This week’s Q&A is hosted by Pastor Miles DeBenedictus, from Cross Connection Church of North San Diego County, CA. He also serves as a board member of Enduring Word.
Baptism: Why, What, & How?
Today we are going to start by addressing the topic of baptism. It seems like an important topic because I’ve had several people within my own church ask me about this topic recently. For some reason, this seems to be on people’s minds.
During the Q&As from last week and the previous week, questions were asked concerning the issue of self-baptism, which may sound a little odd to some of you; it isn’t really something that comes up all that often. But there are some interesting things to think about as it relates to self-baptism. If you think about it, it seems that, at some point, someone would have had to take the plunge and baptize themselves back at the very beginning, if they were going to begin baptizing others. So how did that happen? How does that even work? And is it doctrinally permissible?
Baptism is very important. Protestant, evangelical, Baptist-type Christians — those who hold to “believer’s baptism,” or what is sometimes called “credo baptism” — observe two major sacraments, or sacred religious rituals or rites. We observe communion, the Lord’s Supper, when we partake of the bread and the cup, and we partake in baptism. We do so because Jesus, in the Gospels, explicitly told us to do so.
What is baptism? Where did it come from? Why do we do it? And is it okay to baptize yourself? Let me begin with that first part of the question: “What is baptism?”. Baptism is what we might call a ritual purification. All of the first Christians were Jewish, and Jews had ritual purifications. One of them somewhat resembled our practice of immersion baptism: it’s a Jewish ritual of immersion in water in a small pool, called a mikvah. There is archaeological evidence at many sites in Israel of ancient mikvah. There were a number of rabbinical regulations concerning how these mikvah were to be constructed, and how they were to be used. It was not for physical washing. The purpose was not to make yourself clean; it was simply a ritual purification by immersion in water.
In the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 5, there’s the story of Naaman the Syrian. The Syrians were enemies of the children of Israel. Naaman was a commander in Syria’s army, so he was definitely an enemy of Israel. He came down with leprosy. He was told by someone within the court of the king that if he went to the prophet Elijah in Israel, he could get help for this. He went and found Elijah. Elijah wouldn’t speak to him directly but told him through a servant to go and immerse himself in the water of the Jordan River seven times.
Naaman was really bothered and upset by this. He may have grumbled, “Why should I go wash myself in this dirty river? I’ve got better rivers in Syria.” But one of the servants says, “Well, why don’t you just try it?” Naaman went and did it, and he experienced healing from leprosy after he immersed himself in the Jordan River seven times, according to the direction of the Prophet Elijah.
Now, that isn’t necessarily baptism, but it may be one of the root connections, along with the mikvah, concerning how baptism ultimately came to be practiced. I cite those examples to describe what baptism looks like. It’s not a physical washing, but a ritual immersion in water.
There are a number of allusions to baptism or types of baptism in the Old Testament. Paul writes about them in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2– “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all of our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” This passage gives us a picture of event similar to baptism and describes that it is a type or an illusion to baptism. During the time of Moses, the children of Israel went through the Red Sea, and remained under the cloud in the wilderness. The cloud covered them by day and the pillar of fire directed them by night. In the mind of the Apostle Paul, this “being under the cloud” was a picture or type of baptism.
Where did baptism come from? I’m sure that many Christians, and people who follow the Scriptures and read through the Bible, would suppose that it came from, or was connected to, the most well-known baptist in Scripture, John the Baptist. You’d be right if you thought that, but I want to suggest that the baptism of John the Baptist was different. The baptism John the Baptist had a very specific and different purpose than the baptism that we as believers participate in as a ritual purification.
I would suggest that, according to the Scripture, the baptism performed by John the Baptist was to set a pattern for baptisms that followed it. It was employed by John, not for any sort of purification or sanctification, but for the purpose of revelation. It was less a baptism of consecration and more about identification or association. It was for the purpose of revealing something.
