Justin Perdue: Hi, this is Justin. Today on Theocast, we do our first-ever live online Q&A. We talked about it and thought it would be a good idea in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine that’s going on for many of us. This could be a way to get the Theocast community together online, take some questions, and have an encouraging conversation.
There were some wonderful questions submitted, but unfortunately, we only got to a few of them. We talked about a number of things, including confessional theology and how that’s a help to us in times like now. We considered church discipline, justification, and sanctification. And then, in the members’ podcast, we talked about how to preach obedience in light of the sufficiency of Christ. We also talked about fear-based preaching.
We hope that this Q&A is an encouragement to you. Stay tuned.
Jon Moffitt: As everybody already knows, the whole world is feeling the effects of the Coronavirus, specifically the majority of our listeners who are here in the United States. Most of these people are at home with extra time. We thought we would participate with them in any way that we can to provide more content.
We’re also going to open up a lot of the stuff that we have for our membership for free because we know that people are scouring for good information, especially when most information on the internet right now is negative and full of fear. There is much to be afraid of. But I think, at the same time, we need to be feeding ourselves with good information and objective realities. We need to remind ourselves that we are within the hand of God and can be safe within His hands. At the same time, we are to use wisdom.
We did a podcast on joy in the midst of suffering, and it’s in reference to the CoronavirusCoronavirus. Today, we thought we’d do something different. For those of you that are at home, we thought we’d do something live using Zoom.
We have almost over 50 people right now that are here asking questions and giving all kinds of great comments. If you want to ask a question, you can go to the bottom where it says questions, and you will be able to ask those down there. If you’re interested in asking your question on the podcast audibly, just let us know, and we will take that, open it up, and let you answer.
If we’ve picked three questions that were emailed in to start us off, and then we will grab several of these that are being put in at the moment, there is absolutely no way we’re going to be able to get to all of these. So we’re going to spend about 45 minutes answering your questions, and then we’ll go over the members’ podcast and do other 20-ish minutes. You never know how long that podcast will be. It just gets to the point until we’re done.
And how fired up we get, I guess.
If we don’t get recording right away, we run out of time. Jimmy, why don’t you go ahead and start us with our first question?
Jimmy Buehler: I am glad to do that. This one comes from Stuart, and his question is this: “I would be interested to hear how confessionalism strengthens us in the middle of this pandemic, which for me, and I’m sure for others, has brought up much unbelief and doubt that was present but not stirred up in the heart until trouble came.” That’s a great question, Stuart.
We talk about this a little bit in the podcast that we recorded yesterday. A great source of comfort that all three of us found actually came from the confession that our church uses, which is the 1689 London Baptist Confession. Chapter five talks about divine providence. In paragraph one of chapter five, it talks about the infinite power and wisdom of God that He upholds, directs, and governs all things and all creatures. Specifically, what we found in paragraph three was particularly helpful. The framers of this confession wrote, “In his ordinary providence, God makes use of means, though he is free to work apart from them, beyond them, and contrary to them at his pleasure.” As we think about the global pandemic that has brought the world to its collective knees, and as guys who rely heavily on the ordinary means of grace that God uses – the preaching of the word, the words visible at baptism and the Lord’s Table to strengthen, create, and establish our faith, this is difficult. It’s painful for us as pastors to not be able to gather with our people. Yet we also understand that -, and Justin coined this yesterday – where we are in extraordinary times, God will also give us extraordinary grace. We rest in those things. You have confessionalism at a paper level, but you also have confessionalism at a 30,000-foot level that the truths that we have constantly harped on in this podcast – that we find rest in Christ outside of ourselves, that what God has given us in Christ in the gospel, a perfect righteousness imputed to us through no effort or merit on our own – those things remain true even in the midst of a pandemic.
