Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Central Thought on Discipleship

One of the things I am working through right now is defining what "discipleship" is. A key question in defining "discipleship" and how to do discipleship is what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Christ gives us a clear understanding of this by His own life (cf. Phil 2:5-11...more on this passage and its relationship to discipleship in a future post), but He also gives us a clear indication of what a mature follower of Christ is in Matt 22:37-40 and Mark 12:29-31:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:27-40, ESV)
This is Christ's answer to "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (Matt 22:36). A similar answer is recorded in Mark 12:29-31 when Jesus is asked, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" (Mark 12:28)

What Christ is defining here is what is of greatest importance to those who are subjects in the kingdom of God, who are the followers of the King of the Kingdom of God, namely, of Christ Himself. There are two fundamental characteristics of a disciple of Christ, and a third characteristic that is a corollary to the first two:

  1.  A follower of Christ loves God with all that he is. That is, a follower of Christ is God-centered in all of his life. (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30)
  2. A follower of Christ loves loves others as if they were himself. That is, a follower of Christ is other-focursed. (Matt 22:39; Mark 12:31)
  3. A follower of Christ does not place himself at the center of importance nor focus upon loving himself.
So a disciple of Christ should be God-centered and other-focused not self-centered.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Reminder of the Call of Biblical Parenting

Last week I was traveling in the Tampa, FL area. For a couple of days the local and national headlines carried news of the tragic suicide of 12-year old Rebecca Ann Sedwick (http://abcnews.go.com/US/t/story/arrests-made-death-bullied-florida-girl-20573578). Her suicide has been linked to the physical and verbal bullying of up to 15 girls. Last week two arrests were made of a 12 year old and 14 year old girl, the elder of which declared in a terse Facebook post that she didn't care if her bullying led to Rebecca's suicide. In response to the bullying, particularly the verbal abuse that occurred over Facebook, Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd called for parents to "Quit being [your children's] best friend and be their best parent."

Indeed. In America we live in a modern culture in which too many parents always see the best in their children and refuse to see the times in which their child displays sinful behavior. I've personally seen evidence of this in both my church and the school where my children attend. In schools, both public and private, this has become a significant issue as parents confront teachers wanting to know what the teacher did to cause their child to fail or make a grade less than an "A," the assumption being that their child is not at fault for their own failure or lack of perfection. In one extreme case I'm aware of the parents laid the blame on the teacher and school administration for the constant misbehavior of their child. In the reasoning of the parents the misbehavior of the child was the fault of others not the child. Rather than seeking to work with the teacher and school administration to discipline and, thus, disciple their child they wanted to know what the teacher and school administration would do to stop causing their child's sinful behavior. It seems that rules that the child would stay in his chair and refrain from hitting and biting his teacher and fellow students was unreasonable. I fear that in some cases, maybe too many cases, we have a generation of parents who were raised to believe that they are not the problem raising another generation of children to believe they are not the problem. 

But the Bible has a way of humbling us: we are the problem for without Christ it is sin that possesses us, sin that is the rule and ruler of our lives. As parents our goal is not to raise children who love us nor love themselves but to love God with all that they are (an oft repeated biblical refrain: Deut 6:5; 11:1,13; 13:3: 30:6; Josh 22:5; 23:11; Psa 31:23; Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Our culture may want to declare everyone deserves a trophy, but it is the Bible that declares everybody is a sinner (cf. Rom 3:23). This is not to say that every person does not have worth for we all do as bearers of God's image (Gen 1:26-27); rather, it is to point out how our sinful hearts can take truth (that we all have worth) and turn it into falsehood (that we are, therefore, creatures who deserve to have worth ascribed to us, to be worshipped, and those who would dare to point out that we or our child are not worthy of praise must be the problem not us or our child).

