In recent days, a debate has been resurrected within evangelicalism on whether or not women should preach the Bible to the gathered church. The lines are often divided between complementarianism and egalitarianism. Both are complicated words that contain baggage and differing levels of agreement such as soft and hard complementarianism as an example. However, beyond the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12-13 regarding the roles of men and women in the pulpit—how can complementarianism serve to honor the dignity and value of women?
Perhaps the biggest news story involving the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the sex scandal that has become a black mark upon the Convention. Regardless of where you stand on the issues of the way the news media portrays the complicity of the Convention as a whole—the fact remains that women and girls have been abused and men have abandoned their post as protector and provider. This is nothing short of tragic.
When we examine the the definition of complemenatrianism, if we’re honest with the term itself, it involves more than prohibitions on women serving. It’s far more than a stop sign for women. The word itself defines the position that points to the calling of men to be the leaders of the home and the local church—not based on their physical stature or mental abilities—but based on their calling that’s rooted in creation.
Male headship is not a product of the fall. It’s an aspect of God’s blueprint for his people that predates the fall. When we examine the creation account, we see that Adam was created first and then Eve. It was Adam who was given charge of naming all of the animals (Gen. 2:20) and Adam likewise named Eve—his wife (Gen. 2:23). Adam was given charge to work (another responsibility of man that predates the fall). Adam’s headship was God’s plan and we find the commentary on this in various places in the New Testament—such as Ephesians 5:31 where Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 as he describes the mysterious relationship between Christ and his bride the church. In that passage, Paul drives home the responsibility of the husband to love and lead his wife. Once again, this is not a post-fall responsibility—it predates the fall.
Male leadership is not part of the curse, it’s one of God’s good blessings for the home and the church (see 1 Tim. 3:1-5 and Titus 1). Such a big view of male headship points to the responsibility of providing and protecting women for the glory of God. In other words, mature manhood is based on something beyond how much a person can benchpress or how far a man can run. You may hold a coral belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, be able to bench press 300lbs., climb a mountain, skin a deer, and shoot class 3 weapons like a champ…but if you don’t know how to lead your wife and protect her physically and spiritually—you’re not a biblically mature man.
In many cultures throughout history, in order to be a man, you had to be able to:
Today, that formula has been replaced by the three B’s:
Today’s manhood is often shallow and superficial. It’s based on how you perform sexually, athletically, and financially. Sadly, the world has very low expectations for manhood. We have forgotten what Voddie Baucham calls the four P’s:
As men take their leadership responsibilities seriously—it serves to protect women from abuse both in the physical sphere and the spiritual sphere. Complementarianism serves to protect women from home intruders and spiritual wolves, heretics, and false prophets. This is God’s plan for both the home and the local church—that Spiritual and gifted men would lead in both the physical and spiritual spheres.
We must make sure the whole wide world knows that abusive men are not overly passionate complementarians — they’re not complementarians at all. Such a man has abandoned his post as provider and protector resulting in the abuse of little girls and women.
Russell Moore in an address given to the Evangelical Theological Society on November 17th 2005 said the following:
Ironically, a more patriarchal complementarianism will resonate among a generation seeking stability in a family-fractured Western culture in ways that soft-bellied big-tent complementarianism never can… And it will also address the needs of hurting women and children far better, because it is rooted in the primary biblical means for protecting women and children: calling men to responsibility. Patriarchy is good for women, good for children, and good for families.
Any move away from the mature biblical manhood and male headship in the home and local church is a move that the SBC and our local churches cannot afford. The SBC has traveled that road before and it was not exactly a peaceful journey. May the Lord grant us wisdom and resolve to stand upon the sufficient Word of God as we navigate through these challenges and confusing days.
In 1989, according to Pew Research Center, approximately 4% of stay-at-home parents were dads who cared for the children and sent their wives off to earn the living for the family. Today, that number stands at 7%. While that may say much about our confusion as a society—the radical feminist will not be satisfied until the ratio of stay-at-home parents is 50/50 across gender lines.
From the beginning God has designed specific roles and responsibilities for men and women in spheres of society, the home, and the church (Gen. 2:18—helper). God placed a specific calling upon men to be workers. Although the immature man views work as an unfortunate distraction to his play—work was never the problem from the beginning. Work, far from a result of the curse, was God’s original design for men. If anything—a lack of moderation in recreation will prove to be a distraction to work.
