Thursday, August 31, 2023

When did the events of Galatians 2:1-14 occur?

In the past I have felt that events of Galatians 2 were contemporaneous with the events of Acts 15. In recent further study I have come to believe that in timing they better comport with Acts 11:29ff. Here are some brief comments on the subject.

The differences between what Luke writes in Acts 15 and what Paul writes in Galatians 1-2 are differences in fact, I have concluded, because the visit to Jerusalem mentioned in Galatians 2:1ff does not correspond to his visit to Jerusalem in Acts 15. 

Comparing and contrasting Acts 15 and Galatians 2

                        Acts 15                                                Galatians 2

Third visit (Acts 9:26; 11:30,12:25)   | No third visit mentioned

Problem, reason for going (15:2)        | Problem after arrival (2:3-5)

            Sent by church (15:2-3)                      | By revelation (2:2; cf. Acts 11:27-29)

            Public discussion (15:6ff)                   | Private meeting (2:2)

            Circumcision and salvation (15:1,5)   | Table fellowship (2:11-13)

            Focus on James’s resolution (15:19)  | James’s resolution unmentioned

            Paul a minor participant (15:12)         | Paul a primary participant (2:1-9)


By the time of Acts 15 in the historical record of the book of Acts, Paul has visited Jerusalem three times – the first visit is mentioned in Acts 9:26ff, the second is to bring famine relief from Antioch to Jerusalem and Judæa (Acts 11:27-30), and the third is for counsel with the Jerusalem Church on the matter of circumcision and the law of Moses (Acts 15).

“I went up again” in 2:1 seems to be a reference back to a prior visit to Jerusalem mentioned in Galatians 1:18.  Without a presupposition in favor of Acts 15, the comparison of 2:1 and 1:18 would normally and simply be taken as the next (therefore, second) visit Paul makes to Jerusalem. (That is, “I went up to Jerusalem” in Galatians 1:18 is the first visit, and “I went up again to Jerusalem” in Galatians 2:1 is the second visit.) The second visit of Paul to Jerusalem, according to the book of Acts, occurs at the time recorded in Acts 11:29-30, 12:25. The events of Galatians 2:11-21 strike an odd chord if they track with Acts 15 or follow after the conclusion of the consultation. The influence of the Judaizers in Galatians is much more understandable if occurring before the decision of the church in Acts 15 rather than after it (cf. Acts 16:4). In Galatians 2, Paul calls the opposers “false brethren.” In Acts 15, Luke calls the opposers “Pharisees which believed.” Also, Galatians 2:10 “remember the poor” is more consonant with the purpose of the Acts 11 visit than the Acts 15 visit. This further better explains why Paul does not refer the Galatians to the decision of the consultation in Jerusalem – it had not taken place at the time he was writing to the Galatians.


Acts Commentary

At our church I am conducting a weekly Bible study on the New Testament book The Acts of the Apostles. At present we have been studying Acts for over a two-and-a-half years, and are about halfway through the book (near the end of chapter 14 this week). In connection with the study I am preparing and printing comments on the text as a companion to the study of this New Testament book. My long term goal, Lord willing, is to compile, edit, and publish these notes as a commentary on the book of Acts.

I am under no illusions that there will be a high demand for a commentary by this preacher. However, I believe there is a great need for a modern commentary on the book of Acts that (1) proceeds from the belief that the Bible is inspired, infallible, accurate, trustworthy, sufficient, and providentially preserved; (2) is developed in harmony with biblical local church ecclesiology and practice; and (3) recognizes that New Testament apostolic practice is normative. Additionally, such a commentary for English readers is based on the King James Bible and supported by the Greek Textus Receptus.

I provide this explanation, because in preparing my post for today it occurred to me that I could (and perhaps should) post on my blog excerpts from my Acts commentary. The post that will follow today is not strictly an excerpt, but prepared specifically for the blog based on study and work I have done on Acts 15. If the Lord wills, going forward I will try to post material about the book of Acts from my comments on Acts on a weekly basis, perhaps on Thursdays or Fridays. It will not be all the material, and not necessarily in order. May it possibly be a blessing to someone.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A Balanced Approach to the King James Only Controversy

...Some comments.

Back in May 2023, a Facebook group member quoted from something titled “A Balanced Approach to the King James Only Controversy.” It said that “King James Only advocates” commonly claim “that all modern translations leave out the name of Satan as a part of a devious scheme to destroy the faith.” I thought that statement was both unusual and regarding something I do not expect to be “common.”

I searched for “A Balanced Approach to the King James Only Controversy.” I found it online at Liberty University’s Digital Commons. It is a 2010 Liberty University Doctor of Ministry thesis by A. B. [Aulton Bruce] Brown. Brown is an ordained Free Will Baptist minister, a former teacher and dean at Southeastern Free Will Baptist College, and currently (or at least at that time) an adjunct professor at Liberty University. This is not a review of the thesis, but just some random comments on some things that stood out to me.

After reading the “Abstract” and “Introduction,” I felt the work starts with a defect – of writing about the King James Only Controversy without clearly defining what the term “King James Only” means. I would expect a definition to be found at least in the “Introduction.” The lack of a clear definition makes the entire discussion problematic and mars the purpose of the thesis. When the author identifies various folks holding distinct views as “KJVO” (e.g., Edward F. Hills, Gail Riplinger, Peter S. Ruckman, Charles L. Surrett, D. A. Waite, etc.), this implies that they hold the same view. Yet they do not.

I am not sure whether there is any widespread knowledge of or reference to this thesis. Therefore, this post calling attention to it perhaps gives it too much credit. Overall, I am not impressed. Lots of introductory material, history, etc., and lots of talk about the KJVO view not being biblical, but the thesis itself is not all that balanced or biblical, in my opinion. The approach is more logical and philosophical, rather than biblical. Brown does finally directly deal with two biblical texts – Psalm 12:5-8 and Matthew 5:17-19 in Appendix E.

