Andrea Ferrari speaks at Friday Night Lectures


Join us on Friday, January 20 at 7:00 p.m. when Rev. Andrea Ferrari, URC church planter in Milan, Italy will speak on the topic of "Lessons from the Past: An Italian Reformer Speaks Today." His lecture will focus on John Diodati, an Italian reformer from the 16th and 17th centuries, on whom Pastor Ferrari has done extensive research. This evening will also be a great opportunity for young people to learn of what Diodati accomplished at a very young age. Rev. Ferrari is a missionary and pastor ordained in the United Reformed Churches in North America. He is an Italian national and serves as pastor of Chiesa Evangelica Riformata ‘Filadelfia’ (CERF) in Milan (Novate), Italy.

Rev. Ferrari’s entrance into the URCNA was by a colloquium doctum administered by Classis Southwest. His ministry is overseen by the Consistory of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA with the advice of Classis Southwest.

Rev. Ferrari possesses theological degrees from three institutions: a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Assemblies of God Bible Institute in Italy (1992), a Master of Philosophy from the University of Wales (2004), and another Masters degree (Dottore Magistrale) from the University of Milan (2007). He is the author of John Diodati’s Doctrine of Holy Scripture (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), as well as numerous articles published in theological journals and magazines.

Andrea and his wife Cristina were married in 1992 and have two sons, Simone (Simon) and Danielle (Daniel). They live in Bollate, Milan.

Congratulations to Dr. Horton! "The Christian Faith" is awarded "Best Theology Book" for 2012 by Christianity Today

Horton TCF

Congratulations to WSC professor and CURC member and associate minister, Dr. Michael Horton. Christianity Today has named Mike's The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way as "Best Theology Book" of 2012. CT notes: "Averting his gaze from the kind of popular evangelicalism that is nondenominational in style and never quite confessional in ethos, Horton delivers the Reformed goods to a new generation." Using The Christian Faith as the textbook for our Friday night lectures in theology at CURC, I find it to be tremendously helpful for weaving systematic and biblical theology together and keeping it within a confessional framework. This book is like Witsius, Bavinck, and Berkhof put together in one volume that instructs the reader in the theology of our past while addressing the currents of our day. Scholars and laypeople alike will benefit from it. Even if you have never studied systematic theology before, but want to, this book is an excellent place to begin. Highly recommended. And if you are in San Diego on a Friday evening, why not come out to CURC in Santee? Our Friday night lectures in theology are at 7pm.

God's Gift of a Suffering Servant: A Sermon for Christmas


When we think of Christmas, we may not immediately think of the cross. We probably think about important doctrines like the virgin birth of Christ and the Incarnation. We think of the joy surrounding the coming of the Son of God into this world as our Immanuel. But the importance of Christmas is not so much that Christ came into the world, but why he came into the world and what he actually accomplished. If we do not make that connection, it becomes very difficult to avoid sentimentalizing and misinterpreting this holiday. Many people see a manger scene on a Christmas card or on the front lawn of a home and interpret it to mean that once upon a time there lived a holy man who was truly a great moral teacher, and if we would simply follow his example a little more, the world would be a better place. Others see the manger scene during the Christmas season and to them it represents one of the many paths that are available to spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement. For some, that path might be Christianity, for others Islam, or Buddhism, or Yoga, or whatever. In this line of thinking, the religions of world are all basically the same thing at the end of the day: we are all one; humanity is one; religions are one; the universe is one; each of us is merely making an attempt to understand our own god-experience and god-consciousness. To these folks, Christmas can be very appealing, for they see in it nothing more than a sweet little baby Jesus who is very tolerant and not judgmental of others.

The problem with these interpretations of Christmas is that they ultimately make the claim that what we believe about Jesus does not really matter, so long as we apply what he taught us and try to imitate his life. But that is not the Christian message. The significance of Christmas is that God sent his eternal Son into this world – just as he promised – in order to be our Savior and Substitute, sparing us from the holy wrath of God. The Incarnate God-man did not come on a mission to be a moral example to the world. He did not come on a mission to be our cosmic therapist or occupy a little area of our lives called “spirituality.” He came on a mission to redeem his people from sin, death and hell through his life, death and resurrection. And in order to accomplish his mission, the Messiah had to suffer. It is that suffering that Isaiah describes in this chapter. This is an appropriate text for us to meditate upon at Christmas, because apart from what Christ accomplished in the gloom and darkness of the cross, the manger is meaningless.

