"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

5 Reasons Why New Covenant Baptism Is Spiritual


From the Greek word baptizo which means "to immerse or completely dip."

When Christians hear the English word "baptism" (a word only transliterated - not translated - from the Greek word baptizo), the average religious mind immediately thinks of "water."

Few stop to consider that baptizo simply means "to immerse" but the substance into what one is immersed must be defined by the context of the word's usage.

For example, you can be immersed (baptized) into work. You can be immersed (baptized) into school. You can be immersed (baptized) into video games. You can be immersed (baptized) into sports. You can be... well, you get the idea.

It's amazing how many Jesus followers fall out of fellowship over religious ritual water baptisms in the church. 

Some denominations sprinkle water as their baptismal rite. Some pour water on the one baptized. Some submerge in water for religious baptism. Few Christians are agreeable with those who disagree with them on water baptism.

Some baptize infants of believing parents into the church. Some baptize believing parents and all their children (regardless of belief) at the same time into the church. Some baptize only believing persons into the church.

Astonishingly, literal wars have been fought among "Christians" over disagreements on water baptisms.

How can Scripture teach "there is one body and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:4-5) when there seem to be almost as many different kinds of baptisms as there are different religious denominations?

Answer: The "one baptism" referenced in Ephesians 4:4-5 is "the one" baptism experienced by every true believer of Jesus, and it occurs when God the Father baptizes the believer "into" the Holy Spirit.

I believe the very nature of New Testament Christian baptism is mostly misunderstood by Christians

New Covenant baptism is God immersing Christ believers "into" the Holy Spirit upon them hearing and believing the proclamation of God's good grace through Jesus Christ.

19th-century New Testament Greek scholar James W. Dale believed and taught that Christian baptism is "into" the Spirit, and not water. Dr. Dale taught this in his superb books on baptism which were based on the Greek New Testament text.

Greek scholars Phillip Schaff (History of the Christian Church), A.H. Strong (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance), and Joseph Henry Thayer (Thayer's Greek Lexicon) all praised James W. Dale's seminal works on baptism.

As a reminder, here is the inspired text telling us what Jesus taught about Christian baptism.
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18,19)
Here's what Dr. James Dale said about what Jesus taught in Matthew 28:18-19:
"The language of inspiration announces a real baptism as distinctly as can be done by the use of words; (but) there is absolutely no evidence of a ritual baptism (of water) in connection with Jesus' words, either in this passage or elsewhere in the Scripture.”
This wonderful baptism (Matthew 28:18-19) into the Trinity... has no direct or designed relation to a ritual baptism of water.

Baptism was, however, very soon after the times of the Apostles, connected with the administration of the Christian rite. It is admitted, both by ancient and modern expositors, that the practice of the Church is not the practice of the Apostles.

The only question, therefore, on the merits of the case, is this question: Have the Apostles, or has the Church, since the third century, more correctly interpreted the Great Commission?”

Dr. Dale's says Matthew 28:18-19, commonly called The Great Commission, teaches disciples of Jesus that the baptism required of Jesus followers' is God's baptism of them into the Holy Spirit.

5 Reasons that New Testament Christian Baptism Is Into the Spirit, Not Water 

1. Baptism of water and baptism of the Spirit are contrasted in the New Testament.

Water baptism was a Jewish ritual immersion into water representing repentance toward God. Baptism into the Spirit is something that Jesus' work accomplished for those who trust Him.

And (John) preached, saying, "There comes one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit...” (Mark 1:7-8)

Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit—not many days hence. (Acts 11:16)

John's baptism of water for repentance was a call to God's Old Covenant Jewish people to repent and turn back toward God. Just like other Old Testament shadows came to an end as the eternal age of grace dawned (e.g. The New Covenant), so Old Covenant water purification immersions foreshadowed the eternal reality of Jesus follower's from every nation being baptized by God the Father into the Holy Spirit at the moment faith in Christ occurs.

2. God the Father immersing Christ's disciples into the Spirit is required before the Great Commission begins.

Before Jesus' disciples "went into the world" to make more of His disciples, they were told to "wait in Jerusalem" as His disciples. Waiting before going.

Waiting for what?

They were to wait for God the Father to baptize them into the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:4).
The New Covenant Church began at Pentecost.

For 40 years after Pentecost, the Gospel went "to the Jews first." Why "Jews" first? Because the New Testament prophets announced to them the end of the Old Covenant with Israel and the inauguration of the New Covenant to the world (Hebrews 8:13), an Old Covenant that officially and finally came to an end in AD 70 at the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

3. Our baptism into the Holy Spirit at the time of faith in Christ is how we become disciples.

John's water baptism (like modern church baptisms) may make people outward disciples of churches, nations, or religious movements.

But it is biblical baptism into the Holy Spirit is the qualifier for making more disciples of Jesus and His Kingdom.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into the world to make disciples of Him through teaching and proclaiming everything they learned from Him, but to only go after being baptized at Pentecost with the Spirit.
Then, the disciples were to...
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).
Henry Alford in his Critical Greek New Testament and ExegeticalCommentary writes:
It is unfortunate that our English Bible does in Matthew 28:19 give us the force of ‘eis.’ (translated "in"). It should be 'into' as in Galatians3:27.

The Greek preposition eis means“into." The Greek word en, means “in." The use of eis in Matthew 28:19 means that this baptism is actually the placement of the repentant believer “INTO the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

This is the only baptism that matters.

4. As we teach and preach what Christ said and did, the Father immerses new believers into the Spirit.

"All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18,19
It has been pointed out by many biblical scholars that the above passage from Matthew does not say the disciples directly do the baptizing.

The disciples of Jesus Christ commanded to do only one thing—“disciple all nations.”

“Baptizing them” stands as an adverbial phrase modifying the words "make disciples."

In other words, the making of disciples of Jesus Christ by the messengers of those things Christ taught will result in the “baptism” of true believers in the message.

But baptism into what?

Answer: The Holy Spirit

Those who go to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples of Christ from all nations through preaching and teaching the Good News will find the Father“baptizing believers (into the Spirit), saving believers from the punishment of their sins, changing the heart of believers from hearts of stone (hard hearts) to hearts of flesh (soft hearts), and converting the minds of believers."

Salvation is a work of God, including the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for He is the direct administrator of the Spirit's baptism.
Those who share the gospel (men and women) indirectly administer the baptism of the Spirit through their proclamation of the gospel which is “power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16).

But God baptizes believers in Christ into the Spirit.

In John 14, Christ comforts His early disciples by promising that the Holy Spirit would come to take up His residence within them while they remained on earth to fulfill Christ's Commission of making new disciples.

Only God the Father baptizes us into the Spirit.

Our job as disciples of Christ is to proclaim Christ and what He's done to other sinners.

Christ gave all believers “the Promise of the Spirit” in John 14:26 and this promise is the equivalent to “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 1:4-5.

It is through the Father's baptism of us into the Holy Spirit that the very Life of God takes up residence our souls.
“...the Comforter (or) the Spirit...will abide with you, I (Christ) will come to you...and my Father will love him, and We will come unto you...” (see John 14).
Our immersion“into Christ” via faith in Christ (Gal. 3:27-28) and “into one body” via that same faith (I Cor. 12:13) are identical to and simultaneous with God's “baptism of us the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:7-8).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). 
This baptism in Mark 16:16 is the believer's into the Holy Spirit as the life of God begins to indwell the soul of that believer.

5. The baptism of Cornelius is the transition from Old Covenant water baptism to New Covenant Spirit baptism.

Read Acts 10:43-44 and Acts 11:16.
"All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
Peter would later say that “hearts” of the Gentiles who heard his message (Acts 10) had been “purified” from sin “by faith” (Acts 15:8-9). The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings evidence of the Spirit's indwelling presence: 
"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other" (Galatians 5:19-26)

Some might object, "But didn't Peter later command these Gentile believers to be baptized in water?"

