It's Just the Way I Am (?)

Dear Church Family,

In the sermon this past Sunday from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, we took some time to look at the error of the “carnal Christian” doctrine that is sometimes taught from these verses. As we looked at this false teaching, I mentioned how one of the subtle takes on this heresy is when Christians learn to live with sin. That is, if one accepts the unbiblical notion that a believer in Christ can still be completely carnal or fleshy (unrepentant and enslaved to sin), then the believer runs the danger of eventually making a ‘peace treaty,’ as it were, with sin in their lives.

A Peace Treaty with Sin?

Instead of warring against the sinful passions of their own flesh, a person who believes that it’s possible to be a “carnal Christian” begins to think, “Well, I just have a temper [or insert any besetting sin here]. That’s just the way it is, and I can’t do anything about it.” In this same vein, I also mentioned how this subtle danger has gained some traction with respect to the sin of homosexuality among professing Christians in the last several years. Thus, some make the unbiblical argument that homosexual behavior may be sin, but the desire itself is not. Yet, most Christians would never make the same argument with respect to other sinful desires; for example, few would argue that the act of murder is sin, but the desire to murder is not.

Another contributing factor to this idea that a person may be a “gay Christian” is that instead of understanding human nature according to the teaching and categories of Scripture, it assumes the validity of the world’s understanding of sexual orientation. This, in fact, is basically one of the same problems with the unbiblical notion of “theistic evolution” (the idea that God did not create all things out of nothing, but that He used the evolutionary process to bring about the diversity of species that we see today).

To believe in theistic evolution, of necessity, one must also believe that death is part of the created order, not an enemy intruder which was the result of the fall as the Bible teaches (Romans 5:12). Likewise, the proponents of the “gay in Christ” movement, of necessity, eventually come to view same sex attraction as part of the created order, not as an enemy intruder – just like all sinful desires – which was a result of the fall (Romans 1:18-27).

Toward a Biblical Understanding of Human Sexuality and Desire

So, amidst a culture that is increasingly hostile to God’s design for marriage, sexuality, and human nature how ought we as Christians respond? Well, I’ve previously written on this topic of marriage, sexuality, and how we ought to respond here: “Marriage: The Bible and Human Givenness.”

But, I’d also like to point you to a very timely, pastoral, and biblically-based article by Richard Phillips entitled “Looming Debate Over SSA.” Phillips is the pastor of a PCA church in Greenville, SC. In the article, he explains the problems with how some have come to draw a distinction between sexual orientation and sinful desires, and how normalizing sinful homosexual behavior or desire is of no help to anyone. He concludes by explaining how Christians may faithfully seek the salvation of sinners by “holding out a holy identity in union with Christ and in the experience of his cleansing grace.”

We live in confusing times when there are many voices proposing many various theories about human sexuality. I encourage you to follow the link to Phillips’ article and read carefully his explanation and insights. He charts a clear, biblical, and loving way toward calling people to faith and repentance.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Martin Luther's Contributions

Dear Church Family,

This past Sunday, in our adult Sunday school class in “Turning Points in Church History,”  we picked up where we left off by examining some of Martin Luther’s major contributions to Christian doctrine and practice. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get through all of the lesson as we had a good discussion about “vocation.” Since we didn’t get to finish the lesson, I thought that I would take this opportunity to summarize this study.


One of the major contributions of Martin Luther, and probably the one which we speak about the most, is his understanding and teaching about the doctrine of justification. Through his study of Scripture, Luther came to understand that man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone by God’s free grace alone (Romans 4:1-7; Galatians 2:16). As Luther put it, Christians are simul iustus et peccator (“simultaneous justified and sinner”). At the same time, Luther also clearly taught the necessity of good works which are grounded in true faith. Or, as the Westminster Confession of Faith states: “Faith…is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love” (WCF 11.2).

Theology of the Cross

Luther also reformed the worship of the church in making the service one which the congregation was more fully engaged (especially in singing), seeing worship not as a sacrificial work on man’s part but a gift from God. Undergirding much of Luther’s teaching was also his understanding of what it means to be a “theologian of the cross.” Reasoning from the Bible’s teaching that the foolishness and weakness of the cross is God’s means of manifesting His power and saving men (1 Corinthians 1:21-25; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10), Luther promoted a “theology of the cross” as a pattern of ministry, as well as a way of life for every Christian.


As a former monk who married a former nun, Luther also made a bold statement about the institution of marriage. Where the church had formerly taught that the celibate life of a priest or a nun was a higher, more spiritual, calling, Luther argued that marriage was the best Christian life. He taught that that there are three main purposes in marriage: the procreation of children, the avoidance of sin, and mutual help and companionship. With this teaching, the Westminster Standards are also in agreement (WCF 24.2).


