What is True Baptism?

When were you baptized?

Doesn’t that seem like a simple question?

And yet, in my pastoral experience, baptism is the second most complicated and emotionally charged experience I get to work through with new church members.

Fundamental but Potentially Perplexing

Baptism is one of the core identifying marks of a Christian. Jesus Christ gave His disciples (i.e. Christians) two ordinances (or sacraments) – baptism and the Lord’s Supper (or communion). These two signs serve as the Christ-instituted distinguishing marks of Christian discipleship (Matthew 26:26-29, 28:18-20; Luke 22:14-20).

But, who should be baptized? Some say only adult Christians. Some say professing believers at any age. Some say adult Christians and their infant children.

Where should someone be baptized? Many people have been baptized in a church baptistry, a formal place within a church building designated for performing baptisms. Many others have been baptized outdoors, in lakes, ponds, rivers, oceans, and even swimming pools. Still others were baptized in some creative way, using a livestock trough or another repurposed container.

Who should perform the baptism? Throughout history, most Christians were baptized by an officially recognized minister. Recently, it has become more common for non-commissioned Christians to perform baptisms, though this is still far from the norm.

Should anyone ever get “re-baptized”? Many Evangelicals – especially in the fading Bible-belt of southern America – testify to having been baptized multiple times. It is quite common for me (I pastor a rural church in East Texas) to hear someone describe their experiences of having been “baptized” once as a youngster and again at some later point in life, often as part of something they call “rededication.”

As I said, baptism can become a complicated matter when you’re talking with someone about their own experience and trying to square that with the teaching from Scripture. So, I won’t try to answer every possible question about baptism here. Instead, I’d like to offer what I think are four indispensable elements of biblical baptism.

Some Useful Information

The reader will be helped by checking to see if all four of these elements were present at their own experience of baptism. If so, then I believe it was probably a true, biblical, Christ-honoring baptism. If one or more of these elements are/were missing, then I advise the reader to bring the matter to the attention of his/her pastor(s) or elder(s). He/They will be very happy to talk and think through this with you.

Whether you believe your baptism was true or not, you would probably do well to write out a brief assessment of your baptism experience, confirming that each element was present, or noting what was missing. Such a thoughtful exercise would likely benefit the reader greatly.

The reader will also be helped by knowing that various churches and denominations disagree about how to best answer the question: What is true baptism? I am a Baptist with strong ecclesiological convictions, which are largely built upon what I believe the Bible teaches about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That said, I sincerely believe my description below is in submission to Scripture, which is the ultimate authority and arbiter of truth.

Let’s first look at the Bible’s teaching on baptism, and then I’ll base my four indispensable elements on what we learn from Scripture.

A Biblical Foundation

When Jesus commissioned His followers (i.e. Christians) to be His witnesses, from the time He ascended to the Father’s side until He returned at last, Jesus told them what to do. He told them to preach the message of the gospel and to make disciples of those who responded with faith and repentance. Those new disciples were to be baptized and catechized (they were to learn the teachings of Christ) by those who were already among the group. And Jesus’ disciples did what Jesus told them.

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ commissioning charge. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [or peoples], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Luke recorded a similar commission from Jesus, which must have been given soon after the other. At the beginning of Acts, Luke tells us what Jesus said right before He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Jesus said, “you will recieve power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Just then, Jesus was “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

Then, the disciples waited. They waited for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit and for that moment when they would begin carrying out the mission Jesus had left for them. And the day of Pentecost came soon after.

The Apostle Peter stood out as the disciples’ representative when he preached the gospel to those gathered in Jerusalem on that day when the Holy Spirit came, giving the disciples boldness and power to bear witness to Christ.

Many heard Peter’s message, and some believed. Some in the crowd responded by saying, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They were asking, “What must we do to become Christ’s disciples, beneficiaries of God’s grace in Christ?”

Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and belief are two sides of the same biblical coin (as demonstrated by verse 41, cited below), and Peter called sinners to respond with humility and hope in order to be saved from their sin and the due penalty thereof.

But Peter also exhorted them to “be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ.” This was clearly the outward and public display of repentance and belief, which are less immediately observable.

We are told, “those who received [Peter’s] word [i.e. those who believed] were baptized, and there were added [to the small existing group of disciples] that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). And all the disciples, both the old and the new, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts. 2:42).

Thus the disciples activity and teaching demonstrate the apostolic and biblical understanding of what Jesus commissioned His disciples to do. The combination of these passage construct for us a solid foundation, upon which we may build a definition of true (i.e. biblical) baptism.

Four Indispensable Elements of Baptism

I am calling these elements of baptism indispensable because I believe that the removal of any of them will almost certainly indicate a redefinition of baptism, which would be a loss of biblical baptism. In other words, if one or more elements are missing in your “baptism” experience, it is very likely that whatever you did experience was not true baptism.

One, true baptism occurs after a person has been converted.

The biblical command to be baptized is only for those who are professing faith in Jesus Christ. Both in Jesus’ commission and in Peter’s exhortation, only “disciples” or “repenting and believing” ones are to be baptized. Such a one may turn out to be a false confessor later on in life, but strong efforts should be made to ensure that baptism is being offered only to those who at least appear to be believing the gospel and turning from sin.