Not only has today’s society at large lost its moral compass when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of men and women—the church today is likewise struggling to understand these vitally important issues as well. The desire for women to lead men (the egalitarian view) is not a new development.  Such role dysphoria originated in the very first sin in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3) and the subsequent curse of the entire world has brought a multiplicity of egalitarian, feminist, and humanist positions that seek to dismantle God’s original design for men and women—boys and girls.
Male headship and biblical submission have been under attack from the very beginning—and that certainly hasn’t changed to this very day. The curse led women to have a desire to rule over their husband and it likewise led the husband to have a sinful desire to dominate his wife. Both are the unbiblical fruit of a broken world where women are abused on a multiplicity of levels.
Male Headship Protects Women from Physical Abuse
The apex of God’s creation was not the majestic mountain ranges of this world nor was it the beauty of star clusters that sparkle in the night’s sky. The crowning jewel of God’s creation was humanity—as God created both male and female (Gen. 1:27). As image bearers—both men and women possess the same amount of the image of God and are created equal in dignity and value of personhood. However, it’s clear from the beginning that God has different roles and responsibilities for men and women. That is God’s creative design—not the bad fruit of the curse of sin (Rom. 5:12).
Our culture loves to abuse women. Our culture loves to abuse women because Satan loves the abuse of women (visible in his attack upon Eve in the Garden). Often, it’s those who promote themselves as advocates for women who lead in the abuse. Feminists do more harm to women than good. Feminists lead in the murder of hundreds of thousands of little baby girls every year through the promotion of abortion.
Feminists likewise promote a militant homosexual agenda that ruins women’s athletic competitions and subjects women to physical brutality. Not only do transgender women (aka – men who are pretending to be women) dominate women in Track & Field competitions, but they likewise brutally defeat women in MMA contests. The fact that we have women entering MMA rings to fight in the first place, is itself a sign of a culture that celebrates the abuse of women.
Fallon Fox (a man who went through gender reassignment surgery to become a woman) entered the MMA ring to fight Tamika Brents. In the first round, Fallon (a man who is pretending to be a woman) brutally knocked out Tamika. It was bloody and brutal. It left Brents with a concussion and a broken skull. In an interview, Tamika Brents stated the following:
I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right… I still disagree with Fox fighting. Any other job or career I say have a go at it, but when it comes to a combat sport I think it just isn’t fair. 
In the United States, we’re debating the issue of drafting women into military combat situations as a result of a federal court’s ruling in Texas, stating that a male only registration for the draft is unconstitutional. Yet, we pride ourselves as a nation in pursuing women’s equality—but does such role equality lead to the abuse of women? To ignore the roles and responsibilities that God has designed for men and women in the culture, the church, and the home is to dishonor God and abuse women.
Male headship is God’s design. Male headship is nothing to blush about. As a part of his creative genius—God designed for men to be the physical leaders. This means, in the home and society, male headship should bring about the protection of women rather than abuse. It’s not the headship role that abuses women, it’s the abuse of the headship role that leads to the abuse of women. Just as guns don’t kill people—people kill people. The same is true regarding God’s design for male headship.
When men lead properly, it will result in the protection of women. For instance, in the home, when a man hears a sound in the middle of the night in the basement—it could be a result of a home invasion or it could be something as simple as the cat knocking over a paint can on the storage shelf. Leadership requires that he gets out of bed to go and check it out. He doesn’t send his wife downstairs to protect him and their children. When it comes to providing for the physical needs of their home, the husband doesn’t send his wife onto the roof to fix the leak when a roofing shingle fails. Men are called to be leaders and this results in the protection of women rather than their abuse.
Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The ultimate example for husbands to follow is Christ. It was Christ who laid down his life for the church. The husband is called to lead with such sacrificial leadership that if necessary—he would lay down his life for his wife. This loving and self-sacrificing leadership results in the protection of women. Women benefit greatly when men act like men.
Christian men must not use their role as the leader to physically abuse their wives. Such abuse must not be tolerated among the household of faith. Loving church discipline must be engaged in the situations where abuse is discovered within the church and men who abuse their wives and refuse to repent must be excommunicated from the church—and where laws are violated the proper authorities must be engaged. Christians must never tolerate the abuse of women.
