I grew up in a strong Baptist church here in New Hampshire. Time changes things and they got involved in Willow Creek and changed things (like eliminating the Wednesday Prayer meeting). We went to another church and they began to teach that to be saved one must hear the gospel from a called preacher, so you invite them to church then the Holy Spirit could use the individual. So we left to another church whose leadership unbelievably got up and told the whole congregation of the former pastor’s fall into sin. They began to embrace Calvinism, then also went to elder rule, which would not allow the congregation to make any decisions for the church. We left. This has caused me to begin much research into my own beliefs. . . . My question . . .How is it that churches get caught in the misguidings of teachings like Calvinism, and how do we combat this from taking over a church? What is your view, based on Scripture, as to how the government of the church should run?


I am so sorry to hear of the difficulties that you have encountered with various Baptist churches that you have attended. There are so many new ideas vying for attention these days. These novel ideas often regard forms of worship, models of missions, and structures of governance. As you have discovered, the free churches are not immune to making unhealthy choices by embracing novel opinions that change the very structure and focus of the church. Indeed, these types of issues are one reason why we established BaptistTheology.org. Our desire is to provide the churches with resources to identify and evaluate the various ideas being propagated. As a result, let me try to respond to your questions in short order.

First, please realize that you have chosen the correct basis for evaluating any new idea. The basis for the Christian life and for the church’s life is firstly, fully, and finally Scripture. Because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Bible is inerrant, clear, and sufficient. The Bible is the guide which provides the answers to the relevant questions facing the churches of Jesus Christ. (Please note that not all of our modern questions are relevant, even though we often think they are. What is important and relevant is found in Scripture.)

Second, it sounds as if your first church had a healthy concern for evangelistic outreach but adopted some changes with which you did not agree. Not knowing the particulars of the church, we must refrain from making too many assumptions. However, according to your description, it seems that prayer and Bible study may have been sidelined in order to engage in outreach. Going back to our first point, please realize that the model a church adopts should be based on Scripture and not on the experiences of another church. This is the problem with so many church models, today: the ideal form put forward for emulation is not found in Scripture, but in post-biblical history, indeed very recent history. Our understanding of the church’s mission, purpose, and structure must be formed by Scripture.

Rather than to Willow Creek or any other modern church, we suggest that every church begin by looking to the first church of Jerusalem as an example. In Acts 2, we learn that the church gathered for worship (vv 1-4), publicly proclaimed the gospel to the lost (vv 5-36), invited the lost to respond to Christ in repentance (vv 37-40), baptized new believers into the fellowship (v 41), and devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles (now found in Scripture), to fellowship, to “the breaking of bread,” and to prayer (v 42). In other words, it is important that a church maintain outreach at the same time that it maintains God-centered worship, Spirit-led Bible study, and Christ-honoring prayer and activity, such as the proper practice of the ordinances.

Acts 2 is a good place to start for a model of the church, but then we must go on to discover how God worked in the churches throughout the New Testament. Our belief is that the New Testament provides the only relevant model for the church and that subsequent models must be compared to the New Testament for legitimacy. This is not to deny the good done in churches like Willow Creek or Saddleback or Holy Trinity Brompton or any other church, but it is to assert that no post-biblical church may serve as the model that other churches should follow. Post-biblical churches must point to the church model of the New Testament, and may not replace the New Testament model with their own model or a neighboring church’s model.

Third, it sounds as if your second church may have had a rather high view of the preacher’s authority. I, too, believe that churches should have God-called and well-trained pastors. These God-called pastors must preach with the authority of the Word of God and only with that authority. The wise congregation recognizes a Spirit-anointed and Bible-preaching minister and should authorize him to be their pastor. The wise congregation will then free their pastor to lead them according to God’s Word (Hebrews 13:17).

(As a former pastor, I have encountered times when the congregation did not always act wisely, though I must admit that they always tried to the best of their ability. Because of this phenomenon and the pain that it brings to a sensitive and diligent pastor, many pastors conclude they should jettison congregationalism in favor of their own rule or a small clique’s rule with them. This is an immature response to an unfortunate phenomenon.)

A God-called and Spirit-anointed Bible preacher will understand that his job is to equip the saints to proclaim the Word of God wherever they go (Ephesians 4:11-13). (He will also understand that sometimes God allows him to suffer precisely so that he might witness to the cross of Christ, even when he bears an undue burden fostered by his own congregation.) As the pastor preaches God’s Word to the congregation (and lives the Word before their eyes), he equips believers to serve and to build up the body of Christ through ministries. Such ministries are to be done both inside and outside the church’s gathering, but have the purpose of bringing people into the gathering. Building up the church includes an all-member ministry, for all believers are priests and are to proclaim the glories of God to the world (1 Peter 2:5-9).

In other words, every Christian is a minister of the gospel, even as the pastor leads the congregation to better knowledge of God’s Word. We are not faced with an either-or option here, but a both-and requirement. The congregations must be led by God-called and Spirit-anointed preachers of the Word, and these pastors must then lead their people to become teachers of the gospel to their neighbors. Pastoral leadership and the priesthood of all believers are held together by Scripture and so should our churches likewise hold them together.

Fourth, it sounds as if your third church struggled with a sinful pastor. Please recognize that 1 Timothy 5:20 does indeed call for the public rebuke of a sinful elder. This may be uncomfortable but it is necessary, for his sake and for the sake of others.

However, according to your description, it seems that this church went from following Jesus Christ’s will for the churches to following John Calvin’s misunderstanding of Jesus Christ’s will for the churches. Elder rule that bypasses the congregation is simply a violation of the express will of Jesus Christ, who is the only head of the church (Colossians 1:18). Elder rule, as taught by many (though not all) Calvinists, has no New Testament basis and indeed contradicts the congregational form of governance taught in many places throughout the New Testament. Since you asked, I personally teach that, “The New Testament church is ruled by Jesus Christ, governed by the congregation, led by pastors, and served by deacons” (consult the fuller discussion in Malcolm Yarnell, “Article VI: The Church,” in Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Critical Issues in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination).

Fifth, you raise this important existential question, “How is it that churches get caught in the misguidings of teachings like Calvinism, and how do we combat this from taking over a church?”

May I ask you to consider the following passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, which was filled with all sorts of misguided teachings? “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19). I believe that, somehow, in divine providence, God allows false teachings to exist so that true teachers might become evident in the churches. The word for “factions” is literally translated as “heresies”. It may seem odd to our ears, which too often have an unrealistic view of our churches’ supposed perfection, but God seems to allow false teachers to thrive in order to drive the people of God back to true teaching.

The question then becomes, “How can we know who the true teachers are?” My response there would be that we all should embrace the attitude and actions that characterized the believers in the church at Berea. Even with an incredibly orthodox theologian like the Apostle Paul, these “noble-minded” Christians were diligent to compare what Paul had to say with the Word of God (Acts 17:11). Every church member should become a church of theologians, for God has called the church to a common mind and to take every thought captive to Christ.

In conclusion, let us return to our first point. If our churches are going to have proper forms of worship, models of mission, and structures of governance in our churches, then we must all be diligent to return to the Word of God as the means of our understanding of Christ’s will for the churches. After all, Jesus is Lord and his churches are to be filled with disciples who are willing to carry the cross of obedience to Him precisely because they believe in His Lordship and act it out. Yes, salvation is entirely by grace, but those who are saved will seek to obey Him and Him alone.

