Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Calvinism, Baptism, Modesty…)

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!


I was very troubled by a recent stance the discernment ministry Lighthouse Trails has taken – calling Calvinism heresy – and wondered if you had seen it. It’s one thing to just have a difference of opinion on Calvinism, but to put it this category?¹

Yes, I saw it when they made the big announcement on social media a few months ago. I expressed my disappointment to LT and have decided, going forward, not to use their materials or point readers to them as a trustworthy resource. There are several reasons for this:

1. The tone used in most of the LT anti-Calvinist posts, comments, and articles was derisive and condemnatory at best. There is no place for that among Believers, regardless of their stance on Calvinism (frequent readers will note I don’t recommend Reformed resources that take this sort of tone either).

2. It was clear from the LT materials I read that they don’t even have a complete and accurate understanding of what Calvinism is. Indeed, some of what they addressed was not Calvinism (which is biblical Christianity) but Hyper-Calvinism (which is heresy). That does not speak well of a discernment ministry. You must have a correct understanding of a doctrine before attempting to address it biblically, especially if you’re going to come to the conclusion that something is “another gospel” (heresy) as LT did with Calvinism.

3. Addressing a doctrine they haven’t thoroughly researched, as well as anathematizing something that is clearly biblical Christianity (even if they don’t agree with it), calls the discernment and biblical understanding of the entire organization into question and casts doubt on LT’s previous and future evaluations of doctrine. In other words, if they’re going to make this egregious an error over such a simple – and settled – biblical construct, how can any of their conclusions on other, more nuanced aspects of theology be trusted?

Here are some additional resources you may find helpful:

What is Calvinism? by Maurice Roberts

Calvinism & the Bible by Brian Godawa

What’s the Difference Between Arminianism, Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism? by Tom Ascol

Calvinism Is Not Hyper-Calvinism by Josh Buice


I had viewed the Gospel Message video embedded on your site and had concern for the presentation. It is apparent you have hermeneutical concern for today’s God study, so I wanted to clarify what your view may be on baptism.

I hold to a Reformed Southern Baptist, credo-baptist understanding of baptism. You can find further details at these links:

Statement of Faith (tab at top of this page)

Basic Training: Baptism

(Remember, the search bar and the tabs at the top of the blog are your friends! :0)


I have only recently come to understand 1 Timothy 2:12. However, why do we so passionately receive verse 12, yet neglect verse 9? Why do people choose which parts of the Bible to obey?

No Christian should be making a conscious choice to disobey any command(s) of Scripture that pertains to Christians. Willful disobedience is sin which needs to be repented of, and might even indicate that the person is not saved. Genuinely regenerated Christians desire from the heart to keep God’s commands.

I am not sure whether your question is based on your own church (or local churches you’re familiar with) in which women embrace their biblical roles but are dressing immodestly, or if you’re seeing a lot of attention focused on verse 12 (in books, online articles, conferences, organizations, sermons, social media, etc.) and not as much on verse 9.

If it’s the latter, I would say that you’re seeing a lot of attention focused on verse 12 rather than verse 9 for the same reason you see firemen hosing down a house that’s on fire rather than hosing down one that’s not. When the day comes that celebrity “Christian” women get up on stage dressed immodestly, write books about how dressing immodestly is perfectly biblical, form organizations to push the immodest dress agenda, hold conferences extolling immodest dress, and encourage other women to dress immodestly as they worship, I think you’ll see the same kind of pushback with verse 9 that you’re seeing now with verse 12.

If what you’re asking about is women at your church who embrace their biblical roles but seem not to be obeying verse 9, first make sure you have a correct understanding of what verse 9 is talking about:

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair
and gold or pearls or costly attire,

a) The context of 1 Timothy, including chapter 2, is instructions for the gathering of the church. So, while Christian women should dress in a way that glorifies God at all times simply because we belong to Christ, this particular verse is about how we dress for church, not for a gala, the beach, or the gym.

b) “Braided hair and gold or pearls” are examples – much like head coverings – of specific things that were considered immodest in the time and culture in which 1 Timothy was written. If a woman comes to your church with her hair in a French braid or wearing an understated pearl necklace, she is not necessarily dressing immodestly. There is nothing intrinsically immodest about gold, pearls, or braids, but rather the meaning a culture attaches to them or the statement they make in a particular venue.

c) The term “modest” has more than one meaning in this verse. It does mean to dress in a way that is not sexually provocative (“respectable apparel”). But in the same way we would use the phrase “a modest income” or “a modest home”, it also means to dress in a way that’s not flashy (which, in the first century meant bling like gold, pearls, and extravagantly braided hairstyles), and that doesn’t attempt call attention to yourself or show off your wealth (“costly attire”).