As an example of the approach being logical and philosophical, consider from the “Introduction.” The author sets forth “four natural human tendencies help explain why some cling to the KJV.” With little difficulty of thought, a “KJVO” advocate could as easily come up with “four natural human tendencies help explain why some clamor for new versions.”

When I saw the word “balanced” in the title, it struck a different connotation for me than whatever the author had in mind. A “balanced approach” to the KJVO Controversy would critique problems on both sides. This critique is of but one side. The author and university advisers nevertheless assume this one-sided approach is balanced. 

Perhaps it is just me, but I either saw or imagined I saw anger toward KJVO in the thesis. If so, this might be because of what happened at the college where the author had taught. He wrote that the administration “eventually caved in and banned the use of the Nestle text in the classroom.”

In the sub-heading “Unholy Exaggerations about the Omission of the names Satan and Lucifer” (p. 121), Brown writes, “The claim that all modern translations leave out the name of Satan as a part of a devious scheme to destroy the faith is common among King James Only advocates.” He then gives a lengthy quote on the occurrence of “Satan” in various Bible translations.

Brown seems to be confused or misleading here. He does not identify or reference anyone who has made this so-called “common” claim. Which KJVO advocates are making this claim? How common is it? How (in what words) are they making it?

The sub-heading implies he means “the names” both “Satan” and “Lucifer.” There seems to be an attempt to make KJV advocates look stupid or deceptive, by showing that “Satan” is hardly left out of any Bibles despite what they “claim.” Is this some kind of “bait and switch”? If there is a complaint that is common about modern translations leaving out the name “Satan,” I haven’t seen it. Most often the discussion is much narrower – in reference to the name “Lucifer” removed from Isaiah 14:12. In this case most modern translations do not have Lucifer, but rather “morning star,” “day star,” “star of the morning,” and such like. 

This point is bungled and confused. Just what is he saying? The author needs to be clear. He should identify and refer to which KJVO advocates have made this “common” claim, show how & where they state it, and whether it is actually common.

Despite my overall negative impression, A. B. Brown came up with some “quotable quotes.” Here are a couple:

  • “Bad doctrine and bad deeds both reflect a lack of submission to the sole and supreme authority of the Scriptures.” p. 162
  • “Truth is a straight line that favors neither the right nor the left.” p. 163

If the thesis is as poorly researched as it is poorly prepared and presented, perhaps supporters should place little confidence in it. Right out the gate the word “Controversey” is misspelled in the title on the title page. As I looked through this thesis, I found myself asking this question (while feeling sort of guilty for doing so): “Is this what passes for doctor’s theses at Liberty?” This is not a personal criticism of Brown, who was 72 years old when he produced the thesis. I understand how age affects us. Readers of this blog can see what kind of typographical messes I am capable of making. So, I sympathize with Brother Brown. However, I do not sympathize with Liberty University. It is a matter of standards for theses – first readers and supervisors requiring corrections before a thesis can be accepted, etc. High quality for a high degree. Not only did Liberty apparently miss those steps, but then they posted it online demonstrating that they missed the steps! If they posted a draft of an uncorrected document, that is also a mistake on their part (altbeit a lesser one). 

The most egregious extreme of the thesis is the charge that, by becoming King James Only advocates, these people “deny both the sole authority and the complete sufficiency of the Scriptures” – with no mature and corresponding (balanced) reflection of how the Modern Version advocates may do the same thing by “creating their doctrines not found in the Scriptures.” All Bible-believing Christians (if they are Bible-believing Christians) hold the inspired Scriptures as our sole rule of faith and practice. In practice we fall below that high ideal. It is still the ideal.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


In religious speak, various views are often labeled some type of “hyper-ism” – Hyper-Calvinism, Hyper-Dispensationalism, Hyper-Arminianism, and so on.[i] 

“Hyper…ism” can be a useful description. The English prefix “hyper” means excess or exaggeration. It comes from the Greek ὑπέρ (huper), which means over or above. Some belief systems go “over and above” what is normally described by certain theological terms, such as Calvinism or Dispensationalism. A “hyper” belief may take some point of a particular theology to excess. Hyper-Calvinism probably most generally and historically describes a view that says it is unbiblical to exhort someone to repent and believe the gospel unless the preacher has some evidence that the person so exhorted is one of God’s elect.[ii] Hyper-Dispensationalism normally describes a belief that the church age or New Testament age does not begin until sometime in the middle of the book of Acts or later. This can get really confusing because some people divide these “hyper” views into “Hyper-Dispensationalism” (church begins Mid-Acts, e.g., Acts 9 or Acts 13) and “Ultra-Dispensationalism” (church begins in Acts 28 or later).

“Hyper…ism” can be an unhelpful description, because it often has no set meaning. The meaning often is determined by its distance from or relation to the speaker or writer using the term. For example, some non-Calvinists may speak of any type of Calvinism as “Hyper-Calvinism.” A non-dispensationalist may speak of any kind of dispensationalism as “Hyper-Dispensationalism.” Such uses are usually pejorative and polemic. It is also problematic because such a description is usually used about or against someone rather than it being how a person or group describes themselves. In other words, a church or denomination will not likely say, “Oh, yes, of course we are ‘hyper…ists.” They see their view as correct, not hyper. “Hyper…ism” is describing by comparison and according to the extreme, whether correctly or not.

When used for the better, a “hyper” issue is an overemphasis on a part of the Bible or theological teaching while disregarding a corresponding part of the Bible or theological teaching. The terminology exists and cannot be avoided. Nevertheless, it is probably best used sparingly, and when using it we should carefully define what we mean.