In Christ,

Malcolm Yarnell




Greetings in the name of Christ, Do you teach that regenration precedes conversion at SWBTS...Do respond in detail...thanks and GOD bless you!!


The administration has forwarded your request for information to me. I am the Director of the Center for Theological Research and an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology here at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Although I do not speak in an official capacity for the entire seminary (only our President may do that), I can respond as a typical professor to your question.

Your email stated the following:

“Greetings in the name of Christ, Do you teach that regenration precedes conversion at SWBTS...Do respond in detail...thanks and GOD bless you!!”

In my systematic theology lectures on soteriology, I discuss this issue, which comes under the general heading of the order of salvation (ordo salutis). First of all, please realize that most discussions of the ordo salutis are highly speculative and quickly become independent of divine revelation as they flea toward human speculation and philosophy. This includes both the Calvinist (Synod of Dort) and Arminian/Wesleyan systems. I teach my students to reject both systems as human innovations and stick strictly with Scripture.

Let us focus upon John 3 as an example of how this works. In verses 1-18, both regeneration and faith are discussed by the One who saves us. Faith, as you know, is one side of the coin of conversion, and indicates full trust in God; repentance is the other side of that coin. Regeneration means to be born again, or to be born from above. Let us discuss both faith and regeneration from this passage.

  • Regeneration is a sovereign, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit (vv. 5-8), yet Jesus says it is required for our salvation (v. 3). This means that we are dependent upon God for our salvation. Salvation is truly a divine work of grace, from beginning to end. Without regeneration, there is no salvation.

Nicodemus was confused by this and queried Jesus for further information. Jesus proceeded to speak to him about faith.

  • Faith, or believing in the sense of full trust, is required as well if we are to be saved. The world is facing judgment and the only way to escape that judgment is if one will believe in Christ and what He came to the world to do through His incarnation, death, and resurrection (vv. 16-18). Without faith, there is no salvation.

Jesus, however, did not stop with faith. He also proceeded to speak of the redeemed life.

  • Faith, if it is true faith, will issue forth in a changed life, or Repentance (vv. 19-21). If we are of the Light and welcome in the kingdom of Light than we will practice deeds of Light. In other words, repentance, or the changing of our life to follow Christ, is part and parcel of faith! (Indeed, one may not claim to know God’s grace without being a disciple who seeks to obey His Lord in all things. Saying “Jesus is Lord” is the basic Christian confession, so salvation without lordship is nonsensical. Indeed, anyone who says they have Jesus as savior without having Jesus as Lord is deceived and deceiving.)

We are not done, so hold on to your seat. Regeneration, a work of God, is required of us for our salvation (John 3:1-8). Faith, our personal response to Christ and his cross, is required of us for our salvation (John 3:9-18). And repentance, our personal following of Christ and taking up our own cross, is integral to our salvation, too (John 3:19-21). Now, Jesus did not treat these as part of an order, but as descriptive of a single and profoundly momentous, and indeed the most important, event in a person’s life.

Regeneration and conversion (which includes faith and repentance) are two different ways to speak of what is required for salvation. One emphasizes divine action; the other emphasizes human action. Yet, even the human action that is required is also a gift, for faith and repentance are the gifts of God, too!

  1. Regeneration is required for salvation (John 3:3). Regeneration is a gift of God (John 3:5-8).
  2. Faith is a human duty (Mark 1:14). Faith is a divine gift (Eph. 2:8-9).
  3. Repentance is a human duty (Matt. 4:16, Acts 17:30). Repentance is a divine gift (John 16:8-10).

When Jesus and the apostles talk about the great and beautiful truth of salvation, they describe something so great that it is beyond our capability and comprehension. And yet, God demands of us to exercise all that he gives us to exercise in faith and repentance.

My friend, Regeneration is required and is a gift; Faith is required and is a gift; and, Repentance is required and is a gift. And nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that any of these things are prior to the other. REGENERATION AND CONVERSION ARE CONCOMITANT ACTIONS OF GOD THAT ALSO DEMAND HUMAN RESPONSE!

This is why our denomination’s confession treats regeneration neither as prior to or subsequent from conversion. Rather, it treats regeneration and conversion as concomitant realities of the one moment we understand to be the beginning of salvation. Separating salvation into four moments (regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification), article IV of the Baptist Faith and Message treats regeneration and conversion as part of one moment: Regeneration is “a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” And Southern Baptists believe this because they follow the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and although they respect John Calvin and Jacob Arminius, they will walk with those two only insofar as they follow the Bible. Baptists are Biblicists: no more, no less.

Or, if you want a simple answer to your simple question, “Does regeneration precede conversion?” The answer is, “No, but neither does conversion precede regeneration.” Calvinists and Arminians would respond that they are not speaking of a temporal order but a logical order, and I would respond that if one deigns to speak of a logical order from eternity apart from divine revelation, then one speaks with both ignorance and arrogance.

May I ask you a question, good sir? Have you responded to the free offer of God’s grace in Christ Jesus? God sent His only begotten Son to become a human being, to die upon a cross to atone for the sins of the world, and to rise from the dead so that those who believe in Him might also have eternal life. Jesus died on the cross for your sins; Jesus rose from the dead for your resurrection. Do you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior? Have you been born again? Have you repented and believed? If not, I beg of you to follow Jesus, who came preaching, “Repent and Believe in the Gospel!”

Malcolm Yarnell




This question regards the earlier question regarding the search committee for the Minister of Music and Families and Dr. Barber's response. Are the qualifications in I Timothy and Titus actually requirements, that is, must a man have a wife and family to be properly qualified to be an elder? Should widowers and the childless not be elders?


As stated in the original response, I believe that 1 Timothy 3:2 should be interpreted in the light of 1 Timothy 3:4 and the other verses in this passage. Neither being single nor being a widow is, in and of itself, any sort of a reflection upon how one has managed his household; therefore, I find little basis to interpret verse 2 as an exclusion of people in those categories. I also direct you to the subsequent question (Is "never divorced" the best explanation for "husband of one wife?") and answer by a colleague pointing out the connection between divorce and other verses listed in the qualifications.

Bart Barber




If women are biblically restricted from leadership over males (as I believe), how are women politicians to be viewed as future presidential candidates from a biblical perspective? Should Christians not allow women governmental leadership?


