Briefly on Baptism

Has the idea of baptism every confused you? It has been practiced in different ways with different ideas surrounding it. Is it really important to be baptized? Should baptism be reserved for adults only or is it okay to baptize infants? For answers to these questions, we must turn to God’s Word. Below I have provided a short summary of how the Bible speaks of baptism with references to the corresponding passages. May God bless you as you consider this important act of discipleship.

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Baptism is the initiatory ordinance (that is an authoritative order) of Christ received by every Christian upon his conversion symbolically identifying him with full commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a symbolic act, it has no power to save, but instead points to that which does—fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol of repentance of sin (Matt 3:11), a way to identify with the Triune God (Matt 3:13-17; 28:18-20), a manifestation or display of genuine saving-faith in Jesus (Acts 2:37-39), a portrayal of conversion and the union of the believer with Christ by which he has died to sin with Christ and risen from the dead to live a new life in Christ (Rom 6:1-7), a representation of a “humble request to God for a conscience cleared of guilt because of Christ’s atoning blood”[1] (1 Pet 3:18-22), and a familial identification with Jesus and the church (Gal 3:26-29).

As Jesus, the head of the Church, commissioned His apostles, those He called during His first coming to serve as the foundation of the church, to baptize as a necessary step of making disciples (Matt 28:19), the local church is the only right administrator of baptism. As baptism represents repentance, a manifestation of true saving faith, and conversion and as the New Testament never commands or portrays the baptism of unbelievers of any sort, the only right subject of baptism is the one who has surrendered to Jesus Christ in personal faith. Therefore, infant baptism is illegitimate as infants cannot comprehend the gospel or surrender to Jesus’ Lordship. Those who wrongly received baptism as infants should be baptized legitimately upon placing their faith in Jesus as an act of obedience.

The term for baptism throughout the New Testament, baptizein, and its cognates signify “immersion.” Immersion is the act of being completely immersed or covered in water. The New Testament shows no other mode of baptism than immersion. Therefore, immersion is the only proper mode of baptism while sprinkling (also known as aspersion) and pouring (also known as affusion) are illegitimate modes of baptism. As baptism identifies the believer with Jesus and His church (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:4-6), churches should not extend baptism to any person unwilling to join a local church. As baptism is a command of Christ, the church should not extend Lord’s Supper to a person who lives disobediently by rejecting baptism (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

[1] Mark Dever, “The Church” in A Theology for the Church ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 789.


7 Reasons to Be Thankful this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an entire day that we set aside to be thankful. But our thankfulness isn’t to some blind power of the universe. Thanksgiving doesn’t make sense apart from a Creator who made us and sustains our lives. Without God, thanksgiving is a sham. There would be no need to thank fate or chance for these forces have no will or mind. They cannot be gratified by our gratitude. But there is a Creator who made us, who revealed Himself in the Bible and in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes down (James 1:17). This is the God whom we can thank for our many blessings on Thanksgiving. And the greatest of these blessings are the spiritual blessings which come to us in the new life obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. What are these blessings? Below you will find seven of them, although there are many more that you can discover by reading Christ’s Word as you walk with Him.


Reason #1: Justification

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:8-9).

What precious truth we have here! In order to be thankful for justification we must understand that we are sinners. In fact, the Bible says that every person is a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that every heart is deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We must also understand that the punishment of sin is death and an eternity of suffering without God (Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:11-15).

Yet, God loves us even though we’re sinners!  What evidence do we have of this? “Christ died for us.” God sent His Son into the world that He could be your substitute—that He could die in your place! The Bible declares that Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15) and therefore He did not deserve to die. Yet, He gave up His life to take your punishment that you might live in His place (1 Peter 3:18).

Because of what Jesus did that day on the cross, you can be justified! The word justified (δικαιόω, dikaioō) is a legal term. It means to declare innocent or righteous. Even though you have sinned against God and were headed for eternal condemnation, God can declare you innocent because Jesus took your place. Therefore, if you are in Christ, God, the universal and eternal judge will not hold you eternally guilty and you will be saved. How can you take hold of this justification? By surrendering your life to Jesus Christ—that is by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14-15).

Reason #2: Sanctification

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

In Ephesians, Paul has explained the mystery of the gospel. Nearing the end of his letter, Paul is explaining how the gospel of Jesus makes a difference in our interactions with others. He uses Christ’s love for the church to explain how husbands should love their wives. In doing so, Paul reveals a great blessing in the gospel for which we can be thankful: sanctification.

Paul first reminds the Ephesian husbands that Christ “gave Himself up” for the church. Then Paul explains why Jesus gave Himself up. He did so in order that He might sanctify the church. What does sanctify mean? The word used here is ἁγιάσῃ (agiasē) which means to make holy or righteous. It carries the idea of consecration, that is the setting apart someone from profane things.

The idea is that through justification, Christians are declared righteous. In sanctification, Jesus works to make Christians what He has declared them to be—innocent and righteous. Jesus, by His Spirit, convicts Christians of their sins and gives them the will to put those sins away. He also convicts them and guides them into righteous acts. And how does Jesus do this?  He does it “by the washing of water with the word.” Jesus uses the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16:13, 2 Peter 1:20-21) to make His people righteous. So this Thanksgiving, we get to be thankful that Jesus doesn’t give up on us because we are too sinful. Instead, He works to change us. Just as Paul encourages us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Reason #3: The Promise of Glorification

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).

We can also be thankful for the promise of glorification. What is glorification?  If justification is the beginning of salvation and sanctification is the process of salvation, then glorification is the end or result of salvation. In the passage above, Paul has explained that God’s love for His people is eternal and victorious in Jesus. Then he makes the promise that “God causes all thing to work together for good” for those who are in Christ. But what is the good for which God works? It is not our selfish desires. It is our glorification! Paul strings together the process of salvation which includes God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.

The word glorified is ἐδόξασεν (edoksasen) which means to make glorious or to clothe with splendor. God created mankind in a glorified state—in His image (Genesis 2:26-27). But mankind rebelled against God and that rebellion marred the image of God in mankind so that man is not quite what he was meant to be. Yet, Jesus came in order to defeat death so that, by union with Him, His resurrection would lead to our resurrection to a glorified state—a state in which the image of God is repaired within us. Thus, Paul tells the Corinthians,

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

The promise of glorification is a great promise!  It means that one day we will not struggle with desires for sin. God will take them away completely. It means that we will not struggle in a world of sin, for Christ will make a new world that has not been corrupted by sin (Revelation 20:1-8). It means that one day we will not have bodies that fail as the ones we have now. We will have eternal bodies; glorified bodies.  That means no hair loss, no diabetes, no cancer, no blindness, no Alzheimer’s, no down syndrome, and no death.

In the Romans eight passage, Paul uses the word “glorified” in the simple past tense. Why would he say it has already happened? Because God has declared it. God is completely faithful. Therefore, when He promises something, it may be stated with such a certainty as if it had already taken place. So, this Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the assurance of glorification!

Reason #4: The Presence of the Holy Spirit

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, before His arrest, He desired to comfort His disciples in preparation for their impending grief. He consoled them by disclosing His future plan to prepare an eternal home for His followers. While this promise imparted, and still imparts, great consolation, Jesus had more comfort to grant—He promised His Spirit’s eternal presence with His followers.

Notice that the Holy Spirit is given by the Father at the request of the Son. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as another “Helper.” Helper translates the word  παράκλητον (paraclēton). In the technical sense, this is a judicial term for an advocate who pleads one’s cause before a judge or an intercessor who intervenes on another’s behalf. The Holy Spirit certainly acts as an advocate or intercessor for the born-again Christian. Paul assures,

the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

When Christians do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us!  He guides our will and even when our knowledge is obscure, He guides our way!

Jesus tells us that the Helper will be with His followers forever. In Jesus’ incarnation, He took on a human body, which He retains even to this day at the right hand of the Father. A body may only be in one place at a time. Yet, Jesus promised His presence with His followers forever (Matthew 28:20). How then can He be with us even now? By sending His Spirit to us. He said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). This is the very Spirit that inspired the Scriptures and in, by, and through those Scriptures, He guides us “into all truth” (John 16:13). And this Holy Spirit only abides with those who surrender to Christ. He is our Helper through Christ Jesus! What a comfort and blessing worthy of all praise and thanksgiving that we are never left alone; never left to our own understandings. We have a Helper to advocate for us and guide us!

Reason #5: The Fellowship of the Church

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

The writer of Hebrews had just reminded his readers of the confidence that Christians have to enter into God’s presence by the blood of Jesus. Then he makes several exhortations based upon that truth. Since Jesus died for us “let us draw near…let us hold fast…let us consider…” It is to this last exhortation that we now turn. Christians are called to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Why? Because the world is full of distractions that want to choke out our service to the Lord (Matthew 13:22). Therefore, we need each other to stimulate us to love and good deeds. The word for stimulate is παροξυσμὸν (paroksusmon) which usually carries a negative connotation of provoking someone to argue or fight. But the writer of Hebrews makes a sharp contrast with this word. Christians are to provoke each other for good not for evil. The word can also mean to irritate. Have we gone so far as to irritate each other to serve God? The life of the Spirit will always irritate the desires of the flesh. Therefore, let’s irritate one another, let’s provoke one another, let’s call one another to serve God through love and good deeds.

But how can we provoke one another to love and good deeds if we never gather? How can we love Jesus if we don’t love His people (cf. John 13:34-35, John 14:15)? How can we love His people if we neglect them? The assembling together of which the writer of Hebrews spoke certainly included the weekly Lord’s Day gathering of the church. This is and has been for nearly 2,000 years, the regular time for the church to meet every week and celebrate the resurrection Jesus. It’s a time for stimulating one another toward love and good deeds. What a blessing Sunday mornings are!

Not only do Christians provoke each other to love and good deeds each Sunday morning, but as we gather we are “encouraging one another.” The word for encourage has a vast range of meaning that covers instructing, encouraging, strengthening, comforting, begging, and admonishing. It would be hard to know exactly which one of these ideas the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he used the word. But one thing is certain, he intended that we would come together and address each other with God’s Word—His commands and His promises.

The writer of Hebrews reveals a truth that makes us ever grateful for fellowship with our brothers and sisters: the Day of the Lord is approaching. The day when Jesus returns to separate His church from the world and to judge the world will come. The fellowship of the church guards us from wandering from Christ and His will, from building with the wrong materials (1 Corinthians 3), from having greater loves than Christ (Mark 12:28-34). The fellowship of the church is one of God’s greatest blessings for which we can be thankful.

Reason #6: Purpose for Living

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).

Without God’s revelation of Himself and His will through His Word, the Bible, this life would be one full of confusion that could be likened to being cast into the ocean at night time—you wouldn’t know which way was up or which way was down. But instead, the God who created us also has a purpose for us. What is that purpose? Jesus, just before He was arrested, prayed for His disciples—even all His future disciples. He prayed for you and for me. At the beginning of His prayer, He stated the essence of salvation—knowing God and Christ.

Considering the grand narrative of the Bible, you will notice that Adam and Eve were created in fellowship with God. But after they rebelled, they were cut off from fellowship with Him. God made a temporary way for Old Testament Israelites to fellowship with Him through the tabernacle, the temple, and the sacrifices until the time was right for a permanent and better way. Jesus came to bring a permanent reconciliation between man and God (Romans 5:10). Jesus came so that we could live in relationship with God. Jesus came as God among us (Matthew 1:23). Jesus came so that we could have God live within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns, He will bring us to the New Jerusalem in which the church will get to live with Jesus forever (Revelation 21:3).

God’s purpose in the Garden of Eden, in the tabernacle, in the Temple, in sending Jesus, in sending the Holy Spirit, in the creating the New Jerusalem is to be in relationship with His people. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. That is your purpose in life. That is something to be thankful for. So then, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Reason #7: The Promise of a New Home

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

This is my favorite passage in the entire Bible because it is full of unceasing hope and joy. When God created mankind in His image, that meant that He created mankind to rule—to rule over His creation as stewards (Genesis 1:26-30). Yet, when mankind rebelled against God, all that was in their care suffered the consequences (cf. Genesis 3:16-19, Romans 8:18-22).  Sin entered the world and corrupted it. With sin came relational turmoil, pain, disease, natural disasters, and death.

The majority of the book of Revelation speaks of God’s judgment upon the world that will end with the destruction of the world. But, since Jesus came, that will not be the end. Jesus promised that He would go to prepare an eternal home for His people (John 14:1-6). After His return, Jesus will provide a new heaven and a new earth for His people that will be uncorrupted by sin. There will not be any of the plagues that entered the world because of sin. Jesus will be there physically with His people once again. His bride, the church, will be completely cleansed of sin and will sin no more. Since God is the source of all good, no wrong will ever be done to His people or His new heaven and earth. All sadness and death will be a thing of the distant past.

Yes! We have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. The greatest gifts are those which come from the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ! Do you have that salvation? Do you have those gifts? Jesus has done all that is needed for you to be saved; to be brought into a relationship with God. All that’s left is for you to take hold of that salvation. Paul says,

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation… for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Thanks be to God!


A Deeper Dig on Deacons


Over the past several years I have heard of a concerning number of Baptist churches who intentionally do not have deacons. I have heard some Baptist pastors boast that their respective churches do not have deacons as if deacons were a hinderance to God’s plan for gospel advance. I find this to be very problematic since God’s inerrant Word provides the office of deacon and reveals that New Testament churches had deacons. God did not make a mistake when He divinely guided the Apostles to direct local churches to select deacons from among their numbers. Biblical faithfulness rather than pragmatism must guide church order and structure. Or do we think we know better than God?

