Two days ago, the Kentucky supreme court heard arguments challenging the current bans on abortion in Kentucky. These bans, which were passed into law by the Kentucky legislature, have prevented many infants from being murdered by abortion in Kentucky since Roe v. Wade was struck down by the US Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision. For example, in March of 2022, nearly 500 babies were murdered by abortion in Kentucky, but since the trigger ban went into effect, by August, there was only one abortion in Kentucky. These laws that are being challenged before the Kentucky Supreme Court are very effective at saving the lives of the most vulnerable in our state. Any day, the Kentucky Supreme Court could hand down an injunction allowing abortion to resume while litigation on the bans continue.
I am pleading with you to be in prayer for the Kentucky Supreme Court that they would act justly by protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Please pray that God would bring the gospel message before the pro-abortion advocates that they might repent and be saved. Please pray for Kentucky that we would be a refuge for preborn persons.
I also ask that you would reach out to the Kentucky Supreme Court respectfully. During the hearing, at least one of the justices on the Supreme Court acknowledged that they are listening to the opinion of the people. Even outside the courtroom, pro-abortion advocates were chanting during the hearings and could be heard in the courtroom. Would you please contact the Supreme Court and urge them to uphold the laws which protect unborn persons from murder by abortion? You can contact the Kentucky Supreme Court here. Below is what I have written to them.
Dear Kentucky Supreme Court Justices,
I am the Lead Pastor of Grace Point Church in Henderson, KY. I am writing to respectfully plead with you to uphold the laws banning abortion that are currently in place in Kentucky.
The main reason to uphold these laws is that those in the human womb can be nothing other than human. Being human, they bear worth, dignity, and rights. It is easy to dismiss their worth and suffering because persons in the womb are not easily seen or heard. However, justice protects persons from the wrongdoing of others. Justice protects the weak when the weak cannot protect themselves and restrains the strong from wrongful harm of the weak. Furthermore, justice fairly weighs rights, regarding the right to bodily autonomy as lesser than the right to life.
If you take into consideration the failure of Amendment 2 in the recent election, I ask you to please remember that nearly half of Kentucky voters voted for Amendment 2 and that 98 of Kentucky’s 120 counties voted “Yes” on Amendment 2. The vote against Amendment 2 was not as strong or united as many are portraying.
If you have regard for the Holy Bible (while I believe the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God as many Kentuckians do, I also recognize that our legal system in Kentucky and in the United States has been greatly shaped by the Bible), please consider that the Bible reveals that all humans have value, dignity, and rights because we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), that harming those who bear God’s image is a grave sin (Genesis 9:5-7), that abortion breaks the sixth of the Ten Commandments—the prohibition against murder (Exodus 20:13) which is applied to protecting unborn human life in Exodus 21:22-25. The Bible further reveals that God imputes value and rights upon a person at conception before the formation of the body gets underway (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5). The personhood of unborn humans is clearly portrayed of John the Baptist and of the Lord Jesus in Luke 1:39-45.
Will you please protect the most vulnerable people residing in our state by upholding these laws prohibiting abortion?
Thank you for taking time to consider my concerns.
Grace Point Church
A dear friend and ministry colleague who deals with this topic regularly pointed out to me that pro-abortion advocates usually speak of the preborn as humans but not as persons; making two categories of humans–those who have value and those who do not. This is an illogical idea and every time it has been made throughout history, it has done extreme damage and brought the condemnation of future generations. Examples of this same kind of thinking can be seen in the Nazi regime which used the term Lebensunwertes Laben (life unworthy of life) to label any demographic of people they determined to exterminate such as Jews and those with intellectual disabilities or when advocates for slavery in the United States saw African Americans as humans who are of less worth and therefore could be enslaved with impunity. A good rebuttal against this pro-abortion argument that unborn humans have less value than other humans can be found here.
For the Associated Press report regarding the Kentucky Supreme Court hearing, click here.
Again, I plead with you to pray for the Supreme Court and to contact them to let them know that justice protects unborn human life.
On the November 8, 2022 Kentucky election ballot, there is a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution. The amendment reads, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” This amendment is on the back of the ballot and is non-partisan (a straight-party vote will not select either option on this amendment).
Voting Yes on this amendment will affirm Kentucky’s prolife laws that are already in place and will prevent state judges from overriding Kentucky voters and their elected legislators regarding abortion. In short, this amendment will protect unborn babies from being murdered, it will prevent Kentucky taxes from funding abortions, and it will keep Kentucky judges from legislating from the bench.
But does God speak to issues of abortion? If He does, His Word is binding since He is both our Creator and our Judge. What would God have Kentucky voters do in regard to Amendment #2? Let’s look at seven passage to see what God has said that pertains to this issue.
Genesis 1:26-28, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
In this passage, we learn that God made mankind in His image. We see in this passage a value distinction made between mankind and all other creatures. Because humans are made in God’s image, we bear a special, higher value than all other forms of created life. With higher value means heavier accountability and greater respect. God’s plan for His image-bearers is that they would reproduce and fill the earth, displaying His glory in a representative way throughout His creation. If God deems someone a human, by virtue that he or she bears His image, we must show dignity and honor to that one. But to what extent should we show dignity and honor to an image-bearer?
Genesis 9:5-7, “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”
In Genesis 9, God had destroyed the world with a flood because of the great rebellion of mankind against Him. Noah and his family alone were preserved by an ark which God directed Noah to build. As Noah’s family exited the Ark, God reminded Noah of the command He had given to the first man and woman. They were to reproduce and fill the earth with image-bearers. In this Genesis 9 passage, God ties the reproduction of mankind and the value of mankind to the death penalty. If an animal kills one made in God’s image or if a person murders a bearer of God’s image, the animal or the person who murdered were not to live. This shows the high value of an image-bearer and the high accountability of any who would harm or murder an image-bearer. To harm one who bears God’s image is a weighty matter and an offense against God Himself.
Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.”
This, the sixth of the ten commandments, lays down a prohibition against murder as a strict command of God. The ten commandments function as foundational laws from which the rest of the commands in the books of Moses flow. There are qualifications and applications given in the case laws that come after the ten commandments. We find one of those case laws that flows from this sixth commandment in the very next chapter of Exodus.
Exodus 21:22-25, “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life,eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
You may recognize this passage as it lays down what judicial philosophers refer to as lex talionis (Latin meaning law of the tooth), a principle meaning that the punishment should fit the crime. Many will recognize the phrases from this passage in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus did not abolition this law but rather was correcting a misapplication of it. This law is meant to guide human morality and jurisprudence. However, many in Jesus’ day were using this law as an excuse to exact personal revenge. With Jesus, we affirm this law’s right understanding and application.
The Exodus 21 passage guides the reader in how to apply the sixth commandment of chapter 20. It is particularly enlightening concerning the issue of the unborn. Do the unborn bear the image of God? Do the unborn deserve dignity and respect? Should there be restrictions and penalties upon those who would harm the unborn? This passage guides us to answer these questions in the affirmative.
