Basic Training: Baptism

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For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

 

Baptism can be a very controversial topic, especially when Christians who passionately hold differing views get together to discuss it. So, just a few parameters and caveats before we dive in:

💧 I am convinced from Scripture that Believer’s baptism by full immersion is the biblical understanding and method of baptism, so this is the view I will be presenting. I will not be argued out of this view and I don’t publish attacking comments. (Just trying to save you some time if you’re thinking of commenting in either of those veins.)

💧 I’m not going to attempt to present an explanation of any view of baptism other than my own. I prefer to leave that to others who hold those views, are more knowledgeable about them, and can present them better than I can. Please see the “Additional Resources” section at the end of this article.

💧 With the exception of baptismal regeneration, baptism is a secondary issue in biblical Christianity. It’s an important ordinance of the church, but should not preclude fellowship and cooperation between doctrinally sound Christians whose views differ.

💧 This article is a very general overview (this article series is called “Basic Training”) of baptism. I’m not attempting to cover every nuance of the topic. For more details about what your own church teaches about baptism, I encourage you to chat with your pastor or elders.


What is baptism? Why is it so important for Christians? What does getting wet have to do with being born again? There are lots of important things to understand about baptism.

The Bible on Baptism

When we want to learn about baptism, the first and best place to go is Scripture. Below are just a few of the passages that teach about baptism. (You can – and should – find and read more by searching baptize or baptism in a good concordance.) As you search the Scriptures on baptism, be sure to read them in context and ask these questions of the text: Who should be baptized? Why should someone be baptized? What is the meaning and significance of baptism? When should someone be baptized? How should someone be baptized?

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:13-17

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,
Matthew 28:19

And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 19:4-5 

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:41

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
Acts 16:30-33

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 8:12

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.
Romans 6:3-4

Church Mindsets and Modes

Different churches and denominations have differing beliefs about water baptism and perform it in different ways. The two most common theological approaches to baptism are paedo baptism (infant baptism) and credo baptism (“Believer’s baptism”- being baptized after you’ve publicly confessed Christ as Savior). Baptism may be administered by sprinkling (“aspersion”), pouring (“affusion”), or immersion (dunking someone partially or completely under the water in a baptistry or other body of water).

Baptism by full immersion symbolizes Christ’s death, burial (going down into the water) and resurrection (coming up out of the water), as well as the what has happened in the heart of someone who has been born again: we die to sin and are resurrected as new creatures in Christ. This is why you’ll often hear Baptist pastors say “buried with Christ in baptism” (as they immerse the person) “raised to walk in newness of life” (as they raise the person out of the water). Baptism by immersion is a visual picture of the gospel.

This is what a typical Baptist baptism (credo baptism by full immersion) looks and sounds like:

Why Get Baptized?

Much like saying the Pledge or belting out the Star Spangled Banner (although infinitely more significant and sacred) baptism is the way we publicly and unashamedly proclaim our salvation and allegiance to Christ and our intention to obediently follow Him. In the United States today, that may not seem so daring, but in New Testament times (as well as in many countries today where Christians are brutally persecuted), to be baptized was often to take a dangerous – even subversive – stand of loyalty to Christ.

Baptism is also our “initiation” into church membership – a statement that we wish to join ourselves to the church at large and to a local body of Believers. Many churches require that a person be baptized (or has previously been baptized into a church with biblical soteriology, or a church of the same denomination) before inviting that person into membership. Because baptism is a public declaration that one is a Believer, baptism is usually also a prerequisite for partaking of the Lord’s Supper (which should only be partaken of by Believers).

Every born again Believer should publicly declare her loyalty to Christ, her intention to follow Him obediently, and her identification with the local church by obeying Scripture’s command (see above) to be baptized. Baptism is neither optional nor trivial for Christians, and the New Testament knows nothing of unbaptized Believers. If you’re saved and reluctant to be baptized, examine your heart as to why this is the case, and talk to your pastor about it.

Why NOT Get Baptized?

💧 Don’t get baptized because you think it will save you, make you right with God, forgive your sins, or send you to Heaven. Baptism does not save anyone; the water doesn’t have any magic, holy, or salvific properties. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 

💧 Don’t get baptized just to become a member of a particular church. Your motivation for getting baptized should be obedience and loyalty to Christ. Church membership is secondary.

💧 Don’t get baptized just because everybody else is doing it, because someone is pressuring you to, or in order to please someone. Baptism is your personal declaration of faith in Christ. It should be something you want to do to in your walk with the Lord.

💧 Don’t think you need to get re-baptized every time you sin. That’s what repentance is for. Unless you come to the realization that you weren’t saved the first time you were baptized, baptism is a “one and done” thing just like salvation is.

💧 Don’t get baptized if you aren’t saved. Baptism is for people who are already saved.

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Baptism should be every Christian’s joyful celebration of his or her new life in Christ. Jesus was baptized. Jesus instructs His followers to be baptized. In baptism, we both follow Jesus’ example and obey His command. If you’re a born again Believer who’s never been baptized, what are you waiting for?


Additional Resources:

What is the importance of Christian baptism? at Got Questions

Baptism at Theopedia

Explaining Baptism in Children’s Language at Reformed Answers (A simple explanation of the Reformed/Presbyterian view of covenental paedo baptism.)

Understanding Baptism by John MacArthur

Biblical Case for the Lutheran Doctrine of Baptism by Chris Rosebrough

A Closer Look at Baptism by Bill Gordon (An overview of the Southern Baptist view of credo baptism by immersion.)