Yes, but allow Dr. Jack Langford to explain why Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, commanded water baptism, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, did not.
"Peter's command for water baptism was only the temporary continuation of John’s baptism which, from the beginning of its inception, was also performed upon Roman soldiers who desired to identify with the Messianic hopes of Israel (see Luke 3:12-14 and the Gentiles coming to John the Baptist for water baptism). This (water baptism) is its purpose for Cornelius and his household. They are merely ritually purified unto Israel’s Messianic Kingdom hope. They were saved under Peter’s ministry, who was an Apostle to the Jewish people (Gal. 2:7-8), and still anticipating their national hope (editor's note: a hope which disappeared in AD 70).
Between Acts 10 and Acts 15 many thousands of Gentiles were saved under the ministry of Paul, who is called—“The Apostle to the Gentiles (nations).” At the conference of the Church in Acts 15 it is clearly decided, by Paul’s distinctive revelations (Gal. 2:2) and strong determination (Gal.2:5), that the Law with its “meats and drinks and variety of baptisms” was not to be imposed upon the Gentile converts—see Acts 15:5, 19, 24, 28; 21:25 & Hebrews 9:10. This included John’s water baptism, which was the last act of righteous purity under the Law system—see Matt. 3:15. The Jewish believers would continue to observe the Law until the close of the book of Acts (Acts 21:20-26 & Heb. 8:13).
According to the judgment by the Spirit led counsel in Jerusalem, the Gentiles were totally free from the Jewish ritual Law system. All the Law’s “meats and drinks and variety of baptisms” (Heb. 9:10) were not to be imposed upon the Gentiles—Acts 15:24-29. As the national Kingdom hopes of Israel were gradually diminished, then this water baptism would cease as well. The book of Acts is the history of the transition out of Judaism into pure Christianity. As new revelation progressively unfolds, then the ceremonial and ritualistic Law system will fade away until it “vanishes” altogether (Heb. 8:13).
In New Covenant global Christianity, the one baptism of the New Testament is God the Father immersing believers in Jesus Christ into the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving the power of God to make other disciples.


1. The important baptism in your church is Spirit baptism, not water baptism, for that is the "one baptism" of the New Testament.

2. Show concern for those church members without the "fruits of the Spirit" even though they've experienced water baptism, for the former is the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of Christ, and the latter is only entrance into the temporal, institutional church.

3. Water baptism can be a wonderful testimony of conversion, but the mode may be able to represent different aspects of the work of the Trinity:
a. Pouring water over one's head can represent the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
b. Immersion into the water can represent the "death, burial, and resurrection" of Christ the Son..
c. Sprinkling water on to the head can represent hope in God the Father bringing covenant grace.
4. Listen to the testimony of one who has experienced the water ritual, but always remember that the baptism which counts is Spirit baptism. "One faith (in Christ); one baptism, (in the Spirit), one LORD (over all believers)."

5. Nothing wrong with an institutional church requiring a certain kind of baptism, but heaven itself requires Spirit baptism. Therefore, when we get to heaven there will be no separate rooms partitioned by different water rituals.

There is only one eternal Church and all who enter there 
must be baptized in the Spirit of the Living God. 

Compare House Churches to Institutional Churches

I often receive correspondence from people who've read my book Fraudulent Authority, asking me questions about how an institutional or traditional church can operate if there is "no authority" vested in the office of pastor or in "male elders who rule over God's people."

First, I explain that there is a difference between spiritual authority and legal authority.

A police officer who stops you has legal authority, but he or she is not your spiritual authority. So too, in any church that petitions the government for 501-C3 non-profit status (incorporation status), there are people that the state recognizes as the legal authority of that church.

It's not the pastor. It's not the people. The state recognizes the trustees of the incorporated church as the legal authority.

Most Christians don't realize that if a traditional church faces a lawsuit, the trustees of the church are the ones who go to court. Insurance policies cover the church for liability, but trustees answer to the court on all legal matters.

Emmanuel Enid has a leadership team that is composed of the chairpersons of our seven standing committees (Finance, Personnel, Missions, etc.) and five trustees, plus the Lead Pastor. No person on this Leadership Team, including the pastor, has spiritual authority over anybody else.

But we recognize that the state places legal authority in the trustees, and civil authority in the pastor (e.g. marriage ceremonies, special exemptions on taxes, etc.).

There is no spiritual authority over anybody in the church except Jesus Christ.
Jesus called them aside and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave." Matthew 20:25-27
Half of our Leadership Team is composed of females, and the other half is composed of males. The best leadership decision we've ever made as a church in the last 50 years at Emmanuel Enid is placing gifted, humble women of character in positions of leadership. 

All business decisions between quarterly church business meetings are made by the Leadership Team. But no one person on the Leadership Team considers himself or herself greater than, lord over, or ruler of any person in the church of Jesus Christ. 

We leave rulership to Him.

House Churches vs. Traditional Churches

Once people begin to understand that all spiritual authority is invested in Christ, and His Spirit becomes the sole ruler in the hearts of His people, then the next question that arises goes like this: 
"Well if that's the case, wouldn't it be better for Christians to meet in homes and do Kingdom work than to waste money on traditional churches where preachers act as if they are God's vicar on earth?"
It's a good question.

I pastor a fairly large church, but I'm sympathetic toward house churches.

I also understand more than most that the church where I pastor can do far more to impact nations and people groups cooperating in massive mission efforts than a local house church. But, truth be known, house churches can participate with other large 501C-3 non-profits and participate in some of the same humanitarian and gospel work that we do at Emmanuel Enid.

So let's talk about the pros/cons of house churches vs. traditional churches.

Graeme Cooksley of Australia has read Fraudulent Authority, and he is involved in a house church. He also has leadership experience in a large, traditional church which possessed a good understanding of proper servant leadership (e.g. pastors or elders who refused to rule over or control people).

Graeme has given me some insight into the pros and cons of house churches vs. insitutional churches, and he's given me permission to share it with you.

It is assumed that house churches (HC), function with small numbers, often 20 or less. Institutional churches (IC) may be from 20 up to mega size in numbers.

The Meaning of "Church"

The HC concept is that the Christian is ‘being the Church’, (as opposed to ‘going to church’), wherever he/she may be. The follow on from this is that one’s whole life is seen as ministry. This can empower too, as any part of life is seen as missional.
The IC is seen as its members finding their identity in ‘going to church’, often with tribal undertones, and the church often functions along business (think hierarchical tree), or association paradigms. Often, whatever the member wants to pursue, is controlled from “the Top”, both within and without the fellowship. (Note: this last characteristic can be found in HCs too, if dominated and controlling leadership is present in them.)


The HC is more relational with the smaller numbers. Good personal relationships between attendees are often the normal, which helps build a sense of community, or family feel.
The IC lack good relationships between attendees, and rather, may provide the anonymity that some may like or prefer, but, it may also leave people feeling alone/lost “in the crowd”.


The HC is often structured to include a meal (start or finish), and if not that, then some form of refreshment and fellowship “around the table” that involves all participating.
This may be more difficult in the IC, and refreshment may lead to friends/cliques meeting (to catch up!), that tends to be isolationist, and often tends to leave others out.

Prominent Personality 1

The HC may have a dominant vocal person that makes group participation difficult. This person may too, be a bully. 
The IC church setting, because of traditional program or culture, does not see this so often, although the ‘leader’ (pastor), may be prominent, even to the stage of gaining a following. It may be evident too, in the IC’s small groups setting. The leader or others in a small group may be a bully.