The question about the role of women in the political life of our nation is an important and certainly timely one. I do not believe that the Bible prohibits women from serving at any level of public life. The Bible’s instructions about the proper roles of men and women apply to the church and the family. The Bible does not speak directly to differing roles of men and women in public life.
Some people have developed principles from the Bible’s instructions about the proper roles of men and women in the church and family and applied them more broadly. Depending on the setting, the application of these principles has varying degrees of validity. In the church and in the home, the Bible teaches clearly that God has appointed the man to serve as the primary leader. In these environments the issue of spiritual headship figures prominently. As one moves further from roles where the exercise of spiritual authority is involved, it becomes more difficult to apply these principles.
Public service is essentially a secular role. While a person can certainly express spiritual opinions in that setting and can influence public policy related to spiritual activities, there is little, if any, assertion of spiritual authority. Some people choose to apply the biblical model of male headship to all activities in life, including public service, as a means to reinforce the biblical teachings on the proper role of men and women in the church and the family. The Bible does not prohibit this, but neither does it require it.
In fact, there are a number of biblical examples of women providing key leadership roles in the public life of nations. Consider the very affirming depiction of Deborah’s role as a judge in the book of Judges (Judges 4-5). The Bible says “the Israelites went up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:5). It even says that Barak refused to meet Sisera on the battlefield unless Deborah accompanied him (Judges 4:8). Some may note that the text does not explicitly state that God established Deborah in her role as judge and conclude that she did not occupy that role with the same divine authority as the other judges (cf., Othniel, Judges 3:9-10). But Deborah is not the only judge where the divine appointment language is not used. It is also not used for Shamgar (Judges 3:31), Tola (Judges 10:1-2), or Jair (Judges 10:3-5). It is evident that the divine appointment language is not needed to validate for the reader the divine appointment of the judges. Interestingly, the book of Hebrews singles out Barak’s accomplishments without mentioning the role that Deborah played, but this is understandable in light of the passage’s emphasis on the heroic and spectacular (Hebrews 11:32-33).
Some people have claimed that God calls women to leadership when He can’t find a willing man. Certainly, the vast majority of examples of leadership in the Bible are male, but that should not be interpreted to mean that women should be excluded from leadership in public life if a man can be found to do the job. The Bible gives no hint that Deborah was a judge because adequate male leadership could not be found. Indeed, we can be glad that Deborah wasn’t afraid to exercise leadership, since she is the one who summoned Barak and told him that he needed to obey God’s command to fight Sisera (Judges 4:6).
The Bible is clear about the leadership role of men in the home and in the church. Neither the example of Deborah nor any other female leader in, or outside, the Bible should be used as a means to undermine that design. In the same regard, God’s design for male headship in the home and the church does not require the exclusion of women from leadership in public life, where spiritual headship is not involved. Such extrapolation carries the biblical teaching about the role of women beyond the Bible’s own application.

The editors are grateful for the assistance of Dr. Barrett Duke, Vice President for Public Policy and Research, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in answering this question.




Its been said many times that the Word of God never calls us to be a Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, JW, Mormon, Catholic, or any other such denomination. Rather, we simply called to be a holy Christian people. How do you respond to the statement that all denominations with a starting date, also have an ending date? Or that all denominations are not established by King Jesus?


First, I would like to respond by saying that not all of the “denominations” that you mention are Christian denominations. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons deny the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity and are therefore non-Christian religions. All of the others that you mention are indeed Christian, although they differ on second and third order doctrines. To deny first order doctrines such as the deity of Christ is to be something other than Christian.

Most theologians recognize that there are first order doctrines, second order doctrines, and third order doctrines. A first order doctrine is a doctrine which separates a Christian from a non-Christian. Therefore, someone who denies that Jesus Christ is truly God, or to put it another way, of the same essence as the Father, is to be something other than a Christian. Christians can differ in their judgments over certain issues, and remain Christians. But to deny central Christian doctrines such as the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit or the doctrine of the Trinity is to be something other than a Christian. The authors of the New testament clearly meant to include Jesus Christ in the unique divine identity of God. Throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh, and Yahweh alone, is identified as creator and the sovereign Lord of His creation. The New Testament writers clearly included Jesus within this identity of creator/Lord of creation, therefore identifying Jesus with the one true God of the Scriptures.

Second order doctrines, such as whether we ought to baptize babies or only baptize professing believers, are doctrines over which people in various denominations differ. Indeed, it is differences of opinion over these second order doctrines that are the cause of the various denominations. Also, it is these second order doctrines that serve to define the differences between denominations and serve as doctrinal standards for churches of various denominations. While I can recognize that individual professing believers in, say, a Presbyterian Church, are indeed true believers in Christ and true Christians, I could not in good conscience belong to such a church because I disagree with that church’s doctrine of infant Baptism.

Finally, there are third order doctrines where I may disagree with people in my own church. These issues might include disagreements over details regarding the timing of the return of Christ or even doctrines such as predestination. However, differences over these doctrines are no reason for me to separate from another brother with whom I have so much agreement otherwise.

I hope that my answer has been helpful,

Dr. Kevin D. Kennedy

For further information related to this topic, see http://www.texanonline.net/default.asp?action=article&aid=5070&issue




I am on the search committee for a Minister of Music & Families. We have a prospective candidate that meets the criteria perfectly. He has been divorced and is remarried. The committee does not have a problem with this as he has explained the circumstances "out of his control". God has and is using him due to his experiences in this matter. I know the bible is very clear on the requirements of a deacon but what about a staff member? What about a pastor?


Yours is a timely question, and one of great implication for the body of Christ. As Baptists we believe in the Lordship of Christ over His church (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23; Colossians 1:18). Jesus is in charge in the church, or should be. I commend you in your diligence to search out God's will for the leadership of your congregation. At least once in the Bible (1 Samuel 8:7), God asserted that people who chose their own leadership contrary to God's design were, in effect, rejecting His leadership over them. So, the humble subordination to the Word of God reflected in your question is the only right position from which to seek God's will for human leadership in the church. I commend you for your question.

So, what does the Bible say? We might as well acknowledge immediately that the Bible knows nothing of "staff members." The New Testament speaks of two offices in the church: the deacon and the elder/overseer/pastor. A "Minister of Music & Families" sounds an awful lot like a pastoral position to me, so our most relevant passages in the Bible are the qualifications for "overseers" given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and the qualifications given for "elders" in Titus 1:5-9. The New Testament terms elder, overseer, and pastor are three titles that all refer to the same office (see Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4); therefore, both of these passages give qualifications for the same office--that of the pastor.

Both the passage in 1 Timothy and the passage in Titus, in almost identical wording, stipulate that the occupant of this office must be "the husband of one wife" (NASB). If you've spent much time studying this issue at all, you know that a thousand interpretive systems exist to make this qualification mean anything other than a proscription against divorced pastors. Situations are speculated out of thin air: polygamy, remarriage after the death of a spouse, etc. The effect at every point is to make the phrase meaningless as a qualification for the selection of pastors in modern churches.

But I point you to the context of the passage itself. Just two verses later, Paul asserts "[The overseer must be] one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control wil all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4). In Titus we learn that he should have "children who believe" (Titus 1:6). Both passages include broad requirements for a healthy family life at home. The passage clearly asserts this principle: Failure in managing relationships at home bodes poorly for future success in managing relationships at church. I believe that verse 2 ought to be interpreted in the light of verse 4. I believe that it refers to divorce.

Neither passage encourages the church to delve into the specifics of the situation in an effort to determine whether the past divorce was or was not the man's fault. Indeed, the passage places the burden of proof not upon the church to determine that a candidate is unqualified, but upon the candidate to prove that he is qualified. The candidate is to be "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). Paul explicitly spells out what it means to be "above reproach" in the qualifications for deacons: "These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach" (1 Timothy 3:10). Thus, the biblical standard is for the candidate to have a proven history that soundly puts to rest any questions about his qualifications.

