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The Ordination of Women: Why not?

I enter this discussion with fear and trembling. I recently commended a wonderful article from our friend Rachel Green Miller concerning Priscilla. In that article, she repeated several times that she is NOT advocating for the ordination of women to office. I agree with her. I find it sad and disheartening that she has been bullied and hounded so fiercely that she has had to withdraw from social media for suggesting that women and men are equally gifted to teach theology. But history, scripture and simply observation of our times prove her correct. Bullying, insults, reviling, threats, contempt and hatred have no place in theological discussion. Christ has nothing to do with Belial.

The fact is that women and men are equally filled with the Holy Spirit and members of Christ’s anointing (See Heidelberg Catechism Q and A 32 for an excellent summary of what it means to be filled with the Spirit). The preaching of the gospel came to the rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile. All who believed on His Name were filled with the Spirit, united to Him, and thus were the firstborn of God and heirs according to the promise (see Galatians 3 and 4).

To men and women both were given the gifts of the Spirit. Some women are very gifted in theology, in writing, in speaking, in advocacy, in insight, in organization. Biblically speaking, there is no difference in the gifts given to men or the gifts given to women. They are all given by the free grace of the Holy Spirit, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. This is called “The Communion of the Saints”. For an excellent summary of that doctrine, I would direct you to Heidelberg Catechism #55.

In fact, this is so important that I will simply put question 55 here:

55. What dost thou understand by the “communion of saints”?

First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts; secondly, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.

Notice the emphasis in this 500 year old catechism on the universality of ALL the gifts. Believers, one and all, are members of Christ and partakers with him of ALL his treasures and gifts.

Why then do we not just ordain women to office? Isn’t it a contradiction between the Reformed confessions and the Reformed books of order?

This is what I would like to address.

First, I would like to stress those things that are NOT the reason. It is not because men are natural leaders. Many who are called to preach are not natural leaders. Many are introverts and far more comfortable in their study than leading any group. And many women are gifted with leadership.

It is not because women are more easily deceived. This is not the meaning of 1 Timothy 2, which I will address in its proper place. Adam also ate the fruit, being deceived by sin (compare to Romans 7) and through him the human race fell. There is nothing in scripture that teaches that Eve’s sin was imputed to every woman. The consistent teaching of scripture is that through one man sin entered the world and death by sin. I will address what the deception of Eve is further on.

It is also not because of the order that God has placed in the home. God has certainly not placed all women under the authority of all men, either in the church or in the home.

The reason that we do not ordain women has to do with what the office of bishop or elder actually is. It has to do with representation.

And that goes back to the nature of our salvation.

Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God he must be “born again by water and the Spirit.” In Adam, the human race fell. Every man, woman and child is born under the death penalty already, and there is nothing that they can do about it.

When you understand the problem, then you understand the impossibility of the cure. The problem is our first birth. We were born into the world spiritually dead, in bodies that were born dying because of the guilt of Adam already put on our account before birth.

And the only cure is a new birth with a new head of a new race. Nicodemus understood the impossibility of that far better than the revival preachers of the modern era. It isn’t fixed by walking down the aisle, by persuasion, by an act of the will, or by anything else that we as human beings are capable of doing.

We must “crawl back into the womb” and be born again under a new covenant head. And how can this be? Only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we believe on Christ, we are “ingrafted” into him, our New Covenant Head, the second Adam. The same spirit that dwells in him dwells in us and so we are truly flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.

Therefore, we are no longer under the curse of Adam for now we are in Christ, the firstborn, the heir to the throne of David according to the flesh.

(1Co 15:21-22) 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

Again, the Heidelberg Catechism:

20. Are all men then saved by Christ as they perished in Adam?

No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.

But where does this faith come from? Is it the natural result of skilled persuasion? Once again, we must understand the nature of the problem. In Adam, we are not just a little off. We are not naturally pretty good people who just have some problems to work out. We are dead in trespasses and sins. We have an incurable disease. The exhortation to believe on Jesus Christ is exactly like preaching to dry bones (Ezekiel 37). Unless the Spirit “breathes” upon the bones, they will remain dead no matter how skilled or how eloquent or how learned the preacher is.

This is why Paul wrote:

(Rom 10:14-15) 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!”

