Friday, April 29, 2011

Tough Verses for Women – 1 Tim 2:11-14

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (ESV)


The world cries foul when they read these verses. They claim that Christianity, and especially Paul, relegate women to second place or worse status. Many pastors and Bible teachers cry fowl because they are chickens when it comes to addressing these passages. I would also like to skip this passage as well. However, I also think there is a lot of bad teaching and misunderstanding when it comes to this issue. So, I’ll see what else the Bible says and try to draw my conclusions from it rather than what the world wants me to say.

Women in Authority

The whole Bible must be kept in view whenever we deal with any passage but especially when the passage is difficult. Starting in the Old Testament, I would like to show how God used women in authoritative roles.

Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, was described as a prophetess. She also led worship in Ex 15:20. As you read the accounts of the exodus from Egypt and the wandering in the desert, you can see that Miriam was a respected leader even after sinning and seeking a better position (Num 12).

Judg 4:4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. (NKJV) The judges in Israel at this time heard legal cases, both secular and religious, and pronounced rulings. Deborah was certainly in a position of authority. She was also a prophetess, and as such, spoke for God. In verse six, she commands Barak to go into battle based on God’s Word to her. There is nothing in this account that would indicate that she deferred to any man in making decisions or hearing from God. While her husband is mentioned, she is the main character. After the battle, she leads in singing a song of victory along with Barak.

There were other prophetesses mentioned in the Bible. The priests during the reign of Josiah went to the prophetess, Huldah, to find out what God had in store for Judah (2 Kings 22:14). Isaiah’s wife was a prophetess (Isa 8:3). The prophetess, Anna (Luke 2:36), was selected to speak about Jesus when He was dedicated at the temple. Luke 2:38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (RSV) Note that she spoke to all, not just to women but also men. Then Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9). Paul visited them on his way to Jerusalem and, for some reason, Luke added this information about the daughters. Was it superfluous information or did the Holy Spirit have him add it so that we would know that women who Paul knew were active in the early church as prophetesses?

To be fair, there were also a couple of prophetesses who were evil. Noadiah opposed Nehemiah (Neh 6:14) and Jezebel was a self-proclaimed prophetess whom Jesus rebuked (Rev 2:20).

My conclusion is that not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New, there is ample evidence that God uses women in authoritative positions. He has used them to speak openly to both men and women and lead in worship.

Women’s Equality

At one time, God made a distinction between His people and the rest of the world. There were Jews and everyone else. In the Old Testament, we would be called the uncircumcised. We non-Jews are referred to as Gentiles or Greeks in the New Testament. Eph 2:11-13 Don't forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called "uncircumcised heathens" by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. (NLT) We are now dealing with culture and how Jesus cuts through culture. By faith in Jesus, we are now part of God’s family and in equal standing with any Jewish believer. Jesus has brought all of us to God.

In the temple, a wall divided the courts so that Gentiles were separated from Jews. Jewish men and women were also separated. Jesus has torn down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles and men and women. Gal 3:26-28 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (NIV) We are all one in Christ! It doesn’t matter what sex we are or our ethnic or economic background. This is an amazing fact. It stands out above all other things. It is something that must be grasped and believed when we look at what else the Bible says about the way we worship or teach. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom. However, does this mean then, that we all have the same authority in the church?

God’s Authority Structure

God has established an authority structure in the church. It may or may not be the same as people have instituted in denominations, but He has one. First is that Christ is the head. Eph 1:22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. (NLT) If Christ is the head of the church, then who comes next? 1 Cor 11:3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (NASB) Woops, I hear the protests already. But this is God’s Word. Is this an isolated idea that is only proclaimed by Paul or in one verse? No, it was established long before Paul and is upheld by Peter.