As parents who are followers of Christ our call is to raise children who worship and glory in God not themselves or us, to love others with the same "centeredness" that they love themselves (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27-28). Our call is to help our self-centered children indwelt with sin to realize their own sinfulness and to place their faith in Christ so the they might be indwelt with the Holy Spirit and ruled by God and the peace of Christ (Rom 6:22; Col 3:15). We are not called to be their best friend but their best discipler which is to say their best parent. This may mean that our children do not like us and don't want to be our "friend" (on Facebook or elsewhere), but it is not the comfort and glory of ourself or our child that we seek but the glory of God. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some Thoughts on Daily Devotions

From time to time I'm asked what I recommend for daily devotionals. I usually respond with a sarcastic retort of "the Bible." Those who know me chuckle (a pleasant pretense to make me feel as if I'm funny); those who don't usually stumble into some sort of "No. What I meant was..." at which point I address their question more appropriately. 

First, when I suggest "the Bible" I am only partly kidding. Unfortunately for many they'd rather read a devotional book than the Bible itself. This always has seemed odd to me, but something I realized along the way is that a devotional is "easier" to read than the Bible. I say "easier" because at times it takes some effort in thought to consider and understand what the Bible is saying. In a Western society where we are spoon-fed information in 30-second bytes that require no thought and appeal to the emotions more than the intellect, it's no wonder why people prefer a pithy modern devotional over an ancient letter or story. (It probably also explains why so many like their devotions out of Proverbs and Psalms, Psalm 139 excluded -- 176 verses is just entirely too long...there are shorter BOOKS in the New Testament!) 

When pressed on specific devotionals I find few I can recommend in good conscience. Many devotionals I find to treat Scripture in a cursory way or misinterpret it altogether (proof texting seems to be a favorite pass time of devotional writers). 

Growing up in my particular tradition of Christianity a favorite question to test your spirituality was "How often do you have your quiet time?" I was fairly faithful in doing such but I never had the nerve to say I didn't get much out of them. As I got older my ironic sense of humor began to associate "quiet time" as my "time out" with God. It was as if it was some form of spiritual discipline (in the punitive sense); I didn't find them edifying or sanctifying. For a while I thought I was either unspiritual or unsaved. (Note: There are spiritual disciplines, but I've come to the conclusion that "quiet times" as I came to know them are not one of them.)

Now before I get run over by those riding the "quiet time" bus I should clarify things a bit. "Quiet times" are helpful in our spiritual formation; I'm just not enthralled with the devotional guides/books that define most quiet times: I find them theologically shallow. By "theologically shallow" I'm not merely speaking of lack of depth due to a lack of systematic theology (though systematic theology should be part of everyone's Bible study). Rather, I'm speaking to the lack of depth and cohesiveness in regards to the gospel, biblical metanarrative (the big, overarching story of creation/fall/redemption) along with biblical and systematic theology. Too many devotionals play to our emotions rather than our hearts and minds. And if Romans 12:1-2 is correct, our minds need some serious overhaul (renewing) if our lives are to be transformed.

So what do I think makes for good devotional material? Material that engages the heart, mind, and emotions. Devotions shouldn't just be emotional pep rallies (though there are definitely times everyone, especially Christians, needs a good motivational pep talk). Devotions need to train our minds and hearts at their deepest levels to desire God. So a mere cursory reading of Scripture with a veneer of emotional appeal applied to it won't due. Our devotionals should challenge us to dwell on, mull on Scripture and its implications to our entire lives: heart, mind, soul, strength. The goal of devotionals should not be to develop a positive mental attitude; they should develop a biblical mental reality. Sometimes dwelling on biblical truths is down right depressing (or scary). When you think of the depths of your sin and that of mankind along with the judgment and discipline of God it brings, your heart will not leap for joy. It should drive your heart, mind, soul, strength to seek for forgiveness and redemption driving you to find and embrace the gospel and glory in the mercy, goodness, and grace of God.

So just what do I recommend for devotions? Here's a few I've found helpful. I need to annotate these more with my thoughts, but obviously these works stand on their own without any of my commentary. It should be noted that many of these are not technically "devotionals;" rather, they are books that can be read as devotionals, read a chapter at a time. Depending on your reading speed you'll spend anywhere from 5-45 minutes reading. There are Scripture references throughout so looking them up adds a little time (insert your favorite Bible/Bible program/app here). But I think you'll find that the time invested is more than worth any effort expended. Your devotional won't end when your devotion time does; you'll be meditating and ruminating on what you've read for hours, days, weeks, dare I say the rest of your life to come. These aren't just motivational; they are formative.

