Here you will find answers to a number of questions that are often raised. If you would like further information about any of these matters, or if you have different questions entirely, please contact us. Our witness is also set forth in question and answer form in the recently revised Catechism of the History and Principles of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
If you have spiritual concerns about your soul, please see Spiritual Help, where we hope you will find what you need by the Lord’s blessing.
These FAQs are arranged in sections and deal with the following:
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
- Why are you called the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland?
- Are you a “broad church”?
- Does that not mean that you are narrow-minded, in that you do not accept all the different expressions of Christianity?
- Are you ecumenical?
- What are your standards?
- Compared to many churches, you seem to be old-fashioned. Should you not modernise and move with the times?
Q. Why are you called the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland?
A. There are reasons for each part of the name:
- We are called “Free” because we are the true successors to the Free Church of Scotland formed in the 1843 Disruption from the established Church of Scotland, to keep the Church of Christ free from state interference.
- We are called “Presbyterian” because we adhere to Presbyterianism, the only Biblical form of Church government.
- We are called “Church” because that is the New Testament name for Christ’s body on earth in its visible form, of which we are a branch.
- We are called “of Scotland”, not because we are geographically limited to Scotland, but because we adhere to all the Scriptural attainments of the First and Second Reformations in Scotland, and claim to be the true constitutional representative of the historic Church of Scotland.
Q. Are you a “broad church”?
A. When theologians in other churches claim to be in a “broad church”, they mean that there is a wide breadth of interpretation of the Bible allowed. We do not accept the dishonest interpretation of Scripture which only too often explains away the plain meaning. The Apostle Peter calls it wresting – or twisting – the Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:16).
The Lord Jesus Christ warns us against broad-way Christianity. “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. . . . Beware of false prophets. . . . Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:13,15,21-24).
Q. Does that mean that you are narrow-minded, in that you do not accept all the different expressions of Christianity?
A. True Christianity adheres to the Bible. What the Bible teaches, it accepts and believes. What the Bible does not teach, it rejects and condemns. This is not narrow-mindedness, but faithfulness to the Head of the Church who said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: . . . Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). The Scriptures give a fixed deposit of unchanging truth, which it is always the Church’s duty to assert, maintain and defend. “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
Q. Are you ecumenical?
A. Being a Presbyterian church we believe in the unity of congregations in a Presbyterian structure. We do not believe in the spurious unity of the modern “ecumenical movement” which minimises doctrinal difference between the Protestant churches and which is leading towards reunion with Roman Catholicism under the pope. We believe in the unity of all Spirit-taught, born-again, believers in Christ throughout the world, and that this should be expressed ecclesiastically in Presbyterian church government.
Q. What are your standards?
A. The Church’s supreme standard is the Bible, which is the inspired and infallible Word of God. The subordinate standard of the Church is the Westminster Confession of Faith – the doctrines of which all office-bearers in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland swear by solemn ordination vows to assert, maintain and defend.
Q. Compared to many churches, you seem to be old-fashioned and behind the times. Should you not modernise and move with the times?
A. Unlike fashions, which come and go, Scripture does not change. The Biblical gospel is always relevant to the needs of human beings, in every age and place. We do not need to modify it to make it fit our day and age. Its timeless principles are applicable at all times. The Free Presbyterian Church sees no reason to alter its testimony to Reformed doctrine, worship and government. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).
A whole section of this site deals in detail with our worship – see How We Worship. But here we briefly answer some of the questions that tend to be asked.
- What do you sing when you praise God?
- Which musical instruments do you use when you sing?
- Who sings in your worship? Do you have choirs, and soloists and bands?
- Do you have Christmas, Easter and other special services according to the church calendar?
- You seem to have some unusual views on worship, compared to almost all other churches. Should you not try to fit in with the majority?
- Is there a fundamental, underlying reason for worshipping the way you do?
- What is the emphasis in your worship?
- Do you exercise the “charismatic” gifts like tongues, prophecy and healing, in your services?
- I have been told that the atmosphere at a Free Presbyterian service is austere and forbidding. Why is that?
- It has been said that visitors do not get a welcome at Free Presbyterian services. Is that true?
- In many churches, visitors are especially welcomed during the service itself. We have heard – or experienced – that the Free Presbyterian Church does not do that.
