2-1-3-The Baptism of Jesus
The Use of Symbols
Learning to use symbols in the right way is a basic part of good preaching teaching of John the Baptist and Jesus: tree without fruit, viper, the way, door, fire, fruit, shining lamp, white washed tomb, good shepherd. Do you know what they mean? Which ones were used by John and which by Jesus. This is some of what we will study in this lesson.
Read Luke 1:76. These are the words of the Holy Spirit, spoken by the father of John the Baptist about this newborn son. What was to be the ministry of John the Baptist?
According to Matthew 11:13, What was the job God had given to all of the prophets, including John the Baptist?
John the Baptist used symbols to make his message easier for people to understand, just like the prophets of the Old Testament did. A symbol is a picture painted with words which help people to see the meaning of a message more clearly. A symbol is something which is used to stand for another clearly. A symbol is something which is used to stand for another thing. Example across has become a symbol for Christianity.
The dove is a symbol because it is often used to stand for the?
Lets practice the Technique of observing. Read Matthew 3:7-12 carefully and try to find all the important points.
Six of the symbols used by John the Baptist are found below. They have been taken from the passage you have just finished studying: Matthew 3:7-12. In the spaces below provided, write the verse or verses where each of these are found:
Trees with fruit:
Read Matthew 3:12. What does the wheat represent ; the chaff?
In Matthew 3:7-12, which three of these symbols are used to represent an unrepentant person? (1) (2)(3) Which one represents the repentant person?
Tell in your own words:
How is the unrepentant person like a tree without fruit?
In what way is the unrepentant person like chaff?
How is the repentant person like wheat?
Which symbol in Matthew 3:12, the fire or the barn represents:
the future of the repentant person?
the future of the unrepentant person?
The Pharisees were very strict about keeping the law of Moses. Did they how ever, bear fruit in their own lives? Read Matthew 23:2-3?
What was the most important thing in the eyes of the Pharisees the outward appearance or the inner change of attitude toward sin? Read Matthew 23:5.
Why did the Pharisees put such an emphasis upon the outward appearance of things? Read Matthew 23:5?
With what did John the Baptist compare the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Read Matthew 3:7.
When John used the symbol of vipers, did he use them to stand for true repentance or merely a false repentance?
The Pharisees and Sadducees were very proud of their family back ground especially of the fact that they were the descendants of Abraham. Nevertheless, without true repentance what would their future be according to John? Read Matthew 3:9-10.
Jesus, Himself, used many symbols in His own preaching. As a matter of fact, one of the symbols Jesus used stood for the Pharisees. On another occasion He used a symbol to talk about John the Baptist. Which one of these two symbols, “white washed tombs” or ‘shining lamb” do you think Jesus used to talk about:
John the Baptist?
In what way were the Pharisees like “white-washed tombs”?
Jesus called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” because they were clean on the outside but they still had unrepentant hearts. They were like tombs because no matter how clean a tomb maybe on the outside, it still contains something rotten and dead on the inside. Jesus also used a symbol for John the Baptist. He called John a “shining lamp” because: John the Baptist showed people the way to Jesus.
Read Matthew 5:13. What symbol does Jesus use here for a Christian?
In your own words, tell why salt is a good symbol for a Christian person?
Read Ephesians 4:14. What symbol is used for a Christian whose faith is weak and who follows any doctrine which comes along?
In Galatians 5:22, the Apostle Paul uses a symbol for the things that the Holy Spirit produces in the Christian’s life. What is that symbol?
We can learn a great deal about the use of symbols in our own ministry by looking at the way the Prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus used them. Their good use of symbols which one of the things which made them good preachers, teachers. If we want people to be able to understand us well we too, must learn to use symbols wisely.
When John the Baptist and Jesus used symbols in their preaching/teaching, did they choose things that the people knew very well?
It is necessary, therefore, to be sure that the people you are talking to know the symbols you choose very well. If they do not, it will be very hard for them to see how the two things are alike. Instead of making your message easier for them to understand you will, in-fact, make it harder for them.
Now think of symbols you would use to represent each of the following:
A new believer?
A person growing in their faith?
A person who is hardened against the Gospel?
I hope that this lesson has helped you to appreciate some of the many symbols that have been used by God’s people to explain their message. You should begin to look for symbols when you read the Bible. Study the way symbols are used and what they represent and then apply what you have learned to your own life and ministry.
