A true theological account of the Birth of Christ – VIII. The Kingly Office

As the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son, Christ naturally shares the dominion of God over all His creatures. His throne is established in the heavens and His Kingdom ruleth over all, Ps. 103:19. This kingship differs from the mediatorial kingship of Christ, which is a conferred and economical kingship, exercised by Christ, not merely in His divine nature, but as Theanthropos (the God-man). The latter is not a kingship that was Christ’s by original right, but one with which He is invested. It does not pertain to a new realm, one that was not already under His control as Son of God, for such a realm can nowhere be found. It is rather, to speak in the words of Dick, His original kingship, “invested with a new form, wearing a new aspect, administered for a new end.” In general we may define the mediatorial kingship of Christ as His official power to rule all things in heaven and on earth, for the glory of God, and for the execution of God’s purpose of salvation. We must distinguish, however, between a regnum gratiae and a regnum potentiae.

A. THE SPIRITUAL KINGSHIP OF CHRIST.

1. THE NATURE OF THIS KINGSHIP. The spiritual kingship of Christ is His royal rule over the regnum gratiae, that is over His people or the Church. It is a spiritual kingship, because it relates to a spiritual realm. It is the mediatorial rule as it is established in the hearts and lives of believers. Moreover, it is spiritual, because it bears directly and immediately on a spiritual end, the salvation of His people. And, finally, it is spiritual, because it is administered, not by force or external means, but by the Word and the Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth and wisdom, of justice and holiness, of grace and mercy. This kingship reveals itself in the gathering of the Church, and in its government, protection, and perfection. The Bible speaks of it in many places, such as, Ps. 2:6; 45:6,7 (cf. Heb. 1:8,9); 132:11; Isa. 9:6,7; Jer. 23:5,6; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 6:13; Luke 1:33; 19:27,38; 22:29; John 18:36,37; Acts 2:30-36, and other places. The spiritual nature of this kingship is indicated, among others, by the fact that Christ is repeatedly called the Head of the Church, Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19. This term, as applied to Christ, is in some cases practically equivalent to “King” (Head in a figurative sense, one clothed with authority), as in I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:22; 5:23; in other cases, however, it is used in a literal and organic sense, Eph. 4:15; Col. 1:18; 2:19, and in part also Eph. 1:22. The word is never used (except it be in I Cor. 11:3) without the implication of this organic conception. The two ideas are most intimately connected. It is just because Christ is the Head of the Church that He can rule it as King in an organic and spiritual way. The relation between the two may be indicated as follows: (1) The headship of Christ points to the mystical union between Christ and His body, the Church, and therefore belongs to the sphere of being. His kingship, however, implies that He is clothed with authority, and belongs to the judicial sphere. (2) The headship of Christ is subservient to His kingship. The Spirit which Christ, as the Head of the Church, imparts to it, is also the means by which He exercises His royal power in and over the Church. Present day Premillenarians strongly insist that Christ is the Head of the Church, but as a rule deny that He is its King. This is tantamount to saying that He is not the authoritative Ruler of the Church, and that the officers of the Church do not represent Him in the government of the Church. They not only refuse to admit that He is the King of the Church, but deny His present kingship altogether, except, perhaps, as a kingship de jure, a kingship which is His by right but has not yet become effective. At the same time their practice is better than their theory, for in practical life they do, rather inconsistently, recognize the authority of Jesus Christ.

2. THE KINGDOM OVER WHICH IT EXTENDS. This kingdom has the following characteristics:

a. It is grounded in the work of redemption. The regnum gratiae did not originate in the creative work of God but, as the name itself indicates, in His redeeming grace. No one is a citizen of this kingdom in virtue of his humanity. Only the redeemed have that honour and privilege. Christ paid the ransom for those that are His, and by His Spirit applies to them the merits of His perfect sacrifice. Consequently, they now belong to Him and recognize Him as their Lord and King.

