My name is Sam Powell. I am the pastor of First Reformed Church in Yuba City.

I love the Heidelberg Catechism and have from my youth when I first memorized it. I fully and without reservation subscribe to the Reformed Creeds known as the Three Forms of Unity, which are the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt. I would be happy to provide the reader with a link, if you are unfamiliar.

My blog is a record of my thoughts and my studies. I hope and pray that the reader will find those thoughts edifying. I know that there are those who might disagree with me. I bear them no ill will.

There are some who want to discuss things with me that they might disagree with. I don’t mind a discussion, but I have very little time. My church occupies a lot of my time and I do not want to neglect the sheep that God has placed under my care to carry on long debates on-line. I certainly will not take time away from my wife and family to do so. But if I find myself with a moment or two to spare, I may respond.

Others, however, disagree with me and want to post argumentative and reviling comments. These will not be approved and not allowed to post. You may disagree with my decision, but it is my blog. If I have limited time for discussion, I certainly have no time for an argument with a reviler. I love discussion, and I love talking about my faith and my savior, Jesus Christ. But I find argument to be distasteful in the extreme and will not engage. I have never changed anyone’s mind by arguing with them, and they have certainly not changed mine by reviling me or my family.

There are also those to whom I owe an accountability, being a part of a Reformed denomination, and I take that accountability seriously. If I post something that concerns you, or that you wish to discuss, you all know who you are and who I am, and you know how to get a hold of me.

That being said, browse and enjoy my thoughts. You may be challenged, comforted, confronted, wondering, or perhaps indignant, but I pray that whether you agree or disagree you will be edified.

And with that, I leave you with the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism:

  1. What is thy only comfort in life and in death?

“That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.”

Since it comes up frequently, I also thought I would add this:

I cannot call myself an egalitarian, for I believe that office in the church is restricted to men only.

This does not mean that women have no function, no place, no leadership, no role. It simply means that the offices of the church are limited in scripture to the men.
I know this is controversial. I love you all anyway.

I cannot call myself complementarian, for I find them even more distasteful than the typical egalitarian. Complementarianism is linked to ESS, patriarchialism, courtship and purity culture, permanence view of marriage, and other false ideas. Since labels mean something, I cannot use this label for my own view, for I believe that these views have devolved to a very ugly place, and are responsible for great harm in the church of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know why I must be labeled either/or.

Some call me a feminist, but that term has been defined by so many in so many different ways that it has lost all meaning. I believe that women are created in God’s image, co-heirs of eternal life, with only one mediator – Jesus Christ. Their womanhood is a blessing, not a curse, and they are called by God to use their gifts and abilities to the best of their ability according to the talents given to them for the glory of God and the good of their neighbor. I believe that there are two sexes – male and female. I believe that there are differences physically between the two sexes. I also believe that there tend to be differences in emphases and strengths and viewpoints. However, I do not believe that speaking of “masculine” Christianity or “feminine” Christianity is helpful or accurate. I reject as unbiblical the idea that women are emotional and men are rational. I reject as unbiblical that women are less in God’s image than men. I also reject that men are superior in any way.

I do not believe that the words “effeminate” or “tomboy” are accurate or helpful. There are wide varieties of gifts and personalities.

To some, this is a feminist view. They can defend their own position.

I reject the “feminism” that brought sexual promiscuity and abortion as the route to freedom (as promoted in literature such as Cosmopolitan magazine, and others). All that did was put millions of women into even greater bondage, but that is another story. The solution to that is not patriarchy. The solution is Christ, just as it is with any sinful behavior.

Wives are to submit to their own husbands. This does not mean that the husband is the boss of the wife, nor does it mean that he has been given supreme command in his home. The command given to wives is not a command to men to rule over them. But a command for wives to submit. This also must be seen in the light of Ephesians 1-3.
I reject the idea that the husband is the commander of his home. This does not follow from Ephesians 5:22. You might have to think through your logic.