In the past, the church in which I pastor did not have deacons. By God’s grace, we now have three faithful, Biblical deacons who are serving God and His people for His glory to the advance of the gospel. On the evening I am writing this post, I was privileged to hear one of our deacons share about the opportunity that God had given him and another one of our deacons to provide a benevolence need and share the gospel. I heard one of our other deacons close a church service in prayer, asking God to give all the church members opportunities to share the gospel. Thanks to these three faithful men who accepted the call to serve as deacons, I am able to serve as a pastor more freely and faithfully and our church is functioning in tune with God’s design as revealed in the New Testament.

As you read below a portion of one of my essays for a doctoral seminar at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which discusses the deacons of the New Testament, please consider the grace that God has revealed in providing His local churches with deacons. I would encourage you to write one of your deacons a card to let him know that you are praying for him. Thank your deacons for the way they serve. Praise God for His perfect and unchanging plan in local church structure and order! May God bless your church and deacons even as you read this article!

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The Office of Deacon

When Paul established churches, he did not intend for an organic gathering of individuals without structure. He addressed the Philippian church emphasizing that he wanted two groups of people in particular to heed his message: “the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1).[1] Paul required that deacons, like overseers/elders, meet specified qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Paul, nor the other apostles, treated any other offices with such concern.

Paul used the term διάκονος (diakonos) for this office in Philippians 1:1 and First Timothy 3:8-13. This word translates as “minister,” “servant,” “attendant,” or “deacon.” John Hammett notes that the New Testament writers use the term thirty-six times but only the two passages referenced above clearly refer to the ecclesial office.[2]

The Origin of the Diaconal Office

Viewing the two clear passages which refer to deacons does not reveal the location or time in which the office began. While Acts 6:1-7 does not use the term διάκονος (diakonos), many scholars and churchmen consider it the pericope of diaconal origin. Darrell Bock and F.F. Bruce do not believe that this passage speaks of deacons because Luke does not use the technical term for deacon.[3] However, apart from mentioning that Luke neglects the technical term for deacon, neither produces an argument against the traditional understanding of the passage. Some of these denials of the traditional rendering seem to consider institutionalism harmful. Hans Küng argues that these seven Hellenist men serve more as elders than as technical deacons.[4] The account of the elders caring for monetary funds in Acts 11:30 seems to corroborate Küng’s claim. Gregg Allison urges caution in viewing Acts 6:1-7 as an account of deacons while acknowledging strong arguments for both sides.[5]

Kari Latvus does present an argument against taking the seven men in Acts six as deacons: the seven are never called diakonoi (deacons), the verb diakonein (to serve) and noun diakonia (service or ministry) are used generally to refer to both preaching and serving in this passage, and the seven have a different outcome than the current understanding of deacon ministry in that they work as preachers or evangelists in the following chapters.[6] Yet, the Scriptures refer to church leaders at other times without using the technical terms (i.e., Hebrews 13:7, 17). The terms for serving and service/ministry make an association of this passage with the office of deacon more likely. Finally, preaching and serving as a deacon are not mutually exclusive activities. Only Stephen is shown preaching (Acts 7) and Philip is shown evangelizing (Acts 8). But Stephen’s apologetic proclamations and Philip’s witness of the gospel are activities expected of all Christians (cf. 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 1:8).

John Hammett presents a very convincing and concise argument for accepting the traditional view of Acts 6:1-7. First, Luke uses the cognates of the office in question, διακονίᾳ (service or ministry) and διακονεῖν (to serve), in verses one and two in relation to the work these seven men would undertake. Second, the qualifications for these seven men are commensurate with the qualifications in First Timothy 3:8-13. Third, “if Acts 6 is not linked to the origin of deacons, we have an office with no precedent in Jewish society, with no origin described in Scripture, and yet an office that was widely and readily accepted by New Testament churches.”[7] Merkle relates the apostles and the seven men in this account to the relationship between the future elders and the deacons. He concludes, “although the term diakonos does not occur in Acts 6, this passage provides a helpful model of how godly servants can assist those who are called to preach the Word of God.”[8]

God’s sovereignty and Jesus’ headship and pastoral care for the church make it unlikely that He would leave His church ignorant about an apparently important office that He wanted them to implement. The textual evidence is strong enough to warrant belief that this passage speaks of deacons or at least provided a reliable pattern for deacons to follow in their relationship with their elders and congregation.

The Responsibilities of the New Testament Deacon

A survey of Acts 6:1-7 and First Timothy 3:8-13 hints at four responsibilities of New Testament deacons within their respective churches. In Acts 6:1-7, both Judaic and Hellenistic Jews comprised the church. According to Polhill, these Hellenistic Jews likely came from the diaspora and settled in Jerusalem later in life. They spoke different languages and wore different clothes than the Judaic Jews.[9] Bruce explains that the main differences between the two groups were their differing languages and attendance to synagogues which used their respective languages.[10] The gospel had not yet gone to the Gentiles but the mixture of Judaic and Hellenistic Jews created a potential fault line that the church would need to guard. Complaining[11] arose along this natural fault line.

The church had been providing food for their widows. This was a normal practice among religious Jews in Jesus’ days. While the Apocryphal book of Tobit contradicts the gospel, it does reveal the thinking and practice of the Jews soon before the church began. Tobit states,

Praier is good with fasting, and almes and righteousnesse: a little with righteousnes is better then much with vnrighteousnesse: it is better to giue almes then to lay vp gold. For almes doth deliuer from death, and shall purge away all sinne. Those that exercise almes, and righteousnesse, shall be filled with life.[12]

The church had continued this Jewish practice of providing for the needy but they did so motivated by the gospel rather than an attempt to earn their salvation.

In the daily distribution of food for the widows, the church unintentionally neglected the Hellenistic widows. The apostles addressed the situation with the wisdom of Jethro when he told Moses to delegate some of his responsibilities in Exodus 18:17-27. The apostles called the church together and proposed a plan inspired by the Holy Spirit:

It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2-4).

From this account, the church derived the diaconal role.

The first New Testament diaconal responsibility involved the deacons’ relationship to the apostles. They served to protect the apostolic ministries of the Word and prayer. Had the apostles met the needs of the Hellenistic widows themselves, they would have neglected the ministry to which God called them. Later, the deacons served in this same supporting role for overseers as Philippians 1:1, in conjunction with this passage, displays. Hammett explains, “Diakonos indicates more of a support role than episkopos or presbyteros…The example in Acts 6 fits the distinction between the ministry of leaders (elders/overseers/pastors) and the important but different ministry of other servants (deacons).[13]

Second, the New Testament deacons cared for the physical needs of the church. The seven men of Acts 6:1-7 provided for the widows’ sustenance. The meaning of the office title indicates this function as “one who waits tables.” The apostles did not require the deacons to be able to teach as they required of the overseers (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; 8-13). However, this ministry of providing for the physical needs acted as a complimentary role to the apostles’ and overseers’ ministry of teaching. It enabled the ministry of the Word to advance.

Merkle, combining the first two responsibilities states, “the deacons provide leadership over the service-oriented functions of the church…it seems best to view the deacons as servants who do whatever is necessary to allow the elders to accomplish their God-given calling of shepherding and teaching the Church.”[14] Paul’s requirements in First Timothy for the deacons to not be fond of “sordid gain” and to be “good managers of their children and their own households” likely hints at their responsibility in using church funds to provide for physical needs.[15]

Third, the New Testament deacons worked to prevent divisions within the church. The reason the apostles proposed the office was because a division was beginning. Merkle acknowledges that the apostles “understood that allowing this problem to continue could cause division in the church.”[16] The apostles also knew that Jesus wanted the church to have unity as one people. They heard the Lord pray, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). When a threat of division appeared, they dealt with it decisively by establishing the diaconate. Mark Dever adds,

The apostles were not just interested in rectifying a problem in the church’s benevolence ministry. They wanted to prevent a fracture in church unity, and a particularly dangerous fracture–between one ethnic group and another. The deacons were appointed to head off disunity in the church. Their job was to act as the shock absorbers for the body.[17]

Since preventing and repairing division in the church served as a catalyst for the apostles establishing the diaconate, it likely continued as one of their responsibilities throughout the New Testament.

Fourth, the New Testament deacons set a godly example for their respective assemblies. When the apostles guided the church in selecting their deacons, they did not allow anyone to serve. The men who served had to meet certain qualifications. They had to be “men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The good reputation was necessary so the church could have an effective witness with outsiders. The fullness of the Holy Spirit and wisdom were necessary to deal with divisive issues within the church. However, the early church had the expectation that every Christian should be of good repute and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. When Paul guided Timothy in establishing leaders in Ephesus, the deacons and their wives had to meet certain qualifications (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8-13). The early church expected this kind of character from the members of their assemblies.

A perplexity exists as to the need of giving and stating qualifications since the apostles expected the same from everyone in the assemblies. The likely conclusion is that the New Testament deacons shared with the elders (that is, pastors) the ministry of Christ-like modeling. Hammett, after mentioning this role of the deacon, states, “Anyone identified as an officer in the church in some way represents the church publicly and is thus required to possess a degree of maturity…the office of deacon is not a small, unimportant ministry that anyone can render.”[18]

While the New Testament authors do not explicitly state that these four responsibilities belonged to the deacons, Acts 6:1-7, First Timothy 3:8-13, and Philippians 1:1 hint at them. The scarcity of information on the diaconal role in the Scriptures may be intentional. The apostles may have intended to be vague so the deacons could serve unforeseen needs in the church as they arose. The early deacons may have served in any way needed.[19]


[1] Moises Silva, considers why Paul singled them out and concludes that he was showing a regard for them while preparing to give them “rebukes and criticisms that occur in the body of the letter” in Philippians (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 41.

[2] John Hammet, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 192.

[3] Darrel L. Bock,  Acts (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 259. F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 182, and F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts: Revised (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 122.

[4]  Hans Küng, The Church (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), 511-512.

[5] Gregg Allison, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 242.

[6] Kari Latvus, “The Paradigm Challenged: A New Analysis of the Origin of Diakonia.” Studia Theologica  62, no. 2 (2008): 147-148.

[7]  John Hammet, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 192.

[8] Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008), 229.

[9]  John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1992), 178-179.

[10] F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts: Revised (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publlishing Company: Grand Rapids, 1988), 120.

[11] The word here is γογγυσμὸς which can be rendered “grumbling” or “murmuring.” This would have been a certain sign that division had begun and would need to be dealt with swiftly to defend unity.

[12] Tobit 12:8-10 in The Authorized Version of the English Bible 1611, Vol. 5, William Aldis Wright, ed. (London: Cambridge University Press Warehouse, 1909), 113.

[13]  John Hammet, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 194.

[14] Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional), 240.

[15] John Hammett points this out as well in Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 196.

[16] Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner, eds., Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2015), 65.

 [17]  Mark E. Dever, “The Church” in A Theology for the Church, Daniel L. Akin, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 799-800.

[18] John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 196.

[19] See Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008), 238-242.


7 Reasons I Became and Remain a Southern Baptist

Reason #1: Southern Baptists Trust the Authority of the Bible

If God is the creator of all things then He has knowledge that we do not have and if this Creator spoke to mankind to reveal Himself and to reveal truth, then His revelation must be trusted more than the finite understanding of man. Southern Baptists have not always trusted the Bible as their main authority. In fact, many Southern Baptist leaders and scholars questioned the inerrancy of Scripture until the conservative resurgence which started in the 1970s.  The Conservative resurgence was a drawn-out battle for the authority of the Bible and ended with the Southern Baptist Convention affirming that authority and those who were Biblically moderate and liberal withdrawing and forming their own denomination. I grew up in a very Biblically conservative church which is a part of a very Biblically liberal mainline denomination. I left that denomination because of their equivocality concerning the authority of Scripture.  I am thankful that Southern Baptists believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16) and “The law of the LORD is perfect” (Ps 19:7).

Reason #2: Southern Baptists Are Gospel-Centered

The Christian faith is entirely dependent upon the historical life, death, resurrection, and return of King Jesus. The church exists to make disciples for Jesus (Matt 28:16-20) by serving as witnesses to His person and work (Acts 1:8). Southern Baptists have been known for their evangelistic efforts. However, Southern Baptists are becoming known for a greater gospel-centeredness than sharing the news of Jesus with those who have never been born-again. In my experience, I have noticed that many Christians view spiritual growth as moving beyond the gospel—as seeing the gospel as a mere starting place in the Christian journey. However, the more I read and hear Southern Baptist leaders, the more I realize that they encourage Christians to view spiritual growth as moving deeper to the center of the gospel rather than moving beyond it.  As Dr. Daniel Akin states, “Christology is the focal point and essence of Christianity. As we have seen, from Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the Bible’s great theme…What we believe about Jesus, who he is and what he did, will greatly shape the rest of our theology.”[1] Dr. Kenneth Keathley adds, “Salvation is a person, Jesus Christ, and therefore, ‘he who has the Son has life’ (1 John 5:12). The Bible emphasizes several aspects to salvation—justification, sanctification, and adoption, among others—but all fit under the general heading ‘union with Christ.’ The New Testament presents salvation as the unity of Christ with the believer and the believer in Christ (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20).”[2] Southern Baptists are more and more emphasizing discipleship as abiding in Christ (Jn 15:1-11).

Reason #3: Southern Baptists Are Mission-Focused

God is the missionary God who left His home in order to bring salvation to those who were far away (Jn 1:14). God calls His people to bring His glory to others (Ps 67). Jesus commissioned the church to take the news of salvation to all the nations (Jn 20:21, Mt 28:1-20, Acts 1:8). I am grateful that Southern Baptists take this call seriously. The Cooperative Program is the evidence of Southern Baptists’ genuine concern for Jesus’ mission. The Cooperative Program is a very effective financial plan that allows Southern Baptist churches to combine their resources for the purpose of the Great Commission. Each SB church gives to their state convention which withholds a portion of the funding for state mission work and sends the rest to the SBC. The SBC divides those funds between its entities for Great Commission work. Through this program, Southern Baptists have the largest international missionary agency in the world, the International Mission Board, which has nearly 3,600 missionaries in the field. Likewise, the Cooperative Program supports the North American Mission Board which has nearly 5,700 missionaries. CP giving is divided as follows:


Reason #4: Southern Baptists support six solid seminaries.