In keeping with his denunciation of the vows of celibacy and the supposed “higher calling” of the priesthood, Luther also taught a fresh understanding of the meaning of “vocation.” Formerly, and still today in the Roman Catholic Church, vocation (or calling) is limited to ‘holy orders’ and the celibate life of the priest or nun. But, for Luther, the value of one’s vocation (all vocations) comes from the inherent call to love and serve one’s neighbor. According to Luther, God is the one who ultimately calls each person to a particular productive form of work and He is the one that ennobles the pursuit of each one’s calling.

Unfortunately, it is in vogue these days to misunderstand and misapply Luther’s doctrine of vocation. Contrary to the biblical teaching on the uniqueness of ordination to gospel ministry (e.g., Romans 10:12-15; 1 Timothy 4:14), some erroneously teach that every believer or every member of the church is a minister. And, contrary to the doctrine of the biblical teaching on the spiritual nature of the mission of the church to preach the gospel and make disciples (e.g., Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 12:13; John 18:36), some erroneously teach that the church is to involve itself in the temporal affairs of this world.

As we began to discuss this topic in class, I tried to explain how Luther’s doctrine of vocation can sometimes be misunderstood in these ways. Yet, as I sought to explain and answer questions, it seems that I may have caused some confusion. One or two people inferred that I was saying that only those ordained to gospel ministry ought to share the gospel. If that’s what came across, I apologize. That is not what I meant. Let me try to be as clear and as succinct as possible: while we may make a distinction between the ecclesial calling of ordained gospel ministry and other equally legitimate vocations, God exhorts all believers to bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, “to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). To better understand these distinctions and categories, I refer you to two things that I’ve previously written that deal with this topic: “The Church and the Individual Christian” and “The Two Kingdoms Doctrine in Work and Politics.”

The Priesthood of Believers

In the class on Sunday, we ran out of time and didn’t have the opportunity to discuss this last contribution of Luther’s, but it helps to clarify some of the confusion in the previous topic. In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching about the special (and necessary) intercession of the priest in absolving a believer of their sins, Luther emphasized the “priesthood of believers”: since Jesus Christ is the one and only high-priest (Hebrews 7:23-28), every Christian believer is a part of the holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-5) and has direct access to God through His Son (Hebrews 13:10).

The Westminster Confession of Faith speaks to the concept of the priesthood of believers when it describes the liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the Gospel to include, in part, “freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected,” “greater boldness of access to the throne of grace,” and “fuller communication of the free Spirit of God” (WCF 20.1).

Like many of the other contributions of Luther, the doctrine of the priesthood of believers has been misunderstood, as well. Some have interpreted this concept as teaching that there are no special church offices in the new covenant church, at all. Here, T. David Gordon helpfully points out:

Some have taken the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of believers to mean that the Reformation did not believe in an ordained ministry. The Reformers taught no such thing. For them, the ‘priesthood of believers’ recognized that the priestly duties of consecrating our lives to God were incumbent upon all believers, as was the priestly duty of interceding for others. The Reformers thus taught that the particular office of priest within the Sinai covenant became both general and non-sacrificial in the new covenant. But the Reformation recognized that other, non-priestly offices rightly existed in the NT church; they taught the priesthood of believers, but not the clergy-hood of believers.



I hope that what I have written here might help to mitigate any of the confusion from the class this past Sunday; however, if still more clarification is needed, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’d be happy to discuss these things further.

Allow me to conclude, though, with a statement from Ronald H. Bainton’s biography of the magisterial Reformer, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, in which he enumerates Luther’s remarkable accomplishments and impact:

If no Englishman occupies a similar place in the religious life of his people, it is because no Englishman had anything like Luther’s range. The Bible translation in England was the work of Tyndale, the prayer book of Cranmer, the catechism of the Westminster divines. The sermonic style stemmed from Latimer; the hymnbook from Watts. And not all of these lived in one century. Luther did the work of more than five men. And for sheer richness and exuberance of vocabulary and mastery of style he is to be compared only with Shakespeare.