Even when things are going well, when you are able to attend the gathered worship with the saints, that you are able to have the word of God preached over you and you see the gospel in the table, even when you “feel good” and you’re able to function in your everyday life in a normal sense, those things are true. But even now, when we’re kind of sheltered in place when it’s very easy to be discouraged, to feel lonely, to feel isolated, and to feel socially distant from people, those objective truths of the imputed righteousness of Christ to your account, they’re still there. They didn’t go anywhere.
I think of places in Scripture like Psalm 13, where the Psalmist cries out to God. He asks God for help and for faith, but he recounts the faithfulness of the Lord in the past. This is something that I shared with my church last Sunday over Facebook live: we rest in the truths that God is not distant, that Jesus is not distant from sin and death, but rather he was crucified, buried with sin and death, and he rose again and defeated them both.
I don’t know where you specifically are, but I would like to encourage you. The truths that you fight to believe that God is for you in Christ, that He has from eternity past chose you to be His own. Those truths are still there in a time of pandemic.
Justin Perdue: It might help to state this clearly: to be confessional certainly does mean that we hold to a confession of faith. For all of us, it’s a confession of faith out of the era that flowed out of the reformation, as in the case of the 1689 London Baptist Confession or the Westminster Confession. But it also means that we are confessing, right? We are saying together, believing together, and we are looking to doctrines and truths from Scripture that we are to rest and trust in together.
Two words that we often use on Theocast to describe the confessional perspective are that it is an objective perspective. It is an outside-of-us reality. As Jimmy alluded to, we’re looking to Christ, who is outside of us. We’re looking to God who is outside of us; we’re looking to these great truths and promises of God that exist outside of us in our experience.
The other thing is that to be confessional is to believe in it and hold to declarative realities – meaning they are done; they’re finished. When we’re looking to things and trusting in things that are outside of us and that are completed – they’re finished, and they’re not in jeopardy – those things transcend all circumstances; they transcend all of our emotional volatility. It matters not how I’m feeling today or how I’m processing the COVID-19 pandemic today; the truths of God remain. As Jimmy said, the righteousness of Christ for me remains; the atoning, satisfying work of Christ for me remains; my safety in Christ, my standing before God – all of those things are rock solid because they’re objective, outside of me, they’re declared, and they’re done. That’s how a confessional perspective gives us rock under our feet. As we sing in the hymn, “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”
That’s a confessional perspective. We’re looking at those things in particular. We’re looking to God in Christ Jesus for us in the midst of all kinds of storms that are swirling around in our lives.
Jon Moffitt: That was excellent.
Marissa, hopefully, you’re ready. We’re going to bring you on and let you ask. Please state your first and last name, and where are you from?
Marissa Namirr: I’m Marissa Namirr. I live in the Theocast group in the Facebook world. Technically, I live in Georgia.
First of all, I want to thank you guys, for what you do. You bring a lot of comfort to God’s people, whether we’re in a pandemic or not. You’re always bringing us to the gospel, so I appreciate that.
I just wondered if you would talk a little bit about church discipline. At what point would you say this is a pattern and not a struggle? And at what point would you say that a Christian under church discipline or excommunicated from the church?
Jon Moffitt: That is a good question. For those of you that may not know, Marissa is one of the admins on our Facebook group and absolutely crushes it. She catches things when I don’t even see them coming, so thank you so much for that.
That is a really good question. First of all, I know every guy is going to say that church discipline has to be dealt with patiently, and it is a very long process. I have personally seen cases where we confront a man who admits that he’s openly in sin. He’s even sat down with the elders and says, “I do not want to repent. I am going to pursue this.” We could have, at that moment, just done church discipline. But we said, “We’re going to pray for you. We’re going to give you time.” We gave him a month – we prayed for him, and no change came. Another month passes, and we try to meet with them individually. Praise God on month three, he repented. We didn’t have to go to that final step and bring it to the congregation.