My Presbyterian brethren and others may argue that the baptism command is also “for [the] children” of believers, since children are mentioned in the passage I cited above (Acts 2:39). However, the reader will note that it is “the promise” of salvation through Christ and not the command to “be baptized” that is extended to “your children” and also to “all who are far off” (Acts 2:39).

If anyone was “baptized” before they were converted, then such a “baptism” was not true.

Only a post-conversion baptism can be a true baptism.

Two, true baptism is performed in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the apex of God’s revelation and the focal point of the gospel.

The biblical observance of baptism necessarily associates the one being baptized (the baptizee) with Jesus Christ. This is not merely a verbal formula, contra the views of some in the Church of Christ, but a much fuller identification with the God of the Bible and the person by whom God offers salvation to sinners like us.

In Jesus’ commission, He says new disciples are to be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). And Peter exhorts his hearers to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The teaching of Scripture on the whole is that baptism is inextricably connected with the triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) and the gospel of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ.

If someone was “baptized” in association with any non-Christian religion, any false gospel, or any message or group that denies an essential doctrine of historic Christianity, then such a “baptism” was not true.

Only a baptism associated with the biblical gospel, the biblical God, and the biblical Savior can be a true baptism.

Three, true baptism is experienced as a conscious act (both on the part of the one being baptized and on the part of those observing) of publicly confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The biblical command to be baptized is necessarily connected with a conscious, public profession of faith and a conscious, public affirmation of that profession. Those who are being baptized are consciously and publicly making their belief in Christ known to watching world. And those who are observing and celebrating baptism are consciously and publicly affirming that the one being baptized is (so far as they can tell) one of them.

This element of true baptism leans into the reality that baptism cannot be observed alone. No one can (biblically) baptize him or herself. Baptism is something you do and something you have done to you, simultaneously. Furthermore, both the baptizee and the baptizer (as well as other observing Christians) must be conscious participants.

Historically, the normal context for true baptism is the local church. Only in recent years has this normative practice been neglected. The readiest way to demonstrate this is by the fact that most Evangelical churches still today have some new church members join by the act of baptism. In many churches, this is a holdover practice from a time now past, without much (if any) teaching or intentionality. New converts joining a church’s membership by being baptized was the common practice of most Evangelical churches.

If someone was “baptized” in hopes that he or she would eventually become a Christian, or if someone was “baptized” when he or she did not understand the basic meaning of baptism (as a public profession of Christian faith and discipleship), then such a “baptism” is not likely true.

Only a conscious Christian can be baptized as a public affirmation from at least one other conscious Christian.

Four, true baptism is performed by the use of water; normally a good bit of it.

The word βαπτιζω or baptidzō (translated “I baptize”), which serves as the root of all other New Testament words related to the act of baptism, carries with it the concept of cleansing, immersing, and washing. Furthermore, the descriptions we have of baptisms in the Bible (particularly the baptisms of Jesus and of the Ethiopian official) seem to indicate full immersion.

In addition to these initial points, the biblical imagery of being associated in or by baptism with Christ’s death and burial is only portrayed by submerging someone under water and then drawing them back out again (Romans 6:1-4). The imagery fails to be depicted by merely pouring water over a person or only partially dipping him or her into some water.

I believe baptism should be carried out by fully immersing the baptizee, but I am not arguing here that immersion itself is an indispensable element of true baptism, because I can easily imagine some circumstances when larger quantities of water may be inaccessible. In such a situation, I believe a true baptism may still occur, but it would be disordered.

If someone was “baptized” without water at all, then such a “baptism” is likely not true. If someone was baptized by some other method than full immersion, then it’s worth asking more questions.

The question of what constitutes a true baptism is probably not a great concern among most churchgoers, but it should be. Baptism is one of the clearest commands Jesus ever gave His disciples, and every Christian should eagerly want to obey their Savior and King.

I hope this article will be useful for the reader to assess his or her own experience. I strongly advise the reader to bring specific questions about personal experience to his or her pastor(s) or elder(s). The local church is designed by Christ to be the community in which we work through such things.

I also hope that many will experience true baptism, not simply to check off a ceremonial checkbox, but as a conscious act of obedience to Christ, in whom sinners become heirs of all the blessings of God.

What is a Calvinist?

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a French theologian and pastor who spent most of his ministry in Geneva, Switzerland. Calvin was a major influencer during the Protestant Reformation, preaching and teaching with the fervor of a man who seemed wholly-devoted to Christ.

Calvin preached and taught expositionally through the Bible, leaving behind many commentaries on the biblical text and other insightful books on Christian belief and practice. However, Calvin’s most notable work is known as “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” which is a magnificent theological treatise. Systematic theology texts are quite numerous today, but before Calvin such a thing was rare indeed.

Calvin’s writings create a bit of difficulty for anyone to answer my main question here – What is a Calvinist? – since his Institutes alone clearly demonstrate that Calvin’s theological system and contributions were both much more expansive than many Christians suppose today. However, I am going to avoid the worthwhile debate about who is and isn’t a real Calvinist.

Rather, I am going to focus my answer to the main question – What is a Calvinist? – on the popular or common perspective. Most people who claim to be Calvinists today are merely announcing their affirmation of the so-called Five Points of Calvinism, and many modern-day Calvinists don’t even affirm all five.

