It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right

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I don’t know the brother who said it, but I saw a remark the other day from a Presbyterian gentleman who said something to the effect of, “It’s time for all doctrinally sound Southern Baptists to leave the SBC.”

I get that.

When you have an organization as large, open, and widespread as the Southern Baptist Convention, problems – even major ones – are inevitable. At this point, there are many things the SBC is still getting right, biblically speaking…

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right

…But for some individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches, the biblical error and other problems pervading the SBC have become too much to bear, and they have deemed it time to walk away from what they see as a system damaged beyond repair, seeking refuge in ARBCA, Bible, Independent, or non-denominational churches and networks instead.

Like I said, I get that, and I don’t blame them one little bit. Believe me, I’ve had leaving on my mind more than once. And if the SBC continues its downward spiral, it’s an inevitability for nearly all of us who hold to sound doctrine.

But there are still plenty of us crazy, “glass half full” doctrinally sound optimists out there who, like Luther, don’t want to abandon the SBC to the rubbish heap if it can be avoided, but would rather see it reformed (little “r”), renewed, and restored to the glory of God.

If you’ve ever labored through the entirety of the Old Testament (and if you haven’t, stop denying yourself that blessing, and study it), you know that God exercised patience with Israel through centuries of idolatry, rebellion, and paganism of the vilest sorts, sending them prophet after prophet, warning after warning, discipline after discipline, lovingly calling, urging, and commanding them to repent and be reconciled to Him before finally executing judgment on them.

I’m just not sure we’re quite at the point of exiling the SBC… yet. I think maybe these are the days of Elijah. And Jeremiah. And Isaiah. And even Luther. A time for godly Southern Baptist men and women to stand firmly on the written Word of God and speak prophetically, chapter and verse, into their beloved churches and denomination, “Thus saith the Lord.”

And in that same spirit of the prophets of old, we don’t speak from a position of “I’m right and I’m here to prove it,” or because we’re haters, or because we’re power-hungry. It’s because we’re cut to the heart over the sin and idolatry we see among our brothers and sisters. We’re grieved that those things dishonor our precious Savior and bring His judgment and discipline upon those who participate in and propagate them. We deeply desire that our denomination and our churches experience the joy that comes with being spiritually healthy and biblically submitted to Christ.

So, while there are probably at least ninety-five theses that could be nailed to the doors of the Executive Committee in Nashville, here are three that would be a good start.

1.
The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

Nearly forty years ago, Southern Baptist movers and shakers in the conservative resurgence went to war for the inerrancy of Scripture. It was a long, hard battle, but they won. Now it’s time to fight for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC.

The Bible is our authority as Christians, not the ideas, opinions, and traditions of denominational leaders, SBC celebrities, pastors, or any other person. The Bible. If the Bible commands us to do something, we do it. If the Bible commands us not to do something, we don’t do it. We don’t formulate our own programs and methods and try to squish the Bible in to make it fit. We start with the Bible. We stay with the Bible. We end with the Bible.

Because the SBC does not always submit to the authority of the Bible, we have leaders, celebrities, and pastors looking to, and promoting, sources outside the Bible for direction instead of simply trusting and obeying God’s written Word. We have influential “Bible” teachers who stand on stages in front of thousands and dare to proclaim, “God told me…”, functionally denying the sufficiency of Scripture by relying on supposed extra-biblical revelation (and teaching their followers to do the same). We have pastors and denominational leaders who look to polls and surveys to decide how to conduct their worship services or which social issues need to be addressed and how to address them. We have church growth gurus teaching our pastors to adopt all manner of worldliness that “works” to get sinners in the doors of their churches.

If the Southern Baptist Convention is to survive as an entity of biblical Christianity, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is the number one issue that must be dealt with.  If this issue is properly addressed and corrected, it will alleviate or minimize nearly all other problems facing the SBC. We must submit to God’s written Word and give Scripture its proper place – first place – in our denomination, our individual churches, and our personal lives.

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

2.
False Doctrine and False Teachers

If the SBC truly regarded the Bible as authoritative and sufficient, the cancer of false doctrine and false teachers that is slowly killing us would be cured or in remission. Indeed, the aforementioned false teaching of extra-biblical (God told me, showed me in a dream, spoke to me, etc.) revelation is probably the most pervasive false doctrine accepted among Southern Baptists.

When Hilkiah found the Book of the Law in the temple (Imagine a house of God in such a shambles of idolatry that people had to dig and search for the actual Scriptures. Selah.), and Shaphan read it to Josiah, Josiah tore his clothes in grief and began to set God’s house and God’s people in order. After covenanting together with the people to obey God’s Word, the very first thing Josiah did was to have the altars and vessels of false gods carried out of God’s house and destroyed. If the SBC would follow in Josiah’s footsteps we would see things like:

LifeWay would immediately remove and destroy any and all materials by Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Priscilla Shirer, TD Jakes, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, Christine Caine, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and all other false teachers and promulgators of false doctrine.

There would be no more conferences, simulcasts, or leadership training seminars featuring false teachers, and false teachers would certainly not be invited to speak in any capacity at the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastors, authors, and speakers who attempted to build a career inside the SBC by teaching false doctrine would be subject to church discipline for their sin, not turned into celebrities or appointed or elected to denominational leadership positions.

Messenger voting privileges at the Convention would be revoked for churches which habitually and unrepentantly welcome false teachers.

If the Bible were to become our sufficient authority for both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, our eyes would quickly be opened to the enormity of the hold false doctrine has on our denomination, churches, and individuals, and we would act accordingly and biblically.

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies

3.
Disfellowshipping Errant Churches

Earlier this week, the Southern Baptist Convention severed ties with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC- an association of Southern Baptist churches in the Washington, D.C. area) for refusing to disfellowship one of its member churches, Calvary Baptist, which had called a legally “married” lesbian couple to serve as its co-“pastors” over a year ago.

It was absolutely the right thing to do (the SBC has disfellowshipped several churches that embrace homosexuality), and I’m glad that this standard remains in tact, but…lesbian co-pastors…? That’s how bad it has to get before the SBC can, or will, act to remove a church? What about churches that are embracing sins other than homosexuality?

There are plenty of apostate Southern Baptist churches, and we have no mechanism in place for kicking them out of the SBC.

This is a verbatim quote from the FAQ section (5th question from the top) of the SBC’s web site:

“According to our constitution, if a church no longer makes a bona fide contribution to the Convention’s work, or if it acts to ‘affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,’ it no longer complies with the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not permitted to send messengers to the annual meeting. These, however, are the only explicitly stated instances in which the SBC has the prerogative to take action.”

What does that mean? As long as your church doesn’t affirm homosexuality and gives to the Cooperative Program, you’re in. Never mind if your pastor twists God’s word until it’s unrecognizable. Or lets women and false teachers get behind the pulpit like Steven Furtick does. Or plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday and says he probably wouldn’t have strippers on stage like Perry Noble does. Or any of the other ridiculous and blasphemous shenanigans so many of the seeker sensitive types in our denomination pull. Nope, as long as you give your money and stand on the right side of homosexuality, you’re good to go.²

I’ll be the first to admit, it would be a difficult standard to set and implement, but look at the standards the New Testament required of churches. We’ve got to set the bar higher than a homosexuality litmus test and an offering for a church to be in good standing with the SBC. Doctrine and practices simply have to be a factor.

 

Can there be another conservative resurgence that brings reform to the SBC? I believe there can.

The Bible says “nothing will be impossible with God.” I believe that. I believe that the God who spoke the universe into existence from nothing, who opened sealed tombs and barren wombs, who parted seas and walked on water and turned water into wine can change the hearts of Southern Baptists and the trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By His grace. For His glory. For our good.


¹A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention
²10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

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Throwback Thursday ~ Dis. Grace: Responding Biblically to Church Scandal

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Originally published June 30, 2015

scandal

It happened again last week. Another scandal. Another high profile pastor stepping down from the ministry in disgrace. Another family broken. Another church stunned and bereft.

And it’s not just the money grubbing televangelists anymore, either. This was one of the theological good guys. Sadly, pastors and Christian leaders – both those in the public eye and those right around the corner – seem to be dropping like flies these days. Adultery. Financial sin. Pornography. Abuse. Fraud. The list of sinful behavior goes on and on, leaving a wake of destruction in its path and giving Christ and His bride a black eye in the process.

So, what is the biblical response to scandals like these for Joe and Jane Christian? We view the situation through the lenses of Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

How can God use this scandal, awful as it is, for my good and the good of my brothers and sisters in Christ? It’s an opportunity to learn, teach, and minister in so many ways:

Fully grasp the destructive power of sin…

Imagine the agony the pastor’s sin is creating in so many lives. What must his wife be going through? His children? His church? What about his own relationship with God? What about the lost people he was trying to win to Christ? What about the fact that his career may be over and he may lose his house?

It’s been said that sin destroys completely and completely destroys. It’s a good time to reflect on the fact that sin is not something to be trifled with. Count the cost. Would it be worth it to you to commit the same sin in your own life?

Realize your need for Christ…

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.” “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re better or holier than the person who sinned, therefore, you would never do what he did. Instead, let his sin push you towards the cross, realizing that you’re just as weak and susceptible to temptation as he is. Let it amp up your prayer life and drive you to cling to Christ and His word lest you fall into sin.

Dive into God’s word…

What does the Bible say about the sin in question? Learn what God’s word says. Apply it to your life, your work, or your marriage. Teach it to your children. Share it with those in your circle of influence. Build up your brothers and sisters in Christ so they might stand firm against temptation.

Implement safeguards…

People don’t just wake up one day and decide to commit adultery or embezzlement or whatever. Every sin starts with a wayward thought, which, when left unchecked (or entertained), snowballs into action. What could the scandalized pastor have done, practically, to prevent his sin? What are some concrete, proactive steps you can take to guard against sin in your life? Maybe your husband should hold the credit cards or you should cut ties with that certain male friend. Don’t wait for sin to find you. Build some walls before it arrives.

Use the scandal as a springboard for prayer…

Pray for those involved in the scandal. Ask God to protect you, your husband, and your loved ones from that particular sin. Realize that your own pastor and church staff are tempted to sin every day, pray for them regularly, and let them know you’re praying for them.

Practice the Golden Rule

What if you were the one who sinned? How would you want people to talk about and treat you and your family? Call a sin a sin, but let’s remember, when it comes to scandals, to watch our words and actions, and treat others the way we would want to be treated.

Use the scandal as an opportunity to share the gospel…

Inevitably, some lost people will see pastoral sin as one more candle in their “Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites” cake. Don’t be embarrassed if an unbeliever approaches you with this line of fire (and whatever you do, don’t try to make light of or justify the pastor’s sin). Own it. Admit it. “You’re right. This guy sinned. He needs to repent and be forgiven by Christ. He needs to make things right with the people around him. Just like me. Just like you. By the way, Christ was crucified for sinners like him and me and you. Have you ever repented of your own sin and trusted in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as the payment for your sin? Mind if I tell you how?”

Repent and Forgive…

It’s hurtful when someone you trust and look up to lets you down. But because we’re sinful humans living in a broken world, it’s going to happen. The pastor who sinned needs to repent. When he does, the people around him need to forgive, even though there will probably still be disciplinary consequences to his actions. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of and face the consequences for? Is there someone who has sinned against you that you need to forgive? God extends the grace of forgiveness to repentant sinners and the grace to forgive to their victims. Repent. Forgive.

 

Scandals among Christian leaders are heartbreaking, disappointing, embarrassing. But the God who sent His only Son to the cross to turn sinners into saints has a wonderful way of taking offenses and turning them into opportunities for His kingdom.


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 24- Rachel and Leah

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

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Read Genesis 30:25-31:55

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Questions to Consider

1. What are some things you remember about Jacob’s, Leah’s, and Rachel’s personalities and family dynamics that can give you some insight for today’s lesson? Briefly review lesson 23 (link above) or other previous lessons if necessary.

2. Carefully examine 30:25-34, and summarize the dialog and negotiation between Jacob and Laban in your own words. What does Jacob want to do? Why does he want to go? What does he initially ask for from Laban? Does Laban want him to go? Why or why not? What offers are made? What do they eventually settle on?

3. What does the name “Jacob” mean? (use your footnotes) In which incidents in today’s passage did Jacob live up to his name? In which incidents were the tables turned and Jacob became the deceived instead of the deceiver? (A little trivia for you: In Hebrew, Laban’s name means “white.” Is he wearing the good guy’s “white hat” in this passage?)

4. What’s this crazy stuff Jacob is doing with the sticks and breeding the sheep and goats (30:37-43)? Research time! Check out these links from the MacArthur Study Bible, CCEL Commentaries, and Bible Hub commentaries. How does Jacob’s success (30:43) demonstrate that God provides for His people’s needs?

5. Imagine that you are Rachel or Leah listening to what Jacob has to say in 31:4-13. How was it a show of respect and dignity to his wives that Jacob sat them down and explained all of this before uprooting them from the only home they had ever known? Were they hearing more about how Laban did Jacob wrong or how God did Jacob right? What was Jacob teaching them about God? Make a list of the attributes of God (ex: kindness, provider, etc.) that are showcased in this passage. After making this list, write down some ways you have seen each of these attributes of God in your own life.

6. How did Rachel and Leah respond to the news that they were moving? (31:14-16) What motivated this response – their desire to be godly, submissive wives, or another reason?

7. Considering Jacob’s and Laban’s words and actions in 31:17-43, how do you think Rachel and Leah felt about their father? What do you think would have happened if Laban had found the idols Rachel stole? (31:29,32) The passage doesn’t specifically say, but what are some of the reasons Rachel might have stolen the gods?

8. Carefully examine 31:44-54 in the context of all that has transpired between Jacob and Laban in this passage. Have you ever seen a set of Mizpah necklaces? They are usually shared by best friends, close loved ones, or boyfriends and girlfriends on the occasion of an impending temporary absence as a fond blessing that anticipates a happy reunion in the future. Knowing what you now know about the Mizpah (31:49) is this the correct usage and context of this verse? What is the correct understanding of this verse?

9. How does Jacob’s redeeming and rescuing of Rachel and Leah from Laban point to Christ as Redeemer and Rescuer? In what ways does it point further ahead to Christ taking Christians Home at the second coming?


Homework

Review the meaning of Jacob’s name from question 3. Write down your observations about the meaning of Jacob’s name as it compares to his statement in 30:33, and to Proverbs 22:1. Think about your own reputation – is it godly? Honest? Ethical? Why is it important for Christians to have an honest reputation? Examine 2 Corinthians 5:20, and consider how your reputation impacts your representation of Christ to others. What are some other New Testament Scriptures that address the importance of a godly reputation?


Suggested Memory Verse

Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” 
Genesis 31:3

Introducing… Vlogs!

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So, late to the party as usual, I’ve dipped a toe in the waters of vlogging. “What is vlogging?” you ask (is it even still called that?). It’s basically just blogging on video rather than in print.

At this point, I’m just making brief (under 10 minutes) videos from time to time on whatever topics strike my fancy. I’m learning how to do this as I go, so keep your expectations for production quality, and everything else (except the theology!), low.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have already caught the first two videos below. The third one hasn’t been released until now. It’s just for fun. If you’d like to subscribe to my YouTube channel, you’ll find it here. Enjoy!

 

 

The Mailbag: Christian Blogging and Online Safety

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I would like to start a Christian blog, but have had a few online encounters with others that have heightened my concern about revealing information about myself on the internet. Could you tell me…

1. Have you ever had someone personally and maliciously attack you?
2. Do you think it is wise to use your real name, or is it best to use a pen name and stay anonymous online?
3. Should Christians expect attacks online and persevere through them? Or is there ever a time it is wise to pull back in the face of personal attacks?

I’m so sorry you’ve had some negative experiences with others on the web. We always want to act in a Christlike way when we deal with people, even online, and that includes using wisdom about how close we allow them to get, balanced with being genuinely concerned and caring. Here are a few thoughts along those lines. I hope they’re helpful.

I have been blogging for ten years. I’ve had scores of people (mostly disgruntled disciples of false teachers, but a few atheists, too) call me every name in the book and blame me for the demise of Christianity in blog comments, emails, and social media comments and private messages. A handful of times, due to their disagreement with something I’ve written (or the fact that I’m a woman who writes on biblical topics at all) people have rudely questioned whether or not my husband is doing his job as the spiritual leader of our home. But that has been the extent of it.

Insults, slander, and social persecution, even from those claiming to be Christians, come with the territory when you stand firmly for biblical truth. It’s just something you have to get used to, remembering where it’s coming from and how to handle it biblically. However, if somebody crosses the line from a nasty e-mail or ugly blog comment to threatening or interfering with your life, that’s harassment and/or stalking, and that’s a crime and should be reported to the police. You can’t be too careful these days.

I think part of the reason I haven’t experienced many problems with readers is that I’ve tried to exercise reasonable caution about the information I share online.

Obviously, I use my real name, first and last, on my blog and social media accounts. There are two schools of thought about this among bloggers.

Some bloggers blog simply for the pleasure of writing and sharing their writing with whoever else happens to enjoy it. It’s not necessary for people to be able to contact them personally, they’re not trying to earn money from blogging or build an audience to please a publisher, and maybe they even have concerns that the thoughts they express in their blogs would negatively impact their careers, their churches, or their relationships. In those instances, many people choose to blog anonymously or use only their first names. When I first started out over at Blogspot, I was just writing for pleasure, and, though I wasn’t particularly trying to keep my name a secret, the title of my blog was Bread and Water rather than my name. I just thought it was catchier :0)

But some bloggers use their blogs and social media accounts as an extension of or supplement to other ministries, and, thus, need to have their real name out there. That’s where I am now. When my book was first published, my publisher wanted me to get my name out there so we could sell more of my books, schedule speaking engagements and book signings, and any number of other promotional and publicity activities. I was as much the product as the book was. So I moved over to a broader blogging platform here at WordPress, changed the title of the blog to my name and started opening social media accounts in my name in order to build my audience and create name recognition. I still do speaking engagements, interviews, and podcast appearances, so I’ve just kept the title of the blog the same even though my book is now out of print.

But while I do use my real name, there are other measures I take to at least try to make it a little more difficult for the crazies to find me (If somebody is crazy, and internet savvy, enough, they can find you no matter how careful you are.). I do not mention – either publicly or in e-mails or private messages – the name of my church or the location of other public places I frequent, the name or location of my husband’s business, my grown children’s locales or employers, nor would I mention the name of my younger children’s school if I didn’t home school them.

I generally limit my personal Facebook account to people I know personally or network closely with online, and I rarely make my posts public. The rest of my social media accounts are public, and I try to be careful about the information I disclose on them. I have a separate e-mail account for my blog and social media accounts, and I never give out my “real” e-mail address. I also do not get into personal conversations about myself in e-mails with people I don’t know, nor get into protracted e-mail conversations with them. And if someone is being ugly on one of my social media accounts and doesn’t settle down after a warning, she gets banned or blocked.

Another way to prevent sticky situations before they happen is not to give angry or unbalanced-sounding people a forum. I have a policy of refusing to publish comments or answer e-mails and messages that are obviously angry and argumentative. (See my comments policy under the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page. Please feel free to use it as a guide when formulating a policy for your own blog.) Usually, when people realize they won’t have a platform for arguing, they give up and go somewhere else.

In your situation, I would first recommend talking things over with your husband. Ask what he thinks about you starting a blog and any concerns he may have, and be sure you’re abiding by whatever he says. If you have security or privacy concerns and are basically just writing for pleasure, an anonymous blog might be the best way to go. I’d also recommend creating a new, dedicated e-mail account for it, and putting some precautions and policies in place, similar to the ones I’ve mentioned, before getting started. If you want to develop personal relationships, help people with their problems, or disciple other women, do so one on one within the safety and confines of your church.

Fellow bloggers-
Any advice for this reader? Please comment below!


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

6 Reasons You Need to Stay Hitched to the Old Testament

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Oops, he did it again. Only it wasn’t an “oops”, it was quite intentional.

In a recent sermon, Andy Stanley declared that the modern church needs to “unhitch” the gospel from the Old Testament. He attempted to draw a parallel between James’ pronouncement in Acts 15 that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism prior to becoming Christians with the difficulty some non-Christians today have with some of the gory, hard to understand, or otherwise distasteful (to them) passages of the Old Testament (for example: God’s various commands to Israel to utterly destroy all people in certain nations). The apostles cut out the requirement for circumcision to make things easier for Gentiles who wanted to come to Christ, he reasons, so the 21st century church should basically divorce itself from the Old Testament to make it easier for lost people who have a problem with certain Old Testament passages to come to Christ.

There’s only about a million problems with this line of thinking, and, honestly, the more I investigate what Stanley said and his subsequent explanations of why he said it and what he meant, the angrier it makes me. That a man with a master’s degree from a decent seminary, who’s a pastor of several churches, a best-selling “Christian” author, and a leadership and church growth guru to thousands of pastors across the globe should say, or even believe, such things is reprehensible. If he were generally doctrinally sound and this was the first “iffy” thing he had ever said, I’d be inclined to extend grace and give him the benefit of the doubt. But this is somebody with every theological advantage who should know better, yet still has been on a trajectory of attempting to deconstruct the New Testament church for quite some time now. (For more on Andy Stanley’s aberrant theology, click the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page.)

So, for the sake of my own blood pressure, I’m just going to throw out a few of the most embarrassingly obvious errors here, and let better people than I handle the blow-by-blow.

1. Andy Stanley is not an apostle personally commissioned by Christ to set up the New Testament church. James and those other guys mentioned in Acts? They were. Andy doesn’t have the authority to change New Testament ecclesiology, which is permanently and inextricably hitched to the Old Testament.

2. Acts is generally a descriptive book, not a prescriptive one. While there are certain principles we can learn from Acts and follow, it’s a history of the establishment of the first century church, not a step by step list of instructions to implement in today’s church. If there were a church today that was insisting Gentiles become Jews before they could become Christians, Acts 15 would be applicable. But I don’t know of any churches like that, do you?

3. The two church scenarios Andy is trying to make analogous aren’t. No church I know of requires unbelievers to understand, agree with, or even have read whatever Old Testament passages Andy thinks are problematic prior to becoming a Christian.

Furthermore, how many lost people are actually out there saying, “I recognize I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. I want to repent of my sin and place my faith in Christ for salvation, but I just can’t, because of 1 Samuel 15:2-3.”? People who bring up Old Testament passages like that when confronted with the gospel are presenting excuses for rejecting the gospel, not looking for ways to embrace it.

4. Shoving difficult passages of Scripture into the broom closet is not how God has instructed the church to handle His holy Word. We’re to be “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15b) We don’t get rid of challenging passages, we dive into them, study them, and explain them to others.

The Old Testament is absolutely essential to New Testament Christianity, and a rich blessing to the church, individual Christians, and lost people, besides. Here are six reasons you and your church should stay hitched to the Old Testament.

1.
God says so

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

That should be the end of any discussion of ditching any part of Scripture for any reason. God could not have been clearer. “All Scripture” means all Scripture, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. And every single verse of Scripture is profitable. Even the genealogies. Even the inventories. Even the Levitical law. There is stuff in every single verse of the Bible that is useful and beneficial to us. God says so (and He says so in the New Testament, by the way).

2.
You need the Old Testament
to understand the New Testament

Can you come to a saving knowledge of Christ by reading only the New Testament? Yes. But it’s kind of like saying, “I know American history,” when you’ve only studied the years 1900 to the present. The New Testament was birthed out of the Old Testament. The gospel is the culmination of Old Testament doctrine. Jesus Himself is the ultimate fulfillment of every Old Testament prophecy and covenant.

And then there are all the New Testament details that need explaining. Who are these Jews and how did they come to be God’s people? Why do they have such a problem with Gentiles? What are these laws the Pharisees keep talking about? If Jesus is the “second Adam”, who was the first Adam? What on earth is circumcision anyway? And…Hebrews? What’s that all about?

3.
The Old Testament teaches how we CAN’T be saved

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24 (NASB)

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

How was the Old Testament Law our tutor to lead us to Christ? How was it able to make Timothy wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus? It shows us the futility of thinking we can keep the law to earn righteousness. It shows us that right standing with God always comes by repentance and faith, not works. How many times have you shared the gospel with someone only to hear her say some variation of, “I’m OK with God and I’m going to Heaven because I’m a good person.”? Really? Take a stroll through the Old Testament, and watch how “good” God’s chosen people were. He spelled everything out for them, sent them prophets to tell them exactly what He wanted them to do, performed amazing miracles right before their eyes, and they still couldn’t be “good people.” And you, a pagan, think you can do better?

Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”? Some smarty pants came up with the rejoinder, “Yes, but you can feed him salt.” The Old Testament is our salt. Its lessons in the futility of trying to be good makes us thirsty for the Living Water we find in the New Testament.

4.
The Old Testament vividly shows us
God’s wrath against our sin

I’m not saying the Old Testament only shows us God’s wrath against sin, because it also shows us His compassion, mercy, and love. I’m also not saying the New Testament doesn’t show us God’s wrath. It does, but in a different way than the Old Testament does. In the New Testament, the main ways we see God’s wrath against sin is when it’s poured out on Christ at the cross, and the wrath of God that’s yet to come as it’s described in Revelation.

When it comes to God’s wrath against me, personally, for my individual sin, those demonstrations of God’s wrath can feel a little detached sometimes. But in the Old Testament, I see, in vivid detail, the horrific plagues God rained down on Pharaoh for his sin. I see the ground open up and swallow Korah for his rebellion. I see God immolating Nadab and Abihu for offering illegal worship. I see the once mighty and majestic Nebuchadnezzar forced out into the wilderness to live like an animal because he took God’s glory for himself. And when I know that God doesn’t change – that His wrath towards my sin as a lost person burns just as hot as it did toward those Old Testament rebels – well, it can hit a lot closer to home and convince me of my need to run to the cross and throw myself on the mercy of Christ.

5.
The Old Testament teaches by example

The largest portion of the Old Testament is history and biography. Most of the New Testament is didactic. The New Testament gives us the subject matter we need to learn. The Old Testament puts flesh and blood on it and shows us what it’s like for real, flawed people just like you and me to walk it out. In the New Testament, we learn “by grace are you saved through faith.” In the Old Testament, we see just how God accomplished that in the life of Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. In the New Testament we learn what it means to repent. In the Old Testament, we walk with David through the loss of his child and his grief over his sin with Bathsheba. In the New Testament, we learn that the godly will face persecution. In the Old Testament, we stand next to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow to an idol, even if it means being burned alive. The New Testament gives the facts of the matter. The Old Testament says, “For example…”.

6.
The Old Testament is a warning to the church

People are people. God’s people of the Old Testament are not significantly different from God’s people today. We’re all made in the image of God. We’re all tempted by similar things.

If you begin studying the Old Testament, you can’t help but notice some of the same themes running through the story of God’s people back then that run through our story today. Idolatry. Ecumenism. Doing what’s right in our own eyes. Going through the motions of religious activity without true repentance and faith. Depending on our own power and resources rather than depending on God. False prophets. Persecution and derision of those who stand firmly on God’s Word by those who claim to be His people. Fickle hearts and tickled ears. Oh sure, we might be a little more sophisticated and subtle about it, but, as Solomon put it:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

And because the Old Testament shows us more direct interpersonal interaction between God and His people, we get to see exactly how God feels about all of those things. We hear what He has to say about it. We see how He responds to it. And, if we’re wise, we take heed to those warnings, humble ourselves, and grow in our fear of the Lord and our desire to please Him with holy living and clean worship.

 

I could give far more than a mere six reasons why the Old Testament is so vital, a precious blessing, and such a spiritual treasure trove. It tells us where we, and the world around us, came from. It shows us the beauty and precision of worship. It extols the charm of Creation. It displays God’s power, grace, trustworthiness, mercy, justice, His plan for mankind, and all of His other attributes. And so much more.

Are there some passages in the Old Testament that are hard to understand or accept at first blush? Sure. But they’re not keeping anybody from coming to Christ. People reject Christianity, not because of difficult Old (or New) Testament Scriptures, but because they love their sin more than Jesus. And that’s no reason to unhitch anything or anyone from the beauty, the joy, and the benefits of the Old Testament.

How has the Old Testament been profitable in your walk with the Lord?

Throwback Thursday ~ Making a U-turn on the Road to Emmaus

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Originally published September 2, 2016

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That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:13-35

It had been a long, confusing, emotional couple of days. Eventful? The word could hardly capture all that had taken place. As they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Cleopas and his friend rehearsed the trials, the scourging, the crucifixion, and the reports of the empty tomb, trying to make sense of it all.

How could this have happened? It just didn’t add up. Everything their beloved Jesus had done, taught, and said fairly screamed, “This is it! This is the Messiah!” Jesus was the one they had been waiting for. The one who would throw off the iron-heeled boot of Roman oppression, take the throne of His father, David, and reestablish Israel as a sovereign nation, restoring her former glory.

But…a crucifixion? His body missing? It didn’t fit the narrative they’d been weaned on. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. Their hopes for the future, so recently a roaring flame, waned at the cross and dwindled to an ember at the tomb.

Try to put yourself in the sandals of Cleopas and his companion. Every day of your life has been lived shivering in the shadow of the evil Roman empire. Unclean Gentiles, pagans, haters of God and His people, who ruled with impunity and maintained pax romana by any means necessary. Crosses laden with the corpses of criminals and insurrectionists lined the road leading into town, lest there be any question as to the fate of those who dared rebel. There was no real right of redress. No true due process. And since Rome ruled the known world, virtually no way of escape.

“Someday,” Jewish boys and girls learned for hundreds of years at their mother’s knee, “Someday God’s promised Messiah will come and deliver us. This will all be over. We’ll be free.”

This was the Christ – the Messiah, or “anointed one” – most of God’s people hoped in. A Christ who would save them from earthly suffering. A Christ who would set things right and make their temporal circumstances better. No thought to their need for atonement. No concerns about eternity. Never mind the Bread of Life, just give us bread.

And Cleopas and his fellow disciple had found him. Maybe they were afraid to believe it at first. Could Jesus really be the one? But as they followed him for days, or months, or years, they began to believe. Finally, He was here. Finally, things would turn around for them. Everything was going great.

Until.

And just like that, in a matter of a few days, all hope was lost.

They stood still, looking sad.

Was it because Jesus had, in reality, failed to fulfill His mission? No. It was because they had poured every drop of their faith into a false Christ. A christ of their own imagination and design. An unbiblical christ who had been passed down to them over the years by false or misinformed teachers.

And, to this day, people are still placing their faith in that same false christ of their own imagination, promulgated by false or misinformed teachers. A christ who will solve all their earthly problems. A christ who will heal their diseases, fix their broken relationships, grant them power, imbue them with influence, and shower them with wealth.

Sure, their hope in this christ will burn brightly for a while, but just like that, in a matter of a few moments, hours, or days, that hope can be extinguished forever. A car accident. A house fire. An affair. A child gone prodigal. Wasn’t Christ supposed to make my life better?

But – thanks be to God – that’s not the end of the story. There’s a true Christ. The true Christ of Scripture. The Christ that Jesus showed the two disciples from Moses and the Prophets on the road to Emmaus. The Christ that God reveals to us today in the New Testament. The Christ that all of Scripture points to – not as a life enhancement genie – but as the spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

This is the Christ in whom we find the hope of sin forgiven. The peace of being made right with God. The joy of knowing He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Are you foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the Bible says about Christ, or does your heart burn within you as the true Christ of Scripture reveals Himself to you in God’s word?

A false christ promises hope, but brings only despair and discouragement when hard times come and his promises go unfulfilled. But all the promises of God find their fulfillment in the Christ of Scripture. He will never fail you nor disappoint you.

The road to Emmaus is a two-way street. Cleopas and his friend started their journey going the wrong direction, but they repented of their unbelief, turned around, and walked the other way. If you’ve been following a false christ, you can repent and trust the true Christ of Scripture today. He’s only a you-turn away.

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The Women of Genesis: Lesson 23- Rachel and Leah

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

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Read Genesis 29:31-30:24

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 22 (link above), recalling the events that transpired to bring Jacob, Leah, and Rachel into this marriage. In what ways did this marriage start off on the wrong foot?

2. Read these passages. Did God design marriage to be polygamous or monogamous? What do these passages tell us are the theological reasons for this? What are the practical and interrelational problems with polygamy that Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel demonstrates in Genesis 29-30?

3. Compare Leah’s and Rachel’s experience with infertility, subsequent pregnancies, and use of surrogates with Sarah’s experience (see lesson 11, link above). How were their experiences similar? Different?

4. Consider how Abraham (see lesson 11, link above) and Jacob both responded to their wives’ giving their maidservants to them as surrogates. How could these men have responded to their wives in a godly way? How would this have been a good opportunity for Jacob to instruct Leah and Rachel in trusting the Lord, especially in light of 30:2? What are some examples of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness in Jacob’s own life that he could have shared with his wives?

5. In Rachel’s and Leah’s culture, the main way women achieved status, and were viewed as blessed and successful by society, was by bearing children, particularly sons. How does this piece of cultural information help you understand the competitive attitude between Rachel and Leah and the emotional pressure of the situation? How would understanding God’s sovereignty over conception have helped both Rachel and Leah to be at peace in their hearts, with each other, and with Jacob?

6. Make a list of Leah’s comments after the birth of each of her sons, then make the same list of Rachel’s comments. What can we learn about the desires of their hearts from these comments? What can we learn about their relationships with each other, with Jacob, and with God? In what ways might each of them have been tempted to sin in their hearts (ex: coveting)? What Scriptures can you think of that address these sins?

7. Imagine that you’re working on a degree in biblical counseling and you’re assigned Jacob’s, Leah’s, and Rachel’s situation as a case study. Using what Scripture says about marriage, children, sin, the fruit of the Spirit, God’s attributes, etc., pinpoint at least two issues in this family that need biblical correction.

8. Now imagine you’ve graduated and are working as a biblical counselor. Jacob, Leah, and Rachel come to you for help in making their family more godly and getting along better. How do you advise each of them individually and/or as a family unit about the two issues you’ve pinpointed? What are some Scriptures that tell them what they should not be doing or believing? What are some Scriptures that tell them what they should be doing or believing?

9. Rachel and Leah were focused only on their own family and their personal desire to bear children, but what was God’s larger purpose for their sons? How does today’s passage demonstrate that God’s plans cannot be thwarted by the actions of man?


Homework

Go back to the lists you made for question 6. Do you have a heart attitude about something that’s similar to one Rachel or Leah had? For example: Are you coveting something? Envious of someone? Willing to use ungodly methods to get what you want? Resentful? Prideful? Unable to be peaceful and content where God has placed you? Write out some specific Scriptures that address this sin of the heart – both why you should not sin this way, and the godly action you should take or attitude you should have instead. Be sure to spend some time in prayer asking God to forgive you and to help you do what is right.


Suggested Memory Verse

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
Genesis 30:22

Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice

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Saul was a lousy king. There are just no two ways about it. He was a crudmuffin.

In 1 Samuel 10, Saul gets his first instruction as king. God didn’t ask him to go out and perform some fantabulous deed of derring do, He told Saul to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to arrive and tell him what to do. Just…wait. That was it.

But Saul started getting nervous. He didn’t wait. He acted. He unlawfully took matters into his own hands and offered the burnt offerings and peace offerings.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

Strike number two for Saul- he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuable stuff.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

Know anybody like that in the church today?

Women, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command not to teach or hold authority over men in the church, take matters into their own hands and become pastors or teach men in hopes of “doing great things for God.”

Pastors, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command to preach the Word in and out of season, employ theatrics, silliness, and worldly or sinful tactics to build gargantuan churches to supposedly honor God.

Churches and Christians, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command to avoid false teachers and false doctrine, join with them in the name of so-called Christian unity or ministry.

God doesn’t want the great deeds, ministries, or sacrifices you dream up “for Him.” He wants a heart that’s completely His. A heart that loves Him enough to do His bidding even when it’s small and doesn’t bring you any glory. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s hard.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

And that’s exactly the message Saul got that fateful day when he lost the throne:

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Spanking, Women teaching men, Working a homosexual “wedding”…)

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Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Can you share some Scripture with us that supports the idea that spanking is not abuse? I am genuinely curious as I have a young toddler of my own and go back and forth between the idea of spanking or not spanking.

The first way we know that a loving, properly administered spanking by godly parents is not abuse is that God would not tell us to do it if it were. The God who does not even want us abusing animals (see passages like Proverbs 12:10, Exodus 23:5, Deuteronomy 25:4) would certainly never tell us to abuse our children.

To equate proper spanking with abuse or to pejoratively call spanking “hitting” is a worldly idea, not a biblical one. The world’s (Satan’s) agenda is to get people to believe that spanking is abuse so that they will stop doing it. Since spanking began falling out of favor several decades ago, the cumulative result has been a greater number of children sinning with impunity and not being brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, which is exactly what Satan wants. (Yes, I understand that is a general statement. There are always exceptions, but exceptions don’t negate the rule.) Christians parents might choose not to spank, but they may not biblically accuse others of abuse who choose to spank.

Beyond that, let me direct you to some resources that not only give you the Scriptures but give instruction in those Scriptures as well:

What the Bible Teaches About Spanking by Denny Burk (there are several additional resources linked in this article)

Capitol Hill Baptist Church Core Seminars: Parenthood Class 7- The Rod of Correction

Parenting in an Anti-Spanking Culture by John MacArthur

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say? at Got Questions


We occasionally have guest speakers at our Wednesday church services that worry me. Charlotte Gambill [co-lead “pastor” of LIFE “Church”] for instance. I am a firm believer that women should not be teachers of Scripture to men, but I guess my question is this, should I leave my church because this is allowed in these Wednesday evening gatherings?

Well…I mean, I don’t mean this to sound facetious or anything, but sin is sin no matter what time of day or day of the week it takes place on. While there are certain circumstances in which it might be biblically appropriate for a woman to address a mixed gathering of Believers, preaching and teaching Scripture during a worship service is not one of them. And certainly no church or other Christian organization should be affirming a female “pastor” in her sin by inviting her to be a guest speaker for any sort of event.

I would not just quietly slip out the door, though. Set up an appointment to discuss the matter with your pastor. (You might want to use the principles and suggestions in my article How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing? as a guide.) His response about the matter will probably tell you everything you need to know about whether or not you should begin looking for a new church.


Do you have a page on your website on how you verbally share the gospel with others?

I don’t recall ever having written an article on my approach in witnessing, but here’s what I would recommend.

1. Listen to Todd Friel’s Witness Wednesday every week on Wretched Radio. Todd is very good at opening up conversations with random strangers and quickly transitioning to a gospel presentation. (You might also want to order the resource Terrified.)

2. Watch the witnessing encounters in Ray Comfort’s Living Waters University YouTube videos. Ray has a standard (nearly the same, verbatim, every time) way of presenting the gospel and makes it look so easy!

These are the guys I attempt to emulate when witnessing as I trip all over my tongue and stammer around. You would do much better to follow their example than to follow mine.


If a Christian has a job as a banquet server doing weddings and one day there’s a gay wedding and the person is scheduled to work, would that be sinful to work and serve guests at the gay wedding? Would you say this is just like a Christian baking a cake for a gay wedding or is it different?

I think this is different. A business owner has the freedom to choose which jobs and clients he will accept and which he will not (at least, in America, he is supposed to have this freedom). An employee does not have any say so in which clients the business will and won’t serve. So, the employer is serving the client, but the employee is serving the employer.

If you feel uncomfortable working at homosexual “weddings,” try talking to your boss about it. Maybe you could volunteer to work a different shift, or in a different position in the business that would not require you to work at weddings. If your conscience bothers you a great deal about it, that’s totally understandable, and you might want to begin looking for a new job. Set up an appointment with your pastor for biblical counsel on this situation if it’s a decision that’s really weighing on you.

Basic Training: Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Other Sexual Immorality

Should Christians Attend Homosexual “Weddings”?


I know women should not be pastors, but is it OK for women to teach men Scripture outside of church?

It depends on what you mean by “teach Scripture” and “church”. If you’re asking about sharing the gospel with someone, that’s not teaching Scripture to men in the church, it’s evangelizing those outside the church, and that’s fine. If you’re talking about teaching a Bible study to a mixed group in someone’s home, we need to remember that the church is not a building, it’s Believers, and that the churches in existence when 1 Timothy 2:12 was written were meeting in homes. So, that would be a “no.”

I think my article Rock Your Role FAQs might be helpful as you explore this more.


What do you think about _____ teacher, author, or ministry? Is he/she/it doctrinally sound?

I’m so sorry I don’t have the time to research all the teachers and ministries I’m asked about. If you’re trying to find out whether or not you should be following a certain person or organization, I encourage you to do the research and find out. Here are the steps I take when researching someone:

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.