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Five Vows to Make and Keep

Five Vows to Make and Keep
By A. W. Tozer
Some people object to taking vows, but in the Bible you will find many great men of God directed by covenants, promises, vows, and pledges. The psalmist was not averse to the taking of vows. He said, “Thy vows are upon me, O God, I will render my praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

My counsel in this matter is that if you are really concerned about spiritual improvement—the gaining of new power, new life, new joy, and new personal revival within your heart—you will do well to make certain vows and proceed to keep them. If you should fail, go down in humility and repent and start over. But always keep these vows before you. They will help harmonize your heart with the vast powers that flow out and down from the throne where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

A carnal man refuses the discipline of such commitments. He says, “I want to be free. I don’t want to lay any vows upon myself; I don’t believe in it; it is legalism.” Well, let me paint a picture of two men.

One of them will not take vows. He will not accept any responsibility. He wants to be free. And he is free—in a measure—just as a tramp is free. The tramp is free to sit on a park bench by day, sleep on a newspaper by night, get chased out of town on Thursday morning, and find his way up a set of creaky stairs in some flophouse on Thursday night. Such a man is free, but he is also useless. He clutters up the world whose air he breathes.

Let’s look at another man—maybe a president or prime minister or any great man who carries upon himself the weight of government. Such men are not free. But in the sacrifice of their freedom they step up their power. If they insist upon being free, they can be free, just like the tramp. But they choose rather to be bound.

There are many religious tramps in the world who will not be bound by anything. They have turned the grace of God into personal license. But the great souls are the ones who have gone reverently to God with the understanding that in their flesh dwells no good thing. And they knew that without God’s enablement any vows taken would be broken before sundown. Nevertheless, believing in God, reverently they took certain sacred vows. This is the way to spiritual power. There are five vows I have in mind which we do well to make and to keep.

1. Deal Thoroughly with Sin Sin has been driven underground these days and has come up with a new name and face. You may be subjected to this phenomenon in the schools. Sin is being called by various fancy names—anything but what it really is. For example, men don’t get under conviction any more; they get a guilt complex.

Instead of confessing their guilt to God and getting rid of it, they sit on a couch and try and tell a man who ought to know better all about themselves. It comes out after a while that they were deeply disappointed when they were two years old or some such thing. That’s supposed to make them better.

The whole thing is ridiculous, because sin is still the ancient enemy of the soul. it has never changed. We’ve got to deal firmly with sin in our lives. Let’s remember that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Righteousness lies at the door of the kingdom of God. The soul that sins, it shall die.

This is not to preach sinless perfection. This is to say that every known sin is to be named, identified, and repudiated and that we must trust God for deliverance from it so that there is no conscious, deliberate sin anywhere in our lives. It is absolutely necessary that we deal thus, because God is a holy God and sin is on the throne of the world. So don’t call your sins by some other name. If you’re jealous, call it jealousy. If you tend to pity yourself and feel that you are not appreciated, call it what it is: self-pity.

And then there is your temper. Don’t call it indignation. Don’t try to christen it by some other name Call it what it is. Because if you have a bad temper you will either get rid of it, or it will get rid of much of your spirituality and most of your joy. So let’s deal with sin thoroughly. Let’s be perfectly candid. God loves candid people.

2. Never Own Anything I do not mean by this that you cannot have things. I mean that you ought to get delivered from the sense of possessing them. This sense of possessing is what hinders us. All babies are born with their fists clenched, and it seems to me it means, “This is mine!” One of the first things they say when they begin to speak is “mine” in an angry voice. That sense of “This is mine” ‘is a very injurious thing to the spirit. If you can get rid of it so that you have no feeling of possessing anything, there will come a great sense of freedom and liberty into your life.

Now don’t think that you must sell all that you have and give it to charity. No. God will let you have your car and your business, your practice and your position, whatever it may be—provided you understand that it is not yours at all, but His, and all you are doing is just working for Him. You can be restful about it then, because we never need to worry about losing anything that belongs to someone else. If it is yours, you are always looking in your hand to see if it is still there. If it is God’s, you no longer need to worry about it.