Ironically, Calvin never arranged or articulated a mere five points of doctrine. The five points popularly known as Calvinism today were not even a bulleted theological structure until after the Remonstrance (followers of Jocobus Arminius) made these points the focus of their opposition – 50 years after Calvin died. Even then, however, they were not arranged as the popluar acronym TULIP. That didn’t happen until at least 200 years later.

At the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), the Remonstrance petitioned the government for an allowance to hold their theological view (throughout history religion and government have been joined more often than not). A similar doctrinal position (called Semi-Pelagiansism) had already been condemned one thousand years earlier (in AD 431 at the Council of Ephesus and again in AD 529 at the Council of Orange), and the Remonstrance wanted to avoid the same designation.

But, alas, the Remonstrance were condemned as well. The Synod of Dort ended with a judgment against Arminianism, declaring it a heresy alongside Semi-Pelagianism. The synod produces several canons (or doctrinal affirmations), some of which became the origins of the so-called Five Points of Calvinism.

The Five Points of Calvinism are:

1) Total Depravity: Fallen humans, since Adam, are thoroughly affected by sin – their bodies, minds, and wills/desires; and unregenerate people are incapable of naturally doing anything genuinely good (Rom. 3:10-18).

2) Unconditional Election: God elects some sinners unto salvation, whereby they become beneficiaries of God’s blessings, not because of any condition in them, but according to the riches of God’s gracious grace and according to the purposes of His divine will (Eph. 1:3-6).

3) Limited Atonement: Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross is priceless, sufficient to cover all sin and all sinners, but Christ’s atoning work was intended and effectual only for those who believe and not for anyone else (Jn. 10:14-16).

4) Irresistable Grace: God alone causes sinners to be born again (regeneration is a monergistic act), through the proclamation of the gospel and powerful work of His Holy Spirit (God normally uses means). All who are born again possess new hearts with which they respond in loving affection for God, believing and repenting by His grace (Eph. 2:1-10).

5) Perseverence of the Saints: All sinners whom God has elected unto Himself, those for whom Christ has died, those God has made spiritually alive, will pursue personal holiness in this life and will persevere to the end (Rom. 8:28-39).

Calvinism – as anemically articulated in the five points above – has been the majority view among Protestants. Historically, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Anglicans have all affirmed these doctrines. Notable 21st-century theologians and pastors who affirm these doctrines include R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever.

This brief article is only intended as a very simple introduction to this theological system. I suggest much further investigation for the interested Christian, and there are numerous books and articles that might be a help.

In my estimation, Wayne Grudem’s book, Systematic Theology, does a good job of explaining the various views of biblical salvation. This would be a great starting point for further study.

Whether you embrace this view or not, it is vital that all believers look to the Bible as the ultimate authority. It is also important that we humbly and graciously investigate the Bible alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.

What is an Arminian?

Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was a Dutch theologian during the later period of the Protestant Reformation. Arminius and his followers opposed some points of Reformed theology, which developed more robustly out of the writings and teaching of some of the Reformers. One of the most (maybe the most?) influential and monumental Reformed works ever written is John Calvin‘s “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”

Though they never met (Calvin died when Arminius was 4 years old), Arminius had admiration for Calvin and his outstanding biblical hermeneutics. Arminius once said, “Next to the study of the Scriptures… I exhort my students to read Calvin’s Commentaries carefully and thoroughly… for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture.”

Arminius and his followers (originally called the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort) did, however, disagree with some points of the Reformed teaching in the area of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). Forty-two ministers organized their opposition to some of Calvin’s Reformed teaching, focusing in on five particular disputed points. These points became the five-pointed dividing line between what later came to be called Arminianism and Calvinism.

Ironically, the five-pointed dividing line became known as “The Five Points of Calvinism,” though Calvin himself had never arranged them as such. The five points or doctrines were not even a bulleted theological structure until after the Remonstrance made them the focus of their opposition – 50 years after Calvin died. Even then, however, the five affirmative doctrinal points were not arranged as TULIP. That didn’t happen until at least 200 years later.

The Five Articles of the Remonstrance represent historic Arminianism. An Arminian, in the popular sense, is someone who affirms the Arminian articles or points over against the Calvinistic or Reformed points.

The Five Articles of the Remonstrance are:

1) Conditional Predestination: God predestines some sinners for salvation, and this predestination is conditionally based on God’s foreknowledge about each person’s anticipated faith or unbelief.

2) Universal Atonement: Christ died for all humans, and God intended His sacrifice for all humans, but only those sinners who accept this atoning work will be saved.

3) Saving Faith: Sinful and Fallen humanity is unable to attain saving faith, unless he is regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

4) Resistible Grace: The grace of God is effective, but it is resistible, so man must cooperate with God’s grace to bring about personal salvation.

5) Uncertainty of Perseverance: Although God’s grace is abundant, the sinner can lose that grace and become lost even after he has been saved.

It is important to note that some Arminians may not affirm all five of these articles, or they may not affirm each of them with the same fervor. In recent history, the Arminian system (or some variation of it) has been the most commonly held view among American Evangelicalism. Though, most Evangelicals are not aware of the historic grounding of their doctrinal views.

