As I continue to grow and get older I see many areas that Christians in our country don’t seem to see as important as the Bible describes. These are areas that have sometimes have been defined as “culturally related” ideas in the Bible. The integral mistake is that when we use this argument we allow current culture to define how we should live rather than the Bible. Before I give the areas I want to write about I want to write about why this is such a grievous mistake in interpretation. A common assumption is that our struggles now are somehow greater than they were then. This is not a true statement because we deal with the same basic temptations to sin against God. This error also reads into the next something that is not there…that is to say it puts an end to an idea that does not say it will end. Relations between men and women both interpersonal and in the church, relation to governments, Sabbath rest, and involvement in church are a few of the concepts of Christian living that many Christians ignore.
All too often now many Christians are taking a view of women that is unbiblical. I’ll try to keep my words to a minimum so that the only one you have to get angry with is God because I’m going to quote a lot of scripture, especially on this topic. Let’s start with answering the question: Why was woman created?
Genesis 2:18,22 “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”… Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”
It was not so that woman could be over man but so that woman could help man. A misunderstanding of this leads to a misunderstanding of marriage.
Ephesians 5:22-33 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.””
There is nowhere in this passage that says it was just for ancient times. I think in fact that this passage very clearly speaks for all times from beginning to the end. There is a reference to Genesis when woman was first created which is the part about being from the beginning of time. The reason I say this passage is for all time is the comparison of marriage to Christ and the church. The relationship of the headship of Christ over the church should not change…will not change. Because of that this comparison is for all time…not just antiquity.
This idea of headship and leadership in a marriage is not well understood by women and men. I think this is one reason there are so many weak marriages. Marriage was created by God to be composed in a certain way and he very clearly describes it for us in the Bible. If a person tries to rebel against this plan it is no wonder that things become more difficult.
A common challenge to this idea goes as follows: What if a wife becomes a Christian yet the husband does not?
I Corinthians 7:10-24 “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.”
I know the ideas I am combining here are not at all popular…that is all the more reason to spread them. They are not mine but God’s and there cannot be reason to look to culture over God for advice…that is not wise at all.
Proverbs 31:10-31 gives a good description of a woman’s’ role in marriage as well:
“An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.”
This passage describes the exact opposite of what most women think of in being a wife and mother. This describes a woman who is highly esteemed and regarded, who works to please God. This passage describes such beauty is a woman that every Christian man should be asking God for a wife that reflects these values. The life described in this passage is not a life of boredom and idleness that many people think mothers have. I would challenge you, if you think that being a stay at home mom is dull, to ask a mother who stays at home and teaches her children if that is the case.
Now, if a woman is going to follow her husband the husband must lead. As I showed in Ephesians it says that a man must love his wife as Christ loves the church…that is no small command. Christ sacrificed Himself, He left His place in heaven (Philippians 2) to care for His people. He listens to us and gives us what we need. As Paul does mention this is quite a mystery as to how He does all this. However that does not mean that man are relieved from trying to reflect this. A man who is caring for his wife must take into great concern and care what she desires. Marriage is meant to be a beautiful union that is glorifying to God and showing of His love and sacrifice for us…a husband must work to show this in all aspects of the marriage of which he is the head.
Now there is another common misconception in our era as to the woman’s role in the church…it is not so different from the misconception of the woman’s role in a marriage. The idea is that women are biblically given an equal opportunity in church leadership…where this is ever seen as good in the Bible I am unsure. In my search I find the opposite distinctions.
Titus 1:6-9 “An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
I Timothy 3:1-13 “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.”
I do not find that there can be alternate interpretations of these passages…I do not see how they could be more straightforward. So many people look back with a negative view on Patriarchal society but this is what God, not people say. We cannot allow the ideas of our day hinder our service of God.
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We must trust in God and not society. The logical question a woman may ask is: What is my role in the church?
Titus 2:1-8 shows not just what women should do in the church but a lot of what the church should look like.
“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
This is such a good picture of what the church should look like…sadly this is not the case. We have allowed society to enter age gaps into our church. Many ministries are focus on separating everyone by age to teach age appropriate lessons in stead of allowing the older and wiser members mentor the younger members of a church. This comes from the consumer view of, “What can I get from church?”
This leads to people who will go to church not to truly worship God but to “learn how to better serve God.” While this is something we should desire church is not just for going and hearing a sermon and singing hymns. Perhaps some people would begin to wonder what it is all about then. A church is not just a building to go to a couple times a week but rather a community that decides to meet in a specific place. These members are to be encouraging each other and building each other up to remain accountable to God. Fellowship is a key to church as well. The Christians must be willing to speak of what God is doing in their lives and give glory to Him. When a member is struggling the others must be willing to sacrifice of themselves to help physically, emotionally and spiritually. The body of believers must be praying for each other.
The community of believers must also be outwardly focused in their work. They must reach out to those who do not know Christ in their local environments and in other countries. The call to sell all our possessions and follow Christ didn’t stop when Christ went back to heaven…we must be willing to sacrifice all our earthly goods, including our lives to glorify God. Far too few Christians are willing to do this and even fewer are able to leave what they own to go to another country and serve God. The need to serve full time over seas is not gone. There are still unreached people who have NEVER heard the Gospel of Jesus. How can we sit in comfort entertaining ourselves all the time when there are people to reach?! This is not just giving money so that others can go either…this is going. Money does not always get the work done…people still have to follow God’s commands.
One other topic of the church I would like to touch on is prayer. How often do we pray for matters in our church? How often do we pray that God will bring new people to our church? Do we believe He can? Do we trust or are we just fools as mentioned in James who do not believe God will give what we ask for? I would dare say that most Christians, often me included do not pray for their church, that God would grow them that they may reach farther into their local area and into the world. Often we put too much faith in ourselves to accomplish these things and put too little faith in God. Rather we must put our faith in God and ask for His strength to accomplish these things that He may be glorified.
We have been given the Sabbath as a day to rest from our work…I will not write much on this here since I have a rather large post on this from a few months ago so you should read that if you haven’t. The Sabbath is a day to spend looking to God and His word and fellowshipping with believers as I mentioned before.
In the past few years I have encountered some interesting idea concerning a Christian’s relation to earthly governments. We are of course above all else citizens of God’s eternal kingdom. There is the idea that this citizenship requires that we not be involved in earthly governments. I do not think this is a statement that logically follows from being a citizen of God’s kingdom. Daniel and Joseph quite clearly were involved in kingdoms that were not their own. There is nothing that says this was wrong for them to do, in fact in both instances their rise to power was shown to be God blessing them that His name would be further glorified.
When Paul was on trial he took full advantage of his Roman citizenship and God used that for His glory as well! There are a number of Roman officials who became Christians and did not leave their posts but stayed that they may reach those they were around.
Matthew 22:15-22 “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”
I bring this up because I do not think Jesus was just teaching on taxes…there are of course duties that we owe to our governments that we ought to pay. For example we must respect and pray for our leaders. David is an example of this. He would not harm the authority God had placed over him because David knew it was God who put other in authority.
Romans 13:1-7 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
I don’t think there can be any doubt as to what God desires here.
I pray that Christians will base themselves in the word of God in stead of what our culture and society say. God has taught very clearly how we ought to live as Christians. I pray that God may use these writings to exhort, encourage and edify all of you who are reading. I ask that you pray that I will continue to grow as a child of God always learning to apply His word better to my life.