Let me point out some things you’ll have to turn over to God. Property is one thing. Some of the dear Lord’s children are being held back because there is a ball and chain on their legs. if it is a man, it’s his big car and fine home. If it is a woman, it’s her china and her Louis XIV furniture and all the rest. Take that vase for instance. There it stands. And if anybody knocked it off and broke it, the poor owner would probably lose five years from her life! It is always necessary to remember that we are only stewards of that which is usually called a possession.

3. Never Defend Yourself We are all born with a desire to defend ourselves. And if you insist upon defending yourself, God will let you do it. But if on turn the defense of yourself over to God, He will defend you. He told Moses in Exodus 23: “I will be an enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary to thine adversaries.”

What do we defend? Well, we defend our talents; we defend our service; and particularly, we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are, and if a story gets out about you, the big temptation is to try to run it down.

Henry Suso was a great Christian of other days. Once he was seeking what some Christians have told me they are seeking to know God better. Let’s put it like this: You are seeking to have a religious awakening within your spirit that will thrust you farther out into the deep things of God. Well, as Henry Suso was seeking God, people started telling evil stories about the man, and it grieved him so that he wept bitter tears and had great sorrow of heart.

Then one day he looked out the window and saw a dog playing on the lawn. The dog had a mat, and kept picking the mat up, tossing it over his shoulder, running and getting it, tossing it some more, picking it up and tossing it again. God said to Henry Suso, “That mat is your reputation, and I am letting the dogs of sin tear your reputation to shreds and toss it all over the lawn for your own good, but one of these days things will change.”

And this did change. it was not very long before the people who were tearing his reputation were confounded, and Suso rose into a place that made him a power in his day and a great blessing still to those who sing his hymns and read his works.

4. Guard Your Words about Others Never pass anything on—about anybody else that will hurt him. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. if you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back—a little spot somewhere—and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

if you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “But that’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you—no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background.

5. Never Accept Any Glory God is jealous of His glory and He will not give His glory to another. He will not even share His glory with another. It is quite natural, I should say, for people to hope that maybe their Christian service will give them a chance to display their talents. True, they want to serve the Lord. But they also want other people to know they are serving the Lord. They want to have a reputation among the saints. That is very dangerous ground—seeking a reputation among the saints. It’s bad enough to seek a reputation in the world, but it’s worse to seek a reputation among the people of God. Our Lord gave up His reputation, and so must we.

Meister Eckhart once preached a sermon on Christ cleansing the Temple. He said, “Now there was nothing wrong with those men selling and buying there. There was nothing wrong with exchanging money there; it had to be. The sin lay in their doing it for profit. They got a percentage on serving the Lord.” And then he made the application: “Anybody that serves for a commission, for what little bit of glory he can get out of it, is a merchant, and he ought to be cast out of the temple.”

I go along with this. If you are serving the Lord, and yet slyly-perhaps scarcely known to you—you are hoping to get just a little five percent commission, then look out! it will chill the power of God in your spirit. You must determine that you will never take any glory, but see that God gets it all.

Now, it is the easiest possible thing to give a message like this. The hard thing is to make it work in one’s own life. Remember that these five vows are not something you write in the back of your Bible and forget. They have got to be written in your own blood. They have to be made final, irrevocable. If it only comes off the surface, it is no good. Much of our consecration is just that way—it comes off the surface. Many of our promises come off the surface. No, no. Let it come out of the depths of your heart, the deep depths of’ your spirit.

These vows cut against the old human nature. They introduce the cross into your life, and nobody ever walks back from carrying his cross. When you make these vows, remember they strike at the heart of your self-life and there is never a place to go back to. And I say, “Woe unto the triflers!”