Prominent Personality 2

 The HC setting generally functions in an “all expected to participate/contribute” setting. Often someone will share or teach, and it tends to be dialogue rather than monologue. Often someone is asked to share “next week”, this is a jump off point. All the attendees are encouraged to be participators, ask questions (nothing out of bounds!), discuss, or challenge any teaching or statement. Duties tend to fall on the persons gifted in that particular area, i.e. functional ministries.
The IC often has a prominent person, generally the “pastor”, and there is a traditional program format that tends to inhibit open individual participation, particularly with ordinances and sacraments, which may require “qualified” ministries. The attendees tend to have a passive/spectator role, apart from corporate singing, and rostered and appointed duties.

Theological Error

The HC may face erroneous teaching, and it often depends on the maturity and knowledge of the others, to detect error and bring correction. Error or suspect matter can often quickly be confronted in a small group. On the other hand a heterodoxical view, or alternative interpretation of text(s) may cause a problem in a small group, either by division, or total acceptance and focus on that theme/topic, thus leading to unbalanced teaching.
The IC may also face erroneous teaching that may not be so easy to correct, especially if it come from a controlling, authoritive pastor, with no or little accountability to attendees, or other leadership. Often IC constitutions or rules may be more man-made than Scriptural, and the IC “cultural inertia” may make change/correction almost impossible, especially if it is a top-down doctrine/teaching.

Meeting Content

The HC setting allows flexibility/spontaneity, not only in meeting together times, but in content, and the opportunity to be led by the Spirit, but in a small gathering, people with certain Gifts of the Holy Spirit, may not be present to contribute to and/or encourage the others. (cf above in Prominent Personality 2: )
Generally, everyone can make a contribution in the meeting, or share gifts and ministries in other ways.
The HC meeting may tend towards topical sharing, and may even be unbalanced by emphasis in one area.
The IC setting tends to be program driven, which may be restrictive, especially to individual gifted attendees. Some may never get opportunity to exercise their gifts/ministry in the congregational setting.
The majority of those in a meeting will be spectators, with only a few participating. Often, in Pentecostal/Charismatic fellowships some of the Gifts of the Spirit may operate, involving a few people (sometimes, even, in an allocated program time span!).
Some ICs often follow a prescribed lectionary program (over, say, 3 years), and preaching/teaching is often linked to those texts and church calendar themes, which can lead to more expository rather than topical teaching/preaching.
In both settings a lack of preparation by participants may affect the gathering.


The HC generally has little overhead expenses and salary costs for staff. Giving can be utilised fully for external purposes. Giving is not a strong topic or raised very often. (My view is that giving should be Spirit-led, not mechanical, or obligatory tithes. GC)
The IC, often with property, buildings and salary overheads, means that a substantial part of giving is for self-supporting purposes. However, by combining with other IC churches (in the denomination), giving may allow larger money sums be provided for substantial expenditure items, e.g. missional projects.


The HC fellowships tend to be autonomous, and may not be open to accountability by others, if error or problems arise. The autonomy may cause a disconnect with other parts of The Church in a city.
The IC may provide a means of oversight and accountability. However, if the IC’s denomination moves into error, then so does the IC, which then may give rise to constitutional problems, if it wants to disassociate with that denominational stand. Likewise, an IC may, or may not, connect with and relate to other parts of The Church in a city. In some cases, the IC may actually be autonomous, and if part of a denominational group, control or relational pressure from that group may not be possible, e.g. the SBC.


The HC situation may vary: 1. often authority is carried by the fellowship, in that, some decisions are consensus voice, and at other times it may be vested in a person, depending on their giftedness (functional), and the situation. Overall there is a recognition that Jesus is the ultimate authority. This authority is supportive of others’ ministries and callings. 
2. On the other hand, some HCs have a controlling person(s), exercising authority, that tends to brook no dissent and conformity.
The IC tends to have authority vested in those in positional (office) places, and like 2., of the HC above, the authority is authoritive, controlling, and may not be accountable to others. It can lead to “my way, or the highway” scenes with others. The structures tend be hierarchal, often with the hierarchal line extending outside the local congregation, or even outside the geographical boundaries of area and/or country. The IC often has a “corporation” feel about it, and the authority may be exercised more in a CEO manner rather than out of servanthood.


The HC measures strengths of relationships, between one another, and more importantly between the individuals and God. The latter is presumed in the (oft asked) question, “What has God been saying to you today? Is there something we need to hear, or act on?” Relationship building occurs outside of the “regular fellowship”, with social get-togethers, 1 on 1 coffee, meals etc.
The IC metrics seem to be around, as a friend was want to say at his leaders’ meetings, “What is the discussion about tonight? Is it the ABC?”, i.e. Attendance, Buildings, Cash-flow! (Some ICs are using facial recognition/computers to track attendance!!) Many ICs are performance driven, numbers/buildings growth being a huge measure of the" success” (of the leader).

Leadership (Touched on in part, in paragraphs above.)

The HC leadership styles vary from group to group, from true servants, to dominating and controlling leaders. Some are in networks or linking, and may even have a hierarchal structure. In the 2 groups I am closely associated with, the leader is more in a facilitator role, and serving. If asked, “who is the leader?”, the response is often, “Whoever is speaking at the moment!”
The IC leadership is generally a dominant model, often a “one man band”, with total control of the meetings, and what attendees can do or not do. That leadership may be moderated by a board, or committee, or elders, depending on the IC’s constitution, culture, and/or tradition.

Growth strategies

 The HC movement looks for growth from the locality, by going out to engage the community. Some may use a prayer walking strategy to facilitate this. Many encourage the building of long term relationships with neighbours with hospitality, or engagement in local activities, and this is seen as missional. Often a local “information” meeting is arranged, and an opportunity is offered, to inform and encourage people to consider HC.
When it comes to church planting, it is relatively easy for a group from the first HC to move to a new locality and start, often with no expense, as all that is required, is in the new house setting. The “plant” may start with only a few people, and in a very simple way.
Personal growth is encouraged, and facilitated, often by a personal discipleship program. Often a “teach a disciple today, let them teach that to someone else tomorrow”, is a growth approach. Also, development comes by encouraging participation (both inside and outside), by asking attendees to bring a word, devotion, tell what God is doing/saying in their lives, present a communion word, or ask questions, with dialogue encouraged to add-to material presented.
The IC looks for growth from the locality, too, but often in the way of inviting people to “come”, to an existing church building. Ministry is seen as specialist (ordained), and often a clergy/laity dichotomy precludes development of personal ministries, or limits what may be done, often the “growth” strategy is to invite non-believers to ‘the church”, for ministry. Growth of persons is often facilitated by a “Bible Study” night, often presented in a monologue, with little interaction, or a topical programed study guide.
A church plant is often a carefully planned, budgeted and implemented strategy. Traditional thinking often requires a suitable building and facilities, musical instruments, a team with the leader, and often 10s’ of thousands of dollars finance for the materials required, and the staff salaries.

These are some good comparisons of the pros and cons of house churches vs. institutional churches.

My personal conclusions is that one ought to be wary of anyone who categorically rules out house churches OR institutional churches.

Both are beset with traps, and both have advantages.

The main challenge for both types of churches is for those participating to focus on Kingdom work and stop trying to rule others or gain advantages over others through Fraudulent Authority

Welcoming Without Affirming Yet Transforming

For those of us who believe in truth and live in grace, we sometimes find ourselves misunderstood.

Because we welcome and love all the people in our lives,  we are sometimes wrongly perceived as "compromising" the truth.

On the other hand, because we say that adulterous, homosexual, bi-sexual, and transexual behavior is sin, some wrongly perceive us as judgmental.