A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism by The United Methodist Church

Baptism at Christian Apologetics Research Ministry

Waters That Unite: Five Truths About Water Baptism at 9Marks

A Review of Justin Peters’ “Do Not Hinder Them”

 

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Throwback Thursday ~ Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word

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Originally published October 14, 2016

bad-fruit-trees

I hate having to warn women against false teachers. I really do. I would like nothing better than to write Bible studies all day long, but, like Jude said, sometimes contending for the faith is more urgent at the moment. Today, as it was in the New Testament church, false doctrine is rampant. You can hardly throw a rock out the sanctuary window without hitting a false teacher, particularly female false teachers.

Invariably, when I warn against a specific popular false teacher I get a few responses from disgruntled readers jumping to that teacher’s defense. (I understand where those feelings come from. I’ve had to hear hard, biblical truths about teachers I’ve followed, too. It’s no fun.) I tend to hear the same arguments over and over (which is one reason I wrote this article). But there’s one thing all of these arguments have in common:

They’re not based on rightly handled Scripture.
Sometimes they’re not based on Scripture at all.

As Christians, we are supposed to base everything we believe and teach upon the truth of Scripture. And the women defending these false teachers aren’t doing that. They’re basing their defense of a false teacher on twisted, out of context Scripture and/or their own opinions, feelings, experiences, and preferences.

Twisted Scripture:

Sometimes these ladies will try to appeal to Scripture to defend the false teacher. I applaud them for that. Genuinely. At least they know that we’re supposed to be basing what we say and do on the Bible. That’s a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, most of these attempts only reveal how poorly they’ve been taught the Bible by the false teachers who have trained them.

“Did you meet privately with this teacher before writing this article?”

“You’re just judging! The Bible says not to judge!”

“You’re creating division in the church!”

Most of the time these women have no idea where those Scriptures are found, or even precisely what they say, much less the context of the verses they’re appealing to. (In order not to misunderstand their intent, I usually have to respond by saying, “Are you referring to Matthew 18:15-20?” or “I’m sorry, could you tell me which verse you’re talking about?”) They don’t know or understand the Scripture they’re alluding to, they’re just repeating what they’ve heard from the false teacher (or her other followers) defending herself and lashing out at those who call her to account.

Nothing More than Feelings:

Perhaps more disturbing are the near-Stepford gushings of some defenders:

“I’ve never heard anything so mean! How could you say such things about this wonderful teacher?”

“I just love her and the way she teaches!”

“You’re just jealous of her success.”

“She’s been such a help and encouragement to me!”

These ladies don’t even attempt to bring the Bible into the discussion, and their loving support for the false teacher is often coupled with vitriolic, completely un-Christlike, devoid of any fruit of the Spirit, attacks on those who dare to question the false teacher. I like this person. I’ve had a positive experience with this person. I have good feelings and opinions about this person. And that – not the Bible – is what I’m basing my decision to follow her upon. How dare you speak against her?

And is it any wonder? When women sit under the teaching of pastors and teachers who skip through the Bible ripping verses out of context and twisting their meanings, who say “the Bible says” followed by their own agenda and imaginings, who point women back to themselves as their own authority, rather than Scripture, by basing their teachings on their own ideas and life experiences instead of the Bible, what do we expect?

Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (emphasis, mine)


Ladies, look at the fruits of these false teachers: women who believe false doctrine because they are unable to properly read, understand, and handle God’s word, and who base their belief system on their own feelings rather than on the authority of Scripture. That is bad fruit from a diseased tree.

Christian women must be properly trained in the Scriptures. How? By eradicating false teachers and all their sundry materials from our churches, homes, and Bible study classes. By properly training Sunday School and Bible study teachers. By teaching the women of our churches proper hermeneutics and sound doctrine. By exercising biblical church discipline against false teaching. And most of all, by reinstating the authority of Scripture to its rightful preeminence in our lives and in our churches.

It is imperative that we train Christians to understand and embrace that Scripture alone decides what we believe, which teachers we allow into our churches and our lives, and how we are to worship and practice the Christian faith. Basing these things on our feelings, opinions, and preferences is folly, a house built on the sand, because our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick, and we will always trend toward having our ears tickled with smooth words rather than having our souls pierced by the sharp two edged sword of God’s word. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Your word is truth.” And, indeed it is. It is the only trustworthy basis for life, faith, and doctrine that will never lead us astray. When our feelings and opinions rise up against God’s word, God’s word wins.

May we hold high the banner of Sola Scriptura, training the precious souls of women to understand and submit to the authority of God’s word, that one day, bad fruit and diseased trees might become a thing of the past.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 2

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Previous Lessons: 1

(By way of reminder, this study will be slightly different from our regular studies. We will be taking a more in depth look at the passages of Genesis that focus on the women we’ll be studying and a more generalized overview of the passages in between. Those “in between” passages may be somewhat lengthy, so instead of reprinting them here, I will be linking to those longer passages on Bible Gateway. Simply click on “Read Genesis X:Y-Z” to start reading.)

📖📖📖📖📖

Read Genesis 1:1-2:17

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Questions to Consider

1. What is the theme of Genesis 1 and 2? Some people think that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two separate accounts of Creation. Is this true? Explain how Genesis 1 and 2 fit together.

2. Make a list of the attributes and characteristics of God you see in Genesis 1 and 2. Describe the relationship between God and His creation. In what ways do we see the creation submitting to its Creator? Examine what verses 1:2, 1:26, and John 1:1-3 tell us about an important aspect of God’s nature. Describe the ways we see each member of the Trinity present and involved in Creation.

3. What are some specific ways Genesis 1 and 2 stand in opposition to evolution, the Big Bang Theory, etc.? Did God leave anything imperfect or incomplete on any of the days of creation? How do the “good”ness (1:31) and perfection of Creation reflect the goodness and perfection of God?