In America—and maybe in other places too—SO many people are saying, “Try Jesus try God!” Triflers, experimenters, tasters they arc. Like a rabbit with a half dozen holes so if one is stopped up lie can flee to another! No! From the cross there is no place to flee. You don’t “try” Jesus. He is not there to be experimented with. Christ is not on trial. You are. I am. He is not! God raised Him from the dead and forever confirmed His deity and scaled Him and set Him at His own right hand as Lord and Christ. Turn everything over to Him, and you’ll find your life begin to lift. You’ll blossom in a wonderful way.

Now, if you happen to be one of those on whom God has laid His hand for a deeper life, a more powerful life, a fuller life—then I wonder if you would be willing to pray this kind of prayer: 0 God, glorify Thyself at my expense. Send me the bill—anything, Lord. I set no price. I will not dicker or bargain. Glorify Thyself. I’ll take the consequences.

This kind of praying is simple, but it’s deep and wonderful and powerful. I believe that if you can pray a prayer like that, it will be the ramp from which you can take off into higher heights and bluer skies in the things of the Spirit.

From Five Vows for Spiritual Power, published by Christian Publications, December 1990.

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What Im Reading Right Now

Work: Sticky Church, Larry Osborne (I recommend this book to everyone) Best small group structure book I've read
Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality, Debra Hirsch
Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Direction, Gordon Smith
Four Voices of Preaching, The: Connecting Purpose and Identity behind the Pulpit, Robert Stephen Reid
The Relational Pastor: Sharing in Christ by Sharing Ourselves, Andrew Root


Continuing Ed Holy Imagination: Rethinking Social Holiness, Ed. Nathan Crawford
'I Was In the Spirit on the Lord's Day' -A Pentecostal Engagement with Worship in the Apocalypse, Melissa Archer
Word & Spirit at Play: Towards a Charismatic Theology, Jean-Jacques Suurmond


Fun Toronto: Biography of a City, Allan Levine
(finally finishing) Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, Terry Eagleton
Christianity Today's 2016 Best Book Picks:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/january-february/christianity-todays-2016-book-awards.htm
Relevant Magazine's 2015 Picks. I have not yet read Soong Chan Rah's new book, but really liked his older work The Next Evangelicalism: Releasing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/relevants-top-10-books-2015

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8 reasons you should bail on your Bible app and get back to your hardcopy

http://griffinpauljackson.com/2014/04/07/8-reasons-to-bail-on-bible-apps/ I've encouraged people to use a paper Bible in worship for years simply because of #1 on this list. Mass communication device + live gathering calling for focused attention = no focus.

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Nine Reasons Christians Don’t Evangelize

I shared last Sunday in my experience at Bay Shore what our greatest strength and weaknesses I've observed thus far. I wont share that here - you can listen when we get it online. However, in this teaching I reviewed our current vision statement, which begins, "Our vision is to invite every household in our local community to connect with Jesus and His Church..."

That's pretty big vision. It requires sharing Jesus (evangelism). So here is a great article on that: Nine Reasons Christians Don’t Evangelize

http://thomrainer.com/2015/11/nine-reasons-cont-evangelize/

By Chuck Lawless

I’ve been a professor of evangelism for almost twenty years. Over the years, I’ve continually considered and asked why most believers never do evangelism. Here are nine of the reasons I’ve discovered, given in no particular order.

  • Many don’t know what “evangelism” is.
  • When doing church consulting, I ask believers to rate the evangelism in their church. It’s not uncommon for me to hear answers like, “We send a lot of people on mission trips” or “we minister to the homeless downtown.” Both of these ministries are significant (and would likely contribute to evangelism), but they’re not evangelism unless the gospel message is proclaimed.

  • We have few evangelistic role models.
  • Two men in my life modeled evangelism for me. In both cases, seldom was I with either man without his sharing the gospel with somebody. When I ask my students today about their models, though, many have none.