We expect our physicians to go through years of rigorous schooling before they prescribe medication or perform surgery. However, issues of the soul and eternity are of greater importance and greater complexity. The work of Christian leaders requires greater and more thorough training than that of physicians.  The six Southern Baptist Seminaries provide just that. After the conservative resurgence, these seminaries have boomed as a result of God’s blessing for their faithfulness to His Word. Indeed, they have become six of the most significant and largest seminaries in the nation. I am very grateful to God for my time at one of them, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC and am blessed to be a student at another, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. I have often heard pastors advise, “Seminary can be a Cemetery. Learn what they say, parrot it back, get your degree, and forget about it altogether.” I also know of a “Christian” seminary that holds Islamic chapel services. The other day I spoke with a fellow Baptist pastor (not Southern Baptist) in an airport who goes to a “Christian” seminary in which the majority of his professors openly claim that they are not born-again Christians. I can honestly say and rejoice that this is not the experience for students of the six Southern Baptist Seminaries.

Reason #5: Southern Baptists Have Been Blessed with Many Godly Leaders

I can think of several denominations in which many of the people and churches believe the Bible and seek to follow it while their leaders deny the Bible and seek to undermine it. Contrary to that, leaders (past and present) of the Southern Baptist Convention like Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, Russell Moore, Jason Allen, Steve Gaines, and Fred Luter stand on the faithfulness of God’s Word and proclaim it.  I am always glad to see Albert Mohler and Russell Moore speak on behalf of Southern Baptists without fear or equivocation to the onlooking nation. I was so humbled and encouraged in the 2016 election for SBC president when Steve Gaines and J.D. Greer ran for president. When the ballots were counted and the election was too close to call, both men offered to withdraw and support the other. They were more concerned about the unity of the convention and the work of God than their personal ambitions. I have likewise been blessed with the counsel and guidance of regional Southern Baptist leaders like Seth Polk, Senior Pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church and Jacob Atchley, Lead Pastor of the Church at Martinsburg. Such men set a great example and provide strong Biblical leadership for fellow Southern Baptists.

Reason #6: Southern Baptists espouse Biblical Ecclesiology (church government and order)

Southern Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church. We believe that each local church exists and functions under the headship of Jesus Christ and has no outside authority. As I’ve shared in a previous post, “The New Testament reveals that God has given authority to the local church to govern herself under the headship of Christ. New Testament churches practiced discipline (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5), baptized new believers and added them to their membership (Acts 2:41), selected and ordained deacons (Acts 6:3), appointed and sent missionaries (Acts 13:2-3), and recognized and corrected false teaching (Acts 15:22). A New Testament church is a church who governs herself under the headship of Christ.” Southern Baptists know the importance of the local church and have many wonderful scholars who teach this faithfully such as Drs. John Hammett, Jason Duesing, and Thomas White.

Reason #7: Southern Baptists Work Hard Toward Racial Reconciliation

As our country becomes further divided along the lines of race, Southern Baptists have been working for years to bring reconciliation. In 1995 and in 2015, the SBC passed resolutions calling racism sin and seeking the eradication of racism and the advancement of racial reconciliation. At the 2017 SBC, after some confusion over the resolution, Southern Baptists condemned white supremacy.  In recent years, the SBC has had both Native American and African American presidents. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has become well known for its Kingdom Diversity Initiative.  Southern Baptist’s are striving to live out the  “renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:9-11).


[1] Daniel L. Akin, “The Person of Christ” in A Theology for the Church. Daniel L. Akin, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 542-543.

[2] Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation” in A Theology for the Church. Daniel L. Akin, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 686.

The New Testament Model: Multiple Pastors and Multiple Deacons for Each Local Church

In last week’s article, I made the provocative claim that “The model of one pastor serving one congregation is an unbiblical and unfaithful development of the second century.” That should shock many readers in the United States because many of our churches have one pastor, not multiple pastors. I know that many who read this desire to be as Biblical as possible. In this week’s article, I would like to substantiate my claim that we may consider how to be more faithful to God’s Word.

Image result for Pictures of the Acts of the Apostles

Before I do so, I would like to define my terms. First, the terms elder (also translated presbyter), overseer (also translated bishop), and pastor (also translated shepherd)[1] are used interchangeably in the New Testament for one office. I most often use the term pastor to refer to this office because it is the term used by most Baptist traditions, although elder is becoming more popular. While I usually use the term pastor, while referring to the New Testament model, I may use all three (or six) terms interchangeably.

Second, a two-tiered model is a model of church government which has multiple pastors and multiple deacons in each local church. This is the model which comes from the New Testament. Therefore, this is the model to which I am advocating each local church transition. I will provide evidence of multiple pastors for each local church in the New Testament but I will not do so for deacons since that is more agreed upon at present. By the term two-tiered model I do not mean one pastor and multiple deacons in each local congregation. While that also may be called a two-tiered model, it is not the New Testament’s two-tiered model but a model that came as a later reduction of the three-tiered model of the fourth-century AD.

Third, a three-tiered model is a messier term because the model is dynamic, making transitions and transformations throughout church history and therefore will have differing forms. All of these forms are unbiblical as they reject the New Testament model of multiple pastors and multiple deacons in each congregation. In the second century, we see the first three-tiered model take shape as one of the pastors (usually called elders at the time) was chosen to serve as that local church’s overseer or bishop or what I will call the monarchical bishop. Later in church history, that bishop would be chosen to serve over several local churches who each had elders and deacons. By the time of Chrysostom in the late fourth century, elders were replaced with a priest for each local congregation who was given sacerdotal duties and seen as a type of mediator between Jesus and the church. The three-tiered model in many regions had transformed to a bishop over each region, a priest over each congregation, and a deacon serving as the priest’s assistant. The present model in many congregational churches has rejected the idea of a single bishop outside the church ruling over them but seem to have kept the idea of a single minister (I use this term here because the term priest was used regularly from the fourth to the fifteenth century but now a variety of terms are used with differing nuances behind them) leading over them from within, rather than returning fully to the New Testament model of multiple pastors from within their own congregations leading them.

Below you will find excerpts from an essay I wrote for a doctoral seminar at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with some changes to make it more readable to a wider audience. The first section will show the New Testament’s model of a plurality of pastors (aka elders). The second section will show the New Testament’s two-tiered model practiced during the late first and early second century after the close of the New Testament. The third section will show how and why the most primitive three-tiered model developed in the mid to late second century AD. The conclusion will provide three considerations for churches desiring to transition to the New Testament model.

Plurality of Overseers/Elders/Pastors

According to the New Testament, each local congregation had a plurality of elders. No overseer had to bear the responsibilities alone. John Hammett contends, “When one looks at the verses containing the words elder, overseer, and pastor, a consistent pattern of plurality emerges.”[2] The model of a monarchical bishop in each congregation is a development of the second century as this essay will demonstrate later.

When Paul left Titus in Crete, he instructed Titus to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Paul does not tell Titus to appoint an elder in every city. The term πρεσβυτέρους (elders) is in the plural while πόλιν (city) is in the singular. Paul’s goal was to have multiple elders in every congregation. While one may argue that each city could have had multiple churches, allowing for one overseer for each congregation, Luke reveals a practice that contradicts one overseer per each congregation by Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. They “had appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). Here again, πρεσβυτέρους (elders) is plural but ἐκκλησίαν (church) is in the singular form. Paul and Barnabas’ practice was to appoint multiple elders in each congregation.

In Acts 20:17, Paul “called to him the elders of the church.” Consistently, πρεσβυτέρους (elders) is plural while ἐκκλησίας (church) is singular. Benjamin Merkle argues, “The church in Ephesus is referred to in the singular (it is not the churches of Ephesus), indicating there was only one body of believers in Ephesus that was governed by a plurality of leaders…”[3] Corresponding to the above instances, Shawn Wright reveals further Biblical evidence of the New Testament pattern of plurality and concludes, “The pattern is clear: more than one elder per a local congregation.”[4]

Two-tiered Ecclesiology in the Patristic Era

Some of the earliest documents in the Patristic era reveal the two-tiered structure of multiple overseers/elders/pastors and deacons as revealed above in the New Testament. As Steven McKinion explains about the Patristic era, “The most prominent offices were those of elder (presbyter) and deacon. Other titles for the first of these offices both in the New Testament and patristic literature were pastor and overseer (bishop).”[5] This essay will now provide a few brief examples of the two-tiered structure of the church in the earliest Patristic documents that carried over from the New Testament. The two-tiered structure is not an invention of those holding to a congregationalist polity. Those who were temporally closest to the apostles also understood the New Testament in this way.

First Clement is one of the earliest church writings extant after the New Testament. As mentioned previously, Clement was an elder in the Roman church who wrote to the Corinthian church at the end of the first century because they wrongly deposed their overseers. Clement used structural and agricultural language to explain that God appointed the apostles who appointed the overseers and deacons. He also used the Septuagint’s account of Isaiah 60:17 to make his argument as the translators used both ἐπισκόπους (overseers) and δικαιοσύνῃ (deacons) in that passage. Clement stated,

And thus preaching through countries and cities, [the apostles] appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, ‘I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.’[6]

Clement argued to the Corinthians that God intended for them to have bishops and deacons within their local congregation.

Directly before this passage, Clement tied the two-tiered model to the doctrine of salvation; to the gospel. He said that the apostles went about preaching the gospel by the Holy Spirit and as they did, they first set up bishops and deacons. Clement’s account is consistent with Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey (Acts 14:23) in which they appointed elders. It also fits well with Paul’s letter to Timothy as Paul provided qualifications for these two offices that the Ephesian church might implement them.

As Clement addressed their deposition of the overseers, he made an argument that the apostles intended for appointed men, by the consent of the church, to serve as elders, taking on the ministry of the apostles. Clement described the office of elder with the term episcopate (office of overseer) and with the shepherding motif of serving the flock. He explains,

We are of the opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure…”[7]

Clement’s close association with the office of elder with the acts of overseeing and shepherding reflects the interchangeable use of the terms ἐπισκόποις (overseers), πρεσβυτέρους (elders), and ποιμένας (shepherds) in the New Testament (cf. Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1-5).

The Didache, an anonymous writing of the early second century, served as an instruction manual for the early churches. During the time of its composition, itinerant teachers and prophets traveled from church to church. However, these prophets and teachers were not the leaders of the local congregations. The writer of the Didache instructs,

“Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers.”[8]

The writer revealed that local churches should have two offices and multiple officers of each within their members: bishops and deacons. The common practice was to have a two-tiered structure.

Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John and an elder of the church of Smyrna, wrote to the Philippian church to provide them practical instruction and commend to them the letters of Ignatius. Polycarp likely wrote this letter in the first half of the second century. He gave instructions to the deacons and elders. Of the deacons and to the young men, Polycarp teaches,

Knowing, then, that ‘God is not mocked,’ we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all…In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things…being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ.[9]

Polycarp’s instruction is reminiscent of Paul’s qualifications for the diaconate in First Timothy 3:8-13. He also instructed the young men to follow the example of the deacons and the direction of two types of officers: presbyters and deacons.

Polycarp continued by guiding the presbyters in their responsibilities to their local assembly. He directed,

“And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those who wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always ‘providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man;’ abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin.”[10]

Here, Polycarp revealed that the church should have presbyters and deacons. In describing the work of the presbyters, he relied upon the shepherding motif as he directed them in “bringing back those who wander.” He may also have had the idea of overseers in mind when he commanded them to “not be severe in judgment.” For Polycarp, then, the presbyters served as pastors and overseers.

One last issue must be considered regarding Polycarp. Many in church history have considered Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna. Some proponents of a three-tiered structure may argue that the introductory clause of Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians supports this as it states, “Polycarp, and the presbyters with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi.”[11] A. Cleveland Coxe offered an equally valid translation. He renders it, “Polycarp, and those who with him are presbyters.”[12] If this translation is correct, Polycarp was a fellow-elder with other elders in Smyrna, not a bishop who presided over the elders. This phrase cannot reliably support a three-tiered structure. These few examples of the late first and early second centuries reveal a two-tiered structure of the church consisting of the overseers/elders/pastors and the deacons.

Divergence from the New Testament Model in the Patristic Era

 The first century provides no evidence of a three-tiered structure in the church. One cannot say the same of the second century.  Hans Küng traced the development of church offices providing a possible scenario. He argued that the early church first had a loose structure with teachers and prophets. He then said that elders and deacons provided more structure in the church and took the place of teachers and prophets. In the second century, one of the elders began to serve as a monarch over the congregation and in time became a monarch over multiple congregations in one region.[13] Küng’s argument for a loose ecclesial structure with prophets and teachers is doubtful as he questioned the authenticity of the pastoral epistles, believing them to have been written in the second century. However, the writings of the early church fathers provide support for the rest of Küng’s analysis.

Ignatius of Antioch offered the first evidences of the office of overseer splitting into an bishops and elders. Ignatius served as bishop of Antioch. Tradition holds him to be a disciple of the apostle John alongside Polycarp. Ignatius wrote a letter to the Trallian church to encourage them to continue following Christ, give them practical instruction for godly living, and to warn them against following false teachers. He presented several clear statements of a three-tiered structure that includes a monarchical bishop in the Trallian church.

Encouraging his readers to be subject to their monarchical bishop, Ignatius wrote,

For, since ye are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ…It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [ministers]of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God.”[14]

Ignatius separated one of the elders and marked him as the bishop. Then he elevated the bishop in such a way that usurps both congregational and elder authority.[15] Ignatius presented a hierarchical structure of bishop, elders, and deacons.

