Basic Training, Discernment

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: Being Berean- 8 Steps for Comparing Teaching to Scripture

Originally published September 14, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

How do you know if what your pastor, your Sunday School teacher, your favorite podcast preacher, or your favorite Christian author is teaching you matches up with what the Bible actually says?

Did you know that you’re supposed to examine what you hear and read by the measuring stick of Scripture and reject anything that conflicts with it? Or do you just take for granted that if someone is a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity, he must know what he’s talking about, and what you’re hearing or reading must be biblical Christianity?

If you didn’t know you need to examine what you’re being taught, or you’ve always just assumed that if someone calls herself a Christian teacher what she’s saying must be biblical, sadly, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the overwhelming majority of the visible church. I’ve been a faithful church member all my life and, to this day, in the churches I’ve attended, I’ve never heard a pastor or teacher proactively preach or teach this biblical concept. I was nearly forty when I “stumbled across” the concept of being a good Berean – through a para-church ministry.

What does it mean to be a Berean, or discerning, or to “test the spirits”?

The term “Berean” comes from a little story in Acts:

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
Acts 17:10-12

“Testing the spirits” comes from 1 John 4:1:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Some Christians have an extra measure of discernment – “distinguishing between spirits” – as a spiritual gift:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;…to another [is given] the ability to distinguish between spirits,
1 Corinthians 12:4,10b

But all of these passages have the same foundational concept. All Christians are to believe what rightly handled, in context Scripture teaches, and reject whatever contradicts it. Although it is the responsibility of our pastors and church leaders to teach and lead us to distinguish between true and false doctrine, we are not to depend solely on others to “do discernment” for us. We need to learn how to be good Bereans ourselves.

How do we go about that?

1.
Accept the fact that false doctrine/false teachers exist.

I know that sounds uber basic, even for “Basic Training,”, but there are many professing Christians who reject the idea that a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity – especially their personal favorite – could be a false teacher. If someone has gotten a job as a pastor, has a seminary degree, has thousands of followers on social media, or has a major Christian retailer promoting her conferences and selling her materials, what that person is saying must be biblical. Accepting the fact that false doctrine (teachings that conflict with Scripture) and false teachers (people who teach false doctrine) exist is the first hurdle a Christian has to get over in order to ultimately be a good, obedient to Scripture, Berean.

False teachers and false doctrine have been around since the birth of the church. Don’t believe me? Take a stroll through the New Testament. You’ll find that every single book (except Philemon) deals with false teachers or false doctrine in some way. It’s a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments. To deny that false teachers and false doctrine exist is to call God – the author of Scripture – a liar.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
2 Peter 2:1-3a

2.
Understand why discernment is important.

As with many things in Christianity, there is a spectrum of false doctrine. Some doctrines are so integral to salvation that if you believe falsely about them, you are not a Christian (regardless of what you think, feel, or call yourself) and you will spend eternity in Hell.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 1:6-9

Some false doctrines aren’t integral to salvation, but will warp and hinder your relationship with Christ and stunt your Christian growth. As an example of this, I’ve often cited the false teaching that prayer is a “two-way conversation” (you talk to God and then He talks back to you). I was once a victim of this false teaching, and because I wasn’t hearing God speak to me I suffered all kinds of anxiety: wondering if I was truly saved, feverishly trying to dig out the hidden sin that must be there preventing me from hearing from God, lamenting my lack of faith that kept me separated from Him, and so forth.

But more important than the way false doctrine affects you or me personally is that God commands that we reject what conflicts with His written Word. Because God’s Word is objective truth, anything that stands in opposition to it is a lie. And Satan is the father of lies, even if the person telling those lies claims to be a Christian. To knowingly believe false doctrine is to reject God in favor of Satan. It is disobedience. It is calling God a liar. It robs God of the glory and honor due His name.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Romans 16:17-18

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15

3.
Submit to Christ and His Word as your authority in life.

If you have been genuinely regenerated, you are a new creature in Christ. You are no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to Christ. That means Christ is your Master. He gets to run your life and tell you what to do (including the command to reject false doctrine/teachers), not you, and you are under obligation to obey Him to the best of your Holy Spirit empowered ability. How do you find out what He wants you to do, believe, think, and say? He wrote it all down for you in the Bible. The Bible is Our Authority.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Romans 6:16-19

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3

4.
Be a student of the Word.

As obedient servants of Christ, we’re to be students of the Word by default. This is how we get to know Christ better and learn how to obey and emulate Him. But an awesome side effect of being good students of the Bible is that it makes being a good Berean who “examines the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so” much easier. If you’re studying God’s Word, memorizing God’s Word, meditating on God’s Word, praying God’s Word, and applying God’s Word to your life, it’s going to be there in your heart, at the ready, so that when you hear teaching you can do a quick mental comparison to Scripture and know whether to accept or reject that teaching.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11

5.
Where does the Bible say that?
Does the Bible really say that?

These simple questions are two of the most important tools in your Berean toolbox. If you hear a pastor say, “God wants you to be wealthy!” or your favorite women’s Bible study author writes, “God told me ________.”, the question you should be asking is, “Where does the Bible – rightly handled, and in proper context – say that?”

Sometimes a pastor or teacher will read or quote a passage, verse, or part of a verse, (sometimes from a faulty translation or paraphrase of the Bible) and give an explanation of what it means. Again, your question should be similar: “Does the Bible – rightly handled and in context – really say that?”

If you don’t already have the appropriate passages “stored up in your heart”, grab your trustworthy translation of the Bible and a good concordance and start studying. Make sure to study the context of the verses you look up. Who was the original audience of this verse? Is this verse addressing Christians or Old Testament Israel or someone else? Is it a command, or a promise, or a simple description of something that happened in history? In other words, find out what the Bible properly says about the teaching you’ve just heard. If the teaching matches up with what the Bible teaches, do what those Bereans did – “receive it with all eagerness.” If it doesn’t, chuck it.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

6.
Learn to discern.

Sometimes, when you’re learning a new skill, one of the best ways to get a feel for it is to watch an expert do it. I highly recommend listening to Chris Rosebrough’s podcast, Fighting for the Faith, if you’re new to this whole idea of comparing teaching to Scripture. At least until you feel confident in doing it yourself. A major portion of Chris’s program is playing the audio of various teachings and sermons and breaking in with thought-provoking biblical questions, comments, and Scriptures. You’ll learn how and when to ask, “Where does the Bible say that?” and “Does the Bible really say that?”, how to examine Scripture in context, and what some of the common false teachings of the day are.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Ephesians 4:11-14

7.
Sometimes false doctrine is an honest mistake.

It could be a mistake on your part (especially if you’re just starting to learn your Bible and about discernment). Maybe you weren’t careful to look at the context of the Scripture you’re examining. Maybe you misunderstood its meaning. Maybe you misunderstood what the pastor, teacher, or author said or meant.

It could also be a mistake on your pastor’s, Sunday School teacher’s, or other Christian leader’s part. People are human and make mistakes even though they don’t mean to. Maybe your pastor just flubbed his words in the sermon and didn’t say what he actually meant to say. Maybe your Sunday School teacher thinks she has a biblical understanding of baptism, or peace, or evangelism because that’s what she was taught in church growing up, and just doesn’t realize what she’s saying conflicts with Scripture.

Does the person you think has taught false doctrine generally have a track record of acting biblically and teaching sound doctrine? Go to him kindly, humbly, and politely, and ask for clarification with the appropriate Scriptures at the ready. Does he readily admit he messed up and align himself with Scripture? Teachability, humility, and eagerness to submit to Scripture are some of the hallmarks of a doctrinally sound teacher who made an isolated honest mistake. Someone who digs her heels in and clings to false doctrine despite correction – that’s a false teacher, not an innocent mistake (see #7 here).

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
Acts 18:24-28

8.
Put your feelings aside and be objective.

You’ve weighed your favorite Bible study author’s teaching in the balance of Scripture and she’s been found wanting.

But you love her. You’ve been following her for years. You’ve gobbled up all her books and attended her conferences. You feel like you know her personally. Sadly, it’s at this point that many professing Christian women reject what Scripture says about their favorite teacher in favor of their emotional “bond” with her. Tragically, their bond with that teacher is stronger than their bond with Christ.

If your highest loyalty is to Christ, you won’t do that. You will cut off your right hand or gouge out your right eye to be true to Him and His teaching. The call to follow Christ is a call to die. Death to self, death to worldliness, death to relationships, even death to physical life sometimes.

Rejecting that false teacher might seem hard, but you must put your feelings for her aside and do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, not what is right in your own eyes. Anyone who loves someone else more than Christ is not worthy of Him.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37-38

Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

Being a good Berean is a skill many Christians aren’t aware of and don’t know they desperately need, but being a good student of God’s Word, and yielding your highest loyalty to Christ in what you believe, will grow you to greater Christlikeness and bring you joy, peace, and spiritual maturity.

Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

Can you believe it’s been almost two whole years since I published a 4R?

Some of you are like, “What’s a 4R? Does it come with French fries or a house salad?”

No, silly rabbit. It’s just shorter than writing out “Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources”. Try to keep up.

If you’re new to the blog or your memory is so terrible that you don’t have the capacity to commit every microscopic nuance of my blog to memory…

…I have a Google Docs file I’ve entitled “Scratch Pad”. Whenever I get a good idea for an article, I jot down the gist of it there. Then, when it’s one of those “meh” weeks when I’m not overwhelmingly passionate about anything in particular, or when I just want to address several small things rather than one big thing, I can thumb through those ideas for some inspiration. And sometimes, I throw in some announcements, updates, and other stuff, too.

So – if you’re tracking – 4R is basically stuff and things and whatnot and such.

And GIFs. Wonderful, wonderful GIFs.

OK, enough chit chat. Let’s get this party started…

Sold Out, But Keep An Eye Out

Finally. Finally, finally, FINALLY – hallelujah! – G3 Ministries is holding its first ever Expository Teaching Workshop for Women… and I’m sorry to tell you…it’s already sold out. Like, within just a few days of them barely announcing it at all. That’s how many godly women desperately want to be trained to properly teach God’s Word to other women and children.

Why am I telling you this if it’s sold out? Because I’m hoping G3 will continue to hold more of these in the future and I want you to be able to go! My advice? Connect with G3 (follow them on social media, get the app, sign up for their email list, etc.) so you’ll be one of the first to know when the next workshop will be held, and register immediately when it’s announced.

(If you managed to get registered for this one before it sold out, I will see you there!)

I Do It Myself

“I do it myself.”

Whether you’re a mom, an aunt, a grandmother, or babysitter, you’ve heard a toddler say this at some point. Maybe he’s trying to put on a sock, or she’s trying to fit a puzzle piece into a puzzle. We’re standing right there, ready and able to show them how to do it or do it for them, and yet, “I do it myself.”. That child would rather struggle with that sock or puzzle piece for five, ten, fifteen minutes than let us help.

Why?

Because that child knows something about life that we don’t know about Bible study. “I do it myself” brings with it rewards that having someone show you, or do it for you, just doesn’t. It brings with it the joy of figuring it out for yourself, the satisfaction of accomplishment, the firsthand learning that sticks with you that spoon feeding just doesn’t bring.

That child doesn’t want you breathing down his neck. He will fight you off if you try to help. Because he knows that “I do it myself” is better. That child grows past the milk of spoon feeding, and someone else showing him how, or doing it for him, to the meat of growing in maturity and independence and self-feeding.

Why is it that so many Christians never grow past the milk of someone spoon feeding them Bible study to the “I do it myself” of studying straight from the text of Scripture?

“I do it myself” is a normal part of child development. If a child never moved into the “I do it myself” stage we would consider that child unhealthy. We would take him to the doctor to find out what’s wrong. Why don’t we see that as unhealthy in our spiritual lives, in our Bible study lives?

We need to learn this concept when it comes to individual Bible study. Canned studies, a “mommy” breathing down your neck, showing you how to do it, or doing it for you, gets in the way of what you can learn – what God can uniquely tailor to you as an individual – when you do it yourself.

Yes, you may struggle. Yes, there will be trial and error. Yes, you probably won’t know what you’re doing at first. But that is part of the learning process. You can’t gain mastery of a skill if you never attempt to do it by yourself. And when it comes to mastering the skill of Bible study, the joy is not in, “Look at me, I did it all by myself!” but in, “Wow! God really did speak to me through His Word! Look how God has grown me! God showed me this great and amazing thing!”.

God gets the glory. We rejoice in His work in us through His Word. That joy is absent, and can never be achieved, when someone else is showing us how or doing it for us. It’s a joy we’ll never experience without “I do it myself.”

And speaking of Bible studies…

I know, I know, normally by this time of the year I’ve already started our new spring Bible study on the blog. That’s because, normally, sometime around October-ish, I’ve already prayerfully decided what book, passage, or topic the study is going to center on, and I’ve started my preparatory study and writing.

This year, for whatever reason God may have ordained, I have really struggled to settle down on the subject of our next study. I have been back and forth and forth and back in prayer about a number of different ideas.

Late last week, I started working on what I thought would be the right passage for the study, but it still just didn’t feel right. You know, like when you accidentally put your left shoe on your right foot? It’s still a good shoe, it’s just in the wrong place at the moment. And I started thinking… “What about a topical study on discernment? Maybe that would be a good idea.”. Several passages started coming to mind, but I didn’t have time to give it much thought…

…until a few hours later, when a reader emailed me looking for a Bible study on -you guessed it- discernment.

So I got up yesterday morning, and I started studying and sketching out an outline, and this time the shoe fit. I need a little time to study, so we won’t be starting right away, but our next Bible study will be a topical study on the subject of biblical discernment.

I debated whether or not to share that experience with y’all, because a lot of evangelicals would say that was “God ‘speaking’ to me”.

It wasn’t.

There was no Divine voice. There were no words. (That’s what the word “speaking” means. Words mean things.) God no longer talks to people directly the way He spoke to our fathers before us.

That was God answering my prayers for wisdom and guidance. That was God providentially arranging circumstances in His perfect timing. That was God helping me make up my mind.

God’s normal providence is wonderful.

Flashback (I hope)

Well, here’s a blast from the fairly recent past that ought to just bless your socks right off your little tootsies. Occasionally, I dabble (read: goof off) in various forms of creative writing. Here’s a little ditty I wrote (to be sung in your head to the tune of The Beatles’ Yesterday) a couple of years ago during that which shall not be named. Have fun. :0)

Quarantine

Quarantine

It’s a result of COVID-19

Stay at home and simply do nothing

Oh I am tired of quarantine

Quarantine

I can only see friends on a screen

But work is now a pants-less Zoom meeting

There are some perks to quarantine

Toilet paper’s gone

And from church we stay away😭

I’ve gained 20 pounds

From Netflix and snacks all day

Quarantine

Many weeks of social distancing

Wash your hands and cover when coughing

We’ll see an end to quarantine 

We will survive this quarantine😃

There’s a song in the air…

I really enjoy listening to these brothers. I get a kick out of the fact that they’re doing Southern gospel all the way over in India. (Maybe they’re in southern India! :0) But they sing other styles, too. Check out the Living Stones Quartet’s channel!

Complementarianism, Rock Your Role

The Mailbag: Questions about the role of women in the church

A reader recently left a comment containing numerous questions on my article Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Her individual questions are in bold type below with my answers in regular type.

If you have questions about the role of women in the church, I recommend not only that article, but all of the articles in my Rock Your Role series. Jill, Rock Your Role FAQs, and The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism seem to answer the questions I’m asked the most, so you may want to start with those.


some honest questions here

Thanks for asking. I hope my answers will help. I’d like to preface my answers with some biblical information I hope will be helpful to all of my readers when addressing questions and issues like this:

You did not say whether or not you are a genuinely regenerated Christian, nor was I able to infer from your questions whether or not you are. This is going to be crucial to your understanding and accepting the biblical answers I’m about to give you, because Scripture makes clear to us that people who aren’t saved do not embrace the things of God. They aren’t even able to understand them in any meaningful way.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

Scripture is also clear that those who belong to Christ will obey His written Word, while those who do not belong to Christ -even if they claim to be Christians- don’t obey His written Word.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:3-6

Sometimes when we read hard truths in the Bible, we initially struggle to accept them, but genuinely born again Christians are on a general trajectory of increasing in their love for, understanding of, and submission to God’s written Word. False converts (unsaved people who think they’re saved) and unsaved people are on the opposite trajectory and increasingly disdain, harden their hearts against, and rebel against God’s written Word.

If, in examining your own heart, you (or someone else reading this) find yourself on that second trajectory regarding this or any other biblical issue, let me offer you some resources that will help and that are much more urgent for you than the issue of the role of women in the church:

What must I do to be saved? (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) You must repent and believe the biblical gospel.

Am I Really Saved? A First John Check-Up If you’re not really sure whether or not you’re saved, you may find it helpful to work through my Bible study on 1 John.

Searching for a new church? (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) If you’re saved, you need to be a faithful, invested member of a doctrinally sound local church. Among many other things, that’s where you’ll learn the biblical answers to questions like the ones you’ve asked below.

As I said in the Jill article:

Godly women don’t look for ways to get around Scripture.
Godly women look for ways to obey Scripture.

If you already know Christ as Savior, awesome! It’s wonderful that you’re asking questions and learning more about Scripture so you can grow in Him.

Now, let’s tackle your specific questions…


—if the letter to Timothy was a letter to him and we are reading his mail, then what about the other NT letters written to the various churches? Are we also not reading their mail and what God was meaning for them to do?

I would encourage you to read that paragraph again carefully. I’ve bold-typed some of the more salient points:

First Timothy (along with 2 Timothy and Titus) is one of the pastoral epistles. It was written by Paul to young pastor Timothy as sort of a job description and operations manual for pastors, elders, and the church. So right off the bat, an important point we often miss about 1 Timothy is that it was written to a man, Timothy, a pastor, who would use this letter to train his elders (also men) and, subsequently, his congregation. That doesn’t mean that 1 Timothy doesn’t apply to women, or shouldn’t be studied by women, or that women aren’t required to obey 1 Timothy. It just means that when we open the letter of 1 Timothy, we need to understand that we, as women, are reading somebody else’s mail. Mail that pertains to us, yes, but mail that’s addressed to Timothy, and by extension, to pastors and elders today. That will help us better understand the tone and perspective of the passage.

So, you could think of it like this: the pastoral epistles (1&2 Timothy and Titus) have three “levels,” if you will, of who they’re addressed to: a) immediate: Timothy and Titus, b) by extension: all other / subsequent pastors and elders, c) with application to every church, Christian group, and individual Christian.

The other epistles, generally speaking, have two “levels” of who they’re addressed to: a) immediate: a specific church or people group of Christians (the church at Colossae, the church at Ephesus, etc.) b) by extension: all other / subsequent churches, groups of Christians, and Christian individuals.

There’s a sense in which, from Genesis through Revelation, we’re “reading somebody else’s mail,” because we were not alive when any of the books of the Bible were written, so we were not the original audience of any of Scripture. That being said, the Bible is still God’s word to us, through those original audiences. All of it, when correctly handled, applies to us in one or more ways, and we are required to obey God’s commands, instructions, laws, and teachings to New Testament Christians, no matter where in the Bible they are located.


—What about women who are called to preach? Like slave Sojourner Truth and 2 quaker women called to preach against slavery in the south USA civil war times. Were they wrong? sinning? going against scripture?

I don’t know who the Quaker women are that you’ve referred to, and I’m not overly familiar Sojourner Truth or any of her “sermons,” but I think you may be conflating and confusing a few things here. Let’s see if we can untangle them.

  1. As I mentioned in my preface remarks, just because someone claims to be a Christian (or history has led us to believe they were Christians) does not mean they have actually been born again. I don’t know whether or not any of these women were truly Believers, and neither do you. Sojourner said and did some things that might cause one to wonder, and, while there could be individuals who get saved while still in Quakerism, the Quaker belief system, generally speaking, is not biblical, and therefore, not Christian.
  2. Making civil speeches against slavery (or on any other topic) is not “preaching” even if the speech maker or others called it preaching. “Preaching” is defined by Scripture alone, not by culture or common parlance. Preaching is the proclamation of God’s rightly handled, written Word for the edification of the church.
  3. If any of these women were actually preaching – proclaiming God’s Word or exhorting people from God’s Word – in a co-ed gathering, then yes, they were “wrong, sinning, and going against Scripture” because God’s written Word prohibits women from doing that as I explained at length in the Jill article. And when God’s written Word says not to do something and we do it anyway, that’s called sin.
  4. God doesn’t call women to preach or pastor. God has never called a single, solitary woman to preach. Ever. First, because God doesn’t give extra-biblical revelation like that. He tells us exactly who He has called to preach (and who He hasn’t) in 1 Timothy 2:11-3:7 and Titus 1:5-9. Second, because, even if He did give extra-biblical revelation, God is not a man that He should lie or change His mind, and He already told us in His Word that women aren’t to pastor, preach to, or teach men, or exercise authority over men in the gathering of the church body.

—Paul gives “commands” about operating under patriarchy and slavery, both part of Roman society. He does not talk against either yet today we Christians abhor slavery but still support patriarchy. Why?

Because patriarchy was God’s design and command and antebellum American slavery wasn’t. I’m not totally sure exactly what you mean by Roman “patriarchy” and the “commands” Paul gave about it, which passages you’re referring to, or what all you many have in mind about patriarchy and slavery as you asked this question, so I can only give you a very general answer.

  • Instructing Christians on how to behave in a godly way when they’re in the middle of ungodly circumstances is not the same thing as God condoning or approving of those ungodly circumstances. There were many Christians who obeyed Scripture’s instructions while in concentration camps during World War II. That doesn’t mean God was in favor of concentration camps.
  • Antebellum American slavery was “man stealing” (which was a different type of slavery than that practiced during New Testament times), and is prohibited by Scripture.
  • Male headship was established by God at Creation and is continually buttressed and re-established throughout the Bible:

Look at the overall general pattern of male headship and leadership in Scripture. First human created? A man. The Patriarchs? As the word implies – all men. Priests, Levites, Scribes? Men. Heads of the twelve tribes of Israel? Men. Major and minor prophets? Men. All kings of Israel and Judah? Men. Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants? All established between God and men. Authors of Scripture? Men. The forerunner of Christ? John the Baptist – a man. Messiah? A man. All of the apostles? Men. All of the pastors, elders, and deacons of churches in the New Testament? Men. Founder and head of the church? Christ – a man. Leader and head of the family? Men. – from: The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism

Anyone – including the Romans of Paul’s time – who stepped outside of God’s commands regarding patriarchy and slavery was in sin.


—-in Ephesians 5:21 and following verses Paul tells 4 different groups to submit. He uses 2 different forms. For people and spouses he uses the form that means to submit as to one another. For children/slaves he uses the form that means to submit to an authority. Why weren’t women included under the same one as children/slaves?

I’m sorry, but this question is impossible to answer because neither slaves nor children are mentioned in Ephesians 5:21-33 (or even in 5:1-20). If by “following verses” you meant elsewhere in Ephesians or in other places in the New Testament, you should have specified those passages so I could look at them, understand what you’re talking about, and explain them to you in context.

I also don’t know where you’re getting your information about “two different forms” (of the word “submit,” I’m assuming), so I have no way of knowing whether or not that’s accurate, and since I don’t read Greek, and I suspect you don’t either, I prefer to stick to reliable English translations rendered by experts in the biblical languages.

All I can say is, since I don’t know which passages you’re referring to, I don’t know why, allegedly, two different forms of the word submit were used. All I can tell you is – you know whether or not you’re a wife, and you know what the English word “submit” means, and if you’re married, Scripture’s instruction to you in Ephesians 5:22-33 (and elsewhere in Scripture) is to submit to your husband.

There is nowhere in Scripture where husbands are commanded to submit to their wives or that husbands and wives are to “mutually submit” to one another. Many egalitarians try to make Ephesians 5:21 say that, but that is a twisting of Scripture. Notice that verse 21 isn’t even a complete sentence. If you read verse 21 in context (i.e. – read verses 1-21) it should be obvious that Paul is addressing the church, not married couples, and that verse 21 is referring to being unselfish and putting others in the church first. (Check your cross-references on that verse. One of them is probably Philippians 2:3.) See why I keep harping on “rightly handled Scripture”?


—-why do churches send women who say they are called to preach to the mission field?

Because they’re in sin. Those churches are either ignorant of Scripture’s commands about women preaching, or they’re in rebellion against those commands. Both are shameful, and both are sin.

If it is wrong here in the US for a woman to preach/pastor why is it ok in a foreign land?

It isn’t. If it’s a sin in the United States, it’s a sin in Kenya, Croatia, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Australia, Antarctica, and everywhere else on the planet (and off the planet if God ever allows humans to live on the moon or something like that).

—-why did Jesus break the rules about women? He talked with them, obeyed his mom at the party, let them learn of spiritual things, defended them, the woman at the well was the first evangelist and women were the first to see the empty tomb (all these things broke rules/laws about women and their testimonies were outlawed in that time and place) What was the point of doing this if women were going to be told they could not preach/teach and their only purpose to be wife/mom/homebodies? It does not make sense to me.

Where does the Bible say any of those things, though? Most of the things you’ve listed aren’t God’s law, they were secular law, Pharisaical law, or cultural custom, not commands of God. Jesus never broke any of God’s laws that are spelled out in the Bible. That would be sin, and we know Jesus never sinned. He wasn’t bound by man’s laws, and certainly not if they contradicted God’s Word. That’s why He and the Pharisees butted heads so often. They were trying to bind Him to their man-made laws (which often contradicted Scripture), which they sinfully equated to Scripture. By ignoring man-made laws and customs about women (while obeying God’s law about them) Jesus re-elevated the women He came into contact with to their rightful biblical place.

Let’s look:

  • “He talked with them…defended them” – There’s nothing in Scripture telling men they can’t talk to or defend women. Men talk to women all over the Bible and there are many places in Scripture where men are called upon to take up arms to defend women and children.
  • “Obeyed His mom at the party” – I assume you’re talking about the wedding at Cana. I just want to make sure we’re all understanding this correctly. From an earthly perspective, Jesus was obeying or acquiescing to His mother. However, Jesus, while fully man, was also fully God. He knew exactly what He was going to do next. Mary’s request was in line with His pre-ordained plan to turn the water into wine, and thus, in addition to the miracle, also gave Him an opportunity to set us an example of honoring His mother. Had she requested something that was not in line with His plan to turn the water into wine, He would have honored her in another way, but he would not have “obeyed” her request.
  • “Let them learn of spiritual things” – Not only does Scripture not prohibit women from learning spiritual things, women are commanded to “learn of spiritual things” from Genesis to Revelation. When Adam told Eve, “Hey, God said we can’t eat from this one tree right here,” that was a spiritual thing a woman learned. Deuteronomy 6:7 commanded the Israelites to teach God’s Word to their children, not just their sons. Ezra taught God’s law to “both men and women and all who could understand what they heard”. I also addressed this concept in the Jill article: First Timothy 2:11 (immediately before 2:12, which prohibits women from pastoring, preaching ,etc.) says “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” God (remember, Jesus is God) commanded pastors to make sure women had the opportunity to “learn of spiritual things”.
  • “the woman at the well was the first evangelist” – Welllll, technically, no. We don’t even know for sure if she was a Believer when she went back to town and told everyone to come see Jesus. But OK, let’s go with that for a minute. Again, Scripture doesn’t prohibit women from relaying the gospel to lost people they encounter, it commands it of all Christians. (If you’re not clear on the difference between evangelism and preaching/pastoring, listen here.)
  • “women were the first to see the empty tomb…their testimonies were outlawed in that time and place” – I know a woman’s testimony in court was considered unreliable, but I’m not positive it was actually “outlawed”. But even if it was, that would have been a secular law. God’s Word doesn’t outlaw it. Yes, perhaps Jesus allowed women to be the first eyewitnesses to His resurrection in part to honor these women who had followed Him so faithfully, and to demonstrate that the testimony of women isn’t unreliable just because they’re women.

What was the point of doing this if women were going to be told they could not preach/teach and their only purpose to be wife/mom/homebodies? It does not make sense to me.

Because, as I said, Jesus elevated women to their rightful biblical place. He didn’t lower them to the wrongful, unbiblical place of modern day feminism and its rebellion against Scripture.

But really listen to what you’re saying here. I hope you didn’t mean to do this, but you just dismissively swept aside God’s high, holy, good, and biblical calling on the lives of most Christian women to be godly wives and mothers and manage their households well for the glory of God.

“Their only purpose…” Seriously? I don’t mind telling you I’m personally offended that you just insulted what I’ve dedicated my heart, soul, and life to for the past 30 years. You’re saying it doesn’t matter because I wasn’t pastoring or preaching to men. Never mind that I continually poured God’s Word into the six beautiful children He blessed us with. Never mind that I’ve gotten up every day for three decades – with no pay or vacation time, mind you, 24/7/365 – and striven to be a godly example, encouragement, and helpmeet to my husband. Never mind that I’ve taught and discipled more women and children at my church than I can count. No, all of that is worthless because I wasn’t preaching to or teaching men. That women’s teaching is only valuable if they’re teaching men. You may not have meant that, but that’s the effect of what you said. I’m not trying to be unnecessarily harsh with you, I’m trying to give you just enough of a healthy, biblical sting that you’ll realize that you’ve been influenced more by what the world values for women than what God values for women.

Godly women honor and respect the high calling and unique gifting women have to disciple other women and to raise up the next generation of godly men and women by discipling our own, and other, children. Because this is such a weighty and arduous responsibility, we consider it a blessing that God has not also burdened us with the responsibility to preach, teach the Scriptures to men, or exercise authority over men in the context of the gathering of the church. Rather, we encourage the men who have been given this responsibility, leaving godly women free and unfettered to carry out the ministry God has given us. – from: The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism


I have so many more questions and seeking lots of help to find the answers. The scripture says to study to show yourself approved. I hope this applies to women too!

It absolutely does! I’m glad you’re asking questions and seeking to learn! And you’re right, as I’ve referred to throughout this article, 2 Timothy 2:15 says:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

As I said at the beginning, the best place to get your questions answered and to learn how to rightly handle Scripture is in a doctrinally sound local church. Ask a godly older woman in your church to disciple you. (Not sure what that’s all about? Listen here and here.) “Pester” your pastor (he’ll love it!). And study, study, study, directly from the text of Scripture (listen here, and check out the Bible studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page).

Thanks for any insight you can give me.

You are most welcome. It is my pleasure to serve you in Christ.


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.

Abortion

Abolition or Pro-Life?

Originally published June 8, 2022

Sanctity of Life Sunday is this Sunday, January 22.

Do you know the differences between the abolition movement and the pro-life movement? It’s a good thing for all Christians to be informed about.

Watch A Storm Comes Rolling Down the Plain, then listen in to our A Word Fitly Spoken interview with Brett Baggett, one of the key figures in the documentary.

I also thought this interview with Samuel Sey, Nathaniel Jolly, and Ekkie Tepsupornchai on the Truth Be Known podcast was insightful and helpful:

Abortion, Basic Training

Basic Training: Abortion

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Sunday, January 22, is Sanctity of Life Sunday.

Originally published February 8, 2019

I rarely write on abortion. But it’s not because I don’t feel strongly about it. It’s because it seems like it should be a given. That Christians shouldn’t have to be told that we don’t support abortion any more than we have to be told to breathe or eat. When I think about writing about abortion, I think, “What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said a million times, and by people who have more experience in this arena than I do?”.

But the more I look out over the landscape of contemporary Christianity, the more I realize we can’t take any aspect of theology for granted. Because when we take the basics for granted, they don’t get taught to the next generation and we end up assuming they know things they don’t actually know. And that’s on us – those of us who knew and didn’t properly and explicitly train those who came behind us.

So if you’re recently saved and you’ve just walked in to this brand new, unfamiliar, and counter-intuitive worldview of biblical Christianity, or if you grew up around some form of evangelicalism but nobody ever took the time to sit you down and teach you properly, let’s look at some of the basics about abortion.

🍼 Abortion is murder. When you intentionally and unjustly end an innocent human life, that is murder. Abortion takes a living human being (it’s not a chicken or a hippo or a platypus) and intentionally and unjustly causes the death (causes heart, brain, and all other organ functions to cease) of said human being. That’s not even a theological argument, that’s a medical fact.

🍼 A baby in utero is not part of the “mother’s body.” The pro-abortion side often makes comments like, “No one has the right to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body.” This argument is beneath the intelligence of most of the people who make it for a couple of reasons: 

First, we tell men, women, and children what they can and can’t do with their bodies all the time. Children can’t use their bodies to drive a car or serve in the military. Men can’t use their bodies to rape. Women can’t use their bodies for prostitution. People can’t sell their kidneys for transplant. See how that works?

Second, this isn’t the twelfth, or fifteenth, or eighteenth century. Modern science has left in the dust any notion that a baby is an appendage of his mother’s body like her arm or her liver. Pre-born babies have their own unique DNA, blood type, heartbeat, organ systems, and so on. When we say a woman shouldn’t have an abortion, we aren’t telling a woman what to do with her own body … except in the sense that we are telling her she can’t use her body to murder someone else. (Which, technically, is already a law that pertains to both men and women.) A pre-born baby may be dependent on his mother for food, shelter, and care, but so is her two-year-old, and, so far, no one is using that line of reasoning to suggest it’s OK to kill a child of that age. Yet.

And, finally, if you’re a genuinely regenerated Christian who is holding on to the “my body my choice” mantra, your body, your life, and your eternity were bought and paid for by Christ. He owns you, and He has every right to tell you what to do with your body. It doesn’t matter one whit what people say you can or can’t do.

If you’re a genuinely regenerated Christian who is holding on to the “my body my choice” mantra, you were bought and paid for by Christ. He owns you and has every right to tell you what to do with your body.

🍼 Abortion is never necessary to save the mother’s life. Numerous OB/GYNs and other medical professionals have stated this publicly. In cases in which the mother’s life and/or health are at stake (including ectopic pregnancies), the biblical and medically ethical approach is to make every attempt to save both the mother and child (which can often be done through early delivery, not abortion). If the child dies during the attempt to save him and his mother, that is a grievous tragedy, but it is not an abortion. Abortion is the intentional, proactive killing of a child.

Abortion is NEVER necessary to save the mother’s life.

🍼 Medical care for miscarriage and stillbirth is not an abortion. Saying that it is is like saying that burying someone who has died is the same as murdering that person. In a miscarriage and stillbirth, the baby has already died in utero of natural or accidental causes. Abortion is proactively and intentionally killing a living pre-born baby.

Medical care for miscarriage and stillbirth is NOT an abortion.

🍼 Rape and incest are horrible sins that no one should ever be subjected to, but in the tiny number of pregnancies that result from these heinous crimes, we do not execute the child for the sin of his father. The Bible is clear on that. And the practical results of obeying this biblical mandate bear out its truth. The overwhelming majority of women who get an abortion after having been raped regret it and say it caused additional trauma, while women who go through with their pregnancies after rape do not.

The overwhelming majority of women who get an abortion after having been raped regret it and say it caused additional trauma.

🍼 Because abortion is murder, it is a sin. If you have ever performed, assisted in, encouraged, or received an abortion, you have committed the sin of murder. You are a murderer. It is good and right for you to feel guilty about that and to grieve over both the sinful person you are who has offended a holy God, and to grieve for the life of your baby. Don’t try to skip feeling your guilt and grief over this sin. It’s a vital part of the process of dealing with it biblically and in an emotionally healthy way.

🍼 If you’re counseling someone post-abortion, I know it can be painful to watch, but you must let her process through the guilt that comes with this sin. Don’t immediately skip ahead to forgiveness. She can’t get to repentance and forgiveness if she has nothing to repent of and ask forgiveness for. 

🍼 Also if you’re counseling someone post-abortion, do not just give her blanket absolution. I recently heard a pastor (with the best of intentions, I’m sure) stand in the pulpit and rightly call abortion a sin, and also rightly offer women Christ’s forgiveness of that sin. But he skipped the middle part where you have to confess and repent of your sin and ask Christ for forgiveness. That’s not a step that can be skipped for abortion or any other sin.

🍼 If you repent of the sin of abortion, Christ will forgive you and make you clean. He delights to cleanse the foulest of sinners and welcome them into His Kingdom with open arms of grace and mercy. Trust Him to keep His promise to forgive you.

🍼 Christians should support doctrinally sound anti-abortion endeavors. Volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers, donating to anti-abortion causes and services, adopting, housing and providing for pregnant women who need assistance, supporting Christian orphanages, etc. Just be discerning and check out the theology of the organization first.

🍼 Christians should not join with apostate “churches” or other religions in anti-abortion causesThe Bible is absolutely clear that we are not to partner in ministry endeavors with unbelievers, especially those who claim to be Christians or teach false doctrine(Yes, this includes Catholics. They may be very nice people and they’ve been fighting against abortion for a long time, but Catholic doctrine as contained in church documents teaches many false and anti-biblical doctrines including anathematizing {condemning to hell} those who hold to the biblical teaching of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Those who hold to such doctrines are not Christians despite what they may claim.) Partnering with unbelievers who claim to be Christians is an even more dangerous sin than abortion because it confuses people about what salvation is and muddies the gospel. It sends the message that you can believe things contrary to Scripture and still be saved, and that is a message that sends people to an eternity in Hell. Plus, it doesn’t make any sense to commit one sin in order to fight against another sin. That is not God’s way nor is it in keeping with His Word.

🍼 For Christians, abortion should be our highest priority litmus test when it comes to deciding which candidate to vote for. If you’re willing to have children murdered so you can get more money back in your tax refund, or better highways, or more social programs, or whatever, your attitude is anti-Christ. Where would we be if Jesus had had such a selfish, self-serving worldview? Christianity says, “I’ll lay down my life for you,” not, “You lay down your life for me.”. Besides, if your candidate is so ensconced in evil that he advocates murdering children, he won’t think twice about a lesser sin like breaking the very campaign promises that caused you to vote for him in the first place.

🍼 Pastors, youth pastors, and teachers in our churches need to clearly and proactively preach and teach what the Bible says about sex and abortion through the lens of the gospel. Having a largely regenerate congregation will prevent abortions primarily through girls and women getting saved, but having a gospel-saturated culture in your church will also encourage those who do sin sexually and get pregnant to reach out to a brother or sister – instead of an abortion clinic – for help.

🍼 God is the creator, sustainer, and giver of life. If He values life so much, how can we who claim to be His followers treat a human life as inconvenient, cheap, and expendable when it suits our own selfish purposes?

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Psalm 127:3

Abortion is the murder of a human being. You cannot support that at any level if you truly belong to Christ. If you’re a Christian, you must submit your attitudes and actions regarding abortion to the teaching of Scripture, and obey God’s Word.


Additional Resources:

Guest Post ~ On the Subject of Abortion

Abolition or Pro-Life?

Rescue Those

Free the States