God has placed the salvation of the world in only one place: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our great prophet, priest and king. He is, even today, ruling over all things and proclaiming the gospel of peace throughout the world.

To be sure, he is not walking among us according to the flesh, but he has sent preachers throughout the world proclaiming his word from ordinary pulpits every Lord’s day.

And some of these preachers are eloquent and wise. Some are rustic and simple. Some are erudite and polished. Some are colloquial and uncultured. But if they are “preaching”, then they are “sent.” And if they are sent, then they are representatives of Christ given to His Bride, the church.

If they are not “sent”, then they might be doing a lot of things, but they aren’t preaching.

The reason is this: The only way for anyone to be saved it to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To that end, he has sent apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4) to build up the church. The ministry of the word is a representative ministry. When a preacher is sent to proclaim the word, he no longer is acting on his own capacity. He is representing Christ.

For this reason, Paul said to the Ephesians that Jesus came and “preached peace” to them. Jesus never went to Ephesus in the flesh. But he did go to Ephesus in the spirit, in the person of his ministers of the word.

So Christ chose 12 apostles, all of whom were men. They all came from every background, every social class, every education level, because faith will never come through the flesh. But they were all men because they were called to represent Christ as the groom to the church as his bride.

The great picture on Sunday morning is Christ breaking bread for his bride. The minister of the gospel is on one hand the bride of Christ, like everyone else in the congregation. But on the other hand, when he is breaking bread, administering the waters of baptism, or preaching the word, he is representing Christ himself.

Which is why Paul said, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

If we forget that, and think solely in terms of “who is a good, educated, learned, skilled leader”, then we are thinking in terms of the flesh, and denying that one must be born again by the Spirit.

I know that is a big jump to make for this culture. Perhaps an illustration from scripture would help.

Naaman was a Aramean general. He was very skilled and a feared and respected warrior, trusted and honored by the king. But he had leprosy and he could do nothing about it.

Through the witness of a little servant girl, he heard about a man in Israel that could cure leprosy. He came to Elisha, the man of God.

Elisha didn’t even go out to meet Naaman. Instead, he sent his servant with a message. “Dip in the Jordan seven times and you will be clean.”

Naaman was furious at the message. “Aren’t the rivers in Aram far better than the Jordan?”

Naaman was thinking in terms of the flesh. He was thinking that God had found a secret about the water of Jordan that he was telling him about, but leaving the decision as to whether it was true or false in the hands of Naaman.

But Naaman thought that the water in Syria was just as good. Elisha’s god didn’t know what he was talking about. If the secret lay in the water, then why not use Syrian water? It is better than Jewish water.

But the secret wasn’t in water. It was in the power of God. God had freely chosen to heal Naaman, but he connected that healing to a means – the River Jordan.

And so today, God has promised healing, faith, salvation – but has connected it to one thing. The preaching of the representative of Christ. It isn’t in the eloquence. It isn’t in the skill. It isn’t in the knowledge.

It is in the power of God alone.

The deception of Eve, then, is this. She thought that the secret of life and wisdom was in the tree and that God was wrong in forbidding them from taking it. She saw that it was good for food. It was desirable to make one wise. God was wrong.

But the secret of the tree wasn’t in the tree. It was in the command of God. Salvation doesn’t come because I do the right thing, make the right choices, live a better life, fix a few problems. Life was represented in the Tree of Life. But Eve thought that she had a better way. This was her deception.

Eve thought she could fix things by taking action. This was her deception. Paul’s warning was to the church of all ages. Eve was deceived. The problem in the church is not that “men are in charge”; nor is it that “women have taken over”. The problem is only one: mankind is dead in trespasses and sins, and there is only one cure. Jesus Christ crucified according to the gospel preached among you.

Adam rebelled and wanted to be god. He wasn’t deceived the same way as Eve. And death entered the world.

In order for me to live I must be born again, and this only comes when the spirit blows. And that spirit is not coerced, forced, manipulated, bought, or commanded. He blows where he wants to blow. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

And so to illustrate this for all time, he has called weak and foolish men to represent Christ to the bride. He doesn’t call the most gifted, the most educated, the best leaders, the most eloquent statesmen. He calls the ordinary man, and puts his spirit on him and calls him to represent the Groom. Through the proclamation of the word, the Groom calls the Bride to himself.

10 “My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along.

11 ‘For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone.

12 ‘The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.