[i] “Hyper-Arminianism” seems never to have gained much traction, though sometimes it might be applied to Easy-Believism, Pelagianism, Open Theism, and such like.
[ii] Additionally, one must deal with “High Calvinism” and “Low Calvinism.”

Monday, August 28, 2023

One Grand Providence

“People talk about special providences. I believe in the providences, but not in the specialty. I do not believe that God lets the thread of my affairs go for six days, and on the seventh evening takes it up for a moment. The so-called special providences are no exception to the rule—they are common to all men at all moments. But it is a fact that God’s care is more evident in some instances of it than in others to the dim and often bewildered vision of humanity. Upon such instances men seize and call them providences. It is well that they can; but it would be gloriously better if they could believe that the whole matter is one grand providence.”

George MacDonald (1824–1905) in Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood, 1867, p. 27

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Ein’ fes­te Burg ist un­ser Gott

Probably most Christian folks are familiar with the Martin Luther hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther wrote the hymn in German. It begins “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.” “A Mighty Fortress” represents the most commonly used English translation. The hymn below is a translation by Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle (1795–1881), a Scottish writer and historian, wrote histories, articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and much more. Apparently “A safe stronghold our God is still” is his only hymn. The hymn meter is the same as “A Mighty Fortress” ( and can be sang with the tune Ein’ Feste Burg. The translation of Carlyle preceded the more common one (by Frederick Hedge) by about 20 years.

1. A safe stronghold our God is still,
A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill
That hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell
Hath risen with purpose fell;
Strong mail of craft and power
He weareth in this hour;
On earth is not his fellow.

2. With force of arms we nothing can,
Full soon were we down-ridden;
But for us fights the proper Man,
Whom God Himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, who is this same?
Christ Jesus is His name,
The Lord Sabaoth’s Son;
He, and no other one,
Shall conquer in the battle.

3. And were this world all devils o’er,
And watching to devour us,
We lay it not to heart so sore;
Not they can overpower us.
And let the prince of ill
Look grim as e’er he will,
He harms us not a whit;
For why? his doom is writ;
A word shall quickly slay him.

4. God’s Word, for all their craft and force,
One moment will not linger,
But, spite of hell, shall have its course;
’Tis written by His finger.
And though they take our life,
Goods, honor, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small;
These things shall vanish all:
The City of God remaineth!

Like another hymn by Luther on Psalm 12, Luther here also exalts the word of God.

Words & Music: Martin Luther, 1529 (Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott). Words translated from German to English by Thomas Carlyle (1831).

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Turning worship into a clown show, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Unclouded spiritual vision

In February of 1913 Benajah Harvey Carroll, Baptist preacher and president of Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, became seriously ill. Recovery seemed unlikely. During this time, his friends J. B. Cranfill and F. M. McConnell paid him a visit. During the visit, Carroll said the following words, which Cranfill published in The Baptist Standard. The words were later republished in other Baptist newspapers (below is quoted as published in Baptist and Reflector, Thursday, March 6, 1913, p. 9).

“Although I have suffered much and am still suffering greatly, my spiritual vision was never as unclouded as it is today. I know that Jesus is mine. Death has no terrors for me. I do not fear the river of death. When I shall press my feet up its shores the waters will divide, and I will go over dry shod. I know that God’s Book is true, that heaven is real, that Jesus Christ is my Redeemer and that He will welcome me into the Father’s house on high.”

Bad though it was, Carroll recovered from this illness. He did not die until over a year and a half later – November 1914. Nevertheless, his thoughts on the Bible, heaven, and Jesus were a blessing to many. Furthermore, these thoughts on the Bible, heaven, Jesus did not change between February 1913 and November 1914.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Credential Creep, Credentialism, and False Credentials

Top Southern Baptist Convention news this past week probably is the resignation of Willie McLaurin from interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. I first read about it at Baptist News Global, a liberal news and opinion site that gleefully reports any foibles of the convention and skewers them for it.

McLaurin, interim president and considered most likely to be hired for the permanent post, resigned August 17th. He resigned because of the finding that he had falsified information on his resumé. His resumé included earned degrees from North Carolina Central University, Duke University Divinity School, and Hood Theological Seminary – all of which were false (as well as a claim of military service).

Previously, McLaurin had served 15 years on the staff of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, as well as a pastor at Greater Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, and pastor Greater Hope Baptist Church in Union City, Tennessee. He was elected to serve on the SBC Executive Committee staff in 2020. In 2022, after the departure of EC president Ronnie Floyd, he became the interim president of the Executive Committee.

All this lengthy introduction to make a few related points.

From what I have read about Willie McLaurin, he is a hard-working, personable man – a really nice guy that people like. Many Southern Baptists thought he was doing a great job as EC interim president, and were rooting for him to be elected to the permanent post. Nevertheless, he chose a false way to rise to the top. He lied. He falsified records. “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”

I think we all can agree that falsifying a resumé is wrong. (Even most who have done so inherently know it is wrong.) Most folks want their resumés to look their best, but to create information out of thin air cannot be justified. I have not noticed anyone mention or report what credentials/education Willie McLaurin actually has. Regardless, he apparently believed his actual education would either disqualify him or not be good enough qualifications. So, he lied. This raises a question to me, “Why would pastors, preachers, and Christian workers falsify a resumé?” What pressure do they feel that makes it seem necessary or beneficial? 