b. It is a spiritual Kingdom. In the Old Testament dispensation this kingdom was adumbrated in the theocratic kingdom of Israel. Even in the old dispensation the reality of this kingdom was found only in the inner life of believers. The national kingdom of Israel, in which God was King, Lawgiver, and Judge, and the earthly king was only the vicegerent of Jehovah, appointed to represent the King, to carry out His will, and to execute His judgments, was only a symbol, and a shadow and type of that glorious reality, especially as it was destined to appear in the days of the New Testament. With the coming of the new dispensation all the Old Testament shadows passed away, and among them also the theocratic kingdom. Out of the womb of Israel the spiritual reality of the kingdom came forth and assumed an existence independent of the Old Testament theocracy. Hence the spiritual character of the kingdom stands forth far more clearly in the New Testament than it does in the Old. The regnum gratiae of Christ is identical with what the New Testament calls the kingdom of God or of heaven. Christ is its mediatorial King. Premillenarians mistakenly teach that the terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven,” as they are used in the Gospels, refer to two different realities, namely, to the universal kingdom of God and the future mediatorial kingdom of Christ. It is perfectly evident, as some of their own leaders feel constrained to admit, that the two terms are used interchangeably in the Gospels. This appears from the fact that, while Matthew and Luke often report the same statements of Jesus, the former represents Him as using the term “kingdom of heaven,” and the latter substitutes for it the term “kingdom of God,” compare Matt. 13 with Mark 4; Luke 8:1-10, and many other passages. The spiritual nature of the kingdom is brought out in several ways. Negatively, it is clearly indicated that the kingdom is not an external and natural kingdom of the Jews, Matt. 8:11,12; 21:43; Luke 17:21; John 18:36. Positively, we are taught that it can be entered only by regeneration, John 3:3,5; that it is like a seed cast into the earth, Mark 4:26-29, like a mustard seed, Mark 4:30, and like a leaven, Matt. 13:33. It is in the hearts of people, Luke 17:21, “is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” Rom. 14:17, and is not of this world, but a kingdom of the truth, John 18:36,37. The citizens of the kingdom are described as the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure in heart, and those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. The spiritual nature of the Kingdom should be stressed over against all those who deny the present reality of the mediatorial kingdom of God and hold that it will take the form of a re-established theocracy at the return of Jesus Christ.

In connection with the present day tendency to regard the kingdom of God simply as a new social condition, an ethical kingdom of ends, to be established by human endeavors, such as education, legal enactments, and social reforms, it is well to bear in mind that the term “kingdom of God” is not always used in the same sense. Fundamentally, the term denotes an abstract rather than a concrete idea, namely, the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of sinners. If this is clearly understood, the futility of all human efforts and of all mere externals is at once apparent. By no mere human endeavors can the rule of God be established in the heart of a single man, nor can any man be brought to a recognition of that rule. In the measure in which God establishes His rule in the hearts of sinners, He creates for Himself a realm in which He rules and in which He dispenses the greatest privileges and the choicest blessings. And, again, in the proportion in which man responds to the rule of God and obeys the laws of the kingdom, a new condition of things will naturally result. In fact, if all those who are now citizens of the Kingdom would actually obey its laws in every domain of life, the world would be so different that it would hardly be recognized. In view of all that has been said, it causes no surprise that the term “kingdom of God” is used in various senses in Scripture, as, for instance, to denote the kingship of God or of the Messiah, Matt. 6:10; the realm over which this rule extends and the condition of things to which it gives rise, Matt. 7:21; 19:23,24; 8:12; the totality of the blessings and privileges that flow from the reign of God or of the Messiah, Matt. 13:44, 45; and the condition of things that marks the triumphant culmination of the reign of God in Christ, Matt. 22:2-14; Luke 14:16-24; 13:29.

c. It is a kingdom that is both present and future. It is on the one hand a present, ever developing, spiritual reality in the hearts and lives of men, and as such exercises influence in a constantly widening sphere. Jesus and the apostles clearly refer to the kingdom as already present in their time, Matt. 12:28; Luke 17:21; Col. 1:13. This must be maintained over against the great majority of present day Premillenarians. On the other hand it is also a future hope, an eschatological reality; in fact, the eschatological aspect of the kingdom is the more prominent of the two, Matt. 7:21,22; 19:23; 22:2-14; 25:1-13,34; Luke 22:29, 30; I Cor. 6:9; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; I Thess. 2:12; II Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; II Pet. 1:11. Essentially the future kingdom will consist, like that of the present, in the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of men. But at the glorious coming of Jesus Christ this establishment and acknowledgment will be perfected, the hidden forces of the kingdom will stand revealed, and the spiritual rule of Christ will find its consummation in a visible and majestic reign. It is a mistake, however, to assume that the present kingdom will develop almost imperceptibly into the kingdom of the future. The Bible clearly teaches us that the future kingdom will be ushered in by great cataclysmic changes, Matt. 24:21-44; Luke 17:22-37; 21:5-33; I Thess. 5:2,3; II Pet. 3:10-12.

d. It is closely related to the Church, though not altogether identical with it. The citizenship of the kingdom is co-extensive with the membership in the invisible Church. Its field of operation, however, is wider than that of the Church, since it aims at the control of life in all its manifestations. The visible Church is the most important, and the only divinely instituted, external organization of the kingdom. At the same time it is also the God-given means par excellence for the extension of the kingdom of God on earth. It is well to note that the term “kingdom of God” is sometimes employed in a sense which makes it practically equivalent to the visible Church, Matt. 8:12; 13:24-30, 47-50. While the Church and the kingdom must be distinguished, the distinction should not be sought along the lines indicated by Premillennialism, which regards the kingdom as essentially a kingdom of Israel, and the Church as the body of Christ, gathered in the present dispensation out of Jews and Gentiles. Israel was the Church of the Old Testament and in its spiritual essence constitutes a unity with the Church of the New Testament, Acts 7:38; Rom. 11:11-24; Gal. 3:7-9,29; Eph. 2:11-22.