The Arminian view is widely embraced among many Southern Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes, and Wesleyans today. C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tower, and Adrian Rogers are three notable men who affirmed (at least generally) an Arminian position. There are others, but these are significant voices, and each represents a distinct platform among culture and Christianity.

This brief article is only intended as a very simple introduction to this theological system. I suggest much further investigation for the interested Christian, and there are numerous books and articles that might be a help.

In my estimation, Wayne Grudem’s book, Systematic Theology, does a good job of explaining the various views of biblical salvation. This would be a great starting point for further study.

Whether you embrace this view or not, it is vital that all believers look to the Bible as the ultimate authority. It is also important that we humbly and graciously investigate the Bible alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

The short and direct answer to this question is, No… the Bible does not contradict itself.

But if the answer were so simple, then such a question wouldn’t gain much traction or keep making laps around the racetrack of theological and biblical discussion.

I might be worthwhile for the reader to take a moment to really think about the fact that Christians throughout history have not been complete idiots (well, at least not all of them). The point is: intelligent and careful readers have searched the Scriptures far more than you or I, and these men and women have not been so quick to throw the Bible out on the basis of unresolved contradictions.

Furthermore, non-Christian and critical intellectuals (and those who like to regurgitate their ideas and phrases) have been making this accusation against the Bible for at least the last 200 years. But Christians too have written many books and articles in order to candidly deal with the supposed contradictions (HERE is a great example).

The reader is charged with the responsibility of thinking carefully through the matter before walking away with a half-baked answer to suit his or her preconceived notions about the validity and trustworthiness of the Bible.

This subject is dear to my heart as a pastor, and it came up again as I was preparing to preach through Exodus 9. God’s fifth plague or strike against Egypt (beginning in verse 1) and God’s seventh plague or strike (beginning in verse 13) seem to contradict one another. They both refer to “livestock” in a way that seems impossible to harmonize. However, I’d like to argue that there are at least a few options for the reader to resolve this apparent contradiction without accusing the Bible of error.

In the fifth plague, we’re told “all the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Exodus 9:6), but a short time later (thirteen verses to be exact) we read about Moses warning the Egyptians to “get [their] livestock… into safe shelter” in order to avoid the falling hail (Ex. 9:19).

“And the next day the Lord did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died” (emphais added).

Exodus 9:6

Moses said, “Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them” (emphasis added).

Exodus 9:19

So the question is, if “all the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Ex. 9:6), then where did all this other Egyptian “livestock” come from (Ex. 9:19)?

This is the kind of question Bible-believing Christians need to be prepared to engage with, and Bible-believing Christians need to be prepared to give some kind of an answer.

Christians believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God (at least those who are grounded in historic Christiantiy do). We do not believe there are any contradictions in the Bible. We believe the Bible (in so far as the text of Scripture is compiled translated faithfully) is an utterly truthful and consistent compilation of God’s trustworthy words.

So, what do Christians do with this apparent contradiction? Well, first, we don’t melt in fear… and we don’t run away.

We must first acknowledge that there are some passages in the Bible that do appear (at least at first glance) to contradict other passages. It is no surprise that someone antagonistic to the Bible would point to several Bible-passages and accuse the Bible of contradiction.

But, second, we must also remember that the Bible is fully capable of enduring skepticism. Bible critics are not new, though the modern ones often fancy themselves as more sophisticated than those who have come before. 

Marcion was a man born before the Apostle John died, and Marcion accused the Old and New Testaments of contradicting one another. He invented a whole theological system around his flawed perspective of the Bible, and he was roundly rejected as a formal heretic at the first official Christian council.

See two helpful introductions to Marcion and his recurring ideas in modern Christianty HERE and HERE).

Bible-skeptics have been around as long as the Bible. Satan’s first attack on humans was an attack on the word of God. The ancient snake asked Eve in the garden, “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). And we hear the devil’s hiss in the mouths of others throughout history as well as today.

Third, when dealing with an apparent contradiction in the Bible, we must recognize that any supposed error we see in the Bible springs from our own misunderstanding or ignorance (or maybe some mixture of both). 

Let’s think about the apparent contradiction in front of us here.

Did “all the livestock” in Egypt die from some kind of disease (Exodus 9:6)? And, if so, where did the “livestock” in Egypt come from that died later from falling hail (Ex. 9:19-21, 25)?

One possible explanation is that the Egyptians kept some of their livestock “in the field” or “in the pasture” and the rest they kept in stalls or closer to their homes. A careful reading of Exodus 9:3 does allow for a specific “plague upon [the] livestock that are in the field.”

We might say the livestock that didn’t die from this fifth plague upon Egypt were those which were not out in the field, and these were the livestock later threatened by the seventh plague.

Another possible explanation is to understand the word “All” in Exodus 9:6 to refer to “all kinds of livestock” and not “each and every one of the livestock.” As a matter of fact, this is exactly how verse 2 seems to present it.

“behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks” (emphasis added).

Exodus 9:2

From this perspective, one might paraphrase verse 6 by saying, “Death came to every kind of grazing animal in Egypt, but not a single cow died among the people of Israel.”

Still another possible explanation is to understand the language in the popular sense and not the absolute. In other words, “The quantity of livestock left in Egypt was nothing in comparison to what was there before.”

These are three possible explanations, and maybe you can see others.

I should note that I am heavily indebted to Philip Ryken for his consideration of this text and these options.

