The Beginnings of Christian Reform (5)

As for the prophets; my heart is broken within me, all my bones tremble; I have become like a drunken man, even like a man overcome with wine, because of the Lord and because of His holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for the land mourns because of the curse. The pastures of the wilderness have dried up. Their course also is evil and their might is not right. “For both prophet and priest are polluted; even in My house I have found wickedness,” declares the Lord.

“Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, they will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it; for I will bring calamity upon them, the year of their punishment,” declares the Lord. “Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing; they prophesied by Baal and led My people astray. Also, among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: the committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; and they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one is turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah” (Jer.23:9-14).

The church needs to understand that judgement leads to salvation, and that regular moral clean-ups within the church, which the Bible speaks plainly of (see I Pet.4:17), will be essential for the health of the church in the future.

The church cannot be tolerant of sin. To tolerate sin is to infer that it doesn’t matter, and the tolerance of sin has brought us to the state of disrepute we are in today. Jeremiah speaks of the fact that “…the land is full of adulterers.” Could it be possible that this is a description of the church today? Rushdoony’s comments are relevant here:

In the history of Israel, the Temple had to be cleansed by priests, prophets and kings on many occasions before Christ brought desolation to it. The church also needs constant cleansing. It is a sign of serious danger when the church sees no need of cleansing and sees as enemies all who proclaim the need for continuing cleansing and purification.[1]

I was in a church for fifteen years, led by a pastor who had been secretly immoral with his secretary, all that time. When the elders discovered this and confronted him, he was forced to resign; a very good thing. But I’m afraid, from the number of scandals in the news over the last 30 years, and from the experience of friends and contacts, that adulterous pastors are not uncommon. So, we have predators in the pulpit, preaching a gospel of …what?

Paul reminds us of the fact that

Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning (I Tim.5:20).

A radical clean-up is necessary, supported by the grass roots. Am I suggesting we have a gospel of perfectionism? No, I am not.

But we do have to get back to the scriptural standards, the very thing we’ve been neglecting. The church, beginning with its elders and pastors, must uphold scriptural standards, beginning with the Ten Commandments, so that the church once again becomes salt and light in the community.

This will be opposed by pastors who are adulterous, scoundrels and predators, and there are a lot of them. It will also be opposed by others who don’t understand the need for integrity in leadership, and these two will band together. And there will be church splits over the issue too, which will be painful, but necessary. Let the compromisers go off and start a church of their own, if they want to. See where they are a generation from now.

A man’s private life cannot be divorced from what he’s like publicly, and this is one aspect of Paul’s directions to Timothy and Titus, when they are examining men for eldership and the responsibility of the deaconate.

We cannot eliminate injustice or impropriety, but we can clean up the house of God and ensure that the people of God are led with integrity. This means elders functioning rigorously, it means church courts (see I Cor.6:1-6), and much more, including the protection of the innocent.

The Psalmist said:

I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to you, O Lord, I will sing praises (Ps.101:1).

How could the Psalmist sing of such things, and not practice them?

My wife and I have a female acquaintance, a mother of five. She claims that some years ago her husband was abusive and violent. She went to her church pastor about it, but he sided with her husband, and blamed her.

What of the innocent party, and the children? That was too hard for that pastor. I don’t claim to have all the facts, but if what she claimed was true, the man should have been confronted for his evil doing by the elders (if there were any), commanded to repent of his evil towards his wife and children, and if he refused to do so and shape up, be excommunicated from the church (see I Cor.5:11-13).

How can I be so sure that this is the way to go? Because “…righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Ps.97:2).

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above all Your fellows (Ps.45:6-7).

The innocent should find protection in the church, not the perpetuation of abuse and violence. And that requires that the elders of every church, who are its leaders according to scripture (see Titus 1:5), deal firmly with criminality and laxity, to protect the innocent. That may mean the elders have to accept inconvenience for a time, giving someone or even a family a home, while things get sorted out. For the Biblical promise is:

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; declare among the peoples His deeds. For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted (Ps.9:11-12).

Conclusion:

Reforming the church means we have to deal with the tough subjects of leadership, government and justice, because they are a part of life. They cannot be swept under the carpet, but brought out to the light of day, so the innocent are protected and cared for, not preyed upon or cast aside.

Will that be painful and confronting?

Absolutely. And all of that will be necessary, and in doing so, we’ll start the process of dragging the reputation of the church out of the mire.

O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror (Ps.10:17-18).

 

[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “The Gospel of John,” 2000, p.26.

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