Unity in the Truth

In this article, I am enclosing a long quote from Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the greatest minister of the 20th century in this writer’s opinion. I have often been refreshed by his writings in ways that few others have ministered to me. I am not certain where this quote can be found, but it purports to be from Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. The specific page number was not given and I have been unable to locate it. Yet, the words are so evidently the words of Lloyd-Jones that are being quoted here. His words get to the heart of why we started Vanguard Presbyterian Church in the face of much opposition by those who should be praying for us and encouraging us. I must confess that I have been surprised by the open hostility towards Vanguard by many whom I have known for decades. If we had left to transfer to another denomination (which some of those who have been hostile towards us counseled us to do), then they would not have turned against us as they have. Yet, when our consciences required us to start a new denomination in order to be faithful to the truth, the feathers started hitting the fan. I continue to hear reports of various people (many whom I do not know) say such things as this: “If Dewey Roberts and Al Baker and the others in Vanguard Presbytery had remained with us, then they could have helped us have the strength to take back the PCA.” Do they really believe that??? I certainly do not think they do. Our staying would not have made any difference (except for the searing of our consciences as we became more vexed day after day with the compromises in that denomination). And our leaving has had no effect on them either. I think it comes down to one thing. We in Vanguard Presbyterian Church have decided that we are ‘prepared to stand alone’ (as Iain Murray’s biography of J. C. Ryle is titled). We are not willing to make compromises that trouble our consciences and injure our testimonies any longer. I keep hearing reports (though not very many such reports) that there are ministers and churches ready to leave the PCA. I have been hearing those reports for fifteen years or more and it is the same people who keep making the same threats.  I heard a lot of such chatter in 2013 when the Standing Judicial Commission made the Federal Vision an acceptable view in the PCA. There were active measures taken by some to start a new denomination. Then it all died down. Maybe someday they will leave and start a new denomination. Maybe they will not do so. Time will tell. As for us in Vanguard, we grew weary of big-tent Presbyterianism. Big tent conservative Presbyterianism is not much better than a big tent dominated by progressives. It was big-tent conservative ministers who led the way for the downfall of my former denomination. They championed the allowing for exceptions to the Westminster Standards and permitting four different views on creation. Thus, the following remarks by Lloyd-Jones get to the heart of what Vanguard is all about.     

According to the teaching of the Bible, one thing only matters, and that is the truth. The Holy Spirit will honor nothing but the truth, His own truth. But that, He will honor. Numbers certainly do not matter. But today the prevailing argument is the one that exalts numbers. What a tragic fallacy!

Political parties function in terms of majority rule. But this argument is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong, if you relate it to the realm of the Christian faith. The whole Bible testifies against it. The glories of Church history protest loudly against it. The Christian position is entirely different. Here, you do not begin by counting heads, you are not concerned primarily about numbers.

Nothing matters in the spiritual realm except truth, the truth given by the Holy Spirit, the truth that can be honored by the Holy Spirit. Is there anything more glorious in the whole of the Old Testament than the way in which this great principle stands out? God often uses individual men, or but two or three, against hordes and masses. Is there anything more exhilarating than the doctrine of the remnant?

While the majority had gone wrong, the ones and the twos saw the truth. Take a man like Jeremiah. All the false prophets were against him. There is a man who had to stand alone. Poor Jeremiah – how he hated it and disliked it! He did not like being unpopular, he did not like standing on his own, and being ridiculed and laughed at, and spat upon; but he had the truth of God, and so he endured it all.

Similarly Moses had to stand alone when he came down from the Mount where he had met God. To stand in isolation from one’s fellows, but with God, is the great doctrine of the Old Testament in many ways. And it is emphasized in the New Testament also.

Look at the Early Christian Church. From the standpoint of the modern argument of numbers the position was ridiculous. The Son of God goes back to heaven and leaves His cause in the hands of twelve men! Who are they? No one has ever heard of them. We are told about the authorities of Jerusalem that they noticed that they were ‘ignorant and unlearned men’. Incidentally, they added that they had been ‘with Jesus’. A mere handful of men in a great pagan world with all the Jews against them, and all the authorities! Everything on earth was against them.

I do not understand the mentality in the Christian Church today which says that we must all come together and sink our differences; and that what we believe does not matter. It is a denial of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and of the story of the twelve ignorant men who knew whom and what they believed, and who had the power of the Spirit upon them, and who ‘turned the world upside-down’. This is surely one of the central messages of the Bible.

The great concern of the New Testament Epistles is not about the size of the Church, it is about the purity of the Church. There is an exclusiveness in the New Testament that is quite amazing. The Apostle Paul writing to the Galatians says, ‘Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:8).

‘My Gospel!’, says Paul writing to Timothy. He denounces other teachers. So many of these modern preachers are much nicer people than the Apostle Paul! They never say a word against anyone at all, they praise everybody, and they are praised by everybody. They are never ‘negative’! They never define what they believe and what they do not believe. They are said to be ‘full of love’. I am not misjudging them when I say that that is not the explanation.

The explanation is that they do not ‘contend for the truth’. It is not for us to decide what to leave out and what to drop for the sake of unity. My business is to expound this truth, to declare it – come what may! We must not be interested primarily in numbers; we must be interested in the truth of God.[1]

A very good friend told me this past summer about being at a denominational meeting of another Presbyterian denomination when the person he was with said that there was no hope for that denomination because there are no large churches in it. Is that what determines the viability of a denomination. If so, then why is it that the Scripture never tells us the sizes of the various New Testament churches? How large was the church at Philippi? Or Corinth? Or Ephesus? Or Antioch? The twelve tribes were numbered. The New Testament churches were not numbered. 

While pondering such things in preparation for writing this article. One of my best friends called me to tell me about his mission trip from which he had just returned that day. He mentioned the interest in Vanguard Presbyterian Church in the foreign countries he visited. I have heard the same thing from others. Why is Vanguard even known overseas? I think the answer is clear. According to the Bible, the one thing that matters is the truth and that is the conviction of Vanguard Presbyterian Church. It is not our size. It is our convictions. It is that we are prepared to stand alone where necessary. The Christian Church today is a remnant church. As Lloyd-Jones asked: “Is there anything more exhilarating than the doctrine of the remnant?” In the end, Jesus and His truth are all that counts. 

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL.

www.vanguardpresbyterianchurch.com You can donate to Vanguard as follows: Make your check to Vanguard Presbytery and send it to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540. 

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972),  page unknown.

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