3. THE DURATION OF THIS KINGSHIP.

a. Its beginning. Opinions differ on this point. Consistent Premillenarians deny the present mediatorial kingship of Christ, and believe that He will not be seated upon the throne as Mediator until He ushers in the millennium at the time of His second advent. And the Socinians claim that Christ was neither priest nor king before His ascension. The generally accepted position of the Church is that Christ received His appointment as mediatorial King in the depths of eternity, and that He began to function as such immediately after the fall, Prov. 8:23; Ps. 2:6. During the old dispensation He carried on His work as King partly through the judges of Israel, and partly through the typical kings. But though He was permitted to rule as Mediator even before His incarnation, He did not publicly and formally assume His throne and inaugurate His spiritual kingdom until the time of His ascension and elevation at the right hand of God, Acts 2:29-36; Phil. 2:5-11.

b. Its termination (?). The prevailing opinion is that the spiritual kingship of Christ over His Church will, as to its essential character, continue eternally, though it will undergo important changes in its mode of operation at the consummation of the world. The eternal duration of the spiritual kingship of Christ would seem to be explicitly taught in the following passages: Ps. 45:6 (comp. Heb. 1:8); 72:17; 89:36,37; Isa. 9:7; Dan. 2:44; II Sam. 7:13,16; Luke 1:33; II Pet. 1:11. The Heidelberg Catechism also speaks of Christ as “our eternal king.” Similarly the Belgic Confession in article XXVII. Moreover, the kingship and the headship of Christ are inextricably bound up together. The latter is subservient to the former, and is sometimes clearly represented as including the former, Eph. 1:21,22; 5:22-24. But, surely, Christ will never cease to be the Head of His Church, leaving the Church as a body without a Head. Finally, the fact that Christ is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, would also seem to argue in favor of the eternal duration of the spiritual kingship of Christ, since His mediatorial office is after all a unit. Dick and Kuyper, however, argue that this kingship of Christ will cease when He has accomplished the salvation of His people. The only passage of Scripture to which they appeal is I Cor. 15:24-28, but this passage evidently does not refer to Christ’s spiritual kingship, but to His kingship over the universe.

B. THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST OVER THE UNIVERSE.

1. THE NATURE OF THIS KINGSHIP. By the regnum potentiae we mean the dominion of the God-man, Jesus Christ, over the universe, His providential and judicial administration of all things in the interest of the Church. As King of the universe the Mediator so guides the destinies of individuals, of social groups, and of nations, as to promote the growth, the gradual purification, and the final perfection of the people which He has redeemed by His blood. In that capacity He also protects His own against the dangers to which they are exposed in the world, and vindicates His righteousness by the subjection and destruction of all His enemies. In this kingship of Christ we find the initial restoration of the original kingship of man. The idea that Christ now rules the destinies of individuals and nations in the interest of His blood-bought Church, is a far more comforting thought than the notion that He is now “a refugee on the throne of heaven.”

2. THE RELATION OF THE REGNUM POTENTIAE TO THE REGNUM GRATIAE. The Kingship of Christ over the universe is subservient to His spiritual kingship. It is incumbent on Christ, as the anointed King, to establish the spiritual kingdom of God, to govern it, and to protect it against all hostile forces. He must do this in a world which is under the power of sin and is bent on thwarting all spiritual endeavors. If that world were beyond His control, it might easily frustrate all His efforts. Therefore God invested Him with authority over it, so that He is able to control all powers and forces and movements in the world, and can thus secure a safe footing for His people in the world, and protect His own against all the powers of darkness. These cannot defeat His purposes, but are even constrained to serve them. Under the beneficent rule of Christ even the wrath of man is made to praise God.