I believe the answer is “Credentialism” – or as one respondent at SBC Voices called it, “credential creep.” That writer, Nathan Petty, pointed out how that historically Baptists had grown in the United States mostly without the benefit of seminary trained preachers. Then they progressed in formal education. As this progress moved forward in the 20th and 21st centuries, the amount of degrees offered and education expected grew exponentially. According to Petty, the counsel of many would be for a man to get seven years of formal education (DMin) in order to be “really” be qualified to serve a local SBC congregation.[i]

This is not only an SBC issue. Many Baptists feel this pressure for credentials – or perhaps simply lust for the glory of the title. Our Baptist congregation is not affiliated with the SBC, neither any organized association, convention, or fellowship. Because of that, apparently, we received a lot of unsolicited “independent fundamental” correspondence. I have noticed in these circles a tendency for every Tom, Dick, and Harry – no matter how ignorant or uneducated – to be “Dr. So and So.” Whether they have legitimate degrees or bought one from the pawn shop, they tout their status. Every speaker at a conference is a “Dr.” What’s the deal? No doubt some of it is base human pride. I believe the other factor is “Credentialism.” We have unfortunately created communities of Christians who cannot “search the Scriptures” whether things are so, but need to be told it is so by “Dr. So and So.” If Paul’s Apostleship was not good enough for the Bereans, your “Doctorate” is not good enough for me!!

When we turn to the Bible discussions of qualifications (1 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), a clear case can be made for honesty and integrity. Level of formal education is nowhere to be found. Yes, apt to teach. No Doctor of Ministry. I have no fondness for ignorance. Nevertheless, the Bible is our rule of faith and practice. Throw away those practical qualifications your church or ministry has created. Go back to the Bible. The qualifications there are inspired by God.

My intent is not to beat up on Willie McLaurin. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, may this incident be a teaching moment.

[i] For example, the Duke Divinity School Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program is normally completed in three years. They require a prior Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or comparable master’s degree before enrolling in the program. Therefore, in this case, the DMin takes about six or seven years. (Duke also requires at least five years in full-time ministry before entering the program.)
[ii] While working on this, at the top of the Word Doc I had something else on which I was working — the hymn/poem “The Church’s Desolation.” The second verse (and others) seemed to have some correlation. “Her pastors love to live at ease, They covet wealth and honor; And while they seek such things as these, They bring reproach upon her. Such worthless objects they pursue, Warmly and undiverted; The church they lead and ruin, too— Her glory is departed.”
[iii] Mark Terry writes, “If we cannot depend on pastors and church workers to tell the truth, then we’re in bad shape.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

They really wanted out

When I read this news report about Methodist churches in the Tuscarawas Valley area of Ohio leaving the United Methodist Church I thought to myself, “They really wanted out!” It sounds like it was both annoying and costly to get out, and in some places there were additional ordeals. I heard (reliably) of one case in a church business meeting when conference leaders urged non-attending members to attend and vote against leaving the United Methodist denomination.

“The United Methodist Church owns all church buildings in trust for its congregations, so churches that wanted to leave had to transfer title to their building. They had to get a two-thirds vote of approval from their members and then approval at their conference’s annual meeting. And they had to make a payment to the denomination to leave, and sometimes that amount was substantial.”

“Churches leaving were required to pay in full two years of that congregation’s apportionment commitment; pay in full the congregation’s pro-rata share of the conference’s pension liability, based on a formula approved by the annual conference; and pay any health care or pension arrearages a congregation may have accrued over the years.”

I do not endorse the new Global Methodist Church, but there is a sense in which I am impressed by folks whom I see as moderate to liberal getting fed up with a denomination that has veered far away from biblical orthodoxy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Review of “Does the Book of Acts Teach Spontaneous Baptisms?”

Review of Caleb Morell’s “Does the Book of Acts Teach Spontaneous Baptisms?

The author, Caleb Morell, is a graduate of Georgetown University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Morell gets down to business and promptly arrives at a definition of spontaneous baptism: “A baptism is spontaneous in (sic) when it happens without forethought or planning.” I would say that this phrase and its definition is somewhat skewed by our modern ideas and practices – more so than being a “biblical definition.” In writing on the topic, I preferred the words “urgent” (very important and requiring attention) and “immediate” (accomplished without delay) over spontaneous. Nevertheless, there are those who promote a similar practice who use the word spontaneous to describe their view. For example J. D. Greear writes, “After all, every single baptism recorded in the New Testament, without exception, is spontaneous and immediate.” Those who believe, as a matter of faith and practice, that baptisms should be immediate do not believe them “spontaneous” in the sense of “without forethought or planning.” They have studied the Bible, thought about what it teaches, and plan to put that biblical teaching into practice at the proper time. Yes, for the baptizand, it might be as spontaneous as his unexpected and unplanned repentance and belief. It should not be for the church[i]

You readers who know me know that I am a lover of history in general, and church history in particular. In the end, though, church history proves history. It proves what has been done historically in churches and by Christians. However, we must go to the Bible itself, our only rule of faith and practice, to prove and know what is to be our faith and practice. This brings us to his next section, “The Pattern of Acts.”

Considering the baptismal instances in Acts, Morell must admit, “Assessing the data, this seems to be largely accurate”[ii]  that the baptisms were immediate. Morell finds nine “Instances of Baptisms of Acts.” I would add a tenth “generic” reference.[iii]  After tentatively agreeing with the data, Morell quickly cordons off four of the nine, leaving “five instances of baptism as possible models for spontaneous baptisms.” He thinks the timing of the baptisms of Lydia and her household in Acts 16, and the Corinthians in Acts 18 is “ambiguous.” While we might spot a little bit of ambiguity in the description about Lydia, there is no reason to suppose any in regard to the Corinthians, who heard, believed, and then were baptized.[iv]  He excludes the other two because they “involve the delayed reception of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:12ff; Acts 19:5).

After cordoning off these four baptisms, Morell attempts to build an exclusionary, somewhat theological hermeneutical, case that the baptisms in Acts are not normative.[v]  That “Luke records surprisingly few baptisms in Acts” Morell thinks “suggests that the baptisms actually recorded are unusual or even inimitable.” What a strange conclusion for a Baptist, and for anyone who believes the Bible is our rule of faith and practice, the inspired word that is profitable, completely, “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” For this project of exclusion, the author stresses “Three features characterize the baptisms in Acts.”