13 ‘The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!'” (Sol 2:10-13)

The deception of Eve plays out in every era. That salvation somehow comes through the flesh. We get better ideas, better skills, better leadership and that will somehow cause people to be saved. We flock to the next mega-church to the next guy who has a better idea on how to be saved from sin.

If salvation comes from making the right choices, then the one who can convince us to make better choices by skill and charisma is the one to follow, whether they are man or woman.

But if salvation comes only by faith, and faith is a gift of God, then we must go to where he is promised to meet with us. Where the Groom is feeding his Bride.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. (Zec 4:6)

It has to do with representation, not sex, skill or charisma. The Lord Jesus must proclaim peace to us or there is no salvation. For this reason, God generally doesn’t call the most gifted, the most eloquent, or the most wise. Calvin writes,

“…This is the best and most useful exercise in humility, when (Jesus) accustoms us to obey his Word, even though it be preached through men like us and sometimes even by those of lower worth that we. If he spoke from heaven, it would not be surprising if his sacred oracles were to be reverently received without delay by the ears and minds of all. For who would not dread the presence of his power? Who would not be stricken down at the sight of such great majesty? Who would not be confounded at such boundless splendor? But when a puny man risen from the dust speaks in God’s name, at this point we best evidence our piety and obedience toward God if we show ourselves teachable toward his minister, although he excels us in nothing. It was for this reason, then that he hid the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in weak and earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7) in order to prove more surely how much we should esteem it (Institutes, Book 4, chapter 3)

Like the girl in Naaman’s day, everyone should point the Naamans of the world to Christ, but that is different than preaching. Preaching is representing the Groom before the Bride.

How shall they preach except they be sent?

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The Point

In case you didn’t catch this, here’s the point of the season –
The human race is so corrupt, so hopeless, so depraved –
Every single soul ever born carries within an incurable disease called sin,
It can’t be cured by the state, by will-power, by education, by wealth, by medicine, by giving, by receiving, by acting better…
The proof is death, which comes for Republicans, Democrats independents, conservatives, liberals, Jews,Gentiles, rich and poor –
Every single political system failed
Every single religious system failed,
Every single philosophical system failed,
Every single self-help campaign failed,
Every economic system failed
Every system of law and order failed
– yes, even the perfect one given by God himself
The disease is so entangled through every cell of the human body, and every part of the human soul,
The rot is complete. Death comes for all.
All have sinned
All are subject to death
Nothing we do can fix it.
It is so hopeless that the only cure is God himself coming to earth in the womb of the virgin, Mary…
Not the seed of the corrupt race of men,
But the miraculous seed of the woman by the power of the Holy Spirit
He became flesh, so that we might live.
He was given a body for the purpose of dying a cruel death
He was given hands to stretch out on a cross
Feet to take the nails
A side to take the spear
A forehead to take the thorns
He took a body in order to lay it down as a perfect sacrifice for sin, that we might have eternal life.
The lips that suckled Mary’s breast were slapped by the soldiers
The face that Joseph kissed was spat on
The hands that grasped Mary’s fingers was bound to the pillar and the body was scourged
He was poor, so that we might be rich
He was despised, so that we might be loved
He was broken, so that we might be healed.
And then he was raised, that we might be justified.
When you begin to place your trust in your goodness
When you begin to think that some kind of political process will fix this
When you think that modern medicine will hold the cure for death,
Take a look again at who is lying in the manger.
The disease is so incurable that the only hope is the Word of God made flesh
It is the only hope.
It was the only hope in Augustine’s Rome; it is the only hope today.
It will be the only hope tomorrow.
Do you see the love of God? Look at the manger.
That’s the point. Don’t miss it.

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Accusing an elder

In preparing for a study on gossip and slander, I was looking at 1 Timothy 5:19. I noticed a discrepancy in the translations.

KJV 1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

NASB 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

ESV 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

NKJV 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.

The translation of the old King James is that accusations against elders must be done in a lawful way, in front of the courts of the church. Two or three witnesses hearkens back to Deuteronomy 17:6.

But the rest of the English translations listed show something else entirely. It teaches that you cannot even HEAR an accusation against an elder unless there are 2 or 3 witnesses to back it up.

What that effectively does is make it impossible to ever accuse an elder of much of anything.