This passage is actually a song with five stanzas, each stanza comprising three verses. It foretells, some 700 years before his coming, of the Suffering Servant whom God would send to be our substitute. Let’s think about these five stanzas and how Isaiah tells us that: 1) He will be Scandalous to many; 2) He will be Sorrowful in his life; 3) He will be Stricken by God; 4) He will be Silent before his oppressors; 5) He will be Successful in his mission.

I. He Will Be Scandalous to Many

This prophetic song begins in 52.13. Verses 13-15 make up the first stanza. Isaiah starts his song by saying, “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” But in the very next verse, Isaiah goes from describing the exaltation of this promised Servant to describing his humiliation. His words plunge from glory to suffering, and keep plunging deeper and deeper as his song progresses. He says in v.14: “As many were astonished at you – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.” As Edmund Clowney once put it, “God’s plan thrusts the zenith of his glory down into the abyss of iniquity. The curtain opens on the drama of the ages.”

But this drama of redemption comes like an enigma. Who can understand God’s purpose? The Lord’s servant who will come is wise and glorious, he is high and lifted up and exalted. Isaiah has said earlier in his oracles that he will be the exalted King who will bring peace to earth and cause Zion to be raised above all mountains, and all nations will flow into the temple of the Lord. He will be the shoot from the stump of Jesse, who will come as the true Son of David, whose kingdom shall never end. But then Isaiah says that this exalted King’s appearance will be gruesome, that he will be inhumanely disfigured. Of course, that is exactly what happened to the Messiah. Christ suffered a grisly and horrific death of Roman crucifixion. Even though he was the King of kings and the true Son of David, he was treated like a criminal and a monster. He was physically beaten and whipped within an inch of his life, before being nailed to a cross and shamefully lifted up to spend his last hours as a public spectacle.

The notion that the Messiah should suffer in such a way was particularly offensive and scandalous to the Jews. They expected a king who would come in glory, one who would be physically and politically triumphant. The idea that he should be beaten and killed upon a cross was difficult to understand, for in the Law of Moses, to be hung on a tree was to suffer a curse from God. Why in the world would Jehovah send his promised Messiah to suffer a curse?

But in v.15 Isaiah shows us the meaning of the enigma. Through his horrible suffering, the Servant will carry out his priestly work. He is not only a King, but also a Priest. He will sprinkle many nations. He will atone for sins. He will bring Gentiles into the covenant people of God. Yes, the promised Messiah would be glorious. But when he came to Israel, his glory would be hidden under his humiliation and suffering. Before he was to be crowned, he was to be crucified.

This is precisely why Christ is still scandalous to so many. It is why Paul said to the Corinthians: “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles.” The unbeliever still finds this message of Christ and him crucified offensive. The unbeliever does not want to think of God like that. He wants to think of God appearing only in the happy moments of life, in things that appear glorious and exalted in this age, not in the blood and violence of the cross. He does not want to think of God requiring this type of suffering in order for God to receive us into his favor. The unbeliever is confident in his own righteousness and does not think that all this blood, death, and suffering of a Savior is really that necessary.

In the next stanza, Isaiah laments the fact that many will not believe this message. He points out that the suffering Servant will not only be scandalous to some, but will be sorrowful in his life.

II. He Will Be Sorrowful in His Life

The sufferings of Christ would not be limited to the blows he took from the Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns pushed into his skull, or the nails hammered into his hands and feet. We read the testimony of many martyrs who suffered gruesome deaths yet went to their deaths singing psalms and even rejoicing in many cases. During the seventeenth century, the French Hugonauts were so renowned for singing psalms while they were being burned at the stake, that at one point the Roman Catholic state ordered their tongues to be cut out before the fire was lit. There are many cases like that from church history; people who went to their deaths singing praises to God.

But not in the case of Jesus. He did not go to his death singing. When he prayed the night before his death, he said to his disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” The weight upon Jesus was more than any man has ever endured. As Isaiah says, “he was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

As human beings, we do not like it when others despise us or reject us. It does not matter how stouthearted and thick-skinned we are in our own estimation, the truth is, no one finds rejection to be a pleasant experience. This is only natural, because God has created us as social creatures. We have been made in the image of the Triune God, who lives in perfect relationship and love between the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because we have been made to reflect God, we are naturally dependent upon others and live in relationship to others. That is why being despised and rejected by others is so painful; it not just a blow to our pride, it also goes against the natural order of God’s creation.