Ignatius continued to display this structure in greater detail as he explained the hierarchy with a metaphor: “In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles.”[16] Since he likens the bishop to Christ and the deacons to the appointment of Christ, it would follow that the ordination of deacons is no longer from the authority of the church, as it was in Acts chapter six, but rather of the bishop.

Striving to protect the church from false teachers, Ignatius continued, “he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience.”[17] At the end of the letter, Ignatius once again set a bishop up over the elders when he states, “it becomes every one of you, and especially the presbyters, to refresh the bishop…”[18] There can be no doubt that Ignatius presented a three-tiered structure.

One other letter from Ignatius reveals his reason for having a monarchical bishop. Ignatius wrote to the Philadelphian church out of a concern for false teaching and division. A sign of a true follower of Christ is that he is in fellowship with the bishop a church. Ignatius writes, “For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop.”[19] The monarchical bishop may have developed, at least for Ignatius, as a clear and practical way to identify false teachers and false believers from true ones.

While likely dealing with divisions in the church that developed into segments of the church celebrating Lord’s Supper apart from the whole, Ignatius hinted at his theological reasoning for the structure of a monarchical bishop in the three-tiered hierarchy. He argued, “Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one alter; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants…”[20] Ignatius shadowed the apostle Paul’s language as Paul provided theological grounds for church unity (Ephesians 4:4-6). For Ignatius, a monarchical bishop not only staved off heresy, he also provided the foundation for unity.

Beckwith, speaking of the separation of bishop from elders, adds, “Probably the reasons were not in every case the same, though church discipline and the preservation of unity seem likely to have been the most common reason.”[21] Whatever the reasons, Steven McKinion mentions Jerome’s account of the development of the monarchical bishop came about through the elders of a congregation selecting one of their own as primus inter pares (“first among equals”).[22] These examples reveal that the church during the patristic era changed coarse from the two-tiered structure of the New Testament mostly for practical reasons rather than Biblical reasons.


New Testament evidence supports a two-tiered structure of multiple overseers and deacons in each local church. The church in the early patristic era went off the Biblical path in regard to these offices. The church who desires a God-honoring structure and a healthy church will implement the two-tiered model of multiple pastors and multiple deacons in each local church as God has graciously and sovereignly directed in His Word.

I have three suggestions for local churches considering a transition to the Biblical model of having multiple pastors and multiple deacons for their church. First, consider the ramifications of a single-pastor model. How has placing the responsibilities meant for multiple people on the shoulders of one person hurt your church? Hurt your pastor? Hurt the mission of the church? How could your church change for the better if you honored God’s model?

Second, while every pastor should be financially compensated, not all pastors must be compensated fully (1 Tim 5:17-18). The pastor who takes the brunt of the teaching responsibilities should be supported most fully. Smaller churches should consider offering part-time remuneration or stipends to pastors who do not take the brunt of the teaching responsibilities (although every pastor must teach, cf. First Timothy 3:2). I know of one smaller church who brings on young men who have a call to ministry as assistant pastors. The church pays them a $300-$500 per year stipend. This gives support to the lead pastor, experience and mentorship to the young pastors, and a Biblically faithful pastoral ministry to the local church.

Third, smaller congregations who struggle to find qualified candidates to have multiple pastors and deacons should prioritize the Biblical model over their present existence. What I mean is that smaller churches who cannot find or support multiple pastors (not even with a small stipend for those who do not teach/preach most) and who have exhausted all efforts to establish multiple pastors should consider merging with another church of like faith and order that they may follow God’s plan for multiple pastors and deacons in each congregation. A church in this circumstance must choose whether they will honor God and His plan or whether they will honor their own identity and desire.

[1]  See Acts 20:17-35, 1 Peter 5:1-5, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 with 5:17-22 and Titus 1:5-9.

[2] John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2005), 178.

[3] Benjamin Merkle, Why Elders?: A Biblical and Practical Guide for Church Members (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2009), 29.

[4] Shawn D. Wright, “Baptists and a Plurality of Elders” in Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond, Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner, eds. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2014), 251-252.

[5] Steven A. McKinion, ed., Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 151.

 [6]  Clement of Rome, The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, 42 (ANF 1:16).

[7] Clement of Rome, The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, 44 (ANF 1:17), emphasis added.

[8] Didache, 15 (ANF 7:381).

[9] Polycarp of Smyrna, The Epistle of Polycarp, 5 (ANF 1:34).

[10] Ibid., 6 (ANF 1:34).

[11] Ibid. (ANF 1:33).

[12]  A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Vol. 1. Eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 33.

[13] Hans Küng, The Church (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), 522-527.

 [14] Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, 2 (ANF 1:66-67).

[15] See also Ignatius’ letter to the Smyrnæns where he likewise says, “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.” Ignatius, Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæns, 8 (ANF 1:89).

[16] Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, 3 (ANF 1:67).

[17] Ibid., 7 (ANF 1:68).

[18] Ibid., 12 (1:72).

[19] Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, 3 (ANF 1:80).

[20] Ibid., 4 (ANF 1:81).

[21] Roger Beckwith, Elders in Every City: the Origin and Role of Ordained Ministry (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 2003), 13.

[22] Steven McKinion, Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 151.

Pastors and Deacons

I am convinced that many churches today possess an order and government foreign to the New Testament. A quick glance at many local churches in the United States will reveal models of government guided by modern business models, tradition that has gone off the rails of Scripture, or western dispositions of individualism and pragmatism. God’s Word provides the unchanging direction and examples that church health and unity require.

The apostle Paul, directing the church at Corinth in the proper manner of church services stated, “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints…But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). That requires that we must allow God’s officers to govern in the way that He intends. But how does God intend for them to govern? How does God intend for a church to be ordered? Below, I present another portion of a more practical than usual project for one of my doctoral seminars. May God bless you and your church as you seek to follow His will for His people gathered.

Congregation Governed

A Biblical church will be congregation governed, pastor led, and deacon served. God’s intention has been to call a holy nation of priests to Himself (Ex 19:6). As Israel failed to be that holy nation of priests, God promised to make a new covenant in which He will write His law upon His people’s hearts so that they know Him and He has forgiven their sins (Jer 31:31-34). Jesus’ death inaugurated this new covenant (Matt 26:27-28) and to those who surrender to Him in faith, He gives the Holy Spirit. They become part of His holy priesthood-kingdom where by every citizen receives spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7) so they can offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet 2:4-10). Therefore, every member of a local church serves as a minister and no member acts as a mere spectator.

Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to His apostles (Matt 16:19) who, along with the prophets, are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). The keys transferred, not to bishops, but to local churches and enable the churches to share the gospel (binding), recognize false gospels and practice discipline (loosing). Jonathan Leeman makes a convincing argument that church member is an office with responsibilities for everyone who holds it. He states,

Jesus gives all believers, when gathered as congregations, the authority to administer their priestly and kingly duties with the keys of the kingdom. The whole kingdom employs these keys—through the ordinances—to make formal declarations concerning the what and the who of the gospel.[1]

Every member not only serves in ministry, but participates in governing the church.

The New Testament reveals that God has given authority to the local church to govern herself under the headship of Christ. New Testament churches practiced discipline (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5), baptized new believers and added them to their membership (Acts 2:41), selected and ordained deacons (Acts 6:3), appointed and sent missionaries (Acts 13:2-3), and recognized and corrected false teaching (Acts 15:22). A New Testament church is a church who governs herself under the headship of Christ. However, a New Testament church will also submit to the leadership of her appointed leaders.

Pastor Led

As Jesus gives gifts to every citizen of His Kingdom, He gives some men gifts to serve in the office of pastor-teacher (Eph 4:11). The New Testament exclusively shows the pattern of each local church led by a council of pastors rather than one pastor.[2] The model of one pastor serving one congregation is an unbiblical and unfaithful development of the second century. The New Testament authors use the terms pastor, elder, and bishop for the same office (Acts 20:17-35; 1 Peter 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 3:31-7 with Titus 1:5-9). Each designation indicates a different nuance to the responsibilities of the office.[3]

The office of pastor has five responsibilities. First, the pastor’s primary responsibility is the ministry of the Word. The New Testament reveals that as the church spread and as the apostles died, some, but not all, aspects of the apostolic ministry transferred to pastors.[4] The apostles, led by the Spirit, directed the church of Jerusalem to ordain deacons so that they could be free for the ministry of proclaiming God’s Word publicly (Acts 6:4). As the apostles spread out, pastors shared this relationship with the deacons where by the pastors preach while the deacons serve (Phil 1:1). Paul tells Timothy that for a man to be considered to serve as a pastor, he must be gifted to teach (1 Tim 3:2). Every pastor must hold fast “to the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Tit 1:9). While some pastors may teach more than others, all still must teach in some capacity (1 Tim 5:17). Therefore, pastors must give most of their time and efforts to preaching, teaching, sharing the gospel, and studying to do these works.

The second responsibility of pastors is the ministry of prayer. Likewise, the pastors received this ministry through the apostles as they did the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). While all Christians will pray, pastors have a special ministry of prayer. Indeed, James calls the sick to call upon the elders for prayer and anointing in the name of the Lord (James 5:14). Therefore, a pastor must give a significant portion of his time to praying for his congregation and seeking God’s guidance for the church.

The third responsibility of the pastor is leadership. The term for overseer, episkopos, carries this idea. As Daniel Akin states, “The title ‘overseer’ indicates the function of oversight or supervision of the church. It implies a spiritual responsibility to ‘manage’ God’s church (cf. 1 Tim 3:4–5)…It is an office charged with ensuring the welfare of God’s people through the loving watch- care of their servant leaders.”[5] Paul reminds the Ephesian elders that their leadership over the church was not appointed by man, but by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). Peter instructed the elders to exercise oversight voluntarily “according to the will of God” (1 Pet 5:2). Corresponding to this, the writer of Hebrews instructed the church to “obey your leaders and submit to them” (Heb 13:17). While the church governs itself in certain areas, the day-to-day direction of the church belongs to pastors. The leadership of a pastor should reflect the leadership of Christ: proclamation of truth, giving direction, and seeking the welfare of those under His leadership with a deep concern for them.

The fourth responsibility of the pastor is the ministry of shepherding. The shepherding motif directs pastors in this function whereby they imitate God as shepherd, caring for His people (Ps 23). Jesus came to shepherd His people by providing abundant life and protecting them from thieves, wolves, and the false sense of protection of hired hands (Jn 10). Therefore, pastors serve as undershepherds, imitating the chief shepherd (1 Pet 5:2-4) by shepherding the whole flock of God (Acts 20:28). This kind of shepherding involves spiritual protection, provision, and care in applying God’s Word to the lives of the congregation. The primary goal is not to provide therapy, but to provide for sanctification.[6]

The fifth responsibility of the pastor is the ministry of modeling the Christian life. The qualifications for elders and overseers in First Timothy chapter one and Titus chapter three reveal this pastoral role.  Regarding these qualifications, except for the ability to teach, God calls every believer to possess them. This implies that pastors must set the example. Likewise, the pastoral designation of elder or presbuteros “communicates the maturity, integrity, and dignity a church leader should possess.”[7]

Deacon Served

God has provided so that every local church should have her own deacons. In the Bible, there are two clear passages that refer to deacons (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-13), one which likely speaks of deacons or proto-deacons (Acts 6:1-7), and one questionable passage (Romans 16:1). The term diakonos speaks of one who waits tables; one who serves. English translators render the term deacon, minister, or servant. Philippians 1:1 sets apart the offices of pastor and deacon as the norm for a local church.

Deacons have four main responsibilities. In Acts chapter six a division arose. The church was providing food for widows. Yet, the church neglected the widows of the Hellenistic Jews who had relocated to Jerusalem. The apostles would have neglected their God-given responsibilities if they had met the need themselves. Therefore, they told the church to select several men who were above reproach and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3). This instance guides the church’s understanding of diaconal ministry. First, deacons must protect their pastors’ ministries of Word and prayer. Second, deacons care for the physical needs of the church. Third, deacons prevent divisions in the church. Fourth, deacons set the example of godly living (cf. 1 Tim 3:8-13). The scarcity of information on the diaconal role in the Scriptures may be intentional to allow for flexibility in its functions. Concerning women deacons, the Biblical evidence is vague and controversial. If Acts 6:1-7 speaks of deacons, the Biblical pattern does not obligate a church to have women deacons.

[1] Jonathan Leeman, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016), 67.

[2] Benjamin Merkle presents strong evidence for this claim in 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008), 161-165. Also see Benjamin Merkle and Thomas Schreiner, eds., Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2014).

[3] See Bruce A. Ware, “Putting It All Together: A Theology of Church Leadership” in Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2014), 289-290.

[4] Benjamin Merkle makes this speculation after noting that Luke speaks of the Apostles and Jerusalem elders working together in Acts 11:30 but as Acts progresses, the Apostles are mentioned less and the elders more. in Shepherding God’s Flock (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2014), 61

[5] Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace, Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor Is and What He Does, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017), 153.

[6] See Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 32-35 where Purves explains that the priorities of shepherding are preaching forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ and assisting people to find God’s grace in their lives.

[7] Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace, Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor Is and What He Does, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017), 154.


Preparing for Lord’s Supper

Lord’s Supper has become a very misunderstood act. Some traditions believe that the act imparts grace while others see it as a mere symbol. To many, it has become a time of shame and guilt while others see it as an inconvenience. The practice today is sadly individualistic. The Lord intended greater blessings than these views offer.