So, in this sense, a woman who walks into the average American church wearing a dress she got at Target is probably not dressing immodestly, whereas a woman who walks in wearing uber-expensive designer clothes, shoes, and handbag, and dripping with jewels probably is, necklines and hemlines notwithstanding. That goes for outlandish apparel or clothing that’s meant to grab attention as well. If your hair is three shades of green and fashioned into a unicorn horn, that’s going to be immodest in most churches. If you walk into church wearing scuba gear or a space suit, that also fits what this verse means by immodest.

In a nutshell, we’re to fit in, not to be a distraction from worship with our clothes and coifs. You are not supposed to be the center of attention in church, God is.

If this is an issue with the women of your church in general, or with one woman in particular, set up an appointment with your pastor and get some counsel from him on the best way to address the situation.


I have a bone to pick with you.

This is a verbatim quote of the opening line of the reader’s e-mail. Normally, I would just hit “delete” without giving such rudeness the time of day, but I thought I’d make an example of it instead. Ladies, rudeness and displays of self-centered anger dishonor Christ, and if you’re e-mailing someone like me who struggles against the sin of impatience, you’re not only tempting a sister in Christ to sin, but you’re probably not going to get a hearing.

I have personally known [female Bible teacher you’ve written about] for over 30 years.

The name of the teacher is irrelevant, but it is not someone I’ve warned against nor whom I consider a false teacher. Additionally, this reader bases her defense of said Bible teacher (below) on knowing her personally and on the reader’s personal opinions and experiences, not on what Scripture says, which does not speak well of what she has learned from the Bible teacher. I don’t think the reader’s rudeness or her lack of biblical understanding are a fair representation of this particular teacher, so that’s another reason I’m leaving her name out.

She gets permission from her husband and her pastor [and the male head of her ministry] before she teaches with men in the audience…I have met some of the men on the board and they have no problem [with her] lecturing with men in the audience.

Please point me to the passage of Scripture, chapter and verse, that says a husband, pastor, or ministry head or board can give a woman permission to do something God has prohibited. No one has the authority to say “yes” where God has said “no.” I’ve addressed in detail this idea of a woman teaching men “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority” in my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.

Additionally, it does not matter how many people give approval to something or how important they are – that is not what makes something right or biblical. God is the arbiter of right and wrong, biblical and unbiblical, not people.

When you see the men in audience she is giving a lecture not teaching.

But you just said in the previous sentence, “She gets permission from her husband and her pastor before she teaches with men in the audience.” Which is it?

Furthermore, it doesn’t matter whether you call it preaching, teaching, lecturing, sharing, proclaiming, exhorting, or delivering a soliloquy, if it’s instructing men in the Scriptures in the gathered body of Believers, it violates 1 Timothy 2:12, and it’s sin.

The men chose to listen to [her] lead the lectures.

That’s true. That means that they are also guilty of violating 1 Timothy 2:12, not that they are guilty and she is not.

You need to come to [one of this Bible teacher’s events]. You will see what is actually being done and said.

When I wrote the article you read about this Bible teacher, I provided videos of her teaching, quotes from her materials, and other objective, verifiable evidence of what she says, does, and teaches. That’s not “what is actually being done and said”?

I am basing my evaluation of this teacher’s words and actions on Scripture, not on my personal experience. I don’t need to be physically present at one of her events in order to do that.

[This Bible teacher] and other teachers: When [this Bible teacher] gets an invitation to speak she asks God if she should do it or not. So you need to ask God if [she] is sinning because she only goes wherever God sends her.

I believe what the reader is addressing here is that I have pointed out as unbiblical that the Bible teacher in question has joined in ministry activities with demonstrably false teachers.

