In his essay entitled “Industrial or pastoral?: The Techniques of Church Growth,” church historian and elder DG Hart begins by asking the probing question:
Can measurements of “customer satisfaction,” which have largely been borrowed from the industrial and mechanical world, be helpfully appied to something that is fundamentally organic and mysterious-namely, the body of Christ?
He ends his essay with the following words:
Typically the doctrine of election is a comfort to individual believers because it teaches that God is sovereign in salvation and eternal life does not depend on the fickle whims of the human heart. But the doctrine of election is also a tremendous comfort to the Church corporately. Salvation does not depend on clever programs, strategic plans, or marketing savvy. It depends utterly upon God and his mercy. The Church, accordingly, has a tremendous responsibility to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments, while parents have the equally large duty of rearing their children in the faith of their Baptism. The Church does not need to be in a constant state of anxiety, thinking up new ways of reaching the lost. The right techniques of church growth are the means of grace that God established when our Lord commissioned the apostles to disciple the nations by Word and Sacrament. These techniques are not flashy. In fact, they are rather low key. But as the Bible reveals, God has a habit of saving his people through means that the world considers foolish. And that is because, as Paul told the Corinthians, God wants everyone to see “the transcendent power” of salvation belongs to him, “not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
RCSS resonates with this vision for church planting. Its an old school model and as far as we can tell it is more in keeping with Scripture than the “next big thing” consumerist mentality so prevalent in our Western pop culture… You judge for yourself.
There are few teachings in the bible that generate such controversy as God’s sovereignty in the salvation of mankind. Seeing that Paul brings up the doctrine of “election” in the first verse of Titus, I thought it important that we should consider it. While a brief blog post cannot do justice to such lofty biblical truths or the hour we spent looking at them, I nevertheless thought it might be helpful to highlight some points that were made.
Simply put, God’s sovereignty is that truth about his nature that puts him in absolute control in creation and subsequently in determining all that comes to pass on the stage of human history. God does all things according to his will and by his power. (See passages like Gen 14.19; Ex 18.11; Deut 10.14.17; 1 Chron 29.11-12; Neh 9.6; Ps 22.28; Jer 27.5; Luke 1.53; Rev 19.6.)
If God is sovereign over all things, then this means he has determined from all eternity those whom (the “elect“) he will save in Jesus Christ by the power of his Spirit (cf. Titus 1.1; Ephesians 1.11; Romans 9). In other words, our salvation depends wholly on God’s grace and not our works or efforts or feelings… (cf. Romans 9.16; Galatians 3.11).
But how do I know if I am elect? If you have repented of your sins and believed upon Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you are elect (Romans 10.9). We find our election in Jesus Christ, and hence inestimable comfort and assurance of God’s love for us.
God’s sovereignty should not be confined to saving sinners only – as if this were the overriding teaching found in the bible – but it should be appreciated as it informs other vitally important biblical doctrines, like suffering in the Christian life and corporate worship. We will look at this more in the future.
God’s sovereignty should never become a cold and esoteric idea, but should always be understood in the context of God’s loving covenant relationship with mankind. God the Father has entered into an unconditional covenant with mankind in order to save us from our sins and ensure that we get to heaven. We will spend much time in the future considering how God has dealt with mankind through covenant.
In regard to the sovereignty and providence of God, here are some things that the Reformed tradition has historically confessed…
Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 1
- What is your only comfort in life and in death?
- That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,1 am not my own,2 but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,3 who with His precious blood4 has fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;6 and so preserves me7 that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;8 indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.9 Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.111 Rom 14:7-9; 2 1 Cor 6:19-20; 3 1 Cor 3:23; Tit 2:14; 4 1 Pt 1:18-19; 5 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2; 6 Jn 8:34-36; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3:8; 7 Jn 6:39-40, 10:27-30; 2 Thes 3:3; 1 Pt 1:5; 8 Mt 10:29-31; Lk 21:16-18; 9 Rom 8:28; 10 Rom 8:15-16; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5; Eph 1:13-14; 11 Rom 8:14
Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 10
- What do you understand by the providence of God?
The almighty, everywhere-present power of God,1 whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures,2 and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought,3 fruitful and barren years, meat and drink,4 health and sickness,5 riches and poverty,6 indeed, all things come not by chance,7 but by His fatherly hand.8
1 Jer 23:23-24; Acts 17:24-28; 2 Heb 1:3; 3 Jer 5:24; 4 Acts 14:15-17; 5 Jn 9:3; 6 Job 1:21; Ps 103:19; Prov 22:2; Rom 5:3-5; 7 Prov 16:33; 8 Mt 10:29; Eph 1:1