  • Concise Theology by J.I. Packer
I don't agree with every chapter (I believe in credo-baptism [believer's baptism] not paedo-baptism [infant baptism], for example), but the articles are helpful (and concise, imagine that!). If you own the New Geneva Study Bible then you already have the text in the extended study notes, but I like the compact format of Concise Theology. 
  • Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
  • Growing in Christ by J.I. Packer
  • Our Accountability to God by Arthur W. Pink
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
  • Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul
  • The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
  • Love in Hard Places by D.A. Carson
  • Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper
  • Awakenings: The Essential Writings of Jonathan Edwards edited by Bernard Bangley
  • A Godward Life by John Piper
  • A Godward Life: Book Two by John Piper
  • God's Passion for His Glory by John Piper 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Considering What is Essential

Recently I have been involved in some pretty lively discussions on trying to determine just what is important doctrinely. Such discussions are always laden with emotion and never for lack of opinion. Personally when it comes to fellowship with other believers, I actually provide a pretty broad acceptance. I have worshipped, fellowshipped, and ministered with Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Non-denominationals, Bible-churchers, and Assembly of God attendees to name a few. However, I don't agree with all my fellow Christians at all points. 

For some time I've used the framework of "Dogma, Doctine, and Belief" to help provide a taxonomy (a categorization and ordering of importance) of doctrines. Dogma is that which is essential, doctrine that which is important, and belief that which is open to personal conviction. This helps me in thinking through what doctrines I consider of utmost importance and those that I'm comfortable with holding in a loose grip. Additionally, I find the words of Rupertus Meldenius helpful and appropriate: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials liberty, and in all things, charity."

With that said, I wanted to share some material I came across in What Christians Believe At A Glance by Rose Publishing. (Side note: Generally, I quite like the materials Rose Publishing puts out.) There's a chapter entitled "Essential Doctrine Made Easy" that Norm Geisler wrote. I found this to be helpful in my own considerations of what is "essential."

Dr. Geisler lists 14 doctrines that are essential. His basis of identifying these 14 doctrines as "essential" is as follows: "We can identify the essential doctrines of the Christian faith by looking at the core truth of the gospel, which is the salvation of humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ...By examining the gospel message, we can identify 14 doctrines that are necessary for salvation to be possible."

1. God's Unity
2. God's Tri-Unity
3. Human Depravity
4. Christ's Virgin Birth
5. Christ's Sinlessness
6. Christ's Deity
7. Christ's Humanity
8. The Necessity of God's Grace
9. The Necessity of Faith
10. Christ's Atoning Death
11. Christ's Bodily Resurrection
12. Christ's Bodily Ascension
13. Christ's Intercession
14. Christ's Second Coming

He identifies two additional doctrines that "make the plan of salvation knowable."

15. Inspiration of Scripture
16. Method of Interpretation

Geisler goes on to point out that "Not all doctrines necessary for salvation are necessary for a person to believe in in order to be saved. There is a distinct difference between what must be true in order for us to be saved and what must be believed in order for us to be saved." (emphasis his) He goes on to identify the following as necessary for a person to be saved: belief that Christ died for sins and rose again (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:1-6); belief that Jesus Christ is God (Acts 16:31, taking "Lord" to point to Christ as supreme deity; Acts 2:2, 36; 3:14-16; 5:30-35; 10:39; 1 Cor 12:3)

I found Geisler's points helpful as 1) he provided a useful framework for deciding what is "essential" in regards to salvation (what is necessary/essential for the gospel to be true); 2)  the distinction between what must be true vs. what must be believed provides a useful paradigm for determining might be put into a formal doctrinal statement vs. what might be require for church membership. I think it points to a "lower bar" for church membership but "higher bar(s)" when it comes to teachers, leaders, elders.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Commentaries: Their Use and Usefulness

Over the years I have seen commentaries used, abused, glorified, and vilified. The extremes are notable. On one end of the spectrum are those that quote commentaries like Scripture. On the other end are those that disparage commentaries proclaiming, "I don't use commentaries because I only read the Bible." (I wonder if they read other books or magazines, but those surely don't influence their understanding of Scripture so I suppose that is ok. ) The reality is that commentaries are neither inspired writings nor useless writings.