- At the Lord’s Supper, many churches openly invite anyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ to partake of the bread and wine. This means that Christian visitors can go to the Lord’s Table. Does the Free Presbyterian Church do that?
- Does the Free Presbyterian Church leave it to individuals’ own consciences to go to the Lord’s Table?
- Do women and girls cover their heads in Free Presbyterian services?
- What about family worship?
- What about individual, secret worship?
Q. What do you sing when you praise God?
A. We praise God from His own inspired song-book, the Book of Psalms, arranged in a metrical version for singing. We do not sing anything else in God’s worship, because only the Psalms have been authorised by God for His worship. See Exclusive Psalmody.
Q. Which musical instruments do you use when you sing?
A. We do not use any instruments at all in the worship of God; just the human voices of the entire congregation. This is God’s own will for New Testament worship. See No Musical Instruments.
Q. Who sings in your worship? Do you have choirs, and soloists and bands?
A. The whole congregation sings in united praise to the Lord. Without a musical instrument, it is necessary to have a precentor to begin the singing, but then the whole congregation sings together. There is no warrant in God’s Word for choirs and soloists. Singing is worship directed to God, not entertainment directed towards man.
Q. Do you have Christmas, Easter and other special services according to the church calendar?
No. We do not recognise these festivals at all, on the grounds that God has never commanded His Church to keep them. See No Christian “festivals”.
Q. You seem to have some unusual views on worship, compared to almost all other churches. Should you not try to fit in with the majority?
No. Our views on worship may put us in a small minority in these days of backsliding from Scripture, but historically many Churches (especially those connected with the purer branch of the Protestant Reformation) believed and worshipped as we still do. In any case, we must always follow Scripture, even if we are alone.
Q. Is there a fundamental, underlying reason for worshipping the way you do?
A. Yes there is. It is called the Regulative Principle of Worship, which expresses the Bible’s teaching that in worship we should do only what God expressly requires us to do. Of course, we must not do what He forbids. But also, we must not do what He has not told us to do. We are not free to introduce anything into worship without His Word. See Regulative Principle of Worship.
Q. What is the emphasis in your worship?
A. The emphasis in Free Presbyterian services is on the Word of God. Therefore, to the glory of God, it is preaching that takes up the largest part of the service. A ten-minute sermon once a week is unlikely to convey much biblical teaching. That is why the Free Presbyterian Church teaches its congregations through sermons of up to an hour or so, twice on the Lord’s Day, and usually (for a shorter time) at midweek prayer meetings. If people are to come to a saving knowledge of Christ they must find this knowledge in the Bible. Yet surveys show that even members of many churches seldom or never read their Bibles. This has resulted in widespread biblical illiteracy and ignorance.
Q. Do you exercise the “charismatic” gifts like tongues, prophecy and healing, in your services?
A. No. Scripture teaches that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were given for a temporary period, during the lifetime of the apostles, for the first establishing of the New Testament Church, until the Scriptures were completed. Modern day claims for the restoration of these gifts are unscriptural and false. See The Gifts have Ceased.
Q. I have been told that the atmosphere at a Free Presbyterian service is austere and forbidding. Why is that?
A. This is a mistake. Certainly, our services are not light and flippant, but reverent, ordered and Scriptural. For sinners to worship the holy God is a solemn matter, and our attitude and demeanour in worship should reflect that. It is true that in our age of disrespect, informality and irreverence, our services will appear formal. And so they should. “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him” (Ps. 89:7).
Q. It has been said that visitors do not get a welcome at Free Presbyterian services. Is that true?
A. We cannot of course speak of what has happened at every service at every particular place on every particular occasion. We would certainly regret any occasion when anyone has not received the warmest of welcomes. Many of us have come from other churches and other places and received a warm-hearted Christian welcome in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland that was truly second to none. And that is the welcome we desire to give to others. All are welcome. That is part of Christianity, as far as we are concerned.
Q. In many churches, visitors are especially welcomed during the service itself. We have heard – or experienced – that the Free Presbyterian Church does not do that.
