David Schrock

The Egalitarian Beachball is a Church Wrecking Ball

Did God actually say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man?” Or is this verse the invention of a man, trying to deceive women? When Paul disallowed women from teaching or exercising oversight in the house of God, and he grounded his argument in the Garden of Eden, what part is he playing? Is Paul deceived like Eve, trying to win one for Adam? Or, is Paul the serpent, deceiving the female pastor, telling her that the fruit she wants is not good? Or is Paul speaking for the Lord when he tells the woman to put down the pulpit?
This month at Christ Over All, we will consider these questions as they relate to the church in the twenty-first century. And more, we will put these questions to the test, as they relate to the rise of female pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Why the SBC? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.
Trouble in America’s Largest Protestant Denomination
In the 1980s, a “Conservative Resurgence” swept through the SBC. And if we boiled that movement down into two theological issues, they were the inerrancy of Scripture and egalitarianism, an idea that includes women serving as pastors. In those days, Bible-believing Baptists stood up to say that God’s Word is inspired, authoritative, and inerrant. This movement followed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and galvanized the SBC to stand on God’s written revelation—all of it, including the parts that spoke about women and preaching. Returning to its biblical roots, the SBC moved away from being a denomination that accepted women as pastors and preachers to a denomination that believed that Paul spoke for God when he wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12).
This recovery of biblical orthodoxy and Baptist ecclesiology took place more than two decades ago, and yet in recent years, the debate about women serving as pastors has returned.[1] Presumably, the questions about the inerrancy of the Word of God have not returned, but the question of the hour is this: Has God really said that women cannot preach or be pastors?
Infamously, Beth Moore, before departing for the Anglican Church, celebrated her preaching in Southern Baptist pulpits. Likewise, another Moore, former ERLC President Russell Moore, renounced his previous patriarchal convictions when he wrote for Christianity Today.[2] More to the point, in response to recent events in the SBC, SBC President Bart Barber has promised to bring this question of women pastors to the 2023 SBC Convention. And accordingly, Christ Over All wants to return to the Bible to see what it says about men and women serving in the church.
Most specifically, we will consider the arguments in favor of women preaching and pastoring in local churches—arguments that have come to us from dozens of SBC pastors. These Southern Baptist pastors, both men and women, have voiced their opposition to a proposed amendment to the SBC Constitution that disallows women from preaching or pastoring in accordance with 1 Timothy 2–3. That amendment will be introduced below, but first let me get to the data, and also to the “Egalitarian Beachball.”
The Egalitarian Beachball
Mike Law, an SBC pastor in Virginia, is the author of this constitutional amendment. And in response to his amendment, over thirty ministry leaders of SBC-affiliated churches sent him emails condemning his proposal and arguing in various ways why women should be pastors and preachers. And by sifting through these negative responses, we saw seven different arguments for women in the pulpit, as you’ll see in a graphic further below.[3] Keep in mind, since the year 2000 the SBC has held to a view that states, “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
This view is found in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM2000), which is the document revised and ratified in 2000 that outlines the doctrinal beliefs of the SBC. While this document affirms the myriad of ways women can and do serve in the church, it also made the clear statement above about who may serve in the office of pastor. Yet, as becomes the plasticity of our postmodern world, it is not surprising that the egalitarian spirit of our age has formed the hearts and minds of many in and around the SBC. As a result, this new amendment has driven out into the open many who are abiding by egalitarian principles, even as they inhabit an SBC, which affirms biblical complementarianism. Complementarianism is the view that men and women share the same dignity, value, and worth before God, but that God has created men and women with distinct and complementary roles in the church and home. For the church, this means that only qualified men may serve as pastor/elders. In the home, this looks like men leading their families in a Christ-like way while women graciously follow their husband’s leadership.
Now, were the issue of egalitarianism a tertiary matter (e.g., taking the Lord’s supper once a month or once a week, or preaching topical sermons instead of expository) it would not be a matter for breaking fellowship. Certainly, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper and the style of sermon are matters related to Scripture and church health, but they are not matters that rise to the level of denominational agreement in the SBC. The qualifications for the pastoral office, however, are explicated in the BFM2000 as a necessary marker for the churches who are in “friendly cooperation” within the SBC. With that in mind, Christ Over All is looking to call Southern Baptists—and all Bible-believing Christians—to abide by the Scriptures, and to exercise integrity with respect to their ministerial allegiances.
To this end, we put forward the Egalitarian Beachball as a graphic that captures seven of the main arguments in favor of female pastors made by SBC-affiliated church leaders. While this is not an exhaustive catalogue of arguments and is anecdotal in nature, it represents a cross-section of popular reasoning used to advocate for women pastors. Many advocates of this position use more than one argument to advance their reasoning, as reflected below. The first six arguments often come from those who self-identify as egalitarian, while the seventh argument usually comes from those who self-identify as “thin” or “narrow” complementarians (which is a type of functional egalitarianism).[4]
Over the course of this month, we will be addressing these points and more. Indeed, these are arguments swimming in the larger culture today and in churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond. Because it’s important to give biblical arguments, not just hasty tweets, we will go back to Scripture and see what it says.
In truth, we will go back to ground already tilled by faithful pastors and teachers in previous generations. But as Paul says in Philippians 3:1, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Indeed, if the church needs to find a safe space, it is found in God’s Word. And so, with Mike Law, we are calling the church back to the Bible. And what follows is a bit of recent history to explain why this is necessary.
The Need of the Hour
Recently, I attended an Evangelical conference in sunny Florida, and as I walked outside beside the conference bookstore, two young seminarians bounced a conversation in front of me. At the conference, Crossway had given more than 2000 copies of their book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to registered guests, and these two young men were quite impressed. Here’s a summary of their conversation:
Student #1: Hey, did you see this giveaway book? It’s called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Ever heard of it?
Student #2: No, never heard of it. Is it new? It must be.
Student #1: Yeah, I think so.
Student #2: I bet it is a response to the SBC debate about women preaching.
Me: Well, actually, let me tell you about the 1980s and something called the Danvers Statement . . .
As Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and this was especially true on that sunny day in January, when the beachball of egalitarianism was at issue.
As readers of this website may know already, the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is not new, nor is it a response to the recent questions about women preaching in pulpits or serving as pastors in the SBC. Rather, this is the book which defined biblical complementarianism in the 1980s after a group of pastors and scholars penned the Danver’s Statement in 1987.
Indeed, for most of church history, there was no question that the office of pastor—whatever it was called (bishop, elder, overseer)—was for qualified men only.
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For the Kids Nobody Wants: Longing for and Loving the Little Ones

