Monday, December 26, 2005

Forbid Them Not From Serving

I have repeatedly asked my fellow brothers in Christ in favor of the new policies of the IMB for Scriptural support for "excluding" Christians from service or fellowship who do not hold to the same Landmark interpretation of baptism and the "cessationist" view of tongues.

I recognize that churches and pastors have various interpretions of Scripture regarding tongues and baptism. Some teach that there is no such thing as a "private prayer language," while others point to what they believe to be the clear teaching of Paul and say there is a "private prayer language." Others teach that a person is not properly baptized unless the church or person who is doing the baptizing "qualifies" as a proper administrator (Landmarkism), while others say the Scripture makes no such demand. I am not arguing for, or against either interpretation in this post, but rather, I want to ask a question: Where does the Bible say that you "exclude" people from service in God's kingdom who interpret the same Bible differently on these two issues?

Nobody has been able to give me an answer.

So allow me to give you a very clear teaching of Jesus Christ which seems to me to say that the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention is making a huge mistake if these new policies of the IMB continue to be used in the screening of missionary candidates for the purpose excluding those who do not "conform" to a specific interpretation of Scripture. The historic practice of the Southern Baptist Convention has been to cooperate together in missions and evangelism, even if there is not an agreement in one's interpretion of the text in areas of controversy. The issue is not "Is the text the inspired word of God?", but rather, "Can people who believe in the Sacred Text interpret it differently and still work together?"

Jesus seems to teach that we can, and we should, work together though we do not conform in every area of faith and practice.

Those within our convention with a sectarianism bent ("you are not qualified to serve with us unless you are one like us") would do well to learn from our Lord's words in Luke 9:49-50,"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

J.C.Ryle's comments on this passage are very fitting:

Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us a warning against a bigoted and illiberal spirit. Who this man was and why he did not consort with the disciples, we do not know. But we do know that he was doing a good work in casting out demons, and that he was doing what he did in the name of Christ. And yet John says, "we forbade him." Very striking is the reply which the Lord at once gave him: "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

Thousands, in every period of Church history, have spent their lives in copying John's mistake. They have labored to stop every man who will not work for Christ in their way, from working for Christ at all. They have imagined, in their petty self-conceit, that no man can be a soldier of Christ, unless he wears their uniform, and fights in their regiment. They have been ready to say of every Christian who does not see everything with their eyes, "Forbid him! Forbid him! for he followeth not with us."

The plain truth is, that we are all too ready to say, "We are the men, and wisdom shall die with us" (Job 12:2). We forget that no Church on earth has an absolute monopoly of all wisdom, and that people may be right in the main, without agreeing with us. We must learn to be thankful if sin is opposed, and the Gospel preached, and the devil's kingdom pulled down, though the work may not be done exactly in the way we like. We must try to believe that men may be true-hearted followers of Jesus Christ, and yet for some reason may be kept back from seeing all things in religion just as we do. Above all, we must praise God if souls are converted, and Christ is magnified,—no matter who the preacher may be, and to what Church he may belong. Happy are those who can say with Paul, "If Christ be preached, I rejoice, yea and will rejoice," (Phil. 1:18) and with Moses, "Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that all did prophesy." (Numbers 11:29)

[Taken from Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, under Luke 9:49-50]

May our Southern Baptist Convention's missionary efforts and evangelistic zeal be characterized by a Christocentric view of inclusion of all who follow after Christ within our convention, rather than what seems to be a sectarian exclusion in the hearts of some who don't like it when others in the SBC do it, or see it, another way.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Unknown said...

It is most interesting that the analysis of the passage you cited is not interpreted in light of a key statement in the pericope itself. The question we must wrestle with is, "In my/your name." What does it mean, "in Jesus' name?" Does it mean we end our prayers with that statement, then they are valid? I believe Jesus was clear in that those words are uttered in the motivation and understanding of the heart..."but Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts..."

The New Testament is full of examples that charge us to remain faithful to the true gospel passed down to us, to guard our doctrine and make sure that which we pass on is sound (1 Tim 1:10, 6:3; Titus 1:9, 2:1). In fact, how can we fulfill our great commission from Christ without teaching right doctrine, "and teach them everything I have commanded you..."?

Let me finish with this:
2 Tim 2:14 "Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.'"

Is it possible that those who the disciples were trying to stop were in fact doing their works in Jesus' name? That their hearts were right, and their doctrine was correct? Is it possible that Hymenaeus and Philetus, who "swerved from the truth," affirmed all but the bodily resurrection, interpreting the doctrine passed down to them differently than you or I? The Bible is very clear that there are issues that we must divide over. That is a clear teaching of Jesus Christ. I am not arguing for the cessationist/baptism issue you guys are discussing, but am arguing that this argument and scripture reference you cited is not proper, and needs greater clarification to support the point you intend it to support. said...


Good post.

Let me ask you a question.

Could it be that the false doctrine is the new baptism regulations?

Could it be that the false doctrine is the forbidding of a private prayer language?

I'm just asking.

