Friday, October 29, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
This is an important recurring question in one form or another. My answer follows:
Suppose a husband and wife come to Christ, already having children aged 3 through 13. In being received into the visible church, should the children be baptized or should they be made to wait until they make a profession of faith?
The Reformed and Presbyterian understanding of covenant children, of course, is that they are to be included in the membership of the visible church. Our Westminster Confession of Faith (XXV.II) says the following:
“The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel(not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” [Emphasis added].
The children of believers, who have not yet professed faith (nor have denied it), are to be received as members with their parents. Baptism is to be administered at the time of admission into the church. Again, our Confession of Faith (XXVIII.I) says,
“Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world."
Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s covenant administered to all received into the visible church and the covenant community. As an Old Testament example, by way of analogy and biblical precedent, at the time of the institution of the sign and seal of circumcision, it was to be administered to all the males in Abraham’s household. Our OPC Directory of Worship (IV.A.2) clearly states, “The baptism of infants is not to be unnecessarily delayed. Notice of intention to present a child for baptism must be given to the session by a parent who is a believer. The baptism of adults must await their public profession of faith in Christ.”
Your specific question about the ages of 3 through 10 is significant. I believe that the reference to “infants” in the Confession of Faith (XXVIII.IV) and in the Directory for Worship (cited above) should be understood in terms of an age of a minor. Are these children to be considered as adults? As stated above, “The baptism of adults must await their public profession of faith in Christ.” In some congregations some young people in the age range you mentioned might be deemed by the respective sessions ready to take a communicants’ class and to be received as communicant members, wherein a young person would be received as and treated as an adult in terms of membership status. This is understood to mean that there is evidence of a credible profession of faith and such necessary discernment to participate as a communicant member with all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities belonging to such membership (which includes communing at the Lord’s Supper; voting in congregational meetings, including the selection of church officers; etc.).
I emphasized the word “some” in the above paragraph. There is not a prescribed age in the Scriptures nor in our OPC Book of Church Order which prescribes the age at which it is appropriate to receive a young person as an adult professed believer. For example, in our own congregation, young people typically pass through an intensive study of the Shorter Catechism before being considered ready to profess faith. The session has adopted a plan of instruction that builds a study of the Shorter Catechism into the 10th grade morning instruction class (Sunday School). We have judged that that is typically an appropriate time for such an in depth study in the WSC to occur before a young person is ready to stand as an adult on their own profession in the congregation, and not simply on the basis of his or her believing parent(s).
In short, then, unless the children in question are being treated as adults, it is entirely appropriate to baptize them as covenant children without expecting or waiting for them to profess faith.
In the specific cases of the young people referred to in the inquiries, it is the responsibility of the parents and of the particular session to make a judgment about the spiritual discernment and the credibility of profession these children are able to demonstrate. It is good to pray for those men of the session and to submit to their judgment, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that they have erred in their judgment of these cases.
This question is an important one in the life of a congregation. May God bless His church and may He give much wisdom in such matters. To that end, I hope that this answer is helpful.
R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Even so, being lawful does not mean it is helpful (I Corinthians 10:23); and being Constitutional does not mean God approves. Realize the Constitution is not a Christian document. This nation as a nation has never confessed Jesus Christ as the Lord, fully God and fully man, who died for our sins, raised for our salvation, and ascended to the Father's right hand in heaven to reign forever. Yes, that is what Christians believe as truth, distinct from Islam, but also from Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American spiritism, Christian Scientism, and other religions.
Ironically, when the citizens of Ephesus, living in the shadow of the great temple of Diana, heard the gospel, “many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all . . . so the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (Acts 19:19-20). Oh, that 9-11 would cause all people in America and in the whole world to burn their magic books and to seek after the true word of the Lord and build upon it!