  1. The baptisms recorded all involve “first converts” in a historically-redemptively significant setting.
  2. Nearly every baptism is accompanied by supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Each baptism takes place in response to believing the Apostolic message.

To the first, Morell concludes “one of the main reasons baptisms are recorded in Acts is to highlight God’s work in pioneer settings as the gospel advances to new regions.” That, in itself, seems reasonable, and hardly any reason to reject the practice of baptism in these cases as normative.

Morell believes Luke connects baptism “with the visible work of the Holy Spirit” in order to highlight “that the Spirit of God is driving the expansion of the gospel and the growth of the church.” Again, not unreasonable, and hardly any reason to reject the practice of baptism in these cases as normative. In fact, the author thinks “these visible manifestations of the church help its unity because they signify the movement of the same Spirit.” Yet he then oddly argues for a disunity of baptismal practice.

His third point is similar to the second. 

“The point of each recorded baptism is to highlight how the expansion of the gospel doesn’t result in the fragmentation of the church. Rather, the church remains firmly united despite their diversity because of the Holy Spirit and the consistent apostolic message.”

This is confusing. Morell thinks many baptisms are not recorded, and the ones that are recorded serve a purpose (that is, for their being recorded in Scripture). I agree. Surely the purpose is not to teach us that the multitudes of unrecorded baptisms are different from the recorded ones! And that we should therefore practice differently than what is written.

Writing on the anomaly of receiving the Holy Spirit after baptism, this author misses several points. He in unclear on what he thinks this reception of the Holy Spirit is, and gratuitously assumes the disciples at Ephesus are “John the Baptist’s disciples.”

Morell comes back to the cases of Lydia’s household and the Corinthians, as these will now serve his purpose. They “leave out any mention of visible supernatural work” and (according to Morell) “leave out any mention of the timing of baptism.” He acknowledges “it’s possible to read this as taking place immediately,” but wishes it to be otherwise. If otherwise, it allows the naysayers to insert “some period of instruction” before baptism.[vi]  Concerning the practice in Corinth, Morell appeals to Peterson (probably David Peterson)[vii] that in this account “the use of the continuous tenses in the Greek (‘hearing’ and ‘believing’ and ‘being baptized’) suggests an ongoing pattern of responding to gospel preaching.” I fail to see any reason why this “ongoing pattern of responding to gospel preaching” excludes immediate baptism. On the face of it, it does not, and perhaps even supports it.

Interestingly, Morell included the baptism of the eunuch of Ethiopia among those associated with supernatural acts, because Philip is told by angel of the Lord where to go. On the other hand, he did not include the baptism of Lydia and her household, even though Paul went to Macedonia because of a vision that appeared to him in the night.

After setting the stage, Morell is ready to answer whether we should practice “spontaneous” baptisms. He concludes that “The claim that Acts demonstrates a uniform pattern of spontaneous baptisms is overstated.” The data really is not all that complex, as regards the timing of baptism. Furthermore, those of us who believe that the book of Acts provides patterns for us to follow do not have a problem agreeing that “Luke’s purpose in recording baptisms in Acts was not simply to provide a model to follow.” But does that purpose also include providing a model to follow? Why would it exclude it?

To finish his arguments, Morell condescendingly takes us all to “Hermeneutics 101.” Yes, some of us barely passed the class, but others passed with flying colors. We know that you cannot make a pattern of everything described in the New Testament. The word must be rightly divided. What the apostles taught and practiced, and that the churches received very well could be establishing practices for us. Inquiring minds want to know. Morell suggests applying two principles for discerning whether or not a pattern is binding. 

  • “First, we should assume the principle of non-contradiction: however complex the issue, we should assume the unity of Scripture and draw widely from Scripture to discern which principles are binding.” 
  • “Second, we should look for reinforcement for the doctrine or practice in question in other parts of the New Testament. As John Stott puts it, ‘What is descriptive is valuable only in so far as it is interpreted by what is didactic.’”

Then in two “slam-dunk” sentences, Morell vanquishes “positive warrant for baptizing immediately.” Or does he?

There is nothing in the principles or unity of Scripture that opposes immediate baptism, neither does the didactic contradict the descriptive. Morell cannot just wave his hand and make it all disappear. In fact, he is aware that “baptism is so closely connected with conversion that Paul can speak of them as one and the same event” – and at the same time wishes to put some contrived distance between the closely connected. In fine, the difference in modern practice and New Testament practice becomes “we live in different days” (my words for their words), or as Morell puts it, “Our context today is simply not analogous.” This is a deadly doctrinal trend, which, if not used sparingly, allows us to dismiss most of the Bible as neither commended nor critical for our current situation.[viii]

In many ways I appreciate the conservatism of 9Marks folks much more than some of the progressive Southern Baptists who are advocating “spontaneous” baptisms. On the other hand, I think they are somewhat lacking in their ecclesiology and orthopraxy, causing them to weaken biblical Baptist practice as I see it.

Ultimately, folks like Morell ask us to reject the models of Acts as “not a model” and rather adopt their own practically developed models as the models we ought to follow. On biblical grounds, I protest.

Baptism, a rite of immersion in water, is important, urgent and should not be unnecessarily delayed because:

  • It is commanded [to both converts to proclaim (Acts 2:38; 10:48) and to the church to perform (Matt. 28:18-20)].
  • It is the believer’s first act of obedience (Acts 2:33-39; Acts 10:47-48; Matthew 10:32).
  • It pictures the gospel and testifies of new life (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  • It signifies a spiritual commitment, that we who are born again are now free to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

The unity of the command, precept, and example braid a three-fold cord that is not easily broken – and that should not be readily discarded.