Back in 1890 C.H. Spurgeon, the great British preacher, published a volume on commentaries called Commenting and Commentaries based on two lectures he delivered at the Pastrors' College. In it he provides guidance on using commentaries as well as the commentaries themselves. The publication is quite enlightening as it evidences that Spurgeon struggled with in his day some of the same issues that continue to plague the church today. (e.g. He describes what a critic might say of the "modern pulpit" ["modern" being that of the late 1800s] by writing, "A judicious critic would probably complain that many sermons are deficient ill solid instruction, Biblical exposition, and Scriptural argument: they are flashy, rather than fleshy; clever, rather than solid; entertaining, rather than impressive.") In this volume Spurgeon provides some helpful insight on why one should use commentaries as well as some caution regarding their use. In the next few paragraphs I would like to borrow from and build upon Spurgeon's pen.

A Biblical Argument for Commentaries
A biblical starting point to argue for the use of commentaries is the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. When Philip approaches the Ethiopian he asks, "Do you understand what you are reading?" to which the Ethiopian responds, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:30-31, ESV) On this passage Spurgeon notes, "The Ethiopian eunuch might have received divine illumination, and doubtless did receive it, but still, when asked whether he understood the Scripture which he read, he replied, 'How can I unless some man shall guide me?'" The point that Spurgeon makes is that sometimes we need help from other people to understand Scripture; I concur. Spurgeon would further write, "...the public reading of the abstruser parts of Scripture is of exceedingly little use to the majority of the people listening...What more edification can come from a chapter in English which is not understood than from the same passage in Hebrew or Greek? The same argument which enforces translation demands exposition." That is, we need people to explain (some) Scripture to us (just like we need Scriptures translated for us) so that they can be accessible to us. Neither Spurgeon nor I are saying that all of Scripture is so obscure that a commentary is required at every point; however, I am saying that commentaries are needed to help us understand Scripture rightly and that sometimes even what we consider clear in Scripture may not actually be the proper understanding.

One of the lenses that we all have to look at Scripture through is the time in which we live. That is, we are influenced by the period of history in which God has placed us. This has a couple of impacts on how we view Scripture: 1) We are far removed from the original setting and context when Scripture was written making understanding some of the cultural realities and nuances difficult, if not impossible, for us to know or understand without the help of more studied people; 2) We cannot help but be biased by the time in which we live on how we see Scripture. By reading commentators from previous times in church history we are able to converse with and to learn from those who are not constrained by this same lens. This is not to say they didn't have their own biases, but it is to say that their biases were derived from a different context, which may reveal our own tainted views or affirm our own firm convictions and understandings. As Spurgeon put it, commentators are "a glorious army...whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit."

Underlying my argument that commentaries are necessary and helpful to us in rightly understanding Scripture is this: we are not able to interpret and understand Scripture properly on our own. Now at first glance some will retract to this statement. Am I denying the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Am I setting aside the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer? Absolutely not. I firmly believe believe in the priesthood of all believers and in the absolutely necessary work of the Holy Spirit in each person's life to properly understand Scripture. Rather, what I am affirming is the total depravity of man and the necessity of community, specifically the community of Christ (a.k.a the Church) in a every believer's life. When we become a Christian we do not gain at that time a completely sanctified (perfectly holy) mind (or life). Rather, we continue to struggle with sin. And sin is insidious. Recognizing it in our own life is at times difficult, even impossible. We need help from others in the community of Christ to make sure that sin, our culture, our time, our context is not blinding us from properly understanding Scripture.  To say that we need help from the community is to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit not only works in our own life but in the life of others in the body of Christ as well.

To this point Scripture notes there are some within the community who God has specially gifted in helping us to understand Scripture: teachers. The gift of teaching is spoken of in both 1 Corinthians as well as Ephesians (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11, where it is pastor-teachers, emphasizing the direct link between pastoring and teaching); it is also anecdotally mentioned in Acts 13:1. My point here is that Scripture itself (and thus God Himself as the author of Scripture) acknowledges our need for help in understanding in the will of God. To read commentaries is to engage with those in the Church's history who have been in this role of teacher. (Let us also acknowledge here that not all teachers are created equal, as it were. In fact, Scripture warns the teachers [and thus those who listen to them] of the possibility, danger, and consequences of bad teaching...cf. James 3:1.)