  • Some church members aren’t convinced about lostness.
  • I encourage you to consider doing an anonymous theological survey of your church. I will not be surprised if you find folks who believe that good people might go to heaven apart from a relationship with Christ. Folks who believe that way see no need to do evangelism.

  • Some churches have provided no evangelism training.
  • I am still surprised by the number of churches that have no intentional, strategic plan to help Christ followers do evangelism. Ideally, of course, believers will naturally talk about Jesus, but even passionate people sometimes need direction and equipping.

  • Fear of the unknown halts our efforts.
  • You’ve probably heard fears expressed. “He might not listen to me.” “What if doing this costs me my friend?” “She might ask me questions I can’t answer . . . .” “They might reject what I say.” Most of these fears, I believe, are more perceived than real in North American culture, but perception matters.

  • We’ve “gotten over” our salvation.
  • In some ways, this issue is the focus of my book, Nobodies for Jesus. When Jesus becomes routine to us – that is, our passion for Him has settled into mediocrity – we won’t readily tell others about Him.

  • Pastors aren’t taking the lead in evangelism
  • . I cannot recall ever seeing a strongly evangelistic church led by a non-evangelistic pastor. The pastor who evangelizes regularly will speak more of his evangelistic experiences, challenge his church with more passion to evangelize, and assure his church provides evangelistic training.

  • We don’t really know many lost people anyway.
  • Many church members are so cocooned in the church world that they couldn’t list several names of non-believers they know well. If our whole world revolves around hanging out with Christians, we’re not likely to do evangelism.

  • We don’t care about non-believers.
  • I don’t think we can avoid this possibility. If we truly believe that people need a personal relationship with Jesus, but we still keep that message to ourselves, how can we conclude otherwise?

    What reasons would you add?

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    What is the Gospel?

    From ReKnew and Roger Oleson What is the Gospel? 04 Nov 2015

    Our friend Roger Olson raised this question in response to accusations by Calvinists that those who espouse Arminianism do not “preach the gospel.” The same argument has been made about Open Theists. Olson writes:

    The complete gospel is communicated in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Every true, classical, historical Arminian of the heart (evangelical Arminian) believes and preaches this just as fervently and faithfully as any Calvinist does.

    The problem begins to appear when Calvinists (and some Lutherans) begin to pack a systematic theology, that of Calvin, Edwards and Hodge, into that passage saying that it requires monergism. It simply does not.

    To read the rest of Roger’s post click herehttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/11/what-is-a-complete-gospel/. - See more at: http://reknew.org/2015/11/what-is-the-gospel/#sthash.7ksoDncq.dpuf

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    Dr. Witherington III on Women In Ministry

    I just finished a two-part sermon on 1 Timothy 1.8-15 and leaned heavily on Dr Witherington, NT Wright and Philip Towner. Here is Witherington's summary. Or go listen to the series on www.bayshoresrq.org where I used a lot of his material.

    Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical June 2, 2015 by Ben Witherington

    bwiii (This is a re-post of a piece I wrote for Beliefnet many years ago, back by popular demand. BW3)

    Most of you who know me, know that I did my doctoral thesis on women in the NT with C.K. Barrett at the University of Durham in England. My first three published scholarly books were on this very subject. One of the reasons I did that thirty some years ago was because of the controversy that raged then over the issue of women in ministry, and more particularly women as pulpit ministers and senior pastors. Never mind that the Bible does not have categories like ‘senior pastor’ or ‘pulpit minister’, the NT has been used over and over again to justify the suppression of women in ministry— and as I was to discover through years of research and study, without Biblical justification. Now of course equally sincere Christians may disagree on this matter, but the disagreements should be on the basis of sound exegesis of Biblical texts, not emotions, rhetoric, mere church polity, dubious hermeneutics and the like.

    So in this post I am going to deal with the usual objections to women in ministry, one by one. Some of these objections come out of a high church tradition, some tend to come from low church traditions, some are Catholic/Orthodox some are Protestant, but we will take on a sampling of them all without trying to be exhaustive or exhausting.