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. This does not mean that they sanctify their wives, are the king of their wives, are the priests for their wives, or the prophets for their wives. It simply means that they are to follow Christ in his love.

I believe that men can be obedient or they can be disobedient. I believe that women can be obedient or they can be disobedient.

Further, I believe that the ten commandments sum up the whole duty of man, and that it is ungodly to multiply the commands of men and enforce those commands through bullying and intimidation. Stick to the ten.

And one more thing – you might disagree with me. That’s OK. If you speak kindly to me and show me why you disagree, I might respond if I have the time. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose from the dead for your sins, I will consider you a Christian brother or sister even if we disagree.
I would hope that you would show me the same courtesy, but I know that isn’t always the case.

I love you anyway, even those who quit talking to me because they disagree with me on these points.

Hope this helps.

46 responses to “About

  1. Anne Odendhal

    I do think that the Bill Gothard teaching and home school program set the stage for the free reign of the unBiblical control and abuse in our home and consequent blowing apart of our family …and the children have never recovered from the travesty of harshness and legalism. Please pray for or family.

  2. cm

    Thank you. Please keep writing. Your voice has what is needed to reach a certain group of families greatly confused and hurt by the teachings of gothard and others.

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  4. MeganC

    Thank you for all that you do! We have shared your blog on our Give Her Wings FB page.

  5. Sam, I used to be of the Reformed mindset and have abandoned it now for almost for 2 yrs. Strangely, I’m finding my way back. Good writing Sam, keep it up.

  6. Thanks Sam. You’ve prompted me to study the Heidelberg Catechism.

    • It really is wonderful. So relevant to the things we deal with every day. It defines repentance as the dying of the old man and the quickening of the new, for example. a “Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to turn from it always more and more.” And a “Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.”
      How repentance has changed today into carefully crafted PR statements, accompanied by tears – is beyond me.
      So much good stuff in that old book!

  7. F Taylor

    Hello, do you have any disagreement with the WCF?
    (I’ve recently learned that I do, in that the WCF allows for remarriage while spouse is still alive. )
    Thank you,

    • The Westminster is correct there.

      • Love theWord

        I don’t understand why the catechisms are esteemed to the degree they so often are in the Reformed community. I was saved out Catholicism and Mormonism, along from various new age and other spiritual persuasions. Finding complete deliverance, freedom, and truth in Jesus Christ and His Word alone was amazingly eye-opening and refreshing. I enjoy reading other helpful books by godly, Christian writers, but I have noticed over the years that many Reformed believers hold up catechisms just about to the same level as the Biblical scriptures. This has always made me feel uncomfortable and concerned in certain situations.

  8. Dear “Love the word”, I also love the word. I use creeds for two reasons: First, they are unavoidable. Everyone has an answer to the question, “What do you believe?” No one just starts at Genesis one and recites all the way through to the end of revelation. We summarize, digest, put it into words. The creeds aren’t contrary to scripture, in fact, the idea, “Scripture alone is our only guide to faith and practice” is a creedal statement, and found nowhere in scripture.
    I find that when churches and pastors refuse to say what they believe they are actually being deceitful. They are hiding something. I say upfront that I believe that the bible teaches the system of doctrine found in the creeds of the reformation. This defines me, and my teaching. It is a contract with my congregation, so they know where I’m coming from, and it is honest. If I teach something different, I violate my vows and my contract with the congregation. So I’m upfront about it. i don’t do a bait and switch.
    Many say, “I believe that Jesus is God.” So far, so good. But then you find that they mean, “just the same way we are all little gods” and realize that their creed was dishonest. But if I say that I hold to the Chalcedonian formula, you know exactly what I mean when I say Jesus is God. (You can google that, if you are unfamiliar.),
    The other reason I hold to creeds is that it is a good defense against wolves. This actually is the reason that they were written by the church – to keep wolves out. The Nicene Creed was worded very carefully so that an Arian COULDN”T subscribe to it and those particular wolves would be kept away from the sheep.
    I think that there is a connection – to me, it is not surprising at all that when the church stopped using creeds, wolves had free access to the sheep. Would Eternal Subordination, designed to keep women eternally submissive to men, have been accepted had the Nicene Creed been taught and enforced properly? I think not.
    I know of a town where the butcher decided he was now a preacher. He stands in front of people with an “anointing” and teaches lies in the name of Christ. But since no one has any creeds, no one has any training, no one has any accountability, he simply has free reign over the sheep.
    My father knew that Bill Gothard was a wolf in the 70, and stayed far away, warning the sheep against him (my father was a pastor) because Gothard did not teach the historic doctrines of the church, he denied justification by grace, denied the true work of the Holy Spirit, and taught the commandments of men, rather than the laws of God.
    Once again, the creeds protected us, the sheep, from what proved to be a very dangerous man.