A Caution on the Use of Commentaries
Commentaries are the thought of men; they are not Scripture. This is extremely important to bear in mind when approaching and using commentaries. We must recognize that the interpretation/understanding of the commentator is not divinely inspired nor does the commentator's comments bear the same authority or weight of Scripture. One of the reason I've seen some people shy away from the use of commentaries is their abuse. People go to the commentary first before they go to Scripture. Rather than putting forth the effort to study Scripture, than spending the time in thinking through the biblical author's argument/story,  than reading through Scripture first, people begin with the commentator and then read Scripture second. People begin to quote the commentator(s) rather than the Scriptures as authoritative. While this post is not the place to delve into Bible study methods, it should be pointed out that study of Scripture begins with reading Scripture not commentaries. Spurgeon makes a great observation in this regards. After describing the importance of reading and referencing "admirable commentaries" he writes, "Yet be sure you use your own minds too, or the expounding will lack interest...Freshness, naturalness, life, will always attract, where as mere borrowed learning is flat and insipid." Amen!

A Word about Study Bibles
In a similar vein to commentaries are study Bibles. Study Bibles have been around for quite sometime. The Geneva Bible, first published in 1560 with a complete OT and NT predating the King James by some 51 years, had extensive marginal notes. (You can see a picture of this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GenevaBible.JPG.) But the study Bible really did not come into vogue until the 20th century with the Scofield Reference Bible leading the way in 1909. Growing up it was the Ryrie Study Bible that held great sway in my theological circles. (Mine was blue; I still have it.) And over the years study Bibles have been developed for every bent and sway. In Spurgeon's day it was "reference Bibles" that provided cross-references to other Scriptures. But Spurgeon did not think much of them: "I make but small account of most reference Bibles; they would be very useful if they were good for anything; but it is extremely easy to bring out a reference Bible which has verbal and apparent references, and nothing more." While Spurgeon was cautioning against the use of sub-par reference Bibles, he was not disparaging cross references; in fact, this statement is made in the midst of recommending the use of a good concordance. (In his day that was the Cruden's Complete Concordance to the Bible.)

But I no longer use a study Bible as the primary Bible I read and study from. And I generally do not recommend them to others as their primary Bible. This is not because study Bibles are bad, evil, or sinful. Rather, I have found over the years that people (including myself) begin to quote the study Bible rather than quoting Scripture. It sounds something like this: "Well, the Ryrie Study Bible says..." or "The Life Application Study Bible tells us..."

Let me be clear: I am NOT saying that every one who uses a study Bible treats the study notes like Scripture. I used a study Bible for years and I found it quite helpful at times. I stopped using a study Bible for a few reasons: 1) I found that I became reliant on the study notes more than on Scripture itself. 2) I wanted more room in my Bible to write my own study notes. 3) I found that I was too easily distracted by the notes when I should be reading Scripture. (I'm one of those people who read the footnotes and the endnotes.)

What I generally recommend today is a Bible that contains only the text, is easy to read, and has wide margins. I like to avoid even Bibles with cross-reference verses in them. Why? Because it forces me to 1) focus on the biblical text, which is inspired (as opposed to the notes and cross-references that are not) and 2) work at studying and understanding Scripture, which is a bit like working at anything: if you work at it you appreciate it more (and remember it more). While this is not the post to go into detail here, this is part of how I view spiritual formation: humans are doers. And when we do something we tend to value it and embrace it. (Someone might rightly point out that you can't purchase a Bible that doesn't have some help aids in it [e.g. verses, chapter titles, section titles]. Agreed. But these are quite minor in nature compared to that of study notes.)