We certainly cannot say, “We don’t know what is happening.” We do know. Fueled by a social imaginary devoid of children, unwanted children are not treated as God’s beloved image bearers. They are treated as “life unworthy of life,” and accordingly, we who have received life in Christ must protect babies who are unwanted. Therefore, for all the reasons outlined above, we do well to remember that the children formed in the womb are people whom God loves. And thus we must not shrink back, but press on to rescue the perishing—the kids that nobody wants. 

If the problem in our country is the fact that children are portrayed as inconvenient and are justifiably purged when “unwanted,” we need more than a campaign that says, “Don’t do that.” If the moral fiber of our country has run out, and Genesis 1:28 has been laughed out, then we need to do more than shout down the wickedness of abortion. We need to rehabilitate an entire view of the world. That is to say, we need to go back to the God who has made us in his image and hear what he says.
In what follows, I offer four steps for rehabilitating a social imaginary that values children in a way that mirrors the heart of God. Indeed, I do not intend to deny legal efforts to block abortion or political policy-making that defends life. In God’s mercy, there remain in our country laws and lawmakers who are committed to protecting life. But because expressive individualism has become America’s civil religion, there is a rising belief (or feeling) that one man and one woman bound together in covenant marriage with the goal of raising a family filled with children is not just unattractive, but offensive or even immoral.
We need to consider what Scripture tells us about the blessedness of children and why we must protect the unborn and offer a new set of images, stories, and celebrations, which reform our social imaginaries in ways that honor God and his command to be fruitful and multiply. For this reason, I want to wade upstream where the waters of God’s Word are life-giving. And there, from the pages of Scripture, I want to pour out four truths that we need to protect life.
Four Life-Giving Truths
1. Love God
At root, the problem of abortion is not political, medical, or cultural; it is theological. As A. W. Tozer famously quipped, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[1] This point has been oft-quoted, but what he says next is equally telling.
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.[2]
Rightly, Tozer connects what a man knows to what a man worships. But as Psalm 115 reminds us, the context of idol worship is national, not just individualistic. The nations who worship idols “become like them,” and “so do all who trust in them” (v. 8). Indeed, what a people beholds with affection they will become like in action.[3] And this is exactly what has happened in our nation.
Today, the person looking in the mirror (or posting the selfie on Instagram) is the expressive individual loved in our nation. The therapeutic mindset has told people that they cannot love others unless they love themselves. And conversely, if someone puts another ahead of himself, he is inviting harm and may be denying his only chance at happiness. Tragically, such self-directed hedonism flies in the face of biblical truth.
In Scripture, Christ commands his followers: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30–31). Love, as God defines it, is the summary of the law (Rom. 13:8–10). And this love necessarily requires self-sacrifice, not self-expression (Phil. 2:1–4). As Jesus says in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” With a touch of divine irony, this call to “hate” fathers, wives, and children does not impair one’s ability to love, but actually makes true love possible, not to mention holy. True love requires that we put God first and love what is true. And this is where we need to begin when we consider abortion.
If our actions follow our affections, then we must engage public ethics and the protection of life with something more than the law. That is to say, we must call our neighbors to repent and turn to the Lord. Whether or not America is a “Christian nation” is immaterial here. The message of Christianity is a universal call to turn from sin and trust Christ. If anything in our nation proves the need for a message of repentance, it is our nation’s civil religion of self-worship. Abortion is the most pernicious fruit hanging on that poisonous vine, but it is a fruit, not the root.
Indeed, to get to the root of abortion, we must get to the heart. We must call everyone, from those who picket abortion clinics to those who pay for abortions inside them, to love God first. To say it another way, we must preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone. Only God’s life-giving Word can change the heart (2 Cor. 4:4–6), renew the mind (Rom. 12:1–2), convict of sin (John 16:8–11), and empower lovers of self to become lovers of God. To say it another way, our goal is not merely for people to be pro-life, but for people to be pro-Christ (and therefore pro-life).
As Paul frames it, Christ has “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). Among other things, salvation sets sinners free from self-love. Paul warns of those who are “lovers of self,” “lovers of money,” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:2, 4). Indeed, this self-love is why Christ had to die. On the cross, he paid the penalty for every kind of sin. And in his glorification, he sent his Spirit to empower his children to love God, which entails an abiding and self-sacrificing love for the image of God.
2. Love God’s Image
