Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Marriage”

Marriage
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I call your attention to the title of this article. The topic is marriage. Note that the title is not narrowed by the word “Christian.” This observation is also necessary to our understanding of the current gender confusion being promoted in our society and in some churches. Marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman. Marriage was given to mankind by God revealed in His Creation narrative (Genesis 2:24). Likewise, God created Man in His image, “male and female” (Genesis 1:26-27).
A problem arises when the meaning of the word “marriage” is expanded. Some factions in society have succeeded to expand marriage to include members of the same sex (gender is defined as either male or female). The problem that results is a confused society. God defined marriage as the lifelong covenantal union of a man and a woman. As the word “marriage” is rightly understood and applied as God designed, societal confusion is lifted. No matter if one is an officer of a court, a legislator, or a church leader, the authority to change the meaning of what God has ordained is beyond their scope.
When the meaning of words change, communication becomes impossible. But the issue of marriage is even more significant than changing the meaning of a word. So-called traditional marriage is the most fundamental pillar of every society. Understanding that God created only two genders (male and female) is a basic prerequisite to understand God’s design for marriage.
I have heard that some church leaders have suggested that the church needs to prepare to accept a re-defined understanding of marriage. Yet, it is the church which is called by her Lord Jesus to stand for the truth. He is the truth. He has revealed the truth in words. We have God’s word written, inerrant, and infallible, under which we live.
So, what saith the Scriptures concerning marriage? I would expect that all who call upon the Lord would be intent on knowing what God has said concerning marriage.
The church’s marriage ceremony states the following: “Marriage was instituted by God Himself in the time of man’s innocency and uprightness. The Lord God said, ’It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him’ (Genesis 2:18). Thereupon God created woman of man’s own substance and brought her to the man…”
This is one of the greatest understatements recorded in Scripture. Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). God declared everything to be “very good” after this great creative act. Adam was overwhelmed by the wisdom of God in providing him a “helpmeet” who was the perfect complement, the perfect partner.
Further God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Jesus quoted this passage from Genesis and added, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
As further emphasis, the Apostle Paul wrote that the marriage of a man to a woman models the relationship of Christ to His church (Ephesians 5:32).
Therefore, we humbly receive God’s definition of marriage. Marriage is the covenantal union of one man to one woman. God’s great wisdom gave mankind the covenant of marriage. It is the most intimate human relationship. The challenges against traditional marriage are nothing more (or less) than rebellion against God. Attempting to re-define marriage or redefine for whom God ordained this union is rebellion against God.
Our Lawmakers have changed the definition of marriage. Yet their revisionism is neither godly, moral, nor loving! Psalm 2:4 declares God’s view of man’s attempts to usurp His authority. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” The God-instituted covenant of marriage will remain the union of one man with one woman. Our society will bear the consequences of perverting and diminishing marriage. We are already experiencing the consequences of the systematic breakdown of traditional marriage and the family unit.
The issue of marriage is not an issue of equal rights but an issue of revealed truth! I urge you who call upon the name of the Lord to speak up for the sanctity of marriage as defined by God. Pray for God’s protection for our marriages. Celebrate marriage as the profound mystery through which God demonstrates the intimacy between Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:32).

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Reformation”