Some Recommended Reading
With all that said, I am sure to be asked, "What commentaries do you recommend?" (I'm asked this quite often.) Rather than making a list here (and, yes, I do have those commentaries I like and those I don't like) there are some aids that I'd like to point you to. I begin by pointing you to read Spurgeon's Commentators and Commentaries. While dated it still has good guidance in relation to commentaries as well as expository preaching (much of what Spurgeon means by being a "commentator"). In relation to books there are three that are helpful in regards to specific commentaries. D.A Carson's New Testament Commentary Survey is now in its 7th edition. Its sister volume is the Old Testament Commentary Survey, which is in its 5th edition, written by Tremper Longman III. Both Carson and Longman are superb scholars and both volumes provide solid guidance. John Glynn's Commentary and Reference Survey: A Comprehensive Guide to Biblical and Theological Resources is also quite helpful. (Mr. Glynn passed away not long after the publishing of the latest edition.) A helpful online resource is bestcommentaries.com These resources will get you started. In a future post I will have to spend some space on giving thoughts on commentaries and resources I use.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles

The following is the teaching notes from the teacher's meeting on Sunday, February 24.

The Pastoral Epistles

All quotations taken form the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

The Name “Pastoral Epistles”

·      First and Second Timothy and Titus are referred to as the Pastoral Epistles because they were written to those who shepherded, or pastored, the church.

Authorship (Who wrote the letters?)

·      Paul
·      Pseudonymity (writing under someone else’s name) was not an accepted means of writing letters in the first century AD.
·      Paul may have used an amanuensis (secretary) to write the letters.

Date (When were they written?)

·      1 Timothy - ~60-66 AD
·      2 Timothy - ~66 AD
·      Titus - ~60-66 AD
·      Paul was martyred under Nero between 66-68 AD. (Nero committed suicide in 68 AD.)

Recipients (Who were the letters sent to?)

·      Timothy
·      Titus

Purpose/Occasion (Why were the letters written?)

·      1 Timothy
o   Written from Macedonia
o   Sent to Timothy in Ephesus
·      2 Timothy
o   Written from Rome
o   Sent to Timothy in Ephesus
·      Titus
o   Written from an unknown location
o   Sent to Titus in Crete
·      Purpose
o   Refuting Heretical Teaching (over-realized eschatology)
o   Organization of the Church

Hot Topics in the Pastoral Epistles

·      Role of Women in the Church
·      Church Polity (Leadership Structure)
·      Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement (For whom did Christ die?)
·      Qualification of Elders and Deacons:
o   Consumption of Alcohol
o   Deaconesses
o   Marital Requirements (Divorce allowed?)
·      Biblical Inspiration

Women’s Role in the Church (1 Timothy 2:9-15)

Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism


·      Affirms God created man and woman as equals, of equal worth, and calls both to exercise their spiritual gifts in the church. There is no distinction in the roles within which men and women are to fulfill their callings, either in the home or in the church.
·      Christians for Biblical Equality - http://www.cbeinternational.org/


·      Affirms God created man and woman as equals, of equal worth, and calls both to exercise their spiritual gifts in the church. However, men and women were created different and are assigned different roles within which they are to fulfill their callings, both in the home and in the church.
·      The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood - https://www.cbmw.org/

Key Questions about the role of Women in the Church

·      What role(s)should women have in the Church?
·      Specifically, what leadership roles should women be allowed to occupy?

Key Issues in the Interpreting of the Text

·      Social Structure in Ancient Ephesus
·      Galatians 3:28
·      Creation and Fall Account

Social Structure in Ancient Ephesus

Egalitarian Position

·      1 Tim 2:9-15 is not applicable to the modern world because it was only applicable in the context of Ephesus.
1.     Ephesus was a bastion of women’s rights in the midst of a patriarchal Roman society. (based in part on Artemis being the deity of the city.)
2.     Women lacked the proper education so were not allowed to teach.


·      Steven Baugh (in the book Women in the Church) shows that...
1.     Ephesus was not a bastion of women’s rights but was typical of Hellenistic society.
2.     Women in Hellenistic society in the first century while less involved in formal public education still had access to education through such things as private lecturers/tutors. Therefore, while the norm may have been women were less educated, there were some women who would have been educated.

Galatians 3:28


·      The egalitarian view is that Galatians 3:28 expresses the essential equality of all in Christ thus meaning that all can have the same roles and positions.


·      The complementarian view is that Galatians 3:28 is expressing the essential oneness (unity) of all in Christ because all are saved by faith through grace; it is not addressing gender roles.
·      Unlike female subordination, slavery is never justified in Scripture by the created order (or any other text for that matter).