In this case law, two men are fighting with each other but there happens to be a pregnant woman nearby. In the struggle, one man hits the pregnant woman out of negligence. The law gives two possibilities for offenses and their corresponding penalties. If there is a premature birth and no lasting damage is done to the mother or child(ren), the man who hit the pregnant woman will be fined. However, if some form of permanent damage is done to the mother and/or the child(ren), the talionis principle is applied. This passage guides the judge presiding over the case to exact whatever permanent damage is done to the mother and/or child(ren) upon the man who hit the pregnant woman. Notice that the life of the unborn child and the life of the man who harmed the unborn child are on the same level regarding worth and value. If the man bears value because he is made in God’s image and if he is punished in kind for the damage he had done to the unborn child, then the unborn child has the same amount of value and worth as the man. This guides us to understand that unborn children are image-bearers of God and therefore are worthy of protection, respect, and dignity, especially such as are procured through legal and judicial means.
Psalm 139:13-16, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
In this Psalm, David speaks of God’s intimate involvement in human conception. When a child is conceived, God acts intentionally to form inward parts and weave the child together in the mother’s womb. God sees every step of development of the child in the womb. While only recent advances in medical technology have allowed us to see these developments of the child in the womb, God has always seen them. And even now, he sees even the smallest incremental change that our technology still cannot detect. When the unborn child remained an “unformed substance” in the mother’s womb, God had ordained days and purposes for this child’s life. This passage reveals the personal and purposeful nature in which God is involved in the conception and forming of a child in the womb as well as the conveyance of personhood that such relational divine involvement bestows.
Jeremiah 1:4-5, “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.'”
This passage, much like the last, reveals that when a child is conceived, God has an intimate knowledge of that child and specific plans for that child’s life. The kind of knowledge God possesses of the unformed one is personal and the plans God has for the unborn one are of the highest dignity–representing God (the purpose for which all God’s image-bearers were made). The knowledge and plans of the Lord reveal an intrinsic value that is only possessed by those who are made in God’s image. This passage and the Psalm 139 passage above both reveal that personhood is conveyed by God at conception.
Luke 1:39-45, “Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
In this passage, Mary and her cousin Elizabeth are both pregnant: Mary with Jesus and Elizabeth with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the unborn John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, revealed that the baby leapt with joy. The unborn child does something that human persons do–express joy. The unborn Jesus is also pictured in such a way that He must be recognized as a person. The Holy Spirit-filled Elizabeth acknowledges the unborn Jesus as her “Lord.” The word “Lord” denotes one who has authority over others, such as a master over a servant or a ruler over a people. It is a term of human interpersonal relationship. Neither an animal, nor an object, nor a “clump of cells” can be deemed “Lord.” This passage reveals that an unborn child is an image-bearer of God–a human person bearing all of the rights of a human person.
As we look at these seven passages, we realize that God has spoken in such a way that His Word applies to abortion. The Bible reveals that abortion is sin; abortion is murder. What would God have Kentucky voters do in regard to Amendment #2? He would have us vote to protect those who are made in His image who are defenseless to protect themselves. I urge you, in view of God’s Word, to vote “Yes” on Amendment #2.
In recent years, denominational differences have been downplayed as divisive or insignificant. I do not believe this is the case. In fact, the creation of denominations is, in reality, helpful for kingdom unity and work. Denominations exist so Christians with differing convictions can still acknowledge one another as Christian family and work in some Christian ministries and efforts together (like pregnancy resource centers, special prayer efforts, etc.), without causing division, distraction, or confusion in the local church as we seek to live out those differing convictions on how God desires to be worshiped and for His people to be discipled. Imagine if, in the same local church, half believed in infant baptism and the other half in believer’s baptism, or a quarter believed in women pastors and three quarters did not, or if three fifths believed speaking in tongues means speaking in an angelic tongue and the other portion of the church believed it means speaking in known human languages in missional situations, or if half the church believed an outside authority, like a bishop or superintendent, had jurisdiction over the local church and the other half believed the church to be autonomous. There would be so much confusion in such a church that kingdom growth would be greatly hindered and subverted. So what is it at the core of being Baptist? What have Baptists historically believed that differs from many other Christian denominations?
The primary Baptist distinctive is regenerate church membership.
Baptists believe that no one can be admitted into church membership until he or she has first received salvation and baptism. Therefore, infants do not automatically become members. Furthermore, those joining must present sufficient evidence of a conversion experience.
The second Baptist distinctive is local church autonomy.
Baptists believe that each local church has authority from Jesus to govern herself under His authority. While Baptists believe in cooperation between local churches, no religious entity exists which has authority over a Baptist church. Conventions and Associations exist as cooperative networks rather than governing bodies. Such practices as “church campuses” subvert this distinctive.
The third Baptist distinctive is congregational polity.
Baptists believe in the priesthood of all believers—that God has regenerated every believer by His Spirit and in so doing equipped every believer for service in and for the church. Therefore, the local church is governed by the congregation. Members are guided by the Holy Spirit to discern His will together, typically in the form of a vote.
The fourth Baptist distinctive is symbolic immersive credobaptism.
Baptists believe the only legitimate form of baptism is that in which the baptized individual is a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who is baptized by immersion.
Baptist credobaptism is different from Campbellite baptism as Baptists see it as an an important sign which cannot earn, merit, or dispense God’s saving grace. Instead, it announces that one has already been saved prior to baptism and is now walking with Jesus and desiring to walk with the church. Baptists believe that Scripture reveals four aspects of rightful baptism:
The right person: a born-again believer
In the Bible, there is never a hint that anyone should be baptized who has not decided for him or herself to surrender to Jesus in faith and repentance. Therefore, infants cannot be baptized. One who has undergone infant baptism should seek obedience to the Lord by being baptized legitimately as a believer.
The right reason: obedience and declaration of your new faith.
Baptism is a sign to others that the new believer has joined with Jesus and with His church. Baptism should be motivated by a desire to love and obey the Lord—not in an attempt to gain salvation.
The right method: immersion under water
The New Testament term for baptize (baptizō) means to immerse in water. Sprinkling (aspersion) and pouring (affusion) are not biblical methods found anywhere in the New Testament. Immersion is the only method of baptism that correctly portrays the death and resurrection which baptism represents (Romans 6:1-7).
The right authority: a local church
Jesus commanded His Apostles to baptize new disciples with water (Matthew 28:19-20). The Apostles were the foundation of the church and this responsibility to baptize passed from them to local churches, as did the responsibility to make disciples for Jesus (Ephesians 2:19-22). Therefore, the local church is the only right authority and entity to baptize a new believer.
These four Baptist distinctives are not exhaustive but they are primary to what it means to be Baptist.
Seeing the growth of the church was spreading beyond their direct reach and time, Jesus’ Apostles began to appoint leaders in every local church to bear some of the responsibilities entrusted to them (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet 5:1-4). The leaders are called by three interchangeable, but not synonymous, names in the New Testament: πρεσβυτέρους/presbuterous (translated elder or presbyter), ἐπισκόποις/episkopois (translated overseer or bishop), and ποιμένας/poimenas (translated as shepherd or pastor).
In many churches today, these leaders are most frequently called pastors from the third title above. What does the term pastor mean? The term comes to English from Latin, meaning shepherd, herdsmen, or one who feeds. God used this term to communicate what He wants the leaders of His church to be and do. When we survey the shepherding motif in the Bible, at least thirteen aspects of shepherding surface.
First, pastors love their flock.
A clear manifestation of this motive in regards to the shepherding task is found in John twenty-one in the recommissioning of Peter. Peter had denied Jesus three times before Jesus’ death. Once the Resurrected Lord appeared to Peter, He asked Peter whether he loved Him three times. When Peter answered in the affirmative, Jesus directed Peter in the way to express that love: “Tend My lambs (Βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου)…Shepherd My sheep (Ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου)…Tend My sheep (Βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου)” (Jn 21:15-17). Love for Jesus is rightly expressed by love for His sheep. As Jesus commissioned Peter to shepherd from a right motive, Peter would commission other shepherds in kind. (1 Pt 5:2).
Second, pastors express self-sacrifice toward their flock.
Once Jesus had recommissioned Peter to the shepherding task, He warned Peter of his future martyrdom and commanded, “Follow Me!” (Jn 21:18-19). Jesus connected Peter’s role as a shepherd to suffering. This calling of Peter is consistent with the previous biblical pictures of the Messianic Shepherd. Zechariah prophesies the way God’s people would be restored to Him after their sin and idolatry. He writes, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate…Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered” (Zech 13:7). Klein states:
[T]he servant in Isaiah 53 and the shepherd in Zech 13 share much in common. They suffer because it was the Lord’s will for them to do so. Both experience death wrongfully and evoke sorrow and consternation among the people for the wrong done to them. Most importantly, both figures suffer in order to effect purification for sins. The result of the suffering of the servant and the shepherd will bring great benefit to God’s people.
Jesus Himself said that He, as the Good Shepherd, lays down His life for the sheep. In contrast to the thief, robber, stranger, wolf, and hired hand who just want to use the sheep for their own benefit, Jesus shows Himself selfless and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sheep.
In Ezekiel thirty-four and Jeremiah twenty-three, God rebukes the shepherds of His people because they were using the flock for their own benefit and the flock’s detriment. In contrast, a biblical pastor must be willing to spend Himself sacrificially for the benefit of his congregation. No one should undertake such a calling who is unwilling to give of himself freely.
Third, pastors show compassion for their flock.
Recalling the succession of Joshua to a shepherd-like role for Israel (Num 27:17), Matthew and Mark comment on the attitude of Jesus toward those in need. The evangelists record, “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). Abbott-Smith explains that the noun form of this verb, σπλάγχνον/splagnon, refers to the “inward parts” such as “heart, liver, lungs, etc.” and indicates “the seat of the feelings and of the feelings themselves.” He explains that the New Testament usage usually speaks of “feelings of kindness, benevolence and pity.”
Jesus’ shepherding compassion in Matthew’s Gospel motivated Him to travel so He could proclaim the gospel and heal (Mt 9:35), an antithetical action to that of the shepherds of Ezekiel thirty-four who “have not strengthened…have not healed…have not bound up…have not brought back” the sickly, diseased, broken and scattered sheep (Ez 34:4). This compassion compelled Jesus to send out His disciples to act in the same way (Mt 10:1). In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ compassion motivated Him to teach the crowds and to feed them miraculously (Mk 6:33-42). He likewise involved His disciples in His shepherding activity (Mk 6:41). Even though the work may be continually demanding, present day biblical shepherds must continue to feel compassion for the spiritually needy and must not grow emotionally calloused.
Fourth, pastors carry a concern for the eternity of their flock.
In Psalm 28:9, David supplicates, “Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.” David ties shepherding to the eternal salvation of God’s people. After using the shepherding verb וּֽרְעֵם (Be their shepherd), David describes part of the shepherding task as וְנַשְּׂאֵם עַד־הָעֹולָֽם (carry them forever). Brown, Driver, and Briggs indicate this particular usage of the Piel Imperative verb as to “carry, bear continuously.” This usage of the verb indicates an eternal dependence upon God as Shepherd.
The writer of Hebrews urges his readers to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls…” (Hb 13:17). While the typical words for shepherding are not present here, there can be little doubt that pastors are in view. David Allen explains, “The verb translated ‘keep watch’ implies constant vigilance, wakefulness, or sleeplessness…The shepherding aspect of pastoral duty seems to be implied in this verb, and this is supported by the author’s reference to Jesus the great Shepherd of the sheep in the benediction in v. 20.” Pink also states of this passage, “The true under-shepherds of Christ have no selfish aims, but rather the spiritual and eternal good of those who are entrusted to their care.”
In Ephesians four, Paul explains that God gave the teaching offices, including pastors, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). Jesus’ goal in gifting pastors was the spiritual and eternal well-being of the His people. Eduard Thurneysen communicates the importance of this spiritual and eternal concern in the life of individuals and states, “the content of the proclamation of pastoral care can be no other than the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ…The power of forgiveness consists precisely in the fact that man is reclaimed for God, in body and soul, and brought under his hand…” Biblical pastors must be motivated by an eternal concern for their congregations that causes them to direct individuals to the gospel of Jesus for comprehensive salvation.
Fifth, pastors realize accountability to the Chief Shepherd for their flock.
When Jesus recommissioned Peter, He referred to the object of the shepherding activity “My sheep” and “My lambs” (Jn 21:15-17). The flock did not belong to Peter but to Christ. Peter expressed this idea to the shepherds that he instructed when he referred to Jesus as “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Pt 5:4). Paul calls the flock “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Jesus, Peter, and Paul reveal that shepherding is an act of stewardship and with all trusts of stewardship, accountability will occur (cf. Mt 25:14-30).
Peter expresses the positive side of this accountability as he reminds the undershepherds that the Chief Shepherd will appear and reward His faithful servants with “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pt 5:4). The writer of Hebrews speaks of the accountability of shepherds in a more neutral way as he says leaders are “those who will give an account” (Hb 13:17). Ezekiel spoke of shepherding accountability in a negative way, in terms of judgment. The shepherds of his day had shepherded poorly and selfishly, allowing the sheep to go unfed and to become prey. Therefore, God would remove them as shepherds and remove the privileges of shepherding (Ez 34:7-10). Biblical shepherds tend their congregations faithfully because they will one day answer to the Chief Shepherd and receive a verdict from His hand.
Sixth, pastors provide spiritual sustenance for their flock.
The Old Testament verb for shepherd, רָעָה/ra’ah, means “pasture, tend, graze” and carries the idea of leading sheep to pasture to find food. The King James Version captures this idea when it translates the term as “feed” on multiple occasions.
Jesus serves as a positive example of this shepherding task. His shepherding-compassion led Him to “teach them many things” (Mk 6:34) and also to provide physical sustenance in a miraculous way that would draw their souls to the spiritual nourishment offered. The shepherds of Ezekiel thirty-four serve as a negative example. God indicted them, “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock” (Ez 34:3). Cooper provides aid to understand the metaphor of feeding the flock when he states, “Kings and leaders often were called ‘shepherds’ in the ancient Near east…They bore a primary responsibility for the moral and spiritual direction of the nations.”