John describes his purpose in baptizing in John 1:29— “On the next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” This is a great proclamation about the Lamb of God. He continues in verse 30, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” Notice this in verse 31: John is telling us something about the baptism that he is performing. He says, “I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
John is telling us that the purpose of his baptism was revelation. He says it again in verse 32-33, “And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom You see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
This is very important. God is the One who sent John the Baptist to baptize. This passage clearly explains to us why John was baptizing after the pattern he was. I wonder if, during the entire time he was baptizing, he was watching very closely to see the sign with which he’d been told he would identify the Christ.
God the Father told John, “You’re going to go baptize people; immerse them in water, in the Jordan River. The Man upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, that is the Christ.” He was looking for that every time he baptized people. When he finally saw it, he proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Almost as soon as John identified Jesus as the Christ, he pointed to Jesus and said, “He’s the One you are to follow.” After this point, John’s baptism work effectively faded away. In John 3, he said, “Jesus must increase, but I must decrease.”
So, the baptism of John was for the purpose of revelation. Baptism, as we think of it, has a different purpose than John’s baptism, even though it may be very similar in form. We know that John performed this baptism. We know what he did and why he baptized, but why do we baptize?
I believe, and have taught for years at my own church, that we baptize for three reasons. We baptize first, for obedience, second, for identification, and third for association. So let me explain what I mean by that.
First: Obedience. Jesus commissioned His disciples to “go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That’s the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28, right at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me. And now I’m sending you: go, make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We baptize in obedience to Christ’s command.
Peter commanded the first converts, in Acts 2:38, to repent. He says, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” We baptize in obedience to Christ’s commission and to his command.
Secondly, we also baptize in identification with Jesus. Just as Jesus was baptized, we are baptized with Him. We read, at the opening of the gospel ministry of Jesus, that He went to John to be baptized. That is where we find the description of the Spirit descending upon Him and remaining upon Him like a dove, and the Father saying, “This is My Son, in whom I’m well pleased.” Jesus was baptized, and we follow Him in baptism to identify ourselves with Him, as His followers.
The third reason we baptize is in association with His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul speaks about this in Romans 6:3-4— “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” We are associating with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection, when we go down into the waters of baptism.
For these three reasons we obey the Lord through baptism. Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples, baptizing them. Peter commanded the first converts to be baptized. We are identifying with Jesus: just as He was baptized, we identify ourselves with Him as being baptized, and then we associate with His death, burial and resurrection.
Another question commonly arises: When should a person be baptized? And can they or should they baptize themselves? I believe that the answer to the first question is found in Acts 8, when Philip shares the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch. Upon hearing the gospel, the Ethiopian asks Philip, “What prevents me from being baptized? What is keeping me from being a part of the church and baptized into the church?” Philip says to him, “If you believe with all your heart, you may;” and that’s the answer. When you are a believer, you should obey the Lord’s command to identify with Him and associate with Him in baptism. The Ethiopian eunuch responded, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
In our church, this is the question we ask people when we are preparing to baptize them: “Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?” That is the foundational confession of the Church, as Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:15-16. He asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church.” That is the foundational confession of the Christian.
Having established the context, let’s now consider the question, “Can you baptize yourself?” That was the original question I saw a couple of weeks ago, and it came up in the live chat again last week. Can you self-baptize?
Ideally, it is my conviction that Christians should be baptized into the body of Christ, the church, by a member of a local church—the eldership or leadership, or at least another baptized believer. Self-baptism shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s also not explicitly forbidden in the Scriptures.
Concerning those who follow a form of “credo baptism” or “believer’s baptism,” consider the earliest Baptist, a man named John Smith. There were not really any Baptists like him who were around before him. So, John Smith, the first Baptist, baptized himself in the Netherlands in 1609. He went on to establish the first Baptist Church. They were a group of Protestants, those who were protesting, who had escaped persecution in England and gone to the Netherlands. Ultimately, that same group came to the Americas, and began the first Baptist communities. John Smith baptized himself, though he really wrestled with this decision to baptize himself, and later had real issues about having done it.