We do not worship the man, but we are grateful for the ways in which the Lord used Martin Luther in the Reformation of the Church. Soli Deo Glory.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Sunday School Resuming

Dear Church Family,

Sunday school for all ages resumes this coming Sunday, 9:30-10:30 am. In the life of the church, there are several opportunities for Christian discipleship, learning and growing in one’s faith, and fellowship; these are listed near the end of this email. Of course, the corporate worship of the church is the central and centering aspect of the life of the church (as we were reminded in the sermon from this past Sunday from 1 Corinthians 1:10-25, the preaching of the gospel is the engine of salvation). At the same time, Sunday school is also an important ministry of the church for continuing education in Scripture and the Christian life. And, it’s a ministry that provides a bit more informal and intimate place of fellowship for the whole family.

Resuming again this coming Sunday (January 21, 2018) at 9:30 am, nursery is provided while volunteer members of the church teach classes for the following age groups: toddlers, preschool/kindergarten, Elementary I, Elementary II, and teens (grades 7-12). Having concluded their study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the teen class will begin a new study on the distinctive characteristics of different Christian denominations and churches. All of the other classes will continue using the resources and curriculum of Great Commission Publications. Paul and Kathryn Wheeler do an excellent job planning, recruiting teachers, and overseeing this ministry of Christian education in the church. If you have any questions, they would be happy to speak with you.

In the adult Sunday school class, we are about half way through our series on “Turning Points in Church History.” At the end of the year, we concluded with the life of Martin Luther, particularly the turning point in church history that was the Diet of Worms (1521). This Sunday, we will pick up where we left off by examining some of Martin Luther’s major contributions to Christian doctrine and Church life: the doctrine of justification, the corporate worship of the church, the ‘theology of the cross,’ marriage, vocation, and the priesthood of believers.

I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity for you and your family to grow in Christian doctrine, holiness, and fellowship. See you at Sunday school!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Resolve to Press On

Dear Church Family,

Over the New Year’s Day weekend, my wife and I traveled to southern California where I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of Micah and Artemis (nee Meghdadi) Winkely. It was wonderful to be a part of their wedding ceremony and celebrations. The weather in southern California was extremely pleasant, as well! Unfortunately, however, our travel experience left something to be desired, to say the least.

Travel Travails

On Friday, we were scheduled to have about seven hours of travel; however, due to getting fogged in at the Midland airport, our travel time turned into 19 ½ hours (we ended up flying from Midland to Houston to Las Vegas to San Juan to San Diego). We completely missed the wedding rehearsal on Friday, but thankfully made it in plenty of time for the for the Saturday afternoon wedding. On Monday, we were again scheduled to have about seven hours of travel back home; however, due to getting fogged in at the San Diego airport, our travel time turned into 18 hours (because of the delays and cancelled flights in San Diego, we had to check our bags twice and go through airport security three times (though I was only patted down twice)).

Suffice it to say that while we enjoyed the wedding, I felt a little bit like Jack Lemmon’s character in The Out of Towners. We were very glad to finally get home! As I’ve reflected upon our traveling difficulties to attend the wedding ceremony and celebrations, it got me to thinking about the spiritual sojourn of the Church – how our travel travails of this past weekend are a small illustration of the spiritual sojourn of the Church.

Spiritual Warfare and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb

You see, the Scriptures describe the present life of the Church in terms of spiritual warfare. Believers enjoy the Lord’s protection and sustenance until Jesus’ second coming; however, we are also the Church militant: those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus are at war with sin and with the devil himself (Revelation 12:13-17). So, we ought to expect great difficulties in our spiritual pilgrimage.

Yet, the Scriptures also describe the climax of redemption as a glorious ceremony and celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb. On that future day, the Lord will gather His people together, and there will be great rejoicing in His presence (Revelation 19:1-9). So, there are some similarities between my and my wife’s travel experiences of this past weekend and the Church’s pilgrimage to the marriage supper of the Lamb; however, there are at least three major differences.

First, while our attendance at the wedding was a round-trip, the spiritual pilgrimage of God’s people is a one-way journey. The tabernacle of God will be among men, and He will dwell among them. He will wipe away every tear; there will be no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain because the Lord will make all things new (Revelation 21:1-8).

Second, the blessings of the marriage supper of the Lamb will not be for only one day, but will last for all eternity. The curse will be removed, there will no longer be any night because the Lord God will illumine His bond-servants, and we will reign forever and ever with Him (Revelation 22:1-7).

Third and finally, next to the sufferings of this world, the Lord will reveal to us the incomparable glory of life in the new creation (Romans 8:18). When all is said and done, from the perfected state of glory, we will look back upon the travails and warfare of this life and consider them to be inconsequential when compared to the rewards of heaven.


In light of these things, as we begin a new year, let us resolve to press on so that we may lay hold of that for which also we have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus; let us resolve to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, and meditate upon our citizenship which is in heaven (Philippians 3:12-21).

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch