All posts by Brandon G. B.

The Poor Rich and the Rich Poor | Bible Gleanings | June 3-4, 2023

The two men decided to settle in a swampy suburb in the smooth sod which skirted a stunning sierra. And the soil in their section of the state was often saturated because of the streams of rain which ran down the sides of the nearby mountains. But neither man could think of an eligible excuse to emigrate, so they nestled in. One of the men toiled for years building a mansion at the base of the mountain, while the other fellow kept to himself in a shabby shack. And the seemingly wealthy mansion-builder often scoffed with disdain at the man who was apparently poor; he lived in a rotting cottage, while the rich man would soon be living in a palace-like home with every convenience and luxury one could ever dream of.

And one dismal day, a devastating downpour deluged them both, demolishing both the mansion and the cottage. After the storm subsided, the rich man was humbled by the instant robbery of his wealth and mansion, and murmured to the poor man, “It’s too bad for both of us, eh? We are both homeless now.” The poor man then cried out, “Not so! For while you have been building a mansion in this cursed place, I spent all my money hiring builders to prepare me a mansion in a yonder country where the weather is always fair.” And the “poor” man bid him farewell, leaving the “rich” man in the heap of his own ruins. 

This story is far more than a fable—it is a fact. According to the Scripture, a storm of judgment is coming that will sweep away all earthly riches, exposing once and for all who is truly rich and truly poor. The Bible says, “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits” (James 1:11). In light of this, the truly rich person is one who is “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Rich indeed is he who lays up treasure in heaven, and who is wealthy in wisdom, faith, love, hope, and faithfulness (Luke 12:21; Matt. 6:19-21).

On the other hand, the truly poor person spends all of their lives living in luxury, not caring at all about the “immeasurable riches” of God’s grace (Eph. 2:7). Poor indeed is he whose wallet is full, but whose soul is empty of salvation! Thus, you may be rich in this life and poor before God if you spend all of your wealth in this cursed place. However, you may be poor in this life but rich before God if you have faith in Christ and live faithfully, sending all of your “wealth” ahead to heaven’s better country (Heb. 11:16). Sometimes, the rich are poor and the poor are rich. Which are you?

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word:

Crown Him | Bible Gleanings – May 27-28, 2023

Behind John stood a roaring Lion, while in front of him stood a butchered Lamb with a bloody white coat. This is what he said while he was “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10), receiving the Revelation of Jesus Christ: “And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Rev. 5:5-6). How can Jesus be both a sovereign Lion and a slaughtered Lamb? How can Christ be both the Lord and lowly?

Because He earned the right to be the triumphal Lion by first becoming a humble Lamb. This is the great paradox of Christ: He was brought low in humiliation in order to be raised to the highest position of supremacy in the universe. He is exalted because He became a lowly man. He is seated on a throne because He was nailed to a cross. He became the Lord of life by submitting to the curse of death.

That is why Paul said, “[Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:6-11).

Interestingly, one of John’s final glimpses of Jesus in Revelation is of a Lamb ruling and reigning. He described one scene like this, “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17). The slaughtered Lamb rules as the sovereign Lord. And He forgives all of those who bow to Him in repentance and faith: “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). It is no wonder Matthew Bridges (1800-1894) penned these words in the Christ-exalting hymn, Crown Him with Many Crowns:

“Crown him with many crowns,

the Lamb upon his throne.

Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns

all music but its own.

Awake, my soul, and sing

of him who died for thee,

and hail him as thy matchless king

through all eternity.”

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word:

The Sleeping Savior | Bible Gleanings – May 20-21, 2023

How on earth did He sleep through it? While a furious sea storm threatened the structure of Jesus’ boat, He was in the stern, snoozing on a sailor’s pillow. As Mark said, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (Mark 4:37-38a). How was He fast asleep in an uncomfortable position during a raging tempest and while His disciples raced around frantically (cf. Mark 4:38b)?