So, we see that self-baptism is not forbidden. It has been done before, but I don’t think it’s ideal.
Can you clearly explain what Jesus means in Matthew 28 about baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, making disciples, and how it applies to believers today?
Christians believe that there is one God, but that God is a triune Being, that He exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus commissioned us to do in Matthew 28, in the Great Commission, I believe we are baptizing people into the Body of God, the Body of Christ as a whole, and that we are recognizing that God is the fullness of all things: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now there are those who are very committed to the idea of baptizing in Jesus’ name only, and they make a really big deal about that. They have many reasons why they do that. Ultimately, we choose to go off what we see from Jesus, in the Great Commission in Matthew 28: to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we do baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We don’t follow the view of “Jesus only” baptism.
If a person accepts Jesus Christ and wants to be baptized, but doesn’t want to become a part of a local congregation, for whatever reason, should that church still baptize him?
I think it’s very important that, when we are baptized, we are baptized into the body of Christ. I do not believe it is beneficial for a Christian to be a Christian independently of a local body, within the church. Ideally, we should be part of a local body of believers and function within that body. At our church, we have talked about this quite a bit. I’m doing a series of teachings on this right now at our church. Our vision at Cross Connection Church is life in connection with God, one another, and the world, through Jesus. God created us to live in connection with Him, and then to be connected with others, in horizontal relationships within the body of the church.
Paul talks about this in Ephesians 2:8- “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves,” and then in verse 10 about how we’re the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus for good works. In verse 11, Paul begins to talk about how we have been united together in Christ and reconciled to God and to one another— and that takes place within the church. Therefore, we’re baptized into the body of Christ, which is the church. The church is the greatest expression of the body of Christ here on the earth. Ideally, we should be a part of a community, a gathering of Christians.
I think it’s very important to be baptized, and to be a committed part of a local church. Now, for one reason or another, there are all kinds of people who have the view that they don’t need the church. Maybe they were a part of a church, and they got upset at that church, or they had some problems and some conflicts with people in the church. I think it’s actually important for our growth, and our sanctification, to bump up against other sinners within the church, the body of Christ, and to learn how to receive the forgiveness of God and extend the forgiveness of God to other people.
The whole concept of refusing to be part of a church because you were hurt by a group of people at a church, thinking you can live apart from Jesus and be baptized and do communion on your own, is missing the point. Communion by yourself doesn’t make any sense. We’re communing with God and with one another. We should be a part of a local church, serving within that context and growing together. Some of that growth comes through learning how to forgive, learning how to function in the fruit of the Spirit, to be self-controlled and kind. Sometimes there are unkind people within the body of Christ. Hopefully, as we pray for them and teach them the Scriptures, we will all grow more into Christ’s likeness.
Will Jesus bear the marks of His crucifixion all through eternity?
This is a really good question. It seems, from the Scriptures, that the scars from the suffering Jesus endured will remain. We have a beautiful picture of this in the heavenly scene which John sees in Revelation 4-5 and Revelation 7, where we see multitudes of people gathered around the Throne in Heaven, from every tribe and tongue and nation — which implies that Jesus’ Commission in Matthew 28 to “go into all the world make disciples of all nations” will be fulfilled. When we are in glory with the Lord, we will see that the Gospel has gotten to all people, and people have been baptized throughout the entire world.
Jesus is revealed in Revelation 5 as the Lamb who was slain. There’s a certain aspect of Jesus’ appearance where He retains these scars; John sees that. In His post-resurrection visit with Thomas, Jesus tells him to, “Behold My hands and My feet and put your hand in My side.” Apparently, even in His resurrected form, those wounds were still evident and visible.
Jesus bears in His body the marks of the crucifixion and will bear them throughout eternity. They are truly a statement to us of His love. “God demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Is it true that to take communion, we must be baptized first?