The level of rejection that Jesus suffered in his life, however, was something that virtually no other human has ever experienced. He came as the light of the world, and he was rejected. The world was made through him, and yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. The world looks for heroes and messiahs that look glorious and magnificent. We look for people that look like movie stars or sports celebrities. We are deceived by the superficial glitz and glamour of this present evil age. But the suffering Servant looked nothing like that. He looked insignificant in his birth. He was not born in a palace or even a hospital, but in what was probably a cave converted into a stable. And upon the cross, he looked abandoned and deserted. He is someone from whom we would just look the other way. And most who did look, did so with mocking and jeering, despising him like the scum of the earth.

We should remember this in our worst moments of disappointment or loneliness. No one suffered more disappointment or loneliness than our Lord did. No one was ever sadder than he was. He is truly our merciful High Priest who is able to identify with our sorrows and sympathize with our weaknesses. We are probably tempted at times to think, “But that’s Jesus. He is the Son of God, after all! He knew communion with his Father and the Holy Spirit better than anyone ever has. He couldn’t have felt too much alone.” But you see, that is the very thing in which his sorrow culminated. As he faced the cross, he was horribly troubled in his soul because he knew what he was about to face. Isaiah describes this in the third stanza of his song, in vv.4-6.

III. He Will Be Stricken by God

This is really the heart of the song. The glory of Christmas is nowhere seen better than right here: Christ was given to be our substitute. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

Because God is just, he cannot allow our sin to go unpunished. There must be payment. And that is very, very bad news for us, for we have all sinned against God and rightly deserve his just judgment and wrath. The good news, however, is not that God has a wonderful plan for your life and wants to make you happy, healthy and wealthy. The good news is not that God sent Jesus to be your spiritual therapist or moral example leading you into a life of self-improvement. Rather, the good news is that God sent his eternal, beloved Son to be stricken, smitten and afflicted for us; to be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, so that through his suffering, we might be reconciled to God and no longer be his enemies.

Our culture might find that message hard to swallow, but that is the true message of Christmas nonetheless. God has announced that he is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in the suffering Servant. The message of Christmas is not, “Behave and you’ll get a present.” God is not a cosmic Santa Claus who is “making a list and checking twice,” and “gonna find out whose been naughty or nice.” The message of Christmas is not, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Rather, the message of Christmas is an announcement to those who are naughty and bad that says, “The only truly good Person suffered and died for sinners.” It is a message to sheep who have gone astray, who like disobedient Adam and rebellious Israel, “have turned everyone to his own way.” This message says that salvation is by God’s grace alone, because it has been merited by Christ alone!

If you are clothed in the perfect righteousness of the suffering Servant, then you need never worry that God’s wrath and anger will be turned upon you. Christ was stricken by God for you, so it is not possible that your sins can stand against you. If you think that they can, then you have not yet understood what the Servant suffered for you. When your conscience accuses you and you find yourself tempted to think that God is angry with you, remember these words in Isaiah’s song: “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Upon the cross, he had our sins imputed to him. He was judged for murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, covetousness, envy, lying, idolatry, impurity, gossip…every sin we ever committed in word, thought or deed.

He became in his Father’s sight a hideous and repulsive lawbreaker, so that we might be made acceptable and perfect in the Father’s sight! He had our sins imputed to him so that we might have his righteousness imputed to us. He was abandoned by the favor and loving presence of God as he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That is the suffering the Servant suffered for us, so that we could never be separated from God’s love!

IV. He Will Be Silent before His Oppressors

Verses 7-9 is the fourth stanza, which describes Jesus’ silence before his oppressors. Of course, during his life, Jesus was often anything but silent before his oppressors. When he encountered the hypocrisy and legalism of the Pharisees, he minced no words at all. Jesus found it necessary to argue with his oppressors and point out their false teaching. He had no trouble telling them that they did not know the Father; that they were of the world, that they were liars, enemies of God and sons of the devil, and would die in their sins unless they repented and put their trust in him alone.