Because Jesus was a man, and He was incredibly exhausted. The Scripture is clear that Jesus was God (John 1:1; Col. 2:9), but He was also a man just like the rest of us, “yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15b). The Gospels tell us that Jesus became hungry (Matthew 4:2; 21:18), thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28), physically weak (Luke 23:26), and tired (John 4:6). He was so human that He even died (Acts 2:29). Because of this, Jesus knows what it is like to be you—He was you.

This is what the writer of Hebrews meant when he said,

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested” (Heb. 2:14-18, NLT). 

Simultaneously, Jesus is also fully God, with all authority in heaven and on earth, including authority to calm raging storms. As Mark also said, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). He was overcome with exhaustion, but He overcame the raging storm by the power of His word. Jesus was “man enough” to sleep and “God enough” to rule creation. That is why the poet Amy Carmichael said, 

“Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow,

Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea,

What matter beating wind and tossing billow,

If only we are in the boat with Thee?”

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word:

In the Wilderness | Bible Gleanings – May 13-14, 2023

He was fatigued, famished, and seemingly forsaken. The Lord Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for forty days all by Himself, and the devil thought He was in a prime position for temptation. As Matthew said, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”” (Matt. 4:1-3).

Satan wanted Jesus to think that the Father had abandoned him. He was essentially saying, “Look at You, all by Yourself and starving. Do You not think the Father would feed You if He truly loved You? You’d better put some of that heavenly power to use and turn stones to bread because it doesn’t look like God is coming to Your aid.” But contrary to appearance, Jesus was not wandering the desert by Himself. The Father provided Jesus with divine reinforcements during Satan’s temptations: “The angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:13b). Satan was wrong: Jesus had heaven on His side because he was heaven’s Son.

Jesus was not left to battle temptation alone, and neither are you. The honey of God’s sustaining grace is always available in the wilderness. The wilderness of this world may whet your appetite for sin, but God has planted the nourishing flowers of goodness in His word, in the place of prayer, and among His people so that you may eat your fill of His love. The Lord’s power will minister to you like an angel from above. That is why Paul assured, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Moreover, even time spent in the wilderness is not meaningless. No temptation proceeds from God, but every temptation can be used by God for good. Remember, God purposed to send Jesus into the wilderness: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). What could possibly be God’s purpose in allowing you to be tempted? Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe articulated it well: “Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us, but God can use these difficult experiences to put the best into us. Temptation is Satan’s weapon to defeat us, but it can become God’s tool to build us.” 

Dear believer, when you find yourself in the wilderness of temptation, seek God’s way of escape and admit your need for His sustaining grace. Pray the words of I Need Thee Every Hour, a hymn written by Robert Lowry (1826-1899), which says:

“I need Thee ev’ry hour,

Stay Thou nearby;

Temptations lose their pow’r

When Thou art nigh.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;

Ev’ry hour I need Thee;

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,

I come to Thee.”

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word:

A Foretaste of Glory Divine: Rightly Understanding the Kingdom of God

The old hymn by Fanny Crosby begins with these words: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!” This remarkable stanza reflects a lovely reality in Scripture that gives believers unwavering hope in times of tumultuous trials and troublesome temptations: we fellowship with Jesus Christ now, but this is only a preview of the eternal fellowship that is yet to come. This is what theologians refer to as the “already/not yet” tension of eschatology (that branch of theology which deals with the future and last things). The “already” refers to the blessings of salvation and the kingdom of God that believers enjoy in this age, and the “not yet” refers to those same blessings which will be fully realized in the consummation when Christ returns. And this tension between the “already” and the “not yet” may be seen primarily in the Bible’s teaching regarding the kingdom of God.

The Nature of the Kingdom of God

One of the great themes of Scripture is the “kingdom of God,” which simply refers to God’s rule and reign in the hearts of His people who have submitted to His kingly dominion.1 The concept of the kingdom of God begins in and continues throughout the Old Testament,2 as it is dominated by a forward-looking anticipation of its arrival with the advent of the Messiah, who would restore God’s rule in the hearts of sinners whose rebellion is the result of the Fall. And at first glance, all the Old Testament expectations and prophecies regarding the kingdom of God appear to depict a literal kingdom characterized by triumphal victory, nationwide prowess, and Israel’s restoration to supremacy. After all, God promised that He would gather His people, establish the throne of David forever, and send a Messiah upon whose shoulders would be everlasting government (Jer. 23:3-4; 2 Sam. 7:9-13; Isaiah 9:6). Therefore, it is only natural that the most popular Jewish vision of the kingdom of God was interpreted solely in physical and political terms. For them, the arrival of the kingdom of God would entail God’s ultimate victory over evil, Israel’s vindication and restoration, and the fulfillment of all the promises made to David regarding his throne and rule.3

However, it is not until one turns the page from Malachi to Matthew that the kingdom of God is defined in terms of an invisible and spiritual nature, which is primarily emphasized by Christ’s own testimony regarding the kingdom. As Jesus begins His public ministry, He repeatedly demonstrates that the kingdom promised in the Old Testament was not to be reduced to a purely political or geographical concept. Rather, as theologian Herman Bavinck observed, “Jesus introduces a new understanding of the kingdom: it is religious-ethical and not political; it is present in repentance, faith, and rebirth, and is yet to come as a full eschatological reality.”4 And nowhere is this spiritual understanding of the kingdom more clearly expressed than in Jesus’ response to the question of the Pharisees about the coming of God’s kingdom: “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:20b-21, emphasis mine). Thus, according to Christ, the kingdom of God that He came to usher in was initially a spiritual one, inaugurated as He thwarted demonic oppression and restored the rule of God within the rebellious hearts of sinners.

Furthermore, when Jesus was pressed to claim literal kingship by Pilate, He replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Similarly, when Jesus was given the best opportunity to become an earthly king, He abandoned the scene, demonstrating that He had no interest in ruling over a purely earthly kingdom. As John wrote, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Finally, that the kingdom Jesus ushered in was spiritual and not physical is apparent from His statement that entrance into the kingdom requires one to be, “born again.” As Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).5

The Inauguration of the Kingdom of God

Now that it is abundantly clear that the arrival of God’s kingdom was meant to be understood in spiritual terms, it must also be emphasized that the Scripture teaches that the coming of God’s kingdom is to occur in two stages. That is, the “inauguration” of the kingdom of God began with the first advent of Jesus, and the “consummation” of the kingdom will commence with the second advent of Jesus. Jesus ushered in the “beginnings” of the kingdom by His first coming, and the kingdom will be fully realized when Jesus returns bodily to subject all things to Himself and finish the work of redemption that He began. Thus, the kingdom of God manifests itself in two of the most significant redemptive events: the first and second coming of Christ.6 As Cornelis Venema observed, “What from the vantage point of Old Testament expectation appeared to be a single movement has now in the New Testament become a twostage movement. Whereas the Old Testament saw only one great, future Messianic age, coinciding with the coming of the Messiah, the New Testament further reveals that the present Messianic age awaits its consummation at Christ’s coming again.”7

The kingdom of God first appeared with the arrival of the King, Jesus. He preached that the kingdom of God was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15). He also declared that the kingdom of God had “come upon” the people because of His ministry through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28). He even instructed His disciples to preach that the kingdom of God had arrived (Luke 10:9). Thus, according to Jesus’ own testimony, the kingdom of God became dynamically active and present in His person and mission.8 Indeed, all throughout the Gospels, Jesus has an awareness that He was the promised “son of man” depicted in the book of Daniel as receiving and ushering in “glory and a kingdom” (Daniel 7:13-14).9

The Consummation of the Kingdom of God

However, as Jesus’ own words make clear, only the inauguration of God’s kingdom occurred during His first coming—there was more to come. Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10a), indicating that the kingdom of God had not yet arrived in its totality. Jesus also spoke of a future day when He would “recline at table” with His disciples (Matt. 8:11-12). And most notably, Jesus assured His disciples during the Passover meal, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29, emphasis mine). Even Jesus’ sayings in the Beatitudes imply that His followers currently possess the kingdom of God, but have yet to fully possess it.10 As Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . . Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:3, 5, emphasis mine).