There is another way.

A Christian can be welcoming and loving without affirming.

It's similar to welcoming into your home for Christmas your 6-pack a day cigarette smoking and pint daily Scotch drinking father into your house without smoking cigarettes and drinking Scotch yourself. You also do not feel the need to affirm to anyone how smoking that many cigarettes and drinking that much Scotch is simply an alternative way to enjoy life.

Loving without affirming is possible.

But navigating LBGT issues as Christians who believe that God's Word conveys eternal truth is not easy.

I have a friend who has written a book that gives superb guidance.

Travis Collins has written a book entitled What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming? Navigating LGBT Issues In Your Church.

Of all the books I've read on this subject, Travis' book is the hands-down best book on the subject!

Travis writes:
"The way of compassionate morality means extending our arms and hearts to people who are making bad sexual choices whether they are straight or gay, but not endorsing those choices.”
The book is divided into three sections. In the first section, Travis asks the difficult questions and shows the importance of having this conversation. In the second section, Travis takes us to the Scriptures and shows us the relevant passages on issues of sexual morality and provides insight into differing viewpoints. And in the final section,  Travis encourages the read through sharing testimonies of people helped by these conversations and challenges the reader to continue the conversation because it's important.
"To love God is to keep his commandments as best we can understand them. To love people is to extend grace. We cannot falter on either.” Travis Collins

Outreach Magazine recently awarded What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming? the 2019 Outreach Resource Book of the Year. 

Travis Collins is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and has served as a pastor and missionary for more than three decades.  He holds a Ph.D. in Christian Mission and is a member of the Fresh Expressions US Team.  

I highly recommend What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming?

It will be a lighted path toward welcoming without affirming yet transforming.

Alexander Hamilton, Dr. Cooper, and False Reality

I'm reading the excellent book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the biography which serves as the basis for the Tony-award winning music Hamilton, for which Chernow served as historical consultant.

There's a story from the life of 19-year-old Hamilton in Chernow's book that made me laugh out loud, but it serves as a classic illustration of how events in your life are viewed through your prism of perception.

Before I get to the anecdote, think about your life for a moment.

Your perception is your reality.

Author Gregory Berns states in his book Iconoclast, “Perception is the brain’s way of interpreting ambiguous visual signals in the most likely explanation possible. These explanations are a direct result of past experience."
You have a filter or a prism in your mind that colors what you see and experience.
A glance away can be interpreted as a cold shoulder from a friend, a shoulder which may actually be warm toward you. 
Words spoken with passion by a friend or co-worker are interpreted as anger, an emotion that may not be present in the speaker.
An attitude you "pick up on" in your spouse may trigger a negative response from you, puzzling the one who knows you best. 
Your real world is your perceived world.

And sometimes you make poor decisions because you're living in a false reality.

Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773
Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from St. Croix, entered King's College (now Columbia University), New York City, in the fall of 1773. The Boston Tea Party occurred in Boston on December 16, 1773, Hamilton's first semester at King's as an eighteen-year-old. In the Boston Harbor, American Colonists revolted the against English Parliament by casting barrels of English tea overboard. The Americans were enraged at the Tea Tax, and showed their outrage by throwing the tea overboard shouting the phrase "no taxation without representation."

Tensions increased between the American Colonists after the Tea Party. Those Americans desiring Independence as a country (called Patriots) were opposed by those colonists who were loyalists to England (called Tories). Some English politicians who served in the English Parliament at London wished to destroy the city of Boston as punishment for the Tea Rebellion and "turn it into a modern Carthage."

On July 6, 1774, six months after the Boston Tea Party, collegian Alexander Hamilton went to The Commons (now City Hall Park) and climbed a "box" to speak to the crowd which had gathered. The Commons regularly hosted impromptu political speeches, debates, and news, and New Yorkers gathered regularly to keep informed. This was Hamilton's first public speech.  He started slowly and quietly, but words began to flow more quickly and passionately as Hamilton eloquently defended the Patriots of Boston and stated his logical, legal, and civil arguments for American Independence.

After listening to nineteen-year-old Hamilton's stirring speech, the crowd began to whisper "It is a collegian!"

That speech marks the beginning of Hamilton's meteoric rise as one of American's Founding Fathers.

On April 19, 1775, less than a year after Hamilton's speech, British soldiers killed 8 colonists at Lexington and 2 more at Concord, and the American Revolutionary War began.

Hamilton was still a student at King's College when the War began.

Dr. Myles Cooper
The President of King's College, Myles Cooper, had been known as the most vocal Tory in New York. Dr. Cooper despised the rebels who wished to throw off English authority, and he made known his opposition to American Independence as often as possible.

In December 1773, President Cooper had admitted the autodidactic Hamilton into King's College as an "exception" to the typical college entrance requirements.

For that grace and for other reasons, Alexander Hamilton looked on President Cooper "as a father to me."

But Alexander Hamilton's vocal support of the American Patriots which began on July 6, 1774, and continued through his erudite essays published in the King's College newsletter caused President Cooper to wrongly believe Alexander Hamilton had become his enemy. 

That was Myles Cooper perception, and thus his reality.

Which leads us to the anecdote of how false reality can harm you. Five days after Lexington and Concord, an anonymous pamphlet appeared in New York blaming Myles Cooper and four other "obnoxious gentlemen" for the deaths of American Patriots in Massachussets. Listen to Ron Chernow recount what happened next (emphasis mine).
On April 24, a huge throng of patriots, some eight thousand strong, massed in front of City Hall. While radicals grew giddy with excitement, many terrified Tory merchants began to book passage for England. The next day, an anonymous handbill blamed Myles Cooper and four other “obnoxious gentlemen” for the patriotic deaths in Massachusetts and said the moment had passed for symbolic gestures, such as burning Tories in effigy. “The injury you have done to your country cannot admit of reparation,” these five Loyalists were warned. “Fly for your lives or anticipate your doom by becoming your own executioners.” This blatant death threat was signed, “Three Millions.' A defiant Myles Cooper stuck to his college post. 
After a demonstration on the night of May 10, hundreds of protesters armed with clubs and heated by a heady brew of political rhetoric and strong drink descended on King’s College, ready to inflict rough justice on Myles Cooper. Hercules Mulligan recalled that Cooper “was a Tory and an obnoxious man and the mob went to the college with the intention of tarring and feathering him or riding him upon a rail.” Nicholas Ogden, a King’s alumnus, saw the angry mob swarming toward the college and raced ahead to Cooper’s room, urging the president to scramble out a back window. Because Hamilton and Troup shared a room near Cooper’s quarters, Ogden also alerted them to the approaching mob. “Whereupon Hamilton instantly resolved to take his stand on the stairs [i.e., the outer stoop] in front of the Doctor’s apartment and there to detain the mob as long as he could by a harangue in order to gain the Doctor the more time for his escape,” Troup later recorded.
After the mob knocked down the gate and surged toward the residence, Hamilton launched into an impassioned speech, telling the vociferous protesters that their conduct, instead of promoting their cause, would “disgrace and injure the glorious cause of liberty.” One account has the slightly deaf Cooper poking his head from an upper-story window and observing Hamilton gesticulating on the stoop below. He mistakenly thought that his pupil was inciting the crowd instead of pacifying them and shouted, “Don’t mind what he says. He’s crazy!” Another account has Cooper shouting at the ruffians: “Don’t believe anything Hamilton says. He’s a little fool!” The more plausible version is that Cooper had long since vanished, having scampered away in his nightgown on Ogden’s warning.  
Hamilton likely knew he couldn’t stop the intruders, but he won the vital minutes necessary for Cooper to clamber over a back fence and rush down to the Hudson. Afraid for his life, Cooper meandered along the shore all night. The next day, he boarded a man-of-war bound for England, where he resumed his tirades against the colonists from the safety of a study. Among other things, he published a melodramatic poem about his escape. He told how the rabble—“a murderous band”—had burst into his room, “And whilst their curses load my head / With piercing steel they probe the bed / And thirst for human gore.” This image of the president set upon by bloodthirsty rebels was more satisfying than the banal truth that he cravenly ran off half-dressed into the night. Cooper never saw Hamilton again and wept copiously when England lost the Revolution. He could not resist grumbling in his will that “all my affairs have been shattered to pieces by this abominable rebellion.”
Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton (p. 63-64). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
"Don't mind what he says, he's crazy!" Dr. Cooper had yelled about the man trying to save him.

