Saturday, January 30, 2016

Men are called to lead in the Church

[8] I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.
Last time, I highlighted the fact that the Bible teaches two important and countercultural principles when it comes to men and women. The first principle is that men and women are fully equal. In the eyes of God, neither men nor women have an inferior or superior position relative to the other. Counter to the prevailing culture of the New Testament writers’ contemporaries, women were highly regarded as faithful workers and even patrons of the church. Paul goes so far as to say that in Christ, there is no distinction, spiritually speaking, between men and women. The second principle is that men and women are called by God to fill distinct roles. We’ll begin to look at those roles today. The point of all this is that the effort to really understand and follow not only the equality God has designed into humanity, but also the unique and distinct roles God has for men and women, then we will find that God has a plan for a more just and equal world.

In 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul begins with an instruction to men. In this verse, Paul uses a word that applies specifically to men. Paul uses the word aner which refers specifically to the male sex. Paul is writing to timothy, who is an overseer or a pastor over churches in Ephesus, which was a city known for its temple dedicated to the goddess Diana. The priests of Diana were both men and women, and worship practices featured ritual prostitution (Diana, ISBE). Paul is instructing Timothy to teach the men in every place—in the churches for which Timothy was responsible—were to dedicate themselves to the ministry of prayer. Paul was teaching that in the church, the men were to lead this ministry. This makes sense of the contrast in verse 12, “I do not permit a woman…to exercise authority….”

The unique instruction to men is to lead in prayer (verse 8), to lead in teaching/doctrine (verse 12), and to lead in government (verse 12). Today, men need to hear Paul’s exhortation here, and devote themselves to prayer, and study of the Bible. In early adulthood, there are a number of different competitors for the attention of young men, including school, career, social life, or hobbies. More and more in our time, faith is not a high priority. Paul is asking Timothy to challenge the young men to pray. So men, devote yourselves to prayer. Make time in your life to dive in to the Bible and learn it. This is not a call or responsibility for the future, it’s a call for us today. Devote yourselves to a life of prayer.

Second, Paul challenges men where men tend to fail in this regard. Paul calls men to pray “without anger and quarreling.” If anything is characteristic of young men it’s hot heads and loose hold on self-control. If you get young men in a group, all dedicated to serious study of any topic, and egos will begin to assert themselves. Paul warns against this kid of quarrelling in Romans, in 1 and 2 Corinthians and in Titus. James identifies the source of this fighting and quarreling: “your passions are at war within you.” Paul calls us to avoid anger and quarreling. The way we do that is to find our hope, or joy, our passions, our affections, the source of our expectation and hope in Christ. The way men (and women also, though this verse is speaking to men) can apply this passage is to study the life and example of Christ. When he met with difficulty, he would step aside and pray. He always contended for the glory and justice of the Father, but he never contended based on ego or vanity, but out of love for God and neighbor.

A third way young men can apply this teaching is to explore ways to contribute to the life of the Christian community. Find ways to serve in ministry. Not everyone is called to be a deacon or elder in a church—we’ll learn more about that in an upcoming post—but all men can devote themselves to leading by the way they live their lives. We can all dedicate ourselves to following Jesus. To the extent our lives are reflecting Jesus, we are on the right track. Men, explore ways to learn from Christ and put on Christ in your life and in your community.

One point of explanation. To say that men are to lead in prayer, and then to contrast that with Paul instruction to women to learn silently, can be mistaken to mean that women may never engage in public teaching, or scripture reading, or prayer in church. I don’t believe that is the argument here. Paul teaches in verse 8, and then in chapter 3 that the office of elder (also called pastor or bishop) is designed to be held by men. God calls men to the office of elder. But god gives a variety of gifts to all Christians—men and women—including teaching gifts, and including devotion to prayer. God gives all Christians a variety of competencies. There are places in scripture where women played significant roles in the training and instruction of men. Remember two things. Paul is speaking about Ephesus, whose culture was far from being biblical, instructing the church to reorder their ideas of leadership by the Bible. Second, Paul is teaching that the primary leadership in the church is to be given to men, and that this leadership is put in practice by praying for the congregation and teaching the congregation. There is no prohibition of women from teaching or praying or reading or speaking in congregational meetings. The regular work of teaching, though, belongs to the elders, who the Bible says are to be men.

The main point of all of this, however, is to look to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the chief shepherd and overseer of our souls. He is the senior senior pastor of every church and every individual Christian. He is the word of God who was present at creation. He is the authority that Christian leaders are called to exemplify. And he always submitted his will to the Father. He only ever did what the Father told him (John 5:19, 12:49-50). In that sense, submission to an outside authority is something that belongs to all Christians, and especially Christian leaders. And finally, the source of any authority to lead in prayer is ultimately and finally grounded in the good news that Christ is for us. That on the cross, he stands in our place. He willingly identifies with us and takes a penalty we deserve and offers us the benefit of his own perfection. Men are called to follow Christ, not only as example, but as savior and Lord.

Paul says, “I desire that in every place the men should pray.” Men: Look to Christ. He is your example in submission to God, humble leadership, and self-sacrifice. More than that, he is your only hope in the world.

In this series
  1. Men and Women
  2. Men are called to lead in the church
  3. Modesty
  4. Submission and Authority
  5. Saved through Childbearing?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Life Together: Men and Women

[8] I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; [9] likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, [10] but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. [11] Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. [12] I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. [13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve; [14] and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [15] Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. [1 Timothy 2:8-15]
About a year ago, Gordon led us in a series on Manhood and Womanhood centered on the illustration of the marriage covenant. We learned that Manhood and Womanhood—maleness and femaleness—are designed by God. Manhood and Womanhood are designed to be complementary—that is, together, men and women illustrate something about the character of God and the design of the universe that humanity would not illustrate if we were only one gender, or if there were no gender distinctions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Life together: Introduction to 1 Timothy (Part 1)

We’re beginning a new series in 1 Timothy. The series is called Life Together because of all that 1 Timothy has to teach us about our life as a Christian church—our life in community together. 1 Timothy is in a section of the New Testament called the Pastoral Epistles or Pastoral Letters. The Pastoral Letters are Paul’s 1st and 2nd letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus. They’re called Pastoral Letters because Timothy and Titus were close disciples of Paul, and Paul left them in charge of churches in their respective towns. Titus was in Crete, which is a large island just south of Greece, and Timothy was in Ephesus, which was a city right about in the middle of the west coast of what is now Turkey.

Paul trained these men, and as we’ll see, developed a close friendship with these men. He also trained them to be Pastors or Overseers of their churches, perhaps multiple local congregations in their areas. These letters were written near the end of Paul’s ministry; they were the last letters he wrote. They give a clear overview of what mattered most to Paul in ministry. They were a kind of final charge. They are a kind of philosophy of ministry for Paul’s successors in ministry.

The reason we’re calling this series “Life Together” is that in 1st Timothy, we see Paul’s clear instruction about how Timothy is supposed to organize and lead the church. He talks about public worship, he gives instructions about identifying godly leadership, how to confront sin, how to handle money, the roles of men and women in the church. All of these are very practical matters for us right now.