The Wrong Measuring Stick
BINO—that’s a term I’d never heard until around 15 years ago. I grew up in Baptist churches all my life. But never was that term used—especially to those churches which were similar to us. The principle may have been there—but never the term. When I began to hear it applied to the church I lead, I felt it was time to figure out what it means. BINO—it’s an acronym. It means “Baptist-In-Name-Only”. I thought that was an interesting label—or really a charge, as it were. Most of the churches in our area are certain that we are Baptist extremists—demanding a high view of Scripture, a strict view of the ordinances and a cessation of the gifts of the early church. We are strict—and sometimes perhaps a bit stubborn. But our goal is to be Biblical.
What was it that caused such a label to be placed on the congregation I pastor? A few things, actually. First, we don’t use the King James Version (we use the ESV). Secondly, we don’t have a strict dress code policy (our ladies often wear pants to church). Thirdly, we sing off screens (not out of the old redback hymnal). Fourthly, some of our people use some electronic device rather than a hard copy of the Bible. Because of those things, my wife was once told “Y’all just don’t look like a Baptist church.”
Now, let me describe a normal service in our church—just for a point of reference. We begin services with a song—perhaps a song like “Behold Our God” or “How Great Thou Art”. Our singing service is a blend between new and old songs. We may sing Mighty Fortress (which is 500 years old) and we may sing “The Power of the Cross” (which is 17 years old). But—we have gone to great lengths to examine every song for theologically rich lyrics. For instance, one of the newer songs we sing—“Before the Throne of God Above”—has these lyrics: “Because a sinless Savior died—My sinful soul is counted free—For God, the Just, is satisfied—To look on Him and pardon me”. If I was wont to preach on song lyrics, those would preach for a while. And for what it’s worth, I’ll take the lyrics of that song over old hymns like “In the Garden” any day of the week—and twice on Sunday.
During our song service, one of our members leads us in reading through the Bible together. We’ve been doing this for several years now. Prior to this practice, we were memorizing Scripture together. We believe Scripture should play a key role in our worship service—and in the personal lives of our members.
Prayers are offered at various times during our services—as we call on God to bless the efforts of our church leaders and also open the hearts of the congregation. We ask God to receive us through the finished work of His Son, Jesus, as we approach Him in worship.
As far as our preaching is concerned, the vast majority of our pulpit time is devoted to preaching through whole books of the Bible. This is called sequential expository preaching. We believe God inspired the His Word purposefully. And so, we seek to approach it the way He chose to give it—from Chapter 1, verse 1 through the last verse in the book. We don’t skip hard passages—whether theologically difficult or practically challenging. We seek to find the meaning given in the Bible itself (theologians call this exegesis)—not some allegorical fancy that we make up (theologians call this eisegesis). We certainly recognize that we, as elders, are fallible men. However, because God’s Word is not fallible, we seek to lean on it as much as possible.
Now—if that’s what a liberal church service looks like, chalk me up as a liberal, I guess.
In all seriousness—here’s the problem. Conservative Christianity has become (at least to some) to be “preaching” (using that word quite loosely) from the King James Version, singing old songs out of a certain old hymn book, while people are dressed in their “Sunday best”. Little else seems to matter—including the words coming out of the preacher’s mouth.
But those are all just preferences, right? Well—they can be preferences—sure. And if so, that’s fine. But when those things become the measuring stick of a faithful church, the proverbial train has come off the tracks.
Over the past decade or two, I’ve personally witnessed churches which were historically orthodox move in very concerning directions. The (supposed) “measuring stick” says all is OK (KJV, ties and dresses, old hymns, etc.). But THE measuring stick (the Bible) says something is majorly concerning. When the wrong standards are applied, the right standard is essentially checked at the door. And the results are obvious to anybody with an unbiased mind.
In the 1644 London Baptist Confession of Faith, this is said about Scripture—“The rule of this knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship and service of God, and all other Christian duties, is not mans inventions, opinions, devices, laws, constitutions, or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but only the word of God contained in the Canonical Scriptures. In this written Word God has plainly revealed whatsoever He has thought needful for us to know, believe, and acknowledge, touching the nature and office of Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen to the praise of God.” (Articles VII & VIII). Historically, in Baptist churches, Scripture takes center stage—and is our only rule of faith and practice. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up, I could buy all 12 readers of this blog a steak—with money left over.
The apostle Paul says of Scripture, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV). And because of that, Paul tells Timothy to “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2 KJV). I mean, that does seem logical—if God has given His Word for all these things, it only makes sense that preachers should preach it—as it is written, I might add.
The Word of God is completed today. And—as a result, it is sufficient. This is why those London Baptists were so pointed in saying that we find our truth “only [in] the word of God contained in the Canonical Scriptures.” They believed firmly that we didn’t need anything in addition to the Bible to find the truth. And they were correct.
The writer of Hebrews couldn’t have been clearer. He writes, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV). In other words, God used to speak in many different ways (dreams, visions, an audible voice, etc.). But now—God “hath…spoken”. There is finality in the revelation of the New Testament Canon. God’s Word is completed. There is no ongoing revelation through any of those “divers manners” anymore—none whatsoever. In this age, God speaks through His Word as the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. This is not only a Baptist principle, but also a historical orthodox Christian principle—because it’s the Bible’s teaching. And, therefore, it isn’t up for debate. This isn’t something we can simply agree to disagree over.