Image result for free Lord's Supper pics

Much like my last post, I am presenting a small portion of an unusually practical project for my last Doctoral seminar intended to help local churches develop policies and practices concerning certain issues. I have also included a guide to help a worshiper prepare to celebrate Lord’s Supper. I prepared and recently distributed this guide to our church members the week before we celebrated Lord’s Supper and some of them found it very helpful to increase their spiritual health and the significance of Lord’s Supper.

What is the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper is an ongoing ordinance of the church which Christ instituted as a remembrance of salvation whereby the elements represent His sacrifice and the church celebrates their salvation in unity.  Jesus instituted the Supper at Passover, the night of His arrest.[1] The Supper represents the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. As the believer receives the bread and cup, he receives them as signs of what Christ has accomplished on his behalf for his salvation.

The Lord’s Supper represents the believer’s regeneration through Christ as He revealed that this Supper would commemorate the New Covenant ratified by His blood. In this covenant, God will write His law on His peoples’ hearts, He will be present with His people and know them intimately, and He will forgive their sins.[2] As the believer partakes of the supper, he is reminded of His reconciled relationship with God and His new life in Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is an act of worship and obedience. Jesus commanded the church to do so “in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor 11:24-25). The believer partakes of the Supper in adoration of Jesus. Therefore, when a local church takes Lord’s Supper, they are obeying Jesus and worshiping Him as God in the flesh.

The Lord’s Supper is an act of anticipation. Jesus told the disciples He would not drink it of it again until He did so in the Father’s Kingdom. (Matt 26:29). Paul said that when believers partake, they “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26).  Therefore, when a local church celebrates Lord’s Supper, they celebrate and remind each other of the future return of Jesus.

The Lord’s Supper is an act of unity. It is an ordinance which one must only observe with the gathering of the whole local body recognizing and loving each other as Paul said, “rightly judging the body” (1 Cor 11:29). Therefore, the practice of Lord’s Supper by couples, families, small groups, para-church organizations, or any other portion of the church is inappropriate. One must examine himself before partaking, making sure that he is a true believer who is repenting of sin, baptized, and in good standing and fellowship with his respective local church (1 Cor 10:20-22; 1 Cor 11:27-34).

A Guide to Preparing for Lord’s Supper

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper is a very special time for a church family. It is a time when we remember the substitutionary death of our Lord on the cross. It is a time when we worship Jesus by obeying His command to observe this rite. It is a time when we celebrate the victorious return of our Lord. It is a time when we express our unity with one another as the body of Christ. As such, it is helpful to spend the week prior to the celebration preparing. Here are some recommendations.


Read and Meditate upon Mark 15.

Thank God for sending His Son to die for your sins in your place.


Read Exodus 20 and ask God to reveal to you any unconfessed sin.

As He does so, repent of it.


Fast one meal to spend extra time with God in prayer and Bible study if possible.

Read John 15 and ask God to help you abide in Him, love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and help you to remain faithful and testify about Jesus.


Read the Good News Baptist Church covenant (included below, but make sure to read your respective church’s covenant) and Acts 2:36-47.

Ask God to show you how you might be a more faithful church member.


Call a brother or sister with whom you need to strengthen or reconcile your relationship.


Read Revelation 20-22. Ask God to give you a hopeful anticipation for the return of Jesus.

Try to go to bed early enough to allow for a spiritually alert yet peaceful Lord’s Day morning.

Sunday Morning

Wake early and spend a few minutes in prayer to prepare your heart for worship and Lord’s Supper. You may want to come early and spend this time in the Worship Center.

Good News Baptist Church Covenant

Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior; and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we so now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most seriously and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.

We agree and commit, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and grace; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.

We also agree and commit to maintain family and personal devotions; to educate our children in the Christian faith and the Bible; to seek the salvation of our family, friends, and acquaintances; to walk wisely in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our actions and attitudes; to avoid all gossip, unkind remarks, and excessive anger; to encourage and support each other in sustaining God’s design for marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime; to refrain from all sexual immorality and avoid living together intimately with another person outside of Biblical marriage so that the Bible’s instruction for singleness is upheld; not to participate in homosexual, bisexual, or transgender relationship(s) or actions, as well as any other unbiblical sexual state or behavior as recognized as contrary to Biblical teaching by this church; to abstain from pornography, drunkenness, illegal drugs, the abuse of prescribed medication, and from all practices that jeopardize our own or another’s Christian faith; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior;

We further agree and commit to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian compassion in action and speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the commands of our Savior, to obey them without delay.

We moreover agree and commit to be faithful in attendance to this congregation’s meetings; to willingly submit ourselves to the discipline of this church as described in the Bible and this church’s constitution while holding this church, its leaders, and representatives harmless; and that when we relocate, we will as soon as possible unite with some other Biblical church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.


[1] See Matthew 26:20-35, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:1-23, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.

[2] See Jeremiah 31:27-40, Ezekiel 36:22-38, and Matthew 26:27-28.

Church Discipline

The following is a section of an Ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) project required in one of my Ph.D. seminars. The project was intended to be more practical than other assignments in order to design doctrinal statements that would help a church develop her policies regarding different matters.

A Policy for the Exercise of Church Discipline

Church discipline is a process commanded by Jesus for maintaining purity in the church and the reformation of the disciplined. This process necessitates regenerate church membership which was the exclusive practice of the New Testament church.[1]

The authority to practice church discipline within the local church comes from the headship of Jesus.[2] After Peter declared that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”[3] (Matt 16:16), Jesus declared that He would build His church upon Peter, and by extension, the other apostles. The apostles served as the foundation for the church by spreading their eye-witness account of Jesus’ person and work as the Messiah.[4]  Jesus tells the apostles that He will give them the keys to the kingdom of heaven and that they will practice binding and loosing in response to the binding and loosing which happens in heaven. This metaphor refers to sharing the gospel that people may be bound with Christ and His people while practicing discipline upon those who give evidence that they have not been genuinely bound to Jesus.[5] The church submits herself to the headship of Jesus as she continues to be built upon the foundation of the apostles in the act of binding and loosing.

Matthew connects chapter eighteen closely with chapter sixteen in two ways. First, Matthew eighteen contains the only other use of the term church in the gospels. Second, Jesus used the metaphor of binding and loosing in the context of discipline. This shows the headship of Jesus who builds His church on the foundation of the apostles.

In Matthew eighteen, Jesus revealed a three-step process of dealing with sin in the church. First, one must go to the offender privately and show him his fault. If the offender repents, the process of discipline ends there. However, if he does not repent, the one who noticed the sin must include one or two other members of the church[6] and confront the brother again. If the brother repents, discipline ends there. However, if he still does not listen, the witnesses must present the matter before the church so that the church may warn the offender. If the offender does not listen to the church, the church must excommunicate him, treating him as an unbeliever.

Paul also commanded the Corinthian church to practice discipline upon a man who is having sex with his step-mother. (1 Cor 5:1-13). In First Corinthians 5:2, Paul revealed that mourning over sin should be the attitude of the church who disciplines. Elsewhere, Paul included the need for a “spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1). In First Corinthians 5:4, Paul taught that the final stage of discipline must happen in the assembly of the church. In First Corinthians 5:5 he revealed the nature of discipline as an act of “deliver[ing] such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.” Church discipline removes the offender from the spiritual protection of the church fellowship.

Paul provided two reasons for church discipline in First Corinthians 5:5-8. First, the church practices discipline “so that [the offender’s] spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Church discipline is Jesus’ means for communicating the need for salvation to someone who shows evidence of being unregenerate. It is, in fact, a ministry of reconciliation in which the goal is to restore the brother to fellowship with God and the church.[7] Second, Paul used the metaphor of leaven spreading through a lump of dough to reveal that the church must strive for holiness in Christ. Paul ended his discussion by reminding the people “not to associate with immoral people” (1 Cor 5:9) and to “[r]emove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Cor 5:13). After the Corinthian offender repented, Paul encouraged the church to forgive, comfort, and reaffirm their love for him (2 Cor 2:6-8). This again displays the goal of reconciliation.

In First Timothy 5:19-20, Paul spoke of practicing discipline upon an elder of the church with a public rebuke for continuing in sin. In Titus 3:10-11, Paul warned to reject a factious man after two warnings. With these, and the above passages, the following guidelines should be exercised in church discipline. First, the church must practice discipline as an act of obedience to Jesus. Second, the church must practice discipline with a three-step process of rebuke: privately, with witnesses, and before the church assembly. Third, the church must practice discipline with an attitude of grief over sin and gentleness toward the offender. Fourth, in the practice of discipline, the church must seek the repentance and restoration to fellowship of the offender. Fifth, the church must use discipline to seek purity and protection of her reputation and therefore should practice discipline in an exclusive assembly of members. Sixth, the church must discipline for sins that are intentionally rebellious, public, and divisive in nature. Seventh, the church must end discipline when the offender repents of his sin.

[1] See Acts 2:37-42 where those who heard the gospel were commanded to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name and three-thousand were added to their membership upon repentance and a trust in Christ displayed in their baptisms.

[2] See Colossians 1:15-20 and Ephesians 5:22-23 for statements of Jesus’ headship over the church.

[3]  All Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995.

[4] In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul teaches the Ephesians that those who follow Jesus are God’s household built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the corner stone. Also see Matthew 28:16-20 where the apostles are commanded to make disciples of all nations.

[5] Greg Allison defines church discipline as “a proleptic (or anticipatory) and declarative sign of the divine eschatological judgment, meted out by Jesus Christ through the church against its sinful members and sinful situations.” This recognizes the idea that the church is acting upon what God has already declared and what He will do in His Sovereignty and omniscience. See Gregg R. Allison, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 181.

[6] Jesus references Deuteronomy 17:6 where an accusation must be substantiated by two or three witnesses and disallowing a conviction to be made on the testimony of one person.

[7] See Galatians 6:1.


Why I Don’t Believe in a Pretribulation Rapture but Respect Those Who Do

Recently during our church’s mid-week Bible Study, we’ve been discussing Eschatology (that is the doctrine of the end times).  As is usual, there are varying opinions about the order of events surrounding the return of Jesus.  Studying the future return of Jesus should encourage believers to have hope and courage to live faithfully for King Jesus in the present. It should press those who have never been born again to make a decision about Jesus.  It should not, however, cause broken relationships and diminished regard among brothers and sisters in Jesus.

In order to recognize each other as fellow-believers, it is necessary to agree that Jesus is going to return, that we need to be ready for His return, and that He will judge everyone who has ever lived saving those who have surrendered to Jesus as Lord into eternal life with Him and condemning those who have rejected Jesus as Lord to eternal wrath.  These are essential doctrines.

It is important for each believer to study about the return of Jesus and the events surrounding that return while developing an understanding based upon God’s Word.  One problem is that as we do this, we fail to realize that many of these ideas are what we call tertiary doctrines.

Primary doctrines are those we must believe in order to consider one another orthodox Christians, contending for the faith once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3).  These doctrines include the virgin birth, the literal return of Jesus, a literal heaven and hell, the deity of Jesus, the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, to name a few.   If someone claims to follow Jesus but does not agree with primary doctrines, we cannot work with or fellowship with them.

Secondary doctrines are doctrines that we must agree on in order to worship and serve in a local church together.  If someone does not agree on these doctrines, we can consider each other brothers and sisters and even work together on some efforts, but we would cause too much confusion trying to worship and serve together in the local church.  These issues often surround ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the church.   Some examples include: church polity, church offices, and spiritual gifts.

Tertiary doctrines are those doctrines that we can freely disagree while acknowledging each other as brothers and sisters, serving and worshiping together, and this disagreement causes very little dysfunction or confusion within the local church.  The ordering of events surrounding the return of Christ often falls into this category.

What follows is a paper I wrote a little over four years ago while I was clarifying my views on eschatology.  This paper was for my own benefit to solidify my understanding in my memory.  Therefore, the writing lacks a conversational tone and appears somewhat raw and unedited but rather is more of a reference sheet.  In it I discuss reasons to approach the events of Jesus’ return with humility within Southern Baptist Life, Reasons to see a unified people of God rather than two peoples of God, reasons to believe in a posttribulation return of Christ, arguments against believing in a pretribulation rapture, a defense of the doctrine of posttribulation return of Christ, and reasons to respect those who hold a pretribulation rapture.

My hope in sharing this paper is two-fold: that more evangelicals give posttribulationism a fair consideration and that those who disagree with each other will have humility and respect toward one another.

My Eschatological Views

By Eric Fannin, Summer of 2012

Reasons why Christians should approach this discussion with humility:

  1. Soteriology: Whether one believes in a Pretribulation rapture or a Posttribulation return of Christ does not affect his or her salvation.
  2. Ecclesiology: The way in which a body of believers practice being a faithful church is not affected by whether they are pretribulational, posttribulational, or mixed on this view.
  3. The Baptist Faith and Message (2000): allows room for Southern Baptists to disagree and still work together (see article X).
  4. Many faithful Southern Baptist Theologians stand on both sides of the debate.
    1. See Dr. Daniel Akin’s A Theology for the Church which is used in many classes throughout the six Southern Baptist Seminaries. In this text, the Posttribulationalism is argued for in the section entitled Last Things which was written by Russell D. Moore, the previous Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the current President of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
  5. Prophesy is one of the most difficult genres of writing in the Bible to interpret.
    1. The Jews of Jesus day had mapped out the prophesies of the Messiah in the way they had believed they would be fulfilled. However, when He came, they missed Him because He did not fit their interpretation of the prophesies.

Reasons to Reject a Duality and Believe in a Congruence of God’s People Whereby the Promises, Prophesies, and Blessings Given to Geo-political Israel are Now Obtained by Those Who Trust in Jesus—from Pauline Theology.