Fifty-six times in the Bible the word almighty is used….
Built into absolute power is the authority to use it. God not only has the power but He has the authority to do anything He wants to do. While God can do anything He wants to do, however, His will is totally consistent with His nature. That’s why, for example, He cannot lie and will not tolerate sin. It is also why He shows grace and mercy. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Have you ever asked the question, “Why did God do this?” He did it because He wanted to. If this doesn’t seem like a sufficient answer to you, it’s because you don’t understand God….
We worship an unchanging, all powerful God. If that makes Him seem far beyond your ability to comprehend, that is good. If you think of God as someone simple enough for the human mind to understand, your god is not the true God.
What is your concept of God? Do you see Him as a timeless, infinite, all-powerful, unchanging, glorious being? Or do you, like many, tend to minimize God’s greatness, preferring to think of Him as one who may be manipulated or fooled by human hypocrisy, or one who may be mandated to do what we want? Such a view of God is utterly pagan.
A vision of the steadfastness of our immutable God brings a sense of security and stability to our unsettled lives. And the understanding that His power is unlimited and undiminishing strengthens and encourages even the weakest believer. The natural response to that is praise and adoration that overflows in a life that worships.
(From The Ultimate Priority by John MacArthur, Jr.)
God demonstrated, powerfully and dramatically, his superiority to all other areas that influence our lives. Is your God too small. Take a moment to pray as you contemplate God’s almighty power. Ask him to help you realize his greatness and worship him.
The Baptism of Jesus
After you complete this unit you should be able to:
Tell what was the first act of Jesus’ public ministry and explain the relationship between the baptism of Jesus and his death on the cross.
We have talked about the first of the three episodes from the Year of Preparation which are found in Matthew’s Gospel. That episode is about the ministry of John the Baptist, the messenger at the King. The other two episodes are are about the Lord Jesus Christ. What are they? a. b..
Both episodes, the baptism and the temptation, teach us a lot about the personality of Jesus Christ and the perfect balance between His two natures. We are now going to study the act with which Jesus began his public ministry. What was that act?
We also learned that Jesus Christ is Unique in the whole universe because He has two natures (divine and human) and one personalities.
His baptism teach us the same truths about Jesus’ personality as does His birth. It says again that He is the only one who can save us.
Hebrews 2:17 shows us that in order to be able to pay the penalty for the sins of men, (that is to say, to save us), the perfect Son of God had to be made like His fellowmen in every respect.
On other words, in order to save us from sin, Jesus had to identify Himself completely with mankind.
With what act did the perfect Son of Man identify Himself with mankind at the beginning of His ministry? Read Matthew 3:13.
Now reread the account in Matthew 3:13-17.
Read Matthew 9:12-13.
Who and why did Jesus want to identify Himself so closely with sinners?
Every-time we explain to someone the importance of Jesus baptism we should point out that it was an act of identification of the perfect Son of Man with man, even in their
The Bible teaches us that the wages of sin is death. When Jesus identified Himself with the sins of mankind in His baptism, He knew that it was the beginning of the road which would lead Him to death on the Cross of Calvary.
Did Christ sin? Read 1 Peter 2:22.
Then what was it that Jesus bore in His own body on the cross and caused Him to die? Read 1 Peter 2:24.
In Mark 10:38, Jesus uses two symbols to represent His death on the cross. The first was the cup He had to drink. What was the second symbol?
In both His baptism and His death Jesus identified Himself with the sin of mankind even though He did not have any sin Himself.
The baptism of Jesus marked the beginning of His path toward the cross. In his baptism, Christ identified Himself with our sins and it was for our sins that He finally died. Well then… Satan wanted at all costs to stop Jesus from finishing His work and saving men. Notice carefully how Satan, at the very moment of Jesus baptism tempted Him to pass it by and not involve himself with the sins of men. Read Matthew 3;14.
The first time Satan tempted Jesus not to get involved with men he did not do it directly. This would later in the temptation of Jesus described in Matthew 4. Rather, he approached Christ through a great man of God who did not think himself worthy to baptize the Lord. This man of God was the.
His baptism also prove to us that Jesus Christ is truly God. According to Matthew 3:17, what proof of Jesus divinity was given at His baptism?
Notice very carefully that, at this wonderful moment at the very start of Jesus’ work all three persons of the trinity took part. In the next few lessons we will be making a careful study of the doctrine of the Trinity.