The Already/Not Yet Tension

Because of this, author George Eldon Ladd observed, “For Jesus, the Kingdom of God was the dynamic rule of God which had invaded history in his own person and mission to bring men in the present age the blessings of the messianic age, and which would manifest itself yet again at the end of the age to bring this same messianic salvation to its consummation.”11 Thus, because of this “already/not yet” paradigm regarding the kingdom of God, there is no contradiction between Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of God was “at hand” and John’s promise that the kingdom would be fully realized at some point in the future (Rev. 11:15). This is why Paul can rightly call Jesus the Lord who is “highly exalted” (Eph. 1:22-23; Phil. 2:9) without contradicting the writer of Hebrews, who said, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb. 2:8c). Paul even stated that Christ is King now, but the kingdom of God over which He reigns has yet to be fully effectuated: “[Christ will deliver] the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:24b-25). The kingdom of Christ is thus present still now, but not yet fully established—which is why it is sometimes called a “semirealized” kingdom.12

And this is the tension the believer is currently experiencing. Those who are saved by grace through faith are members of “the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), but are living in a world dominated by the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Believers have been made “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6a), but they must wait for the day when they shall reign in the new heavens and new earth with God and the Lamb (Rev. 22:5). For the believer, being part of God’s kingdom is joy-producing now, but the best is yet to come.13 And the good news is that the believer may still experience the profound blessings of the “already” while awaiting the “not yet.” As John Calvin aptly stated, “Earth is where we begin to taste the sweetness of God’s blessings, and where we are roused by the hope and the desire to see them fulfilled in heaven.”14

  1. A similar definition is found in Akin, Daniel, A Theology for the Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 674.
  2. Granted, the Old Testament never uses the phrase, “the kingdom of God.”
  3. For more on the Jewish viewpoint of the kingdom of God, see especially Storms, Sam, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications Ltd, 2012), 337.
  4. Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2011), 405.
  5. I owe this final observation to Wiersbe, Warren, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume I (Colorado Springs: Victor Books, 1989), 112).
  6. George Eldon Ladd said it well: “The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history.” Ladd, George E., The Presence of the Future (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 218.
  7. Venema, Cornelius P., The Promise of the Future (Edinburgh, UK: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 28.
  8. This is Anthony Hoekema’s argument in The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 43.
  9. Bavinck, 406.
  10. This is the assertion of George R. Beasley-Murray in Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 157-168.
  11. Ladd, 307.
  12. This is how it is referred to by Michael Horton in Pilgrim Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 219.
  13. Akin, 701-702.
  14. Calvin, John, A Guide to Christian Living (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 96.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

Temples | Bible Gleanings – May 6-7, 2023

In a recent episode of The Simpsons, Bart was driving around a tank with the nozzle pointed at the local cathedral. This naturally alarmed the priest, who exclaimed, “Not the church, Bart! Don’t destroy the church; Jesus lives there!” And while this occurred in a fictional cartoon, this erroneous view of where Jesus dwells is very much a reality. Many people mistakenly believe that brick-and-mortar church buildings are where Jesus lives. But the reality is that believers are the “buildings” where Jesus lives.1

While the Lord certainly communes with His people when they assemble together, He primarily lives and dwells within His people. That is why the apostle Paul said, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). As pastor and author Sam Storms aptly stated, “We, the Church, are the body of Christ and therefore constitute the temple in which God is pleased to dwell. The shekinah of the Lord now abides permanently and powerfully in us through the Holy Spirit.”2

Saints are tents for the presence of the Lord. A believer’s heart is the sanctuary where the Holy Spirit lives (Romans 8:9). Followers of Christ are tabernacles in which the Lord has chosen to dwell (2 Cor. 6:16). As Paul said, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). The church is a spiritual building that God is constructing for Himself: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Therefore, just like the temple of old, we need to keep ourselves holy and set apart for the Lord. God instructed the Israelites, “If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord” (Num. 19:20a). We must purge ourselves of all iniquity by the “oil” of God’s grace, and dedicate ourselves wholly unto God’s service (Ex. 40:9). As Paul said, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Our prayer as believers ought to be something along the lines of Sanctuary, a song written by four-time Grammy winner, Randy Scruggs (August 3, 1953 – April 17, 2018):

“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,

pure and holy, tried and true;

with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living

sanctuary for you.”

  1. I do not condone watching this show. This brief clip appeared while we were scrolling through the television guide.
  2. Storms, Sam. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2012), 18.
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word:

Doctrine Matters for the Church, and Here’s Why

Because doctrine is fundamentally defining, a church will not know what it is or why it exists until it understands the Bible’s clear teaching on the doctrine of the church. If the church were merely a human organization, such as a country club or sports team, little would be lost or forfeited if it did not possess a basic knowledge of itself. However, because the church is an institution founded by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the church and the world suffer eternal repercussions if a church doesn’t perceive itself according to biblical doctrine. Moreover, even human organizations have at least a basic notion of who they are and what their purposes are. Therefore, a biblical understanding of the doctrine of the church is both natural and eternally significant, and the importance of such may be seen in the six main areas which a comprehension of this doctrine affects:1

First, the doctrine of the church matters for the leadership of the church. Pastors (also called bishops and overseers in Scripture) are commanded to “preach the word,” and “shepherd the flock of God” (2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Peter 5:2). Such God-called pastors must understand these primary responsibilities in order to feed congregants with the “pure milk” of God’s word (1 Peter 2:2) and care for their wandering souls (Rom. 3:11), lest he starve the children of God of the spiritual food they require, and risk appearing ashamedly before the chief Shepherd (2 Tim. 4:1). The Scripture also teaches that pastors must be qualified by living “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:6). Ignoring this high and holy standard results in wolves behind the pulpit and the wolf in sheep’s clothing laying snares for both the pastor and the church (1 Tim. 3:7; cf. Heb. 13:17).

Additionally, the pastor must understand the Bible’s teaching on church discipline and the proper administration of the Christ-ordained ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Scripture teaches that those living in unrepentant sin must be properly disciplined (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13). Without this, churches incur the displeasure and judgment of God (Rev. 2:12-29), and they reproach the holy name of Christ that they claim to represent (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15-16). Furthermore, baptism and the Lord’s Supper must be administered with careful consideration of a member’s salvation and standing with the Lord (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-32). When this is neglected, the pastor risks offering unbelievers false assurance, and he blatantly contradicts the rich symbolism of the ordinances, which are solely for believers.

Second, the doctrine of the church matters for the members of a church. According to the Scripture, there are prerequisites and qualifications for church members. The prerequisites are simple: those who wish to join a local church must be baptized believers. That is, one must be a member of the universal body of Christ by faith and be baptized by immersion in water, with the latter symbolizing the former (1 Cor. 12:13). It is perfectly permissible for unbaptized believers to become part of a church upon their baptism, but not before it. The qualifications for members of a local church are also straightforward: personal holiness, love for one another, and involvement in the life of the church, to name a few. And such qualifications are evident not only in the commands to live holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16), love one another (1 Pet. 4:8), and use one’s spiritual gifts (1 Pet. 4:10-11), but also in the biblical prescriptions for disciplining such members who openly disregard such commands (as noted in the discussion above). Neglect of either the prerequisites or qualifications for membership leads to false assurance to unbelievers and false assurance to unrepentant believers.

Third, the doctrine of the church matters for the structure of the church. The Scripture teaches that churches must have qualified pastors, and that members must submit to such men in humility. Nowhere in Scripture is this more plainly stated than in Hebrews 13:17, which says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” God has uniquely gifted pastors to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12), and this work will never begin (or continue) unless shepherds are competent to equip and members are willing to be equipped. The Bible’s teaching on church structure is truly the rebar that holds it together, and it crumbles apart without it. Unfortunately, many evangelical denominations have abandoned biblical teaching on church structure through the ordination of women to the pastorate, exaltation of mere men as “apostles,” and restoration of morally fallen men who have no business near a pulpit.