Friday, August 27, 2010
As public worship is for the praise and glory of God and the building up of the saints, not for the entertainment of the congregation nor the praise of man, the character of the songs used therein is to befit the nature of God and the purpose of worship (line 520).As reformed believers, we think in terms of the “regulative principle of worship,” which is summarized in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith as follows:
In the choice of song for public worship, great care must be taken that all the materials of song are fully in accord with the Scriptures. The words are to be suitable for the worship of God and the tunes are to be appropriate to the meaning of the words and to the occasion of public worship. Care should be taken to the end that the songs chosen will express those specific truths and sentiments which are appropriate at the time of their use in the worship service (line 528).
"But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture" (WCF XXI.1).
- "Let all things be done for edification" (I Corinthians 14:26c)
- "But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner" (I Corinthians 14:40).
SOME QUESTIONS WE MIGHT ASK ABOUT A PARTICULAR PIECE OF MUSIC:
I. Is God glorified in the words and the tune? After all, this is the chief end--not for entertainment, nor for the praise of men.
II. Is it in conformity to Scripture?
III. Are the words and the music edifying? How is the congregation built up? In other words, how does the inclusion of this piece serve the gospel?
IV. What specific truths and godly sentiments are being expressed?
The topic is certainly worthy of greater consideration than we have offered here, but I hope that this is at least a helpful starting point and a bit thought-provoking. Until next time...
R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
My mother is a Christian woman who has been wounded severely by church scandal in the past. She has since stopped attending church for fear of being hurt again, and because "there are no simple Bible-preaching churches around here now". When I invite her to our OPC church, she snaps, "How can you believe that the church has taken Israel's place? The Bible doesn't teach that!!" I believe that the only part of my mother's faith that she holds onto still is the Zionistic, premillennial prophecy views that I formerly held before I came to see the truth of the Reformed view in the Bible. Every time I try to talk to her about it, it ends up in fruitless bickering. I pray for my mother, but I want to know how to explain to her more clearly the biblical basis for our views on Israel concerning the Zionist movement and end time prophecies. Big question, I know, but anything you can give me would be helpful. Thank you.
Let us focus on the epistle to the Ephesians 2 as a biblical foundation for an answer. I am quoting the King James Version just in case Mother may have an appreciation for it, but other reliable translations could be used also.
1And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
As Bible believers, let us find some common ground by simply letting the biblical text be our guide.
Ephesians is written by the apostle Paul to the saints (who are at Ephesus), that is, to Gentile believers.
As fellow believers, who once were dead in trespasses and sins (2:1), those to whom Paul writes have been "quickened", that is, made alive "together with Christ" (2:5). They have been "raised up with Him" (2:6) and "made to sit", that is, they are "seated with Him in the heavenly places" (2:6). Notice that these verbs all indicate completed action ('made alive', 'raised up', and 'seated'). The salvation that Jesus has secured for His people has a heavenly dimension.
By grace they have been saved through faith (2:8).
Chapter 2, verse 11, confirms that Paul writes to Gentiles. As such, Paul tells them that "in time past" (2:11) or "formerly" they were at that time "without Christ" (2:12) and "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" (2:12).
But verses 13 to 22, clearly and emphatically, teach that now, however, the wall of separation and hostility has been removed by Christ and in Christ and that Jews and Gentiles alike have been brought near to God and to one another "in one body" (2:16) so that both now have access to God the Father "by one Spirit" (2:18). Together they are "fellowcitizens" in God's house and kingdom, being built together "unto an holy temple in the Lord" (2:21), built together on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Himself as the cornerstone through whom they are being "fitly framed together" (2:21).
The church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the body. In the church Jews and Gentiles are joined together with a heavenly hope of being "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (2:23).
It is important to remember that Israel was "the church in the wilderness" in the Old Testament (See Acts 7:38) and the good news in the New Testament that is being fulfilled is "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14). The Lord promised Abraham to be God to him and to his seed after him, and in the working of grace in Christ, Abraham has become the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).
