Brett Ricley, of SaltyBeliever.com, is also a pastor at Redeeming Life Church. One of his responsibilities is to lead and oversee the logistics of the incoming mission trips with the incoming mission teams. He shares some insights and tips that should help mission teams and incoming church leaders alike. Listen to the episode below or find more episodes like this one in our podcast archive.
I hear it all the time, lately. "I don't want to burden the church by drawing a salary." The conversation stream has turned to the idea of not paying pastors a salary and having everyone be bi or co-vocational. This is not a new idea, but how we talk about the 'burden' might be.
Is the Church rightly thinking about the burden, or ministry load, or is this line of thinking purely isolated to finances? I will offer four considerations regarding the burden to pay a pastor a salary. But first, there are two things I have to put on the table.
First, I must point out that any pastor or minister who is not earning his or her salary shouldn't be paid; but at the same time, the one who is should be fairly compensated. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, instructed the local church to rightly compensate those doing the labor. He wrote in 1 Timothy 5:17-18, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and 'The laborer deserves his wages.'"
Second, it's right that a person tends to the needs of his or her family. God established the family unit and even instructed the man to tend well to the spiritual and physical care of his family. The verses just before the instruction about paying a pastor teach us who should work and at what point widows should be financially cared for. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he as denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." It's more than reasonable that a pastor meets the needs of his family and financially provides for them. It's a shame that local churches would expect a pastor and his family to live in poverty while he labors on the church's behalf.
Now, with the previous two thoughts guiding our thinking, we need to consider the actual burden of ministry. Who bears the burden of ministry, paid or unpaid?
Is the burden purely financial? If a church doesn't pay a pastor, should they expect him to continue doing the work he was previously doing? Should they expect a Bible college and seminary trained pastor? Or is it okay to go back to having the most respected farmer or businessman lead the church and preach the sermons? What is the burden of rightly teaching and preaching the Word of God? What is the burden of ministry? And if the church isn't going to pay the pastor for this work, is the local church ready to pick up the burden?
Below are some thoughts on the burden of the work of ministry and what should be considered when determining if a pastor should draw a salary.
1. What is the necessary burden on the church to know the Bible well and be able to teach it to others? Is the church ready to take up this burden if the pastor were not there or able to spend as much time on teaching and preaching? Is the church skilled in this area?
2. What is the necessary burden on the church to care for its members? Is this something the church feels is important? Is the church ready to pick up the burden of meeting with people in the hospital, praying for the sick, counseling in crisis or pre-martial needs, tendings to marriages and funerals, discussing baptism and the Lord's Supper, etc?
3. What is the necessary burden on the church for community outreach, disciple-making, discipleship, and mission work at home and abroad? Is the pastor leading this vision and training, or is the church ready to take on these needs as the body of Christ? Is the church trained and equipped in evangelism, outreach, small group leadership and Bible study, church planting, apologetics, and social justice?
4. What is the necessary burden for spiritual leadership and vision? Is the church unified and ready to lead the church without a paid pastor in this role? Is the church unified around a common vision? Do they love each other enough that others will know they are Jesus' disciples? Are they dwelling in unity? Is the church ready to guide others in this direction?
Somehow, the church has developed a mindset that the pastor should be paid to do the work of ministry. Scripture doesn't say such things. Paul said the pastor, especially the one teaching and preaching, deserves the double honor. Right teaching and preaching should result in the saints doing the work of ministry. Ephesians 4:11-16 says the pastor's job is to equip the saints to do the work. Training and equipping is what should be expected of the pastor, and the one who trains and equips well should be paid so he can attend to this task without having to worry about how he'll tend to the financial needs of his family.
The burden will be carried by the church, whether financially or in other ways or both. Simply not paying a pastor doesn't absolve the church from the burden of equipping disciples to be God's ambassadors for his Kingdom.
We are starting a new Salty Believer Unscripted series on the topic of the short mission trip. It's our hope to look at mission trips from a wide variety of perspectives, to include that of the leader and planner, to the one participating, to the receiving church, and even from a local verses international view. Listen to the introduction below and be sure to subscribe to you don't miss future episodes of Salty Believer Unscripted.
Bible Promises to Live By by Dave Early is an easy-reading, highly encouraging journey through 21 promises the God gives us in his Word. Each chapter is 5-8 pages and loaded with Scripture, making the work good for devotional reading. Take a chapter a day and read the book in a month or a chapter a week and read the book through a season.
Before I go any further, I should say that Dave is a friend. He started as my professor but then became a mentor after I worked and trained with him while he was church-planting in Las Vegas. I have greatly enjoyed Dave's many other books and this one was no different.
In general, Dave writes in three categories. He writes textbooks like Spiritual Formation Is. . . : How to Grow in Jesus with Passion and Confidence. He writes popular-level informative books like Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High Impact Leaders (one of my favorites). And then there are the "21" books, that is, books that look at the prayers of the Bible or truths about heaven, for example. These books look at a good list (usually 21) but it's not an exhaustive list. Bible Promises to Live By is one of the latter category.
Each chapter has a teaching on a specific promise found in Scripture that includes illustrations and stories. The format makes it easy to read as you start the day, but before you've got enough coffee going for more complicated thinking. In addition, Dave writes in such a way that promotes additional thought throughout the day and an easy way to explain the promise to others in need. Every chapter also includes a final encouragement, which is a succinct thought to drive the ideas of the chapter into a life application.
If I would have been involved in the editing or publishing of this book, I would have suggested Dave use a different opening illustration in the introduction. It's a good illustration of a checkbook, but it's dated. Many younger readers have never used checks and have a limited understanding of how a checkbook works and was a financial reality for many year years. Today, however, when we think of check we often think of the sign that says, "Sorry, we don't accept checks." I noticed some of the stories and illustrations from Dave's life happened in the 90s. They were still relevant and relatable (like getting the flu) but I found myself curious if this book was written in the 90s and shelved until now. This is minor and doesn't change the point of the book.
If you're looking for encouragement or a good devotional reading, I highly recommend Bible Promises to Live By by Dave Early.
Also, it's our hope to get Dave on Salty Believer Unscripted to talk about his book, among other things, so subscribe to the podcast and be on the lookout for more on that soon.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love the statement, "For the Kingdom!" I used it often. But why? What's behind such a statement?
There's a biblical picture about the kingdom that's significant; therefore, "For the Kingdom" is something I started putting in my email signature and social media posts to remind myself to keep my focus in the right place for the right King.
As we look to Scripture, we see that David thought that God needed a house. Everyone else had come into the promised land and they were building houses, but God was still in the tabernacle (or a tent). So David thought he'd build God a house. It's a good thought, but God through that was funny because God is not interested in living in a man-made building. Then God commanded Nathan to tell David of a covenant (or promise) that God was making with David. (See 2 Samuel 7)
God promised David that God would establish a throne forever, saying, "Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). Jesus would be of this line of kings, and since Jesus is living, never-to-die and he's God, he's the last and perfect King that all the other kings were intended to hint at. And his Kingdom is established because he is on the throne forever.
Eventually, the end of the kingdom as we know it comes when the resurrected believers join the resurrected Christ. Then, every rule and every authority (other than God) is destroyed and Jesus will give the Father's kingdom to him (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). However, Revelation 11:15 shows us that Jesus remains on the throne of the redeemed kingdom with the Father. It says, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."
At this point, it's important to remember that the throne wasn't the thing that made the kingdom. God mad the kingdom through a promise. The covenant with Moses seems to have taken the covenant with Abraham (about Abraham fathering many nations by the power of God) and turned a specific group of covenant people into a nation (or kingdom) of priests to serve the world and call all people back to God. Exodus 19:5 says, "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
These priests were to be a people who would serve God's kingdom. Much of the Old Testament shows us how they got this right and how they often got this wrong. However, Revelation 5:9-10 shows us that this promise will be fulfilled. It reads, "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.
When John the Baptist, a priest and an ambassador of the kingdom, started preaching, he said, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). Then, after Satan tempted Jesus to repeat Adam's fall, Jesus too began preaching, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Jesus then went through all the region preaching the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23). Jesus also promised that the poor in spirit and the persecuted will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3, 10).
When Jesus discussed the consequences of following or not following the Christ-fulfilled Law and Prophets, he used the condition of being great or least in the kingdom and even a condition of entering or not entering the kingdom (Matthew 5:17-20). Notice how Jesus taught us to pray regarding the kingdom. Ask the Father that His kingdom will come on earth just as his kingdom is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). Only a few verses later Jesus instructs us how not to be anxious, saying our Heavenly Father knows what we need so we should seek his righteousness and his Kingdom (Matthew 6:32-33).
Many of Jesus' parables start: "The kingdom of heaven is like. . ." It seems the kingdom was very important to Jesus. When Pilot asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world" (John 18:36).
Earthly kingdoms are about physical territory and boundaries; God's kingdom is about souls and submission, glory and holiness. Revelation 1:5b-6 shows us the kingdom. It says, "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." Pilot tired to execute King Jesus, but Jesus defeated death and rose from the grave. What did the risen Jesus talk about? The kingdom! Acts 1:3 says, "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God."
Jesus preached the kingdom throughout his earthly ministry as well as through is inspired saints. When he first sent his twelve disciples out to preach, he instructed them to say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7). As we learn in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, we are ambassadors for Christ proclaiming a message of reconciliation, which I think has a lot to do with the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus was preaching for most of his earthly ministry.
There was a time in my life when I was working hard to build my own kingdom. In hindsight, it was built on sand, made of temporary, created things that even moth and rust easily destroy. I was also serving my country in the military and figured this was good enough. As I Christian, I was being selfless but I was still serving to advance an earthly kingdom. One night in 2003, on the Syrian border, I had a conversation with God. The end result of the conversation was my awareness that God wanted me to serving something greater than my own kingdom or other earthly kingdoms. He wanted me serving his kingdom.
Over time, I started slipping back into my old ways. I was building a kingdom of self and serving wrong kingdoms again. One of the things that helped keep the focus in the military were battle cries and slogans. As I reflected on this, I realized that Christians should have a battle cry. So I started putting a battle cry at the end of my correspondence and some of my social media posts. I love the hashtag, #ForTheKingdom!
"For the Kingdom!"
I imagine fists and swords raised as an army of blood-bought, redeemed, warriors serve on the front lines to advance the Lord's kingdom. Everything we do must be to the glory of God, in the service of our King. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to serve. Because this is the only Kingdom that truly matters. And the kings of Kings is my King and my Lord.
For the Kingdom!
Brett Ricley loves evangelism. He also loves taking others out to engage lostness. But engaging with strangers is not the only way he reaches people. He works through concentric circles of relational networks. In the two videos below, Brett shares some thoughts on personal evangelism from the book, Concentric Circles of Concern by Oscar Thompson.
We've discussed Warren Haynes' book, Discipleship Uncomplicated a lot on Salty Believer Unscripted. I recommend it to those wanting to make disciples but struggling to know where to start. It's an easy book that's applicable and practical. It lives up to the titled because the entire book is uncomplicated.
Warren is a friend of SaltyBeliever.com and "Salty Believer Unscripted" so he joined me for an 8-part series through his book. Each episode corresponds with a chapter in the book and he offers tips, stories, and other helpful stuff that isn't in the pages. You can listen to our podcast series by following the links below and I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book wherever books are sold.
Discipleship Uncomplicated (With Dr. Warren Haynes)
-- Part 1: Love God; Love People audio
-- Part 2: What's Your Name? audio
-- Part 3: Let's Pray audio
-- Part 4: This is for You audio
-- Part 5: Let Me Share a Story audio
-- Part 6: With Me audio
-- Part 7: Gather People to Influence People audio
-- Part 8: Multiply Leader audio
Scott Catoe joined Bryan Catherman to discuss the good, bad, and ugly of bi-vocational and co-vocational ministry. We identify the difference as well as some realities people don't what to discuss when considering these different ministry options.
It's no surprise that I recommend books by Dr. Jeff Iorg. I believe his take on leadership is spot-on, and he's a down-to-earth guy who is approachable and a good model for Christian leadership. Dr. Iorg has also been an influential force in my life as the president of Gateway Seminary and a lecturer in one of my doctoral seminars.
Therefore, it's with great joy that I am recommending one of his older books. The Character of Leadership: Nine Qualities that Define Great Leaders, by Jeff Iorg, is a book for leaders or soon-to-be leaders. It's not just reserved for ministry leaders. It's a book for all leaders who want to lead in a biblical, godly way.
In the past few years, character has become lacking in leaders. Sadly, there are times when this is true of Christian leaders. Irog's book directly combats this growing problem.
The greatest strength of The Character of Leadership is in the experience and skill of its author. The book is believable because Dr. Iorg is a credible Christian leader. The book is also easy to read, full of examples and stories, and not buzzy or forced. It's relevant and (I think) timeless.
I did find myself thinking the chapters were a little longer than Iorg's more recent books. Knowing the speed I could move through some of his other books, I read this book during in a gap in my days that was perfect for the other books. No so much with the longer chapters of The Character of Leadership. That meant I was returning to a chapter midway through. There are subsections in the chapters but they are often built around lists. To get back into the flow, I'd have to skim back a ways to be sure I remembered the point the list was making. Even so, I'm not sure if there's much that needed to be changed other than the time I selected to read the book.
Here's a brief video where I share some of my thoughts on the book:
I highly recommend The Character of Leadership to anyone who wants to lead in a godly way, in ministry or otherwise.
Dino Senesi joined us to discuss coaching church planters. Senesi works with the North American Mission Board to help see more churches planted. He directs the coaching arm of the Send Network.
I'm the pastor of a church that is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. As a church that partners with the SBC, I get questions about the denomination, the structures, and what that all means. These questions surface more often as the SBC is ramping up to the national Annual Meeting. There's some confusion about the SBC. I don't think I can clear up all the confusion, but understanding the structure helps.
The first, and maybe the most important thing to understand is the autonomy of the local church. While a church may be a part of the SBC, the SBC has no authority over the local church. The SBC is a network of churches who have agreed on a confessional statement called the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. They also agree with the mission and strategy to take the gospel to every nation and people in the world. They agree to work together.
Another thing that's helpful to bring clarity is that there is understanding how there is the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Denomination, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, LifeWay, SBC seminaries, and more. It get's confusing. If that weren't confusing enough, there are also state or regional conventions. And there are local associations of Southern Baptists. When I first joined an SBC church, this really baffled me.
Understanding a very brief history of the SBC might help.
In the early 1800's, churches with Baptist theology were doing work in American with a desire to do more but unable because of limited resources. These churches were autonomous. There was no hierarchy of authority over them. To expand their ministries by working together, they started forming societies. These were mission societies, publication societies, and societies for training pastors. Where a single church couldn't support and send a single missionary, a group of churches could pool resources to send a missionary or even multiple missionaries. Starting a seminary would be nearly impossible for a single church, but not so for a team of churches. To help be good stewards of these societies, they set up structures of leadership within the society. In addition, like-minded Baptist churches in the same states began joining together.
Eventually, three large, national societies sought to join their efforts. Churches within the societies called for messengers to travel to a meeting to bring messages from the churches and take messages back to the churches. They determined that it would be good to set the vision and efforts of the society so they would all be working toward the same goals; although, nothing about the set vision was binding on any single church. A number of these groups were coming together. So were state and regional groups. Some were in the North and some in the South. And, at times, they didn't agree with mission and vision, or even theology. The churches in the South became the Southern Baptists and they called their meeting a convention. The group became a denomination and spread all over the world while keeping the name. (A few years ago, the passed a resolution that church could call themselves Southern Baptists or Great Commission Baptists. It sounded nice, but it just muddied the water more.)
Another helpful thing to understand is the various structures.
A church in my area (Salt Lake City) who wants to join the SBC is really requesting to join the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. It is through the state or regional network that a church affiliates. By joining the state convention, the church identifies as SBC. Once this identification has happened, there is the option to join other local or regional associations. For example, we have the Salt Lake Baptist Association in our area. Our state convention has elected leaders (at the time I'm writing this, I served as the Vice President). We have messengers come from churches. When churches want to support the ministry of the SBC (which includes Disaster Relief, church planting networks, seminaries, and missionary operations) the church actually gives funds to the state convention, which uses some for the work and passes some on to the entities doing national or international work. For the most part, we call this the Cooperative Fund (or CP). Here's a look at how it works.
Technically, the SBC only truly exists two days a year when the Convention convenes. However, at the meeting, communities are appointed to do various tasks throughout the year. This includes an executive committee, the North American Mission Board, The International Mission Board, and so-on.