Particularly for a pastor serving as a minister "to families" these qualifications are relevant. I prayerfully commend them to you for consideration. Of course, we believe in autonomous congregations--congregations free from the domination of denominational grandees, think-tanks, and scholastics. My opinion is not binding in the least upon your congregation. We do not, however, believe in congregations autonomous from Christ's will expressed in the Bible. May the Holy Spirit guide you in your important position of service to your congregation, leading you and your fellow committee members into all truth as you search for the one whom God has selected to serve in this important role in your congregation.

Dr. Bart Barber




Please explain the difference between "prophesying" and "teaching" as it relates to women in the church and their permitted functions.


Prophets-male or female-had no authority outside of the message they were given by God to deliver. On the other hand, the teacher explains and applies Scripture. Some make the distinction by describing prophecy as a vertical relationship between God and the one who is teaching whereby God gives His message directly to the prophet. Conversely, teaching is both vertical and horizontal. The teacher has authority with those she is teaching apart from the message received from God in Scripture in the sense that she is charged with expounding and explaining the text of Scripture. Tom Schreiner has expressed this distinction by calling prophecy a "passive gift" and teaching an "active gift," which emphasizes the distinction and in no way suggests that prophecy is a lesser gift (see 2 Peter 1:21). Because the prophets were charged with delivering a specific Word from God, their message was distinct from the exposition delivered by one teaching.

Paul admonishes women who exercise the prophetic gift to do so with a submissive spirit and attitude, which would be essential in receiving and delivering a message from God (see 1 Corinthians 11:3). In both Old and New Testaments, God gives to the prophet the words He wants delivered (2 Peter 1:21-22). The prophet functions as would an ambassador representing his government, delivering a message without adding to or subtracting from the words of his president. For men or women to read the Scripture in the congregation falls clearly within the God-given boundaries. On the other hand, a teacher gives explanation as well as application of Scripture. The teacher did not deliver the original message, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded by its authors. However, to explain and apply that word to the men and women of the congregation is the task of a man anointed of God (see 1 Timothy 2:9-15). People can learn in many different ways-from prophecy, the reading of Scripture, a prayer or even an encouraging word; but these informal venues are not teaching in the sense the word is used in the New Testament in reference to explaining and applying God's Word to the congregation of believers.

In summary, women are permitted but not mandated to offer prophecy in the church both to other women and to men, i.e., to the congregation. They are also permitted and encouraged to teach women in the church (see Titus 2:3-5), but they are prohibited from teaching men in the church (see 1 Timothy 2:9-15).


The editors are grateful for the assistance of Dr. Dorothy Patterson in answering this question.




I am a member of a LCMS church (I'm sure you're aware of the particulars) and I am very interested in how the SBC and LCMS can look at the same scriptures concerning baptism and the Lord's Supper and gather two quite different interpretations. It seems to me that the LCMS takes Matthew 26:28 literally. It is HIS BLOOD for the FORGIVENESS OF SINS. Why do both churches claim to not be inserting man's flawed and limited reason on these acts. Thank you for your time and I hope my question is valid.


Thank you for this insightful, challenging, and most appropriate question. Before addressing your particular question, let us note that there is much upon which the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod [LCMS] do agree. First, we agree that the Trinity is foundational to Christian faith. Second, we agree that the church stands or falls with regard to justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Third, we agree that the Bible is the Word of God divinely inspired and is therefore inerrant, infallible, and the sole rule and norm of Christian faith and practice. Fourth, we agree that Jesus Christ was God become man who lived, died, and arose from the dead. We could go on. There is much upon which Southern Baptists and Lutherans of the Missouri Synod can express mutual agreement, and we can wholeheartedly affirm one another as redeemed children of God based upon our verbal confessions of a vibrant internal faith!

Now, as to the difference between the SBC and the LCMS regarding baptism and the Lord's Supper, there should be little doubt that Southern Baptists have rejected the sacramental understanding that Lutherans have retained from the medieval Augustinian legacy. Your question stresses the fact that HIS BLOOD was shed for THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. So far, Southern Baptists are in full agreement. As Hebrews 9:22 states, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." And as that unidentified author (who nonetheless was inspired by the Spirit) teaches, the blood of nothing else is sufficient for altering God's judgment towards sinful humanity. It is indeed HIS BLOOD that is shed for THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS!

However, the disagreement between the SBC and the LCMS does not concern the blood of Christ as a onetime event, but the continuing corporeal presence of Christ in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The Baptist Faith and Message, article VII, states "The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming." Martin Luther's Small Catechism states it differently: "What is the sacrament of the altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine...."

Southern Baptists would point out three large leaps away from Scripture that are required to maintain Luther's position: First, the Bible never refers to the Lord's Supper as a "sacrament". Second, nor does the Scripture ever refer to the Lord's Table as an "altar". Third, never does the Bible state that the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is "under the bread and wine."

Rather than speculating regarding a so-called "Real Presence" in the Lord's Supper, Southern Baptists are compelled by our belief in the sufficiency of Scripture to describe the Lord's Supper in biblical terms, rather than according to traditional philosophical categories. On the basis of Scripture alone, Southern Baptists believe the Lord's Supper is an act of obedience, simply because Christ commanded us to celebrate it until he comes again (Matt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). We believe it is a memorial celebration, simply because Christ said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). We believe it is an ordinance reserved for those that have been properly baptized into a local church, because Christ gave it to the disciples as a community, because we are commanded to celebrate it as a community, and because believers-only baptism preceded the celebration of the Lord's Supper in the New Testament church (1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:18-22; Acts 2:41-42).

Ultimately, the disagreement between Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans turns on the problem of whether Scripture is to be interpreted according to the vestiges of medieval tradition in Luther's mind or whether Scripture is sufficiently interpreted by the gathered church led by the Holy Spirit. Southern Baptists certainly appreciate Luther (we owe to him the historic rediscovery of the biblical doctrine of justification!), but we have decided to move past Luther in interpreting other aspects of Scripture, because that is where we are convinced the Spirit has led us. We humbly invite you to come with us as we obey God's living Word as illumined by His Spirit.




I attended a women's retreat this week-end, and was troubled that they served "communion" at the closing segment. This consisted of breaking off a piece of yeast roll and dipping it in grape juice----definitely not the Southern Baptist way. If I attend next year, how should I react to this situation. I did not want to make a scene, yesterday, but certainly do not feel comfortable with it. Actually, my belief is that it should be a church ordinance only. Thank you for your answer.


Let me answer your question plainly and then elaborate on the theological background.

  1. His group should not have served “communion” because the ordinance belongs to the local church and not individuals. Thus, it should only be celebrated in the local church. 

  2. The group should have used unleaven bread in remaining as close to what Christ established as possible and not dipped the bread. From the sound of it, they practiced a Byzantine Rite using leavened bread and dipping it in grape juice which is called “intinction.”  The basis for this is the Passover meal and the fact that Matt. 26:23 says, “ And He answered and said, ‘He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.’” However, this is not a typical Baptist practice because the establishment of the Lord’s Supper demonstrates the bread was passed first with  the command to take and eat before the cup was passed. My answer is use unleaven bread and do not dip.

  3. Next year, do not participate. It will not create a scene unless they make it one. Peer pressure should not force you into participating in something with which you are not comfortable. I have passed on communion many times for reasons like these.