The Reformation
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Reformation, usually referred to as the Protestant Reformation, was one of the greatest blessings God has given to His church. It was a blessing more than 500 years ago. It continues to be a blessing as the church continues to reform herself in accordance with the word of God.
The faithfulness of an Augustinian monk changed the church. Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. The pope at that time sent a cleric to Germany to raise money for building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cleric’s name was Johann Tetzel. His message was summarized by the saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings the soul from Purgatory springs.”
Luther was outraged by the Roman Church’s program of connecting salvation to giving money. A few years later, the revealed doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear to Luther.
God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which God imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone (Romans 1:17; 3:28). The Latin term is sola fide. Luther said that when he understood the doctrine of sola fide it was as if the gates of paradise opened, and he walked through.
In addition, four more biblical doctrines were recovered from the Holy Scriptures. They are: sola gratia, by grace alone; solus Christus, by Christ alone; sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone and Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. They had been taught by the church until the Middle Ages. The Protestant reformers recovered these doctrines and taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
The second sola, sola gratia, means by grace alone. The Bible teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are sinners, born dead in sin. We have inherited the sin nature of Adam. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 are two passages that teach man’s total bondage to sin. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus makes this fact clear. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.
The Protestant reformers did not come up with new or novel ideas. They did not offer an alternative perspective on salvation but declared and taught the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the truth which the magisterial church had hidden.
Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases solus Christus and sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ alone and by Scripture alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). But the reformers saw that the Roman Church was usurping authority that belonged to God.
To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all matters pertaining to life and salvation.
Of course, there are many authorities over us. God established the church, civil government, and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. His word, the Bible is the ultimate authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men possess a granted authority. When men usurp God’s authority, it is invalid.
The four solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And Romans 11:36 says, “For from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God. Soli Deo gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Covenant Loyalty”

“God’s Covenant Loyalty”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the main vehicles used in society that stipulate requirements for establishing relationships is a contract. A contract is a written or verbal agreement between two or more parties that establishes their mutual relationship. All the parties commit to adhere to the agreed upon requirements. The failure of one party to meet their contractual obligations is called a breach of contract. A breach may support the other parties’ desires to make the contract null and void. Men and women freely enter contracts in order to legally bind all the parties to perform the requirements of the agreement.

We know that contracts are entered into voluntarily and that they are agreements made between equals.

The Christian Faith also includes the idea of contracts, but with significant differences. The main difference is that the Christian Faith’s contract is called a covenant and it is not made between equals!

The distance between God and Man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with Him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with Man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the Covenant of Works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.

The second covenant that God made with Man is called the Covenant of Grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan by the “seed” of the Woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by His resurrection, Hebrews 2:14; 1Corinthians 15:54-57.

There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s Covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. It is within the context of what is called Covenant Theology that the gospel is set and understood.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal His faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with Man. This covenant was made within the Godhead, the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the Covenant of Redemption, John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21. This covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son. The essence of the Covenant of Redemption is that the Son agreed to lay down His life in accordance with the Father’s will to accomplish redemption. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ, Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The final fulfillment of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’

God is always faithful to His Word. God’s “steadfast love” is a declaration of His loyal love for His people, Psalm 118. God has declared that He will accomplish all that He has promised. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself,” 2Timothy 2:13. Christians are secure not because of our faithfulness but only because of the faithfulness of our Covenant God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Church and State Both Under God”

“Church and State Both Under God”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The giving of the Law and God’s ordination of civil authority are two blessings of God that intersect. Both the church and state are under God’s sovereign authority.

The blessing of the Law is stated in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. It was given to the Church of the Old Testament. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” Galatians 3:19. He called believers to “walk by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16. Believers live by the Spirit by applying the word of God in their lives.

He later wrote to the church in Rome, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad…” Romans 13:3 He reminded the members of the church that God is the one who ordains all authority. Those who are in authority are His ministers for the good and welfare of all people.

In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 and Galatians 3:19 the focus is on the Law of God which is the word of God and more precisely the Ten Commandments.

Paul referred to civil authority and civil laws, Romans 13. This is critical as we no longer live in a theocracy. God instituted civil governments. God’s purpose is to provide for an ordered society. Those who are governmental officers are God’s ministers for the good of all. They are charged with keeping order to promote good. As God is the source of all that is good, civil authorities and civil laws are subordinate to God’s law.

The Bible recorded a situation in which there was a conflict between God’s law and man’s law. When the leaders of Israel commanded the Apostles to cease preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

To help understand the importance of the Law and law in general, there are, what the Protestant Reformers called three uses of the Law as they are revealed in Scripture. The first use of the Law is to point to man’s hopelessness and his desperate need for a Savior. The second use of the Law is to restrain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law. The third use of the Law is to guide the life of a believer in sanctification in response to God’s work of free grace. These descriptions of the three uses of the law have been paraphrased from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 2, chapter 7, sections 9, 10, and 12. John Calvin articulated what the Bible teaches concerning the Law, Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Galatians 3; 5 and Romans 13.

The intersection of the blessing of the Law and Civil authority is the second use of the Law. It is the means given by God to put bounds around sinful mankind. It is this use of the Law that is the foundation of every society.

“All truth is God’s truth.” The necessity of the rule of law is absolute since truth is absolute. No society can exist for very long if law is relative or applied on sliding scales.

Now we apparently have laws in our nation that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only do so selectively. Truly this is a dangerous time!

Keep in mind that we are blessed in that our country was founded upon a principle that our government is by the people and for the people. Our founders understood God’s blessing of Law. I pray that all would recognize the danger of our current lawlessness. Devote yourself to vote for men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law. Understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we can guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hold dear the truth that freedom is only possible under the rule of law.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Few Good Men”

A Few Good Men
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A few good men were needed in Israel. The Church would be wise to learn from the example of Israel. The church’s greatest need is a few good men! It is only necessary to look back at the church of the Old Testament to see the need and God’s remedy. Problems in the church and in society always find their root in the quality and character of the leaders.
1 Kings 12 through 2 Kings 25 contains the record of God’s dividing Israel into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom consisted of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom contained the remaining two tribes of Israel. The northern kingdom came to be known as Israel and the southern kingdom as Judah.
There was a total of thirty-nine kings and one queen between the two kingdoms. Out of these forty monarchs there were only eight who did what was right in accordance with God’s standard of what is right. Of those eight kings, four kings failed to remove the “high places”. Their failure to remove the “high places” resulted in the people continuing to worship pagan gods at those “high places”.
The northern kingdom, Israel, existed for approximately 208 years. The southern kingdom’s longevity was 344 years. The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians. God, through the Prophets declared the end of both.
The apostle Paul reminded the church of Israel’s demise (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Israel in the Old Testament was a nation of idolaters. John Calvin wrote in the 16th century that the mind of man is an idol factory. Mankind hasn’t changed.
We who are the church ought to take the Bible’s warnings seriously. That is, those of us who profess Jesus is Lord know that we are citizens of heaven, yet we still live in the world. God has called us to work out our salvation within the context of the local church. He has given each one of His children and the church in general a command to be holy. Christians affirm that God has made us for worship. We know that all men were created to worship the one true God. God has set His people apart for Himself.
The modern evangelical church in large part has demonstrated ignorance of God’s command to worship Him despite His warning through Israel. Not only has He commanded worship, but He has declared the way He desires His people to worship Him. The church has been deceived by the teaching of some leaders that the church is about fellowship or relationships with one another. The Bible teaches that fellowship in the church is a propositional truth because all believers are “in Christ”. Relationships with one another are meaningful if based in Christ.
One of the last concerns of the apostle Paul was leadership in the church. He knew that the church would be invaded by false teachers. He wrote that people would surround themselves with those who would tickle their ears (2 Timothy 4:3). He knew that the only remedy was for the leaders in the church to be fully convinced of the absolute sufficiency of the word of God. He said that there would be terrible times in the last days. He said that people would be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, irreverent, brutal, and not lovers of the truth. Of course, as we read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we immediately think of the world around us. But the sobering reality is that Paul was not speaking about the world. He was declaring what would happen in the church. He said that there would be people having an appearance of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5).
The answer Paul gave to two pastors, Timothy and Titus was to select a few good men to lead the church under Christ, who is the Head. The answer is still the same. The southern kingdom of Judah had a few good men who did what was right. Likewise, the church of Jesus Christ, now more than ever, needs a few good men to lead in submission to the word of God. We don’t need new ideas, youth movements, or so-called “missional” emphases in the church. The answer is biblical leadership. May the Lord raise up a few good men in every Bible believing church and may we recognize them.