ADD-12 - The Presbyterian Church
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ANSWERING DENOMINATIONAL DOCTRINES
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17). Welcome to our study of answering denominational doctrines. In this series of lessons, we have been examining the doctrines of various religious groups under the scrutiny of Scripture. Does the design of these doctrines add up to the design that we see in the church in the New Testament? Are the doctrines of those denominations in accord with the doctrine of Christ as found in the New Testament? And should we be a part of any of these religious groups?
Today we will be examining the Presbyterian Church to see if its doctrines and teachings
are in accord with the New Testament.
We must remember that we need God’s authority
for everything we say and do in life. As Paul said in Colossians 3:17, whatever we do “in
word or in deed” must be done by the authority of Jesus Christ. Today we are searching
for Bible authority—book, chapter, and verse—for everything we do. Let’s begin by asking,
“When did the Presbyterian movement begin?” History tells us that it began somewhere
between the time period of 1535 and 1560. There is nothing inherently wrong with those
years in and of themselves, except that they do not represent the time period, according
to the New Testament, when the Lord’s church was to be established. When did God say
that His Son’s church would start? According to Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2, God said that He
would establish a new kingdom from Jerusalem in the time period of the Roman emperors.
According to Mark 9:1 and Matthew 16:18, that occurred in the first century. The Presby-
terian religion cannot be the church about we read in the Bible because it began far too
late. If we want to be a part of the Lord’s church, we need to go back to the original move-
ment that, according to the Book of Acts, was started by Jesus Christ Himself. Then we can
be sure that we will be a part of the church for which Jesus died—which is the Lord’s body.
We next need to ask, “Where did the Presbyterian Church start?” History tells us that it be-
gan in Germany under the thinking of John Calvin, and later was moved to Switzerland
where it became the state religion under John Knox. Germany and Switzerland, in and of
themselves, carry no bad connotations. But in the Scripture they are not given as the start-
ing points of the Lord’s church. In Acts 2:5 we see devout men gathered in Jerusalem,
and in Acts 2:47 we are told that, for the very first time, the Lord “added to the church
daily those who were being saved.” Isaiah 2:3-4 prophesied that the house of God (the
temple of the Lord) would be established in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where the
church began—not Germany or Switzerland. The Presbyterian Church did not begin in the
right time period. Nor did it start in the right place. It began thousands of miles from the
place where the church described in the New Testament began.
Where is the official headquarters of the Presbyterian Church? One segment (the Presby-
terian Church USA) is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, while another segment (the
Presbyterian Church of America) is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The church’s head-
quarters were originally in Westminster in London, England. As we can see from history,
the church has had multiple headquarters. But we need to ask, “According to the Bible,
where is the headquarters of the church about which you read in Acts?” The headquarters
of the church is found in Heaven itself. According to Hebrews 1:3-5, Jesus, the Head of
the church, is seated at the right hand of God. Thus, the headquarters of the church is in
Heaven. We need no earthly headquarters because there is no authority for it, and be-
cause God’s Word has already settled the matter (which means that there is no need for
us to institute an earthly headquarters so that we can make it appear as if we are in con-
trol). Jesus is the Head of the church, and the church’s headquarters are in Heaven.
John Calvin, in 1533, founded the Presbyterian movement. It then was popularized by John
Knox in 1560. Who founded the church of which we read in the New Testament? Do we
find John Calvin or John Knox mentioned as we turn through the pages of the Bible? No, we
do not. But we do find the following statement from Jesus Christ: “I will build My church”
(Mt. 16:18). Jesus is the Founder. The Bible says, “No other foundation can anyone lay than
that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). The Presbyterian Church does not
meet the criteria set forth in the New Testament for the origin and design of the New Tes-
tament church since it has the wrong founder(s). If Jesus did not start the church, then
He will not be coming back to receive it, and you do not want to be a part of it (1 Cor.
Another important question we need to ask is, “What is the authority for the Presbyterian
Church?” As with most denominations, an appeal is made to the Scriptures as the church’s
authority. However, in order to be a faithful Presbyterian, a person also must acknowledge
the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechism as authoritative. This means that Pres-
byterians will say that they believe in the Bible, and will accept the Bible as their authority.
But a person cannot be considered as a faithful Presbyterian until he or she is willing to sub-
mit to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechism. That is the book by which Pres-
byterians go, and they turn to it as much as they do the Bible for doctrine and things of that
nature. We need to realize, however, that there is no such in the Lord’s church as having
“the Bible plus....” Rather, we must have the Bible alone. Jude 3 says that we are to “con-
tend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered.” The Bible is the final Word of
God, and we must not go beyond what is written in it (1 Cor. 4:6).