  4. You are right in your conviction that it is a local church ordinance. What follows is something I wrote for another presentation that discusses the difference between the individual view of the ordinance and the view that the ordinance belongs to the church. If it belongs to the church, this group had no right to practice it. If it is an individual ordinance, then they had every right to practice it. After this follows a short discussion on the elements of the Lord’s Supper. I hope you find this helpful. Thanks for the question. God bless.   

The Lord’s Supper: A Local Church Ordinance

Much confusion over the Lord’s Supper arises from an improper understanding of responsibility for the ordinance. Many overemphasize the individualistic nature of the ordinance without recognizing the local church’s responsibility. A proper understanding of the Lord’s Supper combines the personal self-examination with a balance view of local church responsibility. The hidden matters of the heart must be adjudicated by the individual, but the church bears the burden of maintaining the integrity of the ordinance.

1 Cor 11:28-30 teaches the role of individual responsibility when it states, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” ( All Scripture taken from the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.) This passage must be placed in its proper context. Many items of the heart exist of which the church cannot know. Thus, each person bears responsibility for searching the hidden things of his or her life in order to take the ordinance properly. A person must determine and make right such things as grudges, hatred, lust, covetousness, or hidden sins. Without proper self-examination a person risks improperly taking the ordinance. 

The emphasis on individual responsibility cannot neglect the role of the church in maintaining the integrity of the ordinance. The first step in demonstrating church responsibility is to prove that Christ delivered the governance of the ordinances to the local church. Paul’s letter to Corinth which we know as 1 Corinthians was addressed, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” ( This reference to the word church means the local church “at Corinth” and represents the vast majority of uses of the term in the New Testament. See B. H. Carroll, Ecclesia: The Church (Paris, Ark: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2006).) This letter, written to the local church, states in 1 Cor 11:23, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you.” To whom was the ordinance delivered? Paul delivered it to the church at Corinth. “Now I praise you because you remember me in everything, and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” ( 1 Cor 11:2.) Perhaps the clearest emphasis of church responsibility comes from 1 Cor 5:11, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” No sound hermeneutic can deny that this verse indicates exclusion from the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because the previous verses clearly indicate the supper is in mind by using the terminology of “cleaning out the leaven,” “Christ our Passover,” and “celebrate the feast.” The church at Corinth was told not to associate with such a one at the Lord’s Supper.  

A similar theme can be seen from 2 Thess 1:1. This letter is sent to, “the church of the Thessalonians.” Later in 2 Thess 3:6 we see that the church has the responsibility, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” This verse does not indicate fleeing the lost because Christians are to evangelize the lost. Christians should avoid those who call themselves “brother” and lead unruly lives. 2 Thess 3:14-15 states, “And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And [yet] do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” The instructions sent to the church give orders not to associate which surely must indicate exclusion from the Lord’s Supper. 

If the church at Corinth and the church at Thessalonika were told not to associate with such a person at the Lord’s Supper, then who bears final responsibility for the ordinances? Suppose a person who is obviously living in sin refuses to examine himself properly. The church knows that this person lives in sin. The church bears responsibility not to associate. So the unrepentant person desires to partake, but the church according to Scripture denies such a person this right. Then to whom does the ordinance belong?

A man having sexual relations with his father’s wife and claiming to be a Christian should not be allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper. However, if the ordinance belongs to the individual, then who can stop such a person? If the church has no authority to admit or dismiss from the table then even such a man as this must be allowed. It is possible that such a man or even worse is allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper in locations where the ordinance is viewed as an individual matter. Paul, however, clearly indicates that the church at Corinth is not to even eat with such a one as this. The local church must guard the integrity of the ordinance.   

Maintaining the integrity of the ordinance belongs to the church. This does not eliminate personal responsibility. Such a man would in fact be guilty of partaking unworthily if he did so, but the church would also be responsible for knowingly associating with such a one. Thus, any person who should be placed under church discipline or excluded from church membership must also be excluded from the Lord’s Supper. A few of these actions include: not being a believer, not being properly baptized, and living in sin. 

The Elements of the Supper

The Lord’s Supper occurred after celebrating the Passover feast, and the elements used were unleavened bread and juice of the vine. The question emerges, “Must one use wafers and grape juice to celebrate properly the Lord’s Supper?” The answer to that question is no. The little square wafers and plastic cups of grape juice often used during the Lord’s Supper do an injustice to proper symbolism if the administrator neglects taking the proper time to discuss such matters. In addition, even unleavened bread and grape juice or wine may not be available in some cultures. Because of this, the elements used do not invalidate the Lord’s Supper, but wisdom suggests that one should seek to match the elements as closely as possible.  

Concerning the bread, wisdom suggests that unleavened bread should be used. Paul in 1 Cor 5:7-8 uses leaven to represent sin or ungodliness and states that leaven should be removed. (One may object that in Matt 13:33 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.” However, the positive use of leaven here is the exception and not the general use for leaven. For example, see Ex 12:15, Ex 12:19, Ex 13:7, Matt 16:6, Matt 16:11, Mark 8:15, Luke 12:1, 1 Cor 5:6, Gal 5:9.) For the sake of proper symbolism and following the example of Christ (we know Christ used unleavened bread because of Passover requirements), unleavened bread is preferable where possible. (In earliest times, the bread was baked between clay or stone bread prints containing symbols like a lamb, the cross, or the letters AO from “I am the Alpha and Omega.” Around the ninth century division arose over this issue and by the eleventh century the East used leavened bread while the west used unleavened bread. For early bread prints, one may visit the Museum at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information see, Dale Moody, A Word of Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 471-72.) Paul also indicates that the breaking of the bread and the one loaf bears important symbolism. In today’s larger churches baking a loaf large enough for all to partake is not feasible; however, the administrator of the ordinance can have one whole loaf at the front which is symbolically broken to demonstrate the breaking of Christ’s body. In addition, 1 Cor 10:17 stresses the importance of one loaf symbolizing the one body of the church. As will be discussed later, the analogy of the one bread can be taken too far restricting participants to local church members only. One unleavened loaf broken in front of the congregation with an appropriate prayer of thanksgiving and time of meditation and self-examination is the best way to celebrate the Supper.

To match the original as closely as possible, one would have to use wine as the other element. However, the most important fact about the second element is that it be juice from the vine and not a debate over the level of fermentation (Erickson comments, “If their chief concern is duplication of the original meal, they will use the unleavened bread of the traditional Passover and the wine, probably diluted with anywhere from one to twenty parts of water for every part of wine.” See Millard Erickson, Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 367.) Wisdom suggests that in the American society wine should not be used because it has been the subject of strenuous debate and such debates need not occupy the mind during the celebration of the Supper. (Dale Moody states that “there was also one consecrated cup or chalice of wine until a rural preacher in Ohio invented the tots and trays in 1893. With the discovery of a process by which unfermented grape juice could be preserved there was a shift from the wine also. The temperance movement helped this transition . . .” See Moody, The Word of Truth, 472. There is nothing sinful about the use of wine for the ordinance, but it should be avoided if its use distracts from the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.) The Bible indicates in Mark 14:25 and Luke 22:18 that Christ said he would not partake of the “fruit of the vine” from that time until the kingdom of God comes. Thus fruit of the vine should serve as the element. Grape juice works well for this element as the color leads the mind to reflect on the blood of Christ shed for us. For additional emphasis, the administrator could take the extra step of pouring the juice into a few of the cups explaining that this represents Christ blood being poured out.


