Prototype of the Ideal Husband

The Church, The Gospel, Theology

(By: Chris Marley)

Read Part 1: Introducing the Princess Bride

PrinceGod’s Word begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth. The very word Genesis comes from the Greek word for beginning. This is where it all started. God speaks, and whatever he says is. It is not that it shortly will be, or the angels will rush out and accomplish it straightway, but it is. He created everything that you and I have ever known out of nothing, ex nihilo. The most important elements are very clear in this controversial first chapter of Genesis: that God is the source of all creation, and he is omnipotent. God is sovereign, all-powerful, beyond comprehension.

I draw attention to this because the starting point of theology must always be God in his transcendent glory. To meet the lady working behind the counter at the local fast food restaurant inspires little awe, but to meet the Queen of England would be an astounding event. We cannot appreciate God’s immanence (his closeness through Christ) without transcendence (how far beyond comprehension he is as enthroned creator). God becoming man in Christ must be understood in light of him first being God, or his being man does not matter.

So God creates man on the sixth day, along with pigs and earthworms. God makes him out of dirt, and breathes life into him. Notice how the first chapter of Genesis declares the majesty and sovereignty of God, while describing us as originate as dirt clods. Perspective is important. Now, Adam is alone as far as intelligent, image-bearing creatures go. God declares in chapter 2 that it is not good for man to be alone, to which many bachelors’ apartments testify. So God takes Adam’s rib and makes a wife for him. God establishes the first marriage in creation through Adam and Eve.

Before dealing directly with the creation narrative for Eve (this will be dealt with in the next article), it serves to deal with the concept of man needing a helpmate. There are entire devotional books written for women on the subject of being a helpmate/helper/help-meet. There are specific aspects that should be acknowledged here, though, given the metaphor of Bride of Christ. Namely, there is something to be learned about earthly marriage by Christ’s example.

Christ accomplishes salvation, provides all means, and yet calls upon his church to labor in a portion of the redemptive work for her sake. He assumes the responsibility, and in what little he calls upon the church to do, he equips her at every stage. She is the helper of Christ in this sense.

How does this apply to earthly husbands? It is all the husbands work, obligation, and responsibility. The husband’s job is not just to go to work and then come home to his wife. It is not immediately the wife’s job to raise the children, tend the home, cook the meals, wash dishes, etc. It is the husband’s job directly to care for the family in all aspects, but it is the wife’s job to help/obey her husband in whatever capacity is needed. This is why it is the husband’s responsibility to tend and maintain the marriage, lead his household, and raise all members of the family up in prayer and the Word of God (i.e. loving her as Christ loved the church). Practically, this may not change a great deal of how the home functions, but it should drastically affect the husband’s attitude toward his wife and family.

On the flipside, the wife should own those endeavors of help-meet-ness and treat them with sober mindedness. Likewise, the church must treat their delegated responsibilities with the utmost diligence. The husband-wife ratio of labor is not 50/50, or we become consumed with whether the other is really giving 50%. Each should be striving to fill the 100%.

God declared that it was not good for man to be alone. This was not because Adam lacked the creativity to name all of the animals on his own. Humorous comments aside, it was not because Adam could not cook or clean. This declaration of God struck at the fundamental principle of this series. Humanity could best understand the unfolding redemptive history through metaphor. Eve would provide Adam a living means of comprehending the nature of God’s love for humanity and Adam would serve the same for Eve.

In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth (chapter 11) is one of the more controversial passages of scripture. My concern is not to unravel the validity or invalidity of head-coverings, but to get at the heart and underlying doctrine of the passage. In verse seven, Paul declares that man “is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” There is a very real sense in which man is meant to learn about his relationship to God by examining the relationship man has to woman. It is a two-way street of sorts, because man learns about heavenly marriage from earthly marriage and about earthly marriage from heavenly marriage.

Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:22-33 work in this way. The wife is to submit to her husband, the head of the family, as the church is to submit to Christ, the head of the church. This troubles many people, but it is not even the more demanding of the two charges. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. The perfect example of love in sacrifice, care, and preservation is the standard for husbands. Men are to love their wives this way; this is God’s command through his servant Paul. The closer a husband is to loving his wife as Christ loved the church, the easier it will be for the wife to submit to her husband.

Thus the stage is set for the creation of Eve, the production of types and shadows, and the progressive revelation of the mystery of the Gospel. As John Owen says, the reason it is called mystery is because it requires God to reveal it to us, or we could never find it out.


This article first appeared at and is used here with permission. Chris Marley is the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ.

Why I Love Old Books

Caveat Lector

One of the reasons I love old books is discovering the long-forgotten things that someone tucked away in their pages for safe keeping. No matter how old we become, there remains a feeling of unearthed treasure when you discover such relics. Call it lexical serendipity.

That’s why I enjoy old books with writing in them. Sometimes the thoughts that a person scribbled in the margin are a window into a stranger’s reaction to the text; sometimes an unannotated underlining leaves you guessing what the words meant to them. Always, notes in old books make reading a communal affair. No longer is it just me and my page, there is now a third party on the line. Or, perhaps I’m the one intruding on their conversation.

Probably the best inscription in any of my old books is the personal typed note from a son to his father, taped into the cover of my copy of Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians:


Immediately, there is real kinship with Clyde through our common esteem for the great Reformer, and for his continent-shaking Doctrine.

Furthermore, the fact that the typed card is simply corrected by hand and pasted in without further revision is a small glimpse into an age before spell-check, before home-printers, and before such errors necessitated scrapping the note and starting again. The grave warning to not let anyone get away with this book conjures images of a masked book-bandito making off with copies of Calvin and Knox, even while the necessity of those words also reminds us of the scarcity of such works in an age before it took 0.004 seconds to download Luther’s Commentaries from any number of public domain websites. With that scarcity most likely came a much greater sense of value. I’d wager anything those old codices were read more often than their digital descendants. 

Yet the note is also unsettling.

Why the urgency of his request to his Father–I want you to read it. 

What untold stories lie behind that line?

Did the Father finish it before August 10, 1948?

What came of the revival at Bradshaw?

Our stories taped in books, still being told long after we’ve forgotten them.

Simple things to ponder on a breezy day, a day before Thanksgiving spent with loved ones.

Introducing the Princess Bride

The Church, The Gospel, Theology

BrideofChrist(By: Chris Marley)

This will, Lord willing, be the first in a series of posts on the subject of the Bride of Christ in Genesis. It is the most extensively used metaphor in Scripture, providing a through line connecting covenants and uniting God’s people. It is the metaphor from which two other highly used metaphors stem, namely the Children of God and the Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ also sheds a great deal of light on our ecclesiology (the study of the church) and the nature of Christ’s immanence to his people. Understanding this metaphor affects how we live our Christian lives, how we do evangelism, and even our view of eschatology (the study of Christ’s return). Basically, my conviction is that if Scripture spends a great deal of time on it, so should we.

All that being said, the narrative actually begins outside the reaches of human history. Perhaps it seems ridiculous to find a starting point before the beginning, but in this case it is necessary. The beginning would be Genesis 1:1, but our narrative begins even before Scripture in a doctrine only alluded to by various passages. This is the pactum salutis, or Covenant of Redemption. Assuming the doctrine of election of which Paul and Christ spoke so often, the real narrative begins outside of time within the Trinity. God determined what would be created, how it would be created, and for what purposes. God chose, before the beginning of the world, who would be His.

So what bearing does this have on the Bride of Christ? It means the marriage is an arranged one. Those whom the Father chose, the son redeemed… The Father in glory, before the beginning of the world, chose who would be the Bride of the Son.

Understand, I am not arguing for a return to arranged marriages for culture, but in this case it is beautiful. Even within Scripture, we see an instance where even arranged marriages were atypical by calling for the approval of the children for the wedding. The issue in earthly arranged marriage is the fallibility of the parents and inherent disunion with the children, but in this case, the parent is perfection itself in perfect harmony with the perfect Son and changes the heart of the imperfect bride.

Why is this significant? This means that the intimate love of a betrothed husband originates before the world began. God’s love for His people, Christ’s dedication to the elect, began in perfect unity of the Trinity before the earth was created. For every Christian, Christ’s love began before He spoke the heavens and the earth into existence. There is intrinsic value in longevity. People are fascinated by pyramids, Stonehenge, and other such ancient structures because of how they have withstood time. How much more rest and assurance does the Christian, in knowing that the love and dedication of God for and to them, is older than the universe itself? As A.W. Pink says, “What assurance would be ours if, when we approached the throne of grace, we realized that the Father’s heart had been set upon us from the beginning of all things!”

One of the major issues seen in the arranged marriages of history, especially in the ruling class, is that they are often marriages of convenience, mutually beneficial for the parents. A prince in England is married to a princess of France in order to build alliances and fortify empires. However, with the Bride of Christ, it is a marriage of inconvenience for the one arranging. God had no need in and of himself, but desired to display His grace and love through a marriage of His perfect Son to an imperfect and sinful bride.

There are many reasons why people get married to a specific person, regardless of whether they are proper reasons. People marry for money and security, attraction, esteem, or even just good companionship. Edward Pearse asks his readers if they “are for” such things, only to go on and declare how Christ fulfills all the things that people seek in a spouse greater than any human could. In the segment on riches, he speaks of how the marriage is not one of mutual benefit, but of extraordinary benefit to the believer. “You are poor, miserable and naked; and will you not embrace this Christ offering Himself with all these riches toward you?”

Though we cannot know the mind of God and the nature of the Trinity in fullness because we are so limited as created beings, perhaps an imagined dialogue is helpful…

Peace, Father

Peace, Son

Peace, Spirit

Peace to all in one

Son, you know whom I have chosen; on whom I have set my heart. Does the covenant please you?

Yes, Father, I love her.

You know what will happen, what she will do, and what you must do to have her?

Yes, Father, but I love those whom you have given me.

Spirit, you know what you must do to apply the Son’s work, dwell within, and endure their grieving of you?

Yes, Father, but she will be loved in spite of herself.

Then when the LORD has sworn by himself, he shall not repent of it. When it is spoken, then shall it be.


This article first appeared at and is used here with permission. Chris Marley is the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ.

Baptizing Children

Christian Living

child-baptismIf I’m honest—and I want to be—one of the more difficult things for me as a baptist is having to discern whether or not a child is prepared for baptism. My conscience is bound to what I understand the Bible to teach, and that is believer’s baptism, but there are numerous difficulties that arise in the search for genuine, saving faith. There is no shortage of resources and articles about this important topic, but I want to share what I think through as a parent and as a pastor.

As a Christian father, I want my children to hear about Jesus every day while they are in my home. They go to church and attend Sunday school and worship, we do family worship, we attend a weekly small group, we talk about the Scriptures, we read the Bible and other age-appropriate books about biblical things, we pray together before meals and before bed, we have other Christians in our home regularly and talk about the Lord and His Word, and I encourage them to pray and to trust the Lord and to be obedient to his Word. I’m guessing most Christian families do these things, or something similar. It’s a blessing for our children, and one that the Lord often honors with the gift of salvation (1 Corinthians 7:14).

That being said, children are dependent upon their parents and have a tremendous trust in us. So, in their minds, what reason would they have to not believe what we take so seriously, what we teach them, and what we encourage them to believe to be true and trustworthy? But their believing it’s true because we believe it’s true is completely different than them having true, saving faith in Jesus Christ. The difference between the two though, is very difficult and often nearly impossible to discern. So, what should we do?

Most children begin asking about baptism after witnessing one in church or reading about it in the Bible. I also see parents having quiet conversations with their children about the Lord’s Supper when the plate is being passed, as they explain the necessity of faith in Christ for one to partake of the elements. So when the questions start coming up, I tell parents (myself included) to continue offering encouragement, telling their children that it’s a wonderful thing they’re thinking about baptism and expressing a desire to be a Christian. They should be urged to keep asking questions, learning the Scriptures, and asking God to be at work in their everyday lives. My oldest daughter is 6 years old and asks me almost daily, “Daddy, am I a Christian? I want to be!” That’s a wonderful thing, and we want to celebrate and encourage that belief. However, I also let her know that while we’re waiting for a while to baptize her until she grows and understands more, if she is a Christian, God will save her no matter what we do in terms of baptism now.

So what should we be looking for? I will offer a few suggestions based on what I look and listen for when speaking with children in our church, and what I am looking and listening for in my own children. First, I always ask the following questions up front:

  1. Why do you want to be baptized?
  2. What is baptism?
  3. Why should anyone be baptized?

And then I ask them (and the way I ask it is dependent upon their age):

  1. What does it mean to be a Christian?
  2. Can you tell me if there is a difference in your life? Was there a time you weren’t a Christian, but now you are? What’s different?
  3. Who is Jesus and what has he done to save us?
  4. What do we have to do so that Jesus will save us?
  5. Tell me about yourself and how you interact with God and with other people. How has that changed? (I’m looking for some kind of acknowledgement of sinfulness and being deserving of judgment). What do you think about yourself and your own heart?
  6. What is repentance? Have you repented of your sin?
  7. How are you trusting in God day-by-day?
  8. Can you tell me what the gospel is?

I don’t coach children through the answers, and I encourage parents to be careful to not just give their children answers to memorize and repeat. Obviously, most children aren’t going to be able to answer all of the questions using the same language an adult would, but we are merely looking for evidence of an understanding of each element and how each element belongs within the broader story of their life with Christ. It may be very elementary, but we’re not looking for advanced theologians, we’re looking to see if they understand what they profess to believe.

When a young child is encouraged to keep on believing, learning, and asking questions while baptism is delayed, if they truly understand about salvation and recognize their lost condition, they will not be easily dissuaded from being baptized. Perhaps, their persistence is an indication of their readiness. But if they’re not serious and it’s only a periodic discussion because they see something (Lord’s Supper, baptism, etc.), or they stop talking about it completely, then it’s worth waiting on for a while to see where it goes.

Obviously, there is no magic age when a person who professes faith should be baptized. But I also know I can get my three year old to tell me what I hope to one day hear and make the argument that she said the right things and should, therefore, be baptized. So we’re left to be wise and ask for God’s direction. There’s no harm in waiting for a while after an initial desire for baptism is expressed. I do believe it is unfortunate when we baptize too quickly because it can cause a false sense of assurance. However, we also want to be sensitive as to not provoke our children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4). If they are truly Christians, we want them to benefit from all of the means of grace.