In Psalm twenty-three, David writes, “I shall not want” because the LORD is his Shepherd. David then answers the manner in which his Shepherd provides, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul” (Ps 23:2-3). The green pastures were a remedy to hunger and malnourishment. The quiet waters prevented thirst and dehydration. This is how the LORD as Shepherd “restores my soul.” The word for restores used here, יְשֹׁובֵב/washuvev, is a Polel Imperfect verb that is used figuratively here to mean “restore, refresh.” The sheep eat from the LORD’s provision and are refreshed. But the nature of the LORD’s provision must be addressed. David used a cognate of this term in Psalm 19:7, מְשִׁיבַת/mashuvet, having the similar idea which Brown, Driver, and Briggs express as “to bring back heart…refresh.” In Psalm Nineteen, it is the Law of the LORD that is “restoring the soul.” The nature of pastoral sustenance is the Word of God. Thurneysen writes, “pastoral care must be practiced. But it must be pastoral care in which the Word of God retains its self-sufficiency and stand over against all human piety and in which man does not cease to be its pupil.” The Biblically faithful shepherd will feed His congregation from nothing but the Word of God.
Seventh, pastors provide spiritual protection for their flock.
. In Psalm twenty-three, David is not afraid even though he walks through “the valley of the shadow of death.” VanGemeren explains, “This imagery is consistent with the shepherd metaphor because the shepherd leads the flock through ravines and wadis where the steep and narrow slopes keep out the light. The darkness of the wadis represent the uncertainty of life.” The presence of the LORD is a constant comfort to David and reminder that he is protected. David then mentions the tools of the Shepherd, one of which is the “rod.” The Hebrew word שֵׁבֶט /shevet, translates as “rod, staff, club, scepter” and here likely refers to a club for guarding against predators and thieves.
Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders includes the command to “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God” (Acts 20:28). After directing these elders to shepherd, he warns them that false teachers will come. This is the reason they must “Be on guard.” A Biblical shepherd will guard and warn his congregation against false teaching and impious living.
Eighth, pastors cultivate a relationship with their flock.
In John 10:11-18, Jesus states, “I know My own and My own know Me…they will hear My voice.” Borchert explains, “The use of ginōskein (“know”) here is far more than cognitive (factual) knowledge. The relationship between Jesus and his sheep is modeled on the relationship between Jesus and the Father (10:15).” The shepherd spends long days, nights, and weeks with his sheep. He learns his sheep’s personalities, habits, and weaknesses. The sheep are able to discern their shepherd’s voice among other noises and other shepherds’ voices. Thomas Oden applies this concept to knowing the terrain in which the sheep travel and pasture. VanGemeren explains that David’s use of the covenant name of God, יְהוָה/Yahweh, and his emphasis on “my” in Psalm 23:1 speaks of the personal nature of God’s relationship with His people. Biblical shepherds will take time to know their congregations, corporately and individually. The pastorate is no place for one uninterested in God’s sheep.
Ninth, pastors lead their flock.
The LORD, as Shepherd, “leads” (נָחָה /nachah) His sheep in paths of righteousness (Ps 23:3). God promised His people that one day He will provide “shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding” (Jer 3:15). The metaphor here of feeding is the idea of governing. Matthew combines two prophesies in a way that links shepherding and leadership (Mt 2:6). He quotes Micah 5:2 to show that a “ruler” would come from Bethlehem and, drawing from Micah’s pastoral description of this ruler (Mic 5:4), Matthew appends the call for a Davidic Shepherd-King from Second Samuel 5:2. This would have been a natural connection for Matthew to make as shepherding was a common metaphor for civil leaders in Ancient Palestine (cf. Num 27:15-17). Also, Abbott-Smith lists the definition for the verb ποιμανεῖ in Matthew 2:6 as “to tend, shepherd, govern.” The idea of shepherding and leadership cannot be neatly separated. Likewise, Paul and Peter link the idea of shepherding with that of leadership when they use the terms, ἐπισκόπους (overseer/bishop) and ποιμαίνειν (shepherd) as descriptions of the same office (Acts 20:28; 1 Pt 5:1-4). Biblical shepherds must lead the congregation to desire, seek, and obey the Word of God.
Tenth, pastors will separate their flock.
In Ezekiel thirty-four, God portrays Himself as the true Shepherd of His people who will “judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats…between the fat sheep and the lean sheep” (Ez 34:17-22). God would remove and punish those who did not belong in His flock. Likewise, Jesus portrays Himself as the eschatological Shepherd who “judges as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mt 25:32). Köstenberger notes that in John ten, Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice and those who do not “demonstrate that they are not God’s sheep.”
Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom to His Apostles (Mt 16:15-19) which are expressed through church acceptance and discipline (Mt 18:15-18). The verbs “bind” and “loose” connect these passages and their ideas together. As pastors are the leaders of local congregations, and as the idea of shepherding always includes separating between sheep, biblical shepherds must lead their church in guarding the sheepfold from goats and unrepentant sheep through carefully checking the salvation of those who join and by leading the church to discipline members whose lives do not match the church’s confession.
Eleventh, pastors heal their flock.
Heil explains, “In God’s castigation of Israel’s leaders as shepherds in Ezek 34:4-5 healing is among the responsibilities they have neglected” but Jesus on the other hand would fulfil this work faithfully. But how are pastors to bring healing to their flocks? Physical issues and spiritual issues are not disconnected. Sometimes, physical ailments are caused by sin (Jn 5:14). James tells us that the sick should call on the elders who will come and anoint them with oil and pray over them. Anointing with oil is tied to repentance of sins. Pastors should encourage their church members to investigate their own hearts for unconfessed sin and repent, receiving grace from the Lord. As congregants confess their sins, the pastors should pray for them that they may receive physical healing (Ja 5:16). But how can one know what is sin? Pastors must faithfully and systematically feed the sheep the Word of God, whether in the pulpit or the counseling room. As they do so, congregations will avoid physical ailments brought on because of sin but also will receive spiritual and emotional healing from God’s Word.
Twelfth, pastors train others to shepherd their flock.
New Testament churches always had a counsel of pastors, often called elders (Ac 14:23; Ti 1:5). Paul directed Timothy to take what Paul taught him and teach it to faithful men who could teach it to others (2 Tm 2:2). Biblical pastors should be cultivating qualified men that they might one day become part of the church’s episcopate (council of overseers or elders).
Matthew and Mark reveal Jesus inviting His disciples to participate in His shepherding work (Mt 9:36-10:1; Mk 6:33-42). Jesus commissioned Peter to shepherd (Jn 21:15-17). Peter referred to Jesus as Chief Shepherd while guiding fellow shepherds in their mutual task (1 Pt 5:1-4).
Thirteenth, pastors will call others to become part of their flock.
While evangelism is not a primary function of pastors as pastors, it is still an aspect of shepherding as it intersects with pastors’ responsibility to model the Christ-like life and to lead the flock in evangelistic efforts (see my previous article, Is Evangelism My Pastor’s Job? No…and Yes.) Jesus said, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). Biblical pastors will seek to gather other sheep who are willing to follow the Chief Shepherd and will seek to disciple them for the Chief Shepherd.
The New Testament leaders of the local church were referred to as pastors and directed in their work by shepherding language. Present-day pastors must look to the historical, cultural, literary, and theological background of shepherding found in the Scriptures. Such a survey will yield several aspects of the work of shepherding which, when developed, will glorify King Jesus, edify the flock, and provide a greater sense of fulfilment and reward to the shepherds.
 Benjamin Merkle makes this speculation after noting that Luke speaks of the Apostles and Jerusalem elders working together in Acts 11:30 but as Acts progresses, the Apostles are mentioned less and the elders more in Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2014), 610.