4. What method did God use (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24) for creating everything except man? What method did God use for creating man? (2:7-8) What does this demonstrate about the uniqueness of human beings as well as God’s special love and care for humans?

5. What sets human beings apart from the rest of creation? (1:26-27) What does it mean to be made in the “image” and “likeness” of God? What responsibilities and instructions did God give Adam and Even when He created them? (1:28-30)

6. Summarize 2:7-15 in your own words. What do we learn about God, the earth, and Adam from this passage?

7. Who is God instructing in 2:15-17? Was Eve present for these instructions? What did God tell Adam in these verses? Why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Eden if He didn’t want Adam to eat from it? How might God have been using this tree to teach Adam to trust, obey, honor, and submit to Him? What should God’s instruction about this tree have taught Adam about God’s authority and His right to rule over both Adam and all of Creation?


Homework

For the next six days, choose something God created on each one of the six days of Creation. Write down how that thing brings glory to God, how it reflects God’s nature or attributes, and how you or another Christian could use it to spread the gospel, build up the church, encourage or teach others, etc. Pray, thanking God for that part of His Creation.


Suggested Memory Verse

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

Testimony Tuesday: Stories from Several Sisters 2

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On today’s Testimony Tuesday,
several sisters in Christ share their stories.

Miss Prissy’s Story

“Eddie and Allen interview Prissy Wallace, a lady who has been walking with the Lord about 45 years. Hear her testimony and how she has dealt with physical blindness for the past 4 decades. She offers some words of hope and encouragement to fellow Believers as well as some of her insights on the local church today.” 

Give Miss Prissy’s testimony a listen on the Rural Church Podcast.


Sonja’s Story

Sonja commented on Facebook…

I wasn’t saved until I was 50. I had no Christian friends (my BFF had false salvation and lived in Dallas; me in Seattle). I HAD to be with His people, but not a clue how to go about that; i.e., finding a church. Keep in mind I was raised by atheists.

I decided to go to a Calvary Chapel (it was a start I guess). I asked my BFF if I had to make a reservation!

The point of the story though is not only a repentant sinner, but this intense hunger to be with my brothers and sisters. Totally ignorant of all things God. First step in learning, along with love and encouragement.

Thanks from bringing up a nice memory. He is so good to us!


Amy Jo’s Story

If you’ve been looking long and hard for a solid church,
be encouraged by Amy Jo’s story!

I wanted to let you know we found a wonderful church home!! I knew right away it would be the church for us when I saw a Lighthouse Trail Research booklet on the back table!! It’s a very friendly small church that sings hymns! No worship band! And the sanctuary is nice and bright so we can actually read our Bibles with the pastor’s encouragement! The pastor faithfully teaches sound Bible doctrine! Thanks for all your encouragement! I do appreciate what you are doing!


Leah’s Story

Leah commented on my article
Women and False Teachers:
Why Men Don’t Get It and Why It’s Imperative that They Do

Back when I was “preaching”, I actually worked on a sermon that had many of these points. I never finished it because I met you online and was rescued from that sin (PRAISE GOD!!!). But after reading this post, I went back and dug up my notes from that sermon. Here are some (not fully fleshed out) thoughts on the truths you brought to light.

1. Unbelief was at the root of Lucifer’s rebellion and it informed his theology. He didn’t believe that God was supreme and sovereign, that God had the right as the Creator to rule over His creation.

2. Lucifer spread his theology among the hosts of heaven and was successful—at least with one-third of the angels.

3. Satan had no plans to stop spreading his theology once he was cast down to earth. He chose Eve for the reasons you already detailed in your post.

4. Before Eve encountered the serpent, she was obedient. But once she took her eyes off God and His Word, she was was vulnerable to Satan’s theology.

5. Eve sinned because she was deceived by Satan’s unbelief-based theology and allowed it to inform HER theology.

Isn’t this exactly how false teachers operate? They all have some form of unbelief that informs their theology. They are not content with what’s in God’s Word. They are not content with how God chooses to speak to us through His Word. They are not content to simply obey what God’s Word tells us to do. They…want…MORE!

Some of these false teachers want to have a “special” relationship with God because they are insecure, lonely, unhappy, dissatisfied with their lot in life. So they succumb to their flesh and to the deception of the devil and create a fantasy world where they receive “special” revelation from God, where they are God’s “special” emissary. They act as if they are post-Biblical canon “prophetesses” who are simply “helping” their sisters in Christ live the lives that they “deserve” to live here on earth.

But many of these false teachers are even worse. Though they would never admit it, in the depths of their souls what they really want is to replace God in the lives of their “disciples.” They want to be worshiped. They want to be adored. They want their disciples to “contend for the faith”—at least their distorted, unbiblical brand of faith—by rabidly going after anyone who denounces their pre-packaged Bible study goddess. This brand of false teachers is as dangerous to Christian women as the serpent was to Eve.

I had to fight this battle in my own life first. And now it’s time to take it to my local body of baptized believers. I pray to be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove as I war against false teaching amongst a group of older women who have been steeped in this evil for years.

Thank you, Michelle, for your Spirit-given insights. May we all war against false teaching and false teachers in a way that glorifies God and accomplishes His purposes. And while doing so, may we lead with love, showing compassion, but not contempt, for our sisters who are caught up in these lies.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

The Mailbag: Should I attend seminary?

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For the past few months, I’ve felt a strong desire to attend seminary. After a lot of prayer, Scripture reading, and reaching out to my pastor and trusted, older, Godly friends for counsel, I began the process of applying [to a doctrinally sound seminary].

I’m in my early 30s, have never been married, and have no children. I lead middle school youth girls, women, and children in various classes at church, and work as a part time staff member in my church. I have a strong desire to pursue further education, and to teach and lead women and students. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of going to seminary.

