By John Greening
Since the GARBC’s inception, solid expositional preaching and doctrinal purity have been association hallmarks. During the fellowship’s formative days, its leaders and churches waged battles for the Bible to protect the integrity of the local church. I admire the early leaders of the association for taking strong stands and tirelessly fighting for truth, often at great personal cost.
As I near the conclusion of my tenure of service as national representative, I am reflecting on the legacy I will leave behind. By admission, I will not be characterized as a fighter. Though my convictions regarding truth run deep, the projection of a battling Baptist doesn’t fit my personality or leadership style.
As I approach this transition time of leadership, I have listened to a handful of tribute comments about me, and they all contain a common theme. People say, “We respect and admire the relationship between you and Daria.” Compared to fundamentalism’s cause, that may seem like a rather soft distinguishing legacy. I don’t see it that way.
According to Ephesians, marriage is an extraordinary picture of Christ’s love for the church. So wide, long, deep, and high was Christ’s love (Eph. 3:18–19) that He completely gave His life for His Bride (Eph. 5:25). His desire was to use the Word to wash, cleanse, and sanctify the church (Eph. 5:26). His goal was to present to Himself a beautiful, radiant church, minus any spot, wrinkle, or the like. He longed for a bride that was holy, without debasing moral blemish. In turn, the church was to submissively respond to its Head, Christ (Eph. 5:22–24). So profound is this relationship that Ephesians 5:32 describes it as a “great mystery.” Christ’s love relationship with His Bride, the church, forms the ideal toward which a marriage is to grow.
Proverbs 30:18–19 describes the extraordinary and mysterious nature of love: “Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin” (ESV). As the lyricist Paul Francis Webster expressed, “Love is a many-splendored thing.” When a believing husband and wife increasingly display a splendid love within their marriage, that love makes a powerful statement about the gospel and its transformative potential.
Daria and I view our marriage through the lens of Ephesians 5:22–33. We recognize that convictions about the gospel must run deeper than words. As a couple, our prayer is that our love might reflect the beliefs we hold. Our desire is that our marriage will increasingly measure up to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
We hold to the authority of the Word. Daria and I look to the Bible to guide the way we treat each other as husband and wife. When we acknowledge the deity of Christ, we see Him as the perfect man. Into Christ, the Head of the church, we are to grow. We each recognize our sinfulness and ask God for His mercy and grace. We believe the gospel was made possible through the shed blood of Christ by which we are washed and sanctified. We believe in the resurrection of Christ, Whose life now resides within us so that we can live like Him. We anticipate the day when as part of His Bride, we shall observe Him return in His glory. Now that I think about it, I guess you could call our union a fundamentalist marriage!
The GARBC is a fellowship of churches loved by Christ. As the national representative, I am to look after this fellowship. In my role of serving the churches these 22 years, you have not seen me often in fighting mode. But just let someone mess with the doctrinal integrity of our churches, and I would echo Paul’s words:
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Corinthians 11:2–4)
As I finish my tenure, I urge our association of churches to tenaciously preserve the purity of the Bride of Christ.
Possibly the relationship that Daria and I enjoy will serve to reinforce the core truths of the GARBC, which my forebears fought to uphold. Love that church! Love your spouse!
John Greening is national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.