Essentially, God’s law commands us to love God and to love those made in his image (Mark 12:30–31). In the second commandment of the Decalogue (Exod. 20:4–6), Israel is forbidden from making and worshiping images. On the surface, this commandment denies golden calves (Exodus 32) and other false images of the true God, but underneath it implies something greater—namely, that God has already made an image of himself and that, in the fullness of time, he will bring forth the true image of God, Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate (Col. 1:15).
Going back to the beginning, Genesis 1:27 tells us that “God created man in his own image—in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Accordingly, men and women, boys and girls, are not to be worshiped—they are to be begotten! As the next verse continues, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’” (v. 28). Here, we return to that creation mandate which is so mocked and misunderstood.
If we are going to love God, we must love what God loves. And what does he love? He loves his glory and everything in creation that reflects his glory. In creation, everything from the heavens (Ps. 19:1) and their starry host (1 Cor. 15:40–41), to the earth and its various inhabitants (Ps. 65:9–13; 104:31–35) reflect something of God’s glory, but David is fundamentally correct when he says of mankind that God has “crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5). Mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation (Gen. 1) and the embodiment of his glory (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7). And thus, if we are going to see abortion ended, we must reimagine a world overrun with God’s glory—a glory enfleshed with human eyes, ears, fingers, and toes.
Truly, when God made mankind in his image, he made a vessel fit for royal glory. That is, God created the first Adam to have dominion over the earth (Ps. 8), with such authority passed on to his offspring (Gen. 5:1–5). Though Adam forfeited his royal glory by sin (Rom. 3:23), the story of redemption has centered on the promise of ‘sons’ inheriting the kingdom (see e.g., Gen. 17:6, 16; 2 Sam. 7:14; Isa. 9:6–7).[4] In Christ, this storyline finds its terminus. Jesus Christ, as the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18), becomes the true and last Adam (1 Cor. 15:20–28) and the one who has authority over all creation (Matt. 28:19). Indeed, even in his birth announcements, the royalty of Jesus is proclaimed (Luke 1:32–33), thus confirming the fact that God is going to restore the kingdom of God, as well as the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
In this history of royal heirs, therefore, God the Son would have to be born of woman (see Isa. 7:14; Luke 1:35–37). For in no other way could God redeem his children, except for God the Son becoming like us (Heb. 2:5–18). Indeed, through the incarnation, the glory of God assumed a human nature (John 1:14–18), and even today the glorified Christ indwells a human body that shares certain physical properties common among all humanity (Rev. 1:12–16). Knowing the plan from the beginning, God made Adam and Eve as vessels fit for glory. And when this royal glory is understood as a universal property of humanity, it changes the way we look at fetal status and abortion. Let me explain.
Until sin shattered the world, the command to bear children was a command to bear “kings and queens.” The language of “subdue and rule” in Genesis 1:28 is language primarily used for kings, and/or the nations they rule (see 2 Sam. 8:11; 2 Chr. 28:10; Num. 24:19; 1 Kings 4:24; Pss. 72:8; 110:2). God is the first king, and Adam is the original “son of God” (Luke 3:38). As Genesis 1–2 recounts, God put the man in the Garden of Eden to be a royal king. Moreover, with his royal helpmate (Gen. 2:18–25), the first man and woman were commissioned to have children who would reflect the glory of God and spread the beauty of Eden throughout the world. That was the original plan—God’s glory would cover the earth as Adam and Eve ruled the world with their royal children.
Tragically, this plan was halted when sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12–19). God multiplied the pains of childbirth for the woman, cursed the ground in which the man labored, and subjected all humanity to the constant threat of death (Gen. 3:14–19). Long story short, what God had intended for good, man had upended for evil. And from Genesis 4 on, the marred image of God not only shed innocent blood (Gen. 4:1–7), redefined marriage (Gen. 4:19, 23), and repurposed sex (see Genesis 16, 19, 38), but they also began to prey on children. For example, the Law warns of imitating the nations, and explicitly applies this to killing children: “For they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deut. 12:31; cf. Jer. 7:30–34).[5]
Returning to the Decalogue, the second commandment warned against worshiping images, but the fifth commandment forbade killing the image of God (Exod. 20:13). Previously, God told Noah that “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).
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Lawful Love: How the Law Preserves and Propels Our Love

What is love? Love for others is treating them as God would have us treat them. It is law-keeping, with a glad and believing heart, that seeks the good of others in the goodness of God. Indeed, we may see glimpses of “love” in fallen humanity—as in the way a father loves his children (Luke 11:11–13)—but ultimately, true love stems from a heart cleansed from godless selfishness. Such love is demonstrated on the cross of Calvary, and has been “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.– Romans 13:8 –