But when his hour came to be delivered up, he went to his death like a lamb led to its slaughter. Here was truth Incarnate, and yet he did not open his mouth to defend himself with the truth when he was being falsely accused with lies. Here was the One with the power and authority to call more than twelve legions of angels to come to his rescue, but he remained silent. Peter tells us in his epistle that “When [Jesus] was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Thank God that Christ did remain silent! Thank God that he did not open his mouth! Thank God that he was not disobedient like Adam, or rebellious like Israel! This suffering Servant was the Second Adam and true Israel who remained obedient to the will of his Father and remained silent, allowing himself to be treated like a guilty man, even though it was clear to people like Pontius Pilate that he had done no crime. Thank God that the prophecy of the fourth stanza was fulfilled, that he “was cut off from the land of the living,” and had his grave assigned with the wicked and with a rich man, “although he had done no violence and their was no deceit in his mouth.”

Because in so doing, the Scriptures were fulfilled and his mission was accomplished.

V. He Will Be Successful in His Mission

Verses 10-12 is the last stanza of the song. Isaiah now tells us that the suffering and death of the Servant would not be a tragedy to human history. On the contrary, this would be the climax of the greatest drama ever staged. “It was the will of the LORD to crush him.” This was all according to Christ’s plan to redeem those whom the Father had given him before the foundation of the world. “Out of the anguish of his soul [or we could translate it, out of the labor of his soul] he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.”

Christ did not come to give us a new method for self-improvement or a new program for politics. If Christ had come for something like that, then the world would have readily accepted him and would appreciate the gospel. But the gospel – and the joy of Christmas – is something much more foreign to us. And because the Servant was successful in his mission, we are provided with righteousness and a new nature, and promised a bodily resurrection and a new heaven and new earth.

As those who live between the two Advents of Christ and have believed Isaiah’s report, we are able to rejoice in Isaiah’s song this Christmas. His report has been fulfilled through the Person and Work of Christ in history. May we give God thanks for his great gift of his suffering Servant! May we lift up our heart and give God glory for sending One who, through his death and resurrection, has reconciled us to God and conquered death for us! And may we look with anticipation and confidence to his return as the exalted King, when his glory will not be hidden, but will be open and visible to all! Amen.

Pastor Brown's new book on the covenant theology of Samuel Petto

Petto C and the C

Here is a description from the publisher: "Covenant theology is the “warp and woof” of Reformed theology, and its development was most seriously worked out during the seventeenth century. In Christ and the Condition, Michael Brown introduces us to an influential Puritan pastor who, though now largely forgotten, was a significant contributor to the covenantal debates of his day. Brown analyzes the covenantal thought of Samuel Petto and reveals a diversity of thought among the Puritans, especially concerning the Mosaic covenant. Brown’s assessment places Petto in the context of the covenantal debates and also demonstrated the implications of covenantal thought on the doctrine of justification." Table of Contents:

1.A Puritan Pastor-Theologian: Petto in Context 2.Petto’s Covenant Schema 3.The Mosaic Covenant in Reformed Theology 4.Petto on the Mosaic Covenant 5.Implications for Justification

Endorsement: “It’s always a pleasure to meet another great exponent of classic Reformed theology. Petto is someone I should have known, but didn’t until Michael Brown introduced him to me. The issues Petto raises—and the context that Brown provides—greatly enrich our own conversations about the twin dangers of antinomianism and neo-nomianism in our own day.” - Michael Horton

In the acknowledgements, Pastor Brown says, "I am grateful to the congregation of Christ URC in Santee, California, whose passion for the gospel and interest in covenant theology has inspired me to dig deeper in my studies. No flock could give their pastor more joy in serving them than you have with yours."

The book is published by Reformation Heritage Books and available for preorder here.

"Why Is the Pastor Dressed Like Harry Potter?" - Why the Minister Wears a Robe at CURC


“What’s up with the robe?” That may be a question you quietly asked yourself as you witnessed a minister enter the pulpit while wearing a black Genevan gown. You may have wondered if such attire is really necessary for a pastor. What purpose could it possibly serve? For those of us who grew up in churches where the pastor always wore a business suit or a Hawaiian shirt, the robe may seem a little strange. It might appear slightly Romish or too “high church” for your personal taste. On the other hand, you may have grown up in a Protestant church in which the minister regularly wore a pulpit gown, and thus the practice comes as no surprise or shock to you. But whatever your personal experience and preference may be, we must approach the matter of the minister’s gown like any other practice in worship and ask: What is the purpose of this? Our mere familiarity or unfamiliarity with a particular practice does not make a practice right or wrong. We must determine whether or not the practice is biblical and if it facilitates, rather than impedes, the acceptable worship of God with reverence and awe. For this reason, let me point out four arguments in favor of the pulpit gown.