Unfortunately, I’ve been in situations where the exact opposite is true, and you do that same process. The difference of it is if someone is unwilling to acknowledge that they are trapped in sin, unwilling to repent after multiple times of being gracious to pray with them, confront them, and show them from Scripture, if they are being self-destructive in their sin and it’s publicly known that everyone around them can see that, this is the case where you have to have that conversation with them. “Do you understand that what you are doing is so damaging to yourself and to your faith? That it’s destructive in nature? For you to understand how serious this, we’re going to have to remove you from the table. That’s step one. After that, if you still aren’t willing to repent, then we’re going to need to remove you from fellowship so that you understand the seriousness of this.”
This should never be out of anger, out of judgmentalism, or out of “how dare you.” Galatians 6:1 says that when we confront someone in sin, we should be careful that we ourselves don’t fall into sin. If you look at it from Scripture, you have to look at comparing everything there is about church discipline along with Galatians 6:1. You will see that this is a long, painstaking, gracious time, and that it should not be done quickly.
Jimmy Buehler: One of the clearest places that we see in Scripture where church discipline takes place in 1 Corinthians 5. That’s an extraordinary case where you have a man in the church who is committing a heinous sin – in that case, it was sexual immorality – but what you see is that it was like this flippant, I-don’t-care-about-what-I’ m-doing, I don’t-care-about-who-I ‘m-hurting kind. What you have is Paul the apostle, also the planter of that church, coming in and telling the elders – the overseers of that church – to discipline that man and to remove him from the midst of the church because of the damage. Not only is it going to cost him personally, but it’s also going to cost the greater church.
Like Jon said, each case has to be handled with extreme care. I don’t think that there’s going to be a single answer for every case. Once you start to see this high-handed, flippant, rejoicing-in-my-sin-rather-than-repenting-and-turning-to-Christ, I think that’s when the elders of the church have to step in. It’s not only for the soul of that individual but also for the care of the larger flock of sheep. That sin spreads like poison. In the Corinthian case, they were even openly celebrating this guy’s sin. That’s what Paul’s great concern was.
To put the question in somebody’s mouth, what about the person who has that damaged conscience where they feel like they’re always in sin? There is a difference between somebody who struggles with their own frame in a Romans 7 sense; somebody that’s struggling with the things that they want to do, they don’t do, and the things that they don’t want to do, they keep on doing. Who will save them from this? We’re all there. Church discipline is not about who is crushing it in the Christian life but about more so the individual who is, by their actions, going to destroy or bring harm to the body.
Justin Perdue: To pick up on 1 Corinthians 5, I do think that’s the clearest passage that we can go to. Jesus has some words about this in Matthew chapter 18 that are helpful for us as well. The reason that Paul rebukes the church in Corinth – and I think he’s rebuking all of them – to expand on Jimmy’s point for just a moment is the fact that they should have been grieved by this man’s sin. Instead, in verse two of 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says, but instead, he was arrogant. They are, in one sense, seeing this as an appropriate expression of Christian freedom and they are boasting in what this man is doing, rather than being grieved and seeing that this sin would not only destroy this man; it could bring harm upon the entire church and needed to be dealt with. Paul is very clear in the context of 1 Corinthians 5 that the goal of church discipline is restoration. We all need to approach church discipline with that in view. This is not a blunt instrument to be wielded around to bludgeon people with. We want to be very precise in how we do this. We want to be gracious, we want to be careful, and we want to make sure that the point of it all – and we communicate this to the church as we try to lead the church through it – is to see this individual restored and to see this individual flourish in Christ.
I think that the big difference between Marissa’s question maybe pointedly, “At what point is this not like a struggling sinner any more?” Like the Romans 7 reality, the Galatians 5:17 reality, when does this become a case where church discipline is necessary? The sin needs to be clear; it needs to be demonstrable, to use some of the language Jimmy used. It’s a kind of high-handed sin, it’s hard-hearted, and it’s unrepentant. “I’m sinning, and I just don’t care. I realize it’s sin. I’m not bothered. I’m not worried about it. Who are you to tell me how to live? I’m going to continue doing what I want to do. Don’t care.” Or it might be a posture like this: “Yeah, God’s word. It seems pretty clear that this is sin. I understand that the teaching of our church and the teaching of our pastors is that this is sin, but I don’t think it’s a sin. I’m going to keep doing it.” That’s also a high-handed approach. It’s this ongoing, unrepentant posture over the course of not just days or weeks, but months and months where it’s just obvious that this kind of hard-hearted posture is enduring.