What is love?
In our day, love is often defined by some sentimental feeling. Some emotional experience. Some pitter-patter in your chest. Or some dance-beat, à la A Night at the Roxbury. (Blessed is the man who has no idea what I’m talking about). But rarely is love associated with law-keeping, rules, or righteousness. Which is to say, rarely is love defined according to the Bible.
In our “if it feels right, do it” sort of society, love does not shack up with legal requirements. But in the Bible where love is defined by God (1 John 4:8) and demonstrated on the cross (1 John 3:16), love is regularly related to the God’s law. In fact, Romans 13 says, “Love is the keeping of the law” (v. 8) and “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Likewise, Galatians 5:14 reads, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
In those places Paul reiterates Jesus’s own view of the law. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). And later in the same Gospel (22:36–40), Jesus explained that the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: to love God (Deut. 6:4) and to love neighbor (Lev. 19:18). Indeed, against popular opinion, the Law was not given to merely enforce rules. It was given so that the people of Israel might love one another with absolute righteousness. To say it differently, God’s love is defined and delimited by covenantal laws.
The Third Use of the Law: Love
Against modern versions of uber-autonomous selfish “love,” the Scriptures portray a kind of love that commits itself to the other person even at the expense of personal freedom and comfort (see Ps. 15:4). This is why Paul quotes from the Decalogue in Romans 13:9: “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” To love your neighbor implies rejecting all actions that might steal, hurt, or take advantage of others.
But more than that, lawful love is modeled after God’s faithfulness to Israel. Just as Yahweh commands his people to be holy as he is holy (Lev. 19:2), he also commanded them to love one another as he loves them. Leviticus 19:18, the verse cited by Paul (and quoted by Jesus in Matt. 22:40), says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Importantly, this command is not an exception to the rest of the Mosaic commands. Rather, as Jesus said, it synthesizes the message of the Law and Prophets (Matt. 5:17; 22:40).
When striving to love one another, we must go to the Law to see what love looks like. But first we must recall that before the Law directs us how to love, it reveals the holy character of God and the misshapen character of man.
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For the Kids Nobody Wants: Imagine There’s No Children

If the problem in our country is the fact that children are portrayed as inconvenient and are justifiably purged when “unwanted,” we need more than a campaign that says, “Don’t do that.” We need to do more than shout down the wickedness of abortion. We need to rehabilitate an entire view of the world. That is to say, we need to go back to the God who has made us in his image and see what he says.

Past the grove of cypress trees Walter—he had been playing king of the mountain—saw the white truck, and he knew it for what it was. He thought, That’s the abortion truck. Come to take some kid in for a postpartum down at the abortion place.
And he thought, Maybe my folks called it. For me.
He ran and hid among the blackberries, feeling the scratching of the thorns but thinking, It’s better than having the air sucked out of your lungs. That’s how they do it; they perform all the P. P.s [post-partum abortions] on all the kids there at the same time. They have a big room for it. For the kids that nobody wants.[1]
In 1973, the Roe v Wade decision inspired Philip K. Dick to envision a world where children were unwanted and adults were free to alleviate their unwanted burdens with the help of the “County Facility.” In his short story, “The Pre-Persons,” Dick tells the story of Walter, the twelve-year-old boy who is traumatized by the thought that his parents did not want him. All around him, he knows children by name who have been taken, kicking and screaming, by the van. Fully legal, these children have the life sucked out of them, all because the parents did not want them.
Through the use of dystopian satire, Dick shows what happens when children are unwanted.
To date, white vans are not circling cul-de-sacs looking to pick up “the kids nobody wants,” but that doesn’t mean children are any more safe. Planned Parenthood “targets minority neighborhoods” to offer up their unwanted children. Walgreens and CVS just decided to stock its pharmacies with the abortion-inducing pill, mifepristone, so that unwanted pregnancies can end by a pill in the privacy of one’s own home. The Supreme Court of South Carolina just defended abortion by ruling that abortion is protected by the right to privacy. And in 2021, Senate Democrats blocked the passage of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, while this year 210 voted against a similar bill, which would protect children who have already been born.
Is our world much different than Walter’s for unwanted children? It doesn’t appear to be. And yet, it’s not just these direct assaults that endanger children, it is the social imaginary behind them.[2] A social imaginary is like a worldview, only with less thought and more feeling. And today, a predominant social imaginary is one that envisions a world unencumbered by children. That is to say, our culture’s images of human flourishing are those without kids. To give one example where childlessness is presented as a blessing, consider the ad campaign by Hilton’s Home 2 Suites.
On their Twitter feed, Home 2 Suites, has sold their brand by centering it around pets. Scroll through their timeline and you will find countless dogs and zero kids. And lest we think this is accidental, here’s their pet-centric mission statement: “From stylish suites w[ith] kitchens to free breakfast and amenities that focus on sustainability, Home2 Suites is perfect for guests and their pets.” Whereas families may have been the primary focus of hotels in another era, today Home 2 Suites envisions a different world. In fact, what alerted me to this branding was the picture I saw recently in a hotel elevator. In it, this same man, woman, and dog pictured above are found under the caption: “Bring your whole family.”
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Jesus is God: Four Ways to See Jesus’s Divinity in John’s Gospel

The Bible is unequivocal in calling Jesus “God.” And thus, we should worship him not only as a good and great man, but as our God—Creator, Redeemer, Lord, and Second Person of the Trinity. Indeed, let us come to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, bringing him all the praise he deserves.