How did the Presbyterian Church get started? It had its roots in a revolt against Catholi-
cism. Martin Luther, a German priest and professor, started what is known as the Protes-
tant Reformation when he posted a list of 95 grievances against the Catholic Church on the
door of the church building in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. Some twenty years later, John
Calvin, a French theologian, further refined the reformers’ way of thinking about the nature
of God and God’s relationship with humanity in what came to be known as Reformed the-
ology. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Cal-
vin’s teachings back to Scotland. Then, other Reformed communities developed in England,
Holland and France. Thus, the Presbyterian Church traces its ancestry back primarily to
Scotland and England where people were revolting against Catholicism. While Catholicism’s
doctrine is indeed depraved and not according to the New Testament, we must realize that
Presbyterianism did not leave enough of it behind. We will see today why the Presbyter-
ians’ doctrines will not hold up to scrutiny under the light of New Testament teaching. Is
what Presbyterians teach found in the Bible? Or, do Presbyterians also teach and demand
that traditions of men be followed?
As we examine the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church, we will find ourselves examin-
ing the fundamental teachings of John Calvin, which is often defined via an acrostic known
Perseverance of the Saints
Let’s begin with total depravity. As Calvin went to the Scriptures, he developed the idea that
people are totally depraved, meaning that people in their natural, unregenerated state do not
have the ability to turn to God. Rather, it is the grace and will of God, working through the
Holy Spirit, that causes men who are dead in sin to be reborn through the Word of God.
That language may be confusing to you, but basically it is saying that from the moment of
a person’s birth, he or she is depraved. When you come into this world, you do so dead in
sin. And unless something is done for you as a baby, you will die and go to Hell. Presby-
terians often do not care to admit such, but that is the logical conclusion of Calvin’s teach-
ing. Do the Scriptures teach that when a person is born, he or she is totally depraved and
“born a sinner”? Not at all. The Bible actually refutes such a doctrine in multiples places.
Ezekiel 18:4 says, “The soul who sins will die.” Babies have not sinned. So why would they
die spiritually? Babies are not amenable to Ezekiel 18:4. Another passage that teaches
that Calvin’s concept of total depravity is not true is found in Ezekiel 18. A proverb was
circulating in Israel that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth
are set on edge.” You may say, “That doesn’t make much sense to me.” The proverb is
simply saying, “If you eat something sour, your kids are going to taste it.” Or, “If you do
something wrong, your children also will do something wrong.” God told the Israelites that
they were not to use that proverb any longer. Ezekiel 18:20 refutes completely the con-
cept of totally depravity.
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father
bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and
the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
God wanted the Israelites to know that “the soul who sins shall die.” The Israelites’ chil-
dren were not going to bear the guilt of their parents’ sins. Furthermore, God said that a
person’s righteousness (or unrighteousness) was upon him; it cannot be passed down to
Another passage that clearly refutes totally depravity is Ezekiel 28:15. In the context, God is
speaking to the king of Tyre, and says, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you
were created until [an adverb of time] iniquity was found in you.” What do we learn from
this passage? The king of Tyre, upon whom God would ultimately bring judgment, was cre-
ated (born) “perfect.” Eventually, however, he chose to sin. The problem with total deprav-
ity is this: if it is true, then we may as well give up because Jesus was born of Mary, who
was of the seed of Adam and Eve, who also (according to Calvinistic doctrine) carried the
sin of Adam and Eve. So, if Jesus was born of Mary (who was human and thus carried
Adam and Eve’s sin), then we might as well give up because this means that Jesus was a
sinner, too. Yet John said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
(Jn. 1:29). Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without
sin.” Consider, too, the refutation in Ecclesiastes 7:29, which explains how God views to-
tal depravity. God does not say that people are born depraved. Rather, He says that He
“made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” We are created in the im-
age of God. We are not born sinners. Rather, there is a point in time when we choose to
sin (Rom. 5:12). But we were made upright and perfect by God. We are not born in sin.
The second part of Calvin’s TULIP is unconditional election (often known as predestina-
tion). This doctrine states,
“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are pre-
destined to life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men,
thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed: And their
number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or decreased.”