3. THE DURATION OF THIS KINGSHIP. Christ was formally invested with this kingship over the universe when He was exalted at the right hand of God. It was a promised reward of His labors, Ps. 2:8,9; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11. This investiture was part of the exaltation of the God-man. It did not give Him any power or authority which He did not already possess as the Son of God; neither did it increase His territory. But the God-man, the Mediator, was now made the possessor of this authority, and His human nature was made to share in the glory of this royal dominion. Moreover, the government of the world was now made subservient to the interests of the Church of Jesus Christ. And this kingship of Christ will last until the victory over the enemies is complete and even death has been abolished, I Cor. 15:24-28. At the consummation of all things the God-man will give up the authority conferred on Him for a special purpose, since it will no more be needed. He will return His commission to God, that God may be all in all. The purpose is accomplished; mankind is redeemed; and thereby the original kingship of man is restored.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDY: In whom was Christ typified as prophet in the Old Testament? How were the true prophets distinguished from the false? How did prophets and priests differ as teachers? What was characteristic of the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek? Were the sacrifices of Cain and Abel piacular? On what grounds do Jowett, Maurice, Young, and Bushnell deny the vicarious and typico-prophetical character of the Mosaic sacrifices? What is the difference between atonement, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption? What accounts for the widespread aversion to the objective character of the atonement? What arguments are advanced to disprove the necessity of the atonement? Why is penal substitution practically impossible among men? Does the universal offer of salvation necessarily imply a universal atonement? What becomes of the doctrine of the atonement in modern liberal theology? What two parakletoi have we according to Scripture, and how does their work differ? What is the nature of the intercessory work of Christ? Are our intercessory prayers like those of Christ? Is Christ ever called “King of the Jews”? Do Premillenarians deny only the present spiritual kingship of Christ or also His Kingship over the universe?

LITERATURE: Bavinck, Geref. Dogm. III, pp. 394-455, 538-550; Kuyper, Dict. Dogm., De Christo, III, pp. 3-196; Vos, Geref. Dogm. III, pp. 93-197; Hodge, Syst. Theol. II, pp. 455-609; Shedd, Dogm. Theol. II, pp. 353-489; Dabney, Syst. and Polemic Theol., pp. 483-553; Dorner, Syst. of Chr. Doct. III, pp. 381-429; IV, pp. 1-154; Valentine, Chr. Theol. II, pp. 96-185; Pope, Chr. Theol. II, pp. 196-316; Calvin, Institutes, Bk. II, chaps. XV-XVII: Watson, Institutes II, pp. 265-496; Schmid, Doct. Theol. of the Ev. Luth. Church, pp. 344-382; Micklem, What Is the Faith?, pp. 188-205; Brunner, The Mediator, pp. 399-590; Stevenson, The Offices of Christ; Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord; Meeter, The Heavenly HighPriesthood of Christ; A. Cave, The Scriptural Doctrine of Sacrifice; Faber, The Origin of Expiatory Sacrifice; Davison, The Origin and Intent of Primitive Sacrifice; Symington, Atonement and Intercession; Stevens, The Christian Doctrine of Salvation; Franks, History of the Doctrine of the Work of Christ (2 vols.); D. Smith, The Atonement in the Light of History and the Modern Spirit; Mackintosh, Historic Theories of the Atonement; McLeod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; Bushnell, Vicarious Sacrifice; Denney, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation; Kuyper, Dat de Genade Particulier Is; Bouma, Geen Algemeene Verzoening; De Jong, De Leer der Verzoening in de Amerikaansche Theologie; S. Cave, The Doctrine of the Work of Christ; Smeaton, Our Lord’s Doctrine of the Atonement; ibid., The ApostlesDoctrine of the Atonement; Cunningham, Historical Theology II, pp. 237-370; Creighton, Law and the Cross; Armour, Atonement and Law; Mathews, The Atonement and the Social Process; and further works on the Atonement by Martin, A. A. Hodge, Crawford, Dale, Dabney, Miley, Mozley, and Berkhof.

Virgin Birth debate interrupts regular ‘War on Christmas’ program

The other war on Christmas — not the one over saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” — broke into a skirmish after a well-known evangelical preacher suggested he doesn’t have a problem with people who doubt the Virgin Birth.

Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries, a network of six congregations across the Atlanta metropolitan area attended by 30,000 worshippers a week, said in a message Dec. 3 that one of the challenging things about Christmas is the “unbelievable” nature of stories in the Bible describing Jesus’ miraculous conception.

stanley_andy“A lot of people don’t believe it, and I understand that,” Stanley said. “Maybe the thought is they had to come up with some kind of myth about the birth of Jesus to give him street cred later on. Maybe that’s where that came from.”

Stanley, the son of former Southern Baptist Convention president and longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley, called it “interesting” that only two of the four Gospels mention the Virgin Birth.

“Matthew gives us a version of the birth of Christ,” he said. “Luke does, but Mark and John, they don’t even mention it. A lot has been made about that.”