    1) Women can’t be ministers, because only males can be priests offering the sacrifice of the Mass etc. The root problem with this argument is that the NT is perfectly clear that apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons ARE NOT PRIESTS IN THE NT. There is no need for a separate order of priests in the NT because Christ’s sacrifice made obsolete the entire OT sacerdotal system of priests, temples and sacrifices. The only priesthoods we hear about in the NT are: 1) the priesthood of all believers, which of course includes women, and 2) the heavenly high priesthood of Christ (see Hebrews). There is no new priesthood between these two carried over from the OT or inaugurated in the NT era. Indeed the whole language of sacrifice and temple is spiritualized in the NT to refer to our offering of ourselves or our praise to God, and the Temple is described in various places in the NT (cf. 1 Cor. 3-6), as either the believer’s body, or the whole community of Christ in which Christ and the Spirit dwell. The problem here is essentially a hermeneutical one. Somewhere along the way about the time when the church became a licit religion under Constantine the OT hermeneutic took over, a hermeneutic which saw churches as temples, the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice, ministers as priests, the Lord’s Day as the sabbath, and so on. This did a grave dis-service to the newnness of the new covenant and its facets and features, and the net result was an exclusion of women from various ministries, on grounds the writers of the NT would have rejected outright.

    2) Women can’t be ministers because then they would have headship over men, including their husbands— and this will never do, and is a violation of the household codes in the NT. This argument is often complex and at the heart of it is an essential confusion of what the NT says about order in the physical family and home, and order in the family of faith, wherever it may meet. It is certainly true that texts like Col.3-4 and Ephes. 5-6 and other texts in 1 Pet. for example do talk about the structure of the physical family. As I have argued at length, the patriarchal family was the existing reality in the NT world, and what you discover when you compare what is in the NT and what is outside the NT, is that Paul and others are working hard to change the existing structures in a more Christian direction. Paul, for example, has to start with his audience where they are, and then persuade them to change. And you can see this process at work in Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians. For example, though the language of headship and submission is certainly used in these texts the trajectory of the argument is intended to: 1) place more and more strictures on the head of the household to limit his power and the way he relates to his wife, his children and his slaves; 2) make the head of the household aware that women, children and slaves are in fact persons created in God’s image, not chattel or property. This becomes especially clear in Philemon when Paul urges Philemon to manumit Onesimus on the basis of the fact that he is “no longer a slave, but rather a brother in Christ”. Paul is working to place the leaven of the Gospel into pre-existing relationships and change them. Similarly with the roles of husbands and wives, in Ephes. 5.21ff. Paul calls all Christians to mutual submission to each other, one form of which is wives to husbands, and then the exhortation ‘husbands love your wives as Christ did the church, giving himself….’ can be seen for what it is— a form of self-sacrificial submission and service. Submission is no longer gender specific or unilateral as Paul offers third order moral discourse here, working for change (see my commentary on Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon– Eerdmans). Furthermore, we need to keep steadily in mind that what determines or should determine the leadership structures in the church is not gender but rather gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. The family of faith is not identical with the physical family, and gender is no determinant of roles in it. Gender of course does affect some roles in the Christian family, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the discussion of the leadership structure of the church. This is why we should not be surprised to find even in Paul’s letters examples of women teachers, evangelist, prophetesses, deacons, and apostles. Paul is not one who is interested in baptizing the existing fallen patriarchal order and calling it good. One of the tell tale signs of Paul’s views on such matters can be seen in what he says about baptism— it is not a gender specific sign that we have for the new covenant unlike the one for the old covenant, and Paul adds that in Christ there is no ‘male and female’ just as there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free. The implications of this are enormous. The change in the covenant sign signals the change in the nature of the covenant when it comes to men and women.