It is not necessary to be baptized before taking communion. Within the Protestant, Bible-teaching, evangelical church, we primarily observe two sacraments, or sacred rituals: one is communion and the other is baptism. It would seem that these are very important. Jesus told us that we should baptize, and we should obey Him in this. He said to His disciples, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26), and we should do that regularly. These are important aspects of what we do as followers of Jesus.
Do you have to be baptized before you partake of communion? I don’t know of any passage of Scripture that requires that. Here’s what I teach at my own church: we see baptism as a first order of obedience when you begin to walk with the Lord. When someone receives Christ and puts their trust in Him for salvation, we encourage them that one of their first steps of obedience should be to obey the Lord in baptism, and then we also partake of communion. Now, within my own church, we partake of communion more frequently than we perform baptisms. Perhaps that may be something we need to change or rectify. I know of a number of churches are holding baptisms more frequently. Regardless, these things are an important part of the work that we do within the church, being baptized and partaking of communion.
Can and should you be baptized twice?
This is really good question concerning re-baptism. Some people experience a period of time falling away from their faith. There’s actually a quite a discussion about this right now within some Baptist churches. (I know a lot of people who don’t go to a Southern Baptist church or a General Baptist church, but they might go to another evangelical church and EV Free church or they go to a Calvary Chapel church, like many who might be watching this. These people are not explicitly a part of a Baptist denomination, but you are still a Baptist in the sense that you believe in believer’s baptism or “credo baptism.” You believe that you’re baptized as a first order of obedience after you become a believer, as identification and association with Jesus.)
There are many people who come to faith again, after a period of time of walking away; maybe they were a believer or a member of a church when they were in high school but walked away when they went away to college. This happens far too often. But they return back to the church. Now let’s say they were baptized when they were 13 or 17 years old in youth group, or at a youth camp, and now they’re putting their faith in Christ and they’re asking the question about re-baptism.
There is an ongoing discussion in more denominational Baptist circles. People are becoming upset when they see pictures on social media of young, elementary-school-aged children being baptized. They say, “You need to stop doing that, because you’re just setting them up for future problems. If that child walks away from the Lord, and wasn’t really a Christian, they will seek re-baptism when they come back.”
Re-baptism to them creates an issue. I’m not one of those people. I think if someone was baptized, for example, within a Lutheran or Catholic or Presbyterian church as an infant, they had no real stake in the game, if you will; they had no idea what they were doing when they were an infant. It could happen that later they desire to be re-baptized. The same could be true of someone who was baptized as a young child or a young adult, walked away, and now has come back to the Lord. So, I don’t necessarily have an issue with a re-baptism.
However, I don’t believe from the Scriptures that re-baptism is necessary or essential. We do not teach that you must be baptized to be saved. Often when people talk about that, they refer to the thief on the cross. I, on the other hand, would go back to the fact that baptizing people wasn’t the highest focus of ministry for people like the Apostle Paul. If baptism was essential for Christian salvation, then you would expect Paul to place a bigger emphasis on it. If baptism was essential, he would not have said in his letters to the Corinthians, “I’m glad I didn’t baptize any of you, except for the house of Stefanos.”
It wasn’t a necessity or an essential area. Can someone be re-baptized after they were baptized at an earlier point in their life? Yes, I think they can. But I would also add that I don’t think you need to go through this pattern of being re-baptized every time there’s a baptism, because maybe you’ve screwed up. That would exemplify an aspect of immaturity, similar to the person who feels the need to raise their hand and walk down to the front for every single altar call.
In Revelation 18:4, who is being referred to as “my people”? Is the Church of God still on Earth at that time?
Revelation 18:1-6 NKJV– After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.”
The question is based on verse 4, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people.’” Obviously, when we discuss the book of Revelation, we’re dealing a lot of speculation about things. There are many different views on the book of Revelation. People might ask whether something has already been fulfilled. Those who hold a Preterist view believe that the book of Revelation was written at an early date, and that these things are talking about what happened under Nero and with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Other people who hold a more Futurist view, which is the view that I hold, along with David Guzik and the other board members of Enduring Word. We believe that Revelation was written much later, probably in the 90s AD, during which period of time believers were looking forward to something that would happen in the future.