A. Worship is meant to be God-centred, not man-centred. So, on your arrival we will greet you at the door. If you have any special needs, that is the time to ask. Do not expect someone to strike up conversation while you sit inside, waiting for the service to begin. That is time to gather our thoughts and apply our minds to the great and solemn duties ahead of us. And once the service begins, do not expect to receive a man-centred “welcome to visitors” in the midst of divine worship. But do expect a warm welcome to Christ and all His benefits in the preaching of the gospel! After the service is over, if you do not rush off, ordinarily folks will be ready and keen to speak with you.
Q. At the Lord’s Supper, many churches openly invite anyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ to partake of the bread and wine. This means that Christian visitors can go to the Lord’s Table. Does the Free Presbyterian Church do that?
A. No. The Free Presbyterian Church believes that Christ has committed access to the Lord’ s Supper (and Baptism) to those appointed by Himself to govern the Church – the minister and the elders. They can only do that if people have an accredited profession of being God-fearing persons, which they cannot do with visitors whom they do not know. This is not the same as closed communion, which the Free Presbyterian Church does not believe in, as this article on Restricted Communion shows.
Q. Does the Free Presbyterian Church leave it to individuals’ own consciences to go to the Lord’s Table?
A. No. It is the responsibility of the minister and the elders to interview applicants before they can go to the Table. See this explained at Why do the minister and elders interview intending communicants?
Q. Do women and girls cover their heads in Free Presbyterian services?
A. Yes, because this is what the Lord requires during public worship, as is clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 11. This is not an old-fashioned tradition, but an unchanging Scriptural requirement.
Q. What about family worship?
A. Free Presbyterian families are expected to have family worship each day, morning and evening. This is a condition for heads of families in order to be given Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Family worship fosters the Christian family – the basic unit of the Church and society. It is by holding on to our Reformed heritage that the Free Presbyterian Church and its families are seeking to be intelligent and upright contributors to society.
Q. What about individual, secret worship?
A. Free Presbyterians are exhorted to the exercises of personal religion, getting alone with the Lord to study His Word and call on His name in secret. Without secret religion, there is no true religion.
The Sabbath, or Lord’s Day
There is a whole section of this website dealing with the important duty and blessed privilege of Sabbath-keeping. See this link.
- Is the word “Sabbath” suitable for the New Testament?
- I have heard that Free Presbyterians try to avoid using the word “Sunday”. Why?
- Which day of the week is to be kept holy by Christians?
- What about using public transport to get to Church on the Sabbath?
Q. Is the word “Sabbath” suitable for the New Testament?
A. Certainly the word “Sabbath” is found first in the Old Testament. But that does not mean that Christians should cease to use the word:
- When the Saviour spoke of the fall of Jerusalem, which was going to happen in AD 70, He used the word Sabbath in giving advice to Christians: “But pray ye that your flight be not in winter, neither on the sabbath day” (Matt. 24:20).
- The Fourth Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex 20:8), is part of the moral law, and is as binding on Christians as it was on Jews, albeit the day of the week has been changed from the last to the first day of the week. The word Sabbath is still appropriate, though it now be the Christian Sabbath.
Q. I have heard that Free Presbyterians try to avoid using the word “Sunday”. Why?
We do indeed try to avoid using the word “Sunday”. Unlike the other days of the week, which Scripture does not name, this day is honoured with two Scriptural titles: Sabbath and Lord’s Day. These are the words we like to use, in an endeavour to “call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable” (Isa. 58:13).
Q. Which day of the week is to be kept holy by Christians?
A. The first day of the week – the day the world calls “Sunday”. “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath” (Shorter Catechism, answer to Q. 59).
Q. What about using public transport to get to Church on the Sabbath?
A. The Free Presbyterian Church does not believe that it can be right to use public transport on the Lord’s Day when run in systematic disregard of the Sabbath, even if it is used only to attend public worship. See What about using Public Transport on the Sabbath?
The Christian Life
- How could religious life for people in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland be summed up?
- The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has a reputation in some circles for being strict and legalistic. Is it?