In the end, we do have the means by which to keep the church pure through church discipline, or sometimes once they are teenagers or adults, those who were baptized as young children realize they were not saved when they though they were initially, and therefore do not maintain the same kind of relationship with the local church. Either way, there are safeguards, but it’s best not to use them if we can avoid it up front by being thoughtful and discerning when we consider whether or not to baptize our children.

(By: Nicholas Kennicott)

Caveat Lector • 8/19/2015

Caveat Lector

[By: Nicolas Alford]

In the past I’ve used the “caveat lector” category to signal a slightly off-beat Decablog post, or a clumsy attempt at humor. Today I’m resurrecting the tag and starting what will be something of a regular column out of it. How regular? I have a plan in mind–but it’s secret. Basically, I don’t want to be held to it if I don’t keep up. How’s that for transparent opacity?

I intend this to be an outlet for occasional riffing on current events, shorter blurbs, and highlighting helpful links.

And so, into the breach.

While John Oliver’s devastating takedown of the Prosperity Gospel is pretty vulgar (I guess he only had the Sesame Street video for the letter “F”), he is spot on. Two things are especially tragic: that hurting people are preyed on by these jackals and that their shenanigans make such a mockery of the Biblical gospel. The church must be clear in denouncing such heresy, or the comedians of the culture will do it for us.

The press release put out from a recently hacked website that coordinates clandestine affairs for married people is a fascinating study in a convoluted worldview. The gist of the story is that hackers have stolen the user data of some tens of millions Ashley customers–names, home addresses, credit card numbers, etc–and posted it all online to the delight of identity thieves everywhere and the dismay of tens of millions of betrayed spouses.

Important caveat: stealing personal data and using it either to shame or to steal from private parties is difficult to defend even in these shameful circumstances. But the fascinating part of this is the way that the company has chosen to not only condemn the theft, but to astonishingly also attempt to defend the morality of the affairs they facilitate. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world. We are continuing to fully cooperate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.

Every week sees new hacks disclosed by companies large and small, and though this may now be a new societal reality, it should not lessen our outrage. These are illegitimate acts that have real consequences for innocent citizens who are simply going about their daily lives. Regardless, if it is your private pictures or your personal thoughts that have slipped into public distribution, no one has the right to pilfer and reveal that information to audiences in search of the lurid, the titillating, and the embarrassing.

Note three moral stances taken in this incredible statement.

1. The perpetrator(s) of this hack have no right to act as “moral judge” or “impose a personal notion of virtue on all society.” Notice that not only is the hacked website protesting the criminal act of invading their servers and taking user data, they are protesting the idea that there is anything immoral about the services they provide. So apparently, to think that it is immoral to secretly carry on an affair behind the back of your spouse is to appoint yourself an illegitimate “moral judge.” Honesty with your spouse and fidelity in marriage are merely “personal notions of virtue,” and “personal ideology.”

2. Yet even as they deny the legitimacy of morally condemning people having secret affairs, Ashley has no hesitation condemning the hackers in explicitly moral language. Note that the hackers are “thieves” and “guilty parties.” They have no right to “pilfer and reveal” that which others want kept private. Now, the website probably has a point, but the thundering question is, on what possible consistent grounds do you deny the right of others to “impose a personal notion of virtue,” while at the same time decrying that act in the most morally laced language possible?

3. It doesn’t even stop there. There are incredible statements used defending the adulterers who this site caters to. They are actually described as merely “freethinking people,” and–astonishingly– “innocent citizens simply going about their daily lives.” So there you have it: the hackers have no right to impose their morality on Ahsley and it’s clientele, Ashley has every right to impose their morality on the hackers, and meanwhile, the clientele in question is utterly “innocent.” Never mind, of course, the frank admission that the stolen data most likely contains “the lurid, the titillating, and the embarrassing.” Not exactly the language of innocence.

This is what happens when you cut the societal tether to objective moral absolutes. Behold the worldview of autonomous moral authority. If you think it doesn’t make any sense, that’s because it doesn’t. We’re living in a culture where the only sin is believing that someone else is sinning, expect for when they’re sinning again you, but meanwhile, it’s not sin to provide a website for others to sin against their souses! The whole convoluted mess would be laughable, if it didn’t represent tens of millions of broken hearts and shattered vows.


If you missed Mark Nenadov’s piece on Elijah Craig, you shouldn’t have.


Free The Rhino Room!


Today the seventh Planned Parenthood expose was released. Here’s a thorough roundup from The Gospel Coalition.

Here’s my eleven word commentary:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.24.05 PM
Come quickly Lord Jesus.


That concludes the maiden voyage of Caveat Lector. Until next time,

Grace and Peace.

The Bourbon Baptist: A Look at Elijah Craig’s Life

Church History

[By: Mark Nenadov]


The vaults of church history are rich storehouses that should be plundered regularly. We have an embarrassment of riches and yet at times large swaths of history lay on the shelf, dusty.

It can be tempting for us Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians to jump from the New Testament times to the 16th and 17th century and then into the 20th century. And yet, the American Baptist community of the 18th and 19th century is, in my opinion, comparatively neglected. I love and appreciate the life and theology of the 17th century Particular Baptists, but sometimes I think we’ve underestimated the legacies of those who came after them.

As an independent, amateur researcher, I’ve been writing short biographical sketches of some noteworthy and yet sorely neglected individuals in 19th century American Baptist history. For instance, I’ve written two soon-to-be-published papers on John Newton Brown: “A Recipient of Inestimable Legacies”: The Early Life of J. Newton Brown (1803-1868) and “Sweet Temper, High-toned Piety”: The Life of John Newton Brown (1803-1868). They should be appearing in Kettering soon. And I’ve focused in on S. Dryden Phelps in “An Eloquence in Nature’s Voice” The Pastor-Poet S. Dryden Phelps (1816-1895).

11748618_10153214268454342_914956416_nMost of my writing has been about Baptists in New England. The Baptist community there was surprisingly vital just a couple centuries ago! As of late, though, there is an intriguing character who takes me further down South: the 18th-19th century Virginia and Kentucky Baptist preacher and entrepreneur Elijah Craig (1745?-1808).

This article is much less formal than the other ones I’ve written recently. Also, I do not pretend to have researched Elijah Crag’s life as thoroughly as John Newton Brown or S. Dryden Phelps. Nevertheless, I aspire here to a lighter, more casual treatment of his life, which brings into focus some interesting angles in an age of perennial concerns about religious liberty!

Early Life and Conversion

Though Elijah Craig was “one of the most remarkable of the early Kentucky Baptist preachers,” very little is known about his early life in Orange County, Virginia. We don’t even know whether his birthdate was in the 1730s or 1740s and have essentially no details dating before 1764.

By the mid-1750s, colonial American Baptists were often identified as either “Regular” or “Separate.” Both were solidly Calvinistic in their theology, but the “Separate Baptists” closely identified with the Great Awakening and are known for emphasizing evangelism and heart-felt religion, whereas the “Regular Baptists” in some ways distanced themselves from this orientation.

In 1764, Elijah was converted while sitting under the preaching of the Regular Baptist David Thomas (1732-1812), who had organized one of the first Regular Baptist churches in Virginia. Almost immediately upon conversion Elijah “began, at once to exhort.” In the early days, his chapel was located in his tobacco house! By 1766, he became a Separate Baptist.

Ministry in Virginia

Elijah’s preaching was “of the most solemn style,” often bringing listeners to tears. He had “a thin visage, large eyes and mouth” and was “of great readiness of speech.” His voice was melodic, and both his preaching and singing were so loud that it “bore all down.”

At some point, Elijah married Frances Smith and had three children: Joel, Simeon, and Lucy. When Frances died, Elijah married a widow, Margaret, and had three more children: Lydia, Polly, and John.

Baptists were persecuted in 18th century Virginia. Like the Carolinas, Georgia, and Maryland, Virginia had an established church—the Church of England. The principle of religious liberty had not taken hold in the social culture of the day and “the rage of the persecutors had in no wise abated.” Baptist pastors were often mocked, slandered, and jailed. In 1779, over 40 pastors were placed in jail. Elijah was arrested twice.

While ploughing his field in 1768, Elijah was arrested and imprisoned for seventeen days for preaching “schismatick doctrines.” Apparently, prison couldn’t keep Elijah down and he preached the gospel through the bars of his jail window and, consequently, the authorities built a high wall around the prison to keep people from hearing.

After release from prison, Elijah pastored Blue Run Baptist Church, which gathered just a few miles from the Madison family plantation. The church chose him as their pastor upon constitution in 1769, and formally ordained him into the ministry in 1771. Under his pastoral care, the church flourished.

Though political upheaval began earlier, it wasn’t until 1775 that the American Revolutionary war began. During the war, Elijah served as a chaplain. He also “played a vital role in communicating the views of the Virginia Baptists to the new state government.” It is highly likely that Elijah Craig played at least an indirect role in some of the early musings that eventually led to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Life in Kentucky

In early 1786, Elijah brought his congregation, the Great Crossing Church, from Virginia into the vicinity of present day Lancaster, Kentucky. It was a large group of perhaps half a thousand people. Persecution hastened the move. Hence, Virginia’s established church appears to have brought many Baptists to Kentucky.

While in Kentucky, Elijah got busy. He laid out plans for the town of Lebanon, later renamed Georgetown. He also founded one of the earliest classical academies in the state, the Rittenhouse Academy, which according to some would evolve into Georgetown College, though the connection is somewhat debatable. An advertisement for the academy in the Kentucky Gazette observed that it “will teach the Latin and Greek languages, together with such branches of the sciences as are usually taught in public seminaries.” Legend has it that the “stately columns” of Giddings Hall at Georgetown College hide “a keg of whiskey belonging to Elijah Craig.”

Speaking of whiskey, Elijah distilled whiskey. He may have begun as early as 1789. Yes, Baptists used to distill whiskey. Just two years earlier, a Baptist minister, James Garrard, was indicted for retailing whiskey without a license. One source notes that John Schackelford received thirty-six gallons of whiskey for his preaching in 1798. In 1796, the Elkhorn Baptist Association, a Kentucky association (constituted in 1785), ruled that denying a member church membership because he sold intoxicants was unjustified. It should also be remembered that it wasn’t until 1886 that the Southern Baptist Convention began passing resolutions against alcohol.

11721425_10153214268419342_1283120141_nBaptists who enjoy reading this article and are not teetotalers may like to know that they can indeed drink the Elijah Craig brand bourbon whiskey this very day. There is a bit of legend swirling around about Elijah’s involvement in the whiskey trade. It is commonly stated that he was the first person to make bourbon, but that is likely untrue. The legend states that Elijah accidentally charred some white oak staves and, due to frugality, stored the whiskey in them anyway, noticing the taste difference and afterwards producing it that way purposely. This legend seems to have its origin in a history of Kentucky from 1874 and has been further propagated by Heaven Hill Distillery who produces the Elijah Craig brand bourbon whiskey.

In reality, Elijah was probably making the same sort of whiskey that others in Kentucky were making at the time. Whatever we may make of the legend, it is clear that Elijah was a prominent distiller and one of Kentucky’s earliest and most zealous “industrialists.” Beside his whiskey production, Elijah kept busy building a saw mill, a grist mill, making paper and rope, and fulling cloth. He also got caught up in some land speculating, which involves risky financial transactions which attempt to profit from fluctuation in real estate prices. As we shall soon see, the speculating seems to have had a negative effect on him.

In 1791, for some reason Elijah became “obnoxious” to his church and was excommunicated. Very little is known about the specific circumstances, but we can infer a few things from what was going on in Elijah’s life at the time. He remained excommunicated for some amount of time, but was eventually restored to fellowship. We may speculate that Elijah’s excommunication was related to a spiritual decline which may have been in some way connected to his involvement in land speculation, a trajectory which appears to have dragged down his ministry. Robert Baylor Semple, who wrote A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia, observed that Elijah had a “censorious” temper, a temper that was kept in check as long as he was “warm in religion.” However, Semple opines that a period of religious decline in his life connected with his land speculation involvement might have caused his censoriousness to become unchecked.

Semple cites Elijah’s two published works as examples of his censoriousness. While in Kentucky, Elijah published A Few Remarks on the Errors That Are Maintained in the Christian Churches of the Present Day (1801), in which he argued that “pastors…are precluded by the Scriptures from receiving any compensation for their services,” and A Portrait of John Creath (1807), which is the account of some private dispute between a Mr. Creath and a Mr. Lewis. The later pamphlet is no longer accessible. Semple described it colorfully as having been written with a pen “dipt in poison.”

We do not know when and under what circumstances Elijah was restored to fellowship, we merely know that he was a member of the congregation when he died in 1808.

Whereas John Newton Brown, who also ministered for a time among slave-owners in Lexington, Virginia, spoke loudly and clearly against the institution of slavery, Elijah Craig, like many Southern Baptists, seems to have quietly profited from the cruel institution of American slavery. According to tax records from 1800, Elijah owned “over 4,000 acres of land, eleven horses, [and] thirty-two slaves.”

His Death

For one reason or another, Elijah lost a good deal of his wealth by the time of his death. According to his last will and testament, he had only one slave left to leave for his children, a slave boy named Harry.

On May 13, 1808, Elijah was “in a low state of health but of sound mind & memory,” and penned his last will and testament. He died by May 18, 1808. On May 24th, the Kentucky Gazette wrote the following eulogy:

“He possessed a mind extremely active and his whole property was expended in attempts to carry his plans to execution—he consequently died poor. If virtue consists in being useful to our fellow citizens, perhaps there were few more virtuous men than Mr. Craig.”


You will find the story of Elijah Craig’s life unsatisfying if your use history to cherry-pick laudable heroes in which you expect to find no wrinkles or complications. If you want a hero, I’d argue you can find much more unalloyed hero material in someone like John Newton Brown or S. Dryden Phelps.

Nevertheless even this slave-owning and allegedly censorious Baptist makes for a fascinating historical study in our Baptist heritage. In particular, his involvement in pre-Revolutionary happenings concerning religious liberty and his location at the early development of the Baptist church in America makes him a remarkable character. He also provides a fascinating early case study for a variety of other reasons. He provides us with an early example of Baptist church discipline being put into practice. He shows how the earliest Baptists were generally not teetotalers or prohibitionists. He is an early example of a Baptist entrepreneur. He is involved in debates for and against bi-vocational pastorates.