God has given us His written Word. Whatever He might subjectively “tell” us in prayer does not override what He has objectively told us in the Bible. God gave His answer to her question about 2,000 years ago in 2 John 9-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, and many other passages. If someone is invited to partner in ministry with false teachers, her answer is to be “no.” God is not “sending her” to partner with false teachers because He has already instructed her not to do that in His written Word. And if she is so learned in the Scriptures that she’s qualified to be a Bible teacher, she should already know that without having to ask Him. And if you’ve known her for thirty years, she should have taught you that by now as well. I don’t need to “ask God if she is sinning,” I only have to open my Bible and read what He’s already said about it.

Before you say anything about a Christian speaker you need to do more research and go to that ministry personally.

“More research” meaning, “keep researching until you agree with me”? I did multiple hours of research on the article you read. I sufficiently substantiated every point I made with Scripture and accurate, verifiable evidence from the teacher’s own words and actions.

As I previously stated, my conclusions about the Bible teacher are not based on my personal experience, so there is no need for me to visit the ministry in person. If you’re alluding to Matthew 18:15-20, that passage does not apply to commenting on and evaluating a teacher’s publicly available statements and materials as I’ve explained in detail in my article Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections (#1).


¹Please note, I do not participate in, nor provide a forum in the comments section for, Calvinism-Arminianism debates. Please refer to the Welcome tab (top of this page) for comment guidelines before commenting.

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.

Christian women, Complementarianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women to carry out The Great Commission?

 

Last week, I received some questions from a Facebook follower regarding my article Basic Training: The Great Commission. I thought they were very insightful and that other readers might have the same questions, so I’m sharing and expanding on my answers to her here. (I’ve edited/condensed the reader’s questions and comments {in bold type} for the sake of brevity.)

Given my understanding of what Jesus is commanding, and comparing it with other examples in the New Testament, it’s not for women to do the Great Commission. Our role is not to make disciples, teach, or baptize, but to keep the home, edify other women believers, etc. The Great Commission is for men, not women, to do because…

1. The Great Commission requires teaching and baptizing.

2. Jesus was speaking the Great Commission to His disciples, who were all male.

3. We don’t see any specific New Testament examples of women sharing the gospel with the lost through their own witness or example.

4. Because we don’t see any specific New Testament examples of women sharing the gospel or any explicit commands for women to share the gospel, it violates the regulative principle for women to share the gospel with the lost.

This reader’s questions really got me thinking and digging. I love questions that make me think hard and dig into Scripture and theology for answers!

First, let me briefly address the points of this issue that are not in dispute. As I understand her, the reader is in full agreement with Titus 2:3-5 and the example of Lois and Eunice. She agrees with the biblical principles of women training their own children in the gospel and discipling Christian women (already saved) inside the church. Her questions have mainly to do with sharing the gospel with the lost outside the church – evangelism.

Next, before we dive into the reader’s questions themselves, it is very important to distinguish between two types of Scripture:

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus.

Descriptive passages may support, but never trump, the clear instruction of prescriptive passages.¹

Now, let’s see if we can come to some biblical conclusions on her questions:

1. The Great Commission requires teaching and baptizing.

Teaching:
Often, when we’re looking at women’s roles in the church and being obedient to 1 Timothy 2:12, people conflate evangelism with teaching. Teaching Scripture to saved people inside the church gathering is not the same thing as sharing the gospel with lost people outside the church gathering. They are two separate, distinct things. First Timothy 2:12 (and other prohibitive passages) only prohibits the former, not the latter. The Great Commission, and the New Testament overall, commands the latter.

As Christian women we want to be sure we keep these two things straight and carry out The Great Commission in the way God has prescribed for women to carry it out. May we share the gospel with a lost man or woman “as we are going”? Yes. If that person is a man, once he is saved is it biblically appropriate for a woman to teach and disciple him? No. If he is saved, he is supposed to be joined to a local church. Once inside the church body, he is to be taught Scripture and discipled by men.

