Not surprisingly the 2014 Shepherds Conference came to an end with the final session being delivered by John MacArthur on the issue of pastoral authority— both the legitimacy and limitations of that authority. The message is without question necessary and lacking in much of evangelicalism today. MacArthur’s essential premise was this, the minister’s authority is rooted in his connection to the Word of God and extends only as far as Scripture specifies and proclaims. MacArthur made the passionate plea that pastors are not there to give their opinion or tells trivial stories but to declare God’s Word and command God’s people to do the will of God with Titus 2:15 authority. This was a very positive note with which to end such a power-packed conference (still my personal favorite). It encourages pastors to
remember their calling to reflect on the duties involved in the sacred office. MacArthur was also careful to point out the limitations of the pastor’s authority.
There were portions of the message where one heard, “command with all authority” and others where we heard, “I have no authority.” The balance was carefully noted and carefully emphasized. But still, I could not but hear John’s burden that there are far too few pastors today that simply are too timid in the ministry. One example, which was touched on, is church discipline. This of course is one of those things many pastors don’t even like to talk about. Usually if church discipline is done it is done quietly and without anyone’s knowledge of it, even when involving excommunication.
This can hardly square with Mt. 18.17. So MacArthur took us to Jesus. He showed us His sovereign authority rooted in God’s will for Him and passed down to His apostles to whom the redemptive supremacy of Christ was revealed through all of the Scriptures (e.g. Lk. 24.27, 44). This authority was consequently continued
through the ministry of the Spirit at Pentecost. MacArthur evoked the “Third Use of the Law” to insist that we press God’s Law on the hearts and lives of our people so that they will flee God’s wrath and flee sin. No doubt in attendance were brethren from myriad of theological perspectives and convictions (including the keynotes) yet, as always there was so much valuable truth in what John MacArthur taught. Looking forward; as tremendous as this conference was, next year’s “Summit on Inerrancy” should be terrific featuring such keynote speakers as R.C. Sproul, Carl Truman, Ligon Duncan, Ian Murray, Sinclair Ferguson and many others— can’t wait for this one!
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.