We do not know enough about Elijah Craig to form a substantial impression of his theology and piety. There are, however, a number of fascinating aspects of his life which would make him an interesting study, if more information could be found.

I don’t pretend to have done Elijah Craig’s legacy justice, nor do I claim to well-suited to be the individual to uncover and connect further details about him. I merely hope I can stir up some interest in him. We can only hope that some more information is uncovered in the future! Such is the optimism of history, there is always the hope that more will be discovered some day.

Mark Nenadov blogs regularly at All Things Expounded.

The Rhino Room | 3 Most Important Christians

Church History, Rhino Room, The Church

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

You can find previous Rhino Room responses here.

Who are the three most important Christians from the time of (and not including) the apostles until today?

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

The three most important Christians from the time of the Apostles until the present day no doubt vary from person to person, however, for me it is Augustine, Luther, and Edwards. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo died as the barbarians were at the gate of his city. It was an ominous time, yet Augustine served the church well with his Confessions and The City of God.   Instead of being the end of the church, His works helped in its triumph over the barbarian threat. Martin Luther was the obscure monk who shook his world to its foundations. Catapulted into fame, he brought the church back to a biblical foundation and the evangelical truth of justification by faith. Jonathan Edwards brought forward Puritan heart religion. Evangelical and reformed, his writing on revival and the publication of Brainerd’s journal stirred the imagination and created a thirst for missions and revival.

Robert Cole (Pastor, Berean Baptist Church of Ceres, California)

The three most important Christians, in my opinion, all share something in common (other than Christ, obviously). They were all used by God in awakenings of the Christian faith.

1. Augustine(354-430).  He was used by God to shape the way people think about God. In the midst of an extremely hedonistic, secularist world, he challenged the manner in which people think. Jerome said Augustine,”established anew the ancient Faith.” An awakening. Important indeed.

2. Martin Luther (1483-1546). He was used by God to challenge the heresy of the Roman Catholic Church and begin what would become a world wide reformation. Turning the attention back to the Word of God as the source of truth and authority over all of life. This was indeed an awakening. Important indeed.

3. Carolyn Walker (1974-present). She was used by God to bring an offensive gospel to an offensive, perverse sinner.  To most, an ordinary girl. To this writer, an instrument in my salvation. Used by God in my own awakening. Important indeed.

Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)

Pretty standard for the first two –
1) Augustine – The most influential theologian of the early church.  His ecclesiology became the baseline for the Roman Catholic Church; his soteriology for the Protestant church.

2) Calvin – The premier theologian of the Reformation.  Many outside of Reformed circles are simply unaware of how much Calvin’s thought influenced subsequent history – not only in theology, but in politics, economics, ethics, etc.

3) Martyn Lloyd-Jones – This one may be obscure and surprising, and certainly reveals a theological bias.  But since I believe that the recovery of Reformed theology and the Reformed Resurgence is a good thing, there is simply no figure more historically important in that recovery than Lloyd-Jones.  At a time when the influence of Reformed theology was at its weakest, Lloyd-Jones was used by God to provide an example of powerful preaching and church practice, and to begin a movement that has reshaped the current landscape.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

Augustine is at the top of the list. Augustine’s City of God is unmatched in Christian writing. He was foundational in clearly articulating biblical soteriology and showing a true example of experiential divinity.

Martin Luther is either loved or hated. While there are certainly many things that could be said about some of Luther’s ideas and practices, he is undoubtedly a man that God used in a way that can be said of no other in the recovery of true biblical teaching in the face of great apostasy. He is, in my opinion, a hero of the faith.

William Carey is known as the father of modern missions. His challenge to the church to engage in world evangelization set a course for missions that has remained relatively unchanged since the late 18th century. Without Carey, we would be much further behind in our task to fulfill the great commission.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

Hendrix, Dylan… wait. Wrong list. Everyone is going to say Augustine, which I have to follow. He is the one who soteriologically founded reformational doctrine and ecclesiologically established medieval Roman identity. Just to be different, I’ll put Anselm as my second, because of the influence he had in centering Western Christianity (I believe rightly so) on forensic justification. For the Reformation, which you have to choose someone on that topic, it’s hard to choose between Luther, whom God used to catalyze the whole thing, or Calvin, whom God used to systematize it, but in the end, I think Luther was more essential even though I agree far more theologically with Calvin. I do hope someone chooses Spurgeon or Carey though, as cases can be made for either, and we need some Baptists on the list.

Keith Thompson (Pastor,Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania)

  1. Emperor Constantine.  I know there are still debates as to whether his “conversion” was motivated by genuine faith or political savvy, but either way, the Lord used him to legitimize the Christian faith allowing the message of the cross to spread freely. Ramifications of his conversion have echoed through the centuries resulting in Christian thought and morays being the foundation of Western Civilization.
  2. Although not an individual Christian, my #2 goes to the British Navy which defeated the Spanish Armada.  Had it not been for that naval victory, it is widely speculated that there would be no protestants.
  3. How can I not put John Calvin in my top 3? Although Luther is credited with starting the Reformation, Calvin’s Institutes gave invaluable intellectual credibility to the Protestant cause. Even secular historians often put the Institutes in their list of the top 5 most influential books of all time.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

3. Martin Luther. I wanted to pick Calvin here, but though Calvin systematized Protestant theology, it was Luther, standing on the backs of previous martyrs and reformers, who had the nerve to stand up to the entire medieval system of abuses and perversions that was the Church in his day. Are there any more famous words than “Here I stand?”

2. Constantine the Great. I know that many question whether he even was a Christian. I don’t put him here because of the brilliance of his own personal faith, but rather because without Constantine, there would be no Nicea—the bedrock of all orthodoxy. Also, Constantine—for better or for worse—changed the course of Christianity forever, turning it from a backwoods sect where believers could very possibly be put to death, to the official religion of the greatest Empire in world history. Plus, he has a great city named after him. Or wait, is that Istanbul? No, its Constantinople.

1. Augustine was perhaps the most prolific writer of the first thousand years of church history. His City of God was the cornerstone of shaping Western Christian thought, his views of salvation and his Confessions were profoundly biblical and experiential. He was the full package and the most influential Christian outside of the New Testament.

The Rhino Room | Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament

Rhino Room, Theology

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

You can find previous Rhino Room responses here.

Is the Old Covenant an administration of the Covenant of Grace?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

A couple years ago I would have said yes to this question without hesitation. However, investigating the view broadly known as 1689 Federalism has helpfully refined some of my thinking. I’m still studying this issue, so this answer is offered somewhat tentatively. As is always the case in theology, precise definitions are necessary. The Covenant of Grace is Christ’s fulfillment of the Covenant of Works for his elect. Therefore, if ‘administration’ means that the Covenant of Grace and the Old Covenant were coextensive, in that unregenerate (still in Adam) Old Covenant members were also in the Covenant of Grace (in Christ), then absolutely not. Only the New Covenant is coextensive with the Covenant of Grace. However, I believe we can say that the Covenant of Grace was administered ‘through’ the Old Covenant, and that the Old Covenant was also highly gracious– but that doesn’t make it the Covenant of Grace.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

The mosaic legislation is commonly called the “Old Covenant.” The answer is yes!

Throughout the Bible from the pre-Mosaic coverings of skins for Adam and Eve, to the Passover Lamb, to the Day of Atonement, to the Cross, grace has been the underlying theme. There is only one way a person can be saved in both the Old and New Testaments and that is by grace through faith.

It is proper to speak of the administration of the Covenant of Grace under the Old and New Covenants. The law of God present in the Old Covenant (Ten Commandments) it is not done away with in the New. The law shows us that we ought to love God and our neighbor. Endeavoring to do so we realize it is an impossibility apart from God’s grace, new heart (regeneration), and faith.


Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

I believe the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant, thus the Old Covenant is not an administration of the Covenant of Grace. The New Covenant was promised in Genesis 3:15, however its fulfillment is based upon the finished work of Christ. Nevertheless, the promised covenant was from God, thus guaranteeing its fulfillment as a gracious covenant. All of the other covenants throughout the Old Testament are types and shadows pointing to the finished work of Christ and/or specific to Israel’s life in the land of Canaan, but are not in and of themselves the Covenant of Grace even though they may be said to have a gracious nature. All of the covenants in the Old Testament anticipate, look forward to, and reveal the coming work of Jesus the Messiah. They graciously anticipate what is coming, but are not identical with the Covenant of Grace.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

As Mel Brooks once said, “…the theory of yes and no…” Mosaic Covenant is kind of a mixture of Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace. It’s like a scale model that shrinks all the elements of Redemptive History down to an observable scale even before many of the elements had happened. So it’s covenant of grace, covenant of works, and neither all at the same time. The sacrifices, priesthood, tabernacle, furniture, etcetera are only functional as shadow conduits to the Covenant of Grace and ineffectual by themselves, a major theme of Hebrews. This question is actually simpler for Baptists, because we’re not trying to keep a circumcision/baptism connection. We can delineate how BC saints were saved through the Mosaic system, while under it, but not by it. They were saved by grace through faith, not the Mosaic/Old Covenant.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

The problem with this question is that “Covenant of Grace” is a man-made theological construct rather than a biblical term. Therefore, we can’t do exegesis upon the phrase from the Bible. Thus, it probably isn’t possible to answer the question without first begging it.

If, however, we equate the new covenant and the Covenant of Grace (which I believe everyone does), we can ask whether OT covenants are the same as the new covenant. The biblical answer to this is that they are not for—as Hebrews teaches—they have inferior covenant heads, covenant sacrifices, covenant priests, covenant (ceremonial) laws, and covenant blood. OT covenants are typological of the new covenant. They anticipate the new covenant. God saves OT saints by faith alone in anticipation of the new covenant (Rom 3:25). OT covenants were cut by Jesus Christ (Israel’s God, i.e. the Angel of the LORD, see Jdg 2:1). But only the new covenant has Christ as the one obeying the terms of the covenant. It is the final great covenant that all of redemptive history anticipated.


A Review of Blind Spots by Collin Hansen

Book Reviews, Books, Christian Living

When it comes to blind spots in the Christian life, we have two options: Admit we have them, or lie. I’ve never held a theological or philosophical position assuming it was wrong. Who does that? But it’s either the height of arrogance or ignorance to think it’s not possible that I have some wrong ideas, hold certain ideas in imbalance, or haven’t adequately considered viable alternatives. Challenging me to think clearly and critically about my own positions, I was helped tremendously by Collin Hansen‘s latest book entitled Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church (Hansen is the Editorial Director for The Gospel Coalition).

In my own understanding and interacting with other Christians outside my tradition and theological framework, I will be the first to admit that I haven’t always done a great job. I could have easily been the one writing Hansen’s words: “With my highly attuned gift for discerning others’ motives, it didn’t take long for me to see what’s wrong with everyone else. Then I blamed them for not seeing the wisdom in my arguments… Because I’d understood my experience as normative for everyone, I couldn’t see how God blessed other Christians with different stories and strengths.”

Certainly, there are specific, unalterable truths that should not be tampered with, downplayed, or discarded. God has revealed in His Word, “Those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation” and those things “are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them” (1.7 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689). I have long been an advocate of Dr. Albert Mohler’s three-tiered Theological Triage and find it to be a helpful matrix in which to frame each Christian relationship. But I’m thankful that Hansen presses the conversation even further. He writes, “This book is about seeing our differences as opportunity. God created us in splendid diversity of thought, experience, and personality. And when these differences cohere around the gospel of Jesus Christ, they work together to challenge, comfort, and compel a needy world with the only love that will never fail or fade.”

Focusing on the gospel as the unifying, unalterable center of relationships and conversations, Hansen points out that all Christians have further, specific emphases that we assume to be more important than others, and he places them into three distinct categories. We will identify closely with either compassionate Christians, courageous Christians, or commissioned Christians. In each category, Hansen outlines the distinctives that are commendable and worthy of emulating, and suggests temptations that should be guarded against lest our blind spots remain undiscovered and crippling to our Kingdom efforts. It’s most likely that every Christian will resonate on some level with each category, because they all contain biblical elements, however the honest reader will find himself in a specific category more than the others.

Compassionate Christians

The compassionate Christians are those who see the hurting, broken world around them and have a longing to relieve suffering and poverty. Hansen describes the compassionate Christians: “You clothe the homeless, feed the hungry, nurse the sick. You write the letters, shame the offenders, protest the powers.” Compassionate Christians are quick to see the abundance of biblical exhortations about the disenfranchised “little people” of society and to call the church to action.

Hansen commends the compassionate Christians for their focus on an area of biblical truth and action that should always be on the church’s radar, but also warns, “With compassion comes blame. In a broken world that lacks simple solutions and people who care, it can become all too easy to blame those who aren’t mending our society. Compassion abounds for humanity, just not for humans.” Hansen wisely warns compassionate Christians to not emphasize giving at the expense of the gospel itself. It’s important to remember that our “compassion won’t always be appreciated or even received by a world that rejects the source of our compassion.”

Courageous Christians

The courageous Christians are those who take stands on truth, and oftentimes on specific issues of importance (or even non-importance). The courageous Christians are those who will make precise arguments for specific positions, and make appeals to others to not waiver from what they understand to be true. These are Christians like Martin Luther and the reformers, willing to stand, fight, and die for the things that matter. “Courage is necessary for us to endure in the faith.”

Hansen self-identified in this category, and it’s most likely that the majority of reformed Christians will. But Hansen is wise to offer some cautions here as well. The courageous Christians can sometimes turn important issues into single issues, demanding that other people fall in line behind a specific agenda or else they will be cast as an enemy and considered suspect in the future. Courageous Christians can easily become heresy hunters, and are willing to compromise the fundamental exhortation to love because of a single issue. While courage is important and necessary in the face of sin, false teaching, and evil attempts to thwart the work of God, it’s vital to be reminded that “courage is not measured by how many people you can offend.”

Commissioned Christians

Commissioned Christians are those who emphasize mission with an eye toward bringing as many into the church and God’s Kingdom as possible. “You might be a commissioned Christian if you worry that younger generations will slip away or never bother to show up unless churches adapt to changing times. You’re not exactly conservative or liberal in theological terms. You probably trust in the authority of Scripture and hold to conservative views on issues such as the exclusivity of Christ; otherwise why bother with evangelism? But you don’t fit in with Christians who actually enjoy debating theology or arguing over whether ministry practices conform to Scripture. You want to get on with the serious, urgent work of changing lives with the power of the gospel.”