So as it stands today, the church I pastor has choices. How much do we want to contribute to the mission and vision discussed at the annual meeting? We still set our own mission and vision. We still determine our own church government and church policies. The SBC is not binding over us because we decide the extent of our partnership. And today, we enjoy the partnerships of the SBC, NAMB, the UISBC, the SLBA, and others.
Dr. Jeff Iorg recorded a wonderful podcast heading into the 2018 Annual Meeting. In his podcast, he lays this out much better than I've done here. He discusses some pros and cons and how some things work in practice. I highly recommend listening. Find it here.
In addition, you can find more information about the SBC on the national website. It's more detailed and might help bring more clarity.
Dr. Warren Haynes concludes our 8-part series, "Discipleship Uncomplicated." In this episode, we discuss multiplying leaders.
You've been reading your Bible, but you're ready to get a Study Bible and take your study to the next level. (If you are unsure about what's in a Study Bible, this additional video should help.) There are a lot of different Study Bibles with lots of different purposes. How do you pick a good Study Bible? The video below breaks down the differences and should help you get a better idea where to get started as you set out to pick a new Study Bible.
Dr. Warren Haynes joins us again to discuss the importance of gathering people to influence people in the discipleship process. This is the 7th episode in an 8-part series called, "Discipleship Uncomplicated."
I've heard it many times before. "Christianity was for previous generations, but it's not for ours." People argue that faith is not relevant today. They argue that Christianity is for grandma and grandpa, but the times are changing. Christians hear these statements and look at the statistics and freak out. They fear the church is over because Millennials don't want to come to church anymore. You'd think those Christians have never read the end of the Bible. We know that the church is not going to die out, even if it does in America. But I also wonder if we are only gathering data from non-believing Millennials? Have we looked at this from the perspective of the believing, faithful, Millennials?
I don't have all the data and I'm just thinking anecdotally, but I am still thinking about it. Here's something to think about.
First, God is the same today as he has been since he created the world and will be forever. Second, what makes today's young people think they have grown beyond a faith that people have held onto for 2,000 years, that's built on a faith in God that's a few thousand years older than that? And third, while this argument about younger people may be the feeling elsewhere, I don't see that idea playing out to the extreme it is reported among the young people at the church I pastor, Redeeming Life Church in Salt Lake City.
Recently, I was blessed to watch four young families dedicate themselves to raising their babies in the way of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our faith-family agreed to walk this journey out with them and hold them accountable. This happened on a Sunday, in a worship service, in a church-ish building. Two Sundays before, I witnessed three people get baptized. One man in his 60's, one in his 20's, and a boy in single digits. Beside each of the people getting baptized, there were at least 2 people participating in conducting the baptism. None of those conducting the baptisms (except me serving as the master of ceremonies) were over 30. And upwards of 40% of the people at our worship services move to the children's ministry area (or are already there in the nursery) when I dismiss the kids and teachers after our time of musical worship but before I preach a sermon. We also have a thriving group of young adults gathering on Sunday and throughout the week. When I survey my faith-family at Redeeming Life Church, I see lots of younger people taking Jesus seriously. Many of them take Jesus VERY seriously.
But Redeeming Life is not a hip, cool, church of all young people. We have people in their 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, and 90's. In fact, we have a family of 5-generations worshiping with us, from Nana all the way down to her little toddling great-great-grandson. We're not that cool and certainly not hip. We are faithful. We worship God. And we take the Bible seriously--teaching through it and orientating our lives to it's teaching.
I'm hopeful and encouraged that so many young people love Jesus at Redeeming Life Church. If not, I might be fooled into believing the lie that today's young people don't want Jesus or faith. Sure, there are many who don't know any better, but let's not broad-brush the Millennial generation. There are still many faithful, Millennial Christians. They want to know and learn the Bible. They want to serve Jesus. They are not ashamed of the gospel. It's encouraging. I am blessed to pastor them and enjoy life in our faith-family together.
For the Kingdom!
Dr. Warren Haynes joins us again for another episode as we journey through his book, Discipleship Uncomplicated. This week, we look at the importance of the personal invitation to do something, "with me."
Psalm 127 tells us that children are a gift from the Lord. A child is not our own but on loan from God. God instructed the Hebrews to train up their children and teach them to love God with all their heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:4-15). Through the Apostle Paul, God commands fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Clearly, God expects his people to disciple the kids he blesses us with in the way of the Lord.
In churches that don't baptize infants, a baby dedication serves as a moment in a Christian worship service when the parents stand before the congregation and publically commit to obeying God and raising up their children to know and love God.
Some Christians have read the Bible and conclude that a New Testament baby dedication is done by baptizing the infant. They correctly argue that circumcision was an Old Testament covenant sign that a child was born into God's covenant people. But from that idea, they suggest that baptism replaces circumcision and is a sign of entry into God's family. This logical argument makes sense in light of the Old Testament, but it's not an argument made by the New Testament.
First, John says entry into God's family as a child of God is made possible through faith in Jesus, not the covenant marked by circumcision. Jesus fulfilled that covenant so now all who receive Jesus, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12). But what does it take to be identified as part of the local church? If the Bible commands that we submit to our spiritual leaders and be a part of church discipline, how do we know who is a part of that covenant community? I'll come back to this in a moment.
Next, New Testament baptism is continually referred to as a baptism of repentance, not a baptism of acceptance or a baptism of covenant. Peter discusses the wicked world and the flood in Noah's time. The eight righteous people on earth were brought safely through the water by trusting in the Lord. Jesus suffered once for sin so--like the ark brought people safely through the flood--Jesus can bring us safely to God. Peter says baptism corresponds to this as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22).