Here are some resources which may be of further help:

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Rock Your Role FAQs (see #11 for using wisdom on sharing the gospel with men)

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

Baptism:
When it comes to teaching inside the church, we have clear, prescriptive passages that specifically tell us what women are not to do. With evangelism, we also have clear commands in The Great Commission, and elsewhere, that disciples of Christ are to share the gospel.

But when it comes to baptism, we don’t have a clear “this or that person should or should not perform baptisms” passage, so we need to look at the principles and precedents surrounding baptism.

The people specifically named as personally performing baptisms in the New Testament were John the Baptist (who baptized Jesus), the twelve apostles, Philip the Evangelist, Paul and/or Silas, and Paul. All of these were men, and all held pastoral or pastoral/elder-type formal leadership positions in the embryonic or infancy stages of the church. All of them were commissioned, ordained, or set apart to their positions by God, Jesus, or the church. We do not see any New Testament instances of random church members – male or female – performing baptisms, only those in positions of church leadership.

Additionally, baptism is a formal, official, consecrated ordinance of the church, not a casual, personal, relational activity between individuals, friends, or loved ones. It should no more be administered by any church member who wants to do it than the Lord’s Supper should be. Both ordinances should be administered by an ordained pastor or elder of the church. That leaves out women as well as most men. Does the responsibility of pastors to baptize mean that men who aren’t pastors shouldn’t carry out the Great Commission? Of course not. We – men and women – share the gospel with someone, and if that person gets saved, part of our responsibility is to do what we can to get him plugged in to a local church where a pastor can baptize him. We don’t have to baptize him ourselves in order to be fulfilling The Great Commission.

Basic Training: Baptism

2. Jesus was speaking the Great Commission to His disciples, who were all male.
Yes, they were all male. They were all apostles, too. But first and foremost, they were all disciples – followers of Christ – just as Christians are today. Our identity in Christ – who we are, spiritually – trumps what we are, physically (male or female), and what we do (different roles and behaviors) as a result of who and what we are. Galatians 3:28 tells us:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, there is only one type of being: Christian. There is only one kind of spiritual DNA. There’s no XX and XY. There’s just X. Ontologically, Christians are all the same kind of spiritual being.

The Great Commission is based on who the disciples, and we, are – followers of Christ – just as many of the other things that Jesus taught His disciples were. For example, when the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and Jesus responded with the Lord’s Prayer, did Jesus mean that only the Twelve, or only men should use it as their model in prayer? When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, did He mean that only the disciples or only men should serve one another in humility? When Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive, did “seventy times seven” apply only to Peter, only to the disciples, or only to men? Of course not. Christ’s instructions to His followers apply to all who follow Him. It is in the way in which we carry these instructions out that Christ differentiates and delegates divergent and discrete responsibilities to men, women, and church leadership.

As disciples, we are to carry out The Great Commission. As Christian women, we carry it out in a different way from men and pastors.

3. We don’t see any specific New Testament examples of women sharing the gospel with the lost through their own witness or example.
We don’t see any specific verses that say something along the lines of “Miriam shared the gospel with Simon, and he got saved,” that’s true. But how about these…

✢The woman at the well in John 4: “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (28-30)

✢The widow (and townswomen) of Nain in Luke 7: “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’ And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.” (16-17)

✢The friends of Tabitha in Acts 9: ” And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” (41-42)

✢Lydia in Acts 16: “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well…” (14-15)

1 Corinthians 7:12-16: “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife…For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?”

1 Peter 3:1-6: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.”

The first four examples imply that various women, to one degree or another, were pointing people to Jesus. But, again, these are descriptive passages. They lend a bit of support to the idea of women sharing the gospel with others, but we build doctrine on prescriptive passages like The Great Commission. The last two examples are prescriptive passages instructing women in sharing the gospel with their lost husbands. These passages are supportive of women sharing the gospel.

Evangelism at Theology Gals

4. Because we don’t see any specific New Testament examples of women sharing the gospel or any explicit commands for women to share the gospel, it violates the regulative principle for women to share the gospel with the lost.
Well, as I mentioned above, we do see descriptive passages that at least hint at women sharing the gospel, and we also see prescriptive passages that explicitly instruct women in sharing the gospel with their lost husbands. But The Great Commission and other passages that are general commands to all followers of Christ to share the gospel are the strong and emphatic passages we draw doctrine from, not the more tangential passages. So even if the regulative principle did apply to evangelism, it would be supported by Scripture.