When Jesus identified Himself completely with mankind, He committed Himself to fight against Satan using only the same two weapons God had placed within the reach of every other man. Thus, as a true men, He won the victory. These two weapons are the spirit of God and the word of God-Read Matthew 3:16-17. How were each of these shown? (1)(2)
It is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? God identifying Himself with sinful men so that He might deliver them from their sin. There is a principle here which ought to be part of our ministries, Too. Jesus identified himself with men in order to be able to reach them without taking part in sin.
Take a few moments to prepare a list of ways in which you think we can identity ourselves with those we want to reach with the Gospel.
The Life of Jesus Christ in You
At this point in your training and career you should be considering leading someone to Christ. We will cover that in the sessions coming up. But once they have been led to Christ, they need to grow spiritually from a spiritual infancy. We will be starting a series The Life of Jesus Christ in You. This series purpose to provide you with information to use in helping a spiritual infant grow.
The New Birth
Read these beautiful words which are found in the Bible, in a book called John:
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12).
Unfortunately, there are people who say they believe in Jesus but who show by their way of life that this is not true. It is not enough just to say we believe in Jesus. To be a child of God we must also: Jesus as our Savior and Lord.
When we receive the Lord Jesus and believe in him we become members of the Family of God. God himself is our Father. So, it is said that you were born again as a member of a new family. Receiving Jesus and believing in him iis just like being born a second time. This is why your experience is called a New Birth.
This New Birth close not only allow you to enter a new family. You now have within you a new life. It is the life of Jesus Christ himself. This is the Abundant Life that we will bee studying in these lessons.
Now read come more words from the Bible.
“Praise be to God… In his great mercy he has given us a new birth.” (1 Peter 1:3)
God is faithful and always keeps his promises. If it all depends upon God, and not on you or upon others, which of the following attitudes should be yours? (Mark two)
One day while on a brisk hike, he had stopped to look out from the mountains across the neighboring dessert. He felt strangely pulled to the sweeping barrenness that lay before him. The next day he paused again. And the next, and the next. “Shouldn’t someone try to take life to the desert?” Slowly the flicker in his heart became a flame.
The first few days his steps were springy and his eye was keen he yearned to do his part to bring life to the desert. Then came the heat. The scorpions. The monotony. The snakes. Slowly, the fire diminished. And now … the storm. The relentless, cursed cold.
Deep, deep is the struggle. No longer can he hear the voices of friends. Long gone is the romance of his mission. No longer does he float on the fancifulness of a dream.
“Maybe someone else should do this. I’m too young, too inexperienced.” The winds of discouragement and fear whip at his fire, exhausting what is left of the flame. But the coals remain, hidden and hot.
The hiker, now almost the storm’s victim, looks one last time for the fire. (Is there any greater challenge than of stirring a spirit while in the clutches of defeat?) Yearning and clawing, the temptation to quit is gradually overcome by the urge to go on. Blowing on the coals, the hiker once again hears the call to the desert. Though faint, the call is clear.
With all the strength he can summon, the hiker rises to his feet, bows his head, and takes his first step into the wind.
(From On the Anvil by Max Lucado)
God cares for his servants both in moments of triumph and defeat. He remains present with those who trust Him. Are you facing a life challenge? Are you discouraged and wondering why circumstances have suddenly taken a turn for the worst? Where is God? Run to God to help you! Everywhere, anytime, God has resources to help you.
BORN: June 28, 1914
DIED: November 2, 1982
LIFE SPAN: 68 years, 4 months, 5 days
A MODERN-DAY PROPHET, and remembered well by many still liv-
ing, Lester Roloff in the last years of his life had become a
symbol and example to all who believe man ought to obey God
rather than men. Until his death in an airplane crash in
1982, he was engaged in a battle against some of the forces
of the State of Texas, primarily the Welfare Department–that
would silence or greatly curtail his ministry if they could.
The irony of it all is that he had done nothing but help
change lives of countless youngsters who had nobody else to
help them. It is hard to believe that the story you are now
going to read could happen in America.
Roloff was born on a farm ten miles south of Dawson,
Texas, to Christian parents. He was saved in a little country
church called Shiloh Baptist when about twelve, in a revival
in July, 1926, under the ministry of John T. Taylor. High
school was completed in Dawson. Reared on a farm he took his
milk cow and went off to Baylor University in 1933 and milked
his way through college. He graduated in 1937 with an A.B.