I would like to know your thoughts about how a woman might know for sure she is being called to full-time ministry and what part attending seminary should or could play in that.

Great question, and one I wish more doctrinally sound women were asking!

Some might wonder, “What is the point of a woman getting a seminary degree if she can’t, biblically, become a pastor, elder, or exercise authority over men in the church?”. Because there are tons of other ways women can serve the Body of Christ, maybe in parachurch ministries or missions or as an author, or maybe by simply striving for godly excellence as a Christian woman, wife, mom, or church member.

Learning as much as you possibly can about the Bible, the church, and Christianity is never a waste, even if you don’t go into some sort of formal, paid position of ministry. If you’re a woman with time and resources on your hands, I’d encourage you to consider taking a seminary class or two, or even getting a degree, just for all the valuable things you’ll learn. Some seminaries will allow non-students to audit courses. Others offer degree and certificate programs specifically designed for women, online degree programs, and free online (non-degree) classes. A couple of good ones to check out are Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. The Master’s University, while not a seminary, offers many courses and degree programs which are open to women. (The Master’s Seminary does not admit women as their scope is limited to preparing men for the pastorate.) Ligonier Ministries doesn’t offer a seminary degree program, but does offer many theologically rich online classes.

Whether you opt for a non-credit online course or move into campus housing and pursue a degree, be sure you keep your discernment radar on high alert, even at a doctrinally sound seminary. Believe it or not, even multi-degreed seminary professors can lack discernment or teach unbiblical doctrine. Don’t be intimidated by a string of letters and decades of experience behind someone’s name. If what he’s saying doesn’t match up with rightly handled, in context Scripture, he’s wrong.

Now let’s address a few of the more specific points the reader mentioned:

I think we way over-mysticalize this whole “call to ministry” thing. We think there’s got to be some kind of supernatural “road to Damascus” experience that we can point back to and say, “There! That’s the moment God ‘called’ me into ministry!”. But the Bible doesn’t really talk about a call to ministry in those kinds of terms. Remember, the account of Paul’s (and other Bible characters’) conversion and call experience is descriptive, not prescriptive. The prescriptive passage looks like this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1

No mention of God speaking to you or a particular feeling or goose bumps or feeling “a peace about it.” Scripture just says if a man has the desire to be a pastor, that’s a good and noble goal. Just an objective statement of fact. So, by the same underlying principle, if a woman wants to dedicate her life to full time ministry, that’s a good desire.

The next step is to see if you’re biblically qualified to be in full time ministry. Simply wanting to be in ministry does not mean you should be in ministry or that God thinks you’re qualified to be in ministry. A few biblical passages any woman considering seminary or a career in ministry should consider:

📖 1 Timothy 2:11-15 You cannot, without sinning, pursue the office of pastor, elder, associate pastor, or any other position which requires you to teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men, in the gathered body of Believers. If you’re a woman who’s going to seminary in order to pursue such a position, you are already biblically disqualified from ministry.

📖 Galatians 5:22-23 How’s your fruit looking? If your life generally doesn’t reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, you’re probably not ready for seminary or ministry. (In fact, you might want to examine yourself against Scripture to see if you’re really saved.)

📖 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 These may be qualifications specifically for pastors, elders, and deacons (which are all offices restricted to men) but the underlying principles would extend to anyone in a position of Christian leadership, and nearly all of them apply to Christians in general. Indeed, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15 that he is writing these things so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”

📖 Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 If you are married and/or have children, Scripture is clear that it is your primary calling to be a helper to your husband, raise godly children, and manage your household well. Any seminary classes or degrees or ministry positions you pursue may not interfere with or impede your first calling. Additionally, if your husband objects to you attending seminary or pursuing a career in ministry, Scripture mandates that you submit to him and respect his decision.

📖 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 If you’re single with no children, God has given you the precious gift of being able to serve and focus solely on Him, and it may be the perfect time for you to attend seminary or serve Him in full time ministry. 

If you have a strong desire to attend seminary or pursue a career in ministry and you meet the biblical qualifications, the next step is exactly what our reader has done: pray about it, search the Scriptures, seek wise counsel, consider and evaluate the ministry you’re already doing in your church (If you don’t already love being a faithful, serving member of a local church, why on earth would you want to go to seminary or into full time ministry?), realize that there are a lot of things about ministry that are difficult and that seminary doesn’t prepare you for, and if you still want to go to seminary or seek out a ministry position, trust God to guide you and go for it.

Yes, it really is that simple. Desiring to dedicate your life to the service of our Lord or to study more about Him in seminary is a good and God-pleasing desire. If you can accomplish those goals within the parameters Scripture has laid out for godly women, why wouldn’t you pursue it?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church

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The mingled aromas of cakes and cookies, chips and dips and pasta salads, wafted from the kitchen into the living room and wove its way through the the quiet din of treble voices and joyful laughter sharing stories and recipes and tales of the work week.

Sunday School ladies were in the house.

I had invited them over for a time of fellowship and a brief discussion to gauge their interest in a women’s Bible study class I’d been hoping to start. Would any of them want to attend a weekly women’s Bible study? Which day of the week would be best? Morning or evening? Which book of the Bible or biblical topic would they like to study? My questions were met with a few polite and perfunctory answers until one of the ladies bravely ventured, “You know, we have good, solid preaching at our church, and we get great Bible study every week in our Sunday School class, but we never get to just sit around and visit and get to know each other better like we’re doing tonight. I think we need that more than another Bible study class.”

If I still had a hoop and could remember how to make a French knot, I’d embroider that on a pillow. Or maybe a pew cushion. She was right.