This means that: some people are predestined to go to Heaven; some people are predes-
tined to go to Hell; there is nothing anyone can do to change that; no one can add even
a single person to the number of people who will go to Heaven, and no one can deduct
even a single person to the number of people who will go to Hell. But is that really the pic-
ture of God that we see in the Bible? Stop and think about this for a moment. Let’s say
that half of the people viewing (or listening to) this program today are going to go to Heav-
en, but the other half will go to Hell. And there is nothing you can do about it. If you were
in the group going to Heaven, you would be happy. But what if you are in the group who
will go to Hell, and you cannot do anything to change that because the number can’t be
decreased by one? How would you feel toward God? Is that the type of God we see in the
Bible? Take heart! The Scriptures clearly refute this false doctrine. Joshua 24:15 tells us
that every person is a free moral agent who can choose to obey God and be saved, or who
can choose to disobey God and be lost. Joshua said, “Choose for yourselves!” He did not
say, “God has already chosen, and the number is certain.” One of the clearest pictures in
the Bible regarding how unconditional election cannot be true is found in Acts 10:34-35—
“Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in
every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.’ ” God shows
no partiality. If that is true—yet He predestines some to be lost and some to be saved—
then either the Bible is lying, or John Calvin did not have it right. Furthermore, if “in every
nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him,” we see a “who-
ever”—meaning that anyone who wants to do God’s will can be saved. In Galatians 2:6
we learn that God is no respecter of persons. In 2 Thessalonians 2:14 we are told that the
Gospel call is for all people. Acts 2:38 tells us that everyone needs to repent and be bap-
tized for the forgiveness of sins. Why are we to take the Gospel to the whole world (Mk.
Another problem is that total depravity is in contradiction to the nature and desires of God.
If it is true, it limits God—or makes Him a God Who doesn’t care. We know that this doc-
trine is not true because of passages such as 1 Timothy 2:4, which teach that God desires
all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Either God is limited in the
fact that He desires something He cannot have (since He is the One Who chooses), or
God just doesn’t care. Or, John Calvin’s doctrine is not true. We are not “unconditionally
elected.” There are conditions that each individual can those to either meet or not meet.
We are not predestined to go to Heaven or to go to Hell. Each of us makes our own choice.
One writer described it like this: “God votes for us; the devil votes against us; we cast the
deciding ballot.” Isn’t that true? God wants every person to be saved. The devil wants ev-
ery person to be lost. But we make the final choice. We can, as Joshua urged, “choose
for ourselves this day whom we will serve.”
Another doctrine propagated by Calvin was the idea of limited atonement. Calvin taught
that atonement was sufficient for all, but efficient only for God’s elect. Thus, Jesus died
for all people, but in reality His death will be able to save only a few. This is a very con-
fusing doctrine. What is all this about? It has to be the ultimate conclusion of uncondi-
tional election. The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus died for all people. This means that
if unconditional election is true, then Jesus’ death was “for all people,” yet all people can-
not partake of it? Again, the Scriptures clearly refute such a concept. Matthew 7:13-14
teaches that all who obey God can go down the narrow (correct) path to Heaven. Titus
2:11 says that the grace of God is available for all people. There are various passages
which clearly teach that Jesus’ death is efficient, not just sufficient. In 2 Peter 3:9 we are
told, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-
suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repent-
ance.” If Jesus’ atonement is limited, why would God say that all people should repent?
Does God want something that His own Son’s sacrifice cannot provide? And what about
Hebrews 2:9, which says, “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for
the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might
taste death for everyone.” This does not say that Jesus died “for the limited few who are the
elect.” It says that Jesus died “for everyone.” The Bible is clear that Jesus’ atonement is
not at all limited. “Whosever will, let him come” (Rev. 22:10-21). God wants all people to
be saved. Thus, the sacrifice of Jesus is for all people. Limited atonement does not agree
with the Bible’s teaching.
Then there is the doctrine of irresistible grace, which is defined as follows:
“The effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all fore-
seen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by
the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace of-
fered and conveyed in it.”