The point is: The Bible doesn’t contradict itself. And any apparent contradiction can be explained (usually pretty easily) if we will take time to think about it.

The practical application of this answer is that the reader must address the greater issue of what to do with the God of the Bible. Because the Bible truthfully and consistently reveals God as He is, the reader is responsible to seek God there.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/26/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Regular family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 146 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 146 as a reason to praise or thank God? What specifically about God’s character or action is praiseworthy from this passage?

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Think of specific ways sin was expressed in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for God’s provision for fellow church members and those in our community who are earning less because of public and business closures.
  2. Pray that God will graciously preserve the members of FBC Diana (spiritual health and vitality) while we are all deprived of the accountability and encouragement which the weekly gathering provides.
  3. Pray that God will draw many sinners to Himself in the midst of the current circumstances, which may cause some to think soberly of death and eternity.
  4. Pray that all Christians would be faithful witnesses for Christ in the world.
  5. Pray that US government officials would both protect life and preserve liberty, resisting the temptation to accumulate power during this time of uncertainty. 
  6. Pray for Perryville Baptist Church in Winnsboro, TX (Pastor Toby Goodman), Redeemer Church in Graham, TX (Pastor Ryan Bishop), and New Hope Baptist Church in Ore City, TX (Pastor Tony Pierce).

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply thinking and talking through Psalm 19. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your thoughts and discussion.

  1. What is Psalm 146 all about?
  2. What do you think it means to “put your trust in princes” (v3)?
  3. Why does the psalmist say we should not “trust in princes”? In other words, what can earthly rulers, governors, leaders, presidents, or kings not do?
  4. What do you think it means to put your “hope in the LORD…God” (v5)?
  5. How does verse 6 speak of God’s power and trustworthiness?
  6. How does verse 7 speak of God’s impartial justice and His compassion?
  7. How does verse 8 speak of God’s attentiveness to those who are humble and obedient? 
  8. How does verse 9 speak of God’s care for those who are vulnerable?
  9. What or who is the psalmist contrasting throughout this psalm and especially in verses 3-4 and 10? 
  10. Looking at this passage through the lenses of the New Testament (and especially the gospel), consider the following: 
    1. Read Luke 4:16-21. How does the Bible present Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to heal, to liberate, and to grant favor?
    2. Read Ephesians 1:7-10. How did Jesus make a way for sinful people like you to enjoy the benefits of God’s love and favor?
    3. How should Psalm 146 make those who trust and follow Jesus Christ feel both unworthy and yet comforted?
  11. How might you or others be putting your trust in earthly helpers right now (government, healthcare workers, finances)?
  12. Do you do or watch or listen to or read anything that tends to grow your unhealthy (maybe even sinful) trust for earthly helpers? If so, explain.
  13. How do you know God is trustworthy to keep His promises to love and to ultimately deliver sinners like you from chaos and suffering?
  14. What are some specific ways you might shift your trust/hope away from earthly helpers toward the everlasting God who is both able and faithful?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

All Praise to Him

Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed?

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

See the Destined Day Arise

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 147 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/19/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Regular family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 19 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 19 as a reason to praise or thank God? What specifically about God’s character or action is praiseworthy from this passage?

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Think of specific ways sin was expressed in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for FBC Diana’s deacons and pastor.
  2. Pray for the salvation of our parents, our siblings, our children, and our grandchildren (both your own and the family of fellow church members).
  3. Pray for persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
  4. Pray for teachers and administrators and school employees of all kinds.
  5. Pray that God will unite our church members in love for Christ and love for one another, even though we are not physically able to be together.
  6. Pray that our church members will reach out to one another and encourage one another with Scripture.
  7. Pray for Redemption Baptist Church in Nacogdoches (Pastor Wesley Burke) and for Shady Grove Baptist Church (Pastor Derick Walker) and for Erbil International Baptist Church (Pastor Mack Stiles).

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply thinking and talking through Psalm 19. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your thoughts and discussion.

  1. What is Psalm 19 all about?

Psalm 19 seems to have three parts:

  • Verses 1-6 are a prayer of praise, accenting the display of God’s glory in creation.
  • Verses 7-11 continue the prayer of praise, emphasizing the value and benefits of God’s special revelation of Himself in or by His word.
  • Verses 12-14 shift to a prayer of supplication, pleading for personal reformation and ongoing love and obedience.

Looking at verses 1-6, consider the following questions.

  1. How might the sky or heavens declare God’s glory?
  2. How does the psalmist particularly point out the beauty and strength of the sun as an evidence and illustration of God’s glory?
  3. What do you think it means when the psalmist says that the “speech” or “voice” of the sky is “heard” to the “end of the world”?
  4. How might Romans 1:19-20 be a correlative passage to this one?
  5. According to Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:19-20, is there anyone in the world who truly knows absolutely nothing of God’s glory? Explain.

Looking at verses 7-11, consider the following questions.

  1. How does this passage describe God’s word (i.e. God’s “law,” “testimony,” “precepts,” “commandment,” and “rules”)?
  2. What does this passage say God’s word does?
  3. How does this passage teach us that God’s word is useful and relevant to every season and circumstance of life?
  4. How might 2 Timothy 3:16-17 be a correlative passage to this one?
  5. According to Psalm 19:7-11 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, how should we prioritize our regular exposure to the Bible?
  6. What are some practical ways you can add Bible reading, memorization, and meditation to your daily routine (or give them more time or effort if you already do them)?