Stanley said he is less concerned about the Virgin Birth than with the Resurrection.

“If somebody can predict their own death and their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world, because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing,” he said.

“Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus,” Stanley said. “It really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.”

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., took exception to Stanley’s view in a Dec. 16 podcast describing the Bible stories about Christ’s incarnation as “the central truth claim of Christmas.”

“Just in recent days, one Christian leader was quoted as saying that if Jesus predicted his death and then was raised from the dead, it doesn’t matter how he came into the world,” Mohler said. “But the Bible insists it really does matter and the answer given from Scripture very clear in the gospel of Matthew and in the gospel of Luke is that Jesus was born to a virgin.”

Mohler said attacks on the Virgin Birth became popular in the aftermath of the Enlightenment in the form of attempts “to harmonize the anti-supernaturalism of the modern mind with the church’s historic teaching about Christ.”

“The great question of liberal theology has been to invent a Jesus who was stripped of all supernatural power, deity, status and authority,” Mohler said. “And in order to do that they have to begin by denying what the Bible so clearly teaches in terms of the Virgin Birth.”

Mohler said doubters about the Virgin Birth go back even further, quoting Augustine’s rebuttal of contemporaries in the late 4th and early 5th centuries embarrassed by the Incarnation, “the more impossible the virgin birth of a human being appears to them, the more divine it appears to us.”

“Then, as now, the issue comes down to the truth and authority of Scripture to reveal Christ,” Mohler said. “And that’s what the Bible does. It reveals Christ and it reveals Christ to have been conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem as predicted by the prophets, and born in order to save sinners.”

A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults (73 percent) said they believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin. One-in-five said they do not believe in the Virgin Birth, and 6 percent said they don’t know or declined to answer the question.

The Gospel of Matthew presents Christ’s miraculous conception as prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” Some modern Bible translations say a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew word used by Isaiah is “young woman.”

Luke’s gospel introduces Mary as “a virgin betrothed” to man named Joseph. Confronted by an angel foretelling she would conceive and bear a son, she initially appears doubtful, asking: “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (Revised Standard Version).

The angel responds in Luke 1:35, as translated by the New International Version: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

The Virgin Birth of Christ was a cornerstone in the fundamentalist/modernist conflict among Protestants early in the 20th century. Roman Catholic teaching goes a step further, affirming not only the virginal conception but Mary’s “immaculate conception,” a miraculous immunity from original sin officially pronounced by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Pray that God will deliver Pastor Andrew Brunson from the jaws of the Devil Imprisoned EPC pastor formally charged in Turkey

Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson has been charged in Turkey with membership in an armed terrorist organization and sent to prison by the officiating judge. Brunson, an EPC teaching elder and member of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, had been held without charge in a detention center in Turkey since October 7. He was interrogated without notice on December 9 and imprisoned.

The Brunson family has retained the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is active in defending persecuted Christians around the globe, as their legal counsel and leaders of the public campaign for Andrew’s release.

In a statement, ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said Brunson is “facing grave danger in a Turkish prison where he is being held simply because of his Christian beliefs,” adding that if convicted, he could face many years in prison based on extremely serious—but false—charges.

At the time of Brunson’s detention in October, his activities were considered by the Turkish government to be “against national security.” However, no other reason was given for Andrew’s incarceration and no formal charges had been filed against him.

As of December 8, he had been held without charges for 63 days. In more than two months of detention, Andrew has been permitted only two U.S. consular visits.

The U.S. State Department, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and other U.S. government officials have been working with EPC leaders to gain Brunson’s release.

The Brunson family issued a statement December 14 in which they thanked those working to secure Andrew’s freedom. “We will not rest until Andrew is free,” they said. “We’re grateful for the support of the ACLJ and others who are working to demand that Turkey release Andrew without delay.”

The Brunsons have lived in Turkey since 1993, where he has been the pastor of two churches. At the time of his detention, the Brunsons had been trying for five months to renew their resident visas but had not received any response.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church firmly believes that Andrew Brunson’s detention is unfounded. The Brunsons have absolutely no connection to any armed terrorist organization in the country where he has lived peacefully for more than 20 years and where they raised their three children.

Andrew’s daughter, Jacqueline, who attends college in North Carolina, said the family is shocked by the charges against him and urged the Turkish government to release him immediately.

“It is both troubling and disturbing that my father, who has called Turkey home for the last 23 years, is imprisoned without cause,” she said. “I grew up in Turkey and saw firsthand how much he loves Turkey and the Turkish people. He has exhibited nothing but love, mercy, and grace during his time there. The best Christmas present our family could receive this year is the release of my father.”

