons, it was done, and despite the fact that the Book of Church Order (BCO) says that the General Assembly is the highest court, that is, unfortunately, not precisely the case. The highest judicial court is a group of 24 elders that act, think, and judge for the rest of us. There is the perception among some that the SJC is sadly out of line with the majority of PCA elders.
It could be argued that this has left us with a kind of episcopal/presbyterian hybrid, rather than a pure presbyterian system of government. And that is, unfortunately, more conducive to a liberal trajectory than a conservative one.
I personally think that the BCO needs to be amended back to the pre-1988 version as a necessary grassroots “check and balance” on those who would seek to change policy by judicial fiat rather than by action of the General Assembly. The question is, can this past revision of the BCO be reversed? Or would slightly over one third of the elders who voted against the proposed amendments 23 and 37 prevent any movement to restore the GA to the highest court in every respect?
Second, we did not have the foresight to amend the BCO to exclude current false doctrines or false teachers when it would have been easily achievable.
The proposed amendments 23 and 37 recently defeated by vote of the presbyteries, could have with some insight been easily passed years ago, but they were not introduced. Some might argue that men like TE Johnson and those espousing “Side B” views could not have been anticipated earlier, but that just isn’t correct. The argument for ordaining “gay-but-celibate ministers” has been around since at least the 1980’s in other denominations that were becoming increasingly liberal. Nevertheless, the elders of the PCA (conservative as they were) did not anticipate that this heresy could or would infiltrate the PCA. But it did. And, sadly, now that it has reared its ugly head, the numbers of those espousing the heresy, and the presbyteries following this, even though not a majority, appear to have become too many to overcome.
Finally, there appear to be among some PCA’s elders a loss of commitment to the biblical doctrines as expressed in The Westminster Confession of Faith.
By far the chief problem, when it comes down to absolute basics, is that many in the PCA appear no longer to be convinced that the Westminster Confession of Faith is an a clear exposition of biblical doctrine.
There appear to be some who do not view regeneration as taught in the Confession, as evidenced by their teachings on “Side B” theology. They argue, in spite of Scripture to the contrary, and in spite of historical and contemporary examples, that God cannot change someone’s sexual orientation. TE Johnson make this as clear in his December 21, 2021 USA Today article. But this expression is a denial of the Confessional doctrine of regeneration, or at least a serious denigrating of it. Either way it is not orthodox.
Moreover, there are elders in the PCA who appear to have softened in their views of homosexuality in general. We have elders who would not go so far as to perform a “gay wedding,” but they would have no problem attending a “gay wedding” (as a part of affirming the persons without affirming the practice). But no one among the Reformers or Westminster Puritans, or any number of other men committed to Scripture in the past would ever have countenanced such an inconsistency. In fact, had any such accommodation been suggested in the Old Testament church, or any part of the church through the first part of the 20th century, the one who attempted to justify it would have been subject to discipline by the assembly. The idea of a “homosexual marriage” would have been so alien to God’s people from the beginning that they would not have been able to justify it on any kind of biblical grounds. It would have been to them like someone attempting to justify attending a ceremony in which a pagan friend was offering a child to Molech, just to “support” his pagan friend, or to “love him while not loving the sin.” That would rightfully have been considered a total accommodation to the perverse practice. And yet when it comes to “gay marriages” we have PCA elders who cannot see that they are doing the same thing. And the problem is that they just don’t see this sin as detestable anymore. That reflects a dangerously low view of biblical ethics.
Others, whether they know it or not, have adopted the theology of Charles Finney. This is why there is so much compromise when it comes to evangelism and apologetics. Too many in the denomination (despite what they may say) believe that we are the ones who convince people to become Christians. That has led them to conclude that our accommodation to culture, or alignment with the world’s academic community, or winsomeness, or non-offensiveness is necessary for us to draw people to Christ. If we just push the right buttons, we can convince people to turn to Christ. Some will not say explicitly that this is what they believe, but it has become their philosophy. Not surprisingly, TE Johnson actually espouses this theology publicly, as evidenced in his most recent book. But some in the PCA, whether they state it in clear terms or not, have espoused this man-centered approach to evangelism.
I would further argue that we actually have theological liberals in our denomination. One conservative fellow minister in the PCA in a recent article stated that “there are no theological liberals in the PCA,” but I respectfully disagree with that statement.
There are serious liberals in our denomination. They applauded an elder who got up and made an emotional speech devoid of any Scripture, and the next day voted to censure an elder “for intemperate speech” who simply read Romans chapter 1. They did not like the implications of that biblical text. They wanted to avoid it. And that is exactly what liberalism does. In fact, that is where all liberalism begins, downplaying if not rejecting, Scripture.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Other elders in the denomination, and some prominent ones, reject what the Scriptures (and the Westminster Confession of Faith) clearly teach about creation, holding instead parts of the theory of evolution. And this is a serious problem. This is exactly what the liberals in all denominations (including the PCUS) believed. Creation ex nihilo by the Word of God is fundamental to the biblical system.
It all comes down to one’s view of Scripture. And there are some in the PCA whose views of Scripture simply do not line up with orthodoxy. The “theology” of some in the PCA is more culturally or personality driven. Their emphasis follows the world’s view of racism, justice, equality, and, as is becoming clearer, sexuality. And wasn’t this exactly the problem with the liberals within the PCUS so many years ago – and the PCUSA now?
It may be true that no one in the PCA identifies as a liberal. They may not see themselves as that. But the proof is seen in the doctrines they reject. In a previous article on sexuality, I referred to progressives within the PCA. One teaching elder in my own presbytery, who claims to be progressive, responded to the article by denying that there are any progressives in the denomination. That surprised me initially, but in retrospect it makes sense. Progressives, at least in the early stages of their personal evolution, do not want to be identified as such. But that does not change the fact that they actually are progressive.
That is the state of the PCA as I see it. Does this mean that nothing can be done? That I cannot say for sure. Certainly, God can change hearts and minds. None of us doubt that. So we pray. But God also expects those who believe His Word to take serious action. Perhaps one biblical example will make the point.
In Joshua 7-8 recounts the defeat of Israel’s army by the men of the small city of Ai. They had just seen Jericho collapse by God’s power, but here God had allowed them to fail. Not surprisingly, Joshua fell on his knees and prayed for hours. And what was God’s response? “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned.” That was followed by God telling Joshua, “I will be with you no more” if you do not root out the evil (or evil person) from the camp. Prayer is obviously good. But praying leads to action when there is sin that needs to be rooted out.
That is where we are today in the PCA. Decisive action is needed. What that action will be is a matter for serious consideration by all elders in the PCA who are committed to the Scriptures. What would God have us to do?
David Martin is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Dayspring PCA in Forsyth, Ga.