The Accounts of the Creation and the Fall

·      1 Timothy 2:13-15
·      1 Corinthians 11:8-9
·      1 Peter 3:5-7 (another use of Scriptural precedence to justify submission)

Recommended Books and Website

·      Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (free online at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/recovering-biblical-manhood-and-womanhood)
·      Women in the Church, 2nd edition.
·      The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood - https://www.cbmw.org/
·      Tom Wilson’s Blog – http://redemptivetheology.blogspot.com

Saved Through Childbearing – 1 Timothy 2:15

·      What does it mean that women will be “saved” through the bearing of children?
·      Two key issues:
o   What does “saved” refer to?  (saved from what)
o   What does “bearing of children” refer to ? (the specific act of giving birth or something else)
·      Two key passages:
o   Genesis 3 (esp. vv. 1-7, 13)
o   1 Timothy 5:14-15
·      “Saved” is not to be taken in the eschatological sense of being saved from hell, but in the temporal sense of being saved (protected) from the vulnerability to Satan.
·      “Childbearing” is a figure of speech using the part to represent the whole(pars pro toto). It represents the entirety of a women’s range of responsibilities (marital, familial, domestic).

Church Leadership

Major Views on Church Leadership

·      Episcopalianism
·      Presbyterianism
·      Congregationalism
o   Single-Elder
o   Plural-Elder

Background of the use of “elder” in Baptist History

·      The term “elder” has a long history of usage in Baptist history.
·      Baptists recognize that a plurality of elders is Scriptural.

“...[it] is not unscriptural to have multiple elders in a local church. To the contrary, such practice has clear precedent and mandate in the Scriptures...”

-Dr. Paige Patterson in Who Runs the Church?

8th President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2003-Present
President of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1998-2000
President, The Criswell College
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Bachelors, Hardin-Simmons
Masters and Doctorate, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

“Although many see different offices in these titles [bishop, elder, pastor], there are at least three compelling reasons for believing that poimen (pastor), episkopos (bishop), and presbuteros (elder) are descriptive names for the same office. Although the words translated bishop and elder are used more often in the New Testament, the following discussion will use the term pastor because it is most familiar to Baptists...”

-W. A. Criswell in The Doctrine of the Church
Pastor, First Baptist Church Dallas

Baptist Confessions/Statements referring to “Bishop” and/or “Elder”

Historic Baptist Confessions

·      The Schleitheim Confesson 1527
o   "We are agreed as follows on pastors in the church of God: The pastor in the church of God shall, as Paul has prescribed, be one who out-and-out has a good report of those who are outside the faith. This office shall be to read, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all the brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is to be broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderer be stopped." http://www.anabaptists.org/history/the-schleitheim-confession.html
·      London Baptist Confession of Faith 1644
o   "...every Church has power given them from Christ for their better well-being, to choose to themselves meet persons into the office of Pastors, Teachers, Elders, Deacons, being qualified according to the Word..." http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/bc1644.htm
·      The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689
o   "the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons. " http://www.vor.org/truth/1689/1689bc00.html
·      New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1853
o   "its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons"

Southern Baptist Confessions

·      1925 Baptist Faith and Message
o   "Its Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons."
·      1963 Baptist Faith and Message
o   "Its Scriptural officers are pastors and deacons."
·      2000 Baptist Faith and Message
o   "Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons."