The structure of authority is a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Because Eve was the first to sin and then brought Adam into it, God pronounce the consequences of the sin as was fitting to each person’s involvement. Gen 3:16 To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." (NKJV) Before sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve were most likely equals in every sense. They were naked and unashamed. They didn’t appear to have any conflict; they were one with God and there was no apparent need for one to be in authority over the other. Some could argue otherwise because Eve was taken from Adam but Scripture doesn’t say anything one way or another. Part of the curse for Eve is to have a desire for her husband. Many people say that this means she will have a desire to rule over her husband but God puts Adam’s rule over her. Eve is the pattern for all women after the fall who are without Christ. This is the reason that Paul and Peter affirm the authority structure in the home and in the church. See Eph 5:22-24, Col 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6.

Women Restricted or Not

In the Corinthian church, there were many problems. They were factious, worldly, and out of control. Most of the book of first Corinthians is Paul trying to bring them back to order. They were not the highly educated and influential people of Corinth (1 Cor 1:26). Because of this, I think women were generally even less educated and if is possible many may have even been illiterate. Women’s poor educational level may have been the norm in most of the churches, which may explain why Paul wrote these instructions: 1 Cor 14:33-35 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (NIV) I can only conclude that Paul had to clamp down on women simply because they were coming up with ideas that were leading into disorder, were not accurate, or were interrupting the meetings with off the wall questions. I’m assuming here, that the churches were house churches and not large congregations. They were more like a small Bible study group. Instead of providing instruction to the whole group, the leaders were spending too much time answering these questions and getting the meetings back on track. I’m sure we’ve all been in small groups where the study has been derailed by someone, whether a man or a woman. Unfortunately, it appears that women were doing most of this.

Now the question is whether or not women should still be restricted in today’s churches since they are more educated. In both 1 Tim 2:12 and 1 Cor 14:34, Paul instructs women to be silent in the church, which I’m interpreting to mean the smaller group meetings. I believe this is supported by Paul’s instruction that they should ask their husband at home. However, consider this verse. 1 Cor 11:5a But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head; (NASB) It tells me that even with Paul’s command for women to be silent, he doesn’t restrict them from prophesying in the church otherwise the covering would not be an issue if it were in private. Paul is not restricting women from paying or prophesying in church but from disrupting the services. That’s why he says God is a God of peace and not disorder. Women who prophesy in church are restricted just as men are. 1 Cor 14:29 says that two or three prophets (men or women) should speak and everyone should weigh what they say.

In one sense, women are restricted in the church. Paul made it clear that they are not to have authority over a man or be in a position to teach men. Paul goes back to Genesis and the fall to justify this. According to Paul, women are more prone to being deceived by Satan and led away from the truth than are men. As I stated above, this is the reason God has established His authority structure. I know that there are many churches and organizations that get around this by having a man as a senior pastor or director who is the authority. Since God has demonstrated His use of women in authoritative positions in the past, this seems to be the best way to be in submission to His Word and have gifted women minister.

Saved in Childbirth

Beats me what this means. It could be a reference to Genesis where women are inflicted with pain in childbirth and Paul is affirming that they will survive that if they follow the authority structure God has established and live godly lives. This doesn’t track with observations. Godly women have died in childbirth and it will continue to happen. The reverse is not true either. Godless women who want to usurp men’s role in the church don’t all die when they give birth. If that were true then only Christian women would survive childbirth and the world’s population would plummet. I’ll need to look for a better explanation.

I also don’t think it means that if women have lots of kids, they will be saved from hell. That just goes against all other Scripture that affirms we are saved by faith.

Some commentaries say that this means that the human race is saved because Jesus was born of a woman. But that doesn’t make sense. When Paul wrote this, Jesus had already been born, died for our sins, and raised from the dead proving that He is God and our sins are forgiven.

Perhaps this means that even if a woman dies in childbirth, she will go to heaven when she has faith in Jesus and that faith is demonstrated to be true by her love, holiness, and propriety. Perhaps Paul is reassuring women that salvation is the same for them as it is for men, in spite of the different authority structure God has established. Lacking a better explanation, I’ll stick with this.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are Your Clothes the Best? – 1 Tim 2:9-11

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. (NASB)

Just as Paul had some concise words about men and praying he want the women to consider his instructions under the same umbrella as his instructions to men. The key words Paul had to the men were, everywhere, holy, without wrath and doubting (dissension). These same things must be applied to his instructions to women. Men should also pay attention to these verses and apply them as well.

Everywhere

This doesn’t apply to a few women in only some cultures, but women everywhere. In the past, Christian missionaries have been criticized because the first thing they did when encountering native cultures was to insist that the women cover up bare tops. The criticism is partly justified because they were trying to enforce Christian principles on people who were not Christians. Some would still argue that even after conversion to Christianity, we shouldn’t tell the women to cover up because that is a western cultural thing. I have to disagree otherwise Paul would have made a distinction. We have to remember that this is Scripture meaning that this is not just Paul’s personal agenda, it is God’s instruction to us.

I think that when a Christian woman visits another culture, she should be aware of what proper clothing is and abide by that. One of our home Bible study ladies visited a country where the women wore long ankle length skirts but also had bare midriffs. The local men paid no attention to the bare midriffs but were drawn to stare at the foreign women who showed their lower legs. I would think that in that culture, a Christian would want to cover both legs and midriff to be on the safe side.

Holiness

Holiness is what Paul wanted when he gave these instructions on dress as they relate to modesty and discretion. When it comes to these, Christian women in the western world are rapidly getting out of line. Clothing has long been an indicator of a person’s inward holiness or lack of it. Prov 7:10 Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (NIV) It was obvious in that culture that a harlot dressed provocatively. The same is true in ours. Some women bear so much of themselves when they go to church, that you wonder how much more they expose themselves when they are not among other Christians. I read letters in the advice columns about how sloppy or brazen women are dressing in the workplace. Unfortunately, the world is influencing women more than is the Word of God. Consider what God thinks of a woman who lacks discretion. Prov 11:22 As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion. (NKJV)

So, ladies, if you want to be holy, or believe that you are holy, it should show up in the way you dress, with modesty and discretion.

Dissension

On the other hand, you can get legalistic and extreme, as some sects have done. They prohibit any makeup, wear drab high-necked, long-sleeved, ankle length dress. They have long hair that is bundled on their heads, never braided, or cut short. If their hearts are in the right place, I can’t argue with them. Well meaning people who dress modestly, but not to extremes, have no room to ridicule those who are being extremely modest because of conscience. 1 Cor 8:9 Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (RSV )

Anger

Problems with clothing are not only about how much is being covered or uncovered, but it is also about showing off or being competitive. Some people can get angry when another outdoes them in style. The braided hair issue isn’t so much about the way your hair looks, but how much time you spend trying to make it look better than someone else’s. It is the same with wearing much jewelry and expensive clothes. Why do any of us, men or women, feel the need to have the most expensive clothes and a lot of gold hanging around or necks or wrists? What satisfaction do we get when we have better apparel than our neighbors or church members? Does a five-karat diamond ring mean that your marriage is better than someone who has a ¼-karat ring or even a simple gold band? Perhaps having the fancy attire is demonstrating to the world how successful we are.

Doubting

Doubting can also be a reason some resort to fancy adornment. We often doubt that Jesus is sufficient to satisfy us. Many seek security and satisfaction in outward looks. However, they only provide temporary satisfaction until the next style comes out or someone else gets something better. Matt 6:19-21 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NKJV) In our world, we also have new fashions, the next upgrade of electronics as well as tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis in addition to moths and thieves. How we adorn ourselves reveals where our hearts are. Are we seeking satisfaction in the things of the world or where we will spend eternity? Are we so concerned with our own security in this temporary world that we neglect saving for the real future? Or is the real problem that we don’t really believe that we should make heaven our priority?

The Right Adornment

In keeping with this thought, Paul urges us to adorn ourselves with good deeds. If we profess to worship God, then this is what we should be doing. He may be addressing women in this passage but it isn’t limited to women. In Eph 2:10, he said that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. This includes anyone who knows Christ. Our claim to worship God is demonstrated in what we do for others.

Gal 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (NKJV) It is possible to grow weary with all the natural disasters, persecuted Christians, and poverty in the world. It is possible to look at all the suffering and think that our little contribution isn’t worth much or won’t go far. If we neglect to do anything, what will the Master say when He returns? He has given each of us certain resources (material, skill, wisdom), some more than others. According to the parable of the talents in Matt 25:14-30, we will be rewarded when we use whatever we have for Him, whether it is a little or a lot. That reward is being stored up in heaven for us. We don’t want to lose it because we grew weary in doing good or because we were more concerned with our own desire to have better clothes or other luxuries.

To keep from becoming weary in doing good, it might help to remember what Jesus gave up. 1 John 3:16-17 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? (RSV)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Pray – 1 Tim 2:8

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (NASB)


Praying Men

Paul previously urged Timothy to have prayers made for all men but especially for kings and people in authority. After reflection on the reasons for prayer – so that we can live quiet lives, that people will get saved and know the truth that Jesus is our only mediator with God – he continues the thought of prayer adding some important things. First of all, he is addressing men. This is not a generic request of men and women; he is speaking specifically to men. He has some specific instructions for women next. This doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t be praying or can’t apply this to themselves, but I think he had to address men because they were lacking in this area more than women were. It seems to me that this is still the case.

Most men are lacking in prayer. We do good job in public prayers but Paul is asking us to pray in every place, not just when there is a worship service and someone prays during the meeting. Matt 6:5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (NKJV) I fall into this trap all the time when I’m praying with others. I often pray hoping that what I say will sound spiritual and right to the others. I forget that I’m speaking to God and that the others are just listening. Even if I get past that trap, I then have a problem wanting to impress the others in how well I know what God wants me to pray – how spiritual I am. I generally don’t have a problem praying long prayers as some do. They can go on and on but that makes me want to be able to do the same. I feel spiritually inadequate to continue as they do. Then there are those that can lace their prayers quoting Scripture. I can easily become envious of the way others pray.

Have you ever prayed a sermon? This happens when I have heard another pray or say something before prayer that sounds a bit weird, completely wrong, or admit to a sin. I feel the need in my prayer to correct the other’s theology, rebuke, or instruct him in godly living when I pray. Am I any different from this Pharisee when I do this? Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” (RSV) I’ve missed the point of prayer.

Does anyone else have problems like this when you pray? Do you want your prayers to be right, do you want to impress others with your spirituality; do you envy the way others pray; do you want to correct others? I wouldn’t be surprised if many do. The problem is that when I’m praying with any of these attitudes, then I’m a hypocrite. I’ve lost my focus on my Father in heaven and have put it on me. I’m more concerned with me than I am with communicating with my Father.

Places of Prayer

Paul said that in all places we should be praying. As I looked up some cross references to this verse, I ran across some interesting places that people have prayed. In 2 Chron 33:11-13, Manasseh prayed in his distress as a captive in Assyria. There are multiple places in the Psalms where the writer calls out in distress. Jeremiah felt he was in the depth of the pit when he cried to the Lord in Lam 3:55-56. Jonah cried out from the belly of fish in Jonah 2:1-2. The thief on the cross prayed at that last minute in Luke 23:42. In each of these cases, God hears and delivers. The thief didn’t get physical rescue, but eternal rescue. Jeremiah was given comfort and Manasseh had his kingdom restored. God is good!

One problem that men often have is that we only pray from a place of distress as these verses demonstrate. While it is quite appropriate to call on the Lord in our distress, that should not be the only time. We also need to learn to call on the Lord when we are blessed or when we are worshiping. 2 Chron 6:12-42 is Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple. Or consider David’s prayer, Ps 141:4 Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. (NIV) As men, this may be one place where we don’t pray often enough, a place where we acknowledge our sinful hearts and ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations.

Of course, there are also physical places we can pray. Many are accustomed to pray only when they are in church while others may be so legalistic that they will only pray in private. Matt 6:6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (NKJV) I certainly don’t think that Jesus intended this to mean that we never have public or group prayers. I think of Peter when he was sinking. He didn’t hesitate to call for help and Jesus didn’t rebuke him and tell him to call out in private. We should be praying wherever we are, whether it is at home, at work, relaxing, or any other place.

Another way to look at places to pray is with others, especially with our families. This is probably another place where most men fail to pray. I’ve talked to men who simply will not pray with their wives because they don’t want to reveal how they are praying for their spouses. If you can’t tell your spouse what you have asked God for on her behalf, then you have a serious problem in your marriage that needs to be resolved.

Men also may not want to pray with their children because they may appear flawed, weak, or hypocritical. Instructing your young son or daughter how to pray for forgiveness when we have sinned against them can be very convicting.

Holy Hands

God says that He will not pay attention to the prayers of people who are sinning. Isa 1:15-17 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. (NKJV) This isn’t the case of an occasional sin but it is the habit and disposition of a person who is ignoring God’s clear direction in how to live.

What does it mean to have blood on my hands? Can I excuse myself because I haven’t killed anyone or maimed anyone? Jesus made it clear that this goes well beyond physically killing anyone. Matt 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (NIV) In this context, I have blood on my hands if I’m simply a person who is easily angered by another. If I’m so concerned about my rights and interests that I become angry when I don’t get my way or I’m inconvenienced or even insulted, then I am no different in God’s eyes as a murder. Saying “Raca” to someone was calling him worthless. Calling someone a fool calls into question his morality. In these verses, Jesus makes it clear that putting someone down in these ways is just as bad as murder. Angry, sarcastic, or verbally abusive people have blood on their hands.

When we entertain evil, we don’t have holy hands either. Doing evil is such a broad subject that God gave a few examples of how to do good. Note also, that He said we need to learn to do good. These things don’t come naturally. Our human nature is to do evil. Even after we come to Christ and have the Holy Spirit in us, we need to learn how to do good. We need to yield to the Holy Spirit and change our minds. Eph 4:23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (NIV)

We have to change our minds about justice. We can’t just seek justice with our old minds or it will lead to more injustice. We have to understand and know what God teaches about justice. He has filled the Bible with expressions of how to do it. In Isa 1:17 above, He provides three examples. Rebuke the oppressor or as other versions state, encourage the oppressed. This is more than just giving a handout to a person in need. It is developing ongoing ways to help those in need and finding ways of helping them rise above their circumstances.

Defend the fatherless, those who don’t have a voice in society to help themselves. Plead for the widow or those who have no means of supporting themselves. I would plead with those who are wealthy beyond measure when compared to most of the world but are so afraid of paying taxes that they are willing to oppress those on the lower rungs of society. Please be generous.

Certainly, there are some who take advantage of government programs. However, eliminating or severely cutting back on programs for this reason hurts many who have no other sources of help. When the Word says to seek justice and to pay taxes, how can I justify cutting taxes when the need is so great?

Without Wrath and Dissention

Obviously, there are going to be different opinions of how to bring about justice, how to be holy in this corrupt world. Paul’s final words in his command are to pray without anger and disputing. I can make my opinions known, but I must do it without anger. Each of us would think that those who oppose our views are evil and that our anger is righteous, but I doubt it. To refrain from getting angry, I need to remind myself what David did. Ps 37:7 Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. (NASB) Instead of becoming angry, I need to do what I can to relieve suffering and pain in the world. I continually need to tell people that God is in control and that when we fix our eyes on Jesus for our salvation, we will eventually see true justice.

When the majority establishes laws, I must go along with them unless it violates God’s commands and causes me to sin. I must support the government whether it is increasing taxes or cutting back on programs for the helpless. If I have the abilities and I’m called by God, I must work within the government or run for office. I certainly must examine the issues in view of God’s Word and vote with His worldview and not any of man’s worldviews.

Determining the difference between God’s worldview and man’s is probably the one thing that causes most of the dissention. I pray that someday we would all have the unity of the Spirit to be able to pray without dissention.