Dr. Cooper's false reality almost cost him his life.

May God grant us all the grace to recognize our perceptions are sometimes wrong.

Let's keep an open mind.

Let's not judge motives in others, for we can't know motives.

Even when the "actions" of others seem to indicate one thing, always believe the best about others (I Corinthians 13:7).

In the end, our good and loving God is in control, and to trust Him means we have the wisdom to know that our perceptions are not always our reality.

Fannie Longfellow's Death and "God Is Not Dead"

Fannie Longfellow (1820-1861)
On July 10, 1861, Frances Elizabeth "Fannie" Appleton Longfellow died from complications of an accidental fire in her home at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

While combing the hair of her three young girls (Alice, Allegra, and Edith) on Tuesday evening, July 9, a self-lighting phosphorous match fell to the floor, sparking a flame that caught Fannie's delicate muslin dress on fire. 

Screaming, Fannie ran into the study where her husband sat at his desk.

Startled, Henry Longfellow immediately jumped to the aid of his burning wife, pulling a throw rug from the floor and wrapping it around Fannie. Henry threw his wife to the floor and sought to put out any unsuffocated flames using his hands and face. 

House servants came with buckets of water, but it was too late.

Fannie suffered fatal 3rd-degree burns over her entire body.

The mother of five and wife of the greatest American poet of his day survived through the night. She remained in a conscious state due to the effects of the ether given to deaden her pain. Early in the morning of July 10, 1861, Fannie fell asleep and died.

I have in my possession an Appleton family letter from July 1861 that describes in vivid detail the intense pain Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffered in the aftermath of the fire.

The burns he received on his hands and face prevented him from attending his wife's funeral.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
It took months of healing before Longfellow could use his fingers to write poetry.

Never again would Longfellow be seen without his signature beard, grown to cover the disfiguring scars on his face.

It took even longer for Longfellow's emotional wounds to heal.

Tasked with raising his six mother-less children, Henry depended on his sister for help those first few months, but he determined to spend as much personal time with them as possible.

Longfellow particularly sought to comfort his three girls, describing them in 'The Children's Hour' as "grave Alice and laughing Allegra and Edith with golden hair."

The painful aftermath of Fannie Longfellow's death precluded Henry's productivity as a writer and poet.

Henry published Tales of a Wayside Inn in the spring of 1863, a work he'd mostly finished before the tragedy two years earlier. Friends helped him bring it to completion.

To compound the sorrow, Charles Longfellow, Henry's 18-year-old son, walked out of the Longfellow house on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, without so much as a good-bye, early in 1863. Charles went to the train station and joined the Union Army against his father's wishes. Henry didn't even like to hunt game, and he'd vocally opposed his son's desires to join the army.

Within a few short months, word came that Charles had been severely wounded on the battlefield. Henry and another of his sons took the train to Washington, D.C. where they picked up Charles to transport him home to Cambridge. They found Charles at the train station, paralyzed from the waist down due to battlefield injuries.

The ride home to Cambridge that Fall of 1863 was somber.

Christmas Day

A few weeks after bringing Charles home, on Christmas Day 1863, Henry wrote his first poem since his wife's tragic death 30 months earlier.

Henry's motherless six children gathered at the Longfellow home, with the now paralyzed nineteen-year-old Charles lying in his bedroom.

57-year-old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat at his desk in the very study where he'd suffered disfiguring burns attempting to save his wife's life in July 1861.

The church bells in Cambridge began ringing that Christmas morning.

Christmas carols, old and familiar carols, the bells played.

Henry Longfellow pulled out a quill, ink, paper, and began to write.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
'Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'
And in despair I bowed my head;
'There is no peace on earth,' I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
'Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
'With peace on earth, good-will to men.'
He entitled his seven-stanza poem Christmas Bells.

You know it as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

A few years later Longfellow's poem was put to music and turned into a Christmas, and the modern version sung by Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.

I love the carol because of these three lines: 
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail.
It's difficult to see how the "wrong" in this life which produces envy, hate, fights, wars, injuries, deaths, scars, and all sorts of pain can actually fail when it looks as if it now prevails.

But Jesus has indeed come.

It’s His job to ensure wrong ultimately fails and right prevails.

He’ll finish what He’s started for “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

A 10 Fold Challenge to Prove Female Subordination

In 2007 I warned the Southern Baptist Convention that we were in the midst of a sexual abuse crisis that needed addressing and correcting. 

Now we are in another crisis. 

Certain Southern Baptists leaders have a deficient, unbiblical view of women. In short, some SBC men believe SBC women should keep silent and submit to male leadership. 

In 2030, this crisis will be over as well. 

It just takes the SBC a little while to correctly interpret the sacred and inerrant text. 

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian is a biblical scholar who understands what the sacred text teaches about men and women. 

With a hat-tip to my father, Paul Burleson, I present to you Dr. Bilezikian's challenge to prove female subordination to men from the Bible. 

Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful Key
That shall unclasp and set me free
Clara H. Scott, Hymn

The purpose of this challenge is to prompt Christians to grapple with biblical facts rather than to accept traditional assumptions about female roles. What is at stake is not the role of women as much as the definition of the church as authentic biblical community. Is it possible for a local church to aspire to define itself as biblical community when more than half its constituency is excluded from participating in the most significant aspects of its life?

In the course of history, the church has often lost its way. For instance, during a thousand years, the church forgot something as crucial as the way of salvation and replaced it with methods of salvation by works that never worked. The biblical teaching was finally recovered by the Reformers just a few centuries ago.

Likewise, many present-day Christians believe that, along the way, the church has lost its own definition as community and replaced it with false definitions that reduce it to the status of institution, establishment, hierarchy, corporation and programs. This challenge provides an incentive to help Christians rediscover for themselves the biblical definition of the church as God's community of oneness.

To anyone who might be tempted to think that this challenge is a feminist plot to subvert the traditional church, it should be pointed out that feminism is a quest for equal rights and equal power. A basic premise of this presentation is the exact opposite, the belief that the Bible requires all Christians to pursue relationships of mutual submission and of reciprocal servanthood.

An effective approach to tackle this challenge would be to go through this document one page at a time, to check the references with an open Bible at hand, and to search the Scriptures in order to supply the requested references. The challenge is to let the scriptures speak for themselves and to come away with how you see one of the great needs of the modern church.

1. The Challenge

Cite a text from the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 that enjoins or entitles men to exercise authority or leadership over women, or that designates men as "head" or "spiritual head" over women.

The Facts

There is not a hint, not even a whisper about anything like a hierarchical order existing between man and woman in the creation account of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. In fact, the exact opposite is clearly taught in these two chapters. Both man and woman were made in God's image (1:26-27) and they both participated in God-assigned ministries without any role distinctions (1:28).