  1. Romans 2:25-29: Paul argues that anyone, regardless of cultural background can become a Jew by the Spirit. Being circumcised cannot save one or affect his or her status with God, as part of His people.  Only those who have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus are part of God’s chosen people.
  2. Romans 9: Paul explains why Geo-political (GP) Israel will not be saved
    1. vv. 1-5: Paul laments GP Israel’s condemnation
    2. vv. 6-8: Paul states that God’s act of not saving GP Israel is not God failing to keep His Word (v. 6) as many were questioning at the time. Here is a declaration that those born physical to GP Israel are not truly God’s people but rather those who accept God’s promise are true Israel.
    3. vv. 9-14: An example from Jacob and Esau: Here is an example of God deciding who He chooses as His people.  He chose Jacob over Esau in this example but the purpose of Paul here is to show that He may decide who His people are.  So it is those who come through Jesus who are God’s people and not those who would seem to be His people naturally or physically.  In other words, just because He does not choose the first born does not make Him unrighteous.
    4. vv. 15-23: Examples from Moses, Pharaoh, and the Potter and his clay:  Here we see that God has a purpose for why He has chosen and used particular people for certain tasks.  In light of this discussion, Paul is showing that although He had chosen GP Israel for the purpose of bringing the Messiah to the nations (see Gen. 12:3: where God states in His call to Abram that in him, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  God’s purpose in the call of Abram was to bless all the nations through Abram’s seed, who is Jesus), does not mean that He has to save GP Israel.  Just as God had a purpose for Pharaoh and a potter has a purpose for a clay vessel, does not mean that He has to save them.  In the same way, God does not have to save GP Israel.
    5. vv. 24-29: God has included the Gentiles in true Israel. Paul states that God’s people are now also from the Gentiles.  He quotes Hosea to show God’s prophesy about His inclusion of those who were not part of His people.  Paul quotes Isaiah to show that only a small number of those born to GP Israel will be saved in the end because of God’s sentence.
    6. vv. 30-33: Paul finally comes to the conclusion of His argument. It is not one’s birth, nationality, or efforts that determines whether one will be saved, but only those who place trust in the “stumbling stone laid in Zion,” who is Jesus, will be saved.  Therefore, God does not have to save GP Israel, but salvation is by faith in the promise of God.
  3. Romans 11:17-24: In the context of this discussion, Paul states that only a remnant of GP Israel will be included in God’s people.  Paul uses the analogy of an Olive tree to show that some of the natural branches (those who were physically born Jews) were cut off because they were not truly connected to the root (as a true or spiritual Jew must be).  Therefore, those Gentiles that accept Christ (the root in this analogy) will be like wild branches grafted in.  Notice that in this analogy, there is only one tree that is considered to be God’s people.  GP Israel is not God’s people.  Only those Jews who accept Jesus can remain and those Gentiles who accept Him will be grafted in.  But there are no two trees considered God’s people, only one.  Today’s physical GP Israel should not be held in high esteem or regard because they are physically descended from Abraham.  Some of them will be saved and be part of God’s people, but as a nation, they are no different from any other nation.  They are not a special people of God because they have rejected Jesus, the Messiah.
  4. Galatians 3:10-14: Paul states that one is only justified by faith in Jesus and cannot be justified by trying to observe the law. In verse 14, Paul states that “the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.”  Paul uses the term “we” to show that both he, a Jew, and his recipients, predominantly Gentile, receive the same blessing of Abraham and the promised Spirit through faith.  Gentiles receive every blessing promised to the Jews.  Those are God’s people who come to Jesus by faith.  Anyone who does not have faith cannot be considered part of God’s people.  After Jesus’ coming, it would demean the work of His death and resurrection to state that someone’s birth would give them a special standing before God.  Only through faith in Him can anyone be part of His people.
  5. Galatians 6:15: Here is the concluding statement in Paul’s argument to the Gentile believers that one cannot be saved by the law as the Judaizers (heretics who taught that Jesus’ atonement was not enough, that one would also have to observe the law in order to be saved) were trying to convince them. One is only saved by trusting in Jesus.  Therefore, the only prerequisite in order to be included in God’s people is to have been made a new creation (cf. Ez. 36:24-27 and Jer. 31:31-34).
  6. Ephesians: The main theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is the unity of God’s people as one entity.
    1. 1:9-10: everything is brought together in the Messiah—this includes Jews and Gentiles who trust in Him.
    2. 1:11-13: Paul and other Jews who accepted Jesus, the Messiah, received an “inheritance in Him” because of their hope in Him. Then Paul states “you” (the Gentile believers in Ephesus), also received Israel’s promised Holy Spirit (cf. Ez. 36:24-27 and Jer. 31:31-34), as proof that they will also receive the “possession” or “inheritance” just the same as Jews who believe in Jesus.  The text shows that there is no distinction between Jews or Gentiles in the reception of God’s promises to the Jews, but there is a distinction which is based on who hears the gospel and places faith in Jesus.
    3. 2:11-13: the blood of the Messiah has given Gentiles “the citizenship of Israel” whereby they obtain the “covenants of the promise.”
    4. 2:14-18: No more Jews or Gentiles, but one people through Christ.
      1. v. 14: By His death, Jesus “made both groups one” (Jews and Gentiles) by tearing down the wall of hostility that divided us. In God’s sight, there is no distinction of those born Jewish or those born Gentile because Jesus is our peace with God and therefore with each other.
      2. v. 15: Jesus desired to create one new man (the church or God’s true people of promise) from the two (Jew and Gentile)
      3. v. 16: He did this to “reconcile both to God in one body through the cross.” The reconciliation we have in Jesus is the only thing that can make Jew or Gentile part of God’s “one body.”
      4. vv. 17-18: Jesus came to give peace with God to both, those who were far away (Gentiles) and also to those who were near (Jews). Only those who accept the gospel of Jesus have peace and access to the Father, by the Spirit.
      5. vv. 19-21: Those who accept Jesus, the cornerstone, are no longer foreigners but are citizens and members of God’s household. Abraham is not the cornerstone, Jesus is.  GP Israel is not part of the “whole building” but only those who trust Christ.
  1. Colossians 3:9-17: A statement that there is no cultural or Geo-Political distinction for those who are in Christ.
    1. vv. 9-10 states that those who have put off the old self and put on the new self are being renewed in the knowledge of God, their creator.
    2. v. 11 states that personal, family, and national background have no power or distinction for God’s people because they are “in Christ” and “Christ is all and in all.” Not even Jewish background here gives one a leg up.  Only those whether one is in Christ matters.
    3. v. 12 shows us a statement that those who are in Christ are “God’s chosen ones” who are “holy and loved.” From this verse we see that there is no room for saying that someone who has not or will not accept Christ are God’s people, even if they are of Jewish decent.  Only those who are in Christ are “God’s chosen ones.”
    4. vv. 13-17 calls Christians to love one another based on the fact that they have been accepted as God’s chosen people and are being transformed into the image of Christ.

Reason to Believe in a Posttribulational Return of Christ

  1. A straight forward reading of Revelation fits the Posttribulationalism best.
    1. There are only two resurrections mentioned. One at the end of the Tribulation for those who have believed in Jesus (Rev. 20:4-6) and one at the end of the millennium of unbelievers who will be judged by their works (Rev. 20:12-15).
    2. A return of Jesus before the tribulation is absent in All other accounts in the Bible of Jesus’ return and the rescue of the church show it to be a public event in which everyone will see and hear Him coming (1 Thess. 4:16, Mt. 24:27-31).
  2. God’s people are shown as going through the Tribulation.
    1. His people are delivered at the resurrection of the dead (Dan. 12:1-2), not before it.
    2. There are believers from all tongues, tribes, and nations who come out of the Tribulation (Rev. 7:9, 14), even if they had believed during the Tribulation, they still went through it—God does not deliver His people from this Tribulation.
    3. Many of God’s people will die during the Tribulation (Rev. 20:4).
  3. Jesus teaches His disciples to be ready for the Tribulation before His coming in Matthew 24.
    1. v. 3- it is directed towards His disciples, not the public.
    2. v. 9- shows that they will go through tribulation
    3. v. 22- show believers going through tribulation
    4. vv. 27-33 shows His return and rescue of His people, which will be evident to all, being at the end of Tribulation.
  4. Tribulation of some sort is guaranteed to those who follow the Lord.
    1. John 16:33- Jesus tells His disciples that they will have tribulation in this world but that they can find peace in Him through the tribulation because He has overcome the world.
    2. Romans 8:17- Christians inherit Christ’s sufferings
    3. Philippians 1:29- It is granted that Christians will suffer
    4. 1 Pet. 4:12-19- there will be a fiery trial to try Christians because of Jesus’ name at the time of judgment.
    5. Exodus 11:7- God’s sustained His people as they went through a time of Tribulation.
    6. Throughout church history, and even today, Christians have suffered greatly in various and numerous parts of the world for Christ.

Arguments against a Doctrine of Pretribulational Rapture

  1. Novelty of the doctrine of Pretribulational Rapture: It is a very new idea.  To my knowledge, no explicit statement of a pretribulational rapture can be found in church history until the 1830s when James Nelson Darby created a system of Dispensational Theology.  While statements of a posttribulational return of Christ abound—even from very early church history.
    1. Irenaeus wrote explicitly from a posttribulational view. He learned from Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John.
  2. Daniel 12:1: the deliverance promised to God’s people is not specific enough to assume that they will escape the tribulation. However, the least that can be certain is that they will be delivered from the eternal fire of Hell and from God’s wrath.  Also, if at least one person is saved during the Great Tribulation, then Daniel 12:1 cannot mean that believers won’t go through the Tribulation, because at least one would.
  3. Refuting the Imminence Argument– Although those in favor of a pretribulational rapture argue its necessity for the immediacy or imminence of Christ’s return (that He could return at any moment) because if the Great Tribulation comes, then we will be able to count down the exact day that Jesus would return. However, this does not consider that Jesus promises that difficulties will get worse and worse before He comes (Mt. 24) and that these things will be the “labor pains” that the end is near.  If difficulties are getting worse and worse from now until then, the Great Tribulation could begin without anyone knowing exactly when it has started.  Certainly, Christians in other countries who are being persecuted today, likely believe that this Tribulation has already started.  Because no one will know exactly when the Great Tribulation begins, the immediacy/ imminence of Christ’s coming is still preserved in the posttribulational view.  Christians must be ready for His coming at any moment because the world is growing in evil and rebellion towards God and intolerance towards those who believe in Jesus.
  4. 2 Thessalonians 2:2: Paul comforts believers who have been falsely told that Christ had come back and they missed Him. However, Paul comforts them to not worry by telling them Jesus will not return until the Man of Lawlessness comes into full power opposing those who believe in Jesus.  This verse shows that followers of Jesus will endure at least a portion of the Tribulation because the Man of Lawlessness does not come into power until half way through the Tribulation.
  5. Revelation 3:10: This is a text that many who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture sight this verse as evidence that God will remove believers before the Tribulation. However, this verse occurs in the context of a specific message to a specific church at a specific point in time.  Although there are practical implications for modern day readers, eschatological events are not in view here.  Some proponents of dispensationalism have tried to allegorize this text to say that it refers to a church age rather than to a specific church during the time of John.  This allegorizing is an unwarranted and unfaithful hermeneutic (interpretation of the text).  There is no indication from the author, John, or from any passage in the Bible that these verses are to be allegorized (The argument at Rev. 3:10 has been made by Dr. John S. Hammett (Ph. D, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and professor of systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary).
  6. No Biblical Evidence of a Two-Phase Return: There are no Biblical passages that clearly express a two-phase return of Christ. One sees two phases only if it is assumed before coming to these passages.  Other passages can only make sense with Christ’s return happening at one point in the future (such as 2 Thess. 2).

Dealing with Accusations Against the Doctrine of Postribulational Return of Christ