That’s just very different than the person who is grieved and bothered by his or her sin. Now, none of us are ever grieved as we should be; we were never bothered as much as we should be. But there is something in us as redeemed people that because we have the Spirit in that it’s our inner man, we’re bothered by our sin. There’s this constant cycle that we’re on where we do transgress what God says is good. We sin, and then we acknowledge it, we own it, and we repent, and we cast ourselves anew, in one sense, upon the mercy of God in Christ in submission even to the doctrine and teaching of the church.
That’s the easiest way that I know to answer this. It’s something that I know we’ve practiced in our context, and it’s hard. I know Jon, you have practiced this, and Jimmy, I trust you will in your church. It’s always very sobering and heavy, and it’s something that the Lord does use for good in the life of the church and in the lives of the saints. Even if those of us who are not being disciplined at the time, it’s a sobering reality where if it were not for the grace of God, there go I and Lord may that never be me. And we’re praying for our brother or sister, that he or she would be restored.
I’m happy to tee one up now, Jon. This question comes from Andrew. His question is this: “How do you see Hebrews 10:25, in its immediate context of persecution, being honored in the face of the present pandemic that persecutes the church as well as the decree that has gone out in the land to not gather?”
Andrew, thank you for your question. Hebrews 10:25 is the verse that says we are not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some. We’ve talked about this in my own local church context, and the guys we’ve talked about it off the mic on Theocast.
My own understanding of Hebrews 25 would not be so much a situation where we are providentially hindered from gathering that’s being described, but it would be the willful neglect of the corporate assembly. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews is warning people against: it will not go well for you if you willfully neglect assembling together because this is how God has meant to work in your life ordinarily. This brings us back to something that Jimmy mentioned already: we understand that these are exceptional times where the government of our land is not uniquely singling out churches.
It’d be one thing if the government said to continue going to theaters and bars and clubs and doing everything you normally do but don’t go to church. That would be very different than what the government is doing in most of our locales in our states, where it’s a broad sweeping thing where they’re requesting or advising or mandating that we not gather in groups larger than 10 or 50 or whatever number.
The way that we are approaching this in my church, and I know these brothers behind the mic agree, is that out of an interest to submit to our government in something that is reasonable in light of a passage like Romans 13, and also in the interest of loving neighbor and trying to help play our part in promoting public health, we have forgone gathering together for a season of time. We understand these are exceptional times. Just for context, some may be aware of this in terms of peacetime; this is the first time in 102 years that any government agency in the United States has asked people not to gather like this. The last time this happened was in 1918 with the Spanish flu pandemic. This is a once in a century kind of thing. These are exceptional times under the providence of God. What we are trusting, as I said on the podcast yesterday, is that when in these exceptional times, when we are being kept from the ordinary means, we trust that God will give extraordinary grace.
We trust him to do that in these times that are exceptional. We do not understand churches to be violating Hebrews 10:25 in this really unusual season where we’re providential hindered from gathering. It’ll be different when things open back up, we’re back to normal life, and people are neglecting the assembly. Then we would understand them to be in violation of Hebrews 10:25, and we would be encouraging and pleading with those people. You need to be with the saints on the Lord’s Day.