Southern Baptist Convention Meetings

·      1902 Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention
o   "He handed it to the elders who had been most prominent in the affairs of the church..." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/3760/rec/5 (page 119)
·      1913 Annual of the Southern Baptist Convention
o   "Singing accompanied by the organ, cornet, clarionet; prayer, reading of Scripture; preaching by one of the pastors; testimony by several of the elders..." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/3040/rec/4 (page 183)
·      1951  SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   Reporting on the status of the Korean Baptist church: "The followed the New Testament so closely that in their churches they had pastors and deacons as well as elders and evangelists. An elder was higher than a deacon. All were expected to preach and be leaders in the church." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/31512/rec/27 (page 162)
·      1954  SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   The Abstract of Principles of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary..."The regular Officers of a church are Bishop or Elder, and Deacons." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/32943/rec/29 (page 39, 79)
·      1957  SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   References a "preachers' and elders' conference" in Yugoslavia. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/43675/rec/38 (page 132)
·      1965  SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   The Abstract of Principles of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary..."The regular Officers of a church are Bishop or Elder, and Deacons." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/14084/rec/11 (page 224)
·      1988 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on the Priesthood of the Believer
o   "Be finally RESOLVED, That we affirm the truth that elders, or pastors, are called of God to lead the local church (Acts 20:28)." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ml-sbcann/id/24629 (page 69)
·      1992 SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   "Every professor of the Institution [The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] ...shall be considered...as engaging to teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles...The regular Officers of a church are Bishop or Elder, and Deacons." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/13381/rec/10 (page 38, 145)
·      1998  SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   The Abstract of Principles of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary..."The regular Officers of a church are Bishop or Elder, and Deacons."  http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/15739/rec/13 (page 57)
·      2005  SBC Annual Convention Minutes
o   The Abstract of Principles of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary..."The regular Officers of a church are Bishop or Elder, and Deacons." http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ml-sbcann/id/39113/rec/34 (page 88, 94)

Southern Baptist Seminaries

·      Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Abstract of Principles
o   Dates to 1858
o   "The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons."
·      Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Abstract of Principles
o   Adopted 1950; taken from the Abstract of Principles of Southern Baptist Theological Seminar of 1859
o   "The regular officers of a Church are bishops or elders and deacons."
·      Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary
o   Affiliated with the SBC
o   "We believe that a church is a democratic organization served by two types of officers, pastors or bishops and deacons."

The Case for Plural Eldership

The Issue of Authority

·      Authority derives ultimately from Christ as head of the Church universal. (Eph 5:23)
·      Authority is expressed through the local body of the church. (Congregationalism/Priesthood of the Believer - 1 Pet 2:4-10)
·      Authority is vested in the leadership (elders/pastors) of the local church. (Pastoral Epistles)

The Words "Elder"/"Bishop"/"Shepherd"

·      The English word “elder” is the translation of the Greek word presbuteros from which we get our word “presbyter.”
·      The English word “overseer” (bishop) is the translation of the Greek word episkopos from which we get our word “Episcopal.”
·      The English word “pastor” is the translation of the Greek word poimen which we also translate into English as “shepherd.”


·      Ephesians 4:11 - The only occurrence of "shepherd" applied to the church as a role or gifting. 

Overseer (Bishop)

·      The term overseer occurs 5 times in the New Testament:
o   Acts 20:28
o   Phil 1:1
o   1 Tim 3:2
o   Titus 1:7
o   1 Pet 2:25


·      The term “elder” occurs 66 times in the New Testament.
·      It is by far the most common designation of the leadership position in the church.

Qualifications of Overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9)

**Text is from the NASV 1995**
·      Above reproach [as God’s steward] (1Tim; Titus)
·      Husband of one wife (1 Tim)
·      Temporate (1 Tim)
·      Prudent (1 Tim)
·      Respectable (1 Tim)
·      Hospitable (1 Tim; Titus)
·      Able to Teach (1 Tim)
·      Not addicted to wine (1 Tim; Titus)
·      Not pugnacious (1 Tim; Titus)
·      Gentle (1 Tim)
·      Peacable (1 Tim)
·      Free from the love of money (1 Tim)
·      Manage his own household well, keeping his own children under control with all dignity (1 Tim)
·      Not a new convert (1 Tim)
·      Have a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Tim)
·      Not self-willed (Titus)
·      Not quick-tempered (Titus)
·      Not fond of sordid gain (Titus)
·      Hospitable (Titus)
·      Loving what is good (Titus)
·      Sensible (Titus)
·      Just (Titus)
·      Devout (Titus)
·      Self-Controlled (Titus)
·      Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching (Titus)

Qualifications of Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

**Text is from the NASV 1995**
·      Men of dignity
·      Not double-tongued
·      Not addicted to much wine
·      Not fond of sordid gain
·      Holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience
·      Must be tested
·      Be beyond reproach
·      Husbands of only one wife
·      Good managers of their children and of their own household

Recommended Reading

·      Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership
·      Who Runs the Church? Four Views on Church Government
·      Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views on Church Polity