Christians are to "walk in the light, as he [God] is in the
light" (1 John 1:7). Holiness is to be the hallmark of
their lives (Titus 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:16). The plain admonition of
Scripture is, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not
provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14).
We are so to walk that we "grieve not the holy Spirit of God"
Separation unto God is the essence of personal holiness.
There can be no real holiness without a forsaking of sin.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in
him" (1 John 2:15). Thus Christian holiness goes much
deeper than merely doing some things and refraining from
doing other things. It does include actions, but it goes all the
way down to the love of the heart.
SIN IS WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS IT IS
Obviously all that the Bible identifies as sin is sin and must
not only be forsaken by God's people but judged by the church.
Church discipline on sin is an essential function of every true
church. While elders must not become spiritual tyrants, they
are to "watch for (the) souls" of the people under their care "as
they that must give account" to the Lord (Heb. 13:17).
In exercising that discipline we will wholeheartedly accept
the biblical definitions and descriptions of sin. There are those
who want to break free from "the tyranny of Bible texts,"
as they put it. According to these people, while Bible texts
openly condemn homosexuality, for example, there is nothing
inherently sinful or unchristian in the practice. One major
U.S. denomination's Special Committee calls homosexual love
"justice love." It includes many other practices that the Bible
terms immorality in that description and refuses to condemn
them if "there is genuine equality and mutual respect" in
them because Christianity's overriding themes are justice and
love. We reject this flagrant abuse of Scripture. We repudiate
modern humanistic psychology's anti-Christian notions and
enthrone the Word of God as our final arbiter in judging sin.
CONFORMITY TO CHRIST
Holiness is likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul described
it as Christ being formed in us (Gal. 4:19). When God
predestinated His people, it was that they should be "conformed
to the image of his Son" (Rom. 8:29). He commands us to have
the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) and to live with Him as our
example (1 Pet. 2:21).
This means that what to a carnal man appears to be
deprivation--"Christians have to give up so much!"--to a
Christian is essential to real happiness. A true Christian cannot
rest happily in known sin. We believe the old Puritan dictum that
a man must first be made holy before he can be made happy.
PERSONAL STANDARDS OF MEMBERS
The only written standards that are required of members
of the Free Presbyterian Church's General Presbytery in
matters not directly commanded or prohibited in Scripture
are voluntary abstinence from alcohol, sensual dancing,
gambling, and "the pleasure crazes of the world."
Obviously this requirement is not intended as an exhaustive
list of dos and don'ts. For example, there is no mention of using
tobacco or narcotic drugs. In fact, the drug problem had not
arisen when the Presbytery addressed the matter of personal
standards. Also, there are things such as women's headcovering
in public worship that are the constant belief and practice in
every Free Presbyterian Church that are not mentioned for
the simple reason that at the time the Presbytery statements
were drawn up no body of Christians had the slightest doubt
of their necessity. Our Presbytery has not sought constantly
to update a list of commands and prohibitions because for
the most part our members spontaneously adopt a course of
personal separation. Furthermore, the elders of each local
church have the primary task under God of upholding what
they know to be the historic position of the denomination.
The broad reference to "the pleasure crazes of the world" is a
reminder that our elders are to keep a constant watch that the
spirit of worldliness does not come in to destroy our fellowship
with the Lord and our usefulness in His service.
WHY HAVE SUCH STANDARDS
Some churches see no reason to have any standards in areas
not subject to a specific biblical command or prohibition. One
church leader recently wrote that Christians could enjoy
in moderation whatever the Bible did not forbid, including
drinking, dancing, and playing cards (and he was not referring
to games like Uno). By the same logic they should be able
to enjoy marijuana, especially in places where it has been
cleared by the government for legal use. We do not hold this
view. We believe there are guiding truths in God's Word that
not only authorize the kind of standards we have adopted, but
First, a church just as much as an individual Christian has
the duty to do all that is necessary to guard its testimony so
that it can most effectively witness for Christ in the situation
in which He has placed it. "Let not then your good be evil
spoken of" (Rom. 14:16) means just that. Even in reference to
things that may not in themselves be sinful, we are to judge
our participation not by the standard of what is our personal
right, but what will best safeguard our testimony.
Second, every good church has exercised the right to take
the steps it has considered necessary to protect its testimony
and advance the cause of Christ, even where it had no explicit
biblical command. Thus Presbyterians historically "fenced
the table" at communion and imposed the use of communion
tokens. They also demanded that every elder and minister
subscribe to The Westminster Confession of Faith. Though
no such demands are made in Scripture, they were perfectly
biblical in establishing these standards. The overall principles
of holiness among communicants and the oversight of the
congregation by elders true to the Word of God are clearly
scriptural, and these principles were best served by the
standards they adopted.
We believe that the broad standards laid down by our
Presbytery are equally right and biblical.
GAMBLING AND DANCING
Gambling is the expression of covetousness. It is a violation
of the clear principle of Scripture that financial gain should
come from honest labor or legitimate investment (2 Thess. 3:10;
Matt. 25:27), or by inheritance.
Dancing in the modern context is openly sensual. By
definition it depends on an appeal to sensuality, and we
are expressly commanded not to walk after the flesh, but to
abstain from fleshly lusts (Rom. 8:13; 1 Pet. 2:11).