But the regulative principle doesn’t apply to evangelism as the full terminology – the regulative principle of worship – helps us to understand. The regulative principle applies to the corporate worship service, not evangelism, not marriage, not finances, not employment, not parenting, nor any other biblical issue. Just corporate worship.

 

Are women to carry out The Great Commission? Yes. We are to carry it out in the way Christ has prescribed for godly Christian women.


¹Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

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.

Basic Training, Evangelism

Basic Training: The Great Commission

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “The Great Commission“? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone…


photo courtesy of barna.com

The Barna Group recently conducted a study asking churchgoers if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission.” In their report, 51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission the results of the study were summarized thusly:

“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”

Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.

Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:

The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.

We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church. There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.

Go therefore
“Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.

“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.

All nations
Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.

Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”

Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”

That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Basic Training: Baptism

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.

Additional Resources

What is the Great Commission? at Got Questions

The Great Commission by John MacArthur

The Great Commission by Burk Parsons

Evangelism at Theology Gals

Basic Training

Basic Training: Baptism

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

 

Baptism can be a very controversial topic, especially when Christians who passionately hold differing views get together to discuss it. So, just a few parameters and caveats before we dive in:

💧 I am convinced from Scripture that Believer’s baptism by full immersion is the biblical understanding and method of baptism, so this is the view I will be presenting. I will not be argued out of this view and I don’t publish attacking comments. (Just trying to save you some time if you’re thinking of commenting in either of those veins.)

💧 I’m not going to attempt to present an explanation of any view of baptism other than my own. I prefer to leave that to others who hold those views, are more knowledgeable about them, and can present them better than I can. Please see the “Additional Resources” section at the end of this article.

💧 With the exception of baptismal regeneration, baptism is a secondary issue in biblical Christianity. It’s an important ordinance of the church, but should not preclude fellowship and cooperation between doctrinally sound Christians whose views differ.

💧 This article is a very general overview (this article series is called “Basic Training”) of baptism. I’m not attempting to cover every nuance of the topic. For more details about what your own church teaches about baptism, I encourage you to chat with your pastor or elders.


What is baptism? Why is it so important for Christians? What does getting wet have to do with being born again? There are lots of important things to understand about baptism.

The Bible on Baptism

When we want to learn about baptism, the first and best place to go is Scripture. Below are just a few of the passages that teach about baptism. (You can – and should – find and read more by searching baptize or baptism in a good concordance.) As you search the Scriptures on baptism, be sure to read them in context and ask these questions of the text: Who should be baptized? Why should someone be baptized? What is the meaning and significance of baptism? When should someone be baptized? How should someone be baptized?

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matthew 28:19

And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 19:4-5 

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:41

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
Acts 16:30-33

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 8:12

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3-4

Church Mindsets and Modes

Different churches and denominations have differing beliefs about water baptism and perform it in different ways. The two most common theological approaches to baptism are paedo baptism (infant baptism) and credo baptism (“Believer’s baptism”- being baptized after you’ve publicly confessed Christ as Savior). Baptism may be administered by sprinkling (“aspersion”), pouring (“affusion”), or immersion (dunking someone partially or completely under the water in a baptistry or other body of water).

Baptism by full immersion symbolizes Christ’s death, burial (going down into the water) and resurrection (coming up out of the water), as well as the what has happened in the heart of someone who has been born again: we die to sin and are resurrected as new creatures in Christ. This is why you’ll often hear Baptist pastors say “buried with Christ in baptism” (as they immerse the person) “raised to walk in newness of life” (as they raise the person out of the water). Baptism by immersion is a visual picture of the gospel.

This is what a typical Baptist baptism (credo baptism by full immersion) looks and sounds like:

Why Get Baptized?

Much like saying the Pledge or belting out the Star Spangled Banner (although infinitely more significant and sacred) baptism is the way we publicly and unashamedly proclaim our salvation and allegiance to Christ and our intention to obediently follow Him. In the United States today, that may not seem so daring, but in New Testament times (as well as in many countries today where Christians are brutally persecuted), to be baptized was often to take a dangerous – even subversive – stand of loyalty to Christ.