Jimmy Buehler: I wanted to take this question from Jonathan. He asks, “What advice would you give pastors who are church planting when they feel discouraged about new people not coming to church? Or when the pastors feel incompetent because of a struggle with sin?” First, I’m going to yell at Jonathan for reading my mail. Second, Jonathan, you’re speaking to me. Jon was just here in December, and he launched us. We launched with six families, and we’ve added a family since them. I realize that where we are in our culture, it’s no longer a place that you go to church in order to conduct business as it used to be. It’s not a socially driven thing. Us three guys have had offline conversations about this, about church planting, things like that. One of the things we continually circle back to is that it’s very easy to become a slave to the tyranny of the urgent; you’re always counting numbers on a given Sunday morning and feeling like, “Are we doing something wrong that we’re not growing exponentially?” Frankly, I had to make a conscious decision to not really read much that is out there regarding church planting right now, because there are all sorts of nonsense out there that give you unrealistic metrics and goals and different things where honestly, you have to know your context, the neighborhood, the city, or the place where you are planting a church.
For our context, according to the last census, Willmar, Minnesota has a population of only 20,000. We’re not going to see this explosive growth that you might see in a suburb, where a lot of people are moving, and perhaps they’re interested in being part of the church. Don’t be discouraged in the short term, but rather be faithful with the sheep that God has given you; love them, give them Christ, show them, Jesus. Trust God for the growth. This is 1 Corinthians 3 – you water, you plant, and God gives the growth. We trust God as we faithfully do the ordinary means of grace, that we feed people, and we show them Jesus that naturally. Those people will want to show other people Jesus. There’s a deep call to patience. I’m really preaching to myself right now.
The second part of your question is really good. It’s an excellent question of when pastors feel incompetent because of a struggle with sin. Brother, that is a daily reality for me. You read some of the things in the New Testament, and you struggle with the fact that you sin, and you blow it a lot.
I think being aware of your own weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings is actually very helpful because it brings you down off your own pedestal, as the pastor, to feel high and above other people. As Luther so famously said that we, as pastors, are beggars who found bread, and we are showing other people where they can find bread too. Certainly, we are not calling for a lackadaisical approach to godly character in the life of the pastor. What we are saying is, those who preach grace the best are those who have seen the wickedness of their own heart, but also the depth of God’s grace as given to us in Christ Jesus.
Justin Perdue: A couple of comments. One, I think the most effective preachers are the guys who are most in touch with the depth of their own corruption. We all battle sin all the time. When that battle with sin is on our minds and hearts, we’re constantly having to look outside of ourselves to Christ for righteousness. That fuels gospel preaching in the pulpit because we’re holding out to sinners the only hope that we know we have, and it’s a good thing.
One other thought: all of us have planted churches, and you deal with very small numbers early on; growth sometimes can be slow. It’s always slower than we want it to be. Sometimes pastoring a small church can be its own unique kind of challenge; some of that is in our own consciences and our egos. There’s a quote from a pastor named John Brown, this is back in Scotland in like 1700-1800s, and he’s writing to a young minister. He says, and this is a paraphrase, “I know that you are mortified and are self-conscious about the small number of your congregation. But I promise you that on the day when you stand before the Lord, you will know that you’ve had enough.” Meaning there is so much responsibility and weight in pastoring even a few dozen people. We ought not to confuse what in the world we’re doing and be so caught up in numbers, size, metrics, and everything else. Yes, we want our churches to grow. We want to see people come to faith. We want to see people grow in the faith and grow in their knowledge, understanding, and even in their resting in Jesus. But there’s a lot more to it than just how big our churches are.
Jimmy Buehler: Something that people ask me all the time, and this is the struggle of a church planter, is, “Are you guys exploding? Are you growing like crazy?” Something I constantly have to be mindful of is, “What if we doubled in a Sunday? What if we doubled in a week?” The amount of pressure and stress that that would bring me. Who is going to reach those people? Who is going to love those people? Who is going to care for those people? I have consciously made an effort in our church plant to voice this out to our people: we want to pray for slow and steady growth, that we don’t want to go from 30 to a 180 in six months because that’s going to bring all sorts of pains and problems. One of them probably being pride and ego.
