We should never look to riches and power to assess God’s favor in our life. Sometimes they are blessings from his hand, but sometimes God uses them as a curse. Scripture tells us that out of the same lump of clay, God makes vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor (Romans 9:21). He prepares the vessels of wrath for destruction. This destruction shows the vessels of honor the riches of his glory, for they have received mercy (Romans 9:23).
When we read God’s statement in scripture where he says, “For this very purpose I have raised you up,” commonplace religion has conditioned us always to expect the reason to be something positive for the person addressed. Perhaps God raised this person up to save a group of people from genocide, like Esther. Maybe God raised this person up to save a group of people from famine, like Joseph. However, in this passage of scripture, both guesses would be wrong.
In Romans 9:17, Paul tells us that God raised Pharaoh up to destroy him. The exact reason given is that I raised you up “that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” In other words, God increased Pharoah’s earthly wealth and power to enslave the people of God so that God might show how weak worldly wealth and power are against him. God used Pharoah to show his people that their most powerful enemies are nothing against his might.
We should never look to riches and power to assess God’s favor in our life. Sometimes they are blessings from his hand, but sometimes God uses them as a curse. Scripture tells us that out of the same lump of clay, God makes vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor (Romans 9:21). He prepares the vessels of wrath for destruction.
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By Jacob Tanner — 1 year ago
Many may have preferred Knox to simply tolerate Mary, Queen of the Scots, but he could not tolerate what he did not believe to be biblical. There are too few men like this today. Knox was not a man who tolerated sin or opposition to God’s Word in any manner, but he was a man committed to the truth of God’s Word and ways. This commitment to God and His Word would even lead him into the life of a slave in the French galley, but even there, he would remain committed to the Lord, longing for the day when he would once more preach His Word.
Preaching the Word of God is one of the most blessed tasks a man may be called to perform. However, just as James warns that not all should desire to teach—for their judgment will be all the harsher before Christ (James 3:1)—many others prove to be ineffective communicators of gospel truth because they have failed to apprehend by faith the very conviction of truth needed to be a true preacher of the Word of God. Though various styles are used in preaching, and though God can take a man who mumbles, stumbles, and studders and make much of his message, the one who is not convicted of the truth will not a good preacher make. The point is not as much oratoary ability, but zeal for God and His Word.
John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, was one of those blessed men who possessed, from all accounts, both pathos and ethos; that is, Knox possessed the rare ability to passionately communicate what he held most dear: The Word of God. While the aim of preaching is never to entertain or produce a manufactured emotional response, true Gospel preaching will often thunder forth from a pulpit whether or not the preacher is himself emotional. The Word of God carries with it a distinct power to rouse up faith, conviction, repentance, and a turning towards Christ within the hearts of sinners as the Holy Spirit performs the act of regeneration (Rom. 10:17). But man is much less likely to preach that which he does not believe or care about. Therefore, the one who is convinced of the truth of Scripture and convicted by it cannot do anything other than stand upon the Word of God, will be, of necessity, a compelling communicator of Gospel truth.
John Knox was such a man. From the time his pulpit ministry began, right up until his death, Knox thundered forth the Word from the pulpit and wrote ferociously with his pen. James Melville, having gone to see Knox in 1571 only one year prior to his death, wrote:
“Of all the benefits I had that year was the coming of that most notable prophet and apostle of our nation, John Knox, at St. Andrews. I heard him teach the prophecies of Daniel that summer and the winter following. In the opening of his text he was moderate the space of a half an hour, but when he reached the application he made me tremble so much that I could not hold the pen to write. He wielded this power when in bodily weakness, for he had to be helped into the church and lifted into the pulpit where he had to lean on his first entry. But when he came to his sermon he was so active and vigorous that he was like to beat the pulpit into pieces and fly out of it.”
The Scottish reformer, even frail in weak in age, was bold as a lion while tender as a lamb and always a bulwark of true, Christian faith. There is much, then, that the Christian who lives in a society intolerant towards Christians can learn from this powerful Saint of the past.
Knox is, perhaps, best known today as a thunderous preacher of the Word of God who embodied the righteous man of Proverbs 24:1: He was as bold as a lion throughout his ministry, whether preaching to the masses or standing against “Bloody” Mary, Queen of the Scots. Protestant Christians were typically not tolerated in Knox’s day, and the reformer often found himself facing various modes of persecution. Yet, he never once stopped boldly proclaiming the truth.
This courageous preaching was an admirable feature of his ministry. In his exceptional and succinct biography of Knox, Iain H. Murray writes:
“It was said of [Knox] when he died that he ‘never feared the face of man’; and that is true of him… He was never afraid to be alone, and to stand alone. His was the same heroic character that you see in Martin Luther standing in the Diet of Worms and elsewhere.
“But consider him as a preacher. His great characteristic as a preacher was vehemency.”
By Telios Law — 1 week ago
“Telios Law has broken the mold of scorched-earth institutional defense/plaintiff recovery to develop a restorative method of ministry investigations. The Telios method does not conform to the winner-take-all patterns of American law but strives to transform and renew the parties and the past.”