Commissioned Christians seek to push the church to the highways and hedges that the gospel would be proclaimed far and wide. Surely, a continued focus on the great commission is important and necessary. However, Hansen warns, “in their search for cultural relevance,” commissioned Christians “can slide into syncretism. And their eagerness to expand the tent can culminate in theological compromise. Sometimes these churches don’t merely resemble the mall with their expansive parking lots and food courts; they also communicate with ‘practical’ and ‘relevant’ messages that Christianity is an à la carte faith that supplements our private pursuit of peace, wealth, and status.”

A Call to Unity and Growth

Hansen’s book challenges readers to identify personal tendencies to over-emphasize certain areas of focus at the expense of others. We never outgrow our need to find balance in the Christian life, and we can more readily do so when we are more determined to learn from other believers instead of instantly seeking to find ways to differ from them. Certainly, there will be significant differences from one Christian to another, however they need not always be divisive or viewed with negativity and skepticism. Our goal should be “the kind of biblical fulness that . . . expects opposition from the world and seeks unity among believers for the sake of the world.”

I highly recommend Hansen’s book to those who are willing to ask questions of their own heart and consider whether or not their blind spots have kept them from learning from other Christians who have a lot to offer.

If you want more before picking up the book, read 20 Truths From Blind Spots.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Rhino Room|God’s Civil Law

Rhino Room

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

Should nations impose the civil law of God in society?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

What makes this an interesting question is the word *should*. The question is not whether it is ‘obligatory’ in the theonomic sense, but rather, *would it be best.* Would the best possible nation be the nation that imposed the civil law of God? The answer is still no. This requires care, as we ought not take a low view of what God did in Israel in that era of redemptive history. But it was for that time, and those people! We are no longer under the tutor of the Old Covenant. God is not currently dealing with a particular physical nation, nor is he using a nation’s laws to demonstrate his holy justice against sin. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. Indeed, the best possible nation will be the consummated kingdom, where there will be no need for judicial law– for God’s Moral Law will never again be transgressed.

[See 1689 LBCF 19:5, 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 of an example of how the essential *goodness* of the civil law is still applicable today- through general equity and moral use. I put this in brackets so it doesn’t effect my 150 word count limit]

Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

While God’s civil law revealed in the Old Testament has much to offer, by way of guiding principles for all nations, it is unnecessary to say that it ought to be imposed in its entirety in society. God gave these specific, culturally informed laws to regulate theocratic Israel as his special people in order to keep them distinct and preserve them from the surrounding nations, so that the promised Seed/Messiah (Gen. 3:15) could be born.

For example, the 1689 LBC states, “To [the people of Israel] also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use (see 1 Cor. 9:8-10)” (19.4). Nations, then, should apply moral principles from these laws, but they need not impose the civil laws of the Old Testament in society across the board.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

How this is answered depends on how words are defined. For example, “the civil law of God” to a Muslim would entail sharia law. The civil laws found in the Mosaic legislation are multi-faceted. Some relate to the moral law of God, showing us how it is to be applied, others relate to the unique status of Israel as a nation, who was for a time set apart from other nations.

I find it interesting that Christ was not political with respect to the Romans. His kingdom was not of this world. In both the Middle Ages and the Puritan New England establishment, a society ordered by the laws of God was attempted and failed. The “city on a hill” of Matthew 5:14 was not an earthly kingdom, but believers, as lights in the world. The kingdom is the church.

Olamide Bode Falase (Bible Study Leader and Lecturer, Crystal Vine Church of Port Harcourt, Nigeria)

In a world that has become rather pluralistic in its philosophical, religious and political outlook, it is easy to shrink back from speaking highly about the civil law of God, let alone suggest that  it should be considered for imposition by governments in society. However, I am of the opinion that nations have a divine obligation to impose the civil law of God on society.

Sadly, due to space constraint I would try to give as simple a reason for my position as possible. After the Lord revealed the ten commandments (the moral law) on Sinai, there was (logically) a need to “flesh out” these commandments at both the community and individual level. Theologians say that the ten commandments can be divided into two, man’s relationship with his creator and man’s relationship with his fellow-man. These two dimensions of man’s relationships involve dynamics that needed to be carefully defined so as to line up “perfectly” with the letter and the spirit of the moral law in the form of civil and the religious laws.

In a nutshell, these civil laws represented the best possible rules of engagement for human socio-political interaction within any given society.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

It’s helpful to think of the moral law (the 10 commandments) as foundational and applicable to all men at all times and places, whether it is believed and submit to or not. From the moral foundation, I understand the civil law of the Old Covenant to be case law, working out the implications of the moral law in the theocratic Kingdom of Israel. That being said, I believe every nation is responsible to make its own case law, therefore the civil law of the Old Covenant is not to be imposed on civil societies today. However, knowing that the moral law of God is etched on the hearts of every man, there will almost always be something of the 10 commandments visible in a nation’s governance even though men and women suppress the truth in unrighteousness (and look no further than most federal governments to see this play out).

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

Nope. Massive rewrites are necessary for two major reasons. Some of the judicial law is more severe than is necessary for our culture because the children of Israel were not functioning as an ordinary nation. They were an exemplary theocracy and therefore had severe requirements to set them apart. There are other laws that are seemingly overly lenient for our culture which results from the cultural context. What is too lenient for us was strikingly severe in the Ancient Near East. The 2nd LBC calls its usefulness “general equity,” and I wholeheartedly agree. It gives us concepts of what to address in law, but these things have to be qualified and assessed by Christian prudence and light of nature. Personally, I think Christians want Mosaic Judicial Law because they think it will make the world less bent, less broken, but we have to wait for glory.

Christopher Okogwu (Church Plant Coordinator in Abuja, Nigeria)

The historic reformed theological position on the civil and ceremonial law aspects of God’s law is such that we distinguish between the abrogation of the ceremonial law and the expiration of the civil law (in that it was specifically given to national Israel for its exercise) in Christ’s fulfillment of the law of God. However, we also keep in view the fact that, for example, core principles of justice and equity (as expressive of God’s attributes), which the civil law also sought to promote in societal governance, continue in the new covenant and are certainly applicable in/to civil government (cf. Romans 13 as an example of this).

There remains an abiding connection between the civil law of God and the civil magistrate of any given nation/society, not to be imposed in a theocratic sense, but rather as being God’s ordained instituted authority in society to reward or bring retribution in justly ruling over the people of a nation.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

Following very old Christian tradition, Reformed Baptists divide the law into three parts: moral, civil, and ceremonial. Not to open a huge can of worms, but thanks to my pastor friend Tony Jackson, I have come to view civil and ceremonial law as “case law. That is, they are the moral law applied to a nation’s civil and religious contexts (a “nation” can include the church in a spiritual though not geographic context). Very roughly, we might think of civil law as specific applications of the Second Table (Commandments 5-10).

Because they are contextualized in each culture, no society can 1. escape civil law, 2. will have the same civil law. Civil laws should, in my opinion, be based in some kind of objective moral-law principle. When they aren’t, they are arbitrary and, perhaps, unjust. Because all people have the moral law written on their hearts, it is inevitable that civilizations can not completely avoid having “the civil law of God imposed” on society. But this imposition is really just the necessary outcome of living in God’s world. At the same time, culture has changed so dramatically in 3,000+ years that to impose antiquated OT civil laws would be, in many instances, a complete waste of time. The moral principles will remain, but the “case law” will often look different.

Thoughts For Keach’s Warrior Children: Confessionalism


[By: Mark Nenadov]


The title of this post comes from the title of John Frame’s essay regarding the squabbles in American Presbyterian history, Machen’s Warrior Children. This title is a spin-off of that article. That’s about where the similarity ends. The “Keach” part, of course, refers to the English Particular Baptist, Benjamin Keach (pictured here in what might be said to be the artistic tradition of “partial realism”). Keach was a signer of the Second London Baptist Confession. I will hereafter refer to the confession as “the 1689 Confession”, which is its common name, even though it was actually first published in 1677.

I’ve had this post bouncing around in my head for quite some time now. It wasn’t until more recently, though, that its come down to the tips of my fingers. This post is best understood as a bit of reflection on my readings of recent Reformed Baptist interactions on the Internet. I hope and trust you will find these observations charitably written, if not always agreeable to everyone. I write this both so others can hopefully benefit from it, but also so I can further clarify my thoughts and continue to apply these things to myself.

A Goodly Heritage

As Reformed Baptists, we have a wonderful heritage in the 1689 Confession. We also have some wonderful catechisms (such as Keach’s Catechism and An Orthodox Catechism). It would behoove us, however, to examine how we are using these excellent documents and also whether we are using them in a way that is consistent with the main objectives for which they were written. I will not purport to put forward such an examination in this post. Rather, I will just offer a few “thoughts for the journey”, so to speak.

Functional Thoughts

In my mind, a healthy confessionalism balances two functions: a restrictive function and a permissive function. On one hand, it narrows, restricts, and provides shelter from the other side of the line. On the other, it is generous, permissive, expansive, and fosters diversity, and provides leeway for genuine differences. When either one of these aspects take an unhealthy prominence to the exclusion of the other, problems arise and confessionalism becomes ugly.

Reformed Confessionalism, in general, can be a wonderful thing. And we have much reason to rejoice in somewhat of a revival in Baptist confessionalism over the last several decades.

However, when confessionalism turns elitist or provincial in nature, it becomes ugly, no matter how historic or doctrinally solid it is. Much attention is paid to the “what” of confessionalism, but we ought to pay attention to the “how” also.

Respect The Intent Of The Framers

Besides respecting and noting the intent of the framers in the doctrinal formulations contained in a confession, we should also respect and notice their overarching purposes, as those will be very helpful in looking at “how” we should be confessional.

Anyone who wants to use the 1689 Confession to produce an exclusive, critical, elitist, and narrow community seems to run counter to the framer’s stated intention that it be “for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were”.

The document also was ecumenical, in the good sense of the word. It had the goal of standing “with many others whose orthodox Confessions have been published to the world”. Clearly, the signers themselves (especially Mr. Keach) were comfortable with diversity in at least some areas and unafraid to think outside of the box and even disagree with their brethren at times. And that’s without even knowing all the historical details of who was in the minority report in various areas of the confession.

Anyone who wants to hit someone over the head with the 1689 Confession should read the preface: “we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty and humility as will render our freedom in this respect inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours”.

Our Posture To Others

In the spirit of our confession’s preface, we should give due honor to other good, orthodox confessions of faith such as the Westminister Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Abstract of Principles, the New Hampshire Confession, and others. It is, of course, appropriate to prefer the confession we subscribe to, but we need to guard against a provincial, dismissive attitude and the impulse to enlarge the “faults” of other confessions to just win some sort of playground game. That is ugly confessionalism. We should also, incidentally, be careful to not carelessly assume that being older and more detailed necessarily makes a confession better!

If we love and treasure our historic Reformed confessions, then it behooves us to adorn those confessions well, in gentlemanly and gracious conduct and kindness to those we interact with. 17th century theology doesn’t show well when elucidated by curmudgeons. Not that a curmudgeonly slant is always necessarily wrong, but we must seek balance! I think, in general, the Reformed community has enough warriors and bull dogs. We need more statesmen and ambassadors. But are we producing more statesmen and ambassadors? This is an important question to consider.

Could it be that some are so focused on negatively defining their theology, that they are losing a positive presentation of it? One can be so wrapped up in being not-dispensationalist, not-new-calvinist, not-charismatic, not-fundamentalist, not-new-covenant-theology, not-plain-vanilla-evangelical, not-baxterian, not-paedobaptistic, not-presbyterian, not-arminian, not-federal-visionist, etc., that they forget who they really are and end up presenting a very truncated and negative identity. Not to say that these areas of controversy are unimportant. It’s just that defining a community’s theology too exclusively on these lines may result on a stunted community that isn’t very robust.

Is easy (and true) to say that we must engage in polemic at times. It is far harder to have the discernment to have the necessary balance–to know how and when to do it. We must lose our proclivity to squabble at a drop of a hat. Sadly, sometimes contending becomes a pastime (and all-encompassing project in and of itself). Alas, to a man with a hammer, everything is a nail! For instance, many have been eager to engage with the topic of “New Calvinism”. Sadly, though, some have proceeded with an unfortunate style of polemic that lacks charity and lacks accuracy. I personally, along with Iain Murray from the Banner of Truth, have questions about the accuracy and usefulness of a strict Old/New dichotomy when it comes to modern Calvinism. But, in any case, if any “Old Calvinism” is not characterized by humility or brotherly love, it is worse than worthless.

Here is a burning question: Are we teaching the up and coming generation to thoughtfully engage the scriptures on these issues in a way that shows historic continuity and confessional integrity, or are we just trying to enlist new warriors to be “on our side” and subscribe fully without question to a confession? Ironically, ugly confessionalism turns into a subtle form of anti-confessionalism, turning people away from confessionalism in droves.

Guard Against Overplaying Confessionalism

It’s been often repeated that here is a “cage stage” with the Doctrines of Grace, when people who newly discover them need to be careful about being a little too zealous. What if the same thing applies to confessionalism? What if it is easy to overplay the benefits of confessionalism, especially before we’ve ridden along for the long-haul, and haven’t yet seen how messy and difficult some confessional issues can really be?

Perhaps some eager advocates of confessionalism, in overplaying their hand a bit, are over-promising in their rhetoric regarding confessionalism, and that makes confessionalism ugly. From watching people talking about confessionalism over the last several years, I’ve become convinced that sometimes confessionalism has even become a fad (old things can be fads too!) or “the cool thing to be” in the Reformed community. And then, of course there is sometimes a smug “and they aren’t confessional”. Almost but not quite accompanied by a proverbial thumb to the nose with a “na na na na na”.

Furthermore, I believe we must watch out that we don’t turn confessionalism into some sort of “blue pill” or panacea. As good and necessary as confessions may be, they are not panaceas! If we are going to adhere to Sola Scriptura, the church’s struggles are never going to be quite as simple as “just grab a confession and run”.

