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Bellefonte Update - May

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2023

BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     So much has happened in the last two months at both of our churches, so I wanted to take a minute and update you on what’s been happening at Bellefonte Presbyterian Church (BPC).

     First of all, we pray for you every Sunday. We are so thankful for your support of this church plant and that we are co-laborers in the mission to reach Bellefonte, State College, and the surrounding communities with the Good News of Jesus.

     We also want to especially thank you for financially supporting this work. The pledge drive was a great success with over $480,000 pledged over the next five years. This allows us to do some much-needed repairs on the building, and continue to be a blessing to this community.

     As we look forward to fixing up our beautiful building, we continue to focus on why we are here, which is to build relationships with the community for the sake of the Gospel. So during the Bellefonte Easter Egg Hunt, BPC set up a tent and provided “resurrection eggs” for the children. These plastic eggs had little beads inside them, each representing a different part of the Gospel of Jesus. Throughout the event, we had the opportunity to share the Gospel with over 100 children along with the adults who were with them. We also had conversations with folks and heard more about what people are experiencing these days. We realized that many people are very lonely and just want to have someone listen to them. Listening is a great way to bless someone who is lonely, hurting, and needs a friend. I am very proud of our church and how we strive to do that well.

     Our Easter service was amazing with over 135 people in attendance including several visitors. It was just another example of how God’s glory is revealed through the gathering of His people. It was a really encouraging day.

     As we look forward to the summer, we have several opportunities to continue to interact with our community in Bellefonte, primarily through volunteering for different events including:

  • Opening the building as a polling place on May 16
  • Holding a Mid-State Literacy Council seminar on May 31
  • Volunteering with the Bellefonte Children’s Fair on June 3
  • Helping with the Bellefonte Art Show on August 4-5
  • Serving and attending “Friday in the ‘Fonte” during their monthly events

     In all these events, we are trying to do all we can to support this town in its efforts to create community. If you are looking for something to do, I encourage you, to consider coming to Bellefonte for one of these events. Supporting this little town and looking to its welfare by eating at its restaurants and shopping at its stores, is a great way to be a witness.

     Again, please keep praying for us, as we pray for you. Pray that we will be united in Christ as a church, that we will be known for our love for another and this community, and that we will continue to look to engage our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family with the Good News of Jesus.

With all Grace and Peace,
Pastor Owen

 

Posted by Rev. Owen Hughes with

Ask the Pastor: Stoning False Teachers

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  ASK THE PASTOR BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

      Question: "How would you explain passages in the Old Testament such as Deuteronomy 13 to a non-believer, where God commands that false prophets should be put to death? How is this different from the Koran, which condones the killing of infidels, those who don’t believe in the teachings of Islam?"

     Answer: When we consider the death penalty in God’s Law, we have to look at it from a different perspective than when we evaluate the laws of men. When we look at the laws of the Old Testament, particularly those that involve capital punishment, there are at least three main things to keep in mind (this is background stuff, foundational to a specific response to the questions):

1. These laws are given by God, not by man, and He has the right to impose the death penalty for any sin that He chooses, since those were the terms He set down in the beginning (as Ezekiel says, "the soul that sins shall die"). So we are all guilty before Him and none of us deserves, on our own merits, another breath in this world. He is just and has the right to call for our death at any time. That is how we understand the commands to the Israelites to destroy all the men, women, and children in Canaan during the conquest under Joshua - they were deserving, and God called upon Israel to carry out His judgment upon them in that unique period of history.

2. Even though every sin deserves the death penalty from God, in the laws He gave to Israel the Lord reserves that punishment for the most dangerous and offensive sins: murder, blasphemy, false teaching, some sexual perversions, hardened rebellion, etc. I would even argue that false teaching about God deserves the most severe penalty, since it causes others to come into sin, spiritual confusion, and destruction. Jesus said, "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." (Luke 17:2). Peter says of false teachers, "These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them." (2 Peter 2:17). 

3. However, these laws involving capital punishment were given to Israel as a theocracy (a government ruled directly by God through His appointed rulers). The purpose of Israel as an earthly theocracy was to be a shadow of the coming Kingdom of God, which is now represented by the Church. The parallel of a sinner being "cut off" (put to death) under Old Testament law in the New Covenant era would be the excommunication of an unrepentant sinner by the authorities in the church.

Basically, there are three types of Old Testament law, and it is important to recognize the distinctions between them if we are to understand their purpose:

a. Moral Law - summarized by the Ten Commandments; these apply to all men at all times, and are God's ongoing revelation of His standards for our thoughts, words, and deeds.

b. Ceremonial Law - these were the dietary laws, cleansing rituals, worship rituals, and sacrificial practices overseen by the Old Testament priesthood, all of which were types which foreshadowed the person and work of Jesus Christ in redeeming us at the cross. The purpose of these laws has been fulfilled and so they no longer apply.

c. Civil Law - these are the laws given specifically for the theocratic government in Israel. The Westminster Confession calls these "sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require." In other words, we wouldn't apply these laws directly to our situation today, but there are principles in them that reflect the moral law.

So, based on that overview of Biblical laws, we understand that the church is the successor to Old Testament Israel as the people of God, the visible representation of the Kingdom of God. But civil and ecclesiastical authorities are now separate, so the church is not given "the power of the sword," or the authority to use physical force as a punishment for or constraint upon evildoers. We are not to tolerate false teaching in the midst of the church, but we have no authority from God to impose any physical punishment on false teachers (or anyone else). Our only authority and power are spiritual, based in the proclamation of God's Word. Stonings or "jihads" are not part of the church's calling from God today.

The question this doesn't address is whether or not a hypothetical civil government that is submissive to God's authority and favorable towards the Church should ever apply the principles ("general equity" - WCF) of Old Testament civil laws for Israel in today's culture. In other words, if God poured out His Spirit and brought a major revival to America, to the point that our elected officials in the federal and state government had a desire to make the laws of our land conform to the will of God revealed in Scripture, would it be right to impose physical punishments, even capital punishment, for spiritual offenses (e.g., false teaching, blasphemy, etc.)? This has been debated for centuries and was a hot, relevant topic during the Protestant Reformation and the establishment of the American colonies, but no society is close to considering these kinds of things today. It doesn't appear to be God's intent to establish a theocracy today - His focus is upon the growth of His spiritual Kingdom through the spread of the Gospel and the Church within the many different types of civil governments around the world. 

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with

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