I am fine with people who say, "No! These new policies are not FALSE doctrine!"

I believe, as do our Baptist forefathers of the 18th Century, that the new baptism policy is false doctrine, but I am not willing to separate in fellowship, and cease cooperating, with those who place qualifications upon the person baptizing (proper ordination, proper "church," etc . . . ).

I do not personally have a "private prayer language" but have friends who are dogmatic cessationists and friends who are dogmatic that tongues exists today.

I am not willing to separate in fellowship from either, or cease cooperating with them in the area of missions. Why?

Again, the former IMB policies were sufficient in these two areas. The new policies are EXCLUDING people called by God to do mission work. That, to me, is the very point of the text.

The disciples said, "They are not with us!"

Jesus said, "They are too!"

So, again, nice post. But I disagree with your disagreement.

In His Grace,


Unknown said...


I agree that the new policies are severely lacking in biblical support. I was not arguing to support them. I was making the point that your Luke 9 argument wasn't valid for the reasons I outlined above. It is not condoned by Jesus to allow people free exercise of any and all religious activity because they parrot "In JEsus' name!" or that they perform an act under that announced authority. Just because they say it don't make it so (see this post about the charismatic heresies )

You asked, "Where does the Bible say that you "exclude" people from service in God's kingdom who interpret the same Bible differently on these two issues?" And, "allow me to give you a very clear teaching of Jesus Christ which seems to me to say that the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention is making a huge mistake if these new policies of the IMB continue to be used in the screening of missionary candidates for the purpose excluding those who do not "conform" to a specific interpretation of Scripture."

We cannot use this logic to defend doctrine and/or practices related to doctrinal stands. The Bible is clear on points where we can exclude those who do not "'conform' to a specific interpretation of Scripture," given that that differing interpretation violates main and plain, orthodox doctrines. The point of the text is not that we allow anyone who claim the name of Jesus to do anything in His name. There is a doctrinal test- everything has to be assessed in light of Scripture, and grace dispensed where there is room for disagreement. The point is that where actions conform to Scripture, and those performing those actions are doing so in Jesus' name, then we are to let them be because we do not know their hearts, just as they do not know ours. But, there is ample evidence to show that we are to judge, and can do so rightly, when their actions do not conform to Scripture. This is neither an argument for or against the proposed policies, but an appeal for you to use a different argument. With this argument, those who believe that their new restrictions are clearly biblical have the upper hand- you therefore need to argue for/against cessation and the ordinance and mode of baptism from the Bible, not the application of those policies.

Keep it up...we need this process of introspection. I only pray we look to scripture, and not always to the way things were in days past.

Colin said...


I agree with you.

There are some doctrinal issues which call for a separation (ex. Spurgeon and the "Downgrade Controversy").

But the two new policies at the IMB are non-essential for the spreading of the gospel, and are sectarian.

The old policy of the IMB prohibited the public speaking of tongues in the field. That is sufficient. Why enter into the prayer closet of the missionary.

The old policy on baptism insured that the missionary candidate was immersed after trusting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Why add qualifications for the "administrator" of the baptism?

So, J.C. Ryle's comments do seem approprate. The people the disciples opposed were followers of Jesus Christ. They were doing a good work for the kingdom of Christ. They were doctrinally sound.

People Scripturally baptized in other churches or people who pray in a private prayer language can also do good in the kingdom of Christ, should be called brothers, and are also "doctrinally sound."

Yet I am hearing said of these kinds of people: "They weren't baptized in one of "our" churches, therefore, they can't be one of "our" missionaries." Or, "they have a private prayer language, so they can't be doctrinally sound."

I say, "They may not be like us, but they are one of us."

That is the message of Jesus in this text, and I still think very appropriate.

In His Grace,


Thanks for your post.

In His Grace,


R. L. Vaughn said...

I tend to agree with colinm that this/these Scriptures do not really address the situtation of the IMB. The Luke 9 passage, as well as the Phil. 1:18 which Ryle mentions, seem more to me to address the idea of leaving folks alone and not hindering them - as opposed to necessarily endorsing, sponsoring and supporting their work.

So this would be more like a situation, for example, of Southern Baptists realizing that missionaries of the ABA, BBFI, etc. are preaching the same gospel and therefore not opposing them just because they don't work under the same organization.

Maybe I'm missing something. But most can surely agree with Paul, "(If) Christ is preached...I therein do rejoice, yea and will rejoice."

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Lily Sue said...

To me, Romans 14 says it all. I also agree that if they are not against Him, they are FOR Him.
Scripture is not for personal interpretation, yet, the Bible says we are NOT to judge one another of our beliefs-we are each to be fully convinced in our own heart, to judge ourselves, so as to NOT BE judged, and what we believe as far as controversies is between us and God.
When we judge others-the Judge is at our own door.
I can not say anything about miraculous healing, tongues, or raising the do so would be to place a LIMIT on an Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent Creator God.
Because I KNOW that God can do anything.....I could never judge anyone for believing any part of scripture. Each "denomination" chooses a particular verse to base their entire belief system upon.