The minister of the Word has been appointed to a particular office (Eph 4.8-14; 1 Tim 5.17; 2 Tim 4.1-5; Heb 13.17; etc.). His chief responsibility is to bring God’s Word and administer the sacraments to the flock of Christ. He is, therefore, a Christ-appointed emissary and ambassador for the gospel. When God’s people gather together in the covenant assembly of worship, the minister is acting in his most official capacity. When he steps into the pulpit, he is functioning in the prophetic role of bringing the means of grace to the people of God. This is how God has chosen to act and perform his work of sanctifying his people, through his preached gospel and his administered sacraments. The pulpit gown reminds us of this. It draws our attention away from the man, his personality and his personal taste in clothing, and reminds us of the office that Christ—not man—has appointed. It reminds us that God is acting in the worship service and performing his work through his ordained office. Just as a judge in a courtroom wears a gown as a reminder to the people of his or her office, and that he or she is an appointed spokesperson for justice, so too the minister wears a gown as a reminder that in the worship service he is acting as a spokesperson for God. He opens the canon of Scripture and breaks the bread of life for the Lord’s people. As one Presbyterian pastor put it,

When [the minister] leads the congregation in prayer before God, he represents Christ leading the church in prayer before the Father. When he reads and preaches the Word, he symbolizes Christ, the Husband, speaking to his holy bride. The robe is not meant to set him above the congregation, but to set him apart because of his unique office as pastor during the Lord’s Day worship service.

Likewise, Daniel Hyde, pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church, has wisely noted,

[The robe] may seem strange, especially if you are used to “getting to know the man” in the pulpit. There is a time and a place for the minister to get to know his people casually, socially, and intimately, but the time for this is not in the pulpit. In the pulpit, the minister is your minister, who serves the Lord by feeding your soul with spiritual food.


Contrary to what many people might assume, pulpit gowns did not originate with the Roman Catholic church; rather, they were originally worn by ministers in the ancient church, and again by Protestant pastors from the time of the Reformation and for hundreds of years thereafter. These robes were different, however, from those of Roman Catholic priests. It was not until Rome began to teach an unbiblical view of the priesthood that certain abuses came into being. Instead of a plain gown worn in the pulpit, Roman Catholic priests began wearing very elaborate and ornate robes with complex symbols known as vestments. This came from and promoted the notion of the priest being above the congregation, rather than merely set apart as an officer of Word and sacrament.

During the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Reformers sought to correct this unbiblical view of the priesthood. They argued from Scripture in their preaching, teaching and writing that the pastor is a divinely appointed servant of the church, not an exalted individual with a greater spiritual status than the laity. His authority in the church is ministerial authority, not magisterial authority. To that end, the Reformers sought to do away with vestments and simply wore plain black preaching robes, later known as ‘Genevan gowns.’ Writing in 1524 on behalf of Protestant ministers in Strassbourg, the great Reformer Martin Bucer explained the change in this way:

…in our churches we have completely done away with and abolished everything which has no basis in the Scriptures and which has been added to the Lord’s Supper without any justification in the Scriptures and therefore has been an insult and a slander of Christ and of the divine mercies…the priest and servant of the congregation does not wear a special vestment, only what we call the choir gown, and none of the sacrificial vestments such as alb, stole, chasuble, etc.

But the Protestant Reformers did not throw the baby out with the bathwater. They would never have considered it acceptable for a minister to wear his street clothes or fashionable business attire while conducting the worship service. The importance of the pulpit gown was universally understood. Consequently, Reformed and Presbyterian ministers since the sixteenth century regularly wore the Genevan gown whenever leading worship. The evidence—both written and artistic—reveals that men like John Owen, Herman Witsius and Thomas Goodwin from the seventeenth century, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Boston from the eighteenth century as well as countless others, all wore pulpit gowns whenever they led worship. It was simply the norm in Protestant congregations on the European continent, the British Isles and the Americas. Even in more modern times, men like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the most gifted preachers of the twentieth century, wore Genevan gowns. In his famous 1969 lectures to students at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Lloyd-Jones exhorted those entering the ministry to wear a gown when they preached as a sign of their call to the office.