 I strenuously object to the easy-believism and pseudo-evangelistic methods often associated with “spontaneous” baptisms. Nevertheless, New Testament command, precept, and example must govern and we must submit. I am not urging our rushing professors into the baptismal waters like driving dumb dogies through a dip. But I am saying this – if a church accepts a person’s profession as genuine, there is neither doctrinal reason nor biblical example to delay baptizing that person.

[i]  A “baptizand” is a person who is about to submit to baptism.
[ii] He must needs insert “largely” as a weasel word, since he will not allow the biblical data to affect his practice.
[iii]  In Acts chapter 2, we are told believers were added to the church in Jerusalem daily. If the Lord was adding to the Jerusalem church daily such as should be saved; then they were also baptized daily – since baptism precedes church membership.
[iv]  Of course the same is true of Lydia and her household, so not so ambiguous in my opinion.
[v]  Morell here comes close to a precipice. If the record of baptisms, though consistent, are not normative for his purposes, why should one allow them to be normative for believers’ immersion, for example?
[vi]  If the same Peterson, in his commentary he also allows that “some period of instruction intervened” between the belief of the eunuch and his baptism by Philip. I cannot speak with certainty concerning Peterson, but I have read the 9Marks philosophy. They do not just mean the instruction between professing faith and teaching them they then need to be baptized. They mean putting a person in a class and teaching/catechizing that person over several weeks or months before he is baptized.
[vii]  Morell does not give a good citation, but apparently this is David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009.
[viii]  Polar opposites Morgan Edwards and William Whitsitt understood this, though for different reasons and with different concerns.

Baptisms in Acts


Monday, August 21, 2023

The Word and the Priesthood of Believers

“...the Living Word was not preserved by the professors and administrators of the institutions of higher learning, but by the lesser known and often discredited priesthood of believers. It is the priesthood of believers guided by the Holy Ghost that keeps the local church, which is the pillar and ground of truth [1 Tim 3:15], on solid ground, and that protects, guards, and keeps the only sure foundation for the church, the Words of God. It is not the institutions of scribes, Pharisees, or scholars that guard, protect, and keep the Holy Words. Hopefully, this concept will be established in your mind and heart by the testimonies in this work. It is the local, independent churches of God that have maintained, guarded, protected, preserved, and kept the pure Word. The Scriptures have not been lost and we do not need ‘editors’ to ‘reconstruct’ or ‘correct’ the Bible.” 

H. D. Williams, President/CEO at The Old Paths Publications, Inc.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

On Smyrna’s 150th Anniversary

A Poem.

On the sixteenth day of August
In Eighteen Hundred Seventy-Three
A church was constituted
By a neighboring presbytery.

From Zion Hill, Sparkman and Deason
Called with an urgent plea.
Seventeen souls with letters
Came forth in covenant to agree.

Elder Sparkman offered prayer,
For preservation and unity.
One hundred fifty years later
Some in covenant still agree.

May God bless these people,
May God be their light—
The Bible be their practice
God’s Spirit be their guide.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Simple in your sermons, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

“Unless you are simple in your sermons, you will never be understood, and unless you are understood you cannot do good to those who hear you.” -- J. C. Ryle

“If there’s a mist in pulpit, there will be fog in the pews.” -- common saying (has been credited to Charles Spurgeon, Howard Hendricks, Haddon Robinson, David Allen, and others; perhaps said by all and original to none)

“A sermon should be a bullet, not a buckshot.” -- Haddon Robinson

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories.” -- Unknown

“Write as if you were asthmatic or short of breath.” -- J. C. Ryle  

“Does God preserve his word in caves or in churches.” -- Malachi Zhou

“Yesterday is heavy. Put it down.” -- Unknown

“Before the preacher can talk to men about God, he must talk to God about men.” -- Iain R. K. Paisley

“You could as soon fly to heaven astride a straw as get there by your own good works.” -- Iain R. K. Paisley

Friday, August 18, 2023

Bigger problems than women pastors

The Saddleback Church (i.e. Saddleback Valley Community Church) in Southern California recently has been a news focus by being out of step with the Southern Baptist Convention on the subject of female pastors. In February2023, the SBC Executive Committee affirmed a recommendation from the Credentials Committee to consider the Saddleback Church “not in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.” In Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the articles of faith of the SBC state that “the office of pastor /elder /overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” “Purpose Driven” founding pastor Rick Warren appealed the Executive Committee decision to the meeting of the Convention in June. He appeal failed in a big way – with about 88% of the messengers rejecting the appeal.

In “Turning worship into a clown show” on World News Group, Carl Trueman asserts that “Saddleback Church has even deeper problems than female pastors.”

“Leading worship while dressed as characters from the Toy Story franchise suggests theological problems that go way beyond debates about the nature of Paul’s teaching on eldership.”

“…the church is not called to mimic the world. Far from it. There is only one description in the New Testament of how an outsider should react when he blunders by accident into a church service. It is in 1 Corinthians 14:24–25. Paul tells us that such a person will be convicted and fall on his face, knowing that God is there. Presumably, this is because he finds himself in the presence of a holy God and is overwhelmed by his own sense of unworthiness. Turning worship into a comedy skit seems unlikely to produce the same result. In fact, far from being sensitive to the needs of any seeker, it sends a clear signal that the gospel is unworthy of attention by any serious-minded person, believer or unbeliever.”

“...trivialization of worship rests ultimately upon a trivialization of God Himself.”

“Women in ministry was the focal point of the SBC controversy this year, but this inane childishness parading as church seems to indicate that there are problems much deeper than that of who leads worship.”

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Romans 3 and Psalm 14

Reviewing and Comparing Romans 3 and Psalm 14.

Some people claim that Paul quoted from Psalm 13/14 from the LXX. I believe it is more likely that the LXX of Psalm 13/14 was later (after Paul wrote to the Romans) conformed to match what Paul wrote in Romans 3.