While at Baylor he was far from idle. He started
pastoring among the Southern Baptists in a succession of
pastorates. First was the Prairie Grove Mills Baptist Church
in Navarro County where he had 67 converted in a revival to
begin things. He also preached at his hometown church at
Shiloh which was located outside of Dawson. Then he preached
a revival at the First Baptist Church of Purden, Texas, and
had 143 additions baptizing some 100 of them. This led to his
call there while he retained the ministry at Navarro Mills.
This latest venture happened his last year in college.
Roloff went on to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth
for three years, 1937 to 1940, while he maintained his minis-
try at Purden, going then to the First Baptist Church of
Trinidad, Texas, his last year in seminary.
He married Marie Brady on August 10, 1936, at the
First Baptist Church of Galveston, Texas. They had two daugh-
ters, Elizabeth, born June 20, 1937, and Pamela Kay, an
From 1941 to 1944 he pastored the Magnolia Park Bap-
tist Church in Houston, Texas, which had great crowds and
much blessing. He was president of the local pastor’s confer-
ence during some of this time.
In 1944 he went to Corpus Christi where he spent the
rest of his life. The Park Avenue Baptist Church extended a
call to him, where he went in March 1944. On October 15,
1944, the church burned, and later property was purchased in
another location of town and the church became known as the
Second Baptist Church–which he pastored from 1944 to 1951
with some 3,300 additions during this time. A branch mission
church was started, called the West Heights Baptist Church.
Roloff began a radio ministry on May 8, 1944, with
his Family Altar Program, first broadcast over a 250-watt
station locally. Soon it was on more than 22 stations, ap-
proximately 65 hours per week. By the early 1980s, it was
broadcasting on more than 150 stations nationally. Some of
the broadcasts were 15 minutes in length, some one-half hour.
Starting on the small KEYS station, the program had
an interesting history. Roloff was kicked off the radio ten
months after he started–his fight against liquor being a
prime reason. The next day he started to broadcast on KWBU, a
50,000-watt station where he held fort for eight years. In
1954 the managers of KWBU decided to remove him because he
was a controversial figure. Some businessmen bought the sta-
tion, and he was again on the air for a year. But not for
long. The new managers, like today, were “ratings” minded,
and felt some more popular programs would bring in more
listeners and more revenue. That squeezed Roloff’s program
off the air once again. However, within one year, the owners
of the station lost more than $70,000.
By this time, Roloff decided to try to buy the sta-
tion and asked how much they wanted. The answer was $300,000,
and Roloff didn’t have a dime. However, with the help of God
and the money of friends, $25,000 was put down as earnest
money with $100,000 needed 90 days later. He had all the re-
quired funds–short of $7,250–on the last day. By the last
hour, he was still short $250, but 45 minutes before the 2
p.m. deadline it was all there! Others of course became stock
holders and owned the station, but Roloff was the vehicle
used to get it in the right hands. After Roloff bought the
station, it changed its call letters to KCIA.
Roloff founded the Park Avenue Christian Day School
in 1946. The school even now operates a kindergarten and con-
tinues through upper grades. His headquarters continue at the
Park Avenue Day School, located on the property of the former
Park Avenue Church.
In April 1951 he resigned as pastor at Second Baptist
Church to enter full-time evangelism. He founded the Roloff
Evangelistic Enterprises, a non-profit organization which
sponsors many projects of faith. In May 1955 he printed his
first issue of Faith Enterprise, a quarterly publication ded-
icated to the salvation of lost souls and strengthening
In August of 1954, with convictions about being inde-
pendent of the Southern Baptist Convention or any other
denominational influence, he founded a church in Corpus
Christi which was to be called the Alameda Baptist Church. He
and four others put up $2,500 on ten and four-tenths acres of
ground, and it was organized with 126 members on October 24.
He pastored here until about 1961.
On March 13, 1956, Roloff stood in Waco Hall, in
Waco, Texas, and spoke to more than 2,000, giving his swan
song to Baylor University. He stated all the issues in no un-
Other ministries soon developed. Roloff described at
least six major ministries that he became responsible for:
Thirty years ago, we started the Good Samaritan Res-
cue Mission that is still in operation. More than twenty
years ago, the CITY OF REFUGE was started in an old Quonset
hut given by Dr. Logan and put together by alcoholics at
Lexington, Texas. The City of Refuge is now located in
Culloden, Georgia, on 273 acres of an old antebellum home
with lovely dormitories for men and women.
The LIGHTHOUSE houseboat was built by Brother E.A.
Goodman and taken down the Intracoastal Canal in 1958. On the
way down, a boy fell off and went under this boat and missed
the propeller. He was rescued by an unsaved boy who was going
down to the Lighthouse for help, and one of our preacher
boys, Bob Smith, who is now a missionary. This is where Bill
Henderson, Ricky Banning and many others found God’s will for
their lives. We have preacher boys that come to the
Lighthouse now studying for the ministry in other Christian
schools. I have just dealt with three eighteen-year-old boys
in Corpus Christi within the last week who are drug addicts.
The Lighthouse is located forty miles down the Intracoastal
Canal from Corpus Christi and it can only be reached by plane
or by boat.
The PEACEFUL VALLEY HOME for our older retired Chris-
tian friends is the prayer place. It is located near Mission
and Edinburg, Texas, with many acres of citrus fruit and
lovely vegetables that are grown there, in the midst of a lot
of nice weather. This home is just for Christians who want to
retire in a lovely place and still be of service to others.
It began in 1969.
The ANCHOR HOME FOR BOYS with three big two-story
buildings for dormitories, a cafeteria, gymnasium, shop
building and dining room, is located at Zapata, Texas. It has
a capacity of nearly three hundred.
The BETHESDA HOME FOR GIRLS in Hattiesburg, Missis-
sippi, is for girls in trouble. It is a very beautiful home,
located on Blue Lake, for both pregnant and delinquent girls.
It has made many friends and received a warm welcome in
The REBEKAH HOME FOR GIRLS, located in Corpus
Christi, Texas, is our largest home. We have had fifteen hun-
dred girls in about seven years and the three dormitories
have a capacity of about three hundred beds. It is located on
440 acres of land. This has been the most miraculous work we
have ever seen and has been fought and despised by the devil.
I have never seen such miracles in all of my ministry.
The REBEKAH CHRISTIAN ACADEMY is the school for the
Rebekah Home. It has a beautiful two-story air-conditioned
building with the finest of equipment.
From 1961 to 1973 Roloff was developing these varied
enterprises, and ministering as an evangelist in many
churches, plus carrying on his radio ministry. He was an ex-
perienced pilot, having flown about 12,000 hours in his 1966
Queen Air that a friend helped him to get, and also his 1968
Cessna Skywagon that was used for Lighthouse work, which
could land on the beach with people and provisions. These
planes belonged to the Enterprises and had their own mechanic
and radio men to maintain them and help fly them. Roloff
landed his plane at least four times on one engine, and in
unusual places such as a highway. His flying lessons began in
His themes through the years had been Christ Is the
Answer and Now the Just Shall Live by Faith.
The last of his varied works of good will–which, by
the way, made no charges for those they helped, was the
Rebekah Home in Corpus Christi, which was the scene of con-
troversy during his remaining years–and, in fact, still is.
This was founded in 1967 along with the People’s Church, a
place where girls in trouble could get worship as they got
straightened out. This school specialized in taking cases
other agencies and homes refused to take. And no wonder–
Roloff got results. He ran his schools by Bible directives
and naturally got Bible results–changed lives. Over
$3,000,000 were tied up in the Rebekah project alone.
In September, 1970, the Gulf Coast storm Celia hit,
but miraculously did not touch the Lighthouse, nor their
home, although severe damage was almost everywhere else. In
1971 their homes were filled to capacity, and they had to
start turning people away. In May, 1972, the Roloffs moved
into their lovely, large new home on the acreage where the
Rebekah Home and other buildings were already located. An-
other 118 acres of land was purchased. It had a runway on it
for their plane, and they could farm some of the remaining
acres. During the summer of 1972, workers built another big
two-story building, which became the Rebekah Christian
At the close of 1972 they had four days of dedication
for the following new items: chapel at the Intracoastal Ca-
nal; their new home; the land adjoining the Enterprises prop-
erty; a big new boys’ home at Zapata, Texas; five new units
at the Peaceful Valley Home; the high two-story dormitory at
the Rebekah Home; the two-story Rebekah School; and the Peo-
ple’s Church, which is nearly two blocks long.
The battle with the State of Texas developed ironi-
cally out of one of the most compassionate ministries done
anywhere. Rebekah Home was founded as a place to help girls
in trouble by giving them the answer–which is Christ. A
Dallas probation officer attests to the fact the place to
send young people in trouble is Roloff’s work. Children re-
jected elsewhere were welcomed with open arms and a book
could be written, telling of the amazing changed lives. Some
of the young men from the Lighthouse have married some of the
girls from Rebekah Home (“the bumblebees meeting the
The talk of licensing began in 1971. This threatened
to shut the work down, unless they conformed to rules and
regulations that would have greatly increased the cost of the
operation without improving on what they were doing. Roloff’s
legal problems began in April, 1973, when the state Welfare
Department filed a suit in an attempt to have his Rebekah
Home licensed. Had Roloff agreed to do this, he would then
have had to follow Welfare Department guidelines, which would
have been totally alien to Bible principles and the philoso-
phy upon which the girls’ home was founded. Roloff had no de-
sire to fight the Welfare Department or put them out of busi-
ness, but simply wanted this unconstitutional interference to
stop. It was government interference with religion. “Licens-
ing a church home is as unnecessary and wrong as licensing a
church,” Roloff contended. At issue was the constitutional
principle of separation of church and state.
If licensed, the home would have been required to
hire a home supervisor who holds a degree in social work and
who is approved by the Welfare Department. That supervisor
would be required to complete an additional fifteen hours of
college level social studies every two years. Not only that
but the home would be required to file financial reports reg-
ularly with the state Welfare Department. The home would also
have to hire one state-approved worker for every eight girls.
The home would also be forced to serve foods from a menu pre-
pared by the Welfare Department. The Welfare Department also
objected to Bible discipline, which would have to be elimi-
nated. (Translation: no spanking or other corporal punish-
ment.) One could readily see that Roloff would not be running
the home he gave birth to, so naturally he chose to fight
this invasion of privacy. When the welfare officials ap-
peared, he asked them what they wanted. When they presented
new rules he simply took out his Bible and told them he was
satisfied with God’s rules.
On August 3, 1973, an injunction was signed, in which
Roloff was enjoined from operating a child care institution
without a license for those under sixteen years of age. On
October 5, 1973, a district judge heard the case and fined
Roloff $500 and $80 in court costs for contempt of court when
he refused welfare guidelines. With Roloff refusing to have
the home licensed, the Welfare Department leveled charges of
brutality against the home, based upon the testimony of a few
of the girls. This adverse publicity was widespread. It was
found that, of the 1,500 girls who had spent time at Rebekah
Home, fewer than a dozen could be found who would testify
against it. One set of parents were found willing to testify
for the Welfare Department. None of the 1,490 who were helped
or thankful for the home or their parents were consulted.
Finally, on January 31, 1974, the case went to court
again in Corpus Christi and Roloff was found guilty–fined
$5,400 and sentenced to five days in the county jail on con-
tempt of court charges. The court also ordered him to “purge
the home,” which would mean to “dump the girls into the
street.” On February 4th he was given the opportunity to
present his argument on the constitutionality of state li-
censing of a church-operated home before the Provisions Com-
mittee of the Texas State Senate. What was to have been a
five-minute presentation blossomed into a three-hour session
when the senators began questioning Roloff on the accomplish-
ments and problems of Rebekah Home. His jail term was limited
to one day, February 12, pending appeal to the Texas State
Supreme Court, and the fine was stayed as well, pending ap-
peal. He was released from jail on a writ of habeas corpus.
On March 24, 1974, Roloff and his attorneys appeared
before the nine judges of the State Supreme Court of Texas in
a hearing to determine if a discharge of the charges could be
obtained. This request was made on the grounds that the judg-
ment was ambiguous and unclear in that it does not define
what age constitutes a child or children. The former policy
was that individuals up to age sixteen were considered chil-
dren, but a recent state attorney general’s ruling stated a
person to be a child up to age eighteen. Questions were also
raised in the minds of the judges as to what constituted a
child-care home. Answers were unclear from the Welfare De-
partment and, in one instance, contradictory. The high court
agreed that children sixteen or over could be cared for by
Roloff and as a result overturned the contempt of court char-
ges May 20, 1974. Roloff received the news May 29, while at
Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, receiving
an award “for those who have made special contributions to
the defense of the faith.” The Austin decision of the Supreme
Court, however, did not end the fight.