In recent years we’ve been privy to numerous churches who seem to be on mission to transform themselves into Six Flags Over Jesus. Pastors who deliver stand up comedy routines instead of preaching the Word. Helicopters dropping Easter eggs for the annual hunt. Disney-designed fire truck baptistries, video games, and bubble machines in the children’s department. Car, sports tickets, and vacation pacakge giveaways. Over the top Christmas variety shows. The evangeltainment force is strong on the high places.

But while churches need to be careful not to fall into the ditch of foolish fluff and worldliness, neither should doctrinally sound churches jump into the ditch on the other side of the road of turning every single church get together into a Bible study, worship service, or outreach project.

Some of you ladies are gasping in holy horror. (Don’t try to deny it. I can hear you.)

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Please. I am by no stretch of the imagination suggesting that churches should turn into amusement parks like the ones cited above. I’m not saying we shouldn’t hold copious numbers of worship services and Bible studies and outreach projects. We absolutely should. Preaching, teaching, discipleship, and evangelism should be the main focus of the church.

What I’m saying is that – in the hustle and bustle of studying and serving – we need to make sure we’re also leaving space for brothers and sisters in Christ to simply spend unprogrammed time together. Growing to know one another more intimately. Sharing our little everyday joys and sorrows. Laughing together. Deeply loving one another. Blowing off steam and having a little fun.

Those things don’t happen while we’re listening to a sermon, paying attention to a Sunday School lesson, or busily working on an outreach task. But they’re a vital part of growing in Christ together. As a family.

One of the many reasons local church membership isn’t optional for Christians is that it places us in the required environment for practicing the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. But how can we “through love serve one another” if we don’t know a sister well enough to know how best to serve her? How can we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” if we never take the time to sit down with each other and find out what those burdens are?

If your church has solid biblical preaching, doctrinally sound Sunday School or Bible study classes, members who joyfully serve the Body when opportunities are presented, and who share the gospel with the lost, it’s OK to have the occasional event that doesn’t revolve around those activities, and instead provides the opportunity for simple fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ. A church picnic. A men’s breakfast. A ladies’ night out. A potluck dinner on the grounds. A coffee klatch. A Christmas party.

And it’s not necessary to turn any of these events into a Bible study.

Why? Because when Christians get together, the talk invariably and organically turns to things of a spiritual nature.

I gave a lot of thought to what the lady from my Sunday School class said at our fellowship that evening. And instead of planning a weekly Bible study, I started planning the occasional ladies’ night out – a simple dessert fellowship at my house, or dinner at a restaurant. Every time we get together, we inevitably end up talking about spiritual matters. Once, we spontaneously gathered around and prayed for a sister who had shared some things she was struggling with. Another time, we brought up some Scriptures to encourage one of the ladies who was walking through a particular issue with her child. We’ve discussed and recommended good godly books (and warned against some) to each other. We’ve laughed a lot, and sometimes cried, but mostly, grown…together.

People talk about what they’re most passionate about. And Christians are most passionate about the things of God. We need to be sure we’re trusting and believing that, not fearing that if we don’t have a devotion at our dinner, or have our coffee in one hand while doing a missions project with the other, that church members will suddenly abandon Christ and start dancing around the Asherah pole. And we need to know God well enough to know that He is not somehow displeased when His people simply interact with each other over whatever comes to mind without a biblical outline and three commentaries on the table.

Also unbiblical and, thus, spiritually unhealthy, is the mindset that if we’re not meeting for organized preaching, teaching, or ministering, we have no reason for meeting at all. Not true. When I hear from women who attend doctrinally sound churches with that attitude, what I most commonly hear from them is that they’re lonely. They have no one they can call, or talk to, or pray with when they have a problem to sort out or joyful news to share because they don’t feel close enough to anybody in their church. That’s a crying shame. No healthy Christian in a doctrinally sound church should regularly feel isolated and lonely.

Good preaching, teaching, and outreach are imperative for every church. But so are the heart to heart relationships between Believers in the Body. So do the studying, listen to the preaching, and work your fingers to the bone serving, but don’t leave out fun and fellowship. All Word and no play makes for an unbalanced, unhealthy church.

Throwback Thursday ~ Adam 3.0: Meanwhile, Back in the Garden, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

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Originally published June 26, 2014Adam 3.0

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
1 Timothy 2:12-14

Because it’s my passion to see Christian women become holy, passionate, obedient disciples of Jesus Christ, I’ve dealt with this passage a lot and done a lot of research on it. Scripture is crystal clear that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures in the church in the capacity of pastor or teacher, nor are they to hold authority over men in other positions in the church. (I’ve outlined Scripture’s case for this here if you’d like to do some further study.) And, unfortunately, there are many women in the church who are disobeying this Scripture (I used to be one of them)– some out of rebellion, and some out of ignorance. But until recently, I –and every other piece of information I’ve studied on the subject– have dealt with the issue of women stepping outside their God-ordained role in the church strictly as a women’s issue.

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked for my opinion on a Q&A video produced by a well known pastor. The pastor was asked, “Is it a sin for men to listen to women speakers [female Christian conference speakers, pastors, teachers, etc.]?”

And that’s when it hit me. I’d never heard this question addressed, or even asked, before. First Timothy 2:12ff is always dealt with from the perspective of women and towards women, that this is a women’s sin issue.

But to treat this role rebellion strictly as the sin of women is to pour gasoline on the fire. If it’s a singularly women’s problem, then it naturally falls on women with a right understanding of God’s word on the issue to deal with it, right? And if these women are the ones who have to confront and deal with this sin, even at the local church level, they’re being placed smack dab in the misappropriated role they’re trying to fight because they’re being asked to do the job of elders and pastors whose responsibility it is to maintain order and discipline in the church.