The most controversial debate concerning the ordinance has focused on the presence of Christ. (This debate can be traced back at least to Ratramnus and Radbertus. Radbertus wrote first supporting the view of transubstantiation. Shortly after, Ratramnus responded in A. D. 843 at the request of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, and refuted the claim that the elements changed substantively. See Pascasius Radbertus, De Corpore et Sanguine Domini (Turnholti: Typographi Brepols, 1969); and Ratramnus, De Corpore et Sanguine Domini (London: North-Holland, 1974).) Many believe that Baptists have no position on the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper. In fact some in recent times have criticized the denomination for “mere symbolism” with the relationship to the ordinances. (See for example, Elizabeth Newman, “The Lord’s Supper: Might Baptists Accept a Theory of Real Presence? in Baptist Sacramentalism (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press, 2003), 211–27 and Stanley Fowler, More Than a Symbol: The British Baptist Recovery of Baptismal Sacramentalism (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press, 2002).) This author contends that Baptist have in their past demonstrated a proper scriptural understanding of the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper. This understanding is neither mere symbolism nor a meaningless memorial. Baptists understand that Christ is present wherever two or three are gathered and deny not the spiritual presence of Christ whenever this occurs. Baptists also understand that improperly taking the ordinance results in judgment which can affect humans physically. (1 Cor 11:27-30.) Baptists believe that a symbolic celebration which focuses on the sacrifice Christ made on the cross, the fellowship of the community, and the future coming of our Savior is meaningful to the believer and can result in spiritual maturity. However, Baptists do not believe in a physical presence of Christ. Baptists do not believe that grace is infused by the partaking of the bread or juice. Baptists do not believe that a mystical, unexplainable occurrence happens during the Lord’s Supper. This section will now demonstrate that Baptists draw this position directly from Scripture. In order to systematically explain Baptist beliefs, the discussion will begin by refuting historic errors on the presence of the Lord before establishing the scriptural foundation for Baptist beliefs.





           Do Baptists accept a Trinitarian belief of the Holy Spirit? If not, why?


Thank you for this most appropriate question. Southern Baptists most definitely affirm the classical Trinitarian doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) states, “The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.” Later, it also says, “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine.” (See articles II and IIC). Beside our confession, one could cite the orthodox statements regarding the full deity of the Holy Spirit from most Baptist theologians throughout our history, from Balthasar Hubmaier to John Smyth to William Kiffin to Thomas Monck to John Gill to Andrew Fuller to Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Our belief in the deity of the Holy Spirit is not formed by tradition, but by Scripture, as all of our doctrines should be. In other words, we believe that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person in the three-in-one Godhead because that is what the Bible clearly teaches. One may start with the Great Commission itself to see that our baptismal identification is with the God who is three yet is one.




This question may not be a concern to most but I feel the importance of it. My question is, are we selling short the Gospel message when we put emphasis only on the beginning of salvation and not also on the rest of salvation (living life the Kingdom of God way)? I am thankfully seeing more churches emphasizing missions, yet many of our members are regrettably becoming less and less concerned with the Word of God. The Bible is becoming merely periodic reference material, instead of the text for daily living to be studied passionately and to be constantly learned from. If we are a people of the Book, then we should be personally passionate in knowing and understanding its wisdom. To illustrate, my wife teaches a 4th grade Sunday School class. One day, one of her students, who was concerned about the killings that are going on in Iraq, asked her if it is a sin to kill, even when you are at war. Unprepared about the question, she suggested to her student to ask what her parents think. Unfortunately, the student already did and their answer was to ask the teacher. Even when I knew what my position was, I did not say anything, thinking that my answer may just confuse her. When my wife and I arrived home that day, I told her my personal position. I do not remember exactly the reason I gave her but some of my knowledge and understanding of the Bible, gathered during my personal studies, came flashing to my mind. I think that I may be categorizing my answer a little. However, my position was, “Yes, it is a sin.”


Thank you for this excellent question.

Yes, sir, we must indeed live out the salvation which is ours by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. This is called discipleship, and includes the entirety of the Christian life, not just the beginning of salvation. Discipleship is the central characteristic of the believers’ church tradition, of which Baptists and Southern Baptists are a part. Discipleship includes the daily immersion in and living out of the Word of God.

As to the particular issue of war, like you, Southern Baptists desire peace rather than war. However, you will find that most are also willing to go to war in service to the state, which God ordained. Southern Baptists find biblical proof for what Augustine called “just war.” May we refer you to the website of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the President of the ERLC, Dr. Richard Land, has addressed this issue?


As you will notice, our goal must always be peace and justice in the heavy decision to go to war and in conducting it. We end with a quotation of article 16 from the Baptist Faith & Message, and encourage you to carefully read, even more than the words of the Southern Baptists who affirmed this doctrine, the Word of God upon which it is based. Perhaps you could begin with those passages in italics below. (Too often, we are concerned with the fallible opinions of men rather than the perfect will of God, and it is from Scripture, read daily and thoroughly, that we learn of Him and His will, and it is to Scripture that we must constantly turn for our doctrine.)

XVI. Peace and War

It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.

The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7; 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2.




[Dear Dr. White, concerning your recent White Paper, What Makes Baptism Valid?,] how would you answer a person coming to your church with a baptism from a Methodist, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, or Assembly of God background that says his baptism is just as good as yours? [Our apology, but this query was necessarily shortened by the managing editor.]


Your questions generally focus on the definition of a true church. However, baptism being performed by a true church is but one of the requirements for valid scriptural baptism. There is more than one requirement for a valid baptism, and all of the requirements should be met. Thus, valid baptism must be the immersion of a believer with the proper meaning by a true church. Please allow me to express further my position on baptism with these five statements:

  1. Baptism of an unbeliever or an infant is invalid, because it has the wrong subject, no matter where it is performed.

  2. Baptism by any other mode than immersion is invalid, because it follows an unscriptural method.

  3. Baptism for salvation or for any other reason than the biblical one – a public confession of faith thereby placing one’s allegiance with Christ through symbolically identifying oneself with His death, burial, and resurrection – is invalid.

  4. Baptism performed by a false church is invalid. If the church does not adequately possess the Gospel, then even immersing someone who thinks they believe in the same Christ that we do is invalid. For example, Mormon baptisms are invalid.

  5. Baptism in any other name than that of Jesus Christ (or the Trinity) is invalid. For example, baptism in the name of Mohammed is not valid.

I hope this answers your question. God bless.

Dr. Thomas White




I am teaching on 1 Corinthians 14, and was wondering if you could address the question, “Has tongues ceased or is it only for private use?”


Baptist Theology recently published its eighth White Paper on this very subject and refers you there first. You may also want to refer to Dr. Paige Patterson’s sermon on tongues, as reported in the Summer 2006 edition Southwestern News, p. 45.