PCA member, attorney, and Telios Law founder, Theresa Sidebotham, has recently published Handling Allegations in a Ministry: Responses and Investigations.
For over a decade, Theresa Sidebotham has been practicing law providing guidance and legal counsel to help religious organizations care for their people while advancing their spiritual calling. Handling Allegations in a Ministry springs from her desire to help churches and ministries prevent issues before they start and confront problems before they overwhelm the church.
Sidebotham asserts, “Allegations of harm must be taken seriously. The health and reputation of the organization, the potential victim, and the accused are at stake.” For example, a church office worker complains about romantic advances made by a pastor. Or parents in a congregation accuse a teenage boy of touching their daughter inappropriately. Or a woman in a ministry files a sexual harassment complaint about a male coworker, which turns into a confusing he said/she said clash.
With clear and practical guidance, this book shows how to:
Respond to complaints and make appropriate reports
Listen to and protect those who may have been harmed
Create a fair process and communicate it appropriately
Take responsibility and restore those who have been harmed
Attorney Hugh Jones of Charity Counsel says, “Telios Law has broken the mold of scorched-earth institutional defense/plaintiff recovery to develop a restorative method of ministry investigations. The Telios method does not conform to the winner-take-all patterns of American law but strives to transform and renew the parties and the past.”
In addition to the Handling Allegations in a Ministry, Telios Teaches offers training on Child Protection, Diversity/Inclusion, and Sexual Harassment Prevention. A subscription to the learning management system on the Internet also includes professional development courses on member care, apologizing, risk management, and more.
Handling Allegations in a Ministry is part of a triad of tools for prevention, protection, and response. These tools may be accessed at Telios Teaches, Telios Law, and Telios Investigations.
By Todd Gwennap — 1 month ago
Raising the threshold for assumption of original jurisdiction from 2 (2) Presbyteries to 10% of Presbyteries has the potential both to prevent and to pervert justice in church courts. By raising the threshold to 10%, nine (9) Presbyteries would have to request assumption of original jurisdiction. This represents a five-fold increase, and it makes BCO 34-1 all but unusable. It is nearly impossible for an issue to be so widely known that nine Presbyteries would ask the General Assembly to take action. Thus, justice would be potentially prevented by the sheer difficulty of reaching this threshold.
As fall arrives, PCA Presbyteries will begin debating and voting on amendments to the Book of Church Order that received initial approval at this summer’s General Assembly.
While most of the discussion of these amendments will likely focus on Overture 15 (concerning issues of sexuality among church officers), this article focuses on the apparently less-contentious Overture 8. I believe this Overture could do unintentional damage to the peace and unity of the church.
Overture 8 proposes amending BCO 33-1 and 34-1. Both of these paragraphs concern the jurisdiction of church courts in matters of church discipline. Members of local churches are tried by Sessions (BCO 33), while pastors are tried by Presbyteries (BCO 34); these are their respective courts of “original jurisdiction.” Both paragraphs also contain a further provision: if courts “refuse to act” in “doctrinal cases or cases of public scandal,” two other coordinate courts may petition the next highest court to assume “original jurisdiction” and try the case. When such petition is made, the next highest court must take the case.
In other words, if a Session refuses to discipline a church member, and two other Sessions ask the Presbytery to assume original jurisdiction, the Presbytery must do so. Similarly, if a Presbytery refuses to discipline a pastor, and two other Presbyteries ask the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction, the General Assembly must do so.
Problems with BCO 33-1 and 34-1 as Currently Written
[N.B. For the remainder of this article, I will refer to “Presbytery” and 34-1 exclusively. These comments apply with equal force to “Session” and 33-1.]
As currently written, these paragraphs have two issues. First, they fail to define “refuses to act.” This has led to confusion in recent years, as several BCO 34-1 requests have asked the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction in discipline cases. Does “refuses to act” mean the Presbytery has ignored the issue entirely? If the Presbytery investigates allegations against a pastor, and that investigation does not raise a “strong presumption of guilt” (BCO 31-2), has the Presbytery “refuse[d] to act”? Furthermore, if a Presbytery institutes process against a pastor but that process yields a finding of innocence, can one say the Presbytery has refused to act? What if they return a guilty verdict but impose too light a censure for a serious offense?
For many of these hypothetical situations, one could plausibly argue that Presbytery has acted but refused to act fully and appropriately. The imprecision of “refuses to act” thus leaves room for confusion and disagreement.
Second, the paragraphs require only two (2) coordinate courts to petition in order to require the assumption of original jurisdiction. As the denomination has grown, some have expressed concern that two (2) Presbyteries represents too low a threshold—especially given the PCA’s eighty-eight (88) Presbyteries.
Overture 8 attempts to address both of these shortcomings.
Overture 8 seeks to address these apparent deficiencies in BCO 33-1 and 34-1.
First, addressing the vagueness of “refuses to act,” Overture 8 instead proposes instead, “does not indict.” In other words, it narrows the range of possible scenarios above to a single scenario—the court “does not indict.”