Q. How could religous life for people in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland be summed up?
A. The answer is simple: Christian doctrine; Christian practice; and Christian experience. According to Scripture, these are the three essential elements in true religion:
- Doctrine – what we believe
- Practice – how we live
- Experience – what we feel
We cannot do without any of these. They are interdependent. John “Rabbi” Duncan, the 19th century professor of Hebrew in the Free Church of Scotland, warned that our emphasis must be proportionate:
If you preach all doctrine, then that is all understanding and that is a monster. If you preach all experience, that is all heart and that is a monster; and if you preach all practice, that is all hands and feet and that is a monster. Preach doctrine, experience and practice.
This balanced Christianity is what faces Free Presbyterians on a daily basis.
Q. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has a reputation in some circles for being strict and legalistic. Is it?
A. In these days when people think that the most important thing is to live as they please in the expression of their own personal ideas, it is not surprising to find that insisting on people submitting to Scripture will be criticised for being too strict. Absolute and total subjection to Scripture is not legalism. It is the very spirit of the gospel! The Lord Jesus Christ considered obedience to the whole of His will as an aspect of enjoying His friendship – “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Legalism means inventing rules and regulations that go beyond Scripture – the Free Presbyterian Church does not do that. Legalism means depending on your own obedience to make you righteous before God – the Free Presbyterian Church preaches against that continually, insisting that Christ alone is the righteousness of His people.
The male/female distinctions which God instituted at creation are being discarded in this generation at an unparalleled rate, in both church and society. Contrary to the pleas for a so-called, but false, “equality”, the Free Presbyterian Church seeks to uphold the Biblical distinctions between male and female. True equality is when each takes their own place as assigned by the Lord. A whole section of the site deals with this subject fully (see Distinctions between Male and Female), but a few of the questions that frequently come up are answered briefly here.
- Do you allow women to be office-bearers in the Church?
- Do you let women take a leading role in the worship of God? Do you let them preach the gospel? Do you let them lead in prayer?
- Should men and women dress differently?
- But was that law about distinction in dress not part of the ceremonial law which was abolished with the coming of Christ, according to the saying of Paul that “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28)?
- But was the prohibition not simply forbidding unclean “cross-dressing” (as it is called today)?
- Does the Bible really teach that female hair should be long and male hair short?
- Do you really believe that women and girls must wear head-coverings during services of public worship?
Q. Do you allow women to be office-bearers in the Church?
A. No. Scripture requires that elders (both the ministers and the ruling elders) and deacons all be men, and only men:
- “A bishop [overseer, or elder] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2).
- “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife” (1 Tim. 2:12). When the office of deacon was first instituted, the apostles said: “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:3).
Q. Do you let women take a leading role in the worship of God? Do you let them preach the gospel? Do you let them lead in prayer?
A. No. They cannot preach, neither should they lead in prayer. “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim. 2:11-12). “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor. 14:34). For more on why women should not lead in public prayer, see Can women lead in public prayer?
Q. Should men and women dress differently?
A. Yes, they should. “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut. 22:5). In western culture that means that men must not wear feminine attire like skirts and dresses, and women must not wear masculine attire like trousers (“pants” in American English) and shorts. For a full explanation, see Distinct Clothing for Men and Women.
Q. But was that law about distinction in dress not part of the ceremonial law which was abolished with the coming of Christ, according to the saying of Paul that “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28)?
A. The distinction between male and female dates from creation, not from Moses. Therefore the requirement for a distinction in dress was not part of the ceremonial law, but part of the creative order. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:27). In Christ, both male and female enjoy equal spiritual privileges to the benefits of the covenant of grace such as justification, adoption and sanctification. But the gospel was never intended to obliterate the distinction between male and female, as is clear from the many distinct exhortations given to husbands and wives in the New Testament letters. Therefore men and women should continue to dress distinctly.
Q. But was the prohibition not simply forbidding unclean “cross-dressing” (as it is called today)?
A. No doubt it did prohibit that particularly sinful way of confusing the gender difference between male and female. But the prohibition went much further than that. Every culture must ensure that it clearly distinguishes everyday male and female clothing.
Q. Does the Bible really teach that female hair should be long and male hair short?
A. Yes it does; most clearly. “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (1 Cor. 11:14-15).
Q. Do you really believe that women and girls must wear head-coverings during services of public worship?
A. Most definitely. Women and girls must, and men and boys must not, cover their heads in public worship. This is what Scripture requires: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head. . . . Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?” (1 Cor. 11:4-7,13).