In other words, my Christian brothers, it’s not your discerning sisters’ job to handle this sin of role busting in the church. It’s yours.

The fact that there’s even a need for an article like this, never mind that a woman is writing it, is indicative of the pervasiveness of the problem. Why haven’t I heard any pastors or other Christian men exhorting men in the church to stand on God’s word, properly fill out their own role in the church, and also deal with the problem of female disobedience to this Scripture? Why are Christian men becoming accomplices to women’s sin by seeking out female pastors and teachers to be their spiritual leaders? I believe there are three reasons:

1. Adam 3.0
Give Genesis 3–the story of the Fall–a read through the lenses of 1 Timothy 2:12. See any similarites between what happened in the Garden and what’s happening in the church?

The man is off somewhere, not fulfilling his role of spiritual guardian, leader, and protector, leaving the woman alone and vulnerable to Satan’s attack. Satan tempts the woman to sin and she succumbs. The woman then entices the man to sin, and instead of standing on God’s word, refusing to sin, and correcting her, he actually joins her in her sin. And when God calls the man to account for this whole scenario, what does the man do? He blames the woman.

Was Eve responsible for her decision to sin? Of course. That’s why we even have 1 Timothy 2:12-14 in the Bible. But God gave the man the authority and God held the man ultimately responsible. That’s why we see passages like Romans 5:12-14 (and others) attributing the sin in the Garden to Adam rather than Eve.

While there are many faithful pastors and Christian men out there diligently laboring to be godly teachers and leaders in the church–and praise God for those men!–there is a large and increasing number of men in our churches, both pastors and laymen, who are failing to fulfill the role God has called men to in the church. Pastors who will only preach what tickles people’s ears. Men who sit in the pews refusing to teach or serve or lead or even attend faithfully.

As it was in the Garden, the Christian men are nowhere to be found as Satan creeps into the church and attacks women with this temptation. And, as God called out then, could He be calling out now, “אָדָם, – Adam- Man, where are you“?

2. Men are lazy.
I know that sounds harsh, but, guys, before you get your boxers in a bunch, please hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that all men are lazy or that women are never lazy or that men are lazy in every aspect of their lives. What I’m saying is that, in this particular instance of women stepping outside God’s role for them in the church, too many men are sitting back with the attitude that, hey, if somebody else is willing to do the work why not let her? Instead, women (not to mention boys and younger men) should be seeing men in the church step up and say, “I’ll study hard so I’ll be equipped to teach that class.” “I’ll preach the sermon, not my wife.” “I’ll be willing to shoulder the load God has given me instead of pushing it off on a woman.”

3. Men are afraid of women. 
Not afraid of them physically, but afraid of the ones who will make a scene, cause strife, split churches, get pastors fired, and generally make life hell on earth for anyone who dares to put his foot down firmly on the word of God and say, “You’re in disobedience. You need to repent and step down.” I know these women (and, of course, there are men who do this, too). I have had plenty of them come after me, and, having a husband who’s been in ministry for over 20 years, I’ve seen plenty of them attack pastors, staff, deacons, etc., and I don’t blame men for feeling scared. But men, Jesus has called you to defend His Bride from all enemies, both foreign and domestic, and feeling scared doesn’t excuse you from doing what’s right and biblical. Look to the courage Jesus exhibited on His way to the cross. Look at Peter, Paul, James, and the other apostles as your example of valor as they chose flogging, hardship, jail, and martyrdom over compromising the word of God.

And a special word of encouragement to pastors: your church doesn’t need someone who’s afraid to rock the boat, even if that’s what they want, and even if your job is on the line. It needs a man who will stand for Christ, no matter the cost to him personally or vocationally. You can’t call your people to do that in their own lives if you aren’t willing to do it in yours. The God who was strong enough to save you out of the pit of hell is strong enough to find you another job and provide for your family. Be faithful to preach and carry out the word in season and out of season. You can do it. Trust Christ. He’s got you.

 

God has given women a phenomenal, and much needed, role in the church. He has given men a different, yet equally phenomenal and much needed role in the church. For the local church to function in a healthy way, both men and women have to fill out our own roles correctly. And, guys, we ladies can’t and shouldn’t have to do your job in addition to ours.

I realize this is a more stringent tone than I usually take. Peter, Paul and the other apostles probably raised some eyebrows when they used a stringent tone, too. But when a house is burning down, the fireman doesn’t tiptoe in, hand you flowers, and politely request that you, pretty please, come with him. And that’s where we are in the church. The house is burning down around us. And, in the end, this article is not meant to be a castigation of pastors or other Christian men, but an impassioned plea from a church lady who wants to see her sisters make it out alive.

Help us. Please. Be the heroic men of God that you have the right, the calling, and the responsibility to be. Because, despite what some of the women of your church might say, that’s what we, and the body of Christ, so desperately need.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 1

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Welcome to our new study, The Women of Genesis! Over the next few months, we’ll read through the entire book of Genesis, stopping along the way to give special attention to women like Eve, Sarah, Rachel, and others. We’ll examine their roles in biblical history, how their stories point us to Christ, and what we can learn from them as Christian women, wives, or mothers today.

Many thanks to those who worked so hard on their entries for our title pic contest. I’ve selected the lovely image above, by Cheryl Toepfer, as the official title picture for this study. As Cheryl explains:

When I took this photo, my thought was that no matter the photo subject, the light is always the star of the show…If you notice the petals on the flower, they are marred. One is torn. But the light in the photo makes this daisy pop right out of the frame, and it’s easy to ignore its imperfections. That’s how I see the women in Genesis: marred and torn by sin, but made beautiful and useful because of their faith in God. Which is our story today as well! We are lights in the world because of Christ’s saving and sanctifying work in our lives–in spite of our sin nature!

