Covering and control

Only too often, I come across this kind of sad story of spiritual control:

“I committed some “offense”  (usually not a sin but something that went against the church’s “rules”), and the pastor /church excommunicated me. No one else in the church is allowed to talk to me. My old friends avoid me in the grocery store. The ones it hurts most are my kids, who just don’t understand….”

As far as I’m concerned this is control and abuse. It’s an application of the “heresy” of covering.

Control takes other forms too. Like baptism.  Only someone who is ordained can baptize. Show me that in the Bible! Or communion. It takes a special sacred person to give communion.

Often it’s applied specifically to women. Women can’t baptize. Where’s that in the Great Commission?

Give me a break!

 

 

 

Women are not allowed to teach. Really?

My last post about a female Indian church planter who  was not allowed to share in class obviously struck a chord with many. In response, someone asked me how he could answer those who use 1 Timothy 2:12 as the basis of their belief that women are not allowed to teach and shouldn’t have authority over men.

I don’t believe those who silenced my friend are deliberate misogynists. My guess is that they are genuinely trying to follow the Scriptures. The problem is, they take a legalistic viewpoint on an English version of a verse that can, with total integrity, be interpreted in a different way.

So here’s the question: is 1 Timothy 2:12 an absolute prohibition on women teaching men? Is it right for the men in her class to forbid my friend to speak?  Or are there other Scriptures that provide a balancing view, in which case, a different interpretation is acceptable.

People sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to accommodate this verse, as my Indian friend discovered.


Photo Credit: potamos.photography via Compfight cc

Consider the following in trying to understand 1 Timothy 2:12

  • 1 Timothy 2:12 is the only verse in the Bible that apparently explicitly states that women are not allowed to teach men.
  • Paul and Timothy had traveled together for some time, and Timothy would have known if Paul forbade women to teach (I Corinthians 4;17). It would have therefore been surprising if Timothy and Paul hadn’t made that clear right from the start in Ephesus. Even more surprising that Timothy allowed women to teach and the practice needed to stop.
  • Paul acknowledged the very real role that women had in teaching Timothy  (his mother and grandmother).
  • Priscilla (named first) and her husband, Aquila, taught Apollos a “more accurate way.” (Acts 18:26)
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26 gives a list of things that everyone is expected to participate in. “When you come together, each one has…” The Greek word for “each one,” hekastos, is a word that encompasses both genders. This list includes teaching. Several times in chapter 14, the word “all” is used. Verses 24 and 31 both say that all may prophesy, and we know from Paul’s teaching in chapter 11 and from Acts 2 that this includes women. If Paul really forbade women to teach, why didn’t he mention it then?
  • A number of gifts to the church, including teachers, are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. For some of these gifts there are female examples in the Scriptures (Junia was an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied), but again there’s no qualification here that women are not allowed to teach. Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” While the obvious answer to this question is “no,” there is no implication that any of these gifts are gender specific.
  • Colossians 3:16 exhorts us to teach and admonish one another.
  • In Revelation 2, the church in Thyatira is chastised for allowing “Jezebel” to lead people astray. It’s what she teaches that is the problem, not the fact that she’s a woman teaching.
  • The Great Commission, in which disciples are commanded to both baptize and teach is not limited to men.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 is the classic passage on discipleship. It is often rendered “The things you have heard me say…  entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The word “men” in the Greek is anthropos, a generic term for humans rather than gender specific.
Let this form the backdrop of how 1 Timothy 2:12 is interpreted.

 

5 activities women can do

There are a number of activities that have traditionally been limited to men. However, I find no scriptural warrant for not including women in them:

  1. Baptism: this is traditionally done by the pastor. When baptism is delayed so that it can be performed by a special person, it slows the growth of any disciple making movement.  In some countries, like India, women are not allowed to be touched by a man unless they are a family member. Although there are no Scriptural examples that specifically describe a woman baptizing, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) indicates that the person who leads someone to the Lord should be the one to baptize them.
  2. Teaching: First Timothy 2:11-12 is often used to stop women teaching. (See my posts (beginning here) on a different interpretation of this passage.) But there are plenty of indications to the contrary. For example, Priscilla (mentioned first) and Aquila taught Apollos. First Corinthians 14:26 encourages everyone to take part in the meetings including teaching (no mention here of this being a “men only” activity). Other lists such as 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 that list teaching include activities we know were open to women.  We are to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16).
  3. Giving communion: Our traditional practice of communion with a wafer and sip of wine is probably unscriptural. Communion was more like a meal (otherwise why does 1 Corinthians 11:21 talk about some going hungry and others getting drunk). While there is nothing to say that women are allowed to “give communion” there’s nothing to say that men are either.
  4. Leadership: Leading is one of the gifts given to the body of Christ. In Romans 12: 6-8, it is included in a list of things that God gives to us. Included in that list are gifts that we know women can use–for example, prophecy (Acts 2:17-18) If women were to be prohibited from leading, that might have been a good time to mention it!
  5. “Government”: There are examples of women in government. For example, Deborah led and judged the nation of Israel. We see Junia as an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied, Phoebe was a deacon (Jesus used the same word in the context of leadership.) I find nothing that says that women cannot be elders. (There are no examples of women elders, but I can think of no named examples of Gentile ones either.)

What similar activities can you think of?

 

 Photo Credit: Mars Hill Church via Compfight cc

What church can look like: a story from last week

Last week the church that meets in our home came together on Friday. In one sense, it wasn’t an unusual time, but God worked powerfully.

We had a new family with us this week, friends from work brought by someone who comes along when he can. “Build your own salad” was on the menu, people bringing salad toppings or fruit to contribute to the meal. We are trying to eat very healthy as a group because one or two who come have major health issues. Lots of laughter and sharing around the tables.