The scandal of child sexual abuse among both Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy would be impossible to prosecute, for rarely does a predator prey in the presence of witnesses.

Abusers don’t abuse in front of eye-witnesses.

Is this really what this verse says? Which one is correct?

The preposition in question is Ἐπὶ with the genitive case. Prepositions are tricky things and take some care in translating. One has to know how language works. If it is to be interpreted “on the evidence of”, which three of the translations above have it, then it is the ONLY place in all of scripture where it has this meaning.

However, in Acts 25:10, Paul answers and says, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal…” using Ἐπὶ and the genitive case. It seems impossible in this legal context that he would mean “on the evidence of Caesar’s tribunal”.

“Before” – meaning, to be judged and found either guilty or innocent by Caesar seems to make perfect sense.

I would suggest that it has the same meaning in 1 Timothy 5:19.

Do not receive an accusation except in front of two or three witnesses that can do something about it.

My denomination has a book of church order, as do many others. (If your church does not, I would suggest finding another church). The form of complaint or charge against an elder or pastor is spelled out.

“Here is what he did. Here is what the scripture says. Here is how you go about it.”

Or, to put it in Paul’s terms in his day, “before two or three witnesses”. Get it before the proper council. And then (verse 20) if they are in sin rebuke them before all.

There are two deadly viruses that destroy a congregation of believers. First, when the leadership is made up of wolves preying upon the sheep. When the leadership devours and destroys, abuses their congregants, using the weaker ones to satisfy their own lusts. Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23 both warn of this, as well as many, many other places.

And the other virus is when a wolf is a member of the congregation who spreads malicious slander against the leadership through twisting words, making up allegations, and whispering in the dark corners.

Paul, using the language of the Old Testament law, gives practical counsel for a real situation. Suppose that you – Walter Q. Churchmember – are having tea with Mr. and Mrs. Churchpeople. Mrs. Churchpeople starts to tell you about horrible things that one of the elders or the pastor has done.

The accusation could be something like “I heard Mrs. Jones say that her cousin had heard from a reliable source that Mrs. Wilson saw Pastor having lunch with a young woman…”

Or it could be more serious. “My daughter says he hurt her.”

There are many different things you could do.

The worst thing to do is simply talk about it, rejoice secretly in the “hidden knowledge” and go tell the next person, in confidence, of course – adding your own juicy tidbits to make it sound just a little better.

THAT is what Paul is forbidding. Don’t hear it, don’t receive it at all – unless it is for the purpose of lawfully dealing with it, exposing it and bringing redemption or justice.

So instead, do this:

If it is a crime, report it to the ones who have the tools to investigate it and the sword to prosecute it (This would be the proper authorities in the civil government).

If it is not a crime but a violation of a vow – teaching that which is contrary to the creeds, for example – encourage the one telling you about it to bring a charge or complaint to the proper church judicatory.

If it is not a crime, but a falling into sin of some sort – adultery, drunkenness, etc – encourage the one speaking to bring a charge or complaint to the proper church judicatory.

What this will do is give them hope and a direction to take if their intentions are honorable, and encourage them to quit spreading juicy rumors if their intentions are not. This is what Paul is speaking of.

Of course, you cannot deal with every single possible scenario with one Bible verse. That isn’t what the Bible is for. We have a letter from an apostle to a real pastor struggling with real issues. You can’t take one verse and try to make it fit every situation. Paul is dealing with one kind of scenario – very common in the church – where one or two people delight in whispering secrets in the dark. Don’t have any part of that.

 

In this day where we have tolerated false churches, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and abusive church courts far too long, there may also be a good reason for someone to flee the church that they are in.

If, for example, there is a history of protecting wolves and running out sheep. Or the theology is wrong. Or the sacraments are not being administered properly – perhaps Christians are being excommunicated while abusive and reviling men and women are tolerated.

Paul has lots of other counsel in those situations, and I might write on it in another post. Fleeing a false church filled with those who refuse to follow Jesus is a good option. But my point here is this:

If you are an elder or a pastor, or represent an elder or pastor on a church judicatory, do not refuse to give aid to the widow or the fatherless (that is, those without power) because they lack two or three eyewitnesses. That isn’t what this verse is about.

When they have come to you for justice, give them justice. Follow your rules of order. It is what they came to you for. When they came to you, they followed Paul’s command to bring the accusation before two or three witnesses.

Paul is forbidding empty gossip and spreading stories without taking any measures at all to bring peace.

But if it is true, lawfully shout it from the housetops. Don’t let evil fester in the dark. Bring a charge, bring a complaint, report to the police, help a child get the help they need.

But please, do not hide behind this verse to keep predators in places where they can get at the sheep.

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The Modesty Debate

From three years ago. Still relevant.

My Only Comfort

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. And since it keeps coming up, I figured that I wouldn’t procrastinate any longer, but just put up my thoughts and let them fall where they may.

I’m talking about the modesty debate. You have heard it in Christian circles. I’ve heard it. My daughters have heard it. You really can’t send you kids off to a Christian camp during the summer without it.

It’s this. “Girls, listen up! These guys are your Christian brothers! When you dress immodestly, you are putting stumbling blocks in their way to purity! They are always tempted to lust, and you girls have to understand that, and dress accordingly.”

This sounds good on the surface, and many don’t give it a second thought. Except, of course, for the girls.

The problem with it is this. It’s degrading to women. It’s…

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Parenting in the Pews

Here’s a great blog from Rachel.

A Daughter of the Reformation

I love seeing little kids at church. As a mother of not-quite-so-little ones, the smiles, the giggles, the sights and sounds of children fills my heart with joy. But parenting in the pews can be anything but joyful at times. Nothing tests the limits of parents’ patience quite like Sundays. From getting everyone dressed and fed and out the door on time to handling disruptions during worship and off-schedule naps and meals, Sunday is a uniquely challenging day for most of us. With all the busyness and struggle, it can be easy to forget why we bring our children to church with us.

For those of us who are Presbyterians, we believe our children are part of the covenant community. We promise to raise them in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). But how do we do that practically? How do we parent in the pews?

There…

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Our Desperate Need for Wisdom

From the archives…

My Only Comfort

King Solomon was famous over the world for his wisdom. The Bible gives us an account to show us how Solomon’s wisdom truly was divinely given.  I would like for you to read it carefully:

16 Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
17 And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.
18 And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
19 And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
20 And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and…

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What is your name?

From last year, but very relevant. Did we get any better at listening?

My Only Comfort

Have you ever stopped to think about how tremendous words are? Words, more than anything else, display our creation in the image of God. God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1) and when he created, he gave names. He called the light, “Day”; and the darkness he called, “Night”. But when he created the animals, he didn’t name them. He created a man in his image and commanded him to name the animals. What a tremendous thought!

Our speech is the connection of our soul, our ideas, our bodies, with creation (the molecules of the air vibrate with our vocal cords shaped by our tongues and lips). The molecules vibrate from our mouths and cause the same vibrations in the membrane of the ear of another image bearer and our souls and ideas and bodies are connected in fellowship! What an astounding thought!

And God himself speaks to…

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A Greater King

From the archives

My Only Comfort

I’ve been thinking lately about a challenging passage in the Bible. I think that too often, we read the stories of the Old Testament as quaint fables of old, or stories of another people and another time and we wonder what it has to do with us today.

But those stories are written records of God’s redemptive history. The written accounts of the Old Testament are given to us by God to teach us how God has prepared the world for his Redeemer, who would save his people from their sins.

The disturbing account that I have been meditating on is found in 2 Samuel 24, and the parallel account is in 1 Chronicles 21.

If you haven’t read these accounts lately, or if you have never read these accounts, please do so before you read my comments. I’m just a guy trying to point you to Christ…

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Hope in the Dark

This is from my daughter about the journey my wife and I have gone through.

Cabbages & Kings

It’s been a year. A year since I left at ten o’clock at night to pick up my parents from the airport. It was a clear cool night. I wore a blue and green striped shirt. I dropped my suburban off at their house and took their sporty crossover. It had the things my mother needed to make simple car rides slightly less agonizing. A heating pad, extra pillows, room for her wheelchair in the back. When I’d spoken to her on the phone, she’d said she didn’t hurt, she was better. It still hadn’t sunk in.

They were returning from a trip to Italy. Business or pleasure? It was neither, really. It was a last resort. A trip planned on faint tendrils of hope. None of us dared hope too much, though, because the agony of this last resort failing would break us. It was too good to be…

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What to do When Hope Seems Non-Existent

Great Monday morning thoughts!

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