How Jesus Runs the Church

No More of Man’s Ideas,
Instead Only Christ’s Rule!

by Reed DePace

My completing seminary included a move to a new denomination, the PCA. Coming from a denomination whose tradition was rooted in German pietism and Dispensationalism my understanding of how God works through church government was decidedly uninformed. My advisor, Dr. Richard Gaffin, thought it a kindness to recommend to a man just finished with all the hard reading of his seminary classes, a relatively easy work on this subject, James Bannerman’s two volumes: The Church of Christ: a treatise on the nature, powers, ordinances, discipline, and government of the Christian Church.

And yes, if you’ve had opportunity to consider Bannerman’s work, you know I am having a little fun. Sincerely though, I remain grateful for Dr. Gaffin’s recommendation. Working through Bannerman over the next two years was fundamental to my current understanding and security in my church government practices.

ImageYet, for many a reader, especially elders, Bannerman is just going to be a bit too much. So what to do? For a class I am taking this summer I just finished reading Guy Prentiss Waters’ How Jesus How to Runs the Church. This IS the book you should read. Dr. Waters covers all the ground of Bannerman, if not in as much detail then certainly as effectively in greater simplicity.

The greatest thing about this book is how clearly Waters roots the points he makes in the Scriptures themselves. Rather than a technical book on church government, this reads like a theology book, explaining, well, exactly what the title declares, how Jesus (actually) runs the (His) Church. This Scripture-rooting strength means that applying what Waters teaches easily becomes an expression of faith. And it is only through faith that Jesus is present to superintend a church.

This book is going in our church’s officer training course. I am urging our present elders to read it. I urge you as well.

by Reed DePace
[I receive no remuneration for this recommendation.]

Do We Really Want Peace?

All:

We pray for the peace and purity of Christ’s Church. It is clear that the substantial divide between those for and those opposed to the FV has not narrowed. Accordingly, how do we who profess the sovereignty of God in all things, express our faith in that belief in these circumstances?

Those in favor of the FV believe it to be a blessing and benefit in an era of the Church where weaknesses and errors abound. They put forth the FV as both correction and balm for these errors. As well, they profess their position in complete keeping with the various reformed standards of their respective denominations. For both (their adherence to the FV and their affirmation of their standards consistency), they do so with sincerity.

Those opposed to the FV do not disagree with their FV brethren as to the presence of great weakness and errors in Christ’s Church in this land. Yet they believe the FV is tainted medicine, a cure worse than the illness. As well, they believe, after at some length listening to and discussing with their FV brethren, that not only is the FV in disagreement with the reformed standards, it is unbiblical.

So what’s to be done?

Those in favor of the FV insist that those opposed are not listening (or worse). They say their positions are at best misunderstood. They say their opponents are themselves both being too narrow with the reformed standards and the Bible itself. Yet, to date, no amount of conversation has persuaded their brethren that this is true.

Even more significant to the question of this thread – note that the Sovereign God has not done anything to effectually persuade and convince those opposed to the FV that their pro FV brethren are correct. Surely the FV men have prayed to this end. God has answered: either NO, or Not Yet.

Those opposed to the FV insist that those in favor are not listening (or worse). They say their FV brethren are at best muddling and confusing the sheep with their innovative doctrine. They say the FV’ers are distorting, even contradicting the Bible, let alone the reformed standards.

Even more significant to the question of this thread – is God ruling His Church, or have a bunch of renegades kicked the Father, Jesus and the Spirit out to the curb?

To date, operating by faith via their promises to Christ in their ordination vows, the elders of six (seven?) reformed denominations have formally declared that the FV is out of bounds with the Scriptures. In the PCA, despite relentless recriminations against the integrity and character of its elders by some in the FV camp who have spoken rashly, the elders have moved deliberately and carefully towards seeking God to answer their convictions concerning the FV. They have sought to recover brethren they believe are in dangerous error.

Those in favor of the FV may not like it. They may not agree with it as things stand. They are right to remind us all that Church councils can, do, and have erred.

Yet they need to seriously consider how God is answering their prayers.

It appears that the report concerning AAPC (and Rev. Wilkins) leaving the PCA is true. While not the desired action, given the impasse which we find ourselves concerning the FV, I applaud this congregation’s action. What else can men of sincere profession do when faced with such differing convictions?

Hear me carefully brothers and sisters. I am not saying good riddance, a pox on your house and those in it, to the AAPC, or to any FV persuaded brother (I speak from the judgment of charity). I speak from a deep conviction that God does rule His Church and He has shown His will in these circumstances.

I have no right to force my convictions down your throat FV brother. I have no right to silence you in your pulpit, to still you in your pew, from believing what you choose to believe. Your conscience is sacrosanct before our Father and I respect that.

And so is my conscience sacrosanct. You have no right to force your FV conviction down my throat. You have no right to insist that I keep my opposition to what I believe is deadly error silent; to keep me from expressing my faith in the form of church government to which I’ve given my vows. My conscience is likewise sacrosanct before our Father.

Will you respect that? Will you see how God is answering at present and join hands with me to find a path to peace? Will you seek to respect and honor my right to bear my conscious before God, as I seek to respect, even defend your’s?

What other course is open before us but the path the AAPC has (apparently) taken? I admit wishing in providence that this path had been taken sooner. Yet I am willing to be at peace that this now is God’s timing.

What I am asking of you FV brethren?

I am asking you to end the fighting. I am asking you to see that we your brothers cannot be persuaded by you, that you are right about the FV. I am asking you to express your faith in God’s sovereignty by choosing to pursue peace with us. I am asking you to prayerfully and seriously consider if now is not God’s providential timing for you as well.

I am not saying to end a proper – HUMBLE – discussion with us. I am saying that if I were in your shoes, with a conviction of God’s sovereignty in the rule of His Church, and six (seven) denominations finding that the FV is biblically consistent (rather than in error), then I would be taking my own advice to you and seriously considering finding another place to exercise my convictions without unneeded intrusions on my conscious, and without continually disturbing the peace of other sheep.

Do you really want peace? Do you really want to get back to pursuing the first things, the proclamation of the good news of our Savior?

Consider whether or not now is time to withdraw, to withdraw only until such time as God in His providence: persuades us, persuades you, or persuades us both of something better.

With prayers for His rich and full mercy and grace in Christ to be your’s evermore,

Reed DePace

TE, PCA

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