Perhaps we can expand upon the statement in White Paper 8 that “not all that calls itself biblical actually is biblical.” Some may be confusing their own position with the biblical position, when they regard a “private prayer language” as a spiritual gift. A private prayer language is manifestly not a spiritual gift. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul is painstakingly clear that a spiritual gift must be for the common good, and if the gift is one of the speaking gifts, it must involve public proclamation of the gospel.

An exercise in rudimentary logic may be helpful:

1. A “private prayer language” is defined by its modern proponents as for private use.


2. 1 Corinthians 12-14 defines a spiritual gift as public in nature. The gifts are public because they are intended “for the common good,” to be used out of “love” for the other, resulting in the church’s “edification.”

3. Therefore, due to its lack of public usefulness, the modern practice of a private prayer language is not a biblical spiritual gift.

Those gifts that are called “speaking gifts” are intended for the proclamation of the Gospel. Proclaiming the Gospel is Paul’s major concern, both in his ministry and in his discussion of tongues and prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14. A “private prayer language” is defined by modern proponents as for their own personal edification. They do not claim to be preaching the Gospel to men, but to be speaking in mysteries to God. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is clear that he wants Christians publicly and intelligibly to proclaim the Gospel to men.

There are two distinct understandings of glossolalia addressed by Scripture: the Christian understanding and the Corinthian understanding. The Christian or biblical understanding of glossolalia is that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, involves intelligible speech, and results in church unity. The Corinthian understanding of glossolalia is pagan in origin, involves unintelligible speech, and results in division. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul carefully isolates the Corinthian doctrine of glossolalia and concludes that those who practice it should keep silent.

As for our confession, the Baptist Faith & Message does not reflect every single doctrine that the Bible teaches, but usually addresses those things that are considered “’certain needs’ of our own generation;” moreover, “we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility” (see the introduction and preface to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000). Just because the issue of private prayer language was not addressed six years ago or 43 years ago or 81 years ago by Southern Baptists does not mean they accepted it as a biblically viable interpretation. The proponents of any theological position make a classic logical mistake when they assume that silence is approval – this is a mistake made, for instance, by infant baptizers when they conclude babies were baptized in the household baptisms of Acts.

Widespread Southern Baptist avoidance of the modern practice of a “private prayer language” is not because it stands against the Baptist Faith & Message, but because it stands outside the scope of the biblical definition of a spiritual gift and does not aid the proclamation of the Gospel. Many do not practice a “private prayer language” because they are convicted that God wants Christians to pray with the mind and the spirit in tandem (1 Cor. 14:14-15). 

The common Charismatic appeal to 1 Cor. 14:39 – “do not forbid to speak in tongues” – is misapplied with regard to “private prayer languages,” for Paul applies this command to congregational worship, not “private” prayer. Moreover, the common Charismatic appeal that their prayer language is a heavenly language on the basis of 1 Cor. 13:1 does not make sense, for Paul is clear that such things are childish and will pass away. How can a heavenly (i.e. eternal) language pass away? Finally, the common Charismatic appeal to 1 Cor. 14:18 – “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” – is also misapplied. Paul here is not expressing approval of private prayer languages. Rather, Paul is shaming into silence those who practice Corinthian glossolalia, precisely because their practice is unintelligible and insignificant.

Since Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write about spiritual gifts, his actual words must form our thoughts and practices rather than trying to force our modern thoughts and practices into Scripture. The practice of private prayer language is a recurrent religious experience, with both non-Christian and Christian proponents, that is still seeking a biblical foundation. This does not mean that Christians are necessarily sinning by engaging in private prayer languages. It means, however, that there is no biblical mandate for such practices. Finding a biblical foundation for the modern practice of private prayer languages seems an elusive and fruitless quest.

Finally, one does not have to hold to the theological position of Cessationism to reject “private prayer languages,” although Cessationism is an extremely viable position. One simply has to be careful not to confuse modern thoughts and practices with Scripture’s teachings. We must take every doctrine and practice, including private prayer languages, to Christ for approval, and His will has been made clear in Scripture. The bottom line is that a private prayer language does not fit the biblical description of a spiritual gift and so cannot be the spiritual gift that Paul encouraged.”




What is the spiritual significance of ordination and how does it differ from being licensed?


The certification of ministers within Baptist ecclesiology has passed through several phases in its development to our modern understanding.  Baptists began ordaining their ministers in order to sustain proper order in the church.  However, the term “ordination” was generally avoided out of preference for the more biblical terms of “called,” “set apart,” or “appointed.”

The Baptist view of ordination was not to establish a hierarchy among believers, thereby creating an elite group of “clergy” in contrast to a common group of “laity.”  Baptists followed the Reformation view that Scripture teaches that all believers are priests unto God. 

Baptist ordination was seen as an act of worship whereby the church recognized that the Spirit had gifted certain individuals, who themselves believed they had been called of God, and whereby the church appointed them for ministry through prayer and the laying on of hands.

Today, licensing is considered by many as a preliminary step to ordination.  The licensed individual is thought of as an intern or apprentice minister.  The license from the church allows the individual to be recognized by the laws of the land to perform ministerial functions. In earlier times, English Baptists referred to a licensee as a “Preaching disciple.”

The editors appreciate the contribution of Dr. Robert Pearle in answering this question.




Does 1 Timothy 2:12 mean that a woman should not teach a Sunday School class or Bible Study in which men are present? If not what does it mean?


The prohibition addresses the general function of teaching within the church. No mention is made of specific assignments in the church in which teaching would occur. One can easily understand how challenging it would be to begin a list of forbidden teaching assignments that would span the generations. However, to address a function common to every generation is clear and effective. The prohibition found in 1 Timothy 2:12 is definitely gender specific:

  • Women are not to teach men in the church (1 Tm 2:12);

  • Women are admonished to teach other women (Ti 2:3-5)

    The church certainly does not seek to suppress women; rather the goal is to ensure full and proper use of their gifts for ministry in a divinely appointed framework based upon the natural creation order and the appropriateness of the function in whatever setting. The home and church cannot be separated in the divinely appointed schema. They are inextricably bound together in principle and metaphor as well as in purpose and practice. One cannot negate truths concerning the structure of home and church, such as the image of the relationship between God and Israel and between Christ and the Church, just to satisfy cultural whim or to accommodate higher plateaus of education and extended venues of opportunity. God’s Word is grounded in timeless, historical, theological truths. The commands found therein are not merely illustrations for a particular church or a specific cultural setting, but these principles are mandated for the generations.

    The text of Scripture affirms that women with varied positions of service, influence, leadership, and teaching assignments functioned in the early church with modesty and orderliness (1 Co 11:2-16; 14:40), and these women on the pages of Scripture did not violate the Pauline directives (1 Tm 2:11-15; 1 Co 14:33-35). Women would do well to work within the clear authority of God’s Word, neither seeking recognition nor demanding higher office, but making every effort to serve the Lord and trust Him to open opportunities appropriate to their giftedness, achieving usefulness despite their limitations and beyond their expectations.

    The editors are grateful for the assistance of Dr. Dorothy Patterson in answering this question.




    Where do Baptists stand on women teaching in the church? Under what conditions? In which areas? Praying in public? And why?


    Baptists, in keeping with their heritage as a “people of the Book,” ought always to stand under the principles taught in Scripture as binding for faith and practice. The questions then rest with Scripture. Does it say what it means and mean what it says?

    Although several passages relating to church order are important, the didactic or teaching passage is 1 Timothy 2:9-15, in which the apostle Paul affirms that women should learn, while clearly setting the boundaries for what women are to do in the church. Paul admonishes women to receive instruction quietly, encouraging both intellectual and spiritual growth. He then forbids them to teach or to exercise authority over men. These two different functions are strangely bound. However, neither task is exclusively forbidden. Women can teach and lead, but both tasks are set apart with clearly defined boundaries. God Himself sets the general boundaries for spiritual leadership sovereignly without regard for an individual’s ability to perform the service required. Giftedness, a winsome personality, and academic acumen are not divinely mandated requirements for service in the kingdom of Christ.

    Paul does not prohibit Christian women from all teaching. In the New Testament, for example, women taught children (2 Tm 1:5; 3:15; Pr 1:8), instructed other women (Ti 2:3-4), and on occasion shared personal understanding and knowledge with a man (see Ac 18:26). The grammatical construction in 1 Timothy affirms that two functions are forbidden: A woman should neither teach men nor exercise authority over men. Whereas such teaching and authority are clearly identified with the pastoral office (1 Th 5:12; 1 Tm 5:17; Heb 13:7, 17), the issue is not office but function. One is much wiser to stay with the biblical guidelines and approach every choice with a determination to follow Scripture and its mandates rather than be bound to a human agenda of conclusions concerning what office or position is acceptable or forbidden.

     Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 11 that women are free to pray and prophesy in the church, but there is no indication that they are mandated to do so (1 Co 11:5). If they do pray or prophesy, they are encouraged to do so with an attitude of submission to male leadership, an attitude illustrated in that first century culture by wearing a head covering (1 Co 11:3-10).

    Scripture makes clear that God does indeed have order and harmony as priorities in corporate worship, and He does have a proscribed way of service. In addition, clearly there is complete harmony in how the creation order plays itself out in the church as well as in the home. In both home and church,  leadership in men is balanced with gracious submission in women in both arenas. For whatever reason, God has chosen to reveal Himself and teaches us how to relate to Him through the metaphor of the home and family and the relationships therein. Therefore, He gives special attention to how husbands and wives relate to one another in both settings.


    The editors are grateful for the assistance of Dr. Dorothy Patterson in answering this question.




    Is "never divorced" the best explanation for "husband of one wife?"


    The phrase, “husband of one wife,” is found in 1 Timothy 3:2, where the requirements for an episcopos, whom we would call a pastor, are found. The phrase is perhaps better translated as “one woman man.” However, this translation may still not answer your question. The context of the entire passage in which this phrase is found, I believe, is the best way to answer your question. Right before this particular requirement is the requirement that a pastor be “above reproach.” In verses 4 and 5, another requirement is “that one must manage his own household well.” Certainly, divorce is evidence that one has not managed his household well. In verse 7, those outside must also consider a pastor to have a good reputation. Divorce often ruins a good reputation in the eyes of outsiders. In light of these other requirements, “never divorced” seems to be the best explanation of the requirement that a pastor be the “husband of one wife.” The same phrase is found in the list of requirements for a deacon, too (1 Tim. 3:12).




    Is the doctrine on the "Priesthood of Believers" a strong Baptistic distinctive? If so, how is it being implemented?


    The doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers has often been identified as a Baptist distinctive. The roots of this doctrine are in Scripture and our understanding of it should come from Scripture rather than from any tradition. Anyone who has been born again through faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior should treasure this doctrine as distinctive of their church.

    Biblically, the doctrine may be discerned first in Exodus 19:6, where God promises Israel through the Mosaic covenant that they will be “a kingdom of priests” if they will obey His voice and keep His covenant. In Isaiah 61:4, the remnant of Israel is promised, “But you will be priests of the Lord; You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.” In Isaiah 66:21, this promise is expanded to include the nations, “’I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,’ says the Lord.”

    In 1 Peter 2:5, we learn that these promises begin their initial fulfillment in the local church: “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Again, in 1 Peter 2:9, the promises are fulfilled in the church: “”But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

    Moreover, in the book of Revelation, we discern future fulfillment of the promises, too. In Revelation 1:6, concerning Jesus Christ, John writes, “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” And, in Revelation 5:10, the four living creatures and the 24 elders sang before the Lamb these words, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.” Finally, in Revelation 20:6, we read that the promises will be fulfilled in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ: “they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”

    Since Christ has not yet returned, God’s promise to make us priests and kings finds its current fulfillment in the local churches. There, the royal priesthood, a corporate entity, is to engage in two activities: it should offer up spiritual sacrifices, and it should proclaim God’s excellencies.

    As to your second question—“How is it being implemented?”—the answer would be that every time a local Baptist church offers up spiritual sacrifices and proclaims God’s glory, then it is implementing the royal priesthood!

    Please note: The Second Annual Baptist Distinctives Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is scheduled for September 29-30. The conference is entitled “Maintaining the Integrity of the Local Church in a Seeker Sensitive World,” and will feature many relevant presentations with regard to Baptist distinctives and the local churches. Dr. Yarnell will be presenting a paper giving more detail on this very doctrine in relation to Baptist distinctives. You are invited to attend.




    Why was the mediation of Jesus Christ necessary? In addition, was intercession made for all of the children of Adam (humanity) through the Second Adam, or just for the Church?


    The answer to your first question is actually quite straightforward. The mediation of Christ was indeed necessary for our salvation. The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, states that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Paul ties Jesus’ role as mediator to His work of providing a ransom for sins. Jesus is the mediator between God and Man precisely because He is the ransom for our sins. In Romans 6, Paul writes of the believers in Rome as having been “slaves of sin.” Slaves are removed from their slavery by being “redeemed” out of bondage to their master. The Bible also clearly presents Jesus as the only one through whom redemption is available. Peter, in Acts 4:12, states that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Without the mediation of Jesus Christ, salvation is impossible.

    Answering your second question may be more complicated, at least on the surface. In His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus says “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours” (John 17:9). In this prayer, Jesus says specifically that He does not pray for the whole world, but only for those whom His Father had given Him. This might seem to indicate that Jesus only intercedes on behalf of believers. However, He later specifically prays for those who are not believers. While on the cross, Jesus prayed to God, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This is a clear instance of Jesus interceding for those who are unbelievers. And He is interceding that God forgive them. So, it would appear that to say that Jesus never intercedes for unbelievers would simply be unbiblical. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, when Jesus says that He does not pray for the “world,” we perhaps should take it to mean that He was not praying that particular prayer for the world.

    There are many general theology texts that might be useful resources for you to consult concerning questions such as this. Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology come immediately to mind.




    I know that many Reformed traditions use catechisms to teach doctrine to their members.  Have Baptists used catechisms similarly in the past?


    Yes, Baptists have also used catechisms. A catechism is a short teaching tool that is organized in a question and answer format. The questions and answers discuss basic issues of the faith, such as the Trinity or salvation or the church. Baptists, similarly to Presbyterians and many other Christian traditions, have found catechisms helpful in educating their children in the Christian faith and Baptist distinctives. For an example of a Baptist catechism, see John A. Broadus's catechism on the History Sources page of the BaptistTheology.org website.