There are different ways of interpreting the book of Revelation. Those who hold not only a futurist view, but also a Pre-Tribulational view, believe that the Church is removed out of the earth before a period of Tribulation, and that Revelation 6- 19 are speaking of that Tribulation period.
There are many other Christians who believe that these things are yet future, but don’t hold that specific view. They would say that Christians are here upon the earth during the Tribulation. I think you can make some great arguments for that. There are other people who say that Christians will not be upon the earth, that the Church will be removed before the Tribulation. They would say, “No, there are no Christians on earth during this time.”
Most people who hold the Pre-Tribulation view believe that evangelism will still be ongoing during the period of the Tribulation, and that there will be people that are sometimes referred to as “Tribulation Saints.” These will include both Gentiles and Jews. The book of Revelation, and other apocalyptic and prophetic passages, such as the book of Zechariah, mentions people being saved out of the tribes of Israel during the period of Tribulation, as well as people who are non-Jewish being saved. It would seem that there is some allusion to that here in Revelation 18.
What is the study of eschatology?
The study of eschatology, from the Greek word eschaton, speaks of the end. It’s the study of the last things or the study of the end. It concerns predictive prophecy that is yet fulfilled. There are lots of speculations, ideas, and opinions on these things. We recognize that there people interpret these things in different ways, but eschatology is the study of the last things surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus. We believe that Jesus will return one day, and I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Him coming and making all things new. When that happens, it will be a wonderful day, and we look forward to that.
Christians who study and teach the End Times and the Second Coming of Christ, are talking about eschatology. We have to be very careful in the study of eschatology. We have to be approach it with humility, and work to be interpreters of the Bible. We are not cryptographers who seek for Bible codes and strange things in the Scriptures. We should come to the Bible to further our understanding of the last things. Decades ago, newspaper eschatology was a thing; now I think it’s become YouTube eschatology, where people find every sort of strange idea, and conspiracy theory that ever could be found there on the Internet. That’s not our goal. We have to be careful about that when we come to these things.
How often should we partake in communion on our own, outside the local church we attend every Sunday?
Really good question. Obviously, local churches do things in various ways. At the church where I pastor, we partake of communion every seventh Sunday. We begin the new year by partaking of communion on the first Sunday of the year, and then we count every seven Sundays after that, and partake of communion in that pattern.
Throughout church history, there were times when the church partook of communion once a year. If you look at the Catholic mass, they partake every single week. There are a number of Protestant churches that partake of communion every week as well. Some churches say that you should only take communion as administered by the clergy. Other churches say that you can partake of communion on your own, whenever you’d like to, and you don’t need a member of the clergy to lead you. There are very “high church” views of communion, in which you need to partake as directed by the clergy every single week. There are also “low church” views of communion, in which you could partake at any time you desire.
When I read passages about communion, such as Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 11, it seems like the early church partook more often, and that they partook when they were gathered in homes. Now, of course, they didn’t have church buildings and church services in the same way that we do, so they would gather for church in homes. When they did, they would partake of communion, also known as a love feast. When they gathered together to have a meal, which might look very much like your traditional church potluck, they might partake of communion at a certain point, and say, “Hey, we want to remember why we are gathered together here. We’re gathered together as a people because of what Christ has done. His body that was broken for us, signified in the bread, and His blood was shed for us, signified through the cup.”
In Matthew 17, how can we explain Moses’ appearance on the mountain of Transfiguration? What body was he in, since it cannot be his resurrection body?
That’s great question. I’m not sure that we have a perfect answer for that in the Scriptures. We’re told that Moses and Elijah appeared there. Peter, James and John were there with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, and somehow were able to recognize Moses and Elijah. They didn’t have photographs of Moses and Elijah, just like we don’t have photographs of Moses and Elijah, but something about Moses revealed that he was Moses and something about Elijah revealed that he was Elijah. And they appeared.
My expectation of this would be that Peter, James and John were seeing beyond the veil; they were seeing into another realm, into the spirit realm where Moses and Elijah were residing at that point in time. They saw them in Christ, if you will; this vision was not of this world. The Scriptures are silent concerning what type of body they had, so I would maintain some humility and silence on that as well.
What is Calvinism?
I need to know a clear picture of Calvinism. I have my own thoughts on this, but struggle with people who are pushing this doctrine to the point of causing church splits.
I would say that is my biggest concern pertaining to the issues of Calvinism as well. I am not a Calvinist. I am a reformed Christian, in the sense that I’m a Protestant Christian, which is a product of the Reformation that took place hundreds of years ago. We recognize that we are reformed Christians, but maybe not Calvinists.
I don’t hold to what is commonly referred to as the “Doctrines of Grace.” And don’t hold to the TULIP view of soteriology, or the study of salvation (the TULIP view is Total depravity, Unlimited election, Limited atonement, and so forth.) I don’t hold to that view.
I have some very good friends who hold to the doctrines of grace and are more reformed in their way of approaching salvation, and they’re God-loving Christians. I love them. They’re wonderful people. I don’t agree with them on a number of points of doctrine. I live 15 minutes away from one of the most well-known reformed seminaries in America, right here in the town where I live, Escondido, CA. Some of the greatest minds in Calvinism are a part of that seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary.
One of my biggest concerns of the things I have observed, which I see as a deficit or a problem within a lot of Calvinist circles, is that they proselytize the saved and over-evangelize the lost. A lot of times they do this by sowing seeds of doubt in people’s theological positions. They imply that others just don’t know the fullness of what the Scriptures say, and don’t understand these things.
They also get into a heavy position concerning the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign over all things. Of course, I believe in the sovereignty of God, but not to the extent that people such as John Piper or RC Sproul would view the sovereignty of God. They have a high view of the sovereignty of God and a very low view of responsibility of man.
I try very hard, along with many others whom I work alongside in the ministry, to maintain a balance between those two positions. We recognize that the sovereignty of God is taught in the scriptures. If people come to my church, and I’m teaching through Romans 8-11, you’re probably going to think I’m a Calvinist. But if you come to my church, and I’m preaching through Hebrews 6, or Hebrews 10, you’re going to think that I’m not a Calvinist. That’s because we try to recognize that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are both taught in the Scriptures, and oftentimes joined together as one. For example, my favorite passage in the entire Bible is Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” which refers to our responsibility, “For it is God works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure,” which refers to God’s sovereignty. These things go together. Anytime I see people dividing the body of Christ about these topics, I have real concerns with what they are doing.
Why did godly men in the Bible have two wives, such as Elkanah in 1 Samuel 1?
If we look at the Old Testament, there was not an explicit command against such a practice at that time, but it’s not God’s ideal. Furthermore, I would say that it was not God’s ideal from the beginning. In the New Testament, Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 18, concerning divorce. People were asking him about husbands and wives and divorce and marriage. He answered them that, “In the beginning, it wasn’t this way, but because of your flesh, Moses gave the certificate of divorce.”
I would say that in the beginning, people were still not to be married to more than one spouse. That was never the way. But the reason it happened is because of your flesh, and it was permitted because of your flesh.
God’s ideal is found all the way back at the very beginning. He made us in the image of God; He made us male and female; He created us. God said in Genesis 2:18, “It’s not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” So, the two shall become one flesh, not the man and two, or three, or four or five brides; no, the two shall become one flesh.
God’s ideal from the beginning was one man and one woman joined together as one for life under God. There were godly individuals in the Old Testament with multiple wives; I think the most well-known is Jacob, who had two wives and two concubines, and from them came the twelve tribes of Israel. So, it was permitted, but not because of the way that God had made it from the beginning.