Justin Perdue: Welcome to the members’ podcast. As always, we want to thank you for your partnership with us in ministry. We could not do any of the things that we do here at Theocast without you. This is a labor that Jon, Jimmy, and I feel is worthwhile. By being a member and supporting this ministry, you are locking arms with us in this mission of spreading the message of the sufficiency of Christ and the rest that is ours in him. It’s a message that the world needs to desperately hear and frankly, it’s a message that many in the church need to hear as well.
We are grateful for you, our members, and we like hearing from you. Do continue to send in your emails, call us, leave us voicemails, and all those things. Let us know how Theocast has been encouraging you, let us know things you’d like to hear us give our take on—anything like that. We always like to hear from our members.
In a very ambiguous way, Jon started to tee up some things for us to talk about here in the members’ area. It was very cloaked. It was one of those situations where we let the listener understand, but I’m not sure that many people would know exactly what you mean. Why don’t you be more specific? Pull the curtain back completely, brother, and tell our members what you want to talk about here.
Jon Moffitt: I want to be careful and loving. I want to make sure people understand why I’m criticizing what I’m criticizing because it does play into our podcast today.
One of the things that I’ve been very discouraged and disappointed in is that some people who have a bigger platform— and I guess I’m okay with saying names—but the whole thing that’s going on with John MacArthur and his church, and even Doug Wilson and his community, it feels as if they are the Paul and Barnabas is of the New Testament who are standing up for the faith and for their churches and are receiving persecution because of the advancement of the gospel.
My concern is that when you listen to what they’re saying and their logic behind it, that’s not necessarily what’s going on. The focus has become more about interactions with the government and what the government is doing than it is about the actual mission of the church. It’s almost like the responsibility of the church has become to keep the American government in check—and they are going to make sure that they do that. It has caused a lot of confusion: the message changes and becomes political in nature, the hope that we’re being offered is not necessarily offered in the unity of Christ but in a governmental system.
Doug Wilson’s church did this recent protest out in front of a public building and people were arrested. They tried to turn it into a Christian persecution situation. I’m not sure this is what Christ is calling us to, and that this is how we should be acting.
These are just my initial responses to some of this. The only reason that I’m bringing it up is that we can be told that real Christianity is standing up against the government for our rights. Actually, real Christianity is not that. You don’t see Paul standing up for his rights when he’s being thrown in prison. Paul wasn’t thrown in prison because he was defying the government, he was thrown in prison because he was preaching the gospel, which is very different.
Justin Perdue: Standing up to the government may be something that happens in the course of a church’s life or in the course of a Christian’s life, depending on particular sets of circumstances. I don’t want to say it’s a peripheral thing, but it is certainly not going to be a main emphasis of what real Christianity is like.
To be frank here, the church has always been counterculture. We have been somewhat spoiled in America to think that somehow the church and mainstream culture get along. That just really has not been the experience of the saints for 2000 years.
I don’t want it to go off in a direction that we don’t mean to go with this, but what Jon and I are advocating for today is that real Christianity, at its heart, and even the reason that we would ever contend to gather as a church, is because we understand that it’s not like we’re going to defy the powers of this world. It’s not so much that. It has everything to do with the things that we were talking about earlier: that we have a certain and lasting and sure hope in Christ, that we are called to a fellowship of love with the saints in the church, and that we have an eternal mission. What we want to be about and be concerning ourselves with are those things. If a byproduct of that is that we need to stand up to the government in order to be able to meet, then okay. But let’s not make defying the government the point. Let’s make the church the point, and the fact that the ordinary means of grace is the point, and the need of the fellowship of the saints is the point, and our need for one another, to be in one another’s lives, to lock arms together, to weep together, to rejoice together, and everything else—those are the point of what we’re called to. Anything that we would do as an institution—church as an institution to stand up to the institution of the government—is only going to be motivated in a secondary way by what we understand the main primary concerns of the church to be.
Like what you were saying, Jon, I think that’s what’s obscured in all this. It becomes this merit badge that says real Christians defy the government. No, real Christians, trust Christ, love each other, and prioritize the local church. If we need to fight for our right to gather in order to do that, then okay. But let’s not confuse it with the main things.
Jon Moffitt: In John, when Christ is being put on trial, he says his kingdom is not of this world because if it were, his people would be fighting against them already.
When Paul was dealing with problems in the Corinthian church, within the culture, the Corinthians were having sex with prostitutes as a means of worshiping idols or false gods. It was seen as a form of worship. Paul tells the church not to do that. But you don’t see him on a mission to shut down these brothels or these prostitute worship houses as the mission of the church because Paul understood what his mission was. It had nothing to do with trying to fix the culture, to fix the government, or to get Rome in line with the Christian mission.