  1. Response to the accusation of not taking the Bible literally: Those in favor of a pretribulational rapture often pride themselves on using a literal interpretation of the Scripture and state that any other view allegorizes Scripture.
    1. Those holding a pretribulational rapture break their own rule. They do not take the Bible literally. Everyone takes some passages metaphorically because that is the way they were intended to be taken.  In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not literally mean to pluck out our eyes or to cut off our hands.  He was using commissive or emotive language to tell us to get rid of anything that causes us to sin or stumble.  Another example can be found in Ezekiel 36:24-27.  God was not saying that He will literally take a heart of stone out of each one of His people, He was saying that He would take out the part of them that desired to rebel against Him and give them His Spirit who would cause them to want to obey God or otherwise have a soft “heart of flesh” toward God.   Furthermore, pretribulationists often break their own rule when it comes to prophecy.  Many will use Revelation 3:10 to claim that the church will not go through the Tribulation because the text says “I will keep you from the hour of testing.”  However, this takes the literal term, hour (60 minutes) and claims it to refer to a seven-year tribulation.  Thus they are taking the term metaphorically, not literally.
    2. Taking the Bible literally can be very unfaithful at times: When trying to correctly interpret Scripture, it is important to find the intention of the Biblical author who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he did. Those who read the Bible do not get to decide what it means, that is the place of the author who was guided by the Spirit.  The reader has the task of trying to understand what the author wrote.  Different genres of Scripture will require different hermeneutics (interpretation practices).  For instance, narratives and epistles are intended to be taken literally on most accounts.  Parables are to be understood as fictional stories that generally emphasize one moral or spiritual truth.  Wisdom literature should be taken as general principles while poetic literature such as the Psalms often are intended to be taken metaphorically.  Likewise, prophetic literature often uses metaphorical language, not intended to be taken literally.  When one takes a passage literally that is intended to be taken metaphorically, he or she is unfaithful to the Bible and often on dangerous grounds.  An example can be found in Genesis 15:1.  God tells Abram not to be afraid because God is his shield.  If this is interpreted literally, the reader has broken the second commandment of creating a graven image of God.  God intended to express to Abram that He would protect Abram so he would not have to fear, not that Abram could hold God in his hand and stop arrows and swords with Him.
    3. If all of the prophecies of Jesus were taken literally, Jesus could not be the Messiah:
      1. Ps. 118:22-23, Mt. 21:42: Here is a prophecy about a capstone being rejected by the builders, but then becoming the cornerstone.  If this were to be taken literally, no man could be the Messiah.  However, this is a metaphor for the one who will come and be rejected by the Jews but will be the foundation of God’s true people.
      2. Is. 8:14, Ro. 9:31-33, 1 Pe. 2:7-8: These passages are full of prophecy of the Messiah being a sanctuary, a stone of stumbling, a trap, and a snare.  These words are also taken metaphorically because that is the way that Isaiah, Paul, and Peter intended them to be taken as they were guided by the Spirit.
      3. Dt. 21:23, Ga. 3:13: This prophecy is about one who will be hung on a tree as a curse. However, Jesus was hung upon a man-made cross, which although made from the wood of trees, was not itself a tree and to one who is taking verses literally a cross cannot be a tree.
      4. Ex. 12:1-11, Is. 53:7, Jn. 1:29-36, 1 Co. 5:7-8, 1 Pe. 1:18-19, Re. 5:6-13, 7:14, 21:22-27, 22:1-4: All of these say that the Messiah is to be a male Passover lamb without blemish who will or has been slain to atone for sin.  Jesus was not a male lamb, but these prophecies and statements are to be taken metaphorically, not literally.  Jesus did die in the place of sinners to atone for sin, but He was not literally a lamb.
      5. Mt. 12:38-40: Here the Pharisees ask Jesus for a miraculous sign.  Jesus says that just as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish for three days and three nights, “so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  This is an illusion to Jesus’ burial. But Jesus was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday.  Taken literally this would not fit Jesus’ death and resurrection.  But since, “three days and three nights” is a Semitic idiom to mean any portion of three calendar days, it can be taken as His death and resurrection.  Jesus was not in the tomb for a literal three days and three nights, but He was in the tomb for a portion of each of the three days and nights according to Jewish understanding.  However, if taken very literally, this prophecy that Jesus has given would not be fulfilled.
  1. Response to the accusation that those who hold to a posttribulational return of Christ are liberals:
    1. The reason why being Biblically Liberal is wrong is because liberals undermine the authority of Scripture claiming that sections of it are not true or possible. Many faithful evangelical and Southern Baptist Christians hold to a posttribulational return of Christ and believe strongly in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures.  The question is not whether the Scriptures are true; faithful believers on both sides of the debate agree on that.  The right question is: what do these particular passages about the second coming of Jesus mean?  Did the author mean for them to be taken literally, generally, metaphorically?  Is he speaking of one event or is it two events which appear to be one?  Either way, this debate should be carried on with humility and free of such damaging and incorrect accusations.
    2. The pretribulational rapture views came into existence in the 1830s with dispensationalism. To my knowledge, there are no records of anyone believing otherwise before this time.  However, around that time period, many people were questioning Biblical authority and legitimacy.  Those who decided to take a stand against such liberal views of the Bible came to be known as fundamentalists.  Dispensationalism, which is inseparable from a pretribulational rapture, became very popular among Fundamentalist circles through the Scofield Study Bible and through various Bible Institutes which were developed in opposition to the liberal nature of many seminaries at the time.  Therefore, during this time, a large number of the faithful believers held to a pretribulational rapture.  This doctrine, because of its strong influence in fundamentalism has wrongly become a test of orthodoxy to some.

Reasons to Appreciate Brothers who believe in a Doctrine of Pretribulational Rapture

  1. They have a reverence of the Holy Bible: Those who have held to a pretribulational rapture believe in the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture and are willing to take a stand on and for the Bible.  This is to be applauded with a grateful heart when many others have turned away from the Bible.
  2. They have held to orthodox Christian principles: Generally, those who have held to a pretribulational rapture have remained faithful to primary and secondary tenants and doctrines of orthodox Christianity without relent.
  3. They have encouraged excitement in others for the second coming of Christ: In today’s ever busy culture, many believers lose sight of the second coming of Christ. Those who hold to a pretribulational rapture have encouraged others to think and study about the end times and to look forward with great anticipation to the second coming of our Lord.


“Why Isn’t My Pastor Doing His Job?” or The True Work of a Pastor

There are many misconceptions and misplaced expectations on pastors today which often do great harm to a pastor, his family, the church in which he leads, and even the community in which the church is located.  Some like to think that the pastor should only be a chaplain who merely preaches and visits people, leaving the direction of the church to some other body, maybe the deacons or a church council.  Others think that he is to take care of every need of every church member, placing many of the duties of the deacon upon the pastor.  Many are tempted to think of a pastor as merely an employee of the church who does what some leading body directs him to do.

Yet many of these misconceptions and misplaced expectations can not be found in the Scriptures nor in 1900 years of church history.  So where do these ideas come from?   If we will have healthy churches, healthy Christians, and healthy pastors, we must begin to ask, what should be the basis of our expectations and beliefs about pastors?    In the following article, I present where the expectations of many have went wrong over the last 100 years.  I also argue that the basis of pastoral responsibility must firmly be placed upon two Biblical ideas:

  1. Pastoral Theology, that is, the study of how God acts as a shepherd and then emulating God’s attitude and actions as a pastor.
  2. Biblical commands and examples, that is, what does the Bible say pastors should do and what does the Bible show healthy pastors doing.

The nature of pastoral work is too urgent to find our understanding of it in any other source than the Scriptures which have provided everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and that being the case, then they have certainly provided everything we need to understand pastoral ministry.


Having established the correct basis for understanding the work of a pastor, in the following article, I then show that the true work of a pastor can be divided into four main responsibilities:

  1. The Ministry of the Word and of Prayer:  The most important work that a pastor can do is to preach God’s Word and to pray for his flock.  All other pastoral responsibilities must be subservient to this one.  Indeed, deacons are to be ordained in every local church so that the pastor may give the main portion of his time to preparing to preach, preaching, sharing the Word in peoples homes, and praying for his people.
  2. The Ministry of Leadership: Although many churches have developed unbiblical practices about who leads the local congregation, the Bible shows that it is indeed, the pastor, or even better, multiple pastors, who guide, direct, and lead the church body.  Any church who desires to obey God’s Word, will not seek to place any body of authority over the pastor outside of the entire local congregation gathered by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, one of the three main terms used in the Scriptures for a pastor is ἐπίσκοπος (episcopos), that is translated, overseer or supervisor.  The pastor is Biblically given the authority to direct and lead over every aspect of church ministry.  There should not be any portion of the church’s work which is off limits to his direction and guidance.
  3. The Ministry of Shepherding:  Jesus is our Good Shepherd who came to us to protect us and provide for us spiritually.   Pastoral ministry is incarnational ministry.  Pastors must be with their people just as Jesus came to be with His people. Therefore, the pastor must seek to spiritually protect his flock by warning them of false teaching and unbiblical thinking.  Indeed, the goal of pastoral counseling is not to be therapeutic, but to help one replace unbiblical thinking with Biblical thinking.  The pastor must provide for His flock through faithful teaching of the Scriptures.  Just as Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep know him, the pastor must seek to know and spend time with his sheep.
  4. The Ministry of Modeling: This ministry is made evident in the moral requirements for pastors in the Scriptures.  Pastors, as well as deacons, are to show their flock what it looks like to follow Jesus.  It is necessary to be taught how to follow but it is also incomparably beneficial to have an example of what it looks like to follow Jesus right before you.

In presenting the following article, although it is a little lengthy and scholarly, I hope that my brother pastors will stop trying to meet the expectations of men and be encouraged to forsake them for the expectations of God.  I also hope that my brothers and sisters in churches all over the western world will learn what can be expected of their pastors and will seek to guard their pastor’s very limited time and resources to do the important work to which God has called him.  Just as the writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

I now present to you the article discussed above:



Written by Eric G. Fannin

August 8, 2011

            There is great confusion in today’s churches about the role of the pastor.  This affects the health of pastors, tempting them to take needed time away from their families, from solitude with God, and from having a time of Sabbath rest.  Accordingly, congregants find themselves disappointed with pastors as their expectations go unmet.  David Larsen cites studies showing the pastor-teacher performing 192 different tasks.[1]  Larsen identifies the problem and solution for this.  He states, “The malaise of the church and its ministry must be challenged by a return to our roots in divine revelation and sound doctrine.”[2]

The Bible reveals that every responsibility the pastor pursues should fall into the following four general categories: the ministry of the Word and prayer, pastoral care, leadership, and serving as an example.  These categories are adapted from John Hammett’s Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology.[3]  The Biblical argument for the four categories of pastoral responsibility is based on two axioms.  First, pastoral ministry must be driven by a sound pastoral theology.[4]  Second, pastoral ministry must be grounded in a clear understanding of scriptural directives for the pastoral office.

Therefore, this essay will include: a development of the current problem in the practice of pastoral ministry, an explanation and defense of each axiom presented as the solution, and support for the four categories of the pastoral responsibility.

A Development of the Current Problem in the Practice of Pastoral Ministry

Considering the problem of pastoral ministry today, one must realize that the fads of pastoral ministry often reflect the changes in culture of the time.  Pastoral ministry in America has taken a step in the wrong direction since the early twentieth century.  The Bible and sound doctrine have been minimized as the source of pastoral care.  Psychotherapy and other social sciences were added to supplement Scripture.  This different approach became the source of pastoral counsel to many pastors.  In this kind of ‘pastoral ministry,’ the pastor does not give any directives from the Bible but instead seeks to help the counselee find meaning from within.

In the 1950s, American pastoral ministry was greatly influenced by Seward Hiltner’s A Preface to Pastoral Theology.  In that book, Hiltner describes pastoral theology as, “that branch or field of theological knowledge and inquiry that brings the shepherding perspective to bear upon all the operations and functions of the church and the minister and then draws conclusions of theological order from reflection on these observations.”[5]  The problem with Hiltner’s definition of pastoral theology is that he has the grounding of theology backwards.  He desires to learn about God by observing the “operations and functions” of the pastor and making theological conclusions based on the actions of men.  One’s theology must not be routed in experience which, very often, is errant and fallible.  Theology must instead be firmly established in the infallible, inerrant, and unchanging Word of God.

Hiltner explains his view:

We acknowledge fully that study of Bible and doctrine results in principles that may and must be applied.  We assert further, however, that the process moves the other way also, that adequate critical study of events from some significant perspective makes creative contributions to theological understanding.  Pastoral theology, like any branch of theology, applies some things learned elsewhere.  But it is more than that as well.[6]

Hiltner’s proposal of pastoral theology reveals a very dangerous presupposition of God’s word being insufficient to provide revelation of God and inadequate in providing direction for the church with her offices and functions

Andrew Purves provides three other reasons why a valid view of pastoral ministry is lacking today: First, he notes, “views of human wholeness and competent functioning seem to dominate” the field.[7]  Today’s pastor often sees his work as trying to help his congregants feel whole and function well in society instead of directing their view to Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross for their sins (Heb. 12:1-2).  His second critique is that, “the modern pastoral care movement…is by and large shaped by psychological categories regarding human experience and by symbolic interpretations regarding God.”  He continues, “pastoral theology and, consequently, pastoral practice in the church have become concerned largely with questions of meaning rather than truth, acceptable functioning rather than discipleship, and a concern for self-actualization and self-realization rather than salvation.[8]  Many pastors pursue the faulty premise of trying to help congregants be all that they can be rather than pointing them toward repentance and trust in Jesus for their salvation, sanctification, and maturation in Christ.  Purves’ appraisal is that, “pastoral work today is understood largely in functional terms.”[9]  This means that pastors try to understand pastoral theology by observing what a pastor does and accordingly making conclusions about who God is and what the pastor should be and do based on those observations.      Thomas Oden rightly assesses the importance of a solid grounding in the Bible for pastoral ministry.  He exhorts, “the practice of ministry can better be engendered by solid reflection on its theological and biblical grounding.”[10]

Many of today’s pastors have sunk deeply into the mire of expectations from the world, the church, and even from within himself.  With the recent study of pastoral theology and pastoral ministry which includes new obligations from psychotherapy, other social sciences, and from self-reflection, today’s pastor can easily become sidetracked from his God-given duties revealed in Scripture.   These duties are firmly rooted in the character of God as a shepherd of His people and in the mandates given to the pastor in Scripture.

The Two Axioms: An Explanation and Defense

The first axiom is that a biblical pastoral ministry must be based on a sound pastoral theology.  The pastor must have a clear understanding of how God is a shepherd to in order that he may join God in His work as an under-shepherd, doing the will of the Chief Shepherd.

This is the Biblical idea that Jesus modeled for all pastors to follow.  In John 5:19 Jesus defends His own ministry before his detractors by saying, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”[11]   Since Jesus bases His ministry on the Father’s example, then why would the Christian pastor need to add anything outside of the Bible for his ministry?  Jesus did only what He saw the Father doing and what the Father told Him to do.  Therefore the faithful Christian pastor must first of all follow Jesus’ example of basing his role on the example of God.

Purves argues for this same idea:

To insist that God, or, more accurately, the ministry of the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, is the subject matter of pastoral theology means then that there is no faithful content to speaking forth and living out the gospel pastorally apart from knowledge of and sharing in the mission of the God who acts savingly in, through, and as Jesus Christ and in the Spirit precisely as a man for all people.[12]


Purves also contends that the only way that a pastor can rightly judge his ministry is to view it through the knowledge of God and God’s mission.[13]  If a pastor’s ministry is not consonant with God and God’s mission, the pastor is not faithfully shepherding God’s flock.