What is this language suggesting? God makes a call, and makes a person (via the Holy
Spirit) unable to resist that call. The Scriptures clearly refute this doctrine. If this doctrine
is true, why should we evangelize? If God is going to do something “through the Spirit” that
a person cannot resist, then why did Jesus tell us to take the Gospel to the whole world
if God is going to make it so that a person cannot resist Him anyway? The doctrine of
irresistible grace is simply not true! This doctrine is not found in the Scriptures. Titus 2:11
says that “the grace of God [which] brings salvation has appeared to all men.” But just
because God’s grace is here, does that mean that everyone will accept it? Not at all. In
Acts 6 and Acts 7 we see multitudes who rejected God’s grace. So what can we take away
from the Scriptures to help us see that the doctrine of irresistible grace is false? Look at
what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28—“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.” According to Scripture, it is not the case that God sends His grace
to us via the Holy Spirit, which cannot be resisted. Rather, God sends His grace, and then
we must accept it. Jesus did not say, “I will come to you and make you accept God’s
grace by making it where you cannot resist it.” Instead He said, “You come to Me, and I
will give you rest.” We have a choice and a responsibility. We can choose to receive God’s
grace or to reject it. God is not going to force a person so accept His grace against his or
her will. God gives us the choice to accept His grace or to reject it. We see people through
the Bible who chose to reject God’s grace, and ended up being not right in God’s sight
(such as people who never accepted the truth, or who fell away from it after having ac-
Calvin’s last doctrine is the perseverance of the saints (also known as “once saved, always
saved”). It is defined as follows:
“They, whom God hath accepted in his beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his
Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly
persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”
In essence, this doctrine says that if God elects you, and if you therefore are a part of
those limited few who can receive atonement (meaning that God has conditioned you for
salvation, which you cannot resist), then naturally you will be unable to fall away from God’s
grace. Let’s take this to its logical conclusion. Bill Foster, a Baptist preacher in Louisville,
Kentucky, in The Weekly Worker of March 12, 1959, made this comment: “If I killed my wife
and mother and debauched a thousand women I couldn’t go to hell—in fact, I couldn’t go
to hell if I wanted to.” Most people won’t take the doctrine of perseverance of the saints
that far. But if you are going to buy into the doctrine, you will have to admit that such think-
ing is true. No matter what you do, and no matter how hard you might try, even if you want-
ed to, you could not go to Hell once you have been saved. Do the Scriptures teach such a
thing? Do the Scriptures teach that once a person is saved, he is always saved and can
never be lost? No, that is not found in the Scriptures. But here is what you do find. Calvin’s
doctrine says that a person cannot fall from grace. Yet God, in the exact language used by
false teachers, refutes such an idea. In Galatians 5:4 the Bible says to Christians (Gal. 1:
1-3), “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you
have fallen from grace.” If a person is “estranged,” he is cut off. Paul said that those peo-
ple who were members of the Lord’s church in Galatia who were trying to go back to the
Old Law had been “cut off from Christ.” Thus, they had “fallen from grace.” The literal
Greek word for “from” is ek, which means “out of.” It is not as if a sinner is still within the
circle of God’s grace. Rather, the person has fallen out of God’s grace so that he is “cut off,”
outside of God’s grace, and in a lost state. Notice, too, that in Revelation 3:4-5 Jesus said
to the church that if some were not willing to change their ways, He would “blot their names
out of the Book of Life.” These were people whose names were in the Book of Life. But
Jesus said that He would remove their names from that Book of Life. That is a clear picture
of people who once were saved, but yet who would be lost if they did not repent. Paul’s
comments in 1 Corinthians 10:12 have no meaning if the doctrine of once saved, always
saved, is true. Paul said, “Take heed lest you fall.” The clearest picture of all is Acts 8:
20. Simon had just been baptized, but had sinned. Peter said, “Your money perish with you
because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!” The doctrine
of once saved, always saved, is not true. Simon was a Christian, but was about to be lost
along with his money.
Is the Presbyterian religion according to Scripture? Not at all. I beg you today, if you are
involved in this religion, to get out of it. Become a member of the New Testament church.
Hear God’s Word. Believe in Jesus. Repent of your sins. Confess Christ’s name before
men. And be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38). I hope today
that you will consider the things we have said, and that you will get out your Bible and
check to see if these things are true. More than anything, we hope that you will obey the
Gospel of Christ and be saved before it is too late.
Narrator accompanied by a cappella singing:
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STUDY QUESTIONS FOR “THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH”
1. What does Colossians 3:17 teach us about the source of authority for everything we do?
2. According to material presented in this lesson, when did the Presbyterian movement
3. According to biblical passages such as Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2, when was Christ’s church
prophesied to begin?
4. According to biblical passages such as Matthew 16:18, and Mark 9:1, when did Christ’s
5. According to the material presented in this lesson, where did the Presbyterian Church
6. According to Isaiah 2:3-4, where was the Lord’s church prophesied to begin?
7. According to Acts 2, where did the Lord’s church begin?
8. According to material presented in this lesson, who founded the Presbyterian Church?
9. According to passages such as Matthew 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 3:11, who is the
founder of the New Testament church?
10. According to material presented in this lesson, what are the two sources of authority
for the Presbyterian Church?
11. According to passages such as John 12:48 and 1 Corinthians 4:6, what is the sole source
of authority for Christ’s church?
12. What does the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity teach?
13. What do the Scriptures have to say about the idea that people are born in sin?
14. What does the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election teach?
15. What do the Scriptures have to say about the idea that people are “unconditionally
16. What does the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement teach?
17. What do the Scriptures have to say about the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice was not effec-
tive for all people?
18. What does the Calvinistic doctrine of once saved, always saved, teach?
19. What do the Scriptures have to say about the idea that a Christian cannot fall from God’s