Justin Perdue: It’s very clear that the mission of the church, at least in the mind of the apostle Paul—and I would argue in the minds of all the apostles—is not a mission of trying to transform the culture. It’s not a mission of trying to change the world around them. It’s not a mission of trying to change even things about the government. I understand that the Roman empire is a different context than the representative republic in which we live. I get that. We are all for citizens exercising their civic duty, voting, and being involved in politics and all those. But we would say that the mission of the church is not to be activistic politically, or even activistic as an institution in particular causes in the world. Don’t paint some hypothetical what-if situation like “Shouldn’t the church be involved in this?” That’s not the point of what I’m saying right now.
The mission of the church, narrowly defined, is the right proclamation of the word of God and the administration of the sacraments for the salvation of God’s elect. The mission of the church and the emphasis of the church is the sure, lasting, and certain hope that we have in Christ. It is the fellowship of the saints, the bond of love that we have in Jesus, and how we need each other. Advancement of the cause of the gospel is the eternal mission that we are called to. That’s what we want to concern ourselves with. That’s what we want to always make primary. Then if there are any other peripheral things that our people are involved in, then that’s great. We pray that God uses our people as individuals for all kinds of good things in the world, but the mission of the church needs to be properly defined and understood—and it’s not one of transforming the world and the culture in the way that we often think.
There are several directions we could go, Jon. One being theonomy, which I’m not going to talk about—I just opened a can of worms. Another one being a two kingdom view of the world where there’s the common kingdom—that’s all of the universe and all of the world—but then there’s the redemptive kingdom that is particularly associated with Christ, his people, and the church.
Jon Moffitt: Your view of eschatology plays into this as well. If you think that the Christians are bringing in the new heavens and the new earth, and it’s just a gradual progression where it eventually flips over and we find ourselves there, that’s one perspective that is going to play into this.
The whole reason I bring this up is that I have seen this whole situation flying all over the internet. The thing that breaks my heart is that when the weak and weary Christian who barely can keep their head above water thinks that this is what real Christianity is about, they feel less than. I just want you to hear us say the Bible says that is not what real Christianity is about. That is not the mission of the Christian. The mission of the Christian is very simple: it’s to go and receive hope, and to turn to, to love, and to care for your brothers and sisters in Christ through the fellowship of love of the saints, and by any means possible, to administrate the gospel to the lost. It’s super simple because we live in such a complicated world. Anytime that someone wants to come in and add burden on top of it, saying we need to be kicking back against listen—that’s just not the mission of a Christian. That it’s just not there. That’s not what you’ve been called to. I know it sounds like I am playing down or I’m over simplifying Christianity, but I don’t think I am. I think it’s pretty plain in Scripture. This is what we’ve been called to.
Justin Perdue: There are all kinds of ways to have a Jesus-plus theology, where it’s Jesus plus all these things that you need to be doing, and those things that we need to be doing change with the context. There are different emphases in different places. There will be things that our particular congregations may get involved in, but that is going to be a specific context-to-context thing, and we ought not to make things normative. It’s unhelpful.
If one church in one locale sues the local government because in their locale they are not allowed to gather, and they’re just trying to exercise their rights in a land that allows this, and they’re just trying to say they want to meet, then that’s great. That doesn’t mean that every faithful local church needs to now go and sue their government. A lot of times in this internet and social media age, certain things are held up to us as models of fidelity to Jesus. It may be a reasonable conclusion in that particular context or it might not be, but that does not become binding on all Christians in every place. What Christians need to concern themselves with are trusting Christ, loving the brothers and sisters, gathering together to experience the ordinary means of grace, and bearing one another’s burdens and sorrows as we continue to make our way toward the new heavens and the new earth. That is enough for us to concern ourselves with. This is why the local church has elders where we have to make wisdom calls.
I’m burdened for believers that look around and are constantly measuring themselves according to all these tests of fidelity to Christ. It’s stuff that the Scripture does not place upon them; it’s stuff that other believers place upon them, and it’s a heavy yoke to bear.
Jon Moffitt: Just as an encouragement for those who are new to the membership, go to theocasts.org/members. That’s your members page. There you can find a lot more resources that will tag along with what we’ve talked about today. An introduction to covenant theology as well as to Calvinism are there. Reformed spirituality as a class is there. We’re also doing a book study on The Mystery of Christ, His Covenant, and His Kingdom with Sam Renihan. At this point there will be two of those, and possibly three by now. There’s just a lot of extra resources that are available.
If you are using our podcast private feed where you can listen to everything we’ve produced on your phone and your podcast app, go to theocast.org/members and do that. Just to make sure you guys avail of everything that’s available for you.
Justin Perdue: Jon has handled all the housekeeping matters. Thank you for that brother. That just leaves it to me to thank you guys once again and tell you that we sincerely appreciate you and are just grateful for your partnership with Theocast.
Continue to partner with us, continue to spread the word, and keep trusting Christ. We’ll talk with you again next week.