The creation order established oneness, not hierarchy (2:24). The first indication of a hierarchical order between man and woman resulted from the entrance of sin into the world (3:16). The subordination of women to men was not part of God's original design. It resulted from the violation of God's creation order.
The use of the word "helper" for the woman reinforces the relation of non-hierarchical complementarity that existed between the man and the woman prior to the fall (2:18). In the language of the Old Testament, a "helper" is one who rescues others in situations of need. This designation is often attributed to God as our rescuer. The word denotes not domesticity or subordination but competency and superior strength (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:26, 29; Psalm 33:20, 70:5, etc.).

According to the text, the woman was instrumental in rescuing the man from being alone and, therefore, from not being yet the community of oneness that God had intended to create with both of them (Gen. 1:27.) As "helper," she pointedly enabled him to become with her the community that God had intended to establish through their union.

The word "helper" is used specifically in this context of God's deliberation to create community (2:18). The biblical text becomes violated when the word "helper" is wrenched away and lifted out of this specific context to be given other meanings that demean women by reducing them to the level of "complements" or docile conveniences created to improve the quality of male life.

In the account of the created order within which every relation of authority is carefully spelled out (1:26, 28; 2:17), there is not the slightest suggestion of a structure of authority existing between the man and the woman. Instead, the explicit evidence provided in those texts describes both as participating cooperatively in reflecting the image, and both fulfilling jointly the tasks of rulership and dominion without the necessity of a structure of hierarchy between them.

2. The Challenge

Cite a text from the Bible that assigns women subordinate status in relation to men because Adam was created before Eve.

The Facts

In the first chapter of Genesis, the sequence of creation moves, in increasing levels of sophistication, from material things to plants, to animals and, finally, to humans. According to chapter two, the process culminates with the creation of the woman. Obviously, chronological primacy was not intended to denote superior rank. No such lesson is drawn within those two chapters from the fact that the man was created before the woman.

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, an argument is presented for women to wear a head covering during worship. It is based on the differences in status between men and women that derive from the fact that man was created first (v. 7-10).

But, according to the same text, all those considerations have been decisively swept aside "in the Lord," that is, in the Christian community (v. 11). In the new covenant, both men and women are in a relation of originative interdependence since men must recognize that they owe their existence to women just as the woman was made from man. Only the primacy of God as creator of all has significance since all things come from him, including both men and women (v. 11-12). As a result of this leveling of the ground "in the Lord", a covering is not even required of women since their hair is their covering (v. 15).

The ministry restrictions exceptionally placed on women in 1Timothy, chapter 2 are not based on the creation order. They are drawn from the temptation account. No conclusion is made in the text from the fact that Adam was formed first except for the one lesson that Adam was not deceived but Eve was and she became the first transgressor (v. 13-14).

Adam had been instructed about the prohibition relative to the tree directly from God while Eve was not yet in existence. For this reason, of the two, she was the one less prepared to face the tempter. He was present during the temptation episode but he remained silent (Gen. 3:6). Despite this disadvantage, she boldly engaged the tempter and she became deceived. This illustration from the Genesis temptation story has nothing to do with assigning all women of all times a subordinate status in church life. It was cited in this epistle to make the point that untaught and unqualified individuals should not aspire to teaching functions or to positions of leadership. They should first become quiet learners (1 Tim. 2: 11-12).

3. The Challenge

Cite a text from the Bible that defines the headship of Christ to the church as a relation of authority or of leadership.

The Facts

The New Testament defines the headship ministry of Christ to the church as a servant relation designed to provide the church with life and growth. This headship is never presented as an authority or lordship position.

Eph. 1:22-23. Christ is supremely and universally sovereign, but as head for the church, it is not said that he rules over it. Instead, he provides his body with the fullness of him who fills all in all. He causes the church to grow and flourish.
Eph. 4:15-16. Christ as head provides the body with oneness, cohesion and growth. This is a servant-provider role, not one of rulership.
Eph. 5:23. Christ is head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. His headship to the church is defined as saviorhood which is biblically defined as a servant, self-sacrificing function, not a lordship role.
Col. 1:18. Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead. As its head, Christ is the source of the church's life.
Col. 2:19. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows because it is nourished by him. He is servant-provider of life and growth to the church.

Obviously, Christ is Lord of all and therefore Lord of the church. But never does the New Testament define Christ's relation to the church as its head in terms of lordship, authority or rulership. As head to the church, Christ is always the servant who gives the church all she needs to become his radiant Bride. So is the husband to his wife (Eph. 5:25-30), within a relationship of mutual submission (v. 21).

The word "head" used figuratively in the English language refers to boss, person in authority, leader. It never has that meaning in New Testament Greek. There are hundreds of references in the New Testament to religious, governmental, civic, familial and military authority figures. Not one of them is ever designated as "head."

Even Christ, as "head" of all rule and authority, remains their original giver of life and fullness (Col. 2:10; 1:16). Similarly, Christ was never called "head" of the church until after his crucifixion, the supreme expression of his servant ministry as the giver of new life.
Whenever Christ is described as "head" to the church, his ministry is that of servant-provider. Similarly, as head to his wife, a husband is a servant-provider of life, of fullness and growth, not one who exercises authority over her.

4. The Challenge

Cite a text from the Bible that makes men head over women, or a husband head over his wife.

The Facts

There is no such statement in the Bible. The text in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is often cited as establishing a top-down hierarchy:

God over Christ--- Christ over man--- man over woman.

However, this biblical text must be radically dismembered and its components reshuffled in order to produce such results. The untouched biblical sequence is totally different and it does not present a hierarchical structure:
Christ, head of man--- man, head of woman--- God, head of Christ.
The teaching in this text concerns the concept of "head" as giver of life. In creation, Christ (as the Word, John 1:3) gave life to man; man to woman (as she was taken from him, Gen. 2:21-23); and in the incarnation, God gave life to Christ (Luke 1:35). This understanding of "head" as "provider of life" is consistent with the immediate context which deals with the significance of origination (1 Cor. 11:7-12).

The meaning of "head" as servant-provider of life in this text is also consistent with the headship passage in Ephesians 5:21-33. There, the church is described as being subject to Christ in the reciprocity of servanthood because Christ as head is also servant to the church as its Savior and as the source of its welfare. Saviorhood in the New Testament is not a lordship role but one of self-sacrifice in radical servanthood.

Likewise, the wife is servant to her husband as she submits to him because the husband is servant to her in radical headship as he gives himself up for her as Christ did for the church (v. 25-30).

Both the general concept of headship in the New Testament and this passage of Scripture are infused with the notions of mutual submission (v. 21) and, therefore, of reciprocal servanthood. Such biblical teachings reduce the imposition of hierarchical relations between husbands and wives to irrelevance, if not to abuse in their relationship.

5. The Challenge

Cite a New Testament text according to which men are given unilateral authority over women or are permitted to act as their leaders.

The Facts

Once the fall shattered the God-given oneness between man and woman, they both faced a dysfunctional relationship. The woman was warned that, because of the disruption of the fall, the husband would rule over her (Gen. 3:16). Oneness would turn into abuse. But no mandate was ever given to the man to claim this rulership over the woman.

There is no allowance made in the New Testament or license given for any one believer to wield authority over another adult believer. The pledge exacted from brides in an older wedding ceremony, "Wilt thou obey him...?" had no biblical warrant.

There is no text in Scripture that enjoins wives to obey their husbands. The call is for mutual subjection (Eph. 5:21). Both wives and husbands must relate to each other "in the same way" as slaves submit to their masters (1 Peter 2:18; 3:1, 7 NIV) in order to follow in the steps of Christ, their supreme example (2:21).

The New Testament singularly cites the case of Sarah who obeyed her husband Abraham (1 Peter 3:6). Sarah's case was cited in full knowledge of the fact that Abraham pointedly obeyed his wife just as often as she obeyed him, once even under God's specific command (Gen. 16:2, 6; 21:11-12).

Christians are solemnly forbidden by their Lord to establish among themselves structures of authority similar to the hierarchical systems that prevail in secular society. Those who aspire to attain such positions of leadership must, instead, become servants and slaves of those over whom they wish to wield authority (Matt. 20:25-28).

Leadership is always defined in the New Testament as shared leadership. In church life, leadership is a team function entrusted to a plurality of persons such as elders. These act as servants who have recourse to the exercise of authority only exceptionally when required to do so because of disciplinary or crisis situations and then, only corporately.

In marriage, husbands and wives are bonded in a relationship of non-hierarchical complementarity within which each partner brings to the union his or her leadership gifts in a structure of shared leadership. (For resolving biblically situations of decisional impasses, see Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, pp. 212-214).

6. The Challenge

Cite a New Testament text that exempts husbands from being mutually submitted to their wives.

The Facts

Male rulership has prevailed since the time of the fall. For Christians, the new covenant in Christ should reverse this situation to the original goodness of the created order, from rulership back to the reciprocity of oneness (Matt. 19:4-5).

Submission to Christ requires of believers that they submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). According to this text, where there is no mutual submission, reverence for Christ is wanting. Because the newness of the Gospel calls for new relationships, a paradigm shift has occurred that requires of Christians, including husbands and wives, to be in mutual subjection.

Since the practical expression of subjection is servanthood, this means that both husbands and wives are servants to each other. But perhaps in order to overcome the ruler legacy that men have inherited from the fall, it is additionally specified that Christian men must also love their wives to the point of Christ-like self-sacrifice for their sakes (v. 25-30).

For this precise reason, in the only New Testament text where the word "authority" is used (in verb form) to describe husband and wife relations, husbands are not exempt from coming under the authority of their wives. A Christian wife has exactly the same authority rights over her husband as a husband has over his wife (1 Cor. 7:4).

In this text, the Scriptures teach specifically that a husband has no authority over his own body but that his wife does. (Interestingly, the NIV has considerably softened its translation of this challenging statement). In fact, decisions that affect their marital relationship may not be made unilaterally by either husband or wife (v. 5). They require the agreement of both parties. They both have equal say in the matter since either of the two may veto the proposed course of action.

Thus the New Testament requires that, beginning with the most personal expression of conjugal life, the one that emblemizes par excellence the union of man and woman, relationships be controlled jointly and that decisions be made by consensus with the involvement of both partners on a basis of equality. This call to mutual subjection and to joint participation in the exercise of authority strikes at the very foundation of any authority claim of husbands over wives. 

7. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text according to which men are favored over women in the distribution of spiritual gifts, including those that qualify believers for ministries of leadership.

The Facts

In the garden, Adam and Eve were jointly entrusted with the dual responsibility of populating the earth and managing the environment (Gen. 1:28). The two mandates were committed to both of them without any role differentiations on the basis of gender. In order to fulfill this command, the man and the woman must have brought their best abilities to the accomplishment of both tasks in a relationship of equal partnership, best defined as non-hierarchical complementarity.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter gave the inaugural speech that marked the beginning of the life of the church universal. The very first statement he made concerned the consequences of the new availability of the Holy Spirit to all believers. The outpouring of the Spirit promoted both men and women without differentiation to the ministry of prophecy (Acts 2:16-18), a function that was regarded as one of the highest ministries in the life of the church (1 Cor. 12:28).

Consistently, the New Testament declares that all the members of local churches are endowed with spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-12) without any mention of women being excluded from such ministry roles.

Furthermore, the text teaches that no individual has the right to excuse oneself (v. 14-16) and that no one has the right to exclude someone else from doing ministry (v. 20-22).

On such premises, all may prophesy (14:31), and both men and women may lead in worship through prayer and the spoken word (11:4-5) such as the four women who prophesied in the church of Caesarea (Acts 21:9).

In this light, it is evident that the statement in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 forbidding women to speak in church has nothing to do with women exercising their spiritual gifts. In this passage, the Apostle was dealing with a different issue that did not concern the exercise of spiritual gifts. He was actually opposing, by quoting their words derisively, abusive church leaders who were intent on excluding women from active participation in the life of the church. (For a commentary on this passage, see Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 86-89.)

8. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text that exclusively disqualifies women from exercising church leadership ministries.

The Facts

The one passage that is ultimately adduced to claim that the New Testament prohibits women to teach or to have authority over men is found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. However, the same section of Scriptures imposes similarly restrictive leadership and ministry prohibitions on men. According to it, a man's family status provides the indispensable credential for his ability to lead the church (3:4-5, 12). The only men who may aspire to positions of church leadership, which include the ministries of teaching and managing the affairs of the church, must be married ("husbands of one wife"), and have children who are submissive and respectful, and who are believers (Titus 1:6). According to this text, ability to manage family provides indispensable proof of ability to manage the local church.

Such requirements disqualify from service not only women, but also all men who are single; all men married but childless; all men married but who have only one child; all men married but who have children too young to profess faith; all men married but who have one unbelieving child or children; all men married and whose children are believers but not submissive; all men married and whose children are believers and submissive but not respectful.

These exceptionally harsh and restrictive requirements are all the more amazing since the New Testament favors singleness for both men and women as preferred status to do ministry (Matt. 19:11-12, 1 Cor. 7:25-35), and since the New Testament emphatically requires the total utilization of all available spiritual gifts in the ministries of the church, regardless of marital status or gender.

Of course, the Scriptures provide an explanation for those apparent contradictions. The singularly restrictive structure of ministry prescribed in 1 Timothy and Titus was established as a remedial measure for churches that had fallen into a state of terminal crisis. Its underlying principle of restricting ministry in sick or immature churches to few leaders of proven managerial competency is relevant today to churches that find themselves in similarly extreme situations. However, the prevailing New Testament model of full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the local church applies to healthy churches (See Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 82-128).

It should be sternly noted that, for the sake of biblical consistency and integrity of practice, churches that insist on keeping women out of ministries of leadership on the basis of the prohibitions of 1 Timothy 2, thereby make themselves accountable to keep also men out of the very same positions on the basis of the similarly restrictive provisions stipulated in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and listed above.

9. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text that prohibits the ordination of women to church ministry positions.

The Facts

The evidence indicates that women were entrusted with the ministry of the Word in New Testament churches. There were female prophets (Acts 2:17-19; 21:9), female teachers (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3), female church leaders (Rom. 16:1, 3-5; Phil. 4:3; Col. 4:15), and even a female apostle by the name of Junia (Rom. 16:7).

There is no text in the Bible forbidding women to be ordained because, according to the New Testament, all believers without exception are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 14:31; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11). In fact, those very ministries that are traditionally viewed as requiring "ordination" carry only a supportive role according to the New Testament (Eph. 4:11) while the executive part of the ministry, the works of service that build up the body of Christ, belongs to the "non-ordained" people of the congregation (v. 12).

The practice of ordaining select people to hold positions of authority in churches should be viewed as an ecclesiastical tradition rather than as a biblical prescription. Thus, Paul and Barnabas were already among the recognized prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch when they received the laying on of hands, not to make them prophets or teachers but to commission them for a short-term sub-ministry (Acts 13: 1-3). It was their recognized spiritual gifts as prophet/teacher that had validated their ministry, not the subsequent laying on of hands.

This New Testament practice of the laying on of hands can hardly be associated with the current practice of ordination since Timothy received it twice, one at the hand of elders (1 Tim. 4:14), then from Paul himself (2 Tim. 1:6). In both cases, the purpose was the impartation of a spiritual gift, not the recognition of the ministry deriving from it as is the case with ordination as currently practiced (see Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 155-161).