Fourth, the doctrine of the church matters for the culture of the church. Churches are communities, and all communities are cultures. Thus, a church will inevitably cultivate a culture, with or without understanding the Bible’s teaching about the church’s identity or mission. However, with a proper understanding of the church’s identity and mission, a church cultivates a culture of Christ-centeredness, ongoing discipleship, multitude-of-sins-covering love, accountability, prayerfulness, and evangelism. Simply put, the word of God rightly understood and applied will transform the people of God. When a biblical understanding of the church is not prioritized, a church’s culture falls prey to pragmatism and emotionalism.

Fifth, the doctrine of the church matters for the character of the church. The character or testimony/witness of a local church matters in the eyes of both God and the world. A church must strive for holiness in order to prevent displeasing the Lord, who is the church’s “husband” (Eph. 5:32). But the church must likewise strive for holiness in order to testify to the world that she is set apart and transformed by the gospel. And such holiness is greatly promoted through personal holiness and the difficult, but biblical practice of church discipline. Through church discipline, unrepentant believers are lovingly warned, compassionately rebuked, and if necessary, excommunicated. And while this is a painful process, the eternal consequences of not doing so are far more painful.

Sixth, the doctrine of the church ultimately matters for God’s glory. God glorifies Himself primarily through the gospel—and the church is the Christ-founded institution commanded to proclaim it (Matt. 28:16-20). But, without a thorough knowledge of the doctrine of the church, a church stifles its gospel proclamation, robbing God of glory. Moreover, a church living in unholiness (due to ignorance of the doctrine of the church) contradicts the life-transforming power of the gospel that it claims to believe.

Here’s the sum of it all: right doctrine is a pillar for the church to stand upon, whereas wrong doctrine is sinking sand that will swallow her whole. Therefore, it is imperative that we get our doctrine right, and right from the Scriptures.

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” — Romans 16:17-18

  1. This list originally came Mark Dever’s contribution to the systematic theology, A Theology for the Church. See: Akin, Daniel. A Theology for the Church (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 660-668. All of the explanations and expositions of the points are my own.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

Right on Time | Bible Gleanings – April 29-30, 2023

Jesus had arrived too late to save the little sick girl—or so it seemed. He was on His way to heal the daughter of Jairus when He was diverted by another woman in need of healing (Mark 5:24-35), and He didn’t make it in time. She died and her father’s heart was crushed: “While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”” (Mark 5:35). But Jesus refused to accept that outcome, and He breathed the breath of life into the youth, resurrecting her from death (Mark 5:41-43). Jesus was actually right on time.

Jesus was too late to heal his friend Lazarus of his illness—or so it seemed. Lazarus had been wrapped up in the tomb for four days by the time Jesus arrived (John 11:17). That’s why Martha said despairingly, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). But Christ wouldn’t accept that fate, and He raised Lazarus by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, including death (John 11:38-44; cf. Phil. 3:21). Jesus was right on time once again.

Jesus was too late to rescue Peter and John from prison—or so it seemed. They were imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and they waited in chains, unsure if they would be executed the next day. Daylight continued to burn, but there was no miraculous deliverance. And then suddenly, God sent one of his heavenly messengers in the middle of the night to free them from prison: “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out” (Acts 5:18-19a). Once more, Jesus was right on schedule.

The Lord is never late or behind schedule, even if it sometimes appears that way. He may seem to be taking His time in answering your prayers, granting relief, or working out evil for your good, but His timing is always perfect. God is always in time, on time, every time. He is the God who comes through in the midnight hour, when the sunshine of faith has set below the horizon of tribulation. He is the God who renews the strength of those who wait for Him (Isaiah 40:31; cf. Eccl. 3:11; Acts 1:7; 1 Peter 5:6).

This is why believers may sing the words of Just When I Need Him Most, written many years ago by William C. Poole (1875-1949):

“Just when I need Him, Jesus is near,
Just when I falter, just when I fear;
Ready to help me, ready to cheer,
Just when I need Him most.
Just when I need Him most,
Just when I need Him most,
Jesus is near to comfort and cheer,
Just when I need Him most.”