Finally, there was a great debate about circumcision in the First Century. Some argued that Gentiles had to be circumcised before they could enter the local church and call themselves Christians. In fact, this was the topic of the very first Church Council (Acts 15). That council, led by the Apostles, determined that circumcision was not a necessary act of Christianity and therefore not a necessary sign of entry into God's New Testament covenant community. The covenant is through Jesus, not the Law because Jesus fulfilled the Law in the New Covenant. Through the entire discussion about circumcision and the arguments that played out in Paul's letters, there's not a mention of baptism replacing circumcision.
Paul discusses a theology of circumcision in Romans 2:25-29. He says, "For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision" (Romans 2:25). He goes on to argue that the New Covenant is not one of outward signs, but a matter of the heart. It is by the Spirit, not by the letter. In many ways, we might think of circumcision like we think of temples. They were very necessary in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, the perfect fulfillment of the Law through Jesus means they are finished. Circumcision was replaced by Jesus, not baptism.
But how do we know who is in the faith community if it's not by circumcision?
The good news is we don't have to do a check to see which dudes are in and which aren't. That was only physical anyway. In Acts, when the Church was instituted, we see people added to their number (Acts 2:37-41). How were they added? Through circumcision? No. Acts 2:41 says, "So those who received his word were baptized and there were added that day about three thousands souls." Peter preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who received Jesus, believed Jesus is who he says he is, and repented (turning from their sinful way to follow Jesus' way). It says they were also baptized, which is the outward sign of the condition of the heart. It's a profession of their belief and the first step in following Jesus.
God's covenant with the Jewish people was (and is) about a physical people through the letter of the Law. God's covenant with his regenerate children is through Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law. Jesus' Church is not about physical presence or outward signs (which is why there are many who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday but are still not a part of the Church). It's about belief and repentance. Therefore, the old need not be replaced because it has been fulfilled.
So if the baby dedication is not a "dry baptism" as it has been called from time to time, why do it? If we're not going to baptize babies, what's the point?
The baby dedication is not about bringing unbelieving infants into an organization; it is about that infant's parents proclaiming to the faith-family that they commit to training up the child in the knowledge and love for God so that when the child is able and ready, there is ample opportunity for God to regenerate that child, causing him or her to profess belief, repent, and even be baptized. By standing in front of the congregation, the parents are asking the faith-family to hold them accountable to this monumental task. The baby dedication is not about the baby, it's about the parents.
Dr. Warren Haynes joined us again to discuss the power of a good biblical story. This is the 5th part of an 8-part series that's taking us on a journey through his book, Discipleship Uncomplicated.
Most people know what a Bible is. Whether or not they read it is another question. But for those who want to know it and understand it better, a Study Bible is extremely helpful. What is a Study Bible?
A Study Bible is a Bible that's printed with a wide variety of tools and additional resources. Some have a specific purpose while others are complexity about making the Scripture more understandable through the additional information.
Here's a simple overview.
If you don't own a Study Bible, here's a video about how to pick a good Study Bible.
When one examines the authorship of the Bible, two possibilities naturally surface. The first is that the Bible is a collection of books authored by men, not unlike any other written work. The second option is that God himself authored the Bible. To the first option, that of human authorship only, Roger Olson asks, “ . . . if God is not in some special and even supernatural way the ultimate author of Scripture, why believe it is unique or even special?” To the second option, a divine authorship only, Ronald Mayers expresses that those that hold to this view of the Bible “forget that it did come via man in history and did not fall from heaven en bloc.” The idea that the answer can be only one or the other, according to Olsen, “is a false one that has led to unnecessary and unfortunate polarities of belief about Scripture.” Mayers, rightly states that, “Scripture is at one and the same time both the Word of God and the word of man.” Therefore, accepting that Scripture is both divine and human in its authorship, one might ask how to draw correct meaning from a text that is derived from both the Perfect Creator and the imperfect creation. Through an examination of the various ideas of inspiration and an evaluation of a the common methods of interpretation, this study will attempt, at a minimum, to bring more clarity to a difficult and hazy paradox, if not to identify the more appropriate approach to dealing with the authorship of the Bible.
THEORIES OF INSPIRATION AND INTERPRETATION
Among the Christian community, the belief of dual authorship is not only commonly accepted, it serves as one of the many guardrails of orthodoxy. Olson reminds his readers that, “Scripture was not dropped out of heaven as depicted on the cover of one book about the Bible that calls it That Manuscripts from Heaven. Humans played a role in writing Scripture, selecting and closing the canon, and interpreting the Bible.” But to the role and ability of the human contribution, John Calvin says, “Let those dogs deny that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, or, if not, let them refuse credit to the history, still the very circumstances proclaim that the Holy Spirit must have been the teacher of those who, formerly contemptible among the people, all of a sudden began to discourse so magnificently of heavenly mysteries.” However, while there is great agreement of the dual authorship of the Bible, there is disagreement regarding the nature of this dual authorship. Questions about the specificity of inspiration are reflected in the various approaches to understanding the text. What does inspired mean? To answer this question, that is, to get at the important aspects of the dual authorship, one must survey the more common approaches to the inspiration of the Bible. And what exactly in the Bible is inspired? If this question is suggesting that some parts of the biblical text are solely God’s and other parts are solely man’s, than there is no dual nature, but rather portions of text by one author and portions by another. Saying there could be parts completely free of man’s involvement is again introducing an idea of a text—written only by God—that fell from heaven. However, could it be possible for some parts of the Bible to be inspired, being dual authored, while other parts and merely the work of man? Let us begin to examine these questions by looking at five views of inspiration.