 While all three terms refer to the same office, they each are built from a different cultural background and therefore bring a different nuance to that office.
 See Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-5; and cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 for the interchangeability of these three terms for the same office.
 In a footnote, Gerald L. Borchert explains, “In the case of the Johannine use of the words for love and shepherding, the reader should not focus on the change of the Greek words but concentrate on the growing impact of Jesus’ statements” in John 12-21 (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2002), 335.
 George L. Klein, Zechariah (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 389.
Kiel and Delitzsch explain that shepherds in these contexts refer to “rulers alone, but more particularly by the primary passage already referred to (Jer. 23:1-8), where we are to understand by the shepherds, kings and princes, to the exclusion of priests and prophets, against whom Jeremiah first prophesies from v. 9 onwards…” in Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 9: Ezekiel Daniel Trans. James Martin and M.G. Easton, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 288. Yet, the context of Jeremiah twenty-three clearly reveals prophets to be in view as well.
 G. Abbott-Smitt, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1922), 414.
 F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: with an Appendix containing the Biblical Aramaic, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 672.
 See Hebrews 13:7 where the same leaders are in view and are those who “spoke the word of God to you.” This teaching ministry is consistent with the “pastor-teachers” of Ephesians 4:11 and the overseers in 1 Timothy 3:2 who must be “able to teach.”
 David L. Allen, Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 624-625.
 Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954), 1243.
 See Frank Thielman’s excellent discussion of this idea in Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 280.
 Eduard Thurneysen, A Theology of Pastoral Care, Trans. Jack A Worthington and Thomas Wieser, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1962), 67.
 Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1983), 52.
 Willem A. VanGemeren, Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 253.
 C.F. Kel and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 10: The Minor Prophets (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 328.
 G. Abbott-Smitt, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1922), 370.
 Andreas J. Köstenberger, “Shepherds and Shepherding in the Gospels” in Shepherding Go’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond, eds. Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2014), 48.
 See Eduard Thurneysen’s chapter “Pastoral Care as Church Discipline” in A Theology of Pastoral Care, Trans. Jack A. Worthington and Thomas Wieser, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1962) and Joseph Flatt Jr’s chapter “How Shall I Respond to Sin in the Church?: A Plea to Restore the Third Mark of the Church” in Reforming Pastoral Ministry: Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Times. John H. Armstrong, Ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001).
 John Paul Heil, “Ezekiel 34 and the Narrative Strategy of the Shepherd and Sheep Metaphor in Matthew” in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 55, no. 4 (October 1993), 701-702.
 Kurt A. Richardson, James (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1997), 232-234.
 See Timothy S. Laniak, Shepherds after My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible, (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2006), 222.
 See Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 61; Alex D. Montoya. “Outreaching” in Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 60-61.
When you’re looking for a church home, there are many factors to consider. Some factors are more important than others and it is important to weight and evaluate those factors carefully. Pastors don’t always get to choose the church they want to be a part of but they go where they believe God is leading them to go. I am doubly blessed as a pastor. Not only has God called me to be a shepherd of Grace Point Church, but I would choose to be a member of Grace Point Church even if I wasn’t one of their pastors (Lord permitting). Here are twelve reasons why:
#1: Grace Point is committed to learning and following the Bible
Grace Point believes that God has revealed Himself and His plan perfectly in the Holy Bible (Psalm 19:1-14). We believe that the Bible is inspired by the perfect God and therefore is perfect; being inerrant and infallible (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 55:11). We believe that the Bible contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-11).
At Grace Point, the main questions that are asked when considering what we should do in any given situation is not “How have we done this before?” Nor is it “What is the traditional way of doing this?” Nor is it “How do we want to do this?” Nor is it “How will people think of us if we do this?” Nor is it “What do we think will work best?” Rather, the primary questions our church asks are “What does God’s Word direct us to do?” and “How can we be most faithful to Scripture?” When considering material for our classes, Grace Point asks, “Does this material help us understand and apply God’s Word?”
#2: Grace Point is a church that is committed to expository preaching
There are many types and styles of preaching and they are not all created equal. Since the Bible is inspired by God, is perfect, and contains all that is needed for life and godliness and since Jesus is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), it follows that His Word is what a church should be fed when gathered on the Lord’s Day for worship. Some sermons conceal God’s Word while others expose God’s Word. Some sermons use a passage of Scripture as a mere springboard for the preacher to say what he wants to say. Some sermons start by asking what the perceived needs of the people are. Some sermons start with the preacher asking what he wants to talk about and then he pieces together verses from all over the Bible to say what he wants to say. But in all these instances, the Holy Spirit, the Inspirer of the Bible, is not in the driver’s seat. But with expository preaching, one passage is selected, preached in its context, and the main point of the sermon is the main point of that passage. The preacher sees his job as explaining and applying the passage to exhort the congregation to trust the passage and live in light of it. This is the preaching that Grace Point Church values and strives to attain.
#3: Grace Point is committed to regenerate church membership
Regenerate church membership is the primary Baptist distinctive and a necessity to have a healthy and genuine New Testament church. Regenerate church membership means that the church membership consists only of those who are born again through faith in Jesus Christ. Regenerate church membership takes a great deal of effort on the part of the church through admitting members carefully and practicing church discipline gently. How do we strive for regenerate membership at GPC? The church requires that all potential members attend a membership class to ensure that the basics of the Christian faith and the functioning of our church are understood. Then, a potential member must meet with at least two of the church’s elders to share his salvation testimony, baptism testimony, and prior church experience. Finally, upon the recommendation of the elders, the church membership votes to receive these potential members during a business meeting. Further, our church provides an annual spiritual development assessment to encourage everyone to pray about their commitment to the Lord and to our church. Grace Point Church keeps her membership role up to date and will practice church discipline as the Lord leads with sincerity, gentleness, and the goal of reconciling the erring member to Christ and His church.
#4: Grace Point is a gospel-centered church
Grace Point Church knows that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27, 44) from Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21. Our sermons, Bible studies, and gatherings will encourage us all to grow in our understanding, appreciation, growth, trust, and emulation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—preparing us for the return of Christ. We know that the Bible is not a rule book but rather a revelation of God Himself so we may come to know Him, live with Him, and live for Him.
#5: Grace Point is a church of sincere faith
Grace Point Church is currently experiencing growth and blessing from the Lord. And everyone knows that it is from the Lord. By God’s grace, we haven’t been trusting in ourselves to bring about this growth. We haven’t been seeking the newest church growth trends or fades. We haven’t been trying to play to the perceived needs of our culture. We all know that God has called us to be faithful and leave the results up to Him. And as we see this growth, we give God all the credit, honor, and praise for it. The growth hasn’t come because of the Lead Pastor, or the council of elders, or the diaconate. It has come as a grace from the Lord by the power of the Lord to change lives. Being with Grace Point encourages my faith and I think God will use them to encourage yours as well!