Baptism is also our “initiation” into church membership – a statement that we wish to join ourselves to the church at large and to a local body of Believers. Many churches require that a person be baptized (or has previously been baptized into a church with biblical soteriology, or a church of the same denomination) before inviting that person into membership. Because baptism is a public declaration that one is a Believer, baptism is usually also a prerequisite for partaking of the Lord’s Supper (which should only be partaken of by Believers).

Every born again Believer should publicly declare her loyalty to Christ, her intention to follow Him obediently, and her identification with the local church by obeying Scripture’s command (see above) to be baptized. Baptism is neither optional nor trivial for Christians, and the New Testament knows nothing of unbaptized Believers. If you’re saved and reluctant to be baptized, examine your heart as to why this is the case, and talk to your pastor about it.

Why NOT Get Baptized?

💧 Don’t get baptized because you think it will save you, make you right with God, forgive your sins, or send you to Heaven. Baptism does not save anyone; the water doesn’t have any magic, holy, or salvific properties. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

💧 Don’t get baptized just to become a member of a particular church. Your motivation for getting baptized should be obedience and loyalty to Christ. Church membership is secondary.

💧 Don’t get baptized just because everybody else is doing it, because someone is pressuring you to, or in order to please someone. Baptism is your personal declaration of faith in Christ. It should be something you want to do to in your walk with the Lord.

💧 Don’t think you need to get re-baptized every time you sin. That’s what repentance is for. Unless you come to the realization that you weren’t saved the first time you were baptized, baptism is a “one and done” thing just like salvation is.

💧 Don’t get baptized if you aren’t saved. Baptism is for people who are already saved.

Trinitarian Baptism

Excerpted from Basic Training: The Great Commission

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19b)

After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Who Should Perform Baptisms?

Excerpted from The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women
to carry out The Great Commission?

When it comes to teaching inside the church, we have clear, prescriptive passages that specifically tell us what women are not to do. With evangelism, we also have clear commands in The Great Commission, and elsewhere, that disciples of Christ are to share the gospel.

But when it comes to baptism, we don’t have a clear “this or that person should or should not perform baptisms” passage, so we need to look at the principles and precedents surrounding baptism.

The people specifically named as personally performing baptisms in the New Testament were John the Baptist (who baptized Jesus), the twelve apostlesPhilip the EvangelistPaul and/or Silas, and Paul. All of these were men, and all held pastoral or pastoral/elder-type formal leadership positions in the embryonic or infancy stages of the church. All of them were commissioned, ordained, or set apart to their positions by GodJesus, or the church. We do not see any New Testament instances of random church members – male or female – performing baptisms, only those in positions of church leadership.

Additionally, baptism is a formal, official, consecrated ordinance of the church, not a casual, personal, relational activity between individuals, friends, or loved ones. It should no more be administered by any church member who wants to do it than the Lord’s Supper should be. Both ordinances should be administered by an ordained pastor or elder of the church. That leaves out women as well as most men. Does the responsibility of pastors to baptize mean that men who aren’t pastors shouldn’t carry out the Great Commission? Of course not. We – men and women – share the gospel with someone, and if that person gets saved, part of our responsibility is to do what we can to get him plugged in to a local church where a pastor can baptize him. We don’t have to baptize him ourselves in order to be fulfilling The Great Commission.

💧💧💧💧💧

Baptism should be every Christian’s joyful celebration of his or her new life in Christ. Jesus was baptized. Jesus instructs His followers to be baptized. In baptism, we both follow Jesus’ example and obey His command. If you’re a born again Believer who’s never been baptized, what are you waiting for?


Additional Resources:

What is the importance of Christian baptism? at Got Questions

Baptism at Theopedia

Explaining Baptism in Children’s Language at Reformed Answers (A simple explanation of the Reformed/Presbyterian view of covenental paedo baptism.)

Understanding Baptism by John MacArthur

Biblical Case for the Lutheran Doctrine of Baptism by Chris Rosebrough

A Closer Look at Baptism by Bill Gordon (An overview of the Southern Baptist view of credo baptism by immersion.)