For more beautiful photography, follow Cheryl on Facebook or Instagram.

Thanks also go to these two “honorable mention” entries:


by Trace Hanson

by Augusta Lee Branch


Introduction to The Women of Genesis

Before we begin studying a book of the Bible, it’s very important that we understand some things about that book. We need to know…

Who the author was and anything we might be able to find out about him or his background.

Who the audience of the book is: Jews or Gentiles? Old Testament Israelites or New Testament Christians? This will help us understand the author’s purpose and approach to what he’s writing.

What kind of biblical literature we’re looking at. We approach books of history differently than books of wisdom, books of wisdom differently than books of prophecy, etc.

What the purpose of the book is. Was it written to encourage? Rebuke? Warn?

What the historical backdrop is for the book. Is Israel at war? At peace? In exile? Under a bad king? Good king? Understanding the historical events surrounding a piece of writing help us understand what was written and why it was written.

When the book was written. Where does the book fall on the timeline of biblical history? This is especially important for Old Testament books which are not always arranged in chronological order.

So this week, before we start studying the actual text of the book of Genesis, we need to lay the foundation to understanding the book by finding the answers to these questions.

Read the following overviews of the book of Genesis, taking notes on anything that might aid your understanding of the book, and answer the questions below:

Bible Introductions: Genesis at Grace to You

Overview of the Book of Genesis at Reformed Answers

Book of Genesis at Got Questions

1. Who wrote the book of Genesis? How do we know this? What does the title “Genesis” mean in Hebrew?

2. Approximately when was Genesis written, and what is the approximate time span this book covers? Where, geographically, do the events in Genesis take place? Here are some maps (scroll down to “Genesis”) that may be helpful as you study through the book of Genesis.

3. Who is the original, intended audience of the book of Genesis?

4. Which genre of biblical literature is the book of Genesis: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, or prophecy/apocalyptic? What does this this tell us about the approach we should take when studying this book versus our approach to books of other genres?

5. What is the theme or purpose of the book of Genesis?

6. Who are some of the main characters and what are some of the major events in the book of Genesis? How do these stories relate to the theme of Genesis?

7. What are some ways Genesis points to and connects to Jesus?

8. What else did you learn about Genesis or the setting of this book that might help you understand the text of the book better?

Upcoming Events: Let’s Meet and Greet!

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It’s always so much fun for me when I can get out on the road and meet some of my online brothers and sisters face to face. Here are a couple of upcoming events where we might be able to do just that!

January 18-20, 2018
G3 Conference
Atlanta, Georgia

For almost a year, I’ve been desperately hoping to attend the 2018 G3 Conference, but travel expenses plus the cost of the conference put that event out of my reach. Recently, I won complimentary tickets to G3 in a Wretched Radio contest, which will allow a good friend to travel with me and split expenses. What a blessing! I am THERE!

The biggest reason I had been wanting to attend this conference is the theme: discipleship. Since my ministry centers around women’s discipleship, I see this as sort of an “in service” training event. An opportunity to sit under fabulous teachers like Steve Lawson, Phil Johnson, Justin Peters, Martha Peace (and many more!) and learn how to serve you, my dear readers, as well as the ladies of my own church, better.

I’m hoping to do a very informal, low key, meet and greet time for my readers at the conference venue (The Georgia International Conference Center) either before or between sessions on one of the three conference days. I probably won’t be able to give much advance notice on the blog, so be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the time and place.

I’ve only been to Atlanta once, briefly, so if you live in the area and have any travel, traffic, hotel, or restaurant advice or if there are any discounts you know of that would be helpful, I’m all ears! Please comment below or e-mail me at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com. (We will be driving in, not flying.)

If my ministry has blessed you and you’d like to be a blessing in return by helping to defray the costs of my trip, your generosity would be much appreciated. Please click here or on the “Financial Support” tab at the top of this page.

Hope to see you at G3!

(Save the Date card courtesy of Providence Baptist Church)

February 24, 2018
Providence Baptist Church Women’s Conference
Arlington, Tennessee

Sorry guys, this one is just for the ladies!

Ladies, Providence Baptist Church of Bartlett would like to invite you to attend their Women’s Ministry Spring Gathering where I’ll be speaking on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the morning and afternoon sessions:

Saturday, February 24, 2018
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Providence Baptist Church of Bartlett

Tickets are $15 for members of PBC, $20 for for non-members. A catered lunch is included in the cost of your ticket. Space is limited, so call (901-937-5115) or e-mail (info@pbcbartlett.org) the church today for further details.

I’m looking forward to meeting the ladies of Providence Baptist, and you too!

Sometime
Somewhere in YOUR Area

I’d love to come meet and speak to the ladies of your area, too! Putting together a women’s conference, banquet, or other event for 2018 and need a doctrinally sound speaker? I’ve got several slots left on my calendar. Check out the Speaking Engagements tab at the top of this page for more info. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing you soon!

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Female officiant, JMac attack, Google 101…)

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Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


I noticed you’ve written lists of recommended teachers and false teachers. Just curious if you could help in the same way with Contemporary Christian music and artists.

I took a stab at that in my article False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music. I will add any CCM artists I stumble across in the future that I think need to be warned against or recommended, but I’m afraid that article is going to be the extent of any “list” of doctrinally sound or unsound Christian musicians. It’s not an issue I research much, and CCM isn’t a music genre I enjoy listening to. I’m really more of a podcast gal. I would, however, highly recommend the Additional Resources I’ve listed at the end of that article as well as the comments section.