This month our church returns to the Gospel of John, and specifically we have started to look at the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17), picking up in John 14. For those familiar with John 14–16, as well as the whole book of John, you know how often trinitarian themes, doctrines, and verses emerge. As John recounts the way Jesus speaks of his Father, the promise of sending the Spirit, and the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, we have perhaps the richest vein in Scripture for mining trinitarian gold.
To help our church, and those reading along here, I am going to begin posting some short pieces on the doctrine of the trinity and the key ideas related our God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today, I will begin with a note from Scott Swain, author of many works on the Trinity, including Crossway’s Short Studies in Systematic Theology volume, The Trinity: An Introduction.
In his blogpost, “How John Says Jesus is ‘God,’” he offers four ways to think about Christ’s deity in John, and he concludes with this fourfold textual proof of Jesus’s divinity from John. All told, Swain actually offers seven ways to think of Jesus as God. And what I include here is the four point, with four proofs. Take time to consider each, and then as you read John, keep your eye out for the ways that John presents Jesus as God.
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Imagine That: Why You Need to Cultivate a Sanctified Imagination

As you read the Scripture, pay attention to the imagery. Ask God to awaken your imagination. Instead of filling your mind with the endless images of television and YouTube, let the Word of God prompt your creativity. Begin to imagine what you can do to serve others and to share the message of Christ’s cross and resurrection, the only message that sanctifies the mind and brings peace and justice to the world.

A few months ago, I attended a conference where the speaker shared about his counsel to those battling sexual sin. Paraphrasing, he said, “Imagine every impure action as another thrust of the spear into the side of Jesus.” Woe! What a sobering and sickening image! Can you say that? Should you think that, really?
Never before had I heard someone speak so graphically about the need for the use of imagination in our fight against temptation. However, as I have reflected on his point, I am increasingly convinced he is exactly right.
Imagination, when rightly used, is one of the most powerful tools God gives us to put off the old nature and to walk in the new. After all, Jesus himself said to those battling lust, “gouge out your eye” and “cut off your hand” (Matt 5:29–30). But it is not just for lust. In every area of life, we need to train and retool our imagination for the purpose of sanctification and greater gospel service.
Imagination in the Bible
The Bible is filled with imagery. From the Spirit brooding over the waters (Genesis 1) to John’s vision of a glorious city, dressed like a virgin bride (Revelation 21), the Bible drips with word pictures like the Matrix rains green code. Jesus regularly employs parables to capture the imagination of his disciples. The prophets of old spoke of Israel as a harlot, while Paul speaks of the church as a radiant bride.
The question is, do you see it? In a way that most fast-paced Americans don’t appreciate, Scripture begs to be pondered s . . l . . o . . w . . l . . y.
When Psalm 32:8-9 says, “Be not like a horse or a mule, . . . which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you,” it moves us to stop and reflect: What is it about these animals that must be avoided? Is it the same thing for each beast? Or are these they expressing two opposite errors—e.g., the error of running ahead of God like a wild horse and the error of lagging behind God like a stubborn mule?  The imagery fires the imagination and impresses upon us the need to walk humbly with our God.
Moreover, Scripture calls us to discipline our imaginations. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we are to “take captive every thought to Christ.” Because Satan wages war with words of deception, Jesus’ disciples “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” by means of ‘thought-control.’ Only this mental exercise is not some metaphysical séance. Rather, it is meditation on the propositions and poetry of God’s Word.
To wield the Sword well—another image, I might add—takes not only a right doctrine but a sanctified imagination. Such an imagination begins with learning the gospel and God’s view of the world (Rom 12:1–2), but soon this renewed mind must and will generate new thoughts that serve the needs of those around us. While some believers may be more creative than others, imagining acts of kindness for others is not limited to creative-types. It is a universal calling for everyone purchased by God to do good works. We all must employ our minds to imagine that which is excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).
Three Places Where Imagination is Key: Sincere Sympathy, Holy Outrage, and Practical Service
Let’s get more specific. Instead of talking in the abstract about imagining concrete ways of doing gospel-empowered good, let’s consider three ways imagination serves as the link between good intentions and good works.
First, a sanctified imagination creates sincere sympathy.
Think about the last time you heard sad news. How did you feel? Chances are if you have experienced a similar pain, you were quick to empathize.
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Pastor, Preach Christology at Christmas

The Christmas season does more than just rehearse the birth story of Jesus. It also calls pastors to ponder the mysteries of the eternal Son become flesh.