We want to be sensitive to the people that are in our midst. The children that are intermixed, we want to love them, serve them, and care for them well. If we’re just aiming for growth, numbers, and new people to come into our midst, they’re going to smell that right away. They’re going to start to feel like projects and not people. They’re going to start to feel like numbers and not sheep. We want to practice loving, serving, and caring for one another well, even as a small church, so that Lord willing by His grace when we grow, we can easily envelop new people into the fold. We can show them, Christ, very easily.
Justin Perdue: And if you establish that kind of a culture, that culture will grow with you.
Jon Moffitt: Before we jump to the next question, I’ll just add that the most encouraging thing you can do for your people is to help them learn to love neighbor. In doing that, they will find joy. If the ambition of the church or the mission of the church is to see what the numerical growth can be, you will never feel a sense of community. You’re always going to be looking and being disappointed. But if the mission of the church is to care and love for each other, understand that God uses the affections of each other to draw people into it and then help your church to find ways to love neighbor that’s next to them – their literal neighborhoods, people at work, people they associate with at the soccer field, etc. – then they feel like they are doing ministry and they are reaching out. I was talking with a pastor this week who lives in North Dakota of a town of 400. His church has 50 which, if you do the math on that…
Justin Perdue: It’s quite a ratio.
Jon Moffitt: It’s fantastic. You have to understand your circumstances, but most importantly, what is the mission of the church? Of course, it is defined as many people as we possibly can to care for them and bring them into rest. But ultimately, that’s in God’s court. That’s up to Him
Justin Perdue: God gives the growth. We all believe that.
Jimmy Buehler: I just read this before we got on: in 1 Timothy 1:15, when Paul tells Timothy, “Timothy, this is a saying that you should know, it’s trustworthy that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost.” I don’t think Paul was giving false humility. He was so intimately aware of his own sin, his own failures, and his own brokenness. As you wake up every morning and you feel that, just trust that Christ, who you preach is enough for your people, is also enough for you. We all need that.
Justin Perdue: And that 1 Timothy 1:15 and 16, Paul says, “I am the foremost of sinners,” not, “I was, and I turned like you,” I trust he’s not blowing smoke or just trying to make a point. In verse 16, he says that Christ has been so patient with him. You know, Jesus has dealt with him this way so that he might display his patience and grace to all the saints, to all who believe.
Even if we’re models of something as pastors, it should always start there. We’re modeling the fact that we are wretches who have been dealt with mercifully and patiently by Christ. We are now displaying that to all the saints who are looking on. It’s like, “Hey, come partake of this.” Because Christ is merciful and patient and gracious with sinners, even like me, and he will be with you.
Jimmy Buehler: Jonathan, if I could give you a resource, there’s a fantastic little book you can buy on Kindle. I think there’s a paper copy too. It’s called “One-Point Preaching: A Law and Gospel Model.” It’s by Shawn Lazar. It’s excellent on how you, as a pastor, can communicate your own sin in a way that’s helpful and pointing others to Christ. Great little resource. Check it out.
Justin Perdue: This question is from Edward. It’s a long question, but it’s all on justification and sanctification. I think we can answer this pointedly in a relatively brief way that I hope is helpful.
He’s acknowledging the distinction between justification and sanctification. We’re looking outside of ourselves to Christ for righteousness and all those. I’m kind of summarizing and getting to the bottom part of the question. He says, “But while we are justified and thereby saved, we are still sinners, right?” Simul justus et peccator. We all agree. “If so, then is it correct to suggest in the course of the justification event, we are also infused with just a bit of righteousness that wasn’t there before, that is inherent righteousness? My pastor was adamant that this is so, but I thought that our inherent goodness only comes by grace post-justification during sanctification.”
