The large majority of the readers of this blog do not need to be told that a false Gospel, gutted of a call to genuine faith and repentance, is the abuser’s great ally. This “Gospel”, which the Apostle Paul says is no Gospel at all (Galatians 1), only produces nominal Christians, meaning that they are Christian in name only. Survivor after survivor will tell their stories of how their abuser hides in the pews, playing the role of “Christian” and enjoying the affirmation of his fellow church members. Where a false Gospel is preached, false Christians are produced, and an environment that is ripe for the practice of evil is cultivated. Sadly, we must admit that such a false Gospel is widely preached in our churches today, as it has been for decades now.
As I have completed reading through J.I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s great The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, I found that Packer gave one of the best answers to the ages old question, “What must I do to be saved?” that I have ever heard. Here it is. Mark it down well. How does a pastor deal with an abuser in his church? Put the real Gospel of Jesus Christ right in front of him and call him to obey it, as Christ does.
Note: Let me make just one caveat regarding the phrase I have bolded in the following quote regarding being in fellowship with other believers. As we have already noted and as most of our readers know full well from hard first-hand experience, abusers love to fake repentance. And we have called upon pastors and churches to exclude the abuser from the church if the victim is in that church. We need to provide a safe environment for victims. So it may well be necessary for a church to tell the abuser who is claiming repentance to seek fellowship elsewhere, with full disclosure to the leadership of the other church as to his history of abuse. Hint: A truly repentant person will not object to this!
Ok, with that qualification, here is the quote from Packer:
To the question: what must I do to be saved?, the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To the further question: what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?, its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.
And to the further question still: how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things? it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on His mercy; ask Him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask Him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write His law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from Him. Turn to Him and trust Him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him; watch, pray, and read and hear God’s word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step.
“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him”
so do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on Him till His light rises in your soul, as Scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobeying the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. “l believe — help thou mine unbelief”: this must become their cry. [Emphasis added.]
[April 9, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 9, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 9, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Posts in this series
Part 1: Dealing with domestic abuse (advice for pastors, Part 1, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 2: Believing and Responding to Victims (advice for pastors, Part 2, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 3: Avoid being deceived by the abuser, put him out of the flock (advice for pastors Part 3, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 4: What a Pastor Should Not Say to an Abuse Victim — an example from Lou Priolo (advice for pastors Part 4, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 5: We have compromised the Gospel and filled pews with unregenerate people (advice for pastors Part 5, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 6: Not all sinners are the same (advice for pastors Part 6, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 7: Expose the evil in truth and light, and remove it (advice for pastors Part 7, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 8: Cognitive dissonance hinders pastors from giving justice (advice for pastors Part 8, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
Part 9: Is this post.
Part 10: Resist showing partiality to the “men’s club” (advice for pastors Part 10, by Ps Jeff Crippen)
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
5 thoughts on “Call abusers to repentance (advice for pastors Part 9, by Ps Jeff Crippen)”
Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog [Internet Archive link].
Doesn’t your heart feel “strangely warmed” every time you are reminded of such a Gospel? It is good news, indeed!
I still don’t understand how two people can hear that message and have different responses. Actually, not even that — the responses seem the same, but the ensuing actions and outcomes are like chalk and cheese. It’s no point wondering; only God knows.
Thanks, Jeff, for these encouraging messages, and for the links to RC Sproul’s materials on Reformed Theology. I have found the resources extremely informative and uplifting.
Anonymous – you are very welcome. Yes, it is a great Gospel and we have a great Savior!
Anonymous, I’m probably venturing where esteemed theologians tread most carefully and a less trained one such as me bumbles along carelessly, but here goes.
Isn’t it because God sovereignly quickens one person’s spirit, making that person spiritually alive and thus able to respond with heart-felt willingness, but with the other person He does not give life, and their spirit remains dead.
Now, how come that second person may seem to show a positive response at first, but as time pans out it becomes clear they are not truly Christ’s, because they do not persevere, they show little or no sanctification, and they bear no wholesome fruit. To me this is mysterious, in that I cannot understand what went on in that person’s soul when they showed that first positive response. But I do know Jesus warned us in the parable of the sower that some people would be like this.