A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism by The United Methodist Church

Baptism at Christian Apologetics Research Ministry

Waters That Unite: Five Truths About Water Baptism at 9Marks

Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Church Membership by Bobby Jamieson

A Review of Justin Peters’ “Do Not Hinder Them”

 

Book Reviews

A Review of Justin Peters’ “Do Not Hinder Them”

As I’ve mentioned before, solicited book reviews are not part of my regular repertoire here at the blog. In fact, for a variety of reasons, I have a policy against writing them.

But when one of your heroes in the faith asks, you make an exception. And, for me, Justin Peters is one of those heroes in the faith (even more so because I’m sure he wouldn’t want me calling him that).

I introduced Justin this way in my article, A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers:

Justin Peters Ministries exists to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and to help equip the saved to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). Great care is taken to preach and teach God’s Word in its proper context and simply let the text speak for itself.”

The first thing I ever noticed about Justin Peters is his striking example of biblical meekness. Justin is soft-spoken and peaceable, but firm in his gospel convictions and aflame with the desire for the lost to come to salvation. You must read Justin’s testimony of coming to know Christ after years in seminary and ministry as a false convert. What Justin is perhaps best known for is his teaching and discernment ministry exposing the Word of Faith movement. It started with a trip to a faith healer as a teen to have his own cerebral palsy healed and grew into Clouds Without Water, a seminar designed to educate the church on the history, growth, and metastasization of the Word of Faith heresy.

But Justin doesn’t limit himself to discernment ministry, and his new book, Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion, opens the door to another of his theological interests- salvation and baptism, especially as they pertain to children.

A simple, yet fundamental, point of theology which needs to be understood in order to grasp the concept of the book is the difference between credo-baptism and paedo-baptism. Credo-baptism is also called “believer’s baptism.” This means that a new believer stands before the church, professes her faith in Christ, and is then baptized out of obedience to Him- to demonstrate that she has passed from death unto life and now wishes to be identified as a follower of Christ. Credo-baptists believe strongly that baptism is only to be administered to professing believers.

Paedo-baptism is infant baptism. It is administered to all babies and children (by definition, unable to profess faith in Christ) by a number of Protestant denominations as a symbol that a child has been born into a covenant (believing) family who will raise her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and the knowledge of the gospel.

There’s an angst that Bible believing credo-baptist parents often experience, which, undoubtedly, is foreign to paedo-baptist parents:

My young child has come to me claiming to have asked Jesus into her heart and wants to be baptized. How can I tell if she’s really saved and that it’s right for her to be baptized at this age?

It’s a long standing dilemma for Southern Baptists like Justin…and me. My mother happened to mention in passing a few years ago that I had begged to be baptized when I was about six. It made sense because that’s about the time all of my little friends were being baptized, but, I was very surprised to hear this story because, as an adult, I had no recollection of it whatsoever, and I can guarantee you I wasn’t saved at the time. My parents wisely said no.

As parents ourselves, my husband and I have faced the same struggle. Five of our six children were baptized as young children. One is not currently walking with the Lord and two of them were re-baptized later at their own request when they realized they had not been saved the first go round.

This is the central issue Justin tackles in Do Not Hinder Them.

But don’t be fooled by the title of the book. While it’s a must read for Christian parents, pastors, and those who work in children’s ministry, you also need to read this book if…

…you’ve ever wondered if you’re really saved.
…you’re wondering if that loved one (of any age) who claims to be a Christian is really saved.
…you’re a paedo-baptist wanting to get a better grip on credo-baptist beliefs and struggles
…you’re brand new to the study of theology and are looking for a resource that will easily help you to “dip a toe in the water” (so to speak)

In other words, though Justin addresses the issue of genuine conversion as it applies to children seeking baptism, the question of “How can I know if I/my loved one is really saved?” is one we all face at some point in our walk with Christ. So, while there may be a few parts of this book that don’t apply if you’re not a pastor, children’s ministry worker, or parent, most of it is helpful for every Christian.

One of the foundational issues Justin cites as having gotten us into the muck and mire of baptizing unregenerate children, only to have them “walk away” from the Lord (though, indeed, they were never saved in the first place) as teens or young adults – sullying the name of Christ and His church – or to seek a second baptism once they realize they were unsaved the first time, is the fact that we have so watered down the gospel and the soteriology our churches subscribe to and practice. “Getting saved” has been reduced to parroting a sinner’s prayer, or mental assent to a simplistic set of facts that even the demons believe. There is little to no presentation of sin and rebellion, guilt before a holy God, God’s wrath toward the sinner, and the eternal punishment of sin. And when was the last time you heard a pastor urge someone contemplating following Jesus to count the cost of being His disciple? Instead, it’s, “Don’t you want to go to Heaven when you die?” or “Just believe A, B, and C, and you’re saved!” or “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Rarely are young children mature enough in their thinking to be able to grasp the true nature and meaning of why they need a Savior and what repentance, regeneration, and discipleship really entail.

And that’s largely our fault. As Christian parents, we understandably want our children “in,” safe from an eternity in Hell. So we make it as easy as possible for them to complete the transaction. Instead of raising our children up to understand and attain to the high bar of the demands of the gospel, we lower the bar so far that even the youngest child can toddle right over it. In the end, the problem is not that we’re baptizing unsaved babes as our paedo-baptist brothers and sisters do, but that we’re presenting a false gospel that creates false converts who hang their eternity on having repeated a prayer and passed through the baptistry.

The second key issue Justin says has contributed to the epidemic of baptizing unregenerate children is the fact that we base our decision to baptize them solely on their verbal profession of faith rather than on the fruit of a changed life.

I remember all too well the worry over my own small children’s salvation in this regard. How could I tell if they were really saved or not? They had been in church and raised in a Christian home all their lives- they knew all the right answers to give when we questioned them about their salvation experiences.

As Justin wisely points out, this is often the case with “church kids.” They know how to repeat back what they’ve learned in Sunday School, and, because they’ve been raised in a godly atmosphere, they’re likely already good kids, outwardly behaving in what looks like a Christlike way. When they come to us and say, “I’ve asked Jesus into my heart,” how can we tell if it’s genuine saving faith?

Most of the time, the answer is- we can’t. Until, that is, that faith has been tested and their testimony proven true through the refining process of trial, temptation, and persecution. Until he is able to bear fruit in keeping with the repentance he claims. Does your child freely choose obedience to Christ over giving in to temptation? Does he cling to Christ during times of difficulty? Does he visibly stand for Christ when ridiculed for doing so by his peers? What five year old even faces such situations?

And that’s precisely Justin’s point. We rush our children through the baptismal waters as soon as they claim to have received Christ rather than waiting to see their faith prove out over the ensuing years. Your five year won’t face the temptation to use drugs or engage in sex. But your teenager will. It’s unlikely a gang of kindergartners will surround your child and mock his belief in Christ and biblical values. Sophomores and juniors do so gleefully. How does your young adult, who claims to be born again, handle these types of situations? When it’s his choice, not yours, does he consistently and unrepentantly go along with the worldly crowd or does he bear up and walk faithfully with Christ? Justin suggests, and I can’t help but agree, that the testing of our children’s faith that comes with age and independence, and the fruits of Christlikeness they bear – such as: godly sorrow over sin, personal holiness, hunger for the Word, and increasing discernment –  are a much more reliable barometer of their spiritual state than the “right answers” they are able to give as small children. It is for this reason that Justin suggests postponing baptism until the late teens or early 20s, while encouraging and nurturing our children’s faith as they grow and mature.

Do Not Hinder Them so effectively addresses these matters of concern to the church that I unhesitatingly recommend it to all Christians. Justin writes in a simple, unassuming style that even the newest believer would be comfortable with, and explains complicated theological terms and issues with ease. The book is chock full of helpful footnotes rife with Scripture references and supplementary resources, and is only 112 pages long, making it an easy evening’s read. Do Not Hinder Them is available in soft cover format (not available in e-book format at this time) and is endorsed by Dr. John MacArthur. You can purchase a copy at Justin’s web site or on Amazon.


All brown “pull quotes” in this article are taken from:
Peters, Justin. Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion. Justin Peters Ministries, 2017.