Since the institution of ordination is traditional rather than biblically prescribed, there can be no valid objection raised on scriptural grounds to women being ordained. According to the New Testament, all believers, without exception, are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts.

10. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text according to which the differences between manhood and womanhood warrant hierarchical relations between Christian men and women.

The Facts

The organization of the Christian community is never described as a gender-based hierarchy in the Scriptures. To the contrary, it is the doctrine of the community of oneness that sets the norm (Matt. 19:4-6; John 17:11, 20-23; Acts 4:32; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Eph. 4:4-6; etc.).

The practical implementation of this oneness is summarized in Galatians 3:28: racial distinctions (Jew/Greek), class distinctions (slave/free), and the gender distinction (male/female) are declared to have become irrelevant to the functioning of Christian communities. The compelling mandate for this radical restructuring of community is given as: "for you are all one in Christ."
Proponents of female subordination often insist that this oneness, which transcends race, class and gender differences, is limited to the inclusion of new believers in the community through justification and baptism (Gal. 3:24-27, 28; 1 Cor. 12:13). However, Scripture prohibits limiting the principle of non-discrimination taught throughout the New Testament merely to entrance of converts into the community.

The New Testament emphatically declares that the same oneness, which transcends differences of race, class and gender as a condition for entering the church, is also the driving force that energizes the constituency of the local church into the performance of its ministries. This oneness pertains to the functional life of the body (Rom. 12:4-5). The same oneness sustains the corporate use of all the spiritual gifts invested in it by the Spirit for the performance of the ministries of the local body (1 Cor. 12:11-12; Eph. 4:4-8, 11).

Oneness is always defined in the New Testament as the basis for participation of all in the ministries of the local church. Oneness and ministry are inseparably linked in the biblical text. Therefore, the declaration according to which there is no male or female because we are all one in Christ is a ringing mandate for all to participate in church ministry functions without raising the gender difference as grounds for discrimination.
"The Scripture absolutely forbids racial, class and gender discrimination by reason of the oneness of the church as a body. This oneness is consistently defined in the New Testament as full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the church. This and other teachings of Scripture rule out gender-based hierarchy as a structure for biblical oneness."

"Headship" Is Either the Design of the Creator or a Description of the Curse and It's Really That Simple

Wade and Rachelle Burleson teaching on Sunday morning
The Bible is a collection of many books with one theme. 


In Genesis, God brings Creation into a perfect existence.

But throughout history, beginning at the Fall, mankind corrupts Creation's order

In the Scriptures, God reveals His purpose to redeem man and to restore Creation to its original state (eg. Paradise Restored).

In Revelation, God finishes His restorative work by bringing mankind and Creation back to their original purpose (eg. redemption).

The way man and woman (Adam) was at Creation is the way man and woman (Adam) will be in the New Creation.

At the time of Creation, the Bible says:
So God created man (Hebrew: Adam) in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
"Male and Female" compose the biblical definition of "man" and together reflect the "image of our Creator" (Imago Dei).

What God designed for the male and the female in the Creation is what God intends eternally for the male and the female in Paradise Restored (Heaven). 


Some Christians believe God designed the male to be "head" over the female. The male's role is “protector, provider, and defender.” The female's role is "helper, encourager, and supporter."

The male should always have control and lead and the female should always be in submission and follow.

That's the way God designed it, they say, at Creation.

The female "usurped" God's design of male "headship" by "coming out from under the authority of the male" and listening to the Serpent herself (Genesis 3:1). 

That's why, they say, a female should "never teach men" or "be in authority over man" (I Timothy 2:11-12). 
Eve blew it, and anytime a woman acts like Eve by imitating “the God-created authority of a man,” then ladies (listen up, Beth Moore), you blow it like Eve.”


Other biblical Christians, like I, believe that God designed the male and the female to both have authority over Creation (coregency) and gave to both males and females the equality of essence ("both together are Man”), and God made them both in His image.

So a person can only understand the full-orbed image of God when seeing both male and female together relating to each other in equality. 

Creation is about the equality of the male and female. 

Unlike biblical patriarchs or even secular feminists,  some Christians believe that the Bible teaches God designed co-functionalism between males and females and that the concept of "headship," "control," and "authority over" is a description of the curse after the Fall, not God's design at Creation. 

After the Fall, say these co-functionalists, men and women began fighting each other for control. 

Patriarchalism (men rule) is as sinful as matriarchalism (women rule); both want control over others. 

God intended at Creation for males and females to co-rule Creation and to serve one another. 

Christian adherents to "headship" and the co-functionalists both believe that God will restore Creation.

What God intends in Genesis, He restores in Revelation.

Notice the similarities between the first two chapters of the Bible ( (Genesis 1-2and the last two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22) .


  1. In the beginning (1:1)
  2. God created the heavens and the earth (1:1)
  3. Let there be light (1:3)
  4. The darkness He called “night” (1:5)
  5. The gathered waters He called “seas” (1:10)
  6. God made the two great lights (1:16)
  7. He also made the stars (1:16)
  8. Subdue [the earth]. Rule over (1:28)
  9. Tree of Life (2:9)
  10. A river watering the garden (2:10)
  11. You will surely die (2:17)
  12. Or you will die (3:3)
  13. A man will. . .be united to his wife (2:23-25)
  14. Shown a garden into which sin entered (3:6-7)
  15. Walk of God with man interrupted (3:8-10)
  16. Initial triumph of the Serpent (3:13)
  17. Cursed. . .cursed (3:14, 17)
  18. I will greatly multiply your pain (3:16-17)
  19. God banished him (3:23)
  20. He drove the man out of the garden (3:24)


  1. I am. . .the Beginning and the End (21:6)
  2. I saw a new heaven and a new earth (21:1)
  3. God gives it light (21:23)
  4. There will be no night there (21:25)
  5. There was no longer any sea (21:1)
  6. Does not need the sun/moon (21:23)
  7. The Morning Star (22:16)
  8. And they will reign forever (22:5)
  9. Tree of Life (22:2)
  10. River of the Water of Life (22:1)
  11. The free gift of the Water of Life (22:17)
  12. No more death (21:4)
  13. The bride of the wife of the Lamb (21:9-10)
  14. Shown a city into which sin will never enter (21:27)
  15. Walk of God with man resumed (21:3)
  16. The ultimate triumph of the Lamb (20:10; 22:3)
  17. No longer. . .any curse (22:3)
  18. No more. . .pain (21:4)
  19. They will see His face (22:4)
  20. I saw the Holy City (21:2)

It's evident from the Bible that what God intends at Creation, He restores in the New Creation. Grace is God at work; He reverses the curse. What were men and women like before the curse of the Fall? 

For those who say God designed men "to rule over" women, to be "the head" of women, and to always lead women, I have three questions for you:

1. If at Creation God designed the man to be the “head over” the woman and to have “authority over” her, then is it God’s intention for men to be the “head over” women for all eternity and for men to have “authority over” women in heaven? If not, why not?
2. Jesus prayed, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." If you understand that those who believe the Bible teaches co-functionalism (co-regency) is God's design for males and females from the beginning, then you must accept that any attempt to bring equality to men and women (God's original intention) into the earth now, just as Jesus prayed, is an attempt to glorify God and live according to the pattern of the New Creation.
3. Jesus explicitly taught in Matthew 23:8-11 that His people are to reject the world's system of top-down governance by declaring, "It shall not be so among you" (Mark 10:43). "The greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).  Which system of thought -  "headship" or co-functionalism - allows a Christian to be obedient to Christ's command of servanthood to all and to avoid the idea that one is to have rulership, control, or power over anyone else?

More to come...