Is Baptism Required for Salvation?

Simply put, the ordinance of baptism is a rich symbol of the believer’s salvation. Baptism is an emblematic “watery grave” and a visual sermon which announces that the one being baptized has died to the old life and has been spiritually raised to live a new life. It is a visual testimony of a spiritual reality and an outward expression of an inward manifestation. Baptism is not required for salvation, but it is required for obedience to Christ, as the New Testament model makes abundantly clear. As a matter of fact, those who neglect being baptized publicly are actually denying what has happened to them spiritually and are living in contradiction to the truth.

Of course, many falsely believe that baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation and that the Scriptures teach what is known as “baptismal regeneration,” in which God the Spirit literally regenerates a person when they are immersed in water. This is an essential teaching among Lutherans and restorationists (“churches of Christ”). I have actually heard local restorationists ministers state that the water is the means by which the believer “comes into contact” with the blood of Christ. And this blatant misinterpretation of baptism stems from both a literal reading of the word “baptism” wherever it appears in the New Testament, and an extreme good-works-centered understanding of salvation which proposes that the Holy Spirit needs water to regenerate a sinner’s heart. But nothing could be farther from the truth: baptism is not a necessary component to bring about regeneration; baptism is a necessary visual which declares that regeneration has already occurred within a believer’s heart.

The most compelling argument for baptismal regeneration comes from a surface-level reading of Peter’s declaration in Acts 2:38, where he said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It would seem that repentance and baptism are prerequisites for being forgiven and receiving the Holy Spirit. However, there are several obvious problems with this interpretation. First, the Greek preposition “for” could actually be translated as, “on the basis of” or “because of,” essentially meaning, “Be baptized because of the forgiveness of sins (which you already possess).” Second, Peter and the apostles omit baptism many times in their gospel sermons, thus emphasizing that faith in Christ alone is what saves sinners (Acts 3:19-20; 10:34-43; 17:29-31). And third, the typical pattern in the Book of Acts is salvation leading to baptism, not baptism leading to salvation (Acts 8:34-38; 9:10-19; 10:44-48).

Ultimately, therefore, physical baptism is a visual representation of this spiritual reality: 

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English shepherd), and Dot (beagle).

Redeeming the Time | Bible Gleanings – April 22-23, 2023

The Romans were never able to get their calendar in order. It always came up a bit short because they used the lunar cycles to measure the months of the year. To fix the problem, political officials simply added extra days and months—one year was even 445 days long! And this was a breeding ground for corruption, because politicians learned that they could merely adjust the calendar to keep themselves in office for longer. As historian Rick Beyer said, “In essence they were stealing time to further their own political purposes.”1

You can’t blame them. We would all like to steal more time. Like Jim Croce, there are times when we wish we could “save time in a bottle.” But the truth is that we cannot steal or save time—all the time we have is limited, fading, and borrowed from the God who is timeless (Col. 1:17). We are promised many things in Scripture, but tomorrow is not one of them. 

Our lives are like sand in an hourglass, and God will not add any more. The daylight of life will only burn for so long before the night of death arrives to snatch us away. Life is a clock that wastes no time ticking off the seconds. Life is very short, as the psalmist said: “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4). Similarly, James wrote, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Therefore, we must always be, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16, KJV). While we have time on earth, we must labor for the kingdom that is not affected by time: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). We should live each day with a raw awareness that it may be our last. As the psalmist prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We should say with a heart of submission, “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15a).

“Sovereign ruler of the skies,

Ever gracious, ever wise,

All our times are in Thy hand,

All events at Thy command.

He that formed us in the womb,

He shall guide us to the tomb;

All our ways shall ever be

Ordered by His wise decree.” — John Ryland (1753-1825), Sovereign Ruler of the Skies

1. Beyer, Rick. The Greatest Stories Never Told (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), 1.

Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky. 

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).

For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word: