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Michal Zacharzewski / RGBstock

Michal Zacharzewski / RGBstock

Recognizing Equality

“Between the privileges of men and women there was a great disparity among the Jews. A man might shave his head, and rend his clothes in the time of mourning; a woman was not permitted to do so. A man might impose the vow of nasirate upon his son; a woman could not do this on her daughter. A man might be shorn on account of the nasirate of his father; a woman could not. A man might betroth his daughter; a woman had no such power. A man might sell his daughter; a woman could not. In many cases they were treated more like children than adults; and to this day are not permitted to assemble with the men in the synagogues, but are put up in galleries, where they can scarcely see, nor can they be seen. Under the blessed spirit of Christianity, they have equal rights, equal privileges, and equal blessings; and, let me add, they are equally useful.” Taken from Adam Clarke’s commentary on Gal 3:28.

Equality Hindered

Reading Adam Clarkes commentary on Gal 3:28, especially the last sentence, made me wonder about who he was and what his views were toward women in ministry. I discovered that he, along with other Methodists, gave as much room as their understanding of Scripture allowed, but that they, like many Complementarians today, could not see it right from Scripture to ordain women as elders.

Equality Found

However, aware that the Methodist church has since allowed for women ordination, I was interested to read how this came about. I came across The Free Methodist Church website and their Statement on Women in Ministry and it made for a worthwhile read. It explains how they came to their belief that women can be ordained and I recommend it as a useful resource to understanding their egalitarian view in the light of Scripture.

Here’s an extract:

To both man and woman, God gave the order to be fruitful and to take dominion over the world (Genesis 1:28). There is no hint of woman’s subjection before the fall. Roberts notes that when Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19:3, he based his response on Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Why did Jesus refer back to the time before the fall? “To re-enact the law enacted then. Thus Christ restored the primitive law. He said nothing about the subjection of women — not one word. … Christ came to repair the ruin wrought by the fall” (Roberts, pp. 35-36). Christ calls redeemed humanity to live out the creation design.

Extract is taken from The Free Methodist Church website and their Statement on Women in Ministry.

Rob Morley

Reflecting on 1 Timothy 2:11-15

The issue of a woman leading or teaching in the church is clearly misunderstood by many and is a contentious subject that divides the body of Christ. The stumbling block is generally over scripture, with 1 Timothy 2:11-15 being perhaps the most prominent of these.

Let’s consider what it says:

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

To some of us, it’s as plain as day what Paul is saying in these words. Others of us believe he cannot possibly be saying what a simple reading of the text seems to indicate.

In order to understand the issues that Paul addresses here, we need to have context in two areas. Firstly, we need to get textual context by examining these verses in the light of the whole letter. And, secondly, we need to get the historical context.

Scriptural Context

If we look at Paul’s opening address to Timothy at the beginning of the letter, we can see that Timothy, a co-worker in Paul’s church planting team, had been asked to “remain at Ephesus so that [he] may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…” (1 Timothy 1:3).

Historical Context

Then, in 1 Tim 2:11-15 Paul addresses one of these “different doctrines”, the idea of female religious superiority. It was the prevalent belief in Ephesian religion that man came from a woman deity and then subsequently sinned. Also, men were to be subject to women teaching them and to their authority. This idea had apparently infiltrated into the local church’s thinking.

Let’s examine Paul’s instruction that corrects this:

Quiet & Submissive?

Paul tells Timothy, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” This describes the proper demeanor in which both men and women should learn. Except, in this case, it was evidently the women who needed instruction and correction. Let’s consider this:

Firstly, “let a woman learn” was huge progress in that women were often untaught and relegated to the sidelines of life, including among the Jews. Now they were among those being taught.

Then, “quietly” suggests refraining from the bustle and chatter that some may have been previously used to, but that would disrupt a learning environment. This may also be the start of Paul correcting the opposite extreme of female dominance that was prevalent in that society’s religion.

And, “with all submissiveness” is a call to appropriate Christian behavior where men and women are “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

No Teaching or Authority?

Paul goes on, “I do not permit a woman to teach …a man.” Here Paul is addressing the false idea of women being the source of truth. The Spirit of God is the source of truth and it can be through men and women. Consider this in the light of “the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him” (1 John 2:27).

Paul goes on, “or to exercise authority over a man”. Prohibiting the exercise of authority over one another is not foreign to Christianity. Consider Jesus’ prohibition on disciples having authority over one another in Matthew 20:25-27. Again, here, Paul recognized that certain women, in the church at Ephesus specifically, needed addressing on this issue.

Paul continues with, “rather, she is to remain quiet.” This is again an attitude for learning and not a strict prohibition from any interaction.

Tearing Down the False Teaching

Then he says, “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.”

Here Paul corrects the false teaching that man came from a woman deity by stating that Adam was formed first and then Eve. He doesn’t do this in order to place Adam over Eve, but to simply pull to pieces the false teaching. Then, to further take it apart, Paul states that it was actually the woman who was initially deceived and who became the first transgressor. Not the man as the false teaching taught.

The Mess from Misunderstanding

Some in the church today suggest the prohibition on women teaching is based on Paul’s reference here to a propensity for women to be more easily deceived. However, Paul was not saying anything of the sort. He was merely showing up the false teaching. Frankly, as I look around and at our past, the devil hasn’t needed help from women for this. Men themselves have been deceived and have done a right royal job in promoting false teaching.

Through our misunderstanding of the context and what Paul was addressing, we have swung the pendulum from the false teaching of female dominance in teaching and leadership to an equally false teaching of male dominance in teaching and headship.

Paul was not prohibiting women from teaching men or from speaking God’s word with authority. He was simply bringing wayward thinking in line with the equality that should exist in the body of Christ.

Rob

(Note that Timothy was not the pastor of the church in Ephesus as has been mistakenly attributed to him. For more on this, see my post on Church Leadership).

Image by weirdvis (Lynne Lancaster) http://www.rgbstock.com/user/weirdvis

Image by weirdvis (Lynne Lancaster)
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/weirdvis

God’s Way Sacrificed

To many, the idea of church leadership through consensus sounds like leadership is taken from God and given into the hands of men. Nevertheless, it is precisely God’s way of seeing His will done in and through the Church. Sadly, the church is full of stories of leadership abuse, which could have been prevented if we had implemented God’s way of directing the church.

Authority

Church leadership only has authority to implement God’s leading concerning the whole church when group consensus is reached by the whole church. While one person may have God’s word on a subject, and with that the authority to share it, he or she still needs to obey God’s way and seek consensus before action can be taken.

Consensus Builds True Unity

This may seem like a painful process, but in the end it builds real relationships and true unity around issues. Outside of consensus, leaders easily default to the sin of preeminence where they employ the world’s ways and steam roller their ideas into action. Sadly, many church leaders justify this style by the success of their ministry, but the end never justifies the means! An environment of love is the only way to the outcomes that we seek and may often be more important than our goals.

Consensus Protects the Group and the Individual

Consensus is a way of protection. For example, in the case of church discipline in the New Testament, consensus is sought by involving everyone. This way a fair judgment can be reached through unity and also the fear of the Lord can be on everyone involved.

Consensus is the Fruit of Faith

Seeking consensus puts faith into practice. It is the belief that Jesus really is the head of the Body of Christ and is able to lead each member in unity.

Right and Wrong Examples

Acts chapter 15 is a good example of how the whole church is involved in resolving serious decision making and of how everyone was involved. Conversely, 3 John 1:9-10 shows Diotrephes as a leader who sought preeminence and bullied his way in the church.

For more on this subject you can read these related posts:

Church Leadership

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 3

Who Calls the Shots (Decision Making) in the Body of Christ?

Rank or Respect

Church Governance 101

Does the Bible Support the Position of a Senior Pastor?

The Super Guru Culture

Rob

Do you know the Truth?

SisCiel (Cécile Graat)www.rgbstock.com/user/SisCiel

Image by SisCiel (Cécile Graat) http://www.rgbstock.com/user/SisCiel

SisCiel (Cécile Graat) www.rgbstock.com/user/SisCiel

Image by SisCiel (Cécile Graat) http://www.rgbstock.com/user/SisCiel

We all grapple at various times in life to know what’s best and what’s true. And, then, often when we’ve found a particular truth, in say science or philosophy, we still find ourselves only in the shallow-end of fully grasping its value and potential.

Have you ever wondered if there is an author to this truth we search for? Someone who’ll help us find what we’re looking for and who can help us properly utilize what we find?

There is a man who makes an astonishing and all-encompassing declaration to be “the truth.” Such a claim implies that all truth starts with him no matter where it may now reside. It also implies that this truth is only really able to be truly held together by him. And, that only he knows the true way things work. This man is Jesus! If not, then where does truth come from?

When we separate truth from Jesus, both are distorted. Our view of Jesus is diminished and the full application of the truth squandered or misused. All truth is from Him and of Him and handled best by Him. An essential part of His truth is captured in God’s word, the Bible. Like a love letter, it serves as a means to knowing Him, and like a plumbline, it’s the guide for all other teaching.

Do you know the truth?!! Because, He knows you and loves you! Have you read His love letter lately?

How about these portions:

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to receive God’s punishment for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

And,

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Said another way:

“For our sake God made Jesus to be Everything Wrong who knew Nothing Wrong, so that in Jesus we might become what God calls Right.”

Rob

Interpreting Scripture Correctly

Bible and TextMan’s form of religion is full of rules and rituals in order to reach God or Karma or a state of perfection. At best, it’s merely a hollow shell with empty promises.

The Bible, by contrast, is not a burdensome book of religion; it’s the living Word of God. True Christianity is a dynamic ongoing relationship with the living Jesus Christ. As a result, we cannot treat the Bible as a book of mindless rules and build formulas out of scripture. Man, however, feels safe when the words that he reads are categorized, put into boxes, and formulas are built for instruction on how to live right.

If that is how we want to interpret scripture, then we strip the Bible of life.

Interpreting the Bible should be done in our relationship with its Author, Jesus Christ, who helps us interpret what is printed on its pages. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the living word of God can transform our corrupt minds and make us think and behave more like Christ.

When we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to be our Counselor, then we are in danger of misusing scripture. When we misuse scripture, we can easily damage people’s lives.

Each individual situation should be treated with individual care and prayer. Don’t rattle off scripture, because you might have grabbed the wrong one for that moment. We must not throw scripture around as we deem fit, because we might cause more harm than good and push people further away from God.

Besides putting verses in boxes, we must also be careful that we don’t place our own agenda onto our interpretation of the scriptures, because we can “see” what we want to see and miss what God is actually saying. That might require us to unlearn what we have been taught in our various churches and cultures and ask God to teach us afresh.

For an example of how we can misuse scripture if we are simplistic in interpreting it, you can go to my post, Misinterpreting Scripture on our blog, Restore the Word.

Tina

Bound Again Christians

Bound Again?

Bound Again?

Christians in Bondage

As Christians, we teach on the wonderful truth of the freedom that’s found in Christ, yet, our lives often tell a different story. It appears to me that we’re often just as enslaved to wrong ideas, evil systems, traditions of men and even false religion as anyone else.

Any freedom that we have in Christ gets smothered by the nonsense that we think. Rather than experiencing freedom as a lifestyle, we’re left with only moments of knowing real freedom.

Captured in our Minds

Captured by thoughts that we haven’t renewed and by the negative influences from the world around us, we’re unable to access the freedom that Christ has given. Strongholds of thought so pervade our thinking that even scripture gets wrongly interpreted to slot in with our deep or current views on life.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” aptly describes the fragility that people have to their thought life. Enslaved by wrong thinking, we become what we think.

Slavery that will Free You

Paradoxically, it’s by becoming a slave to Christ that we are completely freed. It’s therefore sadly ironic that Christians are, in some ways, often more enslaved than even before. Imagine the wasted sacrifice! Christ died to set us free and we create more bondage.

Sure, we are freed from the wrath of God and His judgment on sinners, but aren’t we also liberated from so much more – from sin, Satan and this world?

Bound Again

”Do not love the world or the things in the world” is pretty plain to understand, but often so untrue of our hearts. And, sadly, when we let our hearts run off after these desires, God’s word says of us that “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him”.

The Bondage of Religion

We were warned by Jesus to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”, yet we’ve become masters of speaking of freedom while baking with the leaven. You see, the solution to the things that easily entangle us is not in a religion which promises that if we keep the rules we will be blessed. Because we can’t!

Yet, don’t we put this on one another by the way we judge, rather than pray; scoff in our minds, rather than help; and by generally making anyone not making the grade feel unwelcome?

Bound for Freedom

Knowing that we are unable to keep His commandments, God’s solution was to give us a new life and join us to Christ, so that He can live His life through us. It’s here, in Him, that we can know true freedom.

Now that we are bound to Christ in spirit, let’s remain bound in heart and mind also. For, it’s only in this way that we will experience true freedom in all areas of our lives. Perhaps, by remembering what it means to be a slave, we can discover all the freedom Jesus has for us!

Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

One way or another we are all slaves. Who or what are you a slave to?

Rob Morley

Many who appear to be apathetic Christians are in actual fact bored, burned-out or broken by religion. Any excitement that they once had as believers has long been snuffed out by what has masqueraded as Christianity, but really isn’t.

Bored

Instead of a dynamic relationship with Jesus that’s shared with other believers, they’ve been restricted to pews, messages and tea. They’re ever learning, but never really fully participating. Feeling uninvited and restricted for too long, some are now totally uninspired by what even the “best” preachers are saying and missionaries are doing.

Burned-out

Others are simply burned-out, having been burdened by the church to attend all sorts of meetings, behave in set ways and, to top it off, reach the lost. Operating outside of their calling, gifting and in their own strength for too long, they resemble sheep driven like cattle with overloaded wagons.

Now, if this is how we operate, it’s no wonder many outsiders see the sham that much of Christianity is and stay disinterested.

Broken

Then, sadder still, from among those who are bored and burned-out are those who have left their first love, mistakenly thinking Jesus to be the same as the church that had hurt or disappointed them.  They’ve turned to the world to find satisfaction, only to be broken by its empty promises.

Recognize yourself?

Maybe you’re a part of the masquerade. Maybe even leading it. If so, how long before you are a casualty too?

Blessed

Whatever your condition, to each of His servants Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light!” This tells me that Jesus Himself wants to employ us, and with something that’s not harsh and burdensome, but instead a delight. Now, tell me, doesn’t that have the potential to interest you!?

False religion will cause you to lose out, while Jesus will empower you to serve Him and leave you supremely blessed (happy to be envied).

Rob Morley

Changing our World

The Ecclesia (or Church) is one way that God is able to govern and affect individuals, as well as all spheres of society. Christians (born-again believers), are able to bring personal and corporate issues to Him, as well as the social and environmental issues of this world. And, because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” He is able to bring about God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”.

The scope and change that the apostle Paul envisioned possible through prayer is seen in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 where he writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” “First of all” clearly shows prayer to have been priority for the early church (ecclesia).

Blockages to Change

Our lack of faith that Jesus really is Lord of heaven and earth and wants to respond to our prayers is perhaps the reason why we see so little change around us. This kind of prayer is no longer a key part of many of our meetings and, where it is, not all the members of the ecclesia come to its meetings.

Then, sadly, meetings are high-jacked by well-meaning leaders whose own views, on the necessity of prayer and people’s involvement, often shapes the meetings. Thinking of themselves more highly than they should, they place themselves above others and circumvent the authority of the Head of the ecclesia. As a result, much of the potential of the gathered body of believers is lost. (For more on this, see my posts on Hierarchical Leadership – The Number One Hindrance in the Body of Christ.)

Creating an Environment for Prayer

Our meetings must allow each member to participate. When it comes to prayer, everyone should feel free to bring and share prayer requests. Also, room should be given for anyone to share a related word from God, or even a dream or vision from God, and also to lay hands on those in need.

Our prayers make a difference! Pray and watch and see His kingdom come and His will be done.

Related post: The Ecclesia – The Gateway for God’s Kingdom

Rob Morley

The Ecclesia

Jesus’ ecclesia is the most powerful group on earth, way above any parliament, congress or senate. And, amazingly, all Christians are called to be involved.

Ecclesia was a term used in ancient times for a political assembly of citizens who were “called-out” from a local community with the purpose of governing the community. Jesus uses this same term for His true followers in Matthew 16:18 when He says, “I will build my ecclesia”.

Built on a Foundation

That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is the bedrock on which He builds His ecclesia. Through faith in Jesus, people are reborn and included. Effectively, He calls people and those who respond with faith are miraculously changed. They’re given a new spirit and God’s Spirit comes to live inside each one of them.

Nature of the Ecclesia

Members of His ecclesia are individually and corporately led by Jesus, filled with His Spirit and trained in His ways. They have a new outlook on life, recognizing that Jesus is really in charge of everything. And, God’s love is their key distinguishing mark.

The Task of the Ecclesia

Jesus’ ecclesia is light to a dark world. They exhibit God’s governance, pray for more of it to come and offer it to all by proclaiming God’s love and forgiveness of sins.  In turn, more people are brought into relationship with the living God and under His loving rule. And, they automatically form part of Jesus’ ecclesia too.

The Kingdom of God is offered and not forced onto people. But where it is accepted, the light and life of the Kingdom begin to take hold and transform lives and communities. For more on bringing change into this world see my next post, The Ecclesia – “Thy Kingdom Come”.

(Essentially, Jesus is the only gateway into the kingdom in the analogy in John 10:9. This post uses the picture of a gateway for the ecclesia in a closely related, yet different way.)

Rob Morley

Grace and Peace?

In your intention to get on with reading or studying God’s word, have you ever skipped on past those words at the beginning of the epistles (letters) in the Bible that read something like, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”?

You will see that from the outset of the letter, no matter how the church was behaving, God said words to that effect. He was saying, “In Me are all the resources that you will need: My wisdom, strength, love, joy,… and I want to remind you that I am at peace with you and I want you to experience that peace.” It’s the Gospel in a Nutshell.

You see, the full weight of God’s anger toward the sin in their lives had been poured out on Jesus, justice had been served, God’s rightful anger satisfied, and through confessing their sin they had been forgiven and restored to God’s love.

God Greets You Every Day with the Gospel

Stop and ponder the next time you are reading these words at the beginning of a letter in the Bible and realize that these are God’s words to you. In fact, when you wake in the morning, know that God is personally saying, “Grace and peace to you!” (“Good morning!”)

Peace and Goodwill to All

God really does have peace and goodwill for all men! And, you, no matter who you are or how you feel, are one of them! Have you turned to Jesus and received forgiveness for your sin? A life of grace and peace awaits you.

Rob Morley

 

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