Male Headship Protects Women from Spiritual Abuse
Male headship serves to protect women from spiritual abuse on two different levels. First, in the home, the husband who leads his wife as God has designed, will see to it that his wife Is not subjected to spiritual abuse. In short, he will lead his wife theologically. Such leadership takes the choosing of a church and Bible study consumption seriously. Far too often, men sit back without the slightest clue as to what is being taught in women’s Bible study circles which is often filled with aberrant theology and mysticism—even among conservative churches. Faithful headship should see the danger of pornography and unbiblical Bible studies. The husband serves as the gatekeeper to the home. In short, the Christian husband should know the difference between Sarah Young and Elizabeth Elliot. He should likewise be able to say no to Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling while at the same time leading his wife to trustworthy sources like Becoming a Titus 2 Woman by Martha Peace. It is the duty of the Christian husband to possess theological awareness and to lead his wife spiritually.
Biblical male headship within the offices of the church serves to protect women from spiritual abuse as well. While there is an ongoing debate on egalitarian and complementarian lines within evangelical circles—God has made it clear that he has called for men to lead in the context of the church. Not only should women not be elders, they should not teach or exercise authority over men. That involves both the office and function of the office (preaching and teaching the Word of God). Tom Schreiner, in a recent Twitter thread said the following:
But if Paul disallows the function and the office, his view says something about what it means to be a man and a woman. His view on men and women isn’t nominalism; it accords with the created order.
As elders lead in the context of the church—it provides an atmosphere that doesn’t allow for deficient theology among women’s Bible study groups or the physical abuse of women by sinful husbands. Not only will faithful elders who take male headship seriously rightly handle God’s Word—when necessary they will look into the eyes of abusive husbands and biblically reprove and correct them—and when necessary excommunicate them. Male leaders serve to protect women and the church should be a place where biblical manhood and womanhood flourish for the glory of God.
When Paul laid out the biblical boundaries for women regarding teaching and authority in the local church (see 1 Tim. 2:12-13), he had more than preaching sermons in mind. It was the total care of the church—including both physical and spiritual protection of men and women, boys and girls. Male headship serves the church spiritually which flows into the every corner and avenue of life—physically, emotionally, professionally, and more. Without the steady anchor of male headship—not only will the spiritual life of the church suffer—but it will open the doors of the church to the feminist agenda which always leads to the abuse of women.
When the church goes through a role dysphoria—it opens offices and pulpits to women who cannot functionally nor biblically fulfill the role of pastor as God designed. Such a dysphoria leads to dysfunction and eventual death. Just because a church has members doesn’t mean it has life nor does it mean that it has the blessings of God upon it.
Local churches make up denominations. From the spring of local churches flow educational institutions (Bible colleges and seminaries). From educational institutions come local church pastors. This cycle must not be overlooked. The egalitarian ideas and methodologies that are being promoted through a militant social justice agenda are dangerous. Such views must be exposed by the bright light of Scripture and avoided for the glory of God and the good of our churches and denominations.
- Egalitarianism — The opposite of complementarianism. The egalitarianism view suggests that God created both male and female equal in personhood and dignity as image bearers. As a result of this equality—there should be zero role and responsibility distinctions that prevent women from doing anything men do in society, the church, and the home.
- Fallon Fox is a MMA athlete who identifies as a woman. See the details of the brutal TKO of Tamika Brents here.
When Molly Marshall served as the associate dean of the school of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky she held to unbiblical positions that transcended to a far higher level than her egalitarianism. Upon being forced to resign due to her theological liberalism that contradicted the Bible and the governing documents of the institution, at a candlelight vigil on April 18th 1995, Molly Marshall stated, “The school of theology is without a tenured woman and probably will be as long as the misogynistic forces are unabated.” While we’ve come so far within the SBC, for many, we’ve been moving in the wrong direction. According to Beth Moore:
I am compelled to my bones by the Holy Spirit – I don’t want to be but I am -to draw attention to the sexism & misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety & bearing the stench of hypocrisy. There are countless godly conservative complementarians. So many.
This is one statement in her long Twitter response to Owen Strachan’s recent article “Divine Order in a Chaotic Age: On Women Preaching” where he pointed to God’s divine hierarchy rooted in creation and connected to the design of the hierarchy established in God’s church.