#6: Grace Point is a missional church
Grace Point Church desires to reach their neighbors and those on the other side of the world with the gospel. We’ve recently seen some of our members begin sharing the gospel for the first time. The membership evangelizes more than any other church I’ve served alongside. I am always filled with joy when I hear that even our members in their 90s are still sharing the gospel! In my short tenure here, we’ve had more organized evangelistic outreaches than I can count. Grace Point Church is committed to international mission work as well as local mission work. They are committed to praying, giving, and going on mission. They’ve sent teams to Africa, Malawi, Brazil, Ohio, and Michigan since they’ve constituted in 2016. We are looking forward to new partnerships in Romania, Uganda, and Northern Minnesota. I was greatly humbled when I saw our church listed as the 8th highest giving (per capita) church to the cooperative program (Southern Baptist missional giving efforts) in the state of Kentucky out of the 2,400+ churches that make up the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Because of generosity like that of the members of Grace Point, there are more missionaries in the field, more churches planted, more evangelistic encounters, and more pastors being trained—to the glory of God!
#7: Grace Point is an elder-led church
Many Baptist churches are led by a single pastor, by their deacons, or by their staff. However, the New Testament model is that every local church is led by a council of elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). The term elder is used interchangeably in the New Testament with the terms pastor and overseer. When you join Grace Point Church, your soul is shepherded not by one man, but by a council of mature, Christ-like men who are called of God to lead and teach the church in God’s Word. Grace Point currently has four elders. I am one of them, and I have utmost respect for the other three. I trust their spiritual discernment and insight and am grateful to shepherd Grace Point alongside them.
#8: Grace Point is currently experiencing great unity
Unity in a church is a delicate phenomenon that must be guarded carefully. Currently, there is an unusually sweet spirit at Grace Point Church. Everyone is encouraged and on the same page. By the grace of God, we are pulling together to worship God, make disciples for Jesus, and love one another. There is something so precious and refreshing about times of unity like Grace Point is experiencing from the Lord now (Psalm 133). Come and be refreshed with us!
#9: Grace Point is currently experiencing the movement of God in a unique way
Over the last few months, Grace Point has seen around six decisions made to trust Christ for salvation, we’ve received six new members with several others in the process of joining. We’ve had two baptisms with one more in the very near future. We’ve restarted our children’s ministry after the pandemic, had a child dedication, seen our Wednesday night services grow to near sixty in attendance, we’ve brought on staff a Minister of Youth and Administration, we’ve seen near weekly responses to the invitations in our worship services, and we have just voted to pay off our new fellowship hall immediately, so we are debt free. God has been so good to us at Grace Point! He is responsible for all these good things, and we want to praise Him for them!
#10: Grace Point is an exceptionally friendly and welcoming church
I’ve heard from several of our visitors that our church is extremely friendly. When you come in, you will likely be welcomed by several members. You will know that we want you here! Everyone who visits and fills out a connect card receives a Starbucks gift card in the mail to show them they are welcome at our church. One of our newer members said that our church can be described in one word, “home.” One man, who was the only African American man for a few Sundays said, “I know I’m the only black man here, but every time I come, I feel like I’m part of the family.” Whatever your ethnicity or economic situation, you will feel welcome at Grace Point. In our church, you won’t find “cliques” that you cannot join. You will find a family to which you can belong. You will find people who love to laugh together and people who are willing to cry together. I have found that in six months of being with Grace Point, I’ve laughed more than I had laughed in the last five years. At Grace Point, I know I belong. At Grace Point, you will find a place to belong.
#11: Grace Point has been built on a strong heritage of ministering to Henderson County and beyond
Grace Point Church came into existence in 2016 as two historic churches merged to form one new church. Those two churches were Immanuel Baptist Temple (IBT) and Audubon Baptist Church. Both churches came from Henderson’s First Baptist Church. Audubon Baptist Church was planted in 1892, originally at the corner of Letcher and Helm Streets. In 1988, Audubon Baptist moved to Grace Point’s current location on Zion Road. Audubon Baptist planted Hyland Baptist Church and Finley Baptist Church. IBT was planted in 1914 on 2nd Street near downtown Henderson. IBT planted Eastview Baptist Church, Watson Lane Baptist Church, and Lawndale Baptist Church as well as starting the Kathy L. Strange Answer Center located on Second Street. The two churches merged in order to more faithfully and strategically reach people for Christ with the resources God has provided. Merging churches is no easy task. Two churches must be willing to leave behind their identities in order to form a new church. However, such a sacrifice of identity to benefit and further the Kingdom of God speaks volumes about a church. Grace Point Church prioritizes God’s kingdom above personal preference, glory, authority, and identity. Now, Grace Point celebrates and builds upon the heritage of these historic churches while seeking God’s purposes in an unhindered way.
#12: Grace Point worships God well together
Worship is more than singing songs together. Worship is ethics: it’s how you live to show that God is worthy of living for. But the worship that happens together on Lord’s Day mornings should fuel our living for the Lord the rest of the week. It should help us experience the glory of God. The Grace Point Praise Band does an excellent job leading the church in praising God and reminding us of His greatness. When you come, you will feel free to worship God. You will feel free to raise your hands in worship or to cry in worship. I’ve yet to see anyone look bored during our worship services. One of the most soothing experiences I have every week is to look out at Grace Point after a long sermon and see everyone worshiping God sincerely. During the invitation, I see senior ladies, among others, raising their hands in worship. I see members singing heartily with smiles on their faces. I see people who, after an hour and fifteen minutes of Sunday School and another hour and fifteen minutes of worship are still in no hurry to leave. They love God and they love each other. Even at the end of the worship service, they want to keep singing His praises together!
This list could have been so much longer but I hope it has demonstrated why I am so blessed to be a member of Grace Point Church and that it has intrigued you to come and experience God’s grace with us. As the New Year is upon us, would you make it your resolution to visit a Bible teaching church? If you live in Henderson County, please visit Grace Point. If you don’t, please find a church you can visit. If you’re already a member of another faithful church, will you recommit yourself to that church and worship God well with them? May God bless you as you seek Him with His people in 2022!
I’m always excited for when a new year begins! I love to think about goals for the upcoming year. For me, it’s a time of introspection—a time for reviewing, refocusing, and renewing. I review the past year to see where I’m on track and where I’m off track. I refocus by reevaluating goals and life direction based on some guiding Bible verses like 1 Corinthians 10:31, Deuteronomy 6, Mark 12:28-34, and Matthew 28:16-20. Then, I renew by writing new goals and resolutions and start plans to fulfill them.
Often, we can get in the rut of making all of our goals and resolutions individual-oriented. Individual goals are important but we can also use this time of year to consider goals and resolutions that are relationally-oriented. First, you can consider your relationship with God. Are you as close to the Lord as He would like you to be right now? Unconfessed sin always leads us to distance ourselves from the Lord. However, listen to God’s promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Ask the Holy Spirit to show you of any sin or activity that is causing a distance between you and God. Confess it and draw near to the Lord.
Second, you can consider your relationship with your family. Husbands and fathers, are you sacrificially leading your own families to love and know the Lord as Jesus does the church (Eph 5:25-33)? Wives, are you respecting and helping your husbands as the church does Christ (Eph 5:22-24, 33)? Parents, are you instructing your children in the ways of the Lord? Consider the command God gives parents, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up” (Dt 6:6-7; also see Eph. 6:4). Children, are you honoring and obeying your parents as the Lord commands (Ex. 20:12; Eph 6:1-3)? This is a wonderful time of year to recommit to loving your family in the way God guides us to.