I was recently invited to a wedding where the officiant will be a female “pastor”. I’m not close to the bride, but I honestly can’t bear the thought of attending even if we were close. Your thoughts, please?

This is really less of a biblical question than it is an etiquette question. Fortunately for all of us, I have read a lot of Miss Manners in my day :0)

Since you’re not close to her, that makes things a lot easier than if it were a family member or close friend. If the invitation contains an RSVP card, you can just send it back with “regrets” or “will not attend” (or whatever) marked and not say anything else about it.

If it’s a situation like she’s a co-worker you see face to face frequently and she asks point blank if you’re coming, you could say something, like “I’m so sorry, but I have a conflict that prevents me from attending.” It’s not necessary to go into any further detail.

If she’s pushy and presses you about it, you could either say something like, “I’m sorry, it’s personal,” or you could kindly, gently, and briefly get into the actual theology of why a woman shouldn’t be serving in the position of pastor, explain that this conflicts with your beliefs as a Christian, and that you wouldn’t feel comfortable attending. Ask God to give you wisdom as to what is the best approach with this particular person.

Just bear in mind, a social invitation isn’t a subpoena and it’s really nobody’s business why you won’t be attending.


Can a church use Hillsong or Bethel/Jesus Culture music in the worship service as long as the lyrics of the particular songs that are selected don’t conflict with the Bible?

If I were queen of the evangelical world and it were up to me to make a binding law about this, my answer would be no. No church would use any music by any heretical organization or doctrinally unsound musician. I briefly addressed my reasons for this in my article False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music:

It’s imperative for churches to be discerning about the CCM they use in worship. If Jane Churchmember hears a CCM song in church and likes it, she’s likely to Google the song (probably right there in church- I’ve done it!), find out who sings it, and begin following that artist. Worship pastors who use CCM have a responsibility to vet the artists who perform the songs they select for the worship service to make sure they’re not sending Jane into the arms of a heretic. Additionally, music costs money, and you don’t want your church’s offerings supporting false doctrine.

I think the principles and Scriptures in this article generally apply to this question as well: Four Reasons Why It Matters Who We Share, Pin, and Re-Tweet


Today on Facebook, I saw a post saying John MacArthur is a false teacher. Can you enlighten me please? After being part of your blog and being more discerning of who I read, I’m bummed. I even purchased the John MacArthur ESV Study Bible on your recommendation and also read the Grace To You blog.

Let me start by saying this: Just because someone (including me) says a certain teacher is a false teacher doesn’t mean you should automatically believe her.

I can assure you that John MacArthur is not a false teacher. In fact, he is one of the finest and most doctrinally sound teachers out there today, and I highly recommend him. But you shouldn’t just blindly take my word for that any more than you should just blindly take the word of the Facebook post you saw that says he is a false teacher. You shouldn’t believe anything in Christianity because a person says so, but because the Bible says so. Every Christian should be discerning about every sermon she listens to, every book she reads, and every pastor or teacher she follows, including the pastor at her own church. We must each practice biblical discernment for ourselves, comparing everything to rightly handled Scripture and discarding anything that doesn’t match up to what the Bible says in context.

I’m not familiar with the Facebook page you mentioned by name in your e-mail, but my guess is that it is a group that incorrectly and unbiblically believes that Reformed theology (or Calvinism) is false doctrine. John MacArthur is a Calvinist, so naturally they believe he is a false teacher. They’re judging his sound doctrine by their own false doctrine. That’s what people who hold to false doctrine do. Extreme anti-Calvinists believe Calvinists are false teachers, New Apostolic Reformationists believe doctrinally sound cessationists are false teachers, Catholics believe that Protestants are false teachers, and so on. It helps to know what kind theology (or false theology) someone is coming from when he labels a person as a false teacher.

I would encourage you to do the biblical work of discernment for yourself. Compare John MacArthur’s materials to Scripture and be convinced by God’s written Word whether or not you should follow him.

Here are a couple of articles I think you will find helpful on this issue:

Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own


You had this Google result that talks about Kelly Minter supporting gay marriage:

I have searched the Internet and your website and I can’t find it. I’m thinking of doing her Bible study on Nehemiah but don’t want to do it if this information is true so I need to see her exact quote myself in order to decide.

This is the first time I’ve received a question like this, but it concerns me that a lack of understanding of how Google works might lead someone to think I’ve said something I haven’t, and if there are others out there who are drawing the same kinds of conclusions as this reader just because they need a little help understanding the mechanics of Google, I’m glad to give a little tutorial.

It looks like you may have Googled something like “Does Kelly Minter support homosexual marriage?” but didn’t click on my article that popped up.

(Here’s the top result I got when I Googled the phrase “Does Kelly Minter support homosexual marriage”.)

When you Google something, Google pulls the key words from your search and that’s what it displays in boldtype in the result. You have to click on the article and read it to get the full picture.

Here is the direct link to my article that contains information about Kelly Minter. My article doesn’t say Kelly Minter supports homosexual marriage, but there is another teacher in the article who does. Your Google result pulled Kelly Minter’s name from the section on her and the “supports homosexual marriage” phrase from the section on Rachel Held Evans.

To my knowledge, Kelly Minter does not support homosexual marriage, however, I would still urge you not to use her materials for the reasons given in the article. Just because someone doesn’t support homosexual marriage doesn’t mean everything else she’s teaching is biblical, and this is certainly the case with Kelly Minter. Her materials would be detrimental to your spiritual growth. I would strongly recommend that you simply pick up the Bible and study it for yourself rather than relying on someone else’s book.

You might find the “Popular False Teachers” tab, “Recommended Bible Teachers” tab, and “Bible Study” tab (all at the very top of this page) helpful.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.