It is one thing to say that confessions are scripturally (or pragmatically) necessary, it is another to treat them like panaceas. They are not going to magically confer doctrinal stability, soundness, and accountability. They do not remove or necessarily solve some of the thorniest questions that are facing the church. Their effectiveness will also depend on our church polity. They come with a whole host of practical issues that must be resolved.

And then there are a host of other issues such as what level of subscription will be require, what role the confession plays in everyday church life, and many other issues. Are some of us, perhaps, in our zeal for the historic Reformed confessions, giving the wrong impression about what confessionalism actually accomplishes? Are the value of historic Reformed confessions, as valuable as they are, sometimes oversold? I would suggest that we lose credibility when we overplay what confessionalism actually confers.


So, in conclusion, we Reformed Christians have great confessions and catechisms. And yet, before smugly looking at all those non-confessional Christians, we ought to ask ourselves if we are actually living up to our creeds! Confessionalism must be something richer than merely being the “cool thing to do if you are Reformed”. We ought to conduct ourselves in ways that adorn our creeds, not in ways that make them ugly. And we must give careful thought to the HOW of confessionalism. Hopefully this will be an area which is thoughtfully explored further within the international Reformed Baptist community.

Here are three articles from Bob Gonzales (of Reformed Baptist Seminary) which are very much worth reading and hopefully will spur readers on in this direction:

This post originally appeared at All Things Expounded and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

The Rhino Room|Covenant of Redemption

The Rhino Room

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

Does the Bible teach a pre-temporal Covenant of Redemption?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

Yes! Jesus was a man on a mission, and that mission was to secure the covenant of grace for us by satisfying the covenant of works in fulfillment of the covenant of redemption. This topic is shrouded in mystery and glory, but the Scriptures clearly testify to a pre-temporal intra-Trinitarian pact in which the Father gave the Son an elect people to redeem, and they in turn purposed to send the Spirit to apply that redemption: Luke 4:14, 18; John 3:17, 5:26-9, 6:37-39, 8:16, 42, 10:27-8, 36, 11:42, 12:48-9, 14:16-17, 25, 15:26, 16:7, 13-15, 17:7-8, 24; Acts 2:33, 13:2, 16:7, 20:28; Rom. 5:12-19, 8:11; 1 Cor.12:11; Eph. 1:3, 11, 20-22; Phil. 2:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5-6; Heb. 7:21, 28; 1 Peter 1:19, 20 (references complied by Pastor Greg Nichols).

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

Yes, though not taught expressly, it is implied. When you compare what Jesus said in John 6:37, 38 with Ephesians 1:4, it becomes apparent that those chosen (election) before time were given to the Son by the Father. Some sort of arrangement appears to be in view:
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. . . .  And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day (John 6:37, 39).
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love (Ephesians 1:4).


Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

Yes, I believe the Bible does teach a Covenant of Redemption (pactum salutis, or eternal covenant), although not named explicitly. It is a pre-temporal (prior to creation/eternal), intra-trinitarian agreement in which the Father promises to redeem an elect people by sending the Son to earn and secure the salvation of those people by voluntarily becoming incarnate (putting on flesh, becoming a man with physical body and soul) and fulfilling the requirements set forth in the covenant agreement on behalf of mankind. In the Son’s active and passive obedience, He fulfills the conditions of the covenant, making the Father’s promises valid, thus earning the reward for his obedience which is the eternal salvation of the elect who become His bride. The Spirit’s role in the Covenant will take more characters than I’m allowed in this response!

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

Yes. Done. Boom. *Drops mic and walks away.

In all seriousness, though, it does. It probably didn’t look exactly like a covenant, as it occurred within the Trinitarian unity of an infinite God and (I believe) outside of time. Trying to describe that will make your ears bleed, yet I think covenant is the closest term we have. A number of passages somewhat deal with it, most famously Psalm 110, but it is where election took place. It was also somewhat contemporary (if we can say that) with the decree of God. I believe it’s due, necessary, and essential inference that God determined within himself the planned redemption of saints in election, the accomplished redemption in Christ’s work, and the applied redemption of the Holy Spirit’s work. God clearly did those things before creation, and for him to determine in perfect wisdom is for it to be as certain as a covenant.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

The Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world (1 Pet 19-20; Rev 13:8). Sacrificial lambs only make sense in the context of covenants. Jesus told his disciples, “Just as my Father has granted me a kingdom, I grant you” (Luke 22:29). “Grants” are the language of covenants. In fact, the word here is diatithemi, the verb that relates to the noun diatheke (“covenant”). This is also said in the context of “the new covenant” Lord’s Supper, just prior to Jesus offering himself on the cross as the sacrifice. Therefore, the Trinity had a covenant arrangement planned out before Jesus came to earth. If the lamb was slain before the creation of the world, it follows that this arrangement was made with the persons of the Trinity even before that time.

The Rhino Room | Top Books

Rhino Room

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

Other than the Bible, what one book do you wish every Christian would read and why? Provide a brief summary.

Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

In an attempt to avoid being predictable, I tried to think of a book besides John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; I just couldn’t do it. It is a must-read for every Christian. In this allegory Bunyan so wonderfully draws together story and theology, and depicts such vivid experimental Christianity that I glean from it every time I read it. It is the story of a man named Graceless (renamed Christian), who at the instruction of Evangelist, sets out from the City of Destruction for the Celestial City to flee from the wrath to come on account of his sin. The perilous journey upon which he embarks provides invaluable insights into the hardships, snares, triumphs, and glories of the Christian life. As the reader follows Christian’s journey to the Celestial City his heart is powerfully drawn toward heaven and he is given strength and grace to press on in his own pilgrimage.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

I would recommend John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan has given us pictures of the journey of the Christian life from being awakened to one’s sin and need of Christ, unto one’s crossing over the river of death and entrance into heaven. I used the word pictures, plural rather than singular, because more than one person’s life is chronicled in this allegory. The journeys of Christian, Faithful, Hopeful, Christiana, and Mercy are set before the reader. The similarities and differences they meet on the way make known that although some aspects are central to all, such as going through the wicket gate rather than climbing over the wall (Christ is the door), the Christian’s experiences are not uniformly the same.  We are all different, yet have the same basic need. This book shows us how to live the Christian life and the helps and the hindrances along the way.

Marc Grimaldi (Pastor, Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Merrick, New York)

Aside from the Bible, no book has greater impacted my life in a practical way more than, War of Words by Paul David Tripp. It is amazing to see how much our words reveal about what is going on in our hearts. Since we spend so much time speaking, it is thoroughly profitable to examine our speech as a critical means of addressing our hearts and working toward change, by way of the cross.

I wish every Christian would read this book as it is tremendously beneficial for enhancing unity, love, patience, long suffering, and basically every Christian virtue to which the Scriptures call us. Brother Tripp addresses this important subject humbly and tenderly, using his own personal struggles as a template for all that he attempts to get across.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

I wish every Christian would read and understand The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher (with Thomas Boston’s notes). My favorite preacher, Sinclair Ferguson, says anyone who “comes to grips with the issues raised in [this book] will almost certainly grow by leaps and bounds in understanding… the grace of God, the Christian life, and the very nature of the gospel itself.” The story of the books writing and publication is fascinating in itself, but more important is what it says. In my own personal life and ministry I have come to see a right understanding of the relationship between the law and the gospel as essential to fruitful, satisfying life with God and neighbor. Fisher provides a biblical corrective to both antinomianism and licentiousness in his captivating conversation through various interlocutors to lead his readers to a balanced, biblical understanding of the most essential truths of the faith.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

This is a difficult question, because the book choice would very much depend on the individual. Pastors often “prescribe” books based on spiritual health, strengths, and weaknesses. For a man called to the ministry, it would be Horatius Bonar’s Words to Winners of Souls or Edmund Clowney’s Called to the Ministry. For the believer with a frail disposition, it would be Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening to give them a bi-daily refocusing and encouragement. I suppose the only book that covers the whole gamut would be Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress with both Christian’s and Christiana’s narratives. It has material for men, women, children, pastors, and ordinary saints. It reminds all of us that our personal narratives are part of a greater one, and that our trials have been successfully endured by those before us. It also does a great job of connecting human experience to Scripture passages.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

I know you are out there, people who are just like I used to be. Try Stephen Lawhead’s Taliesen, the first book of the Pendragon Cycle. Why? Not because it is the best book I’ve ever read, though I absolutely love it. Not because it is theologically rich or necessary. It is just fiction. Rather, this book changed my life. This is the book that took me from hating reading to loving it. Somehow, and I’m not proud of this, I managed to make it half way through college without ever reading a full book. Ever. I can’t tell you how much I despised reading. If you hate reading, then it doesn’t matter what book I recommend to you, you won’t read it. Therefore, figure out what you love in life and start there. Learn to love reading first. Then I’ll recommend all sorts of books, like Calvin’s Institutes.

The Rhino Room | Social Media and Ministry

Rhino Room

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

Is it important for pastors to be on social media platforms?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

Love it or loath it, social media is here to stay, and someone said that if you’re not online you don’t really exist to a person under 30. 

A person’s online presence reflects their construct of how they would like to be perceived and what they value- an inestimable insight for ministry and invaluable for pastoral insight. The ability to interact online is a vital element of 21st century ministry.

Now the danger- social media can become a monster that will eat your time and sap your productivity. You can lose yourself in the image you present there and the poison pride of counting likes, views, and follows. Worst of all, social media can depersonalize interaction and lead to a vicious narcissism that actually bleeds over into the real world.

So use social media- but remember that soli deo gloria and coram deo are as valid there as anywhere else.

Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

This seems like a catch-22 to me. On the one hand, I would say that it is important for pastors to know the people of the congregation over which they are guardians. This will likely mean being engaged on social media platforms — for understanding and communicating with the people. On the other hand, social media platforms tend to promote large amounts of wasted time, and they tend not to promote deep thinking, biblically passionate feeling, and intimate fellowship among the saints. So, I would say, it is important for a pastor to be on social media platforms to the degree that it enables him to engage his congregation, so long as he is able to maintain his self-discipline and not grow dull and sluggish so that he become lost in our culture’s social media platforms.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

Think about what Paul writes in his epistles. While in prison, he relates how he feels while there (i.e. “I may die. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain, but for your sakes I hope that I will live”). Paul often tells us who he is, what he is doing, and gives his (the Lord’s) take upon what is happening in his world. Such a personal disclosure sounds like it could be a Facebook post.

Social media is all about making connection with others. A pastor ought to be there as it is today’s marketplace where people gather. However, we need to be careful what we say. Not only our words, but our tone and our “likes” convey to others who we really are, either to the advancement or detriment of Christ’s kingdom.

Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)

I think pastors need to give it serious consideration (keeping watch on themselves, lest they too be tempted!). The church, spiritual as it is, is after all a news organization. And many, many people today are getting their news and spending their time on social media. It can be a great opportunity. But it also poses many dangers lived out before a literally watching world. And I’m not sure that as Christians, we have really figured out the opportunities, limitations, and guidelines for using the platform with wisdom.

Marc Grimaldi (Pastor, Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Merrick, New York)

I think the best answer is, “It depends.”

In God’s providence, we have advanced to a time where we can impact the world at the click of some buttons. Through social media such as Facebook, blogs, emailing,… etc, our outreach can be enormous. Furthermore, by these means, we can minister to and exchange profitable communication with our local church members, as well.

That said, social media can be a drawback, if it is abused. It is important that we do not allow social media to become so preferential, that we lose the essential importance of street level, face-to-face ministry and fellowship. Factoring in the online temptations with which some may struggle, and the very successful ministries of others who simply refuse to use social media, I think each individual pastor has to personally address this matter in accordance with their own conscience before God.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

I believe pastors who do not use social media on some level, are missing gospel opportunities and saying something to the people they are called to shepherd, perhaps unintentionally. If I do not use the primary means most American Christians are using on a daily basis to communicate with others about their lives, I may be telling them that I do not take interest in who they are and what they do. There are certainly many dangers in the use of social media (most counseling sessions will reveal this to any pastor), and it shouldn’t be our primary means of interaction, however the advantages are significant and every pastor should seriously consider how they can be helped in communicating the truth of God’s Word to the world and taking an active role in the lives of God’s people by using this free and global resource.

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

No! Of course it isn’t. Especially blogging platforms with other pastors… wait… The fact of the matter is, we almost have to be engaged in social media to some degree. I joined the book o’faces in 2007 for the express purpose of working with teenagers in Alford’s church wherein I interned, because they would announce to the “world” things about which it would have taken months of trust-building for them to talk to me. It’s a tool, but it shouldn’t be our only one, or even primary. We cannot overlook the face-to-face meetings, real-time investments, and genuine human interaction. It’s a temptation, especially for young pastors, to assume their blogging and tweeting “work” substitutes for visitation, but it really and genuinely does not. So I would say it is important, but not as much as we make it out to be.

Osinachi Nwoko (Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Lagos, Nigeria)

IT DEPENDS! Pastors are sheep set apart by Christ for the purpose of feeding His flock (Acts 20:28). Men saddled with such a weighty responsibility must place a premium on the usage of their time. His time should be employed primarily in managing his home (1Timothy 3), building up the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-14) and fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

Where social media platforms can assist the pastor in fulfilling his God-given role, by all means he should make use of them; otherwise, it is advisable he steer clear. This doesn’t mean that social media platforms are sinful. The draw of most social media platforms is its ability to furnish the subscriber with a seemingly endless stream of information, much of which, it must be said, is of little or no profit. It is this addictive nature that poses a danger to the pastor who is not careful to assume control of these platforms and put them to profitable use but becomes a slave to them.

So a pastor’s use of social media depends on the pastor’s self-control and his motive for being on those platforms.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

I’m not sure the question is specific enough. Yes, I think it is important for pastors to be on some form of social media. This is, after all, the dominant form of social interaction in the 21st century. To not be on any social media is to miss out on a variety of opportunities for social interaction, friendships, and apologetics. But a deeper question might be, “What are the dangers of social media?” This is a far more important question, because there are a variety of them. They can steal your time. They can steal your heart. They can tend diminish the actual humanity behind the keystrokes. Perhaps most importantly, they can take away from actual live physical interaction with other human beings. These technologies lend themselves to a kind of social Gnosticism. Christians and pastors need to think more carefully and be more discerning in how they use them.