    3) Women can’t be Christian ministers because specific passages in the NT prohibit it. Here, especially for very conservative Protestants is the nub of the matter. It is believed that 1 Cor. 14.33b-36 and 1 Tim. 2.8-15 prohibit women from teaching and preaching in the church. I will not bring up the hypocrisy of some of these arguments that make nice distinctions like— “its o.k. for women to teach or lead a Bible study in the home, but not in the church building.’ (this word just in– there were no church buildings in the NT era, they met in homes!), or even worse ‘its o.k. for women to teach and preach on the mission field where it’s necessary, but not here in America where it isn’t.’ Again the logic here is completely bogus and not based on anything in Scripture at all. But what about those texts?

    1 Cor. 14.33b-36 (assuming that it is an original part of this letter, which many scholars doubt on textual grounds. I disagree with the doubters) is part of a large problem solving letter. Paul is correcting problems as they arise in the house churches in Corinth. One such problem is caused by some women, apparently just some wives, who are interrupting the time of prophesying by asking questions. Now Paul has already said in 1 Cor. 11 that women are allowed to pray and prophesy in Christian worship if they wear headcoverings to hide their ‘glory’ (i.e. hair), since only God’s glory should be visible in worship, and he is not reneging on that permission in 1 Cor. 14.33b-36. The largely Gentile congregation in Corinth brought with them into the church their pre-existing assumptions about prophecy and what was appropriate when approaching a prophet or prophetess. The oracle at nearby Delphi for example was a consultative prophetess. People would go to her to ask questions like— Should I marry this man, or Should I buy this land etc. and the oracle would give an answer. Thus it was natural for some Corinthians to think that when prophets spoke in their assemblies, they had a right to ask them questions. Paul’s response is no— “worship time is not Q+A time, and you are interrupting the prophets. If you have questions asks your man (probably husband) at home. There is a time and place for such questions, but Christian worship isn’t it. The reason Paul corrects women/wives in this case is not because they are women but because they are in this instance causing this problem, of course. A couple of other points about this text need to be noted: 1) the text says nothing about women submitting to men. The call here is for these women to be silent and in submission as even the Law says. O.K. where in the OT is there a commandment for women to be silent and submit to men? Answer NOWHERE. Its not in the Pentateuch at all, or for that matter elsewhere. What Paul is talking about is being silent in the presence of God and listening to his inspired words, in this case coming from the prophets and prophetesses! “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence (and listen)”… and be in submission to God’s teaching.

    What about 1 Tim. 2.8-15? This is sometimes, wrongly, seen as the ultimate proof that women should not be ministers. But again this ignores the context and nuances of the text, which of course is the major problem with proof-texting anyway. Paul here is giving Timothy some instructions about how to handle his fledgling new converts probably in Ephesus (see my commentary on the Pastoral Epistles– Letters and Homilies for Gentile Christians Vol. One IVP). Now the problem as it surfaces in 1 Tim. 2.8-15 clearly has to do with particular women, high status women who have fancy clothes and hairstyles and are expecting right off the bat to be teachers of one and all in the church. The proof that this is once more a corrective passage, dealing with problems is seen from the outset— First Paul corrects grumbling men whom he wants to pray, then he corrects these high status women. Paul is an equal opportunity corrector of men and women when they are in error. In regard to his correction of women, something needs to be said about high status women in cities like Ephesus. What we know about such women is that they played vital roles in the Greco-Roman religious festivals, temples, worship services. They were priestesses, they were prophetesses, they were teachers, healers, keepers of the eternal flame, etc. It is then not surprising that such high status women would expect to be able, once they converted to Christ, to do the same sorts of things in the church. The problem was, they needed to be properly instructed and learn before they began to instruct others, whether male or female. This is a good principle for all of us to follow. I once had a student who was getting frustrated in a seminary class because of all that he was required to learn, much of which he thought was unnecessary, and he came up to me and said— “I don’t know why I need to learn all this stuff first. Why I can just get up in the pulpit and the Spirit will give me utterance.” I replied– “Yes Charlie, you can do that, but its a pity you aren’t giving the Holy Spirit more to work with!” Beware of using the Holy Spirit as a labor saving device. In essence, Paul is saying the same thing to these women in Ephesus— they need to learn before they teach.

