By Elizabeth Prata
The Master’s Seminary had its annual graduation ceremony this past weekend. TMS is a premier seminary in the United States, where Dr. John MacArthur was its President from 1985 to 2019, and now is the seminary’s Chancellor. The goal since the Seminary’s founding was and is to produce men of the Word, men of courage and conviction to preach that word – in season and out of season.
Increasingly, we are learning that this season is an ‘out of season’ time for the people of God. The darkness is encroaching, and not stealthily, either, but boldly and wantonly. Bible, God, Jesus, slaying sin, repentance, grace, forgiveness, anything gentle, is anathema to the world. It is a world where the promises in Romans 1 are evidently seen, a world where…
“…they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a depraved mind, to do those things that are not proper, people having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unfeeling, and unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:18-32).
A world where despite the assurances written in a Constitution or Charter, religion is suppressed and pastors are arrested. Where under cover of the pandemic, tyrants use the health guidelines to marginalize the people of God out of the public square and we become enemy #1 if we dare gather.
What does one say to a group of men who entered seminary 4 or 5 years ago and starry eyed, pressed on with studies hoping to make a difference for the kingdom of God? Who now see lions at the gate, enemies calling themselves Christians, and demons coming to the fore?
You get graduate James Coates to share some encouragement. Dr Coates is a TMS grad from ten years ago and has been serving as pastor ever since. He has been at ground zero on the battlefield of truth these last 6 months, as Edmonton, Alberta Canada has tried to put a stranglehold around him and his people and shut them down. Health rules you know, even though the v.irus is dying out and deaths are minimal. Refusing to still his tongue and strongly committed to proclaiming holy truths to a sinful society, Coates was arrested and jailed. He spent time in a maximum security jail, and was recently released but only for his trial.
This past weekend another pastor was arrested, Artur Pawlowski of Calgary, also in Alberta. He had refused the same restrictions as Coates, enforcing mask wearing and reduced building capacity limits. His confrontation with police who’d entered his Easter Sunday Service went viral. The police tried several other times to enter, harass, and restrict Pawlowski’s services, even though religious services are protected under Canadian Charter. So this weekend they just simply arrested him like a dog on the road, instead.
What do you do where it’s a Braveheart scene…where the enemy is picking up speed and gaining like-minded cohorts, trampling onto sacred ground? A pastor’s job is to hold the ground. We pierce them not with weapons but with the Word of God. We stare steely-eyed into the whites of their eyes, proclaiming the truths of God until our throat is raw or our tongue is stilled in death. We stand our ground.
Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17).
In other words, Pastors, stand your ground!
Here is the link to Pastor Coates’ The Master’s Seminary graduation address. It is encouraging! Please click on the link to listen. Below is an extended quote from the video, which is about 6 minutes long. LINK HERE
"The reality is that there were many moments in preparation for that time when I'd have to choose imprisonment to obey Jesus Christ. Those moments along the way required conviction, resolve, and a steadfast desire and commitment to do what the Lord would require of me. Every moment counts. Every moment along the way was a moment of preparation, so by the time I got to the point where I'd have to choose whether I was going to keep my comforts or stay in obedience to Christ, it was already settled. It wasn't easy, it was difficult, it came in the face of fear and trembling. But the Lord at each point assisted me with a conviction to know what it was He was calling me to do as well as the grace to carry it out. ... You need to resolve in your heart to obey Christ no matter what the cost...and to be faithful all the way to the end."
"We need men of conviction, we need men who are going to stand firmly upon the scriptures. We need men who are resolved to obey Christ- no matter the cost, and the cost in increasing, you know that. ... It's a more hostile world than the world I stepped into ten years ago."
"Even as I call you in this moment to be men of courage and resolve with kindness it's going to have to be with graciousness and patience. The call to be faithful and committed and obedient is not a call to be cantankerous. It is a call to be like Christ, bearing the fruit of the Spirit in your obedience."
"I can't think of a better time to be stepping into pulpits in the US and all over the world, and a better time to exposit the scriptures with clarity, accuracy, and conviction. I'm excited for you. "
"Glorify God, give your life for Christ. Preach the word with boldness and conviction. Let the word of Christ govern your life." ---end excerpt James Coates video.
Lades, if your husband is in any way ministering as elder, pastor, teacher, church planter, missionary, in any way, it is our call to be supportive, gracious, forgiving, and steady. He is on that battlefield staring at hostiles much of the time. The future is uncertain, especially for Christian ministers in Canada and of course elsewhere. He needs a safe space at home. He needs a refuge. He needs to know that one person will always be on his side. It’s our duty and privilege as help-meet. It’s always nice to come home to a neat house, warm dinner, and loving wife, but especially now when the battle ‘out there’ is rising. Nurture him, listen to him, go the extra mile for him.
Even more important, we women also need the word of God so that we can also stand strong on the day we might meet a fork in the road and called to count a cost. Erin Coates did when police chained her husband and carted him off. Marzena Pawlowski did when they handcuffed her husband Artur Pawlowski and carted him off. Wives, be ready. Only the word of God can ready us for that moment. As James Coates said in his video, resolve in your heart, nurture your convictions, and stand. Let the Lord prepare you and stare strongly into the future, which is bright with opportunity to proclaim Light to a darkening world.