Baptism as Clothing in Galatians 3:27: Baptism as a Means of Grace


In post 1, I argued that Galatians 3:27 provides a crucial insight into the meaning of baptism.  In post 2, I argued that it argues against the practice of infant baptism.  In this post, I now want to show that the verse also provides a crucial insight into how baptism is a means of grace – not just at the beginning of the Christian life, but a continuing means of grace.  Paul uses it as a defining reality with continued implications for the Christian life.

In America, we do not live in a very ritualistic culture, so we are not attuned to ritual and ceremony like many cultures.  New Testament Christianity is actually and deliberately not a very ritualistic religion: there are not many ceremonies and rituals given in the New Testament.  So when there is a ceremony in the New Testament, we should pay attention to it.  It has special importance.

What we’ve seen is that: Baptism is like a rite of passage ceremony.  In cultures that have rite of passage ceremonies, rites of passage are defining moments in life.  It’s an entrance into a new state of life – a comprehensive metaphor for your place in life.  Similarly, your baptism is a past, definitive spiritual act with ongoing implications for your life.

It’s to be an encouragement for your life today.  If you’ve been baptized into Christ, you have the assurance that you are a true child of God.  It’s a sign to you that God loves you, is pleased with you, and promises to be with you.  Like when Jesus was baptized, and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” – when someone is baptized in Jesus’ name, they know that they have been adopted in Christ, they are part of God’s family, and God promises to be with them.  They can say, “I am his and he is mine, forever and forever.”  (See Ephesians 1:13-14.)

But now, just like a rite of passage ceremony, you are supposed to live that out – or it might be better to say, live out of that reality.  You wake up the next day and you don’t wear the same clothes you wore before.  You get to put the new clothes back on.  Paul says, “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator… Put on then…” (Col.3:9-12).

Just because a 15 year old goes through a rite of passage and wakes up the next morning and gets to put on the toga virilis – that doesn’t mean he always acts like a responsible adult.  He still has to get up the next day and put on the right garment – and act like it!  If you’ve been baptized, you’ve been clothed in Christ, covered in Christ, given full acceptance by God.  You are to rest in that baptism and be motivated by that baptism now to continue to clothe yourself in him, to get up and act like it!

Paul says, “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do… assuming that have heard about [Christ] and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life…and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph.4:17-24).  This is baptism language!  Paul is saying, ‘Your baptism has to be lived out every day.  Why would you want to go back to the garments of childhood?  You should want to live like an adult.  What does that look like?  It is increasingly looking like Christ, living like Christ, living up to what God has declared to be true of you.  You’re a Son of God.  You’re a prince of the kingdom.  Why do you act like a pauper?  Why do you act like a reject?  Why are you anxious, fearful, angry, frustrated?  You’ve been baptized into Christ.  You’ve put on Christ.  You’re an heir of the kingdom.  So wake up and put on the right garment again.  Show the world that Christ is your covering, Christ is your identity, in him you’re accepted, and you are displaying him to the world.’

In this way, baptism is a means of grace – at the beginning of the Christian life, and a reality that continues to affect you for the rest of your life, causing you to say: “I am his and he is mine forever and forever.”

Baptism as Clothing in Galatians 3:27: An Argument Against Infant Baptism


[By: Matt Foreman]

In the prior post on this subject, I sought to explain Paul’s use of ‘clothing’ as a metaphor explaining the meaning of baptism – principally, that Paul understood Baptism as a sign of spiritual maturity, a rite of passage signifying entrance into spiritual adulthood and priestly service.  In this post, I would like to argue that this insight from Galatians 3:27 has some implications for the practice of infant baptism.  [True and sincere Christians have disagreed on the proper recipients of baptism for centuries.  So I make this argument in full respect and love for paedobaptist brothers and sisters.]

The practice of infant baptism contradicts and undermines the teaching of Galatians 3:27.  How so?

Many of those who practice infant baptism justify the practice by an appeal to Old Testament circumcision – arguing that baptism is the New Covenant sign that fulfills the Old Covenant sign of circumcision.  They argue that, since male Jewish children in the Old Covenant received the covenant sign, children of believers in the New Covenant should as well – because God is a respecter of families and invites families to be part of the covenant.  Since circumcision was a covenant sign of promise, baptism is also a covenant sign of promise.  But this is problematic for several reasons:

First, consider the the situation in Galatia.  What was Paul addressing?  Paul was talking about Judaizers who were demanding that believers be circumcised.  If the Apostles and New Testament writers had conceived, understood, and taught a type-antitype, one-to-one correspondence between circumcision and baptism, why would the circumcision controversy have arisen in the first place?  If the covenant sign has simply been replaced, why not just say so?  The Apostles could have said, “Don’t worry, my friends!  The Gentiles have been circumcized by being baptized!  The covenant sign has been replaced.  Why all the fuss?”

Now paedobaptists will answer – correctly – that those questions are too simple by far, that the situation is more complicated than that. And they’re absolutely right. The Judaizers were turning circumcision into a required work, teaching that you had to be circumcised in order to be a Christian.  If Paul had simply appealed to baptism as the answer to circumcision, he would have turned baptism into a required work.  Obviously, Paul wouldn’t do that.  (Ironically, that’s what some people do with Baptism.  They say, you have to be baptized in order to be a Christian. Paul’s teaching denies that.)  The Judaizer problem was in their whole approach.  They failed to see that circumcision was ‘temporary, anticipatory, and no longer necessary because we have a better covenant reality’.  The important thing, according to Paul, is the reality – “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (5:6); “Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (6:15).  That’s what counts.  Are you a new creation?  The Judaizers needed to understand the ‘already’ aspect of being sons of God, new creations by faith working through love.

That’s the answer Paul gives in Galatians.  But this answer proves too much for the paedobaptist argument!  Circumcision was an external sign pointing to the need for an inward reality – which Paul says Christians now have!  In contrast, Paul says here that Baptism is an external sign corresponding to an inward reality!1

By comparison, see Romans 2:28-29, “No one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit.”  Also Romans 9:6-18, “Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring”.

Paul makes the the same argument in Gal.4:27-31:  Just because you are a natural-born son does not make you supernaturally a child of the promise.  Similarly, just because you are a child of a believer does not make you a child of the Spirit.

Paul’s argument in Galatians depends on the ‘already’ aspect of the New Covenant – that believers (whether Jewish or Gentile) are full sons of God through faith in Christ, having ‘grown up’, having clothed themselves with Christ in their baptism, having received full adoption as sons, and the accompanying experience of sonship through the Spirit.  Baptism as clothing is the pivotal sign of the spiritual reality of the Christian experience!

Meanwhile, the practice of infant baptism, justifying it with a connection to circumcision, makes baptism simply an external sign without the internal reality, which makes it a worthless external sign and a step backwards in redemptive history.  It actually undermines Paul’s argument in Galatians.  Paul would then say at that point, ‘Neither baptism counts for anything nor unbaptism, but only new creation.’

In the New Testament conception, baptism is a robust New Covenant sign.  In the New Testament, it symbolizes four key ideas:

1) It’s a symbol for the beginning of the Christian life.  In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  In Acts 2:37-42, when Peter preached at Pentecost, the crowds were convicted and said, ‘What must we do?’  And Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Baptism was meant to be a rite beginning your Christian life.

2). It’s a symbol for new creation and new birth.  In Romans 6:1-4, Paul says, “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  That baptism was a symbol of dying and rising to newness of life.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17, he says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (cf. John 3:3-8, Ezekiel 36:25-27).

3) It’s a symbol for the present reality of repentance, faith, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.  In Matthew 3:1-17, John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Yet he said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  In Acts 10, when the first Gentiles trusted in Jesus and the Holy Spirit fell upon them, Peter asked, “‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

4) It’s a symbol for death and resurrection.  Normally, Baptism is done by immersing a person (or putting them totally under water) and then bringing them back up out of the water.  This symbolizes – not only being washed from your sins – but putting to death an old way of life, and being raised from the dead to walk in a new life.  Colossians 2:12 says, “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And you God made alive…” (cf. Romans 6:1-4).

So when a person is baptized, it’s a way of saying – I believe God has already changed me; I believe in Jesus that he has forgiven me and washed me of my sins through his death on the Cross, and now I am following him with my life and want to be known as a Christian and follower of Jesus.

[In the next and last post, I will seek to show how Paul’s clothing metaphor for baptism helps us understand baptism as a means of grace…]



1. Numerous paedobaptist commentators will admit that Paul’s focus in 3:27 is on the inward reality of baptism.  Phil Ryken writes, “Here Paul is referring to the inward reality of spiritual cleansing by faith, and not simply to the outward sign of water baptism” (Galatians – p.145). But this arbitrarily disconnects the inward reality from the outward sign in a way contrary to Paul’s argument.


Baptism as Clothing in Galatians 3:27: A Crucial Insight

Christian Living, The Church, Theology, Worship

[By: Matt Foreman]

“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”
– Galatians 3:27

In Galatians 3:27, the Apostle Paul brings up baptism seemingly ‘out of the blue’.  Baptism is not mentioned anywhere else in the book.  He doesn’t expand on the point or give much explanation.  But the short statement he makes, and the context in which he says it – actually reveal a lot.  Galatians 3:27 becomes a very revealing and important verse for understanding baptism.

The Context
The verse occurs as part of one long argument that begins in 3:23 and runs down to 4:7.  And Baptism is actually the ‘pivot point’ of the argument.

Paul’s opponents, the Judaizer false teachers in Galatia, were teaching that the Gentiles were second class citizens, not yet fully part of the people of God.  They were teaching that the Gentiles needed to do more to become truly acceptable to God and truly heirs of God’s covenant promises.  Specifically, they needed to keep the Old Testament ceremonial law – to be circumcised, ritually pure and culturally Jewish.

But Paul argues that those outward Old Covenant signs like circumcision were temporary, anticipatory, and no longer necessary, because a new and better covenant reality had come.  As a result, Paul finally says in vs.26, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.”  Believers are already full sons of God.  Tim Keller writes, “It is not something we are aiming at, it is not a future attainment.  It is something that we have already, in our present state.”1  Believers are not “looking forward” to the date of their adoption, where afterwards they’ll be fully sons.  Paul is saying, You already are sons!

Furthermore, he argues, it’s not something had by virtue of birth.  It’s not something people have naturally – just because they’re born into a believing family.  Paul has argued – only “those of faith are the sons of Abraham” – see 3:7…  Only through faith do we “receive adoption as sons” – ch.4:5. (Notice: If we needed to be adopted, that means we’re not natural sons.  God only has one natural-born son – who is Christ.)  But now, all who believe in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, Paul says, are already fully and completely adopted as sons, and already made to feel the benefits of that adoption through the Spirit sent into their hearts: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father’.”

The Meaning of Baptism
But in the middle of this argument, right after saying, “In Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God through faith”, Paul refers to Baptism:  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Obviously, for Paul, baptism is a sign signifying the present spiritual reality of sonship.  The fact of Baptism should be a sign to Christians affirming their identity and relationship to Christ.  For Paul, the Baptism of a Christian was a definitive moment in their life that should have ongoing significance for their life

But why?  What does Baptism add to Paul’s argument?  What exactly does Paul think Baptism means?

The answer is found in the somewhat surprising metaphor Paul uses.  Paul connects Baptism with the imagery of putting on clothes.  He says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [or literally, “clothed yourselves (ἐνεδύσασθε) with Christ].  Where did Paul get this image? And why does he use it?

Three Connections for ‘Clothing’
The first intriguing connection is with the Roman practice of the toga virilis – the garment of manhood.  When a Roman boy reached the age of 15-16, he would finally be allowed through a ceremony to take off the crimson bordered toga praetexta (toga of childhood) and put on the pure white toga of manhood.  It was a coming of age ceremony, a rite of passage.  Interestingly, Paul had just been using the image of Old Testament believers as being like children under a chaperone (see 3:24-25 – “we are no longer under a guardian” – a pedagogue), whereas New Testament believers are spiritually come of age by virtue of faith in Christ.  Therefore, Baptism marks that spiritual coming of age ceremony: putting on the garments of manhood, of spiritual maturity.

A second intriguing source for this imagery of baptism as clothing may have been the early Christian baptismal rite itself.  When the early Christians were baptized (similar to Jewish proselyte baptism), the candidates would take off their outer garments, go into the water to be baptized, and after exiting the water, they would be re-clothed (possibly even in white linen – as a sign of cleanliness and righteousness in Christ).2  So the image connecting baptism with clothing would have been very naturally fixed in the minds of believers.

A third and related source for the imagery of baptism as clothing is actually far older, and is found in the Old Testament ceremony for the consecration of priests (see Exodus 29:4-5).  When a priest entered into his priestly service, he would first be washed with water…and then clothed with the garments of the priesthood, marking his endowment and readiness for service.  In fact, this practice probably provided something of the original background for the development of the baptismal rite.

In other words, Paul didn’t “create” the clothing metaphor for baptism.  It was a conceptual part of the rite itself and extremely relevant and fitting for his argument.  Baptism was a rite of passage, signifying entrance into consecrated service, spiritual maturity and adulthood with the full rights as sons.  Paul was signifying: New Testament believers are not in need of a tutor.  In Christ and with baptism, they are spiritually come of age.

‘Putting On Christ’
Even more powerfully, Paul calls it a ‘putting on’ of Christ himself.  Baptized believers “have put on Christ!”  What does he mean?  What does it mean to put on a Person?

Guthrie writes, “This is a favorite metaphor of Paul’s (cf. Rom.13:12; Eph.4:24; Col.3:12).  But here (and in Rom.13:14) is his most daring use of it, in which he likens Christ himself to a garment.  The expression conveys a striking suggestion of the closeness which exists between Christ and the believer.  Those who put on Christ can do no other than act in accordance with the Spirit of Christ…  The metaphor conveys essentially a new kind of life.  Everything is now to be related to Christ.”3  (Thus, for Paul, this imagery of baptism as clothing, though only seeming to appear once, was actually a central and controlling metaphor in Paul’s thought.  When Paul speaks in Colossians 3:9-12 or Ephessians 4:22-24 about “putting off” and “putting on” – this was likely baptismal language!)

Tim Keller calls it a “daring and comprehensive metaphor for a whole new life.”  What does it mean to put on Christ like a garment?  Keller develops the idea by saying, “This idea of clothing ourselves with Christ implies four amazing things: 1) Our primary identity is in Christ.  Our clothing tells people who we are… 2) The closeness of our relationship to Christ.  Your clothes are kept closer to you than any other possession…[It calls] us to moment-by-moment dependence and existential awareness of Christ… 3) The imitation of Christ…We are to ‘dress up like Jesus’… 4) Our acceptability to God…It covers our nakedness…The Lord Jesus has given us His righteousness, His perfection, to wear.”  Keller concludes,“This goes so far beyond the keeping of rules and regulations.  This goes even beyond simple obedience.  This is to be in love with him, bathed in him, awash in him.”4

‘Putting on Christ’ then is so important!  If believers have been baptized “into Christ”, then, through faith in Christ, they are, by definition, sons of God.  Paul wants every believer to know that he or she is already a fully adopted child of God.  It’s a status that is a present reality in their life.  It is a sign of full, conscious sonship by faith. Paul says, ‘You have the spiritual reality; you’ve been adopted as a full son.  You’ve been included in the unconditional covenant promise to Abraham.  You are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise – because you’ve been clothed in the Offspring, the true Offspring, who is Christ.’
Baptism thus encompasses and includes full redemption, adoption, and the experience of sonship through the Spirit (see 4:6).  The whole argument, after all, is connected.  So Paul makes deliberate connection between the sign of baptism and the spiritual baptism of the Spirit.  It’s a present reality in the life of believers that they’ve been baptized in the Spirit as sons; they have the experience of it in their hearts.  Rom.8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him”.

[In forthcoming articles, I will draw out some implications for paedobaptism, and for baptism as a means of grace…]



1. Keller, Timothy. Galatians For You, p.89-90.  The Good Book Company, 2013.

2. See Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church.

3. Guthrie, Donald.  Galatians, p.110. Eerdmans, 1981.

4. Keller, Timothy. Galatians For You, p.91-92.  The Good Book Company, 2013.

Psalm 82, John 10, James White, and Mormonism

Christ in the Old Testament, Scripture, Theology

(by: Doug Van Dorn)

Recently, the Confessing Baptists linked up to a blog from John Samson who in turn introduces us to an excerpt from Dr. James White’s book Is the Mormon My Brother? When I posted a short response, they suggested I write up something more formal to be posted as well. This is the result.

The excerpt focused on Jesus’ citation of Psalm 82:6 in John 10:34. The words in John 10:34 are, “’I said, you are gods’?” (ESV). The part of the verse cited by Jesus in the Psalm reads, “I said, ‘You are gods…’” (ESV). Mormons use this to prove two things: 1. A plurality of gods; 2.Their own future participation as in heaven as gods according to the famous dictum by the fifth president of the Latter Day Saints—Lorenzo Snow—who infamously said, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.[1]

According to Samson, a main reason to be a Reformed Christian is that, “When the Biblical text is left to speak for itself, within its own context, the truth is clearly seen.” I wholeheartedly concur. And yet, rather than taking the view of Psalm 82:6 that sees these “gods” as human rulers, thereby finding no point of contact with the Mormon, I take a very different view that sees the Mormon as half-wrong and half-right, though on the point where he is half-right he is also half wrong. Well, that’s as clear as mud, so let me explain.

The Mormon is all-wrong to believe that God was ever a man (Jesus became a man, but that isn’t what a Mormon means). He is also all-wrong (and there is confusion on this point in Mormonism) if he believes that man will ever become God.[2] The Mormon is correct, however, to see a plurality of gods in the Bible. However, the Mormon takes this in a way that is contrary to historic Christianity (and early Judaism by the way) at an essential point. Historic Christianity has affirmed a plurality of gods while simultaneously maintaining that God is completely, totally distinct from other gods in that He—the only uncreated, eternal God—created them, rules them, and is always sovereign over them.

Unfortunately, before I can turn to Psalm 82, I have to address something first. Perhaps the major hang up many have before ever coming to Psalm 82 is a presupposition about “gods.” Some believe that “gods” are “idols,” and therefore have no real existence. Others think you can’t have other “gods” except in the context of polytheism. The first is easily disproven by the fact that God commands gods to worship him; but imaginary friends, Disney characters, and comic book superheroes don’t worship anything. “Worship Him, all you gods” (Ps 97:7; cf. Ps 29:1-2; 148:1-5; Neh 9:6). “Indeed there are many gods” (1 Cor 8:5), the Apostle says. There is a very real reason why the First Commandment tells us not to have other gods before the LORD. It isn’t talking about idolatry; that’s the Second Commandment. Other gods exist.

But what are these “gods?” The Hebrew term is elohim, the same word that is often used to describe God in the Bible. In the OT, elohim includes demons (Deut 32:17), angels (cf. Deut 32:43 Hebrew with the Septuagint), the “sons of God” (Ps 82:1, 6), and even the deceased Samuel, (though not in a way a Mormon would understand it; see 1 Sam 28:13-14). Demons and angels are, of course, real. But they are not on par ontologically (that is in their essence or being) with Yahweh. He created them. They exist for his pleasure and by the power of his word. They do not usurp him, depose him, or in any other way thwart his sovereign purposes.[3] There are many elohim (gods), but there is only One Elohim who is uncreated, sovereign, all-powerful, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, good, holy, just, etc.

Thus, the term elohim does not describe a unique set of attributes of Yahweh. It simply describes a place of residence.[4] What do all elohim have in common? All elohim reside in the spirit-world. If you want to know what kind of an Elohim God is, look to his names. They tell you all you about his infinitely superior incomparable unchangeable uncreated incomprehensible nature, and His perfect infinitely superior moral excellence.

As you can see, there is nothing here, other than our modern concept of the English word G-O-D that demands that “many gods = polytheism.”[5] The simple fact is, our Scripture uses the term elohim to describe many types of beings, in both Testaments, many times. These beings do not necessitate a Mormon view of the afterlife, nor do they represent some old polytheism that those nasty intertestamental Jewish scribes forget to scrub out as they were revising their Bible and changing to a monotheistic religion. All of that is nonsense.

If a person can get over this hang-up and realize that you don’t have to become a Mormon or a Liberal in order to affirm that other elohim exist, then you are ready to move into Psalm 82 and John 10.

The first thing to note is the grammar of the citation. Compare the following in the ESV:

Psalm 82:6 “I said, ‘You are gods…’”
John 10:34 “’I said, you are gods’?”

See the difference? Well, there is no punctuation in the Greek and yet the wording between John and the LXX (Septuagint) of Psalm 82:6 is identical (ego eipa theoi este). What would therefore justify a change in punctuation?

Psalm 82:6 has a speaker telling someone else, “You are gods…” John 10:34 has Jesus quoting one big lump, “I said, you are gods…” In the former there are two subjects. In the later there is only one. The way the ESV punctuates the English makes you think that Jesus is calling the Pharisees “gods,” that is “human rulers,” and is using Psalm 82 to prove it. Dr. White agrees with me that Jesus is referring to Psalm 82:6. Thus, what we have to do is figure out who the subjects in Psalm 82 are. To figure out what Jesus is actually saying, we have to go back to the Psalm.

Psalm 82:1 is essential to understand, and yet few taking the “human rulers” view publicly display familiarity with perhaps the most important part of the Psalm for interpreting it correctly. Let’s compare two translations:

(Psa 82:1 ESV) God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
(Psa 82:1 NAS) God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.

Notice the differences? Both have God as the subject. This is correct. “God” here is Elohim. From there, the interpretations diverge radically. In the ESV, God takes his place in “the divine council.” In the midst of “gods” (again, elohim), he holds judgment. In the NAS, God takes his place “in his own congregation.” Elohim (“gods”) becomes “the rulers [of Israel],” and this is Dr. White’s view. Let’s unpack this a bit.

“Divine council” is the phrase ba adat-el. To the north of Israel, Ugaritic–a cousin language to Hebrew–calls it mpḫrt bn ’il (very similar), and there it always refers to the assembly of the gods.[6] Not knowing about the divine council is a serious detriment to any interpretation of this passage. I have yet to see anyone in print argue that we are talking about earthly rulers who has any familiarity with the divine council. But where is this divine council?[7] Is it acceptable to use the pagans at Ugarit as paralleling the Biblical idea? Is God coming to earth–to Jewish rulers–or is this scene taking place in heaven?

Psalm 89 confirms the ESV. “Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?” (Ps 89:5-7). Notice the council idea again. But where is this council? On earth? No. It is in “the heavens” and “in the skies.”

“Who among the heavenly beings” is the phrase “sons of God,” and this takes us back to our verse: Psalm 82:6. The ESV reads, “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you…’” “Sons of the Most High” is exactly the same conceptually as “sons of God.” The only difference is that instead of Elohim it uses El Elyon (Most High), a common name for Yahweh. The point is, both psalms are talking about a group called the sons of God. These sons are in heaven and existed prior to the creation of Adam and Eve. “[Where were you] when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:7). The context is creation. The sons of God watched God create, because they are heavenly beings, created prior to Adam and Eve.

In fact, there are ten references to “sons of God” in the OT. None of them necessitate a human interpretation. Some of them necessitate a heavenly interpretation (such as Job 1:6, 2:1, and 38:7). In Psalm 82:6, these “sons of God” are the “gods” (elohim) who are in “the divine council.” One final devastating point needs to be made. Elohim is an extremely common term in the OT. It occurs over 2,000 times. In only two other places (besides Psalm 82:1, 6 and John 10:34) has anyone even tried to argue that it refers to humans. But most people do not realize that this argument was destroyed over 80 years ago in a scholarly article that demonstrates conclusively that elohim never refers to living, embodied human beings.[8]

Summarizing, to try to argue that elohim in this psalm refers to human beings, 1. Shows no familiarity with the divine council, 2. Does not take into consideration parallel passages such as Psalm 89, 3. Argues against the totality of the usage of elohim everywhere else in the Bible (over 2,000 times!).

We might add that the LXX translates elohim as a form of theos (“God” in Greek). At this point, we should ask ourselves a couple of questions. What possible thought would go through Jesus’ mind to tell the Pharisees that they are gods (theos)? When does the Greek theos ever mean “human rulers” (any more than the Hebrew elohim)? The Pharisees want to kill Jesus for blasphemy. How does calling them all a bunch of theoi help him get out of that? If anything, it would exacerbate the problem. Of course, Jesus’ citation does exacerbate this problem, but not because he is so foolish as to tell the Pharisees, “Hey guys, look. I’m a god and you are gods. I mean, that’s what the Scripture says, right? Why can’t we all just get along?” Rather, the Pharisees still want to kill him for blasphemy because he is claiming something much different than either a Mormon or the view represented by Dr. White are saying.[9]

Contrary to the other view, Jesus is not telling the Pharisees that they (and by implication himself) are nothing more than human rulers making bad judgments about him. This view of the “human ruler” does not take into consideration enough that Jesus is trying to justify himself to the Pharisees, not get himself off the hook by putting them on it. The context immediately after John 10:34 has Jesus justifying himself, and that’s all I want you to notice here: “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken–do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me” (John 10:35-37).

Jesus’ citation of the Psalm is not to judge the Pharisees as being bad judges, but to explain to them why he can rightly identify himself as “the Son of God.” He isn’t telling them that they are all just sons together, otherwise, they would have put down their stones, picked up their beers, and start singing Kumbaya. “Thanks, Jesus for clarifying that. We thought you actually were claiming to be a heavenly being!”

Jesus is claiming to be one of the heavenly sons of God. That is the purpose of citing Psalm 82:6. The fact that he is one is what gives him the right to call himself a “son of God” from Psalm 82. He is the Son who “came down from heaven” and “became flesh” throughout John’s Gospel. Son of God is a divine term of heavenly beings. But Jesus is more than one of the created sons of God. Rather, he is “one” with the Father! He is the Unique Son of God—the “only begotten” Son, one of a kind like no other, the one who created all other sons of God, the Eternal Uncreated Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. This is why they still want to kill him, even though they understand exactly what he is saying.

Dr. White raises some objections from Psalm 82 itself about this idea. He says that it wouldn’t make any sense to call a heavenly being a prince. “Nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince” (Ps 82:7). White says, “ Such is hardly the terminology one would use of divine and exalted beings!” One wonders what the angelic “prince of Persia” (Dan 10:13), “prince of Greece,” prince Michael (Dan 10:20), and the “prince of the world” (John 12:31) would say about that? Also, the idea here is not that God is telling human men that they will die like men (a completely unnecessary point), but that heavenly beings will one day die like men, being cast ultimately into the lake of fire (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10).

Earlier in the Psalm, the objection is taken toward elohim not ruling well. The idea is that gods don’t rule at all. If I had time, I would explain that this is exactly the task God gave to these sons of God, as he set them over the nations (Deut 4:19; 17:3; 29:26; 32:8). “Rulers” or “Authorities” or other similar kinds of words are exactly what these beings are called in the NT (Rom 8:38; Eph 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:15; 1 Pet 3:22; etc.). Also, remember that ruling well is exactly what Yahweh himself does throughout the Law and the Prophets, in clear contradistinction to the other gods of the nations. It is because these heavenly beings abandoned their righteousness that “the foundations of the earth are shaken” (Ps 82:5) at this pronouncement of judgment upon them now. That would hardly make sense if God were merely judging the rulers of Israel.

Finally, one last point should be made. Psalm 82 is about Christ. The last verse says, “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” (Ps 82:8). Well, this Elohim who inherits the nations is none other than the Begotten Son of the Father from Psalm 2, where in the parallels verse we read, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps 2:8). He will rule with a rod of iron and a righteous scepter.

These are among the reasons I believe Psalm 82 is talking about heavenly beings, with Jesus Christ as the one who inherits after all the others are dispossessed of their own inheritance. Amazingly, I believe this can be a powerful apologetic to Mormons. This idea has a point of contact with Mormonism. It affirms the existence of other gods. One could even say that Christians will become co-rulers with Christ as they are hidden “In Christ,” as Samuel was after he died. But this is not like the Mormon conception of the afterlife.

Once we show them that they are not completely wrong, we can go to the context of John 10 and Psalm 82 to show them that neither passage is about equating us humans with gods. Rather, it is about God pronouncing judgment upon the created elohim and then Jesus Christ becoming the one who inherits the nations, thereby demanding our allegiance and submission in repentance and faith to the Unique only-begotten Son who alone is One with the Father. That is the greatest claim that Jesus is making to the Pharisees here, and he will prove it in his death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God above all heavenly or earthly powers or authorities. Any who trust in him shall be united with him in his resurrection and share as partakers and joint rulers in his Kingdom forever, without becoming God ourselves.



[1] Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 1–2.

[2] The difficulty here is whether the Mormon is claiming divination (becoming God) or divinization/theosis (the Early Church, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox concept that is close to Calvin’s Union with Christ). Mormons seem to be claiming the former. On Theosis (along with a wrong view of Psalm 82:6) in Orthodoxy see “Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature,” Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

[3] Idols were never thought to actually “be” gods in the ancient world. Rather, they were universally thought to be the dwelling places of supernatural, spiritual entities. As John Frame explains, “In paganism, the relationship between the image and the god is more than merely pictorial, or even representative. Something of the sanctity of the god attaches to the image itself … In other kinds of paganism, the relation between the image and the god … may be thought of as a sacramental conduit of divine influence, or as a representation of the divine, in which case the image deserves reverence because of what it represents.” John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2008), 454.

[4] Michael S. Heiser, “Elohim as ‘Gods’ in the Old Testament,” Faithlife Study Bible, John D. Barry, Michael R. Grigoni, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), p. 1; , last accessed 5-7-2015.

[5] See Heiser, Michael, “Monotheism, Polytheism, Monolatry, or Henotheism? Toward an Assessment of Divine Plurality in the Hebrew Bible,” Faculty Publications and Presentations (2008).

[6] I spend a great deal of time on all of this in my book Giants: Sons of the Gods, an introduction.

[7] In dictionaries it is defined as something like, “The heavenly host, the pantheon of divine beings who administer the affairs of the cosmos.  All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.  The divine council of Israelite religion, known primarily through the psalms, was distinct in important ways.”  (“The Divine Council,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, & Writings, ed. Tremper Longman and Peter Enns, InterVarsity Press, 2008).

[8] Gordon, Cyrus.  “אלהים (Elohim) in Its Reputed Meaning of Rulers, Judges.”  Journal of Biblical Literature 54 (1935): 139–144.  . To my knowledge, no one has ever tried to rebut Gordon’s article in a journal.

[9] The best defense of this position is Michael Heiser, “You’ve Seen One Elohim, You’ve Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism’s Use of Psalm 82,” FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 221–266.


The Rhino Room | Hospitality

Christian Living, Rhino Room

Rhino Room

Curious about the Rhino Room? Read our introduction here.

How Can Christians be Intentional About Hospitality?

Nicolas Alford (Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Taylors, South Carolina)

Christian intentionality about hospitality is not complicated, we’re just complacent.

Invite people into your home on Sunday afternoon for a meal. No one cares if you dusted. Talk to people at church. If they’re visiting, be welcoming and helpful. When someone invites you into their home, make every reasonable effort to accept. Incorporate fellow Christians into your daily life. Build real relationships with unbelievers so that they know they are actual people to you, not mere evangelism projects.

This is not rocket science, and yet Peter has to tell us to do it without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). Therefore, if we aren’t showing hospitality we are probably not lacking for opportunity or knowledge, we are probably lacking in motivation. The immediately preceding verse in 1 Peter tells us to keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Hospitality is really just living out that love.

Samuel Barber (Pastoral Assistant, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

My wife and I learned an important lesson about hospitality the summer that we spent a month in Beijing, China. We learned that hospitality is mostly an attitude of the heart (i.e. travel in Beijing is hectic, and it takes a long time to get anywhere; it’s exhausting. So, instead of asking others come to us, we went to them. We showed them hospitality, even though they never came to our home).

The Greek word translated “hospitable” carries the notion of having a love for strangers. So, I would say that hospitality is engaging others, so they feel loved, safe, secure, welcome, and cared for. Christians can be intentional about hospitality by making every effort in every circumstance, at home and abroad, to live for the good of others, rather than their own. This will look different in different circumstances, but learning selflessness is an essential first step toward hospitality.

Wayne Brandow (Pastor, Bible Baptist Church of Galway, New York)

If we would be hospitable, we must know what it entails. The underlying Greek word in the NT for “hospitality” is φιλοξενία, which means, “love of strangers.” Thus, to be hospitable in the biblical sense is to make a stranger feel at home.

The initial social reserve common in new encounters with others is a protective device. We seldom feel at ease with strangers until we sense that they are genuine and safe. A salesmen is friendly, but he has an agenda. When we meet someone new and they are showing interest in us, it is natural to wonder why. If a person senses that you are interested in them so that you might claim another win in your soul-winning tally, they will see your apparent “hospitality” as disingenuous. We just need to truly love people for who they are. The rest will take care of itself.

Matt Foreman (Pastor, Faith Reformed Baptist Church of Media, Pennsylvania)

Let’s be clear on our definition – I believe that the Biblical term ‘hospitality’ (philoxenos) is not just an action, but an attitude of the heart. It’s not just about ‘showing hospitality’ but ‘being hospitable’ — being an open person, an approachable person, a person who shows a warmth to receive others based on real interest and love. It is, in fact, one of two distinct characteristics (being hospitable and able to teach) required for pastors (1 Tim.3:2). Real discipleship happens by teaching with your life. So hospitality is to be a regular part of the Christian life (see Rom. 12:13, 1 Pet. 4:7-9, Heb. 13:2, Luke 14:12-14).

To be intentional, Christians need to first cultivate a theological conviction about hospitality (Lev.19:33-34, Exod. 23:9, Rom.15:9) as part of the imaging of God. Conviction will fuel your purposefulness to develop and implement a plan!

Marc Grimaldi (Pastor, Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Merrick, New York)

While the idea of “hospitality” is implied all throughout Scripture, the actual word is only used four times in the New Testament, and two of the times, it’s listed as one of the qualifications for being an overseer (Tit. 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:2). That said, the other two times (1 Pet. 4:9; Rom. 12:13), along with the general implications of Scripture as a whole, clearly affirm that the duty belongs to all Christians.

I emphasize the pastoral aspect of hospitality, because this qualification further asserts that pastors are to be more than “living in the study” preachers. Hospitality presumes a very personal aspect to ministry, which gets to know people and their needs, with the intent of generously serving them.

Since Christ Himself was the most hospitable person to ever walk the earth, we can presume that hospitality doesn’t necessarily have to be exercised within one’s own home.  Location isn’t the issue. Generous, God-glorifying service is. When Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, He left us with a general template for hospitality.

Nicholas Kennicott (Pastor, Ephesus Church of Rincon, Georgia)

Hospitality is an under-emphasized aspects of Christian life in America. Having traveled to many areas of the world, it seems to me that other cultures often understand hospitality better than those in a western context, however it’s always something that must be undertaken intentionally with love for one’s neighbor so that we can “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

Being hospitable is not just about opening one’s home, but also one’s life. It’s a welcoming disposition toward others with an intentional pursuit of building them up. Christians should ask God to help them overcome their fears of interacting with new people, and be willing to take the risk of letting others into their life and home. We should be able to look to pastors for an example of good hospitality since God requires it of them (1 Timothy 3:2).

Chris Marley (Pastor, Miller Valley Baptist Church of Miller Valley, Arizona)

I’m sad to say that I’ve never heard this question asked before, but it’s a crucial one. It’s really a sub-question to, “how do I love the brethren?” To a certain degree, the answer is asking the question. Be intentional. Seek out the person with whom you have the least in common and invite them over for dinner, lunch, or a cup of coffee. It can even be the little actions of just engaging in conversation for a time after service that displays Christian love. Practice it with the saints and expand to unbelievers. If you do it poorly, do it anyway, and you’ll improve. We know that “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” Hospitality is one of the ways we do that. I would also advise people to ask their pastor how he does hospitality, because it’s a major part of our lives and the personality of the church.

Osinachi Nwoko (Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Lagos, Nigeria)

The word hospitality means to be kind/warm and welcoming/receptive to guest and strangers. As a people who are recipients of the tender mercies amazing grace of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, we no doubt must have hearts disposed to being hospitable. And the sphere of our hospitality is not to be limited to those in the household of faith (our brothers and sisters in Christ), but to all men (Galatians 6:9-10).

Stating these things though, doesn’t remove the obvious fact that many believers (myself inclusive) fail woefully in showing hospitality even to those we call brethren. The Apostle Paul’s encouraging words to the Galatians serves to stir us to be intentional about being hospitable. He says we should not grow weary in well doing or doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not faint. We can–and indeed should be–encouraged by the fact that God will reward all good deeds done in His name.

By putting in remembrance what God in Christ did to reconcile us aliens to Himself, the example of Christ’s life while in the flesh as well as those of the disciples and saints recorded in Scripture, the blessings attached to being hospitable/doing good and how showing hospitality helps our Gospel witness, Christians are greatly encouraged to be intentional about showing hospitality.

Douglas Van Dorn (Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado)

Hospitality is the simple idea of graciously receiving guests or strangers—usually in your home. Our church is in a relatively cold climate and our people drive for 50 miles in any direction to get to church. This has made hospitality a very difficult fruit to practice. Intentionality, forethought, and planning are essential in this kind of context, otherwise it happens too rarely. Two ideas are to have the deacons in the church set up events, asking that they be in various homes within the church. The other is to continually teach the people the commands and benefits of hospitality. If a desired outcome (discipleship, kindness, relationships, friendships) is not understood, then the need won’t be large enough to overcome the cultural disadvantages. At the end of the day, it simply has to be a priority, otherwise it won’t happen. We just aren’t living in 1st century Palestine any longer.

Outgrowing the Ingrown Denomination

Christian Living, The Church, Uncategorized

(By: Matt Foreman)

I grew up in an old school Southern Baptist church – by which I mean: everything in church life revolved around the SBC.  All the literature and Sunday School curriculum were written by the Home Mission Board.  Wednesday night programs revolved around Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action.  The Lottie Moon Christmas offering was the biggest Missions and fundraising event of the year.  Attend any SBC Church around the country and you would find the same programs and same culture of church life.  There was very little public acknowledgement or even consciousness of Christianity, it seemed, beyond those boundaries.

Eventually, I was converted while attending a Reformed campus ministry and Reformed Baptist Church in college.  The church culture was very different.  Theology, Christian literature and church history were all very important.  There was a much broader awareness and fellowship across denominational lines by virtue of a shared theology.  In fact, there seemed actually a closer affinity with believers from other Reformed denominations than even with other Baptists.  I ultimately attended a Reformed Presbyterian seminary.  Most of the students were themselves Presbyterian, but there were also Episcopalians, Congregationalists, non-denominational types, and other Baptists.  While I remained a Baptist and actually grew in my ecclesiological convictions, I still appreciated and valued this broader fellowship and cooperation.  To this day, I appreciate groups like the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals or conferences like Together for the Gospel that affirm the importance of ecclesiology, don’t downplay ecclesiological differences, but still recognize and share fellowship on the basis of a unity around the Gospel.

Several years ago, Al Mohler wrote an influential essay entitled, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity”, in which he delineated three levels of theological priority.  First order issues are Gospel issues, doctrinal beliefs that are essential to the Christian faith, that make someone a Christian or not.  Second order issues are issues that divide denominations – like baptism and church government.  Mohler writes, “Believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers.”  Meanwhile, third order issues, Mohler says, “are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.”

Three Tiers of Ecclesiological Cooperation
Taking these distinctions in reverse, I would like to propose that Reformed Baptists should have three tiers of closer ecclesiastical cooperation and interest.  Tier 1 is the work of your own church.  Tier 2 is working with other churches who share your own ecclesiastical commitments and with whom you can work most closely for the work of planting other churches, cooperation in missions, etc.  Tier 3 is working with those from other Reformed denominations who agree with you theologically on the basics of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture, etc.  (Some might add a fourth tier for looser fellowship with broad evangelicals.)

It is my conviction that a healthy interchange needs all three tiers.  Some very independent churches may only have Tier 1.  Some denominationally-focused churches may only have Tiers 1 and 2.  Some looser affiliated churches may only have Tiers 1 and 3.  But I think we need and benefit from all 3.

Put another way, my thesis is this: As a Baptist, while I believe in the independence of the local church, I also believe (with historical precedent) that Baptists should be involved in formal Associations.  But in addition, those churches and Associations should also have an outward impulse, an open hand to broader fellowship across denominational lines, seeking to humbly contribute to the larger Reformed communion.

First, we should recognize that our ecclesiological convictions are important and have implications for the long-term health and discipleship of individuals and churches.  On this basis, when it comes to cooperation with other churches – if we are clear on our convictions (on the sacraments, on church government, on church membership), and believe that these are important for the long-term health of the church – it makes sense that we will be able to work most freely and closely with those who share those same convictions.  Associations also provide a certain level of healthy accountability.  Put bluntly: it can keep you from being overly weird and idiosyncratic.  It provides a larger communion for counsel, for fellowship, for help and resources.  And there is an agreed upon theological and ecclesial basis for trust and freedom to work together.

But in addition, in our present culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity, it is important to stand with true Christians from other camps – strategically and purposefully.  (The early Particular Baptists, in a time of persecution from the State church, very publicly announced their theological unity and stood with their Congregationalist and Presbyterian cousins when they published the London Confession of Faith, based on the Westminster and Savoy Confessions.)  It is important to affirm God’s work among these other churches, to teach our people to appreciate and value God’s sovereign work of grace in other churches.  Without giving up our convictions, it is important to express that we are not in competition, that the Gospel is central, that the kingdom is bigger than our small corner, that we are working together for the spread of Christ’s kingdom, and that we can even learn from (and pray for) others who may not share all our convictions, but still affirm the same Gospel and love the same Savior.

In other words, Reformed Baptists should seek to be actively engaged in the larger Reformed communion.  We should have an open hand to the Reformed Resurgence and even the New Calvinists.  We should be seeking to be involved and to add our voice in groups like the Alliance, like Together for the Gospel, like the Gospel Coalition.  God has been working among these groups.  We do well to listen.  And Reformed Baptists have an important voice to add.

Jesus prays for his people to be one.  The unity of the Body of Christ is a significant concern in the New Testament.  Local churches are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Cor.1:2).  For the sake of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit and the good of the church, churches need to explore and express this unity broadly within the theological boundaries of the Gospel.

**The Title of this article is deliberately borrowed from C. John Miller’s book, “Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.”