On this issue, Jesus tells His disciples that He has shared the Father’s business with them and by extension His own business.  He teaches, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:15-16a).  The Christian pastor must be about God’s business and He must find out what the Father’s business is by viewing it from the words of Jesus and the example of Jesus.  This business is to bring all people to worship God through redemption by the death of Jesus and by new life in His resurrection through the Holy Spirit.  Reiterating this idea, Oden states, “Christian ministry from the outset has been conceived as a continuation of Christ’s own ministry.  Christ is head of the church.”[14]

The second axiom is that pastoral ministry must be grounded in a clear understanding of scriptural directives for the pastoral office.  Jesus exemplifies this principle in John 8:28 when He says, “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”  The Biblical pastor will follow this example of doing what the Father teaches him to do.  Jesus did not stop and ask what the psychology of his day said people needed of Him, He learned from His Father what He must do.  The wise pastor will do likewise.

There is a grim warning for pastors who do not seek God’s direction in the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah prophesies, “For this is what the LORD says: “At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured”…The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered” (10:18 & 21).  Jeremiah directly links the Babylonian Exile of Judah to the shepherds of Judah not inquiring of God.  If the pastor desires to be faithful and spiritually effective, he will seek God’s Word to guide him in his everyday pastoral responsibilities.

In his book Reforming Pastoral Ministry, John Armstrong states the need for this foundation of pastoral ministry all too well, “True authority never comes from within our human persona or from the office (or gifting) itself, but from a divinely given mandate and from a scripturally based message.”[15]  If pastors are to make an eternal difference, they must return to God’s Word to receive their marching orders from God.

After discussing the problem of pastoral ministry today and the solution found in the two axioms it is time to flesh out that solution by discussing what business God would have the faithful pastor spend his time and energy doing.  The reader will notice that each duty of the pastor comes forth out of the two axioms, God’s example and God’s commands.

The Four Categories of Pastoral Responsibility

The first category of ministry for a pastor is the ministry of the Word and of prayer.[16]  In the twenty-third Psalm, David shares that God is his shepherd who has him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters.  God, as shepherd, provides nourishment to his sheep.  This kind of nourishment restores souls according to the psalmist.  In Psalm 19, one learns that the Word of God is the only thing that can restore a soul to God. Therefore, the pastor’s job is to faithfully feed God’s flock the life restoring Word of God.

In Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34:1-31, God is seen as a shepherd who is a comforter and protector.  He provides good pasture for the sheep and protects them.  The sheep are safe under His watch.  He has His rod and His staff to fend off all who would do them harm.  In the New Testament, John records that Jesus also was a shepherd to His people who provided for them.  As the biblical pastor teaches the Word of God faithfully, he will be defending God’s flock from false teaching, heresy, discouragement, and doubt just as God has done for His people.

When Jesus was about to ascend to Heaven, he established Peter as the leader of the apostles and the church of Jerusalem.  When Jesus ordained him as the first New Testament pastor, He gave him his commission: feed and care for the flock of God (John 21:15-18).  The most important job of the pastor is to feed the sheep.  This can happen in a variety of places but it must happen if the pastor is truly a pastor.  It can happen in the pulpit, over coffee, in a counseling session, or in everyday conversation.  Jesus’ sheep must be fed by His pastors.

One can see the significance of the ministry of the word and of prayer in the early church as well.  There was a problem that arose in Acts 6.  The Grecian Jews were upset because their widows were overlooked in the church’s food distribution while the widows of the Hebraic Jews were given food.  The apostles knew that they could not neglect their other duties to be closely involved, so they gathered the believers together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).

With all of the previous Biblical proof coupled with the qualifications of the overseer to be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2), one must conclude that the Biblical pastor will spend the majority of his time praying for his people and teaching them the Word of God.  Ned Mathews argues for the priority of this responsibility of the pastor above his other responsibilities, he writes, “the pastor, who is also designated in Scripture as elder and bishop, is expected primarily to “feed the flock of God” (1 Pet 5:2 KJV).  Indeed, he must give even more careful attention to this duty because of the presence of those who teach doctrinal error.  To fail at this is inexcusable in a bishop because he is expected to protect the flock from such predators.”[17]  The ministry of the Word and prayer is the most important function of the pastor and must not be sacrificed.

In his book written to pastors, E.M. Bounds admonishes his readers that they must combine prayer with the ministry of the word.  He exhorts, “Preaching that kills is prayerless preaching.  Without prayer, the preacher creates death and not life.  The preacher who is feeble in prayer is feeble in life-giving forces.”[18]  The ministry of the Word and of prayer must always be combined and always be practiced first and foremost by the faithful biblical pastor.

The second category of ministry that a pastor is responsible for is that of pastoral care.[19]  God is a shepherd who cares for his people.  He wants them to have safety and comfort.  In Psalm 23, God is seen as a shepherd who brings comfort and safety to His sheep.  In the Old Testament, Isaiah says of God, “He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (40:11).  In Jeremiah, God is a shepherd who loves his people “with an everlasting love,” that draws them “with loving-kindness,” and builds them up after they have been scattered (31:3-4).  Jeremiah says that God “will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.” (31:10).

Jesus goes on to proclaim, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).  He knows His sheep intimately.  He is aware of what is going on in their lives and is involved.  Jesus tells of the goal of the shepherd to keep all of his sheep together and safe.  He compares God to that shepherd and says, “your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”  The pastor’s goal should be the same.

In his classic work, The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter discusses the pastor’s responsibility to take heed of all of the flock that has been entrusted to him.  He exhorts:

A minister is not to be merely a public preacher, but to be known as a counsellor for their souls, as the physician is for their bodies, and the lawyer for their estates…But as the people have become unacquainted with this office of the ministry, and with their own duty and necessity in this respect, it belongeth to us to acquaint them with it, and publicly to press them to come to us for advice about great concerns of their souls.[20]

A pastor can care for his flock by making certain that each has heard, understood, and accepted the gospel.  He is called to lead the congregation in church discipline for those who have been accepted as members but are living as if they are unsaved.   John Hammett, in his discussion on regenerate church membership says, “I certainly would encourage any pastor attempting changes in these areas to move slowly, building trust with his people and adding to their understanding of biblical truth as he proceeds.  Particularly, church discipline as redemptive rather than punitive should be clearly explained.”[21]

Prime and Begg remind their readers that “Behind all true preaching by shepherds and teachers there are hours of study and preparation linked with deep involvement in people’s lives—an involvement in which there are no regular “working hours”…Shepherding is synonymous with pastoral care:  It is the practical, individual, and spiritual care of Christ’s people as His lambs and sheep.”[22]  Prime and Begg tie together the two functions of the ministry of the Word and prayer with that of pastoral care.  They add that a pastor who visits his congregation regularly enhances his preaching because it helps him understand the struggles of the flock.[23]  The goal of pastoral care is to help the flock grow in faith and the joy of the Lord, therefore, directing congregants to Jesus and the gospel must always pervade a pastor’s care.[24]

The third responsibility of the pastor is leadership.  In Psalm 23 and 80:1, God is portrayed as the shepherd who leads his flock.  In Ezekiel 37:24-26, God appoints the coming Messiah as Shepherd over His people and He will establish the flock, increase their numbers, and live among them.  God is the shepherd who leads his flock and gathers them together in Jeremiah 31:1-10.  In 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the shepherd and overseer of our souls.

Peter writes to pastors and instructs them to, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:2a).  In his discussion of 1 Peter 5:2, Schreiner notes that “serving as overseers” is a participle in Greek that specifies another function of elders (pastors), he states, “As God’s shepherds and leaders they are to oversee the church and superintend it.”[25]

Being a pastor can not be separated from leading.  In the New Testament the terms for pastor, bishop, and elder are used interchangeably.  The pastor is God’s overseer of the flock.  This does not mean that he is the sole leader in the church but it does mean that he is to oversee all of the functions, direction, and leadership of the church.   The pastor’s overseeing leadership must not come from within himself but must come from God, if it does not, the pastor will likely lead by his own selfish ambitions.  Bryant and Brunson teach, “Every team has a captain, and every church is supposed to have a pastor who receives his word from the Lord and then leads the congregation…Leadership is not born nor is it manufactured.  It is given.  In the church, leadership is God-called” [emphasis added].[26]  The pastor must receive his calling, his equipping, and his direction directly from God if he is to be a faithful pastor.

The final responsibility of the pastor is to serve as an example to the flock.  God is a holy God and has always called his people to holiness (Lev. 10:44-45).  The leaders of God’s people are also held to a high standard of personal holiness so they might be an example to the rest of the flock (James 3:1).  Peter instructs fellow-pastors in “being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).   This is clearly the purpose of the qualification list for pastors in both 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:9.  Each qualification in these lists is a moral quality that every Christian is called to have except for the teaching and encouraging responsibilities that are necessary for a pastor.

In discussing these biblical qualifications, Mark Dever addresses the church, “Instead of searching for leaders with secular qualifications, we are to search for people of character, reputation, ability to hand the Word, and who display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.”[27]

Bryant and Brunson emphasize this responsibility, “Whatever else a shepherd and teacher provides for God’s people, he is to give them an example to follow.  God’s people require examples if they are to be effectively shepherded and taught.”[28]     They also go further to say the pastor exemplifying the Christian life is a provision from God to his people showing them how to live.[29]  The faithful pastor will set a good example in his life for God’s flock.

In conclusion, two liberating ideas are revealed: first, that pastors can become more faithful to their calling, their family, and their congregation if they are willing to cut away all of the expectations that have been laid upon them outside of those that fall within the ministry of the Word and prayer, pastoral care, pastoral leadership, and serving as an example.  In doing this, the pastor will be basing His ministry firmly on the example of God as Shepherd and upon God’s directives for His under-shepherds.  Second, the reader will notice that personal (not public) evangelism was not specifically mentioned in this discussion of pastoral responsibilities, this is for two reasons. The first reason is because personal evangelism should easily fall into all four categories of responsibility for the pastor.  Second, personal evangelism is only the responsibility of the pastor more than it is that of the congregant because he is to be an example to them.  The pastor must not be the only person of a congregation sharing the gospel.  If this is the case, there will be very few conversions in a church’s community in comparison to the congregants also being faithful to the commission of the Lord Jesus to share the gospel.

The problem in pastoral ministry of looking for answers in all the wrong places is great in this day and time.  However, a solution exists that is much more simple yet much more faithful and effective to God’s goal for the pastor “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).


Works Cited

Akin, Daniel L., Allen, David L., and Mathews, Ned L., eds.  Text-Driven Preaching:  God’s Word at theHeart of every Sermon.  Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Armstrong, John H., ed. Reforming Pastoral Ministry: Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Times.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001.

Baxter, Richard.  The Reformed Pastor. Nabu Public Domain Reprints, 1656.

Bounds, E. M. Power Through Prayer.  New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982.

Bryant, James W. and Brunson, Mac. The New Guidebook for Pastors.  Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007.

Dever, Mark.  Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.

Hammett, John S. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publications, 2005.

Hiltner, Seward.  Preface to Pastoral Theology.  New York: Abingdon Press, 1958.

Larsen, David L.  Pastoral Ministry in the Local Congregation: Caring for the Flock.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991.

Oden, Thomas C.  Pastoral Theology:  Essentials of Ministry.  New York: Harpersanfransisco,

Prime, Derek and Begg, Alistair.  On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work.  Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2004.

Purves, Andrew.  Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation.  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Schreiner, Thomas R. The New American Commentary Volume 37: 1,2 Peter, Jude.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers,  2003.

White, Thomas, Duesing, Jason, G., Yarnell, Malcolm, B. III, eds.  Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches.  Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008.

White, R. E. A Guide to Pastoral Care: A Practical Primer of Pastoral Theology.  London: Pickering & Inglis, 1976.


[1] David Larsen, Pastoral Ministry in the Local Congregation: Caring for the Flock (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), p. 15.

[2]Ibid., p. 16

[3]John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2005), pp. 163-166

[4] Andrew Purves,  Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004). This book is largely an argument for this first axiom, stated specifically on p. xx.

[5]Seward Hiltner, A Preface to Pastoral Theology. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1958), p. 20.

[6]Ibid, pp 22-23

[7] Andrew Purves,  Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004)., p. xix

[8] Ibid., pp. xix-xx

[9] Ibid., p. xx

[10] Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry (New York: Harperssanfransisco: 1983), p. xii.

[11] All citations from the Bible will be from the New International Version unless noted otherwise.

[12] Andrew Purves,  Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), p. xix

[13] Ibid.

[14]Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry (New York: Harperssanfransisco: 1983), p. 59

[15]John H. Armstrong, Reforming Pastoral Ministry: Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Times. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), p. 33.

[16] In this essay “and prayer” was added to John Hammett’s original category of ministry of the word to pick up this important Biblical pastoral function from Acts 6.

[17]Daniel L. Akin, David L. Allen, & Ned L. Mathews, eds., Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), p. 76.

[18] E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982), p. 30.

[19] John Hammett originally termed this responsibility of the pastor “pastoral ministry.”  It has been changed in this essay in order to avoid confusion since all four responsibilities could be called “pastoral ministry.”  Hammett often refers to pastors as elders and therefore the category “pastoral ministry” is not confused with the other responsibilities in his work.

[20] Richard Baxter.  The Reformed Pastor. (Nabu Public Domain Reprints, 1656), 81-84.

[21] Thomas White, Jason Duesing, , Malcolm Yarnell, III, eds.  Restoring Integrity in Baptist

Churches.  (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008),  32.

[22] Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, On Being A Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work (Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2004), p.150.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid, p. 151.

[25]Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary Volume 37:1,2 Peter, Jude (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003), p. 234.

[26] James W. Bryant and Mac Brunson, The New Guidebook for Pastors (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), p. 73.

[27] Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,  2004), 231-232.

[28]Ibid., p. 36.

[29] Ibid.