New post on This Day in Presbyterian History

December 20: First General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

by archivist

Beginnings can be Interesting

Beginnings of anything can be interesting. This author once planted a mission church in  a sizeable Midwest city. He had done all the preliminary preparation for the mission. Several families committed themselves to the endeavor. The first worship service was planned in a spacious worship center of an evangelical church, rented for the occasion. We all went with expectations of a good beginning, but only one family showed up for the beginning worship time.  It is true that God did some extraordinary things in the first six years of our ministry there. I rejoice that this established church is progressing ahead by means of being a mother church to several congregations.  But it was anything but encouraging in the early years, especially that first Lord’s Day.

In 1560, a Scottish Reformation Parliament abrogated and annulled the papal jurisdiction for Scottish churches, ending all the authority flowing from Rome.

This set the grounds for the establishment of the Church of Scotland that same year. Let W. M. Hetherington in his book “History of the Church of Scotland” pick up the account. He writes on page 53, “They (the Reformation Parliament) enacted no ecclesiastical jurisdiction whatever in its stead. This it left the reformed Church to determine upon and effect by its own intrinsic powers. And this is a fact of the utmost  cannot be too well known and kept in remembrance. It is, indeed, on e of the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Scotland, that it owes its origin, its form, its jurisdiction, and its discipline, to no earthly power. And when the ministers and elders of the church of Scotland resolved to meet in a General Assembly, to deliberate on matters, which might tend to the promotion of God’s glory and the welfare of the Church, they did so in  virtue of the authority which they believed the Lord Jesus Christ had given to the Church. The parliament which abolished the papal jurisdiction made not the slightest mention of  General Assembly. In that time of comparatively simple and honest faith, even statesmen seem instinctively to have perceived, that to interfere in matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, so as to appoint ecclesiastical tribunals, specify  their nature, and assign their limits, was not within their province. It had been well for the kingdom if statesmen of succeeding times, certainly not their superiors in talent and in judgment, had been wise enough to follow their example.”

The first meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was held on this day, December 20, 1560. Forty delegates were in attendance. For that number, only six were ministers. They were John Knox (Edinburgh), Christophere Gudman (St. Andrews), John Row (Perth), David Lindesay (Leith), William Harlaw (St. Cuthberts), and William Christesone (Dundee). While their names with the exception of Knox and possible Row are unknown to many of our readers, Hetherington remarks that “they were men of great abilities, of deep piety, fitted and qualified by their Creator for the work which he had given them to do.” (p. 53)

Words to Live By:
Not only had the Creator fitted and qualified them, but so had their Great Redeemer fitted and acquired them to raise up a Church faithful and true to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It may have been small in man’s estimation at the beginning, but the Spirit of God judged it otherwise. He would bring the increase in His time. So be faithful, dear reader, to where God has planted you. He will accomplish His will through you to the area where you have been planted to serve our Lord and Savior.

 
archivist | December 20, 2016 at 12:05 am | URL: http://www.thisday.pcahistory.org/?p=

This Day in Presbyterian History

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Daily devotional readings in Scripture, the Westminster Standards, & Presbyterian history.

 December 17: Joseph Henry, LL.D.

“The henry” —

Consider how he was described by his contemporaries and historians in general. He was a reserved quiet man, with great gentleness, courtesy of manner, reserved, and an  unselfish genius. We could add that he was a Christian. And we could add a Presbyterian.

Joseph Henry was the foremost scientist of the nineteenth century. Born on December 17, 1799 in Albany, New York, he came from a poor family background. He was able through generous friends to attend an academy, but essentially most of his education was self-taught. But what a personal education. Through reading of text books in the scientific field, he was able to make contributions in the fields of electricity, electromagnetism, meteorology, acoustics, as well as in several branches in physics. Soon, he knew more than his instructors did, and he wound up teaching their classes in the academy in New York.

Princeton University asked him to come there and teach, though he had no educational degrees to speak of, which would add to the lustre of the academic status of the school.  But his scientific mind and his accomplishments were a considerable substitute for that intellectual learning.

Consider that Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, states that he never would have made any progress on that invention were it not for Joseph Henry. A short section of the telegraph had been invented by Joseph Henry, really on a dare when some scientist said it was impossible. Samuel Morse received the credit for it, when he was able to commercialize the product, but Henry had done it first. Then the electric motor was invented by him, while others received the historical credit of it. He also invented what was called the standard electronic unit of indirective resistance, and his name was attached to it.  It is called “the henry.”

Joseph Henry went to meet his Lord on May 13, 1878, with  his funeral three days later at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, of Washington, D.C., where he had been a member.  On this solemn occasion, the President of the nation, Rutherford Hayes, was in attendance, as were the Vice President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, members of the cabinet, with leading officials of every branch of the government, with representatives in science, literature, diplomacy, professional, and business life in America.

His pastor said at that time, “while human learning and science are pressing forward to do honor to him who was known and loved as a leader, I come, in the name of the Christian church, and in the name of my Savior, to place upon this casket a simple wreath, forming the words ‘JOSEPH HENRY, THE CHRISTIAN.’”

Words to live by: People can be recognized by the world, and that has its place. But better than that is to be recognized by the Savior of mankind, as a spiritual child, a brother in Christ, and an adoptee into God’s forever family. The former may be remembered by the world for a time. The latter is remembered for time and eternity. For which one will you, dear reader, be remembered?

 

Franchising Church: The Latest Greatest Trend of the Megachurch Movement

Tim Brister —  August 25, 2005 — 0 Comments

In Christianity Today’s recent magazine (September 2005), there is an interesting article called “High-Tech Circuit Riders” by Bob Smietana which reveals what could become the mother of all inventions of modern-day pragmatism of the megachurch movement. It is called the “franchise church” or satellite church. Whereas some megachurches are buying superdomes and civic centers (such as Lakewood Church’s 95 million dollar project in Houston), others are developing mini-versions of the megachurch in strategic areas across the megatropolis. Some specific examples were given in the article, and I would like to share some observations I have concerning this euphoric attitude and unholy alliance of American consumerism and church growth.

Observation 1:
The multisite approach (franchising), according to the Leadership Network, is already being embraced by over 1,000 churches. According to one advocate, this approach is “one of the leading innovations of the 21st century.” At least he had the honesty to call it an innovation. Now that the church has officially become a project or science experiment, we can better understand the presuppositions of their approach.

Observation 2:
Here’s the basic idea according to Smietana. “The idea behind multisite or franchise churches is the same one that’s made chain stores successful – take a system that works, and duplicate it over and over.” Here we see two things: the manual for this approach being the utilitarian model of the franchised America (the system), and the dominating ideology of pragmatism (a system that works). Now I am not advocating doing something that doesn’t work, but I am advocating doing something that actually finds its basis and support in the Bible, not in our culture and supported by worldly schemes.

Observation 3:
When interviewing the pastor of Life Church, a model church for the franchising approach which as over 14,000 members, five campuses, and 23 “experiences” on a given weekend, I am intrigued by the “theological correctness” (spiritualized political correctness) employed in their lingo. For instance, worship services are now called “experiences” (hello mr. existentialism) and the sanctuary is now called “the worship space”. The pastor of each site is known as “the face with the place” and has a job description defined as “to build a social network needed to bind the church together”. Hmmm, can anyone find in the Bible the job description for a pastor/elder being to “build a social network”? And don’t get me started on the “experience” jargon. Yes, this is the land of post-modernismNew Age/Subjectivism/Sensationalism ad nauseum. Hold on, I need to gag . . . o.k. I am back.

Observation 4:
While “seeker-sensitive” is not mentioned here, it is implicitly. For instance, when interviewing the “director of operations” for Life Church who was correcting the doormat which was backwards, he said, “You’ve got to look at these things from the point of an outsider”. Outsider is synonymous with seeker. How about looking at things from an insider? How about looking at things from an “upsider”? I’m sure God’s looking down with a smile, thinking, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have faithfully straightened the doormat and thereby welcomed me into your ‘worship space’. Now we are ready to have our ‘experience.’”

Observation 5:
The promotion of the franchised church utilizes the same terminology as a salesman or businessman with his portfolio or business plan. When advertising their approach, they speak of options that they offer to many potential buyers. If you buy in to the church, there are many benefits and features that you will find appealing and aide in your comfort in your experience. For example, Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church, said, “People like the options and quality of megachurches, yet crave the intimacy of smaller churches . . . You get the benefits of a smaller community with the benefits of a megachurch.” By the way, the assumption here is that churches which do not qualify for megachurch status does not provide the quality they do. Another insight into their idea of superior performance in getting goods and services to their customers who obviously are buying into their church business plan.

RESUMING . . .