Looking at verses 12-14, consider the following questions.

  1. What is the specific request the psalmist makes in verse 12? 
  2. How does Scripture help us “discern” our “errors”?
  3. What is the specific request the psalmist makes in verse 13? 
  4. How does Scripture help “keep” us from “presumptuous sins” and help us to be free from the “dominion” of sin?
  5. What is the specific request the psalmist makes in verse 14? 
  6. How does Scripture help us our words and thoughts or feelings be “acceptable” to God?
  7. How does the psalmist’s focus on God’s particular attributes in verse 14 end this psalm on a hopeful and reassuring note?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 20 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/12/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Regular family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Exodus 12 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Exodus 12 as a reason to praise or thank God? What specifically about God’s character or action is praiseworthy from this passage?

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Think of specific ways sin was expressed in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray for widows and widowers among our church family and in our community.
  2. Pray for those who are fainthearted and/or discouraged.
  3. Pray for those who seem to be losing their battle against sin in their lives – pray for conviction, for strength, and for humility to reach out for accountability.
  4. Pray for our governmental leaders to wisely work to preserve and protect life.
  5. Pray for those who are working more hours and under more stress during the pandemic. Also, pray for those who are under more stress because of working fewer hours during this time.
  6. Pray that parents would disciple their children well, that husbands would lead their wives in Bible reading and prayer, and that singles would be welcomed into the discipleship activities of Christian families.
  7. Pray for God’s financial provision for our individual members and our church.

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply thinking and talking through Exodus 12. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your thoughts and discussion.

  1. What is Exodus 12 all about?
  2. Based on the beginning and ending verses of Exodus 12, how significant is this event to the history of the people of Israel? Explain.
  3. Specifically, what did God command His people to do on this first Passover (see verses 3-11)?
  4. What did God promise to do during this Passover night (see verses 12-13)?
  5. What was or were the distinctive mark(s) of those who were spared from God’s judgment on that Passover night?
  6. What does this show us about God’s judgment against sinners and His salvation for those upon whom He has lavished His grace?
  7. Why did God tell His people to continue an annual memorial of the Passover throughout their generations (see verses 24-27)?
  8. How might this instruct us about the responsibility God’s people always have to hand-down or pass along the meaning (and not just the practice) of religious activities?
  9. What might we learn from considering the specificity with which God commanded the people to observe the annual Passover? In other words, how might this affect the way we think about all religious activities (such as a Sunday church gathering, or baptism, or the Lord’s Supper)?
  10. How does the explanation of Israel’s departure from Exodus show God’s faithfulness to His promises (see Ex. 12:36 and Ex. 3:19-22; also see Ex. 12:40-41 and Gen. 15:13-14)?
  11. Read Luke 22:1-20. How does this passage scoop up the imagery of Exodus 12 and apply it to the person and work of Jesus Christ?
    1. How does this passage help us understand what it means that Jesus is the ultimate “Passover Lamb”?
    2. What judgment from God “passes over” those who trust in Christ?
  12. Read Luke 24:1-27. How does this passage help us understand the movement and aim of the whole Bible (including the Passover in Exodus 12) toward the events of Jesus death and resurrection?
  13. Do you think the death and resurrection of Jesus is central to the meaning, benefit, and hope of Christianity? Why or why not?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

Jesus, Thank You

Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Behold Our God

O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer

Scripture Reading

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

FBCD Family Worship Guide 04/05/2020

FBC Diana members,

I want to encourage you to take time for Bible reading and study, prayer, and singing again this Sunday. Family and/or personal time devoted to such things is critical to our growth as Christians. You may use any structure that seems appropriate for you and/or your family, but I recommend following the outline below.

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 1 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. What do you see in Psalm 1 as reasons to praise God? What specifically about God’s character or nature is praiseworthy? How might you praise God for what He has done in your life or for how He has shown you grace and care.

Confession. Think of ways you and others might have sinned this previous week. Don’t accuse others in your prayer, but do try to confess specific ways you and others have expressed sin in your home, in family life together, on your job, in your neighborhood, and in your community.  

Supplication. Ask for God’s help in various ways. Here are some topics you might consider praying about:

  1. Pray that fellow church members would have grace and patience with others in their home during this time of unusual confinement.
  2. Pray for those who are afraid, those who are weary, and those who are lonely.
  3. Pray for salvation for our parents, our siblings, our children, and our grandchildren (yours and those of fellow church members).
  4. Pray for our governmental leaders to wisely work to preserve and protect life.
  5. Pray for healthcare workers, for law enforcement officers, and for emergency workers of all kinds.
  6. Pray that God would help FBC Diana church members to look for ways to do good to one another and to disciple one another despite our social distance.
  7. Pray that FBC Diana church members would gladly part with what our world values in order to take hold of what God values.

Discussion Questions

You might spend some time simply talking through Psalm 1. And you might also use the following questions to help guide your discussion.