As God dwelt in the midst of the Old Testament Israel as expressed through the types and shadows of the tabernacle and the temple, in these latter days He came to dwell among us in Christ (Immanuel--God with us). When Christ ascended to heaven, He promised to send another Comforter and to abide with us always. So it is that now God is with us and dwells in and among us in the Spirit in the church, the whole church, comprised of Jews and Gentiles, as fellow Christians and as fellow saints, forever. As an apostle, it was given to Paul to understand the things revealed in Christ, things "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Ephesians 3:5-6). Ephesians is exceedingly clear. Jews and Gentiles have been joined together in Christ. Together they have been saved by Christ, the Messiah. Together they have been shown that theirs is a heavenly hope. In the resurrection they shall always be together with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:17). Therefore, those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.
It is truly amazing that Paul, himself a Jew, should be sent to the Gentiles to preach the good news. As a zealous Jew, he once persecuted the church unto death, but by God's grace he was transformed into an apostle (Ephesians 4:11). for the building of the church, given by Christ "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12).
The church is "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). The people of God's choosing includes both Jews and Gentiles.
May God bless you richly, as I hope this is a helpful starting place for interaction with Mother. I would be happy to follow up and to interact further if you would like.
Yours in Christ,
R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I believe that the majority view (historically anyway) of the church is that Scripture teaches that it is proper to conduct "just" wars. Since the American military (and government) does not distinguish between just and unjust wars and requires all servicemen and women to fight regardless, is it advisable for Christians to volunteer for military service?
In regards to the Christian understanding of just war, we can consider the explication of the sixth commandment ("Thou shalt not kill.") in the Westminster Larger Catechism:
So, yes, we do acknowledge the propriety of "just war."
Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others ... by just defense thereof against violence,...
Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense;
You asked, "Since the American military (and government) does not distinguish between just and unjust wars and requires all servicemen and women to fight regardless, is it advisable for Christians to volunteer for military service?"
I would have to differ with the premise of your question. In that civil governments bear "the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good and for the punishment of evil doers" (Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter XXIII.I), all governments, including the American government, must necessarily make decisions about the justice or injustice of war. Whenever a government, any government, chooses to go to war or to take military action, they are, in effect, making the determination that it is just to do so.
Of course, governments are capable of acting unjustly and have often done so. But in their own eyes, at least, they do what they do on the basis of what they perceive is best, or prudent, or expedient, or beneficial. The decision is made on the basis of perceived "justice." Even atrocities have been perpetrated on the basis that it seemed "just" to those who have carried them out; and in the end governments may only be trying to 'justify themselves'. But the point is this, the question of whether to go to war or not, that is, to wield the power of the sword, is always a matter of justice.
The problem, of course, is that justice, true justice, is not defined by men but by God. The Scriptures clearly teach that the decisions of civil governments ultimately will be weighed in the balance of God's justice. Simply because a government decides to use force does not insure that true justice is being done.
In one sense, the American government and its military is no different from any other government in history. Whether the government is a monarchy, or a constitutional republic, those who make the decisions to wield the sword are making decisions that impinge on the question of justice. The soldiers of the armies of such governments are thus being called on to carry out those decisions, and such governments expect them to do so.
It is here that we point to the biblical understanding of conscience. An extremely important principle is stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (XX.II) as follows:
2. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
Your question is an important one, not just for the military man or woman, but for us all. As Orthodox Presbyterians we believe being a soldier is a lawful calling as we believe being a doctor or nurse or a teacher or a salesman or an athlete is a lawful calling. The OPC is not a pacifist denomination. We believe it is lawful to be a soldier and to fight wars.
Does that mean, then, that every war is just? Of course not! So what is a soldier to do when confronted with unlawful commands or asked to fight unjust wars? We could ask a similar question of others. What should a doctor or nurse do when the hospital requires him or her to participate in abortions for the sake of convenience? What should a teacher do when required to teach evolution rather than creation as fact? What should a salesman do when asked to shortchange the customer? What should the athlete do when required to compete on the Sabbath?
What would happen to the soldier who refuses to obey unlawful commands? That is a weighty question, but remember many Christians in many different vocations have suffered for preserving conscience and determining to obey God rather than men. Pray that we all would have the courage to do so. We remember the sober words of Jesus, "My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear; fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him" (Luke 12:4-5). How many of us have been asked to sacrifice our lives for conscience' sake? Yet in Christ all of us have been asked "to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1).