    Here are some details about the exegesis of 1 Tim. 2.8-15. Once again nothing is said about women submitting to men here. The Greek is clear enough. Here the word for ‘quietness’ is used rather than the word for silence which we find in 1 Cor. 14, and once again the issue is their being in submission to the authoritative teaching of Timothy and others. Secondly the Greek verb “I am not now permitting” as Phil Payne has shown over and over again, is not a verb that implies an infinite extension of this refusal to permit. It means what it says “I am not presently permitting…” Why not? Because the women needed to learn before they taught. Thirdly, the Greek, since we are dealing with a text where a correction of behavior is being offered should be translated as follows “I am not currently permitting women (in this case the women referred to with the hairdos and bling and expensive attire) to teach or usurp authority over the (authorized) men. This is a prohibition of an abuse of a privilege, It does not rule out the possibility of a later authorization of a proper use of the privilege of offering Christian teaching, indeed we hear elsewhere in the Pastorals about more mature Christian women doing some teaching. The verb authenteo here is a rare one, meaning either to exercise authority, or to usurp authority, and it occurs only here in the NT. Here is a good example of why you can’t study the language of the Bible in isolation from its larger context, in this case the context of usage elsewhere in Greek. Elsewhere, in a corrective context the verb refers to an abuse of power, a usurping of some role or function that others have. It does here as well.

    Finally, what about the argument from creation, from the story of Eve? Paul is assuming some in his audience know the story very well. The story is as follows in the Hebrew— only Adam is instructed about the prohibition in regard to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it was his duty to properly instruct Eve, as she was not around when that prohibition was given. As the story develops, it is clear enough that Eve had not been properly instructed. She talks about not touching the fruit of the tree, which was not part of the original prohibition. Now the very verb ‘deceived’ here is an important one, mainly used in Paul in connection with Eve and the Fall. A person who is not properly instructed, is easily deceived, and may take action that is disastrous. Such was the case with Eve. She is the perfect example to give to the high status women in Ephesus– they needed to properly be instructed before they took any action. I would remind you as well that on a literal reading of the Genesis story, Adam was right there with Eve on this occasion and could have and should have stopped her from picking the fruit, but he did not do so. Eve plucked the fruit, and Adam dropped the ball as the authoritative teacher for the occasion. This is no doubt why it is Adam who is blamed for the Fall in Rom. 5.12-21. Paul then goes on to offer an alternative— “but now women shall be saved by the child-bearing” or possibly it reads “women shall be kept safe through the child-bearing”. What Paul is certainly not doing here is talking about salvation for women by baby-making!! So either of the two renderings I suggested are possible. I tend to favor the interpretation that the definite article before childbearing points to a specific birth— Jesus’ by means of Mary. So Mary is Eve in reverse. She obeys the voice of the angel, is the handmaiden of the Lord, unlike Eve. The other possibility is that Paul is saying that the curse on women (pain and danger in child-bearing) can be reversed in Christ if they remain faithful Christians and trust the Lord. In either case, this text is not a prohibition of all women in all times in all situations preaching and teaching. It is a very specific prohibition, and doubtless Paul would say the same thing to women or men today who try to teach or preach the Word of God without properly learning it first!! One more thing about the Genesis story. The author tells us that the effects of the Fall is patriarchy. It was not God original creation order design. The text tells us that part of the original curse (not the original blessing) on Eve will be “your desire will be for your husband, and he will lord it over you!!” So to love and to cherish degenerates into to desire and dominate!!! This is the effect of sin on the relationship, not inherent gender properties or qualities of the relationship.