The Welfare Department has since been adamant in get-
ting the under eighteen years of age law declared as needing
a welfare license. Roloff continued to help girls of any age
who came to him for help. He estimated that, while he could
not actively recruit for the younger ages, would there be no
harassment, he could handle up to 700 young people over
against his approximate 200 who were then cared for.
To illustrate the problem, two girls, aged 13 and 15,
ran away after two warnings for other offenses. They were
told they would be spanked for the next violation. They were
found four days later in a locked bar. They had spent this
time with ten men and had a woeful story to tell. Roloff kept
his word and spanked them. Word got out about the incident
and Roloff was served a summons for child abuse. At the hear-
ing the girls admitted the offenses and the spankings. The
judge declared Roloff could keep them until the trial. Roloff
refused until the judge would ask them a question as to where
they would like to go–back to Roloff or to some alternate
arrangement. Hugging their “daddy” with great affection they
said they wanted to be with Brother Roloff.
By March, 1975, the Texas Welfare Department had
filed against Roloff again for contempt and for being in vio-
lation of their rules and regulations. The Rebekah Home now
housed only 200 girls, half of what they had previously when
forced to close. Even more tragic was that they turned away
3,000 during the legal problems.
A legislative bill slipped through the Texas State
Senate on March 13, 1975, clearly aimed, many people felt, at
outlawing the Roloff homes and work. It passed through the
Texas House of Representatives in May, 1975. In June another
court order was issued whereby they would be held in further
contempt if they did not allow inspection of the premises of
their homes. They allowed the inspections, having nothing to
On July 4 and 5, 1975, a great rally was held in Gar-
land and Dallas, Texas, where hundreds of people gathered to
join in the battle, with such as Jack Hyles and Bob Jones,
III, addressing the crowds. On July 25, shortly thereafter,
the Lighthouse dormitory burned to the ground. Later, a tall
boy got saved and confessed to setting the fire.
By January 1, 1976, the new guidelines by the Welfare
Department became law, making it illegal for unlicensed homes
to take in children under the age of eighteen. In May, 1976,
a judge order instructed Roloff Enterprises to allow state
welfare workers to inspect the homes. This time Roloff re-
fused. On June 3 a great rally with some 400 people was held
in Austin, preceding Roloff’s court appearance to fight state
licensing. Again he was put in jail on June 21. He was re-
leased June 25, just prior to his 62nd birthday. He was fined
$1,750 also. In the fall of 1976 a final ruling was laid
down, giving him freedom until the Supreme Court of the
United States would hear the case.
On November 1, 1977, a great freedom rally was held
at the convention center in Dallas. Great crowds came, in-
cluding over 1,500 preachers, and public sentiment again
swelled for Roloff. Nearly a year later, on October 2, 1978,
the United States Supreme Court ruled against hearing the
case from Corpus Christi. Attorney General John Hill of Texas
said the case was frivolous, and the justices must have be-
lieved it. Appearing on the nationwide CBS television program
60 Minutes with Mike Wallace on October 22, 1978, gave Roloff
some favorable national coverage long overdue. Then, on No-
vember 7, this same thorn-in-the-flesh, John Hill, was de-
feated in his bid for governor of Texas by William Clements
in a very close election. Clements indicated he would use his
powers to free Roloff from all charges.
It seems that even now, a decade later, Roloff’s
case, still in litigation, is being considered a test case by
many. What happens may determine the ultimate status of many
On the morning of November 2, 1982, Lester Roloff
donned his pilot’s clothing and boarded his Cessna Skywagon
for the last time, on his way to a preaching engagement at
the Calvary Baptist Church of Kansas City, Missouri. With him
were three members of his men’s quartet and an assistant. Ap-
proximately one hundred miles north of Houston, at 10:00
a.m., the plane disappeared off radar screens. There was much
stormy weather in the area. The wreckage of the aircraft was
later found by sheriff’s deputies. All five aboard were
killed when the craft smashed into the ground.
Though shocked and stunned at the sudden home-going
of their founder and other close associates, the Roloff
Enterprises vowed to continue the fight. Lester Roloff’s per-
sonal battle was over, but legal battles continue to this
day. Currently, the Rebekah Home has been closed, and the
Lighthouse has not been allowed to reopen after
reconstruction. Two other homes remain open.
Perhaps justice will still be meted out.