Now it took us a while to get here—but here’s my point. The wrong standards have been applied by many for years as to what constitutes a faithful church. And—because of that—churches with a poor measuring stick have themselves begun to accept liberal tendencies—including even heretical teachings. There’s a long list of problems including the idea that some elite redeemed humans will stand beside Jesus while the rest of us bow down to their small group of churches—and Jesus too, you know. And this—while the Bible is crystal clear 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.” (Philippians 2:10-11 KJV). Creatures will not bow down to other creatures. That’s blasphemy. Every creature will bow down to God alone—period. “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isaiah 2:11 KJV)
Another heresy that has been tolerated is the idea that we should be praying for dead people—Leah, Laban, Jeremiah—and even for the salvation of Pilate! Listen, there are 66 books in the Bible—31,102 verses (in the KJV)—and literally not one that even hints that we should pray for dead people—no not one. But when the wrong standard is applied, heresy creeps in. Let me be clear—this idea of praying for dead people is pagan. And yet, it’s tolerated because the preacher is using the KJV, wearing a coat and tie, the women are wearing dresses and the church is singing old (1930’s) hymns out of a redback hymnal. That’s a poor measuring stick—and the result of using it is evident.
It’s been recently stated in a pulpit, “I read in one of the papers—and it’s not quite actually true—it’s talking about the suffering that Jesus Christ and the shame that Jesus Christ suffered physically paid for our sins. Not quite exactly true. The physical death of Christ is necessary, but the spiritual death of Christ is what paid for our sins”. This is a gnostic dichotomy. Gnostic heretics had this idea that “spirit is good—flesh is bad”. Early Gnosticism is actually addressed in several New Testament epistles as the writers stress the physical body of Jesus—how “…in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9 KJV). The apostle Peter (and others) is crystal clear—“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 KJV). And just for good measure, I’ll offer as further evidence every single verse in the Bible which either typified (in the Old Testament) or directly speaks of the blood of Jesus. This is not just a difference of opinion. It’s heresy. This is the result of using the wrong measuring stick for Christian truth.
Last year, a Baptist preacher while visiting another Baptist church, declared from the pulpit, “You ever have any nighttime visions? That’s a dangerous question to ask, I know. God speaks to me a lot at night. And there are some sermons that have come from my dreams. You know, I don’t know whether to give God the glory or whatever it is. But sometimes I just gotta stop—I gotta wake up and hop out of bed and write it down before I forget it because I usually do forget my dreams.” I don’t think Daniel had any issue remembering the dreams God gave him. And neither has anybody else, for that matter. Such a view exposes a very low view of Scripture (whether the KJV is being ‘used’ or not). Such a statement exposes a radical misunderstanding of the sufficiency of Scripture. We do not need dreams if the supposed truth revealed in them is in the Bible. And if it’s not in the Bible, we reject such fanciful ideas. God is simply not speaking through dreams.
Recently, a Baptist preacher wrote in a Baptist newspaper, “As pastor, sometimes God gives me a part, or all of a sermon outline in a dream.” Having listened to a number of sermons by this man which were shared with me, that actually makes sense—because the sermons I listened to certainly did not come out of the Bible. Listen—I grew up in Baptist churches and I have never…ever heard a Baptist pastor declare that he preached his dreams. The author of that article also claims to have the ability to interpret dreams—and even gives an example of a time he did such—calling on the dreamer to repent because of what God supposedly exposed in the dream. In his mind, he has the same ability of men like Joseph and Daniel. There’s no way around it—this is a dreadful misunderstanding of revelation. God “hath…spoken” to us through His Son—through the writers of the Bible—and God’s “speaking” has been completed with the New Testament. This man is not receiving sermons from God through dreams—and neither is anybody else. This man absolutely does not have the ability to interpret dreams like Joseph and Daniel—and neither does anybody else. And just for the record, this entire article was about how to recognize when a dream is from God—and how you can figure out what God is telling you. And all this while “God…hath spoken” in finality through His Word.
Every one of the above quotes is by the same man. Scores of others could be supplied—but this is more than enough. This man is a leader in his group of churches—and heavily influential in other groups. He is often invited to preach in the conference circuit. He is a writer in two major monthly Baptist publications. And none of the heresies above seems to matter one iota to the churches preaching him and the editors publishing him. This man has been allowed (knowingly, by the way) to label BINO’s (like the church I pastor) as heretics, apostate and reprobate. In 2018, he wrote, “We need to protect our flocks and call the heretics for what they are!”—speaking of BINO’s like us. Clearly something is off. Orthodox churches cannot accept such schismatic preaching because the man happens to hold to the “7 cardinal Baptist truths”.
For decades, churches have been judging by the wrong measuring stick. The Bible translation or the dress code or the method of media in getting song lyrics to the congregation—is not the way you know if a church is faithful. Just this one example (and others could be offered) should be enough to prove the thesis of this article. A church’s approach to Scripture is how you know whether a church is faithful or not. If a church has a high view of Scripture, it will be reflected in the pulpit (and other teaching arenas). If the sermons often begin with “God told me” or “God gave me this word”, rather than “God’s Word says”, then the view of Scripture is extremely low. God is not dropping sermons in men’s brains on Saturday evening after popping a couple melatonin. If so, I’m working way too hard. No—on the contrary, He’s given us a book chock full of sermons—chapters and chapters and chapters of them. Baptists need to get back to the view of the Bible our English brothers had in 1644. If we do not, our churches will apostatize. There is no other possible outcome. A church simply cannot remain faithful when the Scripture is discarded while men promote their own fancies—whether they come from their imagination while awake or asleep.
Who is really the BINO here?
Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net