In the end, we do well not to bind beyond or contrary to the Word of God the consciences of those who would be soldiers. Even so, we believe the responsibility of bearing the sword is weighty. Therefore, we ought to encourage those who do choose to be soldiers with our prayers and counsel and together endeavor with them to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We must each count the cost of following Christ.
May God bless you richly.
R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Friday, April 30, 2010
I have a spiritual question for you. My parents still go to the United Methodist Church that I was raised going to. Recently, they got a new senior pastor, and she's a woman. Well, [my wife] and I don't feel like it's Biblical for a woman to be a pastor, especially a senior pastor like that. So that has caused some problems with what we're going to do when we visit there on weekends. We have talked about telling my parents that we don't think it's Biblical to have a woman pastor, and so we don't feel right about attending church with them. But, that feels to me like a pretty harsh approach to take, because we are then saying that we'll never to go church with them when we visit, and this pastor will surely be there for a few years. I'm sure they wouldn't want to go to church without us, so that just creates problems. The other issue is, if [our son] goes to visit by himself, do we just let him go to church with them, even though we disagree with the pastor issue?
[My wife] and I had a pretty intense discussion about this tonight. She feels very strongly about it, and has said that she just would not feel comfortable going to church there, but that if we talk to my parents about it and share our beliefs with them, then she'd be willing to go to church with them on the occasional visit. Last time we went, we had to just tell them we would rather stay home instead of go to church, because [my wife] and I hadn't resolved this. She and I have each sought counsel from godly people through our church, and the man I spoke to told me he would probably sit down with his parents and tell them that he didn't agree with the female pastor thing, so he wouldn't be going to church with them. The women [my wife] spoke to all told her that she needed to consider her own witness in the matter, and not hurting it. They thought the best course of action would be to speak the truth, and let it be known how we feel about it, but to still be ok with going to church with them when we're there. The problem I have with that approach is, if we're going to go to church with them, why even confront that issue and voice our opinion? What good would that do, or what benefit would that have? Then my family would always just feel like we didn't really want to be going to their church.
It's a difficult and delicate matter, and I have to say, it has worn me plumb out tonight. I decided to call my mom and just tell her that it wouldn't work with our schedule to have [our son] visit over the weekend, but that he could come on Sunday afternoon. That way, we can just avoid the whole church issue until we're able to pray about it and reach some kind of resolution.
Anyway, if you have any insight, advice, opinion, counsel, whatever on this issue, I'd welcome it.
Greetings in Christ.
I truly do appreciate your desire to do the right and helpful thing.
Let me begin by saying that your conviction about a woman pastor is biblically justified. The apostle Paul writes, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (I Timothy 2:11-12). And also he writes, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (I Corinthians 14:34-35). Of course, there is also the instruction that the overseer is to be “the husband of one wife” (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:5). We could multiply texts of biblical warrant. Important to remember is that the apostle does not root this in culture but in creation. In both I Timothy 2 and in I Corinthians 11, the apostle points to the order of creation in that the man was created first, and the woman was created “from man” and “for the man” (I Corinthians 11:8-9). Now I Corinthians 11 is, of course, a much debated passage as it relates to what Paul means about “head coverings”, but I think it is important to understand that Paul begins with an absolutely clear principle: “the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3). [Note: without trying to argue all the details, I believe very strongly that I Corinthians 11:1-16 is about right order, about honoring one’s head (whether that head be a husband of a wife, or Christ who is the head of the church, or God the Father who is head over God the Son. In other words, in my opinion, headship is the overriding issue.]
Having said that, I believe, M______, that it behooves you to take the lead in this matter and to lead your family well as head of your family.
God would have you and your family worship Him where He is honored, where His word is kept, preached, and obeyed. If a female pastor is a violation of His word; it is thus a dishonor to Him. Is that not your conviction of conscience?
Many of the mainline churches have sorely compromised God’s word in many ways. Many churches have long since compromised the Biblical command regarding the ordination of women to the office of minister or elder. The more recent furor over the ordination of homosexuals in the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches is even more notorious. But even deeper to the core, over the past century many of the churches/denominations have denied the authority and infallibility of the Scriptures, the deity of Jesus Christ (the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word become flesh (John 1:14)), and the necessity of the blood atonement.
I believe, M_____, that it behooves you to lead your family (your wife, your son) into worship in a church where the Word of God is honored on a weekly basis. Do we compromise that conviction when we are visiting family or on vacation? Should we? I think you know the answer to the latter question. Does it require some courage of faith to speak forth your convictions? Of course, it does. But God will help you do the right thing by the presence of the power of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to pray for that courage and conviction, and that you not compromise. Speaking a firm but gentle word to your parents would be a great testimony, especially if that is coupled with you, on those Lord's Days when you are visiting your parents, finding another place of worship you where you and your wife and son can attend and worship in good conscience. A good conscience is a gift of God’s grace, knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we are endeavoring by faith to walk in a manner pleasing and honoring to the Lord, our Head.
And, yes, you do have a responsibility for your son on those occasions when you are absent. I think it is right that you take measures to insure that he is in a place of worship where your consciences as parents are clear, even when you are not there. If that means avoiding those times over a Lord’s Day with your parents, then so be it. That may sound severe, but love looks out for the well being of another, doesn’t it?
Allow me to conclude with a personal note. I grew up with my parents in what was then the United Presbyterian Church of North America (which in 1958 became the UPCUSA and as of 1983 is now known as the PCUSA). I was baptized in that denomination; I professed faith in that denomination; I attended a United Presbyterian Church seminary; I was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church; our daughter S_____ and our son J_____ were baptized in that denomination. In my first two years of ordained ministry, however, I witnessed my denomination accept a minister who denied the deity of Christ, who denied the blood atonement, and who would not affirm the bodily resurrection. Despite appeals to our church’s General Assembly (the highest judicatory in the church) over the course of successive years, his acceptance into the ministry was upheld. My conscience required that I with my family leave that denomination in 1981. Eventually my wife and children and I joined the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a Bible-believing denomination. That was nearly thirty years ago. My point is this; while I loved my parents very dearly at the time and still do, even more, and while they love me very dearly, they know why I chose to leave the denomination of which they are still a part and why, over those 29+ years and to this day, we have not worshiped with them on a Lord’s Day in one of the churches of their denomination. I might say that on occasion they have visited our churches and worshiped with us; and to this day we rejoice in those family times we have together with them. They have remained at their same church for all these years, and while they have never had a female pastor, they have had a number of female ruling elders. Still, they consider their congregation pretty conservative and it is my hope that their Christian confession is genuine. Even so, it remains my conviction that their denomination as a whole remains apostate.
M____, I cannot predict what reaction your parents might give if you speak with them about your concerns and if you take the steps I have suggested above. Even so, you can be sure that the truth spoken in love to them would be a good thing with which God would be well pleased. If we confess Christ before others and do not deny Him, He will confess us before the Father. He is faithful, and His Word is true.
May God bless you richly and may His grace toward you abound. I am praying for you.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Pennsylvania's state forests are one of our greatest public assets and are home to many of the state's highest quality trout streams. Much of this area is habitat for native Eastern brook trout; such habitat is a precious and already-diminishing resource. But these forests provide more than just hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities. They support tourism, local businesses and a sustainable timber supply while ensuring valuable 'green space' and beauty. These forest lands must be protected and well-maintained.
On behalf of not only anglers and hunters in Pennsylvania but for all of us who care about the valuable and varied treasures of the commonwealth, I plead with you and the other lawmakers of our state to provide a wise stewardship of our state forest lands for the good of all.
A reckless pursuit of natural gas through the process of Marcellus Shale drilling could well produce a disastrous diminishment of quality of life for us all rather than the increase it claims to offer. This is NOT simply a matter of economics. The love of money continues to be the root of all kinds of evil.
I am grateful for your consideration.
Friday, March 26, 2010
I have seen some people praying while kneeling before the image of the cross in the church. Is this a practice of disobeying the Second Commandment?
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is committed to what is known as the regulative principle of worship. It is summarized in the following statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 21, Section 1), to which the OPC subscribes:
We believe that this is a proper interpretation of the second commandment:
"The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture."
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:4-6).
Further, the Confession of Faith also states (Chapter 21, Section 6):
"Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto."
Praying is neither tied to nor made more acceptable at the foot of the image of a cross. In fact, as summarized in the second commandment, to make worship depend on such an image is superstition and idolatry.
Surely, the death of Christ on the cross is an historical reality with deep theological and religious meaning. The Word of God certainly teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ has saved His people from their sin by His death on the cross, wherein He bore the curse due to them that they might be blessed.
Thus, the apostle Paul says the word of the cross is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:24, cf. I Cor. 1:18); and he was determined to preach "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).
Further, as Christians we are commanded to take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:38 and 16:24), which means a life of humility and suffering service and of denying oneself in submission to the will of God.
Nevertheless, the Scriptures nowhere teach us to erect the symbol of a cross as an aid to prayer or as a help to worshiping God. Thus, we should not make a cross as an object of worship or even as a means of worship, and we certainly should not bow down to such a graven image.
R. Daniel Knox
I have a theological question:
Was casting lots an acceptable practice in the Bible, or was it just another sinful habit of God's people? If it was acceptable, is casting lots a practice that the modern Church would accept under certain situations. We are reading thru Acts for morning instruction and inquiring minds want to know.The Urim and the Thummim, which were placed in the ephod of the high priest, are generally considered to have been lots to be cast to learn the will of God for Israel.
The Urim and the Thummim, which were placed in the ephod of the high priest, are generally considered to have been lots to be cast to learn the will of God for Israel.
In Leviticus 16:8, the scape goat was to be selected by the casting of lots, according to God’s command.
In a certain sense, the casting of ballots is akin to the practice of casting lots, wherein we choose persons for office, committees, etc. The overriding principle is that the people of God who vote are expressing the discernment of the Spirit given to them.
Proverbs 16:33 tells us that the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. In other words, God governs what we call “chance” outcomes.
It is conceivable to me that the casting of lots could still be used (without sinning, i. e. gambling) to make a decision where a choice is made between two or more equal alternatives on a matter.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Last eve I passed a blacksmith's doorAnd heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
When looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had,' said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, then said with twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out you know."
And so, I thought, the anvil of God's word
For ages skeptics blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed--the hammers gone!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
In the past, I have lived a gay lifestyle, including drinking, and smoking and taking prescription drugs. For a year now, I have given up all of these things, and am attempting to live more Christian lifestyle. I am reading my bible daily, praying and asking for God's forgiveness. It is very clear in the Bible that homosexuality as many other sins are punishable by death. Therefore are we forgiven if we repent and turn our back on this lifestyle? Or once we have lived this way are we beyond forgiveness? Any verses of scripture would be appreciated.I know that Christ died for our sins, and I have asked God into my heart. Could you give me some further direction on what I should be doing?
My answer follows:
Greetings to you in Christ.
From the beginning, man's first sin, the sin of Adam in eating the forbidden fruit was punishable by death. God said to the man, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat from it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). The Scriptures teach that as a consequence of Adam's original sin, death has come upon all mankind. Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." This squares with the words in Romans 3:23 which tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23); thus, all men (all mankind) are worthy of death, and indeed all die.
The Christian life is a life of repenting and believing in Christ, believing and repenting. These are not one-time things. We are to keep on believing and keep on repenting. Knowing that we need the power of God through the Holy Spirit we are to keep on praying for wisdom and strength to know and to do God's will. Ask the Lord to help you understand His word. But know, too, that you are not alone. The Lord promises not to forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5-6); He will be with you. Further, as Christians joined to Christ, we are also to be joined to Christ's body, which is the church. Christ gives gifts to men for the building up of the body (Ephesians 4:11-12). We have the words of the apostles and prophets in the Scriptures. We have pastors and teachers and evangelists in the church to help us in our understanding of the word and will of God. The body of Christ has many members, each with his or her own gift for the good of the body, and we are to help and encourage one another. That includes pastors and elders who are to lead and govern in the churches. Therefore, Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account."
Yours in Christ,
R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
My answer follows:
Your question relates to the doctrine of "the perseverance of the saints." The OPC believes in the perseverance of the saints, which teaches that true saving faith perseveres unto eternal life. A person who has received eternal life does not lose it. In this regard, the OPC accepts the Westminster Confession of Faith (http://opc.org/wcf.html) as a faithful summary of what the Scripture teach on this important doctrine. Indeed an entire chapter is devoted to this very matter as follows:
Of the Perseverance of the Saints
1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.
In scriptural terms, we can think of the prayer that Jesus says He prayed for Peter, when Satan sought to ‘sift him like wheat’ (Luke 22:31). Jesus says, however, “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Jesus obviously knows that Peter’s faith will not fail, for He knows that Peter shall turn again, even after his sorrowful three-fold denial, to prove himself as a faithful apostle. Yes, true Christians sometimes stumble, even fall into grievous sins; but they shall not finally and eternally fall away.
True faith, saving faith, is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). The Westminster Shorter Catechism (http://opc.org/sc.html) says, “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel” (Answer to Question 86). He who believes in Christ has eternal life (John 6:47). Jesus will lose none of those whom the Father has given to Him (compare John 6:37 with John 6:39). No one can snatch the true sheep of the Good Shepherd out of His hand (John 10:28). “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28). True believers “are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5).
Still, we must recognize that not all who profess faith necessarily have true saving faith. The true, God-given faith perseveres to the end. But in the gospel of John, we read of folks who ‘believed’ in Christ, who eventually turned away from Him. That is, they believed He was a good teacher. They believed He could do miracles. They even believed to the extent that they wanted to make Him their earthly king John 6:15). But we read of some of those very followers of Christ (‘disciples’) who “withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66). They withdrew because they could not accept Jesus as the ‘true food’…‘the bread that came down out of heaven’ (John 6:53-58). Amazingly, this was just a short time after they had witnessed the feeding of the 5000 that they stopped following Him. And it is in that same context that Jesus speaks to the twelve, saying that He had chosen them, yet He knew that one of them was a devil (John 6:70).
Jesus knew whom He had chosen; He knew one would betray Him. We do not know God’s secret decrees, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him” (John 6:64). We cannot look into men’s hearts as Jesus the Son of God could. So it is that wolves sometimes disguise themselves as sheep and make their way into the church. Members are received into the church on their testimony and the credibility of their walk in keeping with those words. Elders should exercise great care in receiving members, but even so, they cannot be infallibly sure that true saving faith is at work in a person’s heart. Sometimes, those who seem to have faith, fall away and are lost, proving that their ‘faith’ was not real saving faith after all and that they were never really saved.
This is a most sobering and humbling truth. May God’s grace comfort and encourage you according to that true faith that looks to Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin and Satan and death.
To God be the glory,
R. Daniel Knox, Pastor
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Would that the church of our day would experience reformation anew. After all, how is it that as a society we have reached the place where abortion is commonplace? How have we arrived at a place in our thinking where the murder of an unborn child is acceptable for convenience sake or as a way of dealing with promiscuity or with poverty? Why is it that Planned Parenthood's founder Margaret Sanger saw abortion as a way of population control to purge society of undesirables [See the film Maafa 21.]? What has been the church's witness while this was happening?
We have heard of the furor in the House and Senate over health care reform, especially touching on the issue of abortion. I am all for health care reform, especially if it would mean the reformation of the way we think about human life and the society's obligation to preserve it. Let the church of Jesus Christ lead the way.
No, I am not suggesting that the church as church become politically activistic. What I am saying is that the church should preach the whole counsel of God, faithfully demonstrating all three marks of the church: faithful preaching of the Word, faithful administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of church discipline. How can we expect society to exercise wise self-discipline if the church cannot discipline herself? Again I say, let the church of Jesus Christ lead the way.