  9. Maddy's Girl

    Pastor Powell,
    I came across your blog through a link from A Cry for justice and read through every post today! I couldn’t stop reading as your posts spoke to my heart as a past sexual assault victim (more than once, first time age 12) and as a survivor of a 32 year marriage to a cruel narcissistic abuser.
    I am nearly three years out from the marriage and still struggle every day to heal and seek God. I can’t even express how much your words of encouragement mean to me, and knowing that there is another person believes me and so many others like myself.
    Thank you so very much.
    Maddy’s Girl

  10. Don Rubottom

    While obliterating an oversimplification—that covenants do not have conditions—this piece fails to distinguish a covenant from a contract, fails to explain what a covenant is (a major failing for too may reformed people who preach covenant), implies that “breaking” constitutes dissolution, implies that insufficient intentions “break” a covenant that was not truly established and in these it fails to address the nature of the spousal commitment any differently from our present-day “market based” contract culture. That is not Biblical and not how the Reformers taught marriage.
    Let me begin from a different simplification: A covenant in the Bible is a blood pact. In the flesh it is satisfied, rather than dissolved, by death. Hence, Christ not only fulfilled the conditions of obedience, He also fulfilled the condition of death, the covenantal consequence of our covenant breaking. Thus, in covenant, death perfects the communion of the parties, it is a condition that subsumes all other conditions and completes, satisfies, fulfills the covenant rather than dissolving it. We are buried with Him and raised free from the penalties of the Law. Those penalties have been fulfilled while the Covenant continues in perfect fullness! Praise God! Revealing Grace, the Covenant keeper dies in place of the covenant breaker restoring what is broken. Mr. Powell misses the “deeper magic”. He misses the Mystery.
    Broken conditions do not dissolve a truly formed covenant any more than breaking the law dissolves the law. In fact, a breach does not even dissolve a contract: some breaches (depending on the agreement) authorize termination at the option of one party; other failed conditions may authorize termination at the option of either party. A key modern distinction is that legal contracts are only rarely subject to specific enforcement (look it up). Payment of damages releases from legal obligation. (Either party may dissolve today’s civil marriage at will, making it less than a contract.) However, real estate and similar covenants presume specific enforcement: rather than dissolving, a breach justifies mandatory enforcement by judicial decree. (Confusion for readers may arise from some contracts that recite preliminary assurances the document calls “covenants”.) Covenants broken in Biblical contexts are specifically enforceable by death. These are “do or die” relationships not “do or dissolve”.
    Heart-breaking stories of brokenness abound. I agree with Mr. Powel that hard hearts necessitate divorce to keep the peace. Paul gives related instruction in I Cor. 7 (live peaceably separate or else be reconciled). And yet Jesus refused to answer the “legitimate” divorce question in Mark and Matthew. He also unequivocally asserted there and in Luke that remarriage constitutes adultery. How could this be if divorce totally dissolves the prior covenant? This confounding nature of divorce is raised in Jeremiah 3: 1. It is the same question faced by Powell: how can covenant promises be indissoluble when brokenness creates a divorce-like state? The answer is sacrificial faithfulness unto death: Hos. 2:14-16, Is. 54:4-10, and Ez. 16:59-62. There we see a divorced and WIDOWED(!) wife restored to full communion with the covenant Husband of her youth. The use of “Ishi” in Hosea 2:16 is an implicit reference to God’s institution of marriage in Gen. 2:23. Paul also connects these two spousal covenants in Ephesians 5. Marriage is not a mere analogy, its purpose is to reveal the Covenantal Nature of God’s Loving Communion, including its indissolubility.
    If “’til death do us part” does not bind me even when abandoned then the marriage proclaimed by Mr. Powell is no more than the condition free jello he mocks. He is correct that covenants have conditions. He is mistaken about the consequences of a breach. The ultimate consequence, DEATH, when fulfilled by Jesus or any bride or groom actually confirms the indissolubility of marriage for the life of the parties. Choose contract concubinage if you must. But no dissoluble contract can reveal the Mystery proclaimed in Ephesians 5. Christ is not in covenant with the Church only as long as she loves him back or keeps her vows. He loves her with all His substance even unto reconciling death, satisfying Covenant.

  11. I just happened upon your blog. I feel I’ve found a gold mine. The posts on roles of men and women are especially encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to write!

  12. Pingback: "The unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believer"? Examining 1 Corinthians 7:13-16 (Part One) | | Here's the Joy

  13. Maryann

    Dear Ps Sam,
    I’ve been trying to study and get a handle on the past in an effort to move toward the future. I just wanted you to know that I have learned a lot from your blogs and sermons. Thank you for blessing me.

  14. RCF

    Hi Sam,
    Could you reply to Don’s comment above? Is he wrong?

  15. He’s wrong. I didn’t answer because I don’t even really know where to start. If you say that “covenant” is indissolvable by the very nature of covenants, then you have some serious, gospel-denying implications – for example, when God said, “The day you eat thereof, you will surely die” what he apparently meant was “the day you eat you won’t really die because the covenant of works is a covenant, not a contract, so I’m stuck with you no matter what”
    If Don is correct, then there can be no such thing as a covenant breaker, since it isn’t possible. The Jews were then correct, that they were children of Abraham and therefore could not be cast away; that one can be a reviler, murderer, adulterer, idolater and still be a “Christian” as long as he was once in the covenant, because it is a covenant, not a contract. Ultimately, it means that Christ did not have to die. If a covenant is unbreakable by virtue of its definition, then we cannot be covenant breakers, and a mediator who keeps covenant perfectly is ultimately unnecessary.
    The whole thing is ridiculous, and makes my salvation dependent upon semantics, legalism, and thinly disguised “grace”. But it makes true grace obligatory on God’s part and therefore not grace at all.

    That seems like a lot of ground to give up just to keep the fiction that wives have to stick with abusive, adulterous husbands no matter what they do…

  16. Kevin Ramsey

    Sam Powell
    I have just finished reading-for the 5th time- your two articles on God hates divorce?”. I am concluding a 13 week adult class study on MDR and find this article is wonderfully prepared in its total analysis of Malachi 2. Beyond this your observations at the end of Article are extremely wise and comforting to all who are concerned with the accuracy of the Bible on this very emotional subject. May God continue to bless to your service.

  17. new2ruwais

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Please keep writing and leading us to Jesus. I have read and re-read your article about abusive men many times. It has brought me into the light of truth about being married to a covert narcissist emotional/verbal abuser. I stayed for over 20 years because of a legalistic concept of “God hates divorce.” I was so wrong and couldn’t see my own sin of holding the marriage as an idol above God. Your article accurately describes the delicate, hard to describe, intricate and torturous realities involved when the abuser is charming and well-loved by the community. I don’t know where I would be today without this article. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  18. Nate keitt

    Sam I recently listened to your ask seek & knock message it helped me to continue persevering with prayer and patience without throwing in the towel, when I knocked on the door the the door 🚪 opened & I found my answer my wife Janice and I have been married for 141/2 years & she’s been helping me in my situation of kidney failure we are under Russ & seri however because of my illness we’ve been out of church ⛪️ for awhile

  19. Nate keitt

    Good evening Sam I’m just going to finish my comment God has really been helping my wife and I through our prayers in our situation I’m not able to work because of my illness however God comes through always and my wife is my strength from God yourself and Cynthia please keep us in you’ll prayers for that kidney thanks peace and Love from Nate & Janice 😀🤜🤛

  20. Jess DaughterofEve

    Hi Sam. I am curious about your comment on the first “God Hates Divorce” post. In it you said: “God never permits that which he hates.”

    What did you mean here? God permitted Adam and Eve to choose sin. He permits sin to exist. He permits us to choose our way. Or did you mean that God never approves, gives support for that which he hates?

    Can you please clarify what you intended this line to mean?

    • We are using the word “permit” in two different ways. I am using it in the sense of “well, I really hate it but if you really want to that’s OK, I guess.” And you are using it to speak of the decrees of God.
      To clarify – when we speak of God’s will, it is helpful to distinguish between the secret things of God and the revealed things, as Moses teaches us in Deut 29:29
      We know, because the scripture reveals it, that there is nothing outside of God’s decree, not even the sin of Adam and Eve. Some theologians talk about this being God’s “permissive decree” and we could debate that term, and not get anywhere. That is beyond the discussion of a blog.
      These are the “secret things” of God, which belong to him alone. The only possible way for us to know these secret decrees is by what takes place. Everything that takes place takes place because God decrees it.
      But the revealed will of God is different. It is what pleases the Lord, what he has commanded, what he hates, what he forbids, etc. We get a hint of this in the story of Joseph – “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
      On the one hand, God hates what Joseph’s brothers did and commands against abuse, degradation, lying, cruelty over and over again. He never once said, “But if you really want to, I guess I’ll allow it…’ This is what I meant by the statement.
      But on the other hand, God used that cruel act – and even decreed it – in order to bring about the salvation of the world, in his eternal counsels.
      This is a mystery that we cannot fully solve, since we aren’t God.
      But my point is this: God hates cruelty and a lying tongue, for example. He tells us he does. Nowhere does he “permit it” according to his revealed will, which is all we know.
      He does, for his own purposes, decree those exact things in the eternal counsels of his secret will. The crucifixion of Christ, for example.
      Hope this helps.

  21. Anonymous

    Hi Sam, I have a question ….

  22. Dawn

    Your point of view is so refreshing!!!

  23. Pingback: Thoughts on Things to Do | Not In This Soup Alone

  24. Amen. Great job! Putting it to word…
    Thank you for taking the time to speak out.

  25. This had to take prayer and incredible considering and heart and time. Thank you so much.

    Your words feel and sound like Jesus to me… “Submit” is such a scary word to me because of how it was/is applied by some, but I feel assured here that to “submit” is different than being clubbed and shamed and humiliated.

    I’ve read a lot of your your writing…I think I’m ready to pursue your archives to try to understand what “submit” and “love” are…and aren’t. And, it’s ok if these things still don’t get all nailed down for me…I know my FatherSaviorLoveLifegivingHolySpirit love and keep me…again, thank you.

  26. Fiona

    So what does submission look like to you in your marriage? In light of everything else you have said about men and women, this has left me very confused.