In May of 2016, I penned an article titled, “Why Your Pastor Should Say ‘No More’ to Beth Moore” where I communicated several concerns that should be taken seriously regarding Beth Moore’s ministry. Today, I’m publishing a sequel to that article that focuses on why the Southern Baptist Convention should cease partnership with Beth Moore’s ministry on any official level—which would include the ERLC, LifeWay, and local churches who make up the SBC. As I begin, I want to be clear that this is not intended to be a hit piece on Beth Moore personally. I’m sure she’s a great mother, wife, and friend to many people, but her ministry, beliefs, and ideas are problematic and must not be overlooked.
The SBC and Doctrinal Fidelity
Years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention took a plunge into the abyss of liberal theology. During those days, professors were teaching post-mortem salvation opportunities at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The story of the SBC is one that is quite shocking and a testimony of God’s sovereign mercy. No denomination has ever returned from the abyss of liberal theology with a bright resurgence like the SBC. The story of the Conservative Resurgence (although not without imperfection) is something that all Southern Baptist churches should not forget.
While the SBC has certainly been rescued from theological liberalism—at some point the SBC has become a slave to pragmatism. Sadly, whatever works often trumps what the Bible actually says. This leads people, institutions, and entire denominations away from doctrinal purity. Over time, the SBC learned that a partnership with Beth Moore would be a good decision both pragmatically (due to her popularity among women) and financially (primarily through LifeWay). No amount of financial benefit should warrant a blind eye to Beth Moore’s theological deficiencies.
Charismatic Associations and Gifts
Beth Moore has become more visibly aligned with groups of people who do not align with the convictions and theological positions of the SBC. For instance, in early 2017, Beth Moore was the keynote preacher at a large charismatic conference where she said, “We are settling for woefully less than what Jesus promised us,” She went on to say, “I read my New Testament over and over. I’m not seeing what He [Jesus] promised. I’m unsettled and unsatisfied.” She likewise communicated, “I want holy fire!” The evening ended with many pastors and conference attendees running to the altar where they laid prostrate on the floor weeping and praying for more than an hour. While that may be a mild example, she has likewise appeared on TBN with Joyce Meyer and worshipped in Joel Osteen’s church. The apostle Paul stated plainly that we were to warn the church and avoid those who cause division (Rom. 16:17). Beth Moore chooses to partner with heretics which is a problem the SBC should avoid.
According to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the SBC embraces a clear teaching of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. According to Article IV. B., “Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.” That is not the position of the Roman Catholic Church which has been denying the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith alone) for centuries. According to the RCC:
If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).
Within her teaching ministry, Beth Moore has referred to Roman Catholics as her “brothers and sisters” in Christ. In one video from 2002, Beth Moore stated that God gave her a vision of the unity that God was building among various denominations in which she included both Catholics and charismatics. This ecumenical view of other faiths is problematic and weakens the SBC as a whole. As the SBC looks into the future, it should be obvious that a clear stance on justification by faith alone must be embraced, guarded, and proclaimed. Not only should the SBC be clear on justification, but other doctrinal distinctives must be maintained as well. Unfortunately, many people view distinctives as restrictive or even judgmental in nature. This negative view of doctrinal clarity often leads to the capitulation of God’s Word. Is the SBC interested in remaining in a specific theological lane or is the Convention interested in moving toward a more broad or mainstream protestant position?
The SBC and Women Preachers
When Molly Marshall was serving as a pastor of a local Baptist church, she recounts an incident when the little boys and girls in the church had a disagreement during children’s church. The disagreement was over whether or not little boys could be the preacher when they were “playing church”—to which a children’s worker had to correct the little girls by telling them that the little boys can be preachers too. Molly Marshall stated that the little girls had witnessed her as their example and this was key to their development which is why Marshall believes we develop a specific worldview and read the Bible through that particular lens regarding the roles and responsibilities of women within the church.
In 2017 Barna Research Group pointed out that there was a rise in the number of women pastors. According to their study, “One of every 11 Protestant pastors is a woman—triple as many as 25 years ago.” In a new statistical analysis, “State of Clergywomen in the U.S.: A Statistical Update” the numbers indicate that within “most Mainline denominations, the percentage of clergywomen has doubled or tripled since 1994.”
Dr. Albert Mohler who serves as the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has recently weighed in on this issue of complementarianism in an answer to a question during an “Ask Anything” podcast where he stated the following:
If you look at the denominations where women do the preaching, they are also the denominations where people do the leaving. I think there’s just something about the order of creation that means that God intends for the preaching voice to be a male voice.
While the mainline protestant denominations continue to shift toward an egalitarian position, this movement demonstrates an uptick across the board. When adding totals from American Baptist Churches USA, Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and United Methodist denominations, the numbers indicate 32 percent of clergy from those denominations in 2017. Compare the most recent percentage total (32%) with numbers from 1994 (15%) and 1977 (2.3%) and the trend is easy to follow. The numbers reveal an explosive growth of women serving in the office of pastor.
With the rise of the #MeToo movement, Beth Moore became the focus of many conversations within the Southern Baptist Convention mostly because of her article titled, “A Letter to My Brothers” which was written a few weeks before the SBC gathered in Dallas, Texas in June of 2018. Since then, she has been very outspoken on issues that we can all agree are problematic such as misogyny, sexism, and discrimination against women. However, is preventing women from preaching the Bible oppressive?
Victimology has replaced theology beneath the banner of social justice. To play the victim card in our culture today is like playing the ace of spades in a card game. The victim approach to ladder climbing is both politically correct and extremely powerful. The social justice movement, unfortunately, places a clear reading of 1 Timothy 2-3 and the roles of women that are rooted in creation within the category of misogyny. Beth Moore has clearly twisted the Scriptures and used the social justice movement to fuel her agenda. Suddenly, anyone who speaks out against her and this progressive deconstructionist trend are shouted down and labeled as misogynists.
Not only did Beth Moore take to Twitter to taunt her opposition on these matters in recent days, she likewise took to the pulpit in a SBC church on Mother’s Day to exercise her perceived privilege and calling as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. Will Beth Moore mobilize her partnerships with Russell Moore (president of the ERLC) and her open door to the churches of the SBC through her ongoing LifeWay publishing agreement to shift the SBC toward an egalitarian position? Will her supporters within the SBC ignore the Bible and cite the mainstream protestant trends while demanding that we need to get up-to-date with the times? What the future holds for the SBC on such issues is uncertain, but if the positions of current leadership such as J.D. Greear and Russell Moore is any indication—it would not be out of the question to see a woman elected as a vice president or even presidential role in the upcoming years. Such a move would press the SBC down a progressive path through a top-down influence upon the local churches of the SBC.
The Russian journalist and philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky made the famous statement, “If there is no God, then everything is permissible.” This is true, but the problem with this line of thinking is that there is a God and he has established boundaries and hierarchies, and this goes for both the culture, home, and his church. To tamper with God’s design is to go to war with God himself. Beth Moore has made herself very clear on large theological and methodological positions and for that reason, it would be wise for the SBC to be clear where the denomination stands. If Dr. Mohler is accurate in his evaluation, if denominations where women do the preaching are also denominations where people do the leaving—it would be detrimental to the SBC to follow this trend. We must remember, this is not just about losing people—it’s dangerous to find yourself on the opposing side of God on any issue as Israel learned in 1 Samuel 4:21.
The SBC is not charismatic. The SBC is not egalitarian. To say so is not divisive nor is it misogynistic. It’s time for the SBC to say “no more” to Beth Moore.
In Acts 12, we find a very important scene of a persecuted church and a praying church. It was the persecution that precipitated the prayer—and what happens in this record of church history is vitally important regarding the practice of prayer within our local church today.
It has been said of prayer by Charles Spurgeon, “Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer can do.” Prayer is of great importance in the Christian journey! We see prayer in both the Old and New Testaments – and prayer is a privilege we enjoy not a task we must do. One of the most neglected forms of worship is the faithful practice of prayer. This is not true of just the individual believer—but also of the church as a whole. Far too often, the prayers of the gathered church are shallow, short, and more horizontal than vertical in nature. We have much to learn about prayer.
At the beginning of Acts 12, we find that Herod was persecuting Christians. He had killed John, the brother of James, with a sword. He was violently persecuting the church—and during this outburst of violence upon God’s people—Peter was arrested and imprisoned. It was likely that Herod was planning to use Peter as an example by killing him as well. However, something very interesting happened.
The Church Gathered for Prayer
We are living in days where prayer meetings are becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the prayer meeting should be central to the life of the church. Apparently, as persecution was heating up against God’s people—the church gathered for prayer. They didn’t turn to social media for prayer nor did they just pray with a few random friends. They gathered as a church specifically for prayer (Acts 12:5, 12). It would do us well to notice that the church had gathered to pray late in the evening or they prayed until it was very late. We derive this from the text as Peter was already asleep between two soldiers when the angel appeared to him (Acts 12:6). This is critically important to see and a pattern to follow. How much more healthy would our churches be today if we gathered as a church for prayer?
Today, the church will gather for all sorts of reasons—many of which center on some sort of entertainment factor. Yes, even religious gatherings can be centered on entertainment. This comes in form of singing, special preachers for special services, and other special events including athletics and more. It’s a sad testimony of our day when prayer meetings are being canceled or are so poorly attended that leaders are considering canceling them altogether. The church received the Holy Spirit as they were gathered in the upper room praying. Here in Acts 12, the church was gathered together for prayer. We need to pray together and for one another. That’s the testimony of the church from the beginning. A healthy church will be a praying church.
Did the Church Refuse to Believe God Would Answer?
While we can learn much from the how the early church gathered for prayer, we can likewise learn some patterns to avoid—such as the one found in this very section. As the church gathered for the purpose of prayer and as they lifted up their voices to God for their brother Peter who was imprisoned—little did they know that God dispatched an angel to the cell of Peter who woke him up and miraculously delivered him from the heavily guarded cell. As they prayed—Peter was leaving the prison under the shadow of night and by nothing short of a miraculous intervention and deliverance.
When Peter arrived at the home of Mary—the mother of John Mark—where the church was praying, he knocked and a servant girl named Rhoda gave the report that Peter was at the gate. They didn’t believe the report. In fact, they went as far as to say, “You are out of your mind” (Acts 12:15). The insisted that if anything, it was the “angel” or “spirit” of Peter. In short, they refused to believe that God had heard their prayers and had delivered Peter out of prison safely. They chose to believe the worst—that Peter had been killed. Suddenly, they were reunited with Peter and their doubts were overcome by the reality of God’s answered prayer.
It was George Muller who said, “I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith.” In commenting on this passage, Thomas Watson said, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.” We can learn both how to pray and how not to pray by reading Acts 12. Be encouraged to pray and trust the Lord who not only hears the cries of his people but answers our prayers in accordance with his perfect will for his eternal glory.
At the end of the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, the writer makes a very important statement about worship. In the chapter, he had already pointed out that the readers had been welcomed to draw near to God—unlike what happened at Mt. Sinai where they trembled in fear. Unlike that scene, according to the writer of Hebrews:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).
At the end of this section on the Kingdom that will not be shaken—the writer to the Hebrews writes:
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28-29).
This is not only a powerful statement that deserves our attention, but it’s a sobering and enlightening statement that demands our obedience. As it pertains to worship, many people approach the idea as if anything goes. When churches embrace the anything goes attitude toward worship, the sky is the limit as to the different stylistic effects, creativity, and imagination that will be woven into the weekly worship service. Sometimes that includes smoke machines and fancy lighting effects, but for others that remains far too boring. Still others want to press the limits even further to include indoor fireworks, flying drones, and and stage plays which crowd out the sermon.
As it pertains to how we worship God and why we design our services in a specific way—does God really care? Is it really that important that our worship services be designed in a specific manner? Who makes that decision? Does the Bible say anything about such choices? The answer to those questions are certainly addressed by Hebrews 12:28-29.
In Hebrews 12:28, the key word is “acceptable” and we must not overlook it. The term “εὐαρέστως” which is translated acceptable means “in an acceptable manner.” Therefore, it’s clear that there is a such thing as unacceptable worship and for that very reason, we must reject the idea that anything goes when it comes to the way we approach God in worship. So, where do we go from this point to find the boundaries and to understand what is and isn’t acceptable?
We must read the Bible and learn what God accepts and what God rejects as it pertains to worship. Just as we don’t have a book and a chapter in the Bible that provides for us a systematic explanation of the Trinity—we derive the foundational Christian doctrine from the whole of Scripture. As it pertains to how we should worship God—we must derive such knowledge from the Scriptures. As we read in the Old Testament, we find that the Ark of the Covenant was to be transported in a specific manner and there were specific people who were given the charge to oversee the process. However, when Uzza was put in a position that he did not belong—he then touched the Ark when it was falling from the Ox and God struck him down (2 Samuel 6:7).
As we read in the New Testament, we find a similar story as it pertains to the couple—Ananias and his wife Sapphira. According to Acts 5, they lied to the Holy Spirit (and to the church) about a property they were selling and giving the proceeds to the Lord. God struck them down as well and fear came upon the whole congregation. Another example of such perverted worship is found in 1 Corinthians 11 as Paul addressed the church in Corinth about members of their church who had become sick and even died for how they had perverted the Lord’s Supper.
All through the Scriptures, it’s plain and obvious that God cares about how we worship him. If the angels who have never sinned fly around the throne room of God with a set of wings that are used to shield their faces from the burning holiness of God—it would seem clear from Hebrews 12:29 that we must be cautious as to how we approach God in worship. Offering up strange fire to God was not permissible in days past (Lev. 10), and it’s still not permissible in our present day.
When churches are seeking to market themselves to their community as being the casual church—what exactly are they communicating about God? Are the angels of Isaiah 6 casually approaching the throne of God as they cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy” unto the LORD? While we must reject the legalistic form of religion, there is likewise a need to avoid the other ditch of ultra casual worship that has become so popular in our day. God is holy, we are not holy, and he deserves our worship which must be offered up in spirit and truth for his glory. Our pursuit of God must be an acceptable pursuit, for God is a consuming fire.
According to statistics, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. That equates to 18.1% of the total population. When we consider the vast number of people who are plagued with fear, it’s amazing to consider that there are many different types of causes or sources to the anxiety. There is a phobia based anxiety and then a more general anxiety disorder as well. At the end of the day, millions of people in America are afraid of many different things, but we would be shocked to know how small the percentage of people is in America who actually fear God.
Why You Should Fear the Wrath of God
There are many people today who are living life in complete rejection of God’s presence and complete denial of his authority. Some claim to be agnostic while others embrace atheism. Still others live such lives as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Catholics while rejecting the authority of God. Religion is not what shields people from God’s wrath. Countless numbers of people have gone to hell while being very much committed to religion.
Years ago, a wicked Pharaoh ruled Egypt and placed the Jews under brutal slave practices. God raised up a prophet named Moses to lead the people out of the land of Egypt. However, when Moses went before the wicked king to announce the plan and demands of God, the arrogant king responded by saying, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). It would not be long before the God of all creation made himself known to the arrogant and confused ruler. It would be a lesson he would never forget. We must not forget that Pharaoh was very much a religious man—but he refused to bow to the one true and living God.
In this life, we have many things that can cause us to fear. Such examples may include the fear of spiders, snakes, or violent storms. Still others fear disease and death itself. While there are things in this life that instill fear into the hearts of people, we must be reminded that we must fear God. Storms and snakes may damage your physical body, but it’s God who can damn your soul in hell for eternity. Listen to the words of Jesus:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28).
If you have never turned to God by faith in Jesus Christ and repented of your rebellion and the violation of God’s law—you have a reason to fear God. Consider the fact that the very Creator of the entire universe—the sovereign ruler of the entire world has given us specific demands, yet as a rebel of his law you will be judged by him. Holy justice will be executed on your soul and there will be no plea bargain. In short, you should fear God. Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Consider the terms used in Scripture to describe the place of damnation:
Beyond specific references to hell, the Bible likewise uses other references in a more indirect manner to describe the judgment of God upon sinners. Such references include:
Why Christians Should Fear God Too
As a child of God, we have the wonderful joy of knowing that all of our sins have been atoned for in the death of Jesus on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24; John 3:16). As a result, we are no longer the enemies of God (Rom. 5:10). We are now adopted into the family of God and enjoy the privileges of sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:15-17). However, even so, we too must fear God!
When we as God’s children fear God, it’s a different type of fear than an unbeliever who must fear the wrath of God. As the children of God, we learn that we fear God by reverencing his sovereign power, his benevolent love, his transcendent holiness, and his providential rule of the entire universe. Consider what God’s Word teaches about such fear:
- Psalm 103:17 – But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children
- Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
- Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
- Proverbs 8:13 – The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
- Proverbs 10:27 – The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
- Proverbs 14:26 – In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
- Proverbs 14:27 – The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a good reminder of how we as God’s children should approach God with humble hearts and a proper fear that is genuine respect of who God is and what he has accomplished in the salvation of our soul. A proper fear of God leads to a proper worship of God. A proper fear and worship of God leads to a proper lifestyle that brings glory to God. Without a proper fear of God—we will be led down the path of pride and self-serving that doesn’t bring God glory.
Do you have a proper fear of God?