In following Millard Erickson’s categorization, this study will begin with the liberal Theory of Intuition. Erickson states that the Intuition Theory views divine inspiration as “ . . . the functioning of a high gift, perhaps almost like an artistic ability but nonetheless a natural endowment, a permanent possession.” Here, there is essentially no difference between the writers of Scripture and other religious thinkers and philosophers such as Plato and Buddha. The Hebrew culture could be said to have a “gift for the religious” just as some cultures are gifted in mathematics or the sciences." This view gives little if any credit to the divine, other than for the natural endowment of religious genius. “The Bible then,” as Erickson explains, “is great religious literature reflecting the Hebrew people’s spiritual experiences.”
The Illumination Theory maintains that the Holy Spirit was influencing the authors of Scripture in that they were gifted with a “heightening of their normal powers.” In combining this theory with the Intuition Theory however, Olson contends that, “the biblical writers were religious geniuses who cooperated with the divine Spirit (or self-expressive activity of God) so completely that their writings achieve an inspiring quality and effect seldom if ever noticed elsewhere.” Olson’s explanation suggests that the divine exists in the cooperation; whereas, Erickson says, “The Spirit’s effect is to heighten or elevate the author’s consciousness. It is not unlike the effect of stimulants students sometimes take to heighten their awareness or amplify the mental process.” However, Olson’s approach agrees with Erickson’s final assessment that, “The result of this type of inspiration is increased ability to discover truth,” whether the illumination is through corporation, stimulation, or both.
The Dynamic Theory argues that God gave the writers of Scripture the ideas and then they selected the best words to describe them. Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave explain that “ . . . God gave the thoughts to the men chosen, and left them to record these thoughts in their own ‘dynamic inspiration.’” Duffield and Van Cleave call this theory the ‘Inspired Concept Theory,’ which may serve to better explain it. Concepts then, are inspired while the word choices are not. John Calvin seems to have held to this view. This process is the combination of both the divine and the human in a way that differs from the Intuition and Illumination Theories in that God is divinely authoring the text in at least some capacity. For this reason, the Dynamic Theory is generally categorized as a conservative view.
Also known as the ‘Plenary Inspiration Theory,’ this view holds that even the words are inspired by God, pointing to 2 Timothy 3:16. God, in effect, directed the writer to each word of the text. Potentially the most popular view among Evangelicals, Erickson explains that, “ . . . God being omniscient, it is not gratuitous to assume that his thoughts are precise, more so than ours. Consequently, within the vocabulary of the writer, one word will most aptly communicate the thought God is conveying (although that word in itself may be inadequate). By creating the thought and stimulating the understanding of the Scripture writer, the Spirit will lead him in effect to use one particular word rather than any other.” While this may look like dictation, I. S. Rennie argues that, “Dictation is not involved; there is no violation of the personality of the writer. God had sovereignty and conclusively been preparing the writers for the instrumental task so that they willingly and naturally recorded God’s revelation in the way he required."
Few hold to the conservative view of Dictation Theory, also know as ‘mechanical inspiration’ or ‘verbal dictation.’ In fact, Olson suggests that this view is “unorthodox” and relegates the role of human authors to merely that of “secretaries of the Holy Spirit.” Explaining Dictation Theory, Duffield and Van Cleave write, “This theory states that every word, even the punctuation, is dictated by God, much as a business executive would dictate a letter to his secretary.” Erickson expands on this explanation further stating that proponents believe “Different authors did not write in distinctive styles.” However, Wayne Grudem points out that, “A few scattered instances of dictation are explicitly mentioned in Scripture.” Jesus instructs John to write to the various churches in Revelation (2:1, 2:8, and 2:12, for example). Grudem also suggests Isaiah 38:4-6 as another example. Moses’ dictation of the Ten Commandments could potentially serve as a third example.
What We Find in Scripture.
Looking at the various ideas of inspiration, one can see that a text with at least some nature of divine and human dual authorship is different than that of other philosophical writing. This type of writing, as Steven Smith articulates, is generally referred to as ‘Scripture.’ Second Timothy 3:16a reads, “All Scripture is breathed out by God . . .” (ESV). While this passage is specifically referring to the Old Testament, it sheds light on the inspiration of Scripture. “The impression here” writes Erickson, “is that they are divinely produced, just as God breathed the breath of life into the human (Gen. 2:7).” The Greek word that the ESV translates to “breathed out by God” is theopneustos, which James Strong defines as, “God-breathed, inspired by God, referring to a communication from deity: given by inspiration of God.” Additionally, this is the only occurrence of theopneustos in the New Testament. James D. G. Dunn suggests that the use of this word clearly indicates the writer’s understanding of the process of inspiration. “To be noted” writes Dunn, “is the fact that it is the scripture that is ‘God-breathed,’ and not merely the prophet who is ‘inspired,’ unless by that is meant inspired to speak particular words (cf. 2 Pet 1:20).” Where Dunn fails to go with his commentary, Calvin boldly marches, writing, “This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestions, that that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare.” Later in the same discourse, Calvin declares, “This is the first clause, that we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.”
If one can accept what Scripture authenticates about itself, than the next part of this question is to identify which portions of the canonized Bible are Scripture, or words written with and by a dual nature, and which parts are only man. (Understandably, accepting Scripture in this manner may be a challenge for the non-believer if Gottfried Wachler is correct, saying, “Nor will an unbeliever be moved to acknowledge Scripture’s divine authority on the basis of what Scripture says of itself, that is, by means of a doctrine of its inspiration and divine character. He will not accept statements from Scripture as proof, since he first wants proof that Scripture is the truth.”) While space does not permit an explanation of why the books of the biblical canon are considered Scripture, Grudem provides a succinct summary of the canonization of both the Old and New Testaments and D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo offer a detailed explanation of the New Testament canonization. Both are worth investigation. Assuming that every book in the Bible is Scripture and therefore both God and man’s words, all one can do is attempt to separate the words of man from those of God within each individual book; however, Wachler argues that, “There is an indissoluble interweaving of both. It is impossible to sort out man’s words and God’s words or to label Scripture as being man’s word that may not and then become God’s word.” To the idea that only some parts of the Bible are dual authored, Duffield and Van Cleave warn, “The dangerous part of this view is that it places into the hands of finite, feeble, and fallible man the power to determine what and where God is speaking. Thus, man is given power over infinite truth rather than taking a place under it.”
After a review of various views on inspiration, and assuming that all of the Bible is inspired in at least some way, an evaluation of that inspiration is needed. This evaluation would be simple if the Bible were clear on the nature of inspiration but Walcher reminds his readers that, “Nowhere in Scripture is there a description of the ‘how’ of the process of inspiration.” However, certain biblical passages lend greater support to some views over others depending on the context. Examples include the introduction of Luke, the personal and human qualities of the confession of Psalm 51, the previously mentioned verses instructing John to “write” in Revelation, Paul’s opinion alluded to in 1 Corinthians 7:12ff, Peter’s understanding of prophecy, Jesus authoritative use of “It is written . . . ,” and the many Old Testament uses of “Thus says the Lord . . . .”
The liberal views of inspiration—intuition and illumination—present a challenge for the believer because although there is no indication of the ‘how,’ unlike the other three views that attempt to rest on Scriptural clues, the liberal views seem void of any scriptural support. “The liberal approach in Scripture,” writes Olson, “is heretical because it ultimately denies or completely undermines Scripture’s unique authority. The problem is not that liberal thinkers wish to do justice to the human quality of Scripture but that their model of Scripture’s inspiration cannot do justice to the Bible’s divine quality. In their hands the Bible becomes a historical novel or a powerful work of fiction that shapes manners and morals by creating a world to inhabit.” Both of the liberal views present a problem for D. Edmond Hiebert if inspiration is something of a natural ability or “stimulant” of the Holy Spirit. In reference to 2 Peter 1:19-21, Hiebert writes, “ . . . no prophecy arose out of the prophet’s own solution to the scenes he confronted or his own interpretations of the visions presented in his mind.” Heibert would then also take issue with the dynamic view.
Despite Heibert’s concerns, Paul’s statements that believers have been “taught by the Holy Spirit” and have “the mind of Christ” seem to support the Dynamic Theory of inspiration. And given that Paul does not say, “Thus says the Lord,” there is reason to think he was inspired by something other than a dictation or plenary verbal inspiration. It was not that Paul’s message was not divine argues Vern Sheridan Poythress, but “Rather, it is (largely) because he has so thoroughly absorbed the message into his own person.” Polythress argues that in the New Testament at least, the fact that Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit means we are not dealing with “bare” human nature. “We are already dealing with the divine, namely the Holy Spirit,” writes Polythress. But even in Paul’s writing, a biblical clue is present that suggests something other than dynamic inspiration. In 1 Corinthians 7:10, Paul clearly says that something he is saying is from the Lord and not himself and then in verse 12 he argues something that is “I, not the Lord” (ESV). In this case, it would seem that being “so thoroughly absorbed in the message” is not exactly what was going on here, at least with this part of the message.
In an attempt to understand the dynamic nature of inspiration, H. H. Rowely, who leans substantially toward the human authorship of Scripture writes,
If light falls on the eye though colored glass, it is modified by the medium through which it passes. None of the light comes from the glass itself. It comes from the source beyond the glass; yet it is all modified by the glass. So revelation that comes through the human personality is modified, and sometimes marred, by the medium through which it comes—colored by the false ideas and presuppositions of him through whom it is given. Yet all the revelation is from God. It therefore follows that not every inspired writers is on the same level, and our concern must be to know what God was saying through him to his contemporaries and to us.
Rowely further argues, “We but dishonor God when we hold him responsible for every statement in the Bible.” At stake through this line of thinking is the divine authority of Scripture as well is its infallibility. In an effort to avoid this potential slippery slope, many Evangelicals have turned to the Verbal or Plenary Theory. But this theory is certainly not free of problems. Olson states that theologians that subscribe to the Dynamic Theory “simply cannot see how plenary verbal inspiration differs from dictation.” To combat this thinking, Erickson stresses that proponents of the plenary view must take great care to avoid slipping into a dictation model and often have to structure their articulation in the form of a defense. This is seen in A. N. S. Lane’s attack on the Dynamic Theory and support of the plenary view. Lane writes, “It must not be supposed that God merely put ideas into the minds of the biblical authors and then left them to put them into words as best they could. But claiming that words themselves are inspired it is not implied that human writers are not also their authors.” Olson also argues that, “The dynamic model has the advantage of accounting for the very different styles of the authors as well as for the many idioms, cultural forms and trivial asides one finds in Scripture. It is difficult to see how plenary verbal inspiration accounts for Paul’s poor grammar, including unfinished sentences!”
Why would those subscribing to the plenary verbal inspiration view diligently try to avoid being accused holding a strict diction view? Duffield and Van Cleave suggest it is because of its great weakness, that is, “that it eliminates any possibility of a personal style in the writings of the divinely chosen author—a phenomenon which is clearly observable.” Dictation seems to remove the humanity from the Scriptures. Duffield and Van Cleave further write, “Fundamentalists are often accused of subscribing to this method of inspiration, but only a small percentage of them actually do.” But what about passages in Scripture that seem to suggest dictation, such as in Revelation or Isaiah? To this question, Erickson says, “This is particularly true in prophetic writing and apocalyptic material, but the process described above was not the usual and normative pattern, nor is prophetic and apocalyptic material more inspired than the rest of the Bible.”
In light of the various approaches to inspiration, one might be tempted to ask which approach best explains inspiration required for the dual authorship of Scripture. Certainly, the Christian can easily rule out the two liberal views: intuition and illumination. But given the strengths, weakness, and biblical clues that both support and reject the dynamic, verbal, and dictation ideas of inspiration, how is one to settle on any single approach? The answer is that they should not. Inspiration it would seem, is something of a combination of all three views. This is not to say however, that the Bible is not inspired; quite the opposite is true. Nor is it to say that one passage is more inspired than any other when the idea of “God-breathed” does not clearly identify the ‘how’ and no passages in the text lead to that conclusion.
Although Olson implies that the writers of Scripture should be seen merely as secretaries of the Holy Spirit, the role of a secretary is an appropriate way to view a proper approach to biblical inspiration. In explaining the plenary view, Erickson offers an example a personal secretary he employed for many years. Although Erickson is speaking specifically to the plenary view, his example works well in explaining my multifaceted idea of inspiration. When the secretary first started, Erickson dictated letters to her. As she began to better understand Erickson’s mind, he could tell her the “general tenor” of his thinking and she could draft an appropriate letter. “By the end of the third year,” writes Erickson, “I could have simply handed her a letter I had received and told her to reply, since we had discussed so many issues connected with the church that she actually knew my thinking on most of them.” Is it unreasonable to think that if Erickson needed to write a letter on a completely unfamiliar matter, he could still return to dictation, even with the secretary of three or more years? Or maybe he could tell her the basic ideas of the letter? All three of these methods use a secretary to transmit the message of the executive, and they clearly parallel the three conservative views of Scriptural inspiration and dual authorship. This multiple method approach is how biblical inspiration should be viewed. At times, inspiration is dynamic, other times it follows the verbal plenary approach, and on occasion, it is dictated; but no matter the method, it is all inspired.
The dual authorship of the Bible is a complex matter. In order to develop a solid understanding, one must examine ideas of inspiration, authority, infallibility, the canonization of Bible, and the Scripture itself. As this is a topic with a long history in the community of the Church, a review of the many theologians’ work on this subject will also prove beneficial. In this limited space and scope, an examination has been offered, but it is certainly not exhaustive. It is my hope that the reader will conduct further research on this matter.
Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries, vol. 21. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2009.
Calvin, John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.
Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005.
Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los Angles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1998.
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994.
Hiebert, D. Edmond. “The Prophetic Foundation for the Christian Life: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:19-21,” Bibliotheca Sarca 141, number 562 (1984): 158-168.
Lane, A. N. S. “B.B. Warfield and the Humanity of Scripture.” Vox Evangelica 16 (1968): 77-94.
Mayers, Ronald B. “Both/and: the uncomfortable apologetic.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23, number 3 (September 1980): 231-241.
Olson, Roger E. The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Poythress, Vern Sheridan. “Divine Meaning of Scripture.” Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986): 241-279.
Rowley, Harold Henry. “Authority and Scripture I.” Christian Century 78, number 9 (March 1, 1961): 263-265.
Smith, Stephen G. “What is Scripture? Pursuing Smith’s Question.” Anglican Theological Review, volume 90, issue 4 (2008): 753-775.
Strong, James, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson. The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001.
The New Interpreter's Bible, v.11. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 2000.
Wachler, Gottfried. “The Authority of Holy Scripture.” Concordia Journal no. 5 (1984): 171-180.
 Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 97.
 Ronald B. Mayers, “Both/and: the uncomfortable apologetic,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23 no 3 (September 1980), 232.
 Olsen, 90.
 Mayers, 232.
 Olson, 99.
 Ibid., 90.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 41-42.
 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1998), 231-233.
 Ibid., 231.
 Ibid., 232.
 Ibid., 231-232.
 Ibid., 232.
 Olson, 96.
 Erickson, 232.
 Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008), 25.
 Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 26-29.
 Duffiled, 25.
 Erickson, 240.
 Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001), 1242.
 Duffield, 25.
 Olson, 98.
 Duffield, 25.
 Erickson, 232.
 Wayne A. Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), 80.
 See Rev. 2:1, 2:8, and 2:12, for examples.
 Stephen G. Smith, “What is Scripture? Pursuing Smith’s Question,” Anglican Theological Review vol. 90, issue 4 (2008), 753-775.
 Erickson, 227.
 James Strong, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson, The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), 1615.
 The New Interpreter's Bible, v.11 (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 2000), 851.
 John Calvin. Calvin's Commentaries, vol. 21. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, trans. William Pringle (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2009), 248-249.
 Gottfried Wachler, “The Authority of Holy Scripture” Concordia Journal no. 5 (1984), 171.
 Grudem, 54-69.
 D.A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 726-742.
 Wachler, 178.
 Duffield, 23-24.
 Luke 1:1-4.
 2 Pet. 1:16-21.
 Olson, 96.
 D. Edmond Hiebert, “The Prophetic Foundation for the Christian Life: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:19-21,” Bibliotheca Sarca 141, no 562 (1984), 165.
 1 Cor. 2:13.
 1 Cor. 2:16.
 Vern Sheridan Poythress, “Divine Meaning of Scripture,” Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986), 252.
 Harold Henry Rowley, “Authority and Scripture I,” Christian Century 78, no 9 (March 1, 1961), 263.
 Olson, 104.
 A. N. S. Lane, “B.B. Warfield and the Humanity of Scripture,” Vox Evangelica 16 (1968), 80.
 Olson, 104.
 Duffield, 25.
 Erickson, 244.
 Olson, 98.
 Erickson, 243.