    One more thing, since we are talking about those texts in the Pastoral Epistles. Sometimes you hear the argument that since it is assumed in 1 Timothy that the elders will be men who are faithful to their one and only wives, that this must signal that only men should be elders in churches. This is totally forgetting that Paul is speaking as a missionary into a strongly patriarchal cultural setting whether in Ephesus or on Crete, and his principle is to start where the people already are, not where he would like them to be. This means starting with the existing male leadership structure in the culture until the leaven of the Gospel can fully do its work and change things from the inside out. So quite naturally, it is men that Timothy and Titus are going to appoint first as leaders to these brand new church plants. This does not mean it needs always and forever to be that way, but the new converts would have to be convinced by loving persuasion that it was o.k. for women to fill such roles. You can see however how Paul is already beginning to push in that direction because in Rom. 16 he mentions a woman leader named Phoebe who is a deacon in the Corinthian churches, and probably there is a reference to women deacons in the Pastoral Epistles discussions about elders and deacons as well. As I said before, you have to not just evaluate what Paul says, but read it in its cultural context, and ask what sort of changes is Paul trying to make in relationships as he applies the Gospel to the situation?

    As I have learned over many years…. the problem in the church is not strong and gifted women. We need all those we can get, and were it not for them, many churches would have closed long ago. I remember so vividly meeting the babooshkas– the grandmothers in the Moscow Baptist Church, who had stopped Stalin from closing the church by standing in the door and not letting his troops enter and close it down. Thank God for strong, gifted women in the church. No, the problem in the church is not strong women, but rather weak men who feel threatened by strong women, and have tried various means, even by dubious exegesis to prohibit them from exercising their gifts and graces in the church.

    If you want more along these lines, see my commentaries or my lay person’s summary Women and the Genesis of Christianity, (Cambridge Press). Enough said.

    Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/bibleandculture/2009/10/why-arguments-against-women-in-ministry-arent-biblical.html#QABUb9JGAeDMvX4H.99

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    International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Church Nov 1st and 8th

    IDOP Video 2015 from IDOP on Vimeo.

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    Women in Ministry? Don’t Submit to a Woman

    Even if we read the "do not permit to hold authority over" from 1 Timothy 1 2.12 as literal and universal for all time and places, we still have the situation of the charismatic view of ministry. That view is that the Holy Spirit gives people gifts, calls and empowers. We know from Joel, Luke-Acts and Paul the Holy Spirit will empower men, women, old, young, rich and poor. The Holy Spirit is not interested in (limiting his activity by) the particular state we were born into - gender, class, race, social-status (even past or current sin - the Spirit knows our possibilities in Christ and impact).

    When a person is operating in a spiritual gift - even teaching - they are not simply operating in their own authority. But in the servant leadership, power-under, upside-down anointing of the Holy Spirit. You are not "under the authority" of simply a man or women, but under the authority of the Spirit of God working in that person. Dirt and divinity - stop confusing the two and missing the many leadership gifts of women and men. I want to have leaders in my life in the church who are not simply operating out of their natural talent and acquired skill based authority, certainly not authority based on their gender. But first operating out of the authority of the gifting of the Holy Spirit that comes through a living relationship with Jesus, the scriptures and growing in wisdom. (Assuming a level of health, humility and a proper local church to discern in). In that you are not in submission to a mere woman or man - but to the grace of God working in them.

    So yes, men do not submit to women in leadership because they are a woman (particularly if they are wrapped up into local politics, covenant-destroying teaching and heretical cults like in Ephesus). Women do not submit to men in leadership simply because they are a man. Rather submit to the grace of God that comes through anointed people in leadership. Submit one to another to honor the Spirit of God in one another and each spiritual gift given.

    Be careful then to not grieve the Spirit at work in a man or woman's life. The Pharisees did this. Rather stand back and under the authority of Jesus' spirit (Matthew 7.29 comes to mind here BTW) in your brother or sister. Be concerned about false teaching against the Gospel - discern that well.

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    A pastor-theologian who loves the questions…