Third, we can consider our relationship with our church family. This year has been particularly hard for churches due to the pandemic. However, the start of the New Year is a good time to consider a few questions: Am I praying for my church regularly? Is there some action I can take or commitment I can make to edify my church? Is there someone in my church with whom I need to seek reconciliation? Is there someone in my church I can encourage or comfort by reaching out to him or her? Paul says to the church of Philippi, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:1-5). This is a good time of year to renew our commitments to each other as a church in the Lord.
Fourth, you can consider your relationship with the lost. Were you praying for someone who needed salvation over the last year? Did you get to share with them? Is there someone for whom you need to begin praying for their salvation? Is there someone you can commit to share the gospel with this year? We are not responsible to make someone believe but we are responsible to the Lord to share others and invite them to believe in Jesus. Jesus said to His church, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Who will you witness to in 2021?
Fifth, we can consider our relationship with our community. How can you honor the Lord in your relationships with neighbors, coworkers, and others in Buchanan County and the surrounding counties? God desires that His people are good citizens wherever they live or sojourn. God told Israel when they were exiled in Babylon, they were to “Seek the prosperity of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord in its behalf; for in its prosperity will be your prosperity’” (Jer 29:7) and Paul urged “that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1-4). How can you, your family, and our church family bless our community?
Ordination is a cause of great joy among a local church. While in ordination, a church sometimes has the sadness of not seeing the man whom they ordain and his family as often, they gain the great joy and comfort of knowing that God has and is using their church to spread His Word to others through the one they ordain. They have the peace and satisfaction of knowing that through ordination, in part, they are obeying Christ’s Great Commission (Mt 28:16-20) and presenting a pleasing offering to the Lord.
So what does it mean to ordain someone into gospel ministry? This kind of ordination is a church’s formal recognition of God’s calling on a man’s life into the public ministry of the Word of God and that church’s endorsement of the man’s character, doctrine, and ability to teach. Ordination should be understood as the result of a candidate and his church discerning God’s will together. Typically, but not always, when a church ordains someone into gospel ministry, it is an act of sending him elsewhere to minister the Word (Acts 13:1-4).
The first step of ordination is initiated by God when He calls a man into the public ministry of the Word (Is. 6:6-9). Then, the one whom God has called receives what pastoral theologians often describe as an inner calling. This inner calling is an internal realization of the great necessity (Lk 4:43), significant burden (1 Cor 9:16-17), and growing desire (1 Tim 3:1) for the work. Pastors and preachers must have this inner calling or they will not endure in the work because of its many difficulties. Common advice pastors give to those considering whether they are called is, “If you can do anything else and be content, don’t enter the ministry.” This advice is given because seasoned pastors know that this inner calling will not allow for contentment in any other vocation.
The second step of ordination is when the man who is experiencing an inner calling acknowledges that inner calling to his local church. If his church believes he may be called and that he possess the godliness of character (1 Tim 3:1-7), they typically license him into gospel ministry as a “tentative approval…to serve until he has proven himself qualified for ordination” (Vansant Baptist Church Constitution, Section 1). Then, the candidate will accept as many opportunities to preach and teach as he can and the church will observe him to find evidence of God’s calling on his life.
When the candidate and the church believe that sufficient evidence has been given, they begin the process of ordination. Ordination is a manifestation of what pastoral theologians often describe as the outer calling. The outer calling is when a local church, discerning the Holy Spirit’s leading, acknowledges and recognizes God’s calling on the man’s life for public ministry of the Word.
The third step of ordination is when the church formally enters the process of ordination. But how does God desire a church to go about ordaining someone? This process must be undertaken with reverence and without a hint of flippancy. A church should be very cautious and patient when it comes to ordaining preachers. God will hold a church accountable for the sins of the preacher whom they ordain without proper inspection (1 Tim 5:22).
Further, God expects others who have received the calling to examine the candidates’ fitness of character, soundness of doctrine, and aptness to teach (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Cor 14:29, 32-33). In the New Testament, every church had multiple pastors so they were able to examine a candidate entirely “in-house.” Yet today, many Baptist churches have one pastor. Therefore, to allow for this examination by others who have the same calling, most Baptist churches will invite other pastors and preachers to serve as or on an Ordination Council.
The Ordination Council will examine a candidate and makes a recommendation to the church about whether to ordain the man or not. Because of the nature of the church, individuals (such as a pastor or preacher), nor subsets of the church (such as boards), nor an Ordination Council, nor a denominational entity (such as a seminary, convention, or mission board) have authority to ordain. The local church is the one whom Christ has given the authority and responsibility to ordain. Every local church must recognize and submit to Christ as her head (Col 1:18) and must strive to ensure that only those who are genuinely born again and are therefore led by the Holy Spirit, are church members. As these Spirit-led members seek to discern God’s will together, the Holy Spirit will guide them to a consensus which is often expressed by a vote. This local church authority is acted out in the New Testament as local churches practiced church discipline (Mt 18:15-20, 1 Cor 5:2), restored repentant members who were disciplined (2 Cor 2:6-7), baptized new believers into membership (Acts 2:41), ordained deacons (Acts 6:3), sent missionaries (Acts 13:2-3), and corrected false teaching (Acts 15:22). Jesus built His church on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20) and expressed His investment of authority upon local churches to discern and act upon His will in the terms of binding and loosing (Mt 16:13-19; 18:15-20).
The fourth step in ordination is that the church’s membership, after receiving a recommendation from the Ordination Council, will decide whether to ordain. If the church votes to ordain a man into public gospel ministry, they will set aside time to pray for him and lay hands on him, symbolizing that the church is placing a great deal of trust and responsibility in the man to do what God has called him to do (1 Tim. 5:22; Acts 13:1-3). Ordination is the result of a local church body discerning God’s calling of a man into public gospel ministry.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us that many people think they are saved but they actually are not (Matthew 7:21-23). John wrote his first letter in order to help Christians find assurance of their faith (1 John 5:13). Writing to the Corinthians, Paul directed, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves.”
We realize that Jesus and His Apostles want us to check our salvation. This is a healthy and faithful practice for Christians to do occasionally. But how do we do that? In order to check our salvation and be assured that we are indeed saved, we must ask ourselves two questions.
First, have I trusted Jesus rightly?
We must look to those passages of the Bible that guide us to understand the gospel and check to see if we have trusted and obeyed as they direct. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Have you believed in Jesus? Romans 10:9, 13 says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Lord means master; the One you obey and let guide your life. Have you confessed Jesus as Lord? Jesus said, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Have you repented of your sins? Repentance is the immediate effect that takes place when the Holy Spirit regenerates your heart when you place faith in Christ. Below is a guide to help you answer this first question.
I first heard about Jesus and His death and resurrection when ____________________________ shared it with me.
I placed my trust in Jesus, confessed Him as Lord, and called on His name in prayer on ______________________ (date or age) when I was at ________________________ (location).
Circle one of each option: During this time, I realized/did not realize that I was a sinner and separated from God and awaiting His just condemnation of me. I turned away/did not turn away from my sin and turned toward/did not turn toward God and His direction for my life.
Second, does my life give evidence of Spirit-empowered change?
As a misunderstanding of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, some have wrongly supposed that salvation can result in little interruption of one’s daily life. The Bible, however, warns us that a genuine conversion results in a transformed and transforming life. Paul teaches, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9). John tells us how to have assurance of salvation. He states, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…” (1 John 2:3-4).