Observation 6:
Again, looking at their model church, Life Church, it is clear that the multisite approach demands synchronization. To accomplish this, each satellite church has a synchronized clock that counts down ten minutes before the “experience” starts. Five minutes before the service starts, you will be entertained by a popular secular song or a hip pop-Christian favorite like “Jesus Freak”. The worship lasts exactly 18 minutes long, and the “face for the place” welcomes everyone for exactly one minute and thirty seconds. Then, at 19 minutes and 30 seconds, the virtual preacher/celebrity comes on the big screen t.v.’s at the movie theatre, I mean “worship space”. At the end of the sermon, the “face with the place” gets up and leads the entire congregation in saying the “salvation prayer”. This is followed up by a snazzy video trailer about next weeks sermon. This, to me, is some serious prepackaging of the worship of God. The Holy Spirit is programmed and limited to the strains of synchronization and modern-day efficiency. Since when has the Holy Spirit been subjected to human devices? Ironically, it was the contemporary church style that criticized the liturgical church of being too rigid, formal, and constrained by time. Now, it appears that they are the subjects of their own criticism. (For a good read on the matter of time and culture, I urge you to read Prophetic Untimeliness by Os Guiness.) Also, praying “the salvation prayer” is bad enough, but having the entire congregation doing it – are you kidding me? So this is what God’s salvation has been reduced to. Methinks this results in mega-tares in the megachurch.

Observation 7:
One of the supposed justifications of the multisite approach is its similarity to the movie theaters. As one pastor comments on the interactiveness of “virtual preachers” with their congregation, “It is the same thing as going to a movie theater. You go to a movie theater and everyone laughs at the jokes and people cry at the right time.” At least they are not being prompted to do it at the right time. Is this how people coming to church is to prepare themselves? Going to a movie theater is the same thing as entering the presence of the Most High God? “Umm, after we sing this song, can I have some popcorn with that? I don’t want to miss the video trailer, so I better go now.” Is this what our approach to the King of the Ages should be? If we think church is just like the movie theater, then people will come for the sole purpose of being entertained, taking the back seat to the sermon and act as a passive spectator, only to judge the performance of the presentation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that this is going to produce doers of the Word, much less Christ-like saints. And I don’t think that it is an “experience” that surfaces on the significance of eternity as much as the modification of our behavior.

Observation 8:
As Eddie Gibbs, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary points out, the virtual preachers in these megachurches “run the risk of turning their teaching pastor into a celebrity. And that can be form of idolatry.” I totally agree with his conclusion. But there are other problems with the virtual preacher. How many of sheep does he know? How many know him? When they see him on the big screen, do they perceive him as a movie star celebrity or a foot-washing servant who is well-acquainted with their feet? Maybe they are like some Christians I know, doing the strange phenomena of asking preachers to sign their Bible. Maybe, they think their pastor wrote it. But the point is simply that these preachers are often distant, plastic, unapproachable because of their entourage, and intimidating. I would presume to say that he would be a pastor many of them would never get to know.

Observation 9:
At the heart of this article, you will find the confession of the heart of this approach. Jim Tomberlin, who overseas Willow Creek’s franchises, says, “We do the same things [the] same way you would do at Starbucks or a McDonald’s or a brand name that works.” I guess, when all else fails, let’s do what the world does. Sola cultura – right? Now, I am not against churches growing and planting other churches like them in their area, but contrary to what some said, methodology does matter. Just because we worship Yahweh does not mean that we can adopt Canaanite practices towards Yahweh. When the church’s cultural captivity becomes too pervasive and irreversible, we will look back and think, “Maybe doing it McDonald’s way was not the way God intended.” Hopefully, that realization will come before it’s too late.

Observation 10:
The underlying, subtly hidden agenda of the Canaanization of the Church is propped up by the idea of “modern-day, high-tech circuit preachers”, pulling from the historical analogy to the Methodist preachers in late 18th century. This attempt to employ history as mere justification simply does not measure up. While the Methodist circuit-riders may have been successful, that success appears to have been short-lived. Could it have been that it was the latest greatest trend of the 18th century? Where are the Methodists today? Just in the last two decades, the UMC has lost over 2.2 million members, a decline averaging around 8% in a population that has grown by over 60 million in that time. As one writer states about the decline of Methodists, “Methodists may not have controlled the nation’s elite discourse but they could be found at the heart of the nation’s evangelical popular culture. Yet in their success could be found seeds of their pending destruction.” I don’t know if Methodists were the best example to use here, or is it? Is the franchising of the church and its success planting seeds of their pending destruction? I am not that doom-and-gloom prophet, but history does speak on behalf of itself, and the reality of today is settling in.

I have attempted to share my interaction with this article with my ten observations. Unfortunately, the article is not online to link to, so if you want to read it, you will just have to buy the issue. I would love to hear what you think. I know many churches, even good churches establishing satellite churches, and I do think that there is a right way to do it. Unfortunately, that way could not be found in the CT article.

Oh, and if you are wondering if I am interesting in franchising – I am. That is, I am interested in franchising Chick-fil-a . . . at least they are a business that is closed on Sunday’s.