The Vaticanus LXX can be checked HERE. However, the pages load very very slowly (at least on my computer). To find the Psalm, go to thumbnail 630. Some of it is also on page 631.

When discussing and debating evidentiary matters, going to the source is the best solution to settle questions about the exhibit entered into evidence. However, if you despair of getting the relevant page to open on your computer, you may also review this secondary source. You can look at how this material is added in as verse 3b in the Greek OT with Brenton English translation.

3b τάφος ἀνεῳγμένος ὁ λάρυγξ αὐτῶν, ταῖς γλώσσαις αὑτῶν ἐδολιοῦσαν· ἰὸς ἀσπίδων ὑπὸ τὰ χείλη αὐτῶν, ὧν τὸ στόμα ἀρᾶς καὶ πικρίας γέμει, ὀξεῖς οἱ πόδες αὐτῶν ἐκχέαι αἷμα, σύντριμμα καὶ ταλαιπωρία ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν, καὶ ὁδὸν εἰρήνης οὐκ ἔγνωσαν· οὐκ ἔστι φόβος Θεοῦ ἀπέναντι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν.

3b Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.

It is included as a footnote (*) in the Greek Old Testament provided online by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. These words are not in the Hebrew text.

The Septuagint text muffles and muddles what is actually the citation by Paul of a number of Old Testament texts from different locations. It suggests that someone revised this portion of the Greek Old Testament to make it match the citations made by Paul.

  • “Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit” is from Psalm 5:9
  • “the poison of asps is under their lips” is from Psalm 140:3
  • “whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” is from Psalm 10:7
  • “their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known” is from Isaiah 59:7-8
  • “there is no fear of God before their eyes” is from Psalm 36:1. 

“If” Paul is quoting the Greek Old Testament and those words were then in Psalm 14, then the conclusion would be that we need to trash the Hebrew original language apographs, and buy & use only a Greek Old Testament, or an English translation of it! On the other hand, we might realize how many huge messes exist in what has been passed down to us as the Greek OT, and instead trust the Hebrew text and the English translation based on it. Paul, under inspiration of the Spirit, is citing various OT passages that support that the Scriptures conclude all under sin.

The portion in the clip below (from page 630 at the link I gave in the first paragraph) that is circled in red is from what Brenton calls 3b, the suspect portion matching Romans 3 – but is missing in the Hebrew text.

The typed portion below that I place in double brackets is not in the scan clipped below, but is over on the next page.


[Note: Our Psalm 14 is Psalm 13 in the Greek Old Testament.]

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Jeremiah Louis Guthrie, Baptist educator

Jeremiah Louis Guthrie is, or at least was, a well-known name in Missionary Baptist and American Baptist Association circles. Guthrie helped organize and served as President of the Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas from 1934 to 1945. Before that he taught at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee, 1911-13; was President of Laneview College, Laneview, Gibson County, Tennessee, 1913-15; taught at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma, 1915-1926; and was President of Caledonia Baptist Academy, Caledonia, Union County Arkansas, 1926-28.

Click the following link for a short biography of J. Louis Guthrie:

Biography of J. Louis Guthrie, Baptist educator.

Smyrna meeting starts tonight

Starts tonight, Wednesday, August 16.

Leading up to the 150th anniversary of the constitution of Smyrna Baptist Church in 1873, the church will have three nights meeting with the pastor and two former pastors preaching. Starts at 7 p. m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, August 16-18, 2023.

  • Wednesday 7 p.m. Preaching by  former pastor John Paul Little. 
  • Thursday, 7 p.m. Preaching by Pastor Charles Williams.
  • Friday, 7 p.m. Preaching by former pastor Joe Griffith. 
  • Sunday, 10 a.m. Bible study by Brother Jim Nixon.
  • Sunday, 11 a.m. Preaching by former pastor R. L. Vaughn
  • Sunday, 12, Noon meal.
  • Sunday, circa 1-1:30 p.m. Church history, pictures, member memories, testimonials.

“Sat. before the 3rd Sun. in Aug. 16, 1873.

“A number of Brethren and Sisters met at Chinquapin for the purpose of organizing a Missionary Baptist Church. After divine service by Elder John Sparkman. Solicited brethren called for, none present. On motion Bro. John Deason was called to preside with Eld. John Sparkman, Bro. F. O. Galloway to act as clerk protem. Opportunity then extended to those wishing to unite whereupon 17 came forward with letters of recommendation and were received. Namely E. S. Parker, Rebecca Parker, Jasper Parker, G. A. Parker, M. T. Wells, E. Wells, W. J. Parker, C. A. E. Parker, Martha Moore, J. F. M. Reid, Mary V. Reid, Robert P. Goldsberry, Nannie E. Goldsberry, G. W. McNew, Martha McNew, C. M. Holleman, F. O. Galloway. After letters being read, fellowship for each other called for and was granted, then we extended to each other the right hand of Christian and church fellowship. Prayer being offered by Eld. John Sparkman for the preservation and the unity of the church. We then proceeded in conference, elected J. F. M. Reid church clerk. On motion the meeting was protracted. No farther business. Conference adjourned, Conference approved.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Like no manuscript

In his debate with James White, Thomas Ross brought a valid and important point about the cobbled together texts in the UBS and Nestle-Aland.

There are mere handfuls of words hundreds of times in the UBS that look like no manuscript on the face of the Earth, while the TR text type looks like many many manuscripts.

Note here that we are simply speaking of individual lines of text—parts of verses consisting of handfuls of words.  As for whole verses, groups of verses, or larger sections of text, the portion of the UBS/NA text that looks like exactly zero manuscripts on the earth grows exponentially. (Note that the Textus Receptus has MS support in 100% of these passages where the UBS/NA text has 0 MS supporting its reading.)

This fact is difficult to discern from the apparatus, in which “readings have been selected and substituted based upon an inadequate representation of the evidence” and where “the readings and their support are often misleading and/or in error.”  There are many “lines of text in the UBS4 and in Westcott and Hort that have no manuscript support” just in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and well into the triple-digits of such lines—with no MS on earth that are identical to them, as far as we know—in the UBS/NA text (the vast majority of them without any footnote in the LSB warning readers that their text does not replicate any actual MS on earth, and the vast majority of them difficult or impossible to discern from the UBS apparatus).

Reuben Swanson, editor. New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus: Volume I, Matthew (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic, 1995), iii, xii.

With 29,648 words in the NA text of Matthew and 138,011 words in the NA text of the NT according to Accordance Bible Software, Matthew-Mark is 21.5% of the NT.  With approximately 41 lines in Matthew-Mark with no textual support in even one witness, there would be approximately 191 instances of lines of text with no MS support in the NA NT.

Monday, August 14, 2023

It will not be denied

“I suppose it will not be denied, but that it was the mind and will of God, that those to whom his word should come, should own it and receive it as his; if not, it were no sin in them to reject it, unto whom it doth so come; if it were, then either he hath given those characters unto it, and left upon it that impression of his majesty, whereby it might be known to be his, or he hath not done so; and that either because he would not, or because he could not; to say the latter, is to make him more infirm than a man, or other worms of the earth, than any naturally effectual cause. He that saith the former, must know, that it is incumbent on him to yield a satisfactory account, why God would not do so, or else he will be thought blasphemously to impute a want of that goodness and love of mankind unto him, which he hath in infinite grace manifested to be in himself.”

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 4, p. 437

Sunday, August 13, 2023

At Rest

Alabama Sacred Harp singer Floyd Frederick wrote the tune At Rest (# 499) in 1959. He used two stanzas from James Montgomery’s hymn “O where shall rest be found.” The third stanza of the song in The Sacred Harp, 1991 Revision was written by Frederick.

Montgomery (1771-1854) wrote the hymn for his “Anniversary Sermons” for the Red Hill Wesleyan Sunday School in Sheffield. The sermons were preached on March 15 and 16, 1818, and the hymn was printed for use with the sermons. The original presentation was in six 4-line stanzas in short meter. The hymn was printed the next year in Thomas Cotterill’s A Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship. Cotterill changed the presentation to three 8-line stanzas. In the 1822 3rd edition of Cotterill’s Selection, it is Hymn 74. The hymn has been given various titles by hymnbook editors, such as “Life and Death—Time and Eternity,” “The Horrors of the Second Death,” and “The Present and the Future.”

1. O where shall rest be found,
Rest for the weary soul?
’Twere vain the ocean’s depths to sound,
Or pierce to either pole.

2. The world can never give
The bliss for which we sigh;
’Tis not the whole of life to live,
Nor all of death to die.

3. Beyond this vale of tears,
There is a life above,
Unmeasured by the flight of years,
And all that life is love.

4. There is a death, whose pang
Outlasts the fleeting breath:—
O what eternal horrors hang
Around the second death!

5. Lord God of truth and grace,
Teach us that death to shun;—
Nor let us from our earliest youth [Cott.: Lest we be banished from thy face,]
For ever be undone. [Cott.: And evermore undone.]

6. Here would we end our quest:—
Alone are found in Thee,
The life of perfect love,—the rest
Of immortality.

Of some of  the sad past experiences of his life, Montgomery wrote:

My restless and imaginative mind and my wild and ungovernable imagination have long ago broken loose from the anchor of faith, and have been driven, the sport of winds and waves, over an ocean of doubts, round which every coast is defended by the rocks of despair that forbid me to enter the harbor in view.

James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland November 4, 1771, the son of a Moravian minister. He was a prolific writer, with some 400 psalms and hymns to his credit. He was editor of the Sheffield Iris for 31 years. Montgomery died in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England April 30, 1854, and was buried in the Sheffield General Cemetery.

Floyd Monroe Frederick was the son of John T. Frederick and Asenath Wood, born April 12, 1893 in Marion County, Alabama. He married Sarah Alice Mullins. Floyd Frederick died October 9, 1960. He and Sarah Alice are buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery at Bear Creek, Marion County, Alabama.

According to The Makers of The Sacred Harp, Floyd Frederick was a music student of “Uncle Tom” Denson, going on to become a singing school teacher and composer himself. He is also author of the tune Supplication on page 539 of The Sacred Harp, 1991 Revision. Frederick also submitted songs to O. A. Parris revision of The Christian Harmony. “In 1960, while leading Anthem on the Saviour at a Sacred Harp singing at the Itawamba County courthouse in Fulton, Mississippi, he collapsed suddenly; he never regained consciousness, and died the following day at the hospital in Hamilton, Alabama” (Makers, p. 116).

As printed in 1960, At Rest contained only the two stanzas by Montgomery. In 1991, the revision committee added words written by Frederick as a third stanza:

3. Farewell, dear friends, farewell,
For just a little while;
We’ll meet and sing on Heaven’s shore,
Where parting comes no more.

The (Haleyville) Advertiser, October 11, 1960, p. 8

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Death and Sacred Harp

Researchers have written about “death and Sacred Harp.” They focus on the lyrics of the songs. Sometimes it can be more literal. Tuck Fulmer was a well-known and beloved singer who was born in Alabama, had lived in Nacogdoches County and Frio County, and taught singing schools. He said he loved Sacred Harp Singing so much he had just as soon “die singing.” He did. April 13, 1952.

Tyler Morning Telegraph, Monday, April 14, 1952, p. 1

Friday, August 11, 2023

Sacred Harp, a Fair Attraction

At the Central East Texas Fair held in Marshall, Harrison County, Texas, September 18-22, 1928, Sacred Harp singing was one of the attractions.

Timpson Weekly Times, Friday, September 14, 1928, p. 4