All of this is consistent with the Old Testament prophecy of salvation which teaches that when one rightly believes in Jesus, God sends His Spirit into his heart and transforms him to love God and God’s ways so as to obey God’s commands (Ezekiel 36:27). In the Christian life, there will be ups and downs. There will be two steps forward and one step back. However, every genuine Christian should be able to see a progressive change in his life toward greater love for God and greater obedience to God over time. Here is a guide to help you answer the second question:
Sins that I used to commit but no longer or rarely do are _______________________________.
Godly practices I used to neglect but now are mostly faithful in are _______________________.
Sinful desires I used to be drawn to but now are not drawn to or are lesser drawn to are ________________________________.
Godly desires that I used to be apathetic towards but now have a passion for are _____________________________.
May God bless you in Christ Jesus as you examine your confession and transformation to find assurance of salvation. If you would like to discuss salvation further, please email me at email@example.com.
As we look to the New Year, I am filled with excitement about the possibilities that a new year brings. I often consider the goals and resolutions from the previous year (some of which I have successfully completed and a few I have not) and I look forward to the future.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, warned us that life is like a vapor—here today, gone tomorrow. When we consider it, our lives are short. That’s why we must make the most of our time and seek the Lord’s will (James 4:14). We don’t know what the Lord will allow us to accomplish each year or what situations He will allow to come our way. However, we do know that He is in control and that He wants us to be using this time to serve and honor Him. But what guidance does the Bible provide for us in considering the direction of our lives for 2020?
First, Jesus gave us the motive—love. When asked which commandment is greatest, He answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The first commandment is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. In this quotation, Jesus summed up the first four of the Ten Commandments. The second greatest commandment, Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18 and this commandment sums up the last six of the Ten Commandments. Jesus’ point is that in all our efforts we should seek to love God and others by obeying God’s Word toward them. So as you look to the possibilities of the future, will you ask, “How can I love God and others in accordance with God’s Word in 2020?”
Second, Jesus gave us the mission—make disciples. When someone gives you his last words, those words are usually extremely significant. Some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples are found in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The main command of this passage is “make disciples.” That means to guide people to become followers of Jesus. Jesus used three others words to describe how we are to make disciples: going, baptizing, and teaching. Going means that we have to make intentional effort to go to people and places we normally would not go. Baptizing is the symbolic act of showing that someone has come into the family of God. It is about bringing someone into our church family and caring for them. Teaching them means that we are to explain God’s Word to them and exhort them to obey it. As you look to the new year, will you ask yourself, “How can I make disciples for Jesus in 2020? Who can I pray for about salvation? Who can I share the gospel with? How can I care for my brothers and sisters in Christ? How can I encourage others to study God’s Word and obey it?”
Third, Jesus gave us guidance—the Bible. Before He was crucified, Jesus promised His disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come (John 16:12-13). This passage is primarily about the Holy Spirit inspiring the Apostles of Jesus to write the New Testament. As born-again Christians read the Bible today, He gives us the desire to obey what He inspired to be written. This is why Peter tells us that God has provided all we need for life and godliness through the Bible (2 Peter 1:2-3, 19-21) and Paul says the Bible is “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” and the Bible “is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Jesus provided the Bible so that we would know how to love God and others and how to make disciples for Him. As you prepare for the New Year, will you ask if your goals are valuing the things that the Bible values? Will you ask if your goals are obeying the commands of the Bible? As you look over your New Year’s resolutions, will you consider if you have neglected some command of our Lord’s Word?
Finally, Jesus gave us a promise—grace. As we seek to glorify and honor Christ the short time we have in 2020, we will likely have set backs and struggles. As we do, we do not need to get discouraged. Jesus has come to show us “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). First, as Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to work hard for the glory of God and the well-being of the church of Ephesus, He reassured him. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Thank God for being right there with you. Ask Him to keep you from fear and to grow the power, love, and discipline in you that He has already provided so that you can serve Him in 2020. Also, John teaches us about the grace of Christ, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In 2020, when times arise that you fail to glorify Christ by disobeying His Word, run to Him in confession—He will forgive and cleanse you.
Have you ever considered the power that is available to us through prayer? In prayer, we can reach out to the One who made the entire universe. James reminds us of Elijah’s powerful prayers when he states, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18). Jesus teaches His disciples that by prayer, they can cast out demons and move mountains (Matthew 17:14-21). Through prayer we may receive healing (2 Kings 20:1-5) and seek healing for others (Acts 28:7-10). The early church received boldness to share the gospel as a result of their prayers (Acts 4:23-31).
This power would not be available to us if it had not been for the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our sins had separated us from God so that He would not hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1-2). Yet, for those who trust in Jesus, God forgives their sins and hears their prayers (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Apart from saving faith in Christ, God does not hear anyone’s prayers. But the moment a person believes on Jesus Christ for salvation, God hears his or her cry. Therefore, we have a costly and precious gift to thank God for in our ability to pray.
Yet, we also realize that as believers, we can hinder our prayers. Therefore we want to be cautious and take time to evaluate our lives and prayers to make sure that they are unhindered. I’d like to share four ways we can hinder our prayers.
First, you can hinder your prayers by unrepentant sin. James says, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Is there a habit in your life that cannot be described as “righteous”? Confess your sins to the Lord and confess them to a trusted brother or sister in Christ that he or she may also pray for you. Healing does not come without confessing our sins. Peter likewise communicates that sinful behavior hinders our prayers. He warns, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way…so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Second, you can hinder your prayers by praying with wrong, worldly motives. James states, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? (James 4:2-4). Christians are called to put to death the desires of our flesh (Colossians 3:5). It is a strange and inappropriate request when a Christian prays with worldly desires for worldly gain. What desires have been driving your prayers lately? Are you seeking the things above or the things below?
Third, you can hinder your prayers by neglecting to pray in Jesus’ name. John records Jesus’ teaching: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14). What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name”? It doesn’t just mean to tag the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on the end of your prayer before you say “Amen.” It means to pray in accordance with Jesus’ character and will. It means to pray a prayer that pleases Him. When God saves us, He changes us so that we start to desire obedience to Him above all else (Ezekiel 36:27). Are your prayers driven by a desire to please, honor, and obey Jesus? Are you praying for the salvation of the lost? Are you praying for the maturity of the church? One preacher said, “I fear that we spend more time praying saints out of heaven than we do praying sinners in.” Now, I don’t want to discourage us from praying for physical healing—that is very important and God cares for our physical situation (1 Peter 5:7). But praying for the salvation of the lost and the obedience of the saved are even greater concerns.
Fourth, we hinder our prayers by having little faith in Jesus. When a man whose son was demon possessed came to Jesus to request healing for his son, Jesus responded, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The man cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus’ disciples asked why they could not cast the demon out, Jesus responded, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:14-28). God desires to answer prayers that are asked with faith in Jesus Christ. I think it greatly honors the Lord when we pray like the man whose son was demon-possessed. Will you pray, “I do believe, help my unbelief”? Remember, it is impossible to please God without faith in Jesus (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you want to be a prayer warrior like Epaphras who wrestled in prayer for the Colossians? (Col 4:12). How would such a prayer life affect your family? How would it affect your church and community? Consider the great power we have when we pray unhindered prayers to the One who created everything! Happy praying!