    • Read Ephesians 5 carefully.
      What does submission look like?
      What does it look like to submit to Christ? Does he bully and threaten, or does he give us back our humanity, call us image-bearers of God, and treat us like his brothers and sisters?
      THIS is what submission looks like.
      It looks like how a believer submits to Jesus.
      If your view of submission to Jesus is the same as the “submission” of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, then you don’t yet understand the gospel.
      There is a difference between service as a slave, and service as a firstborn son.
      Submission looks like joyful resting in the arms of the savior, embracing his love

  27. Aloha Paator Pastor Sam Powell,
    I would love to tell you my story of how I was introduced to your teachings. For many years my child & I were lost from our faith, I suffered physical and emotional coercive control abuse, and attempted murder by strangulation at the hands of my child’s farther, I was forced to protect my child on my own. I was raised to believe I had to suffer the eight year of his abuse, just so my child had a father in their life (take the good with the bad was taught incorrectly to me). When finally successfully leaving him in 2009, with no help from law enforcement nor the family court, just me, just me by myself a disabled mother with a 3 year old baby using my own survival skills and the support of our 1st (out of 3) domestic violence shelter. He began to use other means of abuse; for example: Litigation abuse, financial abuse, calling my phone and breathing heavy, abuse by proxy (creating multiple groups of people in person and online that know our names, what we both look like, where we live, and wish harm upon me), it’s absolutely terrifying for anyone, especially a single mother.
    The worst is the stalking; for 13 years he has been a threat and stalks us. No one will help us. In fact our perpetrator has been so successful all of these year because it was a state trooper that provided him my drivers license #,new identity (indentity changed, relocated with child through VAWA funded organization), and home address.
    After 19 years of surviving, fighting evervday for strength, protecting my childvatvall costs, constantly being forced to relocate and starting over with nothing,throwing everything away every 1 to 1.5 years just to evade him, 5 states, and 25 houses approximately. After speaking with my last advocate and attorney, (2021), I was told no one in the state that violated my and my childs rights (Connecticut), would care to hear my story, that they wouldn’t want to help me because the state, JUD, state police corruption was so deep. They told me to get a will for my child, and to give my documentation, family and (matts) criminal court case file and the 4 years of investigation I did of the violations proving the state created danger, and to “prepare for the inevitable”.
    I then received in an email from the advocate with a link to “God Hates Divirce?”, sermon of yours. Your interpretation of Malachai hit home so hard for me. I listened to this message of yours and I cried uncontrollably.
    They were a mixture of happy and sad tears. The most profound experience though was how personal your delivery of “God Hates Divorce” was, I felt as if you were speaking directly to me, and for the first time in 17 years I felt my question was answered, and I didn’t feel alone anymore, and misunderstood anymore.
    You have made a huge impact on life and still listen to this specific recording weekly. THANK YOU for giving a voice to the millions of voiceless women out herbin the wold. May God Keep You Healthy and Strong.

    • I am so sorry for everything you have endured. It grieves me how much false interpretation of scripture is used to keep people in bondage, and I am thankful for the privilege of helping to untie some of those bonds.
      You can find a bunch of my sermons on sermonaudio.com. If I could make a suggestion, my series on Galatians does much to undo the bondage of the law.
      May God bless you, and if you ever find your way out to California, I would be honored to meet you,

  28. Sam,
    Through a friend I have been made aware of your current situation. I do not know you, but glancing through what I’ve seen on your site I sense a kindred spirit. I’m sad that those with pitchforks and torches cannot be overcome; I pray though that your future will be full of the surprise of grace.

    • Thank you so much! I have found much comfort in your podcast over the last few years, and so I thank you for that as well.
      It has been hard. The pitchforks and the torches have won for now, and my wife and I (and disabled daughter) will need to retreat and heal our wounds a bit. The stress is too much for us all and our health is greatly suffering. I don’t know what our congregation will do, that is still up in the air. But my housing and my livelihood are at stake, of course.
      I don’t know whether I will return to ministry. It is so discouraging to me that the denomination that I have loved and served for years has no taste for the gospel.
      I truly have found so much comfort in your words in the past, and again today. Thank you for your note.

    • Through the same mutual friend, I heard of your situation. You are in my prayers.

  29. Thank you for this loving, clarifying, in Christ blog. I am so very appreciative of you and your family and work. I pray for you all as you often come to mind.

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