I’m going to start answering that question by going to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, and the Westminster Confession would have the same language. This is chapter 11, paragraph one on justification. So the answer to the question “Is there any righteousness infused into us in the event of justification?” The answer is no. “Those God effectually calls he also freely justifies. He does this, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and accounting and accepting them as righteous. He does this for Christ’s sake alone and not for anything produced in them or done by them. He does not impute faith itself, the act of believing, or any other gospel obedience to them as their righteousness. Instead, he imputes Christ’s active obedience to the whole law and passive obedience in his death as their whole and only righteousness by faith. This faith is not self-generated; it is the gift of God.” One of my favorite paragraphs in the entire confession. It’s wonderful. It’s very clear. It’s very biblical that no righteousness is infused into us in the justification piece. It is completely the righteousness of Christ that is counted to us by faith.
I love the language that “the righteousness of Christ is our whole and only righteousness.” And it is by faith. Of course, upon conversion, we are indwelt by God’s Spirit, and the sanctification process begins where, just to be very clear, God sanctifies us. If we were going to have that conversation about monergism, one worker, or synergism, two workers in sanctification, the three guys behind these microphones are all monergistic in our understanding of sanctification; God does that work. We participate in our sanctification just like we participate in life by being alive, but God does it. So we are being transformed and conformed in the image of Christ as we are sanctified.
But in terms of our righteousness that would get us heaven, it is only the righteousness of Christ always. We are not justified by having righteousness infused into us in any way by God. It’s the righteousness of Jesus, and that’s it. Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. That’s our song, and that’s our confession.
Jon Moffitt: Let’s go ahead and grab another one. I know we’re running out of time here. There was one here by Miranda, and she asks on Facebook, and 1 Kings 8:37-40 keeps going around, “With fires, earthquakes, and CoronavirusCoronavirus going around, is this our punishment for being sinful? If we turn to God and pray, will these punishments end?” How do you respond to these people who say this is true? I believe we’ve got another one that was similar to that from John Richards. He asks, “If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will heal their land.”
I can tell you two things. First of all, we will give a longer answer to this in the podcast next week.
But yes, everything that happens is according to God’s plan. There’s nothing that happens outside the will of the plan of God. God is not a reactionary God, but God is a sovereign God. That being said, no. Those specific verses are written to a people that were in covenant with God. God was trying to warn them that they are going outside of the covenant, outside of the promises that they have made between Him and Israel. So those do not apply – I don’t even think on a secondary or tertiary issue. I don’t think you can apply those at all to the United States or any country in general because those promises were made to a specific people for a specific purpose.
So if someone’s using that, saying that whatever is it that they think is morality, or more people start going to church, or if they stopped doing some kind of sexual sins, etc., I don’t believe that’s what’s going to remove the CoronavirusCoronavirus, earthquakes, or anything else. That would be my initial answer, mostly because you have to understand the context, redemptive, and historical understanding of Scripture. We even mentioned this in our podcast that came out in Proverbs, understanding what the context is and who it is applied to.
Jimmy Buehler: There are all sorts of nonsense flying out right now from Christian social media, and I can’t even bring myself to listen to Christian radio anymore. But that’s neither here nor there. As we think about different pandemics, it’s interesting that people would take that view, that if my people would pray and when they want to throw these verses out. Why are we not posting that sort of thing each and every day of each and every month of each and every year? Because if it’s not CoronavirusCoronavirus, it’s going to be an earthquake; if it’s not an earthquake, it’s going to be a hurricane; if it’s not a hurricane, it’s going to be this or that or some other thing.
On an objective level, we want to be, as a church, a people of prayer. We want to pray. We want to ask. I have prayed a daily that God would heal this globe, that He would show us His common grace in giving wisdom to doctors and people who develop vaccines and people who develop treatments, as we try to globally fight this pandemic. Nobody should be rejoicing in this pandemic. Nobody should be taking advantage of this pandemic and saying, “It’s because we have this kind of people in our nation.” Get that nonsense out of here. I can’t even hear you right now. I can’t even listen to that stuff.