  1. What is the major theme or concept of this Psalm?
  2. How do these six verses provide a kind of introduction (maybe even an invitation) to the whole book of the Psalms?
  3. Starting with verse one, list all of the ways the psalmist describes the “blessed” person.
  4. What aspects of this description stand out most to you? Why?
  5. What do you think it means for someone to “delight” in God’s “law” (v2)?
  6. What do you think it means for someone to be like a “tree” that “yields fruit in its season” (v3)?
  7. How do verses 1-2 indicate the way in which “fruit” is produced in a person?
  8. Starting with verse four, list all of the ways the psalmist describes the “wicked” person.
  9. What aspects of this description stand out most to you? Why?
  10. What do you think it means for the “wicked” person to not be able to “stand in the judgment” (v5)? Whose judgment? And what does it mean to “stand”?
  11. What does it mean for someone to be included among the “congregation of the righteous”? And what does it mean for “sinners” to be excluded (v5)?
  12. How might you describe the two “ways” to live presented in verse 6?
  13. Is anyone truly righteous by God’s standard of obedience and love? Explain.
  14. Looking at this passage through the lenses of the New Testament (especially the person and work of Christ), how is it that sinners like you can be made “righteous” and called “blessed” (see Ephesians 1:3-10 and Romans 3:21-26)?
  15. Because our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26), how might Psalm 1 help motivate Christians to:
    1. Rest and trust in Jesus for blessing or favor from God?
    2. Strive to live morally upright lives?
    3. Devote themselves to reading and thinking about God’s word?
    4. Rely upon God’s good care throughout all the seasons of life?
  16. How might Psalm 1 also warn Christians against laziness, practicing sin, and presuming upon God’s grace and forgiveness (see also Romans 2:1-11)?
  17. How might God’s warning to the “wicked” person in Psalm 1 encourage you to talk about the gospel, about Jesus, and about following Christ with others?

Songs to Sing

Click on the links below to view lyrics, download song sheets, and/or listen to song audio.

Jesus, Thank You

Holy, Holy, Holy

He Will Hold Me Fast

Scripture Reading

Read Psalm 2 aloud.

Prayer

Thanks/Praise. Offer thanks and praise to God for specific things that come to your mind today… maybe from recent personal experience or maybe from something in the Scripture or the songs or your discussion with others today.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

Should Churches Disobey?

Should churches in America disobey the government’s directive to avoid social gatherings in order to slow the spread of COVID-19?

The short answer is, no… but some folks might disagree with me. So, I’ll offer the following to support my answer.

First, Christian churches are assemblies governed ultimately by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Bible (which is the word of Christ) commands Christians to submit to governing authorities in all things. A couple of Scripture passages are quite clear on the subject, and I recommend that the reader look up each of the following citations in their context.

An excerpt from Romans 13:1-7 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed… Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

An excerpt from 1 Peter 2:13-17 says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him… For this is the will of God…”

Of course, there are exceptions, but one should not pass by these obvious and sobering commands too quickly. If we are prone to individualism and personal autonomy (and it is highly likely that you are), then we are probably looking for exceptions to the rule far more than we are sincerely seeking to follow the rule.

Second, Christians (including local churches) should normally obey the government in all things, but there are narrow exceptions to this general rule. God’s people are to obey God by disobeying their governing authority if (and only if) their governing authority commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands. In the Bible, we have examples of both of these. 

In Exodus chapter 1, we meet two Hebrew midwives who were blessed by God for disobeying the king or pharaoh of Egypt. The pharaoh commanded Shiphrah and Puah to kill every Hebrew boy when he exited his mother’s womb (Exodus 1:16), but these women let the babies live because they feared God more than their earthly king. God had already commanded the preservation of human life (Genesis 9:5-6), and no earthly king can overturn God’s commands.

In Daniel chapter 3, we learn about three men who were preserved by God even as they disobeyed the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was a famous Babylonian king, so revered by his people that they constructed a massive statue to be worshiped in his honor. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down before the image, they were sentence to death. God did save these men by His miraculous power, but their willingness to die before disobeying God’s command is a good and sober example to us all (Exodus 20:3-6).

In Acts chapter 4 we can read about two Apostles, Peter and John, who disobeyed their governing authority when they were forbidden to do what God commands. Peter and John were beaten by local officials for telling people about the exemplary life, the atoning death, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. These men were even threatened with further punishment if they continued their preaching, but Peter and John refused to keep silent because God had commanded them to proclaim of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; cf. Acts 1:8). They even prayed for greater boldness to tell more people about Jesus, and God gave it to them (Acts 4:24-30).

In each of these instances, God’s people were commended for disobeying their governing authorities, but only because their governing authorities were commanding or forbidding something in outright contradiction to God’s own instructions. If an earthly government or ruler forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids, then God is to be feared and obeyed above all others.

Third, and finally, Christians and churches in America aren’t being commanded to disobey God. In our case, the federal and state governments are not singling out religious institutions, nor are they specifically forbidding churches to meet together. Instead, government officials are calling upon all Americans (and citizens of specific states in many cases) to refrain from all social gatherings for a temporary period. Furthermore, the stated purpose for the temporary order is to preserve life, and local church pastors have no reason to believe otherwise. 

Time will tell how effective this governmental strategy has been, but for now, local churches should do their best to comply with these civil requests and orders. 

In almost all instances, God’s people are to give themselves to glad submission under the authority of their earthly governors or rulers. God’s people are to entrust themselves to God, knowing that there is coming a day when God will lay all hearts bare, and He will judge all things and all people rightly.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.

My Pastoral Prayer List

When my church gathers, we always pray.

As senior pastor, I understand that it is my responsibility to lead church member in prayer and to teach church members how to pray. I lead and teach in several ways, but one of the methods I have used for a while now is rotating through a list of topics for prayer.

If I am the one praying a prayer of supplication, I jot down several bulletpoints beforehand to guide my prayer, including a selection of topics from my prayer list. I use this list to keep me from praying the same things every time and to keep me from forgetting many things I ought to be praying for.

The list provides me with a variety of good and important topics, and rotating through the list ensures that I’ll hit on many of them over the course of a fairly brief period of time.

If I ask someone else to pray a prayer of supplication, I choose one or more topics from this prayer list and assign the topic(s) to the person. These people enjoy the same benefits as I do, and I am teaching them about what kinds of things they should be praying for by assigning them prayer topics.

This practice keeps our public prayers from becoming a laundry list of physical ailments or an opportunity for subtle gossip, and it also teaches our whole congregation how to pray and what to pray about.

My own pastoral prayer list is a compilation of topics I’ve borrowed from other pastors or added for myself. I cannot take any credit for creativity and insight you might find in this list, but I do take great comfort in the fact that I haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel.

Feel free to use this entire template or any portion of it to your own benefit or that of your church family.

General Topics for Churches and Communities

  • Pray for the regular preaching of God’s word.
  • Pray for elders/pastors and deacons.
  • Pray for husbands to bless their wives, and parents to bless the children in their charge.
  • Pray for those who are having a hard time integrating into the church family (making new connections).
  • Pray for widows and widowers in our church.
  • Pray for salvation for our parents, our siblings, our children, and our grandchildren.
  • Pray for us to live lives of both justice and mercy.
  • Pray for our younger members to regularly reach out to our older members to check on them.
  • Pray for those with prolonged chronic sickness.
  • Pray for those who are fainthearted and discouraged.
  • Pray for politicians and civil servants.
  • Pray for families and single members to build good relationships.
  • Pray for God to convict and draw to Himself those who are lost in immorality.
  • Pray for God to knit us together as a church family, despite our differences in age, life experience, and preferences.
  • Pray for us to rejoice in God’s work in other churches, and to speak of His work among us only with the deepest humility.
  • Pray for persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
  • Pray and thank God for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim 2:1-2).
  • Pray about a point from the morning sermon.
  • Pray for intentional and growing discipling efforts among members.
  • Pray for evangelistic efforts (gospel conversations) with family, friends, and/or neighbors.
  • Pray for freedom from bondage to sinful thoughts, words, and/or deeds (greed, pride, anger, lust, idolatry, lethargy).
  • Pray for more godly men to take personal responsibility for the shepherding care of fellow church members.
  • Pray for our retired members.
  • Pray for us to have boldness in gospel conversations and conversions as a result
  • Pray for our children and teens.

Church Membership among My Own Church

  • Pray that people would see relationships in the local church as part of what it means to be a Christian.
  • Pray that people would understand the need to make their relationships here transparent, to ask and answer careful, loving questions.
  • Pray that people would expect conversations with other church members often to be deep, and often theological in nature.
  • Pray that people would think it important to encourage each other with Scripture.
  • Pray that people would see part of being a Christian as being a provider, and not a consumer.
  • Pray that people don’t see service in the local church as being primarily about meeting their own felt needs by utilizing their giftedness but about bringing God glory.
  • Pray that people would not see it as unusual when their lives become increasingly centered around the local church.
  • Pray that people would see it as unusual when a member’s life seems to keep church on the periphery.
  • Pray that people would see hospitality as an important part of being a Christian.
  • Pray that church members would be humble and quick to rejoice when we talk about other churches and their members.

Discipling among My Own Church

  • Pray that our congregation would care well for our youth, particularly, our teens, working to build discipling relationships with teenagers and coming alongside parents in the building up of their sons’ and daughters’ faith.  
  • Pray that our teenagers would be open to, and even seek out, discipling relationships with young adults in the church.  
  • Pray that parents of teenagers in the church would wisely and purposefully encourage and choose discipling relationships for their sons and daughters with members of our church.  
  • Pray that our church would be faithful in its members’ purposeful investment in the lives of teenagers inside the church.   
  • Pray that many of our members would make the discipleship of teenagers in our church one of their primary ministries

Financial Faithfulness among My Own Church

  • Pray that more of our members would give, and more would be able to give more.
  • Pray that we would be overwhelmed by how much Christ has given us.
  • Pray that we would give cheerfully, not out of guilt or obligation.
  • Pray that we would be wise in how much we decide to give.
  • Pray that we would give regularly, deliberately and proportionately.
  • Pray that we would gladly part with what our world values in order to take hold of what God values.
  • Pray that our church would be wise in how it stewards our gifts.
  • Pray that our giving would show God to be good, delightful, and generous.
  • Pray that God would bring to fruit the hopes that we have for every line in our church’s current budget.

Marc Minter is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Diana, TX. He and his wife, Cassie, have two sons, Micah and Malachi.

Connect with Marc on Twitter or Facebook.