The claim that the pulpit gown is a Romish device is an illegitimate charge. The pulpit gown is distinctly Protestant attire and consistent with our theology. But if that is true, then what happened to the regularity of the gown in so many pulpits? Why have ministers in evangelical churches typically opted for business suits and beachwear instead of a robe during worship?


Two movements come to mind: the first is the egalitarian and populist movement of the nineteenth century. Men like Charles Finney and Alexander Campbell sought to make Christianity appealing to the democratic spirit of the American masses. They propagated an anti-authoritarian, anti-traditional religion that privatized Christianity and exalted the experience and autonomy of the individual over the collective will of any congregation or ecclesiastical assembly. They called for a revolution within the church that would place clergy and laity on equal footing in every way, thus doing away with (not to mention misunderstanding the purpose of) institutional forms of church government (including membership) as well as important ecclesiastical practices such as Genevan gowns and raised pulpits. The idea was to make the minister look and feel like “any other man” as much as possible, and whose preaching in the pulpit was no more significant than the private individual’s personal reading of the Scriptures. The result was a tremendous upsurge in untrained pastors and anti-creedal, anti-confessional congregations with very little organization and very poor theology. But because their methods were so appealing to the democratic mindset of the American general public, these men were largely successful in their revolution. Consequently, we have what we have today in modern evangelicalism: radical informality in worship, not to mention radical ignorance in doctrine and radical need for another reformation!

The other movement that has severely affected our approach to worship and has bearing on the regularity of the pulpit gown is that wonderful era known as the 1960s. As evangelicalism sought to reach the masses, many so-called “non-denominational” churches began to pop up around the United States. In Southern California in particular, some of these churches essentially baptized the hippie subculture, creating what was known as the “Jesus People” movement and, subsequently, the contemporary Christian music phenomenon. Pulpit gowns, therefore, did not fit into an atmosphere of praise bands and afterglows. It smacked of the authority and formality against which much of that generation was rebelling. It should come as no surprise then to see “successful” pastors of the baby-boomer generation frequently wearing Hawaiian shirts in the pulpit.

While we might agree that such breezy, laid-back attire is inappropriate for a pastor while he is leading God’s people in holy worship, we must ask: what is appropriate attire for the pastor during the service? From whom should we take our cue? As Protestants, we certainly do not take it from Rome, but neither should we take it from revivalists like Charles Finney, nor the culture in which we live. While suits, starched shirts and conservative ties might be the norm for the business world, we must remember that the minister is not a CEO of a corporation. He is an ordained servant of the gospel and called to lead God’s people in worship on the Lord’s Day. While the pulpit gown is certainly not commanded in Scripture (clothing is circumstantial to but not an element of worship), we would be wise in this matter to listen to and learn from our Reformed forefathers who have gone before us.


In Hebrews 12.28b-29, we are commanded: “let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” The pulpit gown compliments a reverent atmosphere. It helps set the tone of the service, which should be awe in our hearts as we have gathered to worship a holy God. Again, think of a judge in a courtroom; what would be your reaction if he entered the courtroom dressed like one of the jurors or attorneys? His personal clothing would detract not only from his position as a man who is supposed to be impartial for the sake of justice, but it would also detract from the respect we are to have for law and order in society. It would inevitably change the tone in the courtroom.

The same is true with the worship service. Our clothing communicates a message. And the clothing of the minister does this in particular. Why is it that we expect judges to wear gowns when they are in the courtroom, but we want our ministers to wear business attire when they lead worship? Is it for sound theological reasons or merely because that is what we are accustomed to? C. S. Lewis has said, "The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the worshiper's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper place of ritual."

Thus, before we scoff at and rashly dismiss the idea of the pulpit gown in worship, let us consider many of the sound reasons why ministers have worn such attire. As worshipers at Christ United Reformed Church, may we do all we can to have our focus upon the gospel of Jesus Christ brought to us each week. May we always have our attention drawn to the work of Christ and his apostles, outside of whom the minister has no authority. And may we seek to offer God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, knowing that it is he who speaks to us each Lord’s Day as his Word is opened for us by the office he ordained.