This is what I shared with my high school students in a devotional: I said, “Your greatest problem is not a pandemic. Your greatest issue is not getting the flu or getting CoronavirusCoronavirus. Your greatest issue is waking up and looking at yourself in the mirror and realizing that you’re a sin-sick wretch, and you’re in need of Christ.” If CoronavirusCoronavirus is the thing that helps you realize that, then praise the Lord.
At the same time, it could be anything. If it’s not CoronavirusCoronavirus, it’s going to be something else. We want to pray for our nation. We want to pray for all of the nations, for the world, but at the same time, let’s not go out banging our Bibles on our chest and telling people to repent as they’re trying to buy toilet paper at Walmart. That’s not going to do any good. We should be the constant voice of hope in Christ throughout all pandemics and all peacetime.
Justin Perdue: I’ve gotten this question from people in my own church in the last week or two, and from other people that I’ve run into at the CrossFit box before it got shut down. People are asking, “Is this the judgment of God? This COVID-19 pandemic? My answer, in short, is no, not directly. We can’t make that statement. We can say that any kind of sickness, death, suffering, and horror are all the result of sin – and by that, I mean sin as a condition in the curse. Genesis 3; the fall. We have to be very careful to draw straight lines from particular sins to particular judgment.
When we read Scripture, the only time we can do that and stand on solid footing, in my opinion, is when God has revealed it to us in the Bible. God did give us a commentary on redemptive history in how He dealt with Israel; it’s called the Prophets. He did tell us specifically at points, “I am acting this way because of this transgression.” So we can state that, but then we need to be really careful not to extrapolate that. That was uniquely situated with God’s covenant people in Israel. Extrapolate that now to America in the year 2020.
The other thing and I’ll say it. Briefly, I take my cue from Jesus on this. I’m mindful of Christ’s words in Luke 13, in the first few verses of that chapter, where he is talking to a Jewish audience, and he says, “You’ve heard about the Galileans who Pilate slaughtered, right? And mixed their blood with the sacrifices? Do you think that they were any worse than you?” He says no. If you don’t repent, you’ll likewise perish. He goes on to say, “Or what about those 18 people that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed them? Do you think that they were worse than you? No, they weren’t. Truly, I tell, if you don’t repent, you’ll likewise perish.” There’s John 9, in the first three verses, where Jesus and his disciples come upon a blind man, and the disciples asked the question, “Jesus, who sinned? This man or his parents? That he was born blind.” Christ says, “The answer is C, none of the above. Neither of them sinned so the works of God might be displayed.”
The point is we need to be very careful to draw those kinds of straight lines in terms of cause and effect. What it should do for all of us, to Jimmy’s point, is to demonstrate to all of us the frailty of life, the reality of suffering, and point us to our need for Christ. It should cause us to long for the new heaven and the new earth in that regard.
Last word, very quickly. Hebrews 11 is filled with people who are commended for their faith. We are told in the latter part of that chapter that some of them were conquerors through faith; they conquered and were delivered, but they were also told that some of them through faith were killed, and they were sawn in two. It was clear that God had purposed in both the conquering and in the death and suffering. We can take confidence in that God will always do what He means to do. We are called to trust Him. We just need to be very careful about overstepping and speculating, but doing that with the “Thus sayeth the Lord” stamp on it. We do all kinds of bad when we start to go to those directions. All right. I’m stopping John. Yeah. Thank you for letting me talk.
Jon Moffitt: If you want to take us over to our members’ podcast, we’ll keep answering questions. There’s no way we’re going to get to them all, but we’re going to try.
Justin Perdue: Thank you for listening to Theocast. We appreciate all the great questions that we’ve received. We’re sorry that we have not been able to get to all, but just a few of them. We could talk about this stuff for hours.
We are now headed over to our members’ podcast. If you don’t even know what that is, you can go to our website theocast.org and learn more information about our total access membership. We still offer a 14-day free trial on that membership so you can kick the tires and get used to what all that contains. It does include, amongst other content, this additional podcast that we release weekly for our membership.
We hope to see you over there. We’re headed there momentarily. We will talk with you again next week.