Then we gathered in our living room–people on sofas, sitting on the floor, on extra chairs brought in. Toddlers running around. Dogs lazing on the carpet. “What has God been doing in anyone’s life this week?” asks Becky, our daughter who often leads.

There are a number of really exciting things God has been doing in people’s lives–several of them related to various prayer projects that have been going on with our group. (We’ve seen some amazing miracles over the last few months.) People shared, and we gave praise to God.

One of the topics that came up during this time was faith. So we decided to look at the passage in Romans 10 that talks about faith. (“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”) The group was too large for everyone to participate, so we broke down into several groups of 4-5 people who all went to different parts of the house. I don’t know what went on in the other groups, but in our group, the talk went to some very deep things that are going on in people’s lives.

When the whole group came back together, we prayed for different needs. People had pictures and prophetic words, Scriptures and practical help to give.

As our time together came to an end, people began clearing up the mess and a few headed out to our hot tub. One young man, who had come with the visiting family, was obviously very moved by what was going on. Tony and a few others talked with him. His situation was really bad–he was scared and angry. When given the opportunity, he was hungry to learn more about Jesus and wanted to surrender his life to him. He wept his way into the Kingdom.

There was water (warm even)! What was to prevent him from being baptized? (Acts 8:36-37) He was baptized in the hot tub and came out of the water absolutely radiant. A new member of the family!

 

A story from our simple/organic church–and an urgent request

We need to go away more often. It’s amazing what happens when we leave the country.

We currently have a simple/organic church that meets in our home. It’s actually run by our daughter and son-in-law. We turn up from time to time.

For most of September and part of October, Tony and I were in Russia and the UK. Shortly after we left, a young man named Jose (aged 15) turned up at the gathering–schoolfriend of two nieces of Roxie who is part of the church. Jose is a sweet, incredibly loving, guy with a great sense of humor and a real love for the Lord. Jose had one thing on his heart.

“Pray that my mom will come to church with me. She needs Jesus.”

His prayer was speedily answered. The very next week his mom, Rosaura, came with him. Rosaura had many needs. She had major problems with both drugs and alcohol. The group spent most of their time together that week praying for her. She surrendered her life to Jesus and was completely delivered–no substance abuse since then.

The following week the group didn’t meet for various reasons but Rosaura was anxious that her sister, who has also had problems with alcoholism, get prayed for too. So Roxie opened up her home and the sister was set free too. Roxie has had a weekly get-together in her home since then.

Two weeks ago we were back in the country. That week, during our time together, Rosaura’s sister gave her heart to the Lord.

Jose’s simple faith led to his mother and aunt finding Jesus.

Last week, the family turned up with some devastating news.

“Jose has been diagnosed with a brain tumor!”

Apparently Jose had been having increasing problems with headaches and deteriorating vision. He saw an eye doctor early last week. Several urgent specialist visits later, he was diagnosed with a large, infiltrating tumor pressing on his optic nerve and pituitary gland. He is scheduled for the 8-hour surgery tomorrow.  Full recovery of both nerves and his endocrine system is expected to take more than a year. As yet, there is no way to know if the tumor is malignant or benign.

Rosaura is standing firm in her new-found faith. The morning Jose was due to see  the neurosurgeon, she asked the Lord, “Please show me something from your word.” She opened her Bible randomly to Mark 1 and put her finger down on verses 30-34–the story of Jesus healing not just Peter’s mother-in-law but also many other sick  or demon-possessed people. She knows that Jesus is working in her son’s life.

Two days ago, we had a phone call from Roxie.

“Jose and Rosaura want to get baptized tomorrow before Jose’s operation.”

So yesterday evening, around 40 people gathered around our hot tub as Jose and Rosaura were gloriously baptized.  Many of their family members and friends were there, several having come into town to support Jose and Rosaura through the ordeal of major surgery.

So here’s our urgent request: obviously we have prayed for Jesus to heal Jose, but his surgery is scheduled for 10 am tomorrow morning. Rosaura has given permission for us to tell her story and to enlist others in the battle for Jose’s life and health. Please pray that if the tumor is still there, it is easily removed without complications, and that Jose makes a full recovery with no residual effects. And it would be wonderful if you would get others to pray too.

Many thanks–and if the Lord reveals anything to you as you pray, let us know.

Jose baptism 1


 

 

 

Exceptions to principle? Baptism may be one

Should one ever go against principle?

When it comes to baptizing people, I believe there are times when it is right to go against principle. 

Two of the principles I have mentioned in the last few blog posts are

  • The person who leads someone to the Lord baptizes them
  • Baptism is immediate

Whenever baptism is demonstrated in the Book of Acts, it is always immediate (think Lydia and her household, Cornelius and his household, the crowd on the day of Pentecost). The only exceptions I can think of are Paul, who had to wait three days for Ananias to come to him, and the new believers in Ephesus, which was a situation of ignorance and immediately rectified by Paul.

However, if you talk with those who work in environments that are hostile to the Gospel, they say there are times when this principle of immediate baptism should be violated. In those situations, it may be wise to wait and see if the head of the household is going to become a believer. If this happens, then the outsider baptizes him and he then baptizes the members of his household. This prevents unnecessary persecution. (In some cultures, getting baptized may be a death sentence. It certainly means expulsion from the home, loss of job, loss of housing, loss of social community etc.)

In these situations, it is also customary that a woman should never be touched by a man who is not a family member. In this case, either a woman has to baptize another woman, or a family member should do so.

Below is a photo I was sent of a baptism occurring in secret, by night in one of the countries hostile Christianity. Faces and photo are deliberately blurred.

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