To celebrate the birth of Christ this year, our church is a reading through Isaiah, and in seven sermons I am preaching the whole book to show how Isaiah’s Gospel prepares the way for Christ. And I am preaching Isaiah for advent because I have a commitment to bless my church each Christmas with something beyond a repetition of last year’s Christmas sermons.
Indeed, one of the challenges of preaching at Christmas is returning year after year to the same birth story. While this annual rhythm always supplies fresh grace to the preacher and the hearer, it can become overdone. If pastors only preach Matthew in odd years and Luke in even, those who hear them will miss the larger themes of Christmas. Moreover, preachers who stick with the common texts may miss one of the greatest chances to preach Christology at Christmas and to teach eager saints glorious concepts like the hypostatic union, the Son’s eternal generation, and the extra Calvinisticum (more on these later).
That said, if one opens up the playbook of biblical Christology, the Christmas season does more than just rehearse the birth story of Jesus. It also calls pastors to ponder the mysteries of the eternal Son become flesh. In other words, there are few times in the year that invite such concentrated Christological meditation like Christmas. And so, as we begin a month of biblical and theological reflections at Christ Over All, let me offer three words for pastors preaching the Word made flesh—for this year and many more to come, Lord willing.
The Christotelic Canon
First, the place to begin a sermon series on Christology is the Old Testament canon.[1] Indeed, because the whole Bible (John 5:39) and every part of it (Luke 24:27) leads to Christ, it is critical to show how Jesus’s birth narratives fulfill Scripture. This can be done by following the pattern of Matthew and Luke, as their opening chapters show how the Prophets foretold the birth of Christ.
Academically, this approach to the Old Testament is sometimes labeled Christotelic. That is to say, Christ is the telos (the end or goal) of everything written in the Old Testament. Jesus read the Bible as a Spirit-given testimony about himself, and he taught his disciples to do the same (Luke 24:25–27, 44–49). Now, we who sit at the feet of the apostles and the prophets should teach our people how to read the Bible like Christ and his anointed followers.[2]
In truth, this practice of preaching Christ from all the Bible is for all seasons, not just Christmas. Yet, I have found that Christmas makes this kind of preaching more appetizing. Especially in churches where the saints are not (yet) steeped in biblical theology, Christmas is a great time to gift the church with a subscription to the Canon. In this way, you can start by looking at how Jesus fulfilled Scripture in Matthew 1–2, or you can show Jesus as the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), the promised seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3; Gal. 3:8), the royal son of David (Ps. 2, 45, 72, 110), or the son of the virgin who will rule the nations by the power of the Spirit (Isa. 7:14; 9:5–6; 11:1–5). Over the last fifteen years, I have preached all these texts at Christmas, and I would urge every pastor to do the same.
The Christological Pulpit
Next, after laying out the ways Christ’s birth fulfills the promises of God, it would be appropriate to introduce various theological concepts, especially as we see how atheological much of the church is today. Indeed, over the last decade I have introduced the grammar of Christology—the hypostatic union, the extra Calvinisticum, and a proper understanding of kenosis. Sometimes, I will use the full name of the doctrine—just before filling out the concept. Sometimes, I will just make sure the grammar and doctrine are explained from the text without using the technical name.
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How Sheep Get Saved: Jesus as the Door, the Good Shepherd, and the Sovereign Sacrifice (A Sermon on John 10:1–21)

Jesus addresses his adversaries, the ones seeking to kill him, and he tells a parable that describes God’s coming judgment on the temple courts of Jerusalem. At the same time, his parable identifies Jesus as the only Savior who can lead his sheep away from this impending disaster.

In Luke 15 we come across a parable told by Jesus, directed at the Pharisees, where a shepherd leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go save the one lost sheep. In that parable Jesus says something about himself and the lost sheep he has come to save. Even more, in that parable, Jesus speaks against the Pharisees who have refused to find the lost sheep. Simultaneously, he reveals the kingdom he is bringing, a kingdom filled with lost sheep, now found by Christ.
Just in case you have not read Luke 15 in a while, here it is again.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
In Luke’s Gospel everyone agrees this is parable. Jesus is using sheep to speak about the conditions in Jerusalem, which he was going to change soon.
In John 10 we have a similar parable, though the word parable (parabolē) is replaced by the word “figure of speech” (paroimian, v. 6). Ironically, many who read Jesus’s words in verses 1–6 do not recognize the parabolic nature of Jesus’s language. Instead, they see his words about the sheep as a mere illustration or metaphor. But in so doing, these commentators miss the context of Jesus’ sharp words.
So let me begin by saying that on the last day of the Feast of Booths, Jesus addresses his adversaries, the ones seeking to kill him, and he tells a parable that describes God’s coming judgment on the temple courts of Jerusalem. At the same time, his parable identifies Jesus as the only Savior who can lead his sheep away from this impending disaster.
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On Dobbs and the Growing Rift in America: Why Only a Spiritual Answer Explains the Division

From the beginning, there has been a long divide between people of faith and people of the flesh, those like Seth who called upon God (Gen. 4:26), and those like Lamech who collected wives, deviated from God’s law, and threatened violence (Gen. 4:23–24). 

June 24 is a date that all Christians should now mark on their calendar.
For nearly half a century, January 22 was the day that remembered the decision to make abortion available throughout America. And since the decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973, January 22 has been a day of prayer, petition, and planning for the end of Roe. And now, that prayer has been answered. Glory be to God!
On Friday, when the Supreme Court decided that Roe was not constitutional, they gave us a new day on the calendar to remember the sanctity of life and to give thanks to God for his mercy. June, a month co-opted for gay pride, has returned the rainbow, if for a moment, to its rightful owner—the God of mercy who does not give us what we deserve (see Genesis 9). More on the rainbow another day.
For now, it is worth remembering how the removal of Roe has been a rallying point for Pro-Life Christians for decades. And now that Roe has been overturned, we should give thanks to God for answering our prayers, and we should honor all those who sacrificed in order to make it happen.
Simultaneously, we should acknowledge the ways that elections have tangible consequences. In the election of Donald Trump, evangelicals supported this polarizing figure not because of his skin color, personal faith, or Twitter personality (definitely not his Twitter), but because of promises like this.
Incredibly, he fulfilled those promises. And Roe is now history.
At the same time, Roe’s end should bring incrementalists and abolitionists closer together, as they work to implement laws which protect life. Abolitionists should give thanks for the work incrementalists have done to end Roe, and incrementalists should take up the challenge set out by abolitionists to legislate equal protection under the law. Far more could be accomplished if these two approaches to abortion would work together.
Still, this post and the sermon that follows are less about abortion qua abortion. Rather, they are a biblical reflection on the spiritual warfare that fuels the battle over abortion. Indeed, as already evidenced by 41 cases of vandalism against pro-life groups, Christians should be ready for the increasing hostility that will come with the Dobbs decision. This is the point I want to make here.
The Present Divide is Perpetual, Because It Is Spiritual
Currently, I am ready a futuristic novel set in the year 2024. In Doug Wilson’s Ride Sally Ride, a young man throws a robot sex doll into a trash compactor and is charged with murder. Such is the confusion of personhood that a doll can be a person, if the “husband” says so. My body, my choice, I guess. That’s Wilson’s hook.
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The Sharp Edges of God’s Sovereign Salvation: 9 Truths about the Doctrine of Election

In truth, we deserve nothing but condemnation for our sins against our Creator God. Yet, the doctrine of election teaches us how God has made a way of eternal salvation, and for those who have been given life to believe, there are few doctrines more sweet and sobering. Such sweetness does not eliminate the challenge presented by this doctrine, but hopefully in this extended meditation on John 6 you can see what Jesus is saying, what God is doing, and what John’s Gospel is calling us to do—to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he has revealed to us the Father and the Father’s eternal plan for salvation.

A number of years ago, I preached a sermon Titus 1:1. In that passage, Paul says, he is “an apostle Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.” In that sermon it would be impossible and unfaithful to ignore the word “elect” (eklekton) and the way in which Paul labored for the faith of the elect.
And yet, despite the clear presence of the word in the text and its relationship to faith, truth, and Paul’s gospel ministry, my exposition initiated a cascade of events that resulted in my eventual resignation from my pastoral office. Such is the antagonism against the doctrine of election, which has often been flown under the banner of Calvinism.
In more recent days, I preached a series of messages from John 6, a passage that also touches the doctrine of election. And in these messages, preached in a church where the doctrines of grace are not eschewed but embraced, I was able to show from Scripture what Jesus says about God’s sovereignty in salvation.
In what follows, I want to bullet point some of the key truths uncovered in John 6 with respect to the doctrine of election. In many other articles, I have written how evangelism and election relate, what Scripture says about election, and what hyper-Calvinism really is. In this article, however, I want to stick to Jesus’s words in John 6—a passage where our Lord teaches about the ways God brings salvation to his elect, while passing over others.
Admittedly, this passage is a hard saying (v. 60) and election is a hard doctrine, but it is a true doctrine and one worth pondering. So, with the goal of understanding what Jesus says in John 6, let me offer nine truths about the doctrine of election.
Nine Truths about the Doctrine of Election
Before getting into the text, here is an outline of the nine points. Because what follows is rather long, you might consider picking which point is most interesting (or troubling) and starting there.

Election depends on the God who selects, not mankind who seeks.
Election is ordained in eternity and revealed in time.
Election in time mirrors God’s election in eternity.
God’s election results in faith, not the reverse.
Election does not deny the universal offer of Christ; it secures a positive response.
Election depends on the will of God, not the will of man.
The election of God’s people ensures that he will bring the gospel to them.
Election directs Jesus’s ministry, and ours.
Election is for the glory of God, not the glory of man.

1. Election depends on the God who selects, not mankind who seeks.
In John 6, we learn that Jesus is not compelled to save because some seek him; he is compelled to save because God sent him to save a particular people (i.e., the elect). This point is seen a few ways.
First, Jesus knows who are his. In John 6:37, he describes a people whom the Father has given him. These are the ones who will come. This language of “given ones” is Jesus’s way of identifying his sheep. Throughout John, the elect are described by this phrase—the given ones (see e.g., John 6:39; 10:29; 17:6–9, 11–12, 14, 24; 18:9). So Jesus does not randomly seek people to save, because in eternity past the Father already gave him a people to save. These are the ones who will come to him, and these are the chosen ones he has come to save.
Second, Jesus knows why people seek him. As John 6:26 declares, the crowds seek Jesus to fill their stomachs. Clearly, not all seekers seek from pure hearts. Jesus know this and shows, by the end of John 6, how many would-be seekers are not true seekers.
Third, Jesus knows who will not believe. In John 6:64, John writes, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.” This is a remarkable truth. As Jesus looked at a sea of humanity, he could see the heart of everyone before him (cf. John 2:23–25). And in his ministry, he spent as much time revealing unbelief in those who would not believe (cf. John 7:7), as he did producing faith in those who would. Perhaps, this approach to ministry seems foreign to our consumeristic minds, but read John 6 again. In John’s evangelistic Gospel (see 20:31), we will find an approach to evangelism that depends on God’s will, not appeals to man’s will.
In sum, Jesus is not the Savior of an unknown humanity, he is a Savior for all those whom the Father gave him before the world began.
2. Election is ordained in eternity and revealed in time.
As noted in Truth #1, Jesus works to expose the real condition of the heart. For instance, in his discourse with the crowds, Jesus brings his seekers to a place of grumbling (v. 41), disputing (v. 52), and leaving (v. 66). In this way, he shows the crowds that they are not truly seeking seek him. And he does this because he knows who will not believe.
Conversely, because he knows who will believe, he says and does everything for his elect, so that they would confess him as their Lord and Christ (v. 67). Remarkably, Jesus does not fear losing the ones God has given to him. Instead, he opens the door for them to leave and he challenges his elect to profess their faith—which they do. In John 6:67–69, we read this exchange,
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Indeed, the elect of God are unknown to the world until they are revealed by enduring faith.
To put it doctrinally, election is something God does in eternity past, which is then revealed in time. And because God has decreed the end from the beginning and everything in between, the result of Jesus’s word ministry perfectly matches what God ordained.
3. Election of the Twelve reflects, but does not reveal, God’s election in eternity.
The last statement in John 6 is one highlighting the divide which still stands among the Twelve.
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
Most directly, Jesus says to the Twelve, that he has chosen them. In context, Jesus’s words reply to Peter’s great confession (vv. 68–69), but they also explain why Peter confessed faith in Christ. When all the crowds departed, Peter remained with the Twelve because Jesus choose them. In other words, the ultimate efficacy of their discipleship was not their human will. It was Jesus’s divine choice.
Still, Jesus admits that one of his chosen ones, Judas, remains a son of perdition. As it will be revealed, God’s choice of Judas is different than that of Peter. For instance, Jesus prays to protect Peter from Satan’s sifting (Luke 22:31), but Jesus permits, even sends, Judas to follow his Satanic heart (John 13:2, 27). In short, the difference between Peter and Judas is ultimately up to God, not man. And this divide in the Twelve, like the divide between the Twelve and the departing crowds, reflects the eternal choice of God’s elect.
That said, we need to see a difference between the Father’s choice in election and Jesus’s choice of the Twelve. In other words, when Jesus speaks of the election of the Twelve, he is not describing the same reality as the Father’s election. Jesus chose Judas to be one of the twelve, but he chose him knowing that he would betray him. Hence, Jesus chose Judas for betrayal, not belief. Judas’s betrayal would be a result of his own choosing, when he followed the ways of Satan instead of Christ.
Christ’s of him then is not in opposition to the Father’s will. His choice is something different than the Father’s election unto salvation. Jesus’s choice of the Twelve was a choosing for service, of which eleven disciples were also appointed to believe in Christ, but one wasn’t. And this bifurcation in the Twelve indicates a difference between the Son’s choice and the Father’s.
To make the point finer. This does not mean that the Father and Son have two different elections; it means that Jesus’s election of the Twelve reflects God’s will to ordain some to life and service, while for others he orders their lives to glorify him in their unbelief. As Proverbs 16:4 states, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” In short, Jesus choice of the Twelve reflects God’s sovereign decree for the elect and the non-elect, not God’s choice of the elect only.
In the Trinitarian theology of John, this is fitting. Jesus does exactly what he sees the Father doing (5:19) and that activity of the Father includes judgment and salvation (5:19–30). Sublimely, God is sovereign over salvation and judgment. And though the process by which God brings salvation to the elect and judgment to unbelievers is not the same (i.e., he condemns unbelievers for their sins in the body, not for being non-elect), the cosmic reality remains: God has declared the end from the beginning and he has determined the eternal reality of every creature.
In Christ’s choice of the twelve, we see this. His election of the eleven who believe on him and the one who will betray him, depicts the universal reality that God has made vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath and all the creatures in his world will ultimately render him the glory for which he created them (cf. Rom. 9:19–23).
4. God’s election results in faith, not the reverse.
As Jesus says in John 6:29, Jesus says that faith is not the work of man, but the work of God. Or to say it differently, faith is the fruit of God’s gift of eternal life (v. 47). Negatively, then, faith is not what man does to get God. But positively, faith is the work of God in man.
Man must believe in the Son to be saved, but faith in the Son comes from the Father (vv. 44, 65) by means of the Spirit (v. 63). And because the Father, Son, and Spirit planned salvation before the world began, we can say with confidence, election results in faith, not the reverse.
Even more concretely, John 6:47 leads us to see that faith comes from people who have received the gift of eternal life (“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life”). And as John 6:54 indicates, feeding on Jesus is only possible for those who have received eternal life (“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”).
Indeed, Jesus says you must eat of his flesh to have eternal life (v. 54), but such a participation in Christ will only come if God has granted life (cf. 1 John 5:1).
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