4/24/17

“In ME you will have peace!” by Jim McGuiggan


https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/in-me-you-will-have-peace/


“In ME you will have peace!”


Kthump! Kthump! Kthump! Kthump! Kthump! Kthump! Kthump!
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his bother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…”  Luke 3:1-3:
Theophilus may have had his foot on the rungs of the ladder of power and Luke offers him assurance that what he had been taught was dependable (1:1-4). He didn’t offer him a lecture on political science, or on any other useful subject of study. Luke is certainly interested in the historical accuracy of what he writes but if we think he isn’t “preaching” we’re dreaming.
There’s something very deliberate about the way he lists the names above. He’s describing the world as he names the heavy-hitters! Sounds like massive steel spikes are being driven into the ground with a series of thuds from some huge machine:
“Tiberius!” Thud.
“Pilate!” Thud.
“Herod” Thud.
Philip, Lysanias, Annas, Caiaphas. Thus, Thud, Thud, Thud! Seven of them!  World-builders.
By these you live.
Stand here, sit there, move up, step down, pay this, forfeit that, sign there, believe this.
This was “the world”—defined by the powerful at various levels and ways. This was a world that  Israel and some others hated but since nothing was going to change they adjusted and learned to make the best of it. For some, Rome’s rule was better than the rule they once lived under and beleaguered kings were more than glad—they were eager, to submit to the emperor’s legions and have Rome as an ally. For many others life under Rome became a familiar and mostly a dull plod or they were sucked white by vampire Roman representatives. (“Should we remove these officials?” they asked Tiberius at one point, “They’re feeding on the subjects.” The morose emperor told them not to bother—it was for the best, he thought—the current rulers were like well-fed flies on a carcass; new ones would only be hungrier.)
In any case, the central story that tamed and shaped that world was this: ROME RULES!
What we hear as Luke announces the names of these political and religious rulers is this: “The story I’m telling you doesn’t begin with, “Once upon a time in a land over the rainbow.” He doesn’t say, “Middle Earth! Narnia or the Enchanted Forest!”
He says, “Rome! Judea! Galilee! Jerusalem!”
He doesn’t say, “Zeus! Apollo! Poseidon! Hercules!”
He says, “Tiberius! Pilate! Herod! Philip! Caiaphas!”
But there’s also something sarcastic in the way he uses the names. At some point each of them would have seen himself as some big wheel but Luke uses them as circles on a calendar to mark the day when a nobody came to town from the desert. He named him John, the only child of an old priest and his old wife. “The word of God came to John…….in the wilderness.” (3:2).
He came because God spoke to him—not to Tiberius or his servants, not to the lawmakers in the centers of power but to a strange, waiting, untamed young man who heard God, “It’s time!”
The stranger had a message for the world and for Israel in particular. He called for an entirely new way of seeing and thinking (repentance) that was to express itself in a baptism that committed them to “a coming one.” This repentance embraced a confession of the historically faithless nation’s sin but it was also a commitment to the faithful God who was making it known that the Redeemer He had promised was at the door.
Luke says this newcomer was preparing the way for “the Lord” and he wasn’t talking about the emperor who wore that title. Luke said John’s essential message was that humanity would see God’s saving purpose and power at work in this coming one.
          John dealt with individuals of course but his message had national and cosmic ramifications. It meant they were not to settle for the world as they now saw it and that kind of preaching was subversion! it was more than an offer of personal forgiveness of personal sins, it was about the salvation of the watching, chained, tamed, think-what-you-are-told-to-think, accept-things-as-they-are nations of the world.
It was about the personal forgiveness of sins of course but to reduce it to that is to miss Luke’s point altogether. John’s message was about the arrival of a new “Lord” and about his nation’s need to get ready to receive Him; it was about the world coming under new management. (But not everyone wanted it—John 11:47-50.)
John knew much but didn’t know it all and he himself would feel disappointed with how things were developing. Why do the world structures still stand, why are the Tiberuses, Pilates, Herods and Caiaphases still around calling the shots? It wasn’t only John who felt disappointed (see the book of Hebrews) and even today we wonder how it is that nothing has changed despite two thousand years of Jesus’ lordship and why it is that sickness and death are all too visible.
It’s distressing today, particularly for those who haven’t come to a negotiated settlement with “the world of Tiberius” but who feel that the “new Lord” has made little difference in their experience. (How can that be hard to understand?)
If they could only turn away from Jesus it might not make their lives better but would it not ease the strain of “hoping against hope”? Would it not be better to accept that what is is all there is? But they can’t! They know in their bones that the word that comes out of the corridors of power is the word of the moment and the word of dying men. They know that the word that came to John in the desert is the eternal word of the ever-living God and that’s why they keep coming back saying with Peter, “Who would we go to? You have the words of eternal life and we have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)
Like John, we know much but we don’t know it all. While our longing for better is fully understandable—something we shouldn’t apologize for—we’ll remain assured of what we’ve been taught until the ever-present and presently absent Lord comes in keeping with the proclamation and promise that occurs in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
          These ordinances and their place in the life of a Community of faith are not just for believers and they aren’t just about believers. They are a judgment in Jesus’ name on the “world’s” story and the character of “the world” and the proclamation of living and vibrant hope based on the commitment of the God in Jesus.
The Lord Jesus is Himself—HIMSELF—the embodiment of the faithfulness of the faithful God and the hope of the world and all who now constitute his Body, the Church, are (peculiarly but not exclusively) the visible and embodied covenant faithfulness of God. Certainly they are God’s treasure in clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7)—but that’s where He has deposited it, so He tells us. God will be God and it’s best that we come to terms with that—Christian and non-Christian alike.
Kthump, Kthump, Kthump….
Ali Khamenei, Putin, Xi Jinping, Merkel. Assad. May, Turnbull,
Kim Jong-un, Fattah, Netanyahu, Hollande, Ashraf Ghani, Trump, Macri,     Masum, Cazeneuve……………………

The World’s Greatest Monument By Allen Webster


http://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/1999/sep/page3.shtml

The World’s Greatest Monument

By Allen Webster

Honest Abe sits on his stone throne; Washington mans a silent portal; Vietnam’s heroes are etched in stone; JFK’s flame is eternal; MLK’s birthday is a holiday; MJ’s jersey is retired. Statues are raised to honor great men; calendars date the world’s important events; scenes of outstanding battles are forever marked.  Colleges and hospitals name buildings in honor of beneficiaries; streets are called after the famous who travel them.  Everybody who is anybody has a biography lining a library shelf.  How could one choose the greatest monument?  Is it the tallest?  Most read?  Widest known?  Most expensive?
The world’s greatest monument neither originated in man’s mind nor was designed by a renowned artist.  It is not even recognized by most historians.  Its picture is not regularly taken nor is it mentioned in travel magazines.  It originated in the mind of God and was set up in honor of his crucified Son.  For about ten minutes each first day of the week, Christians keep a feast in honor of the One who lived and died for them.  They remember his life, lessons and especially his death.  Consider what makes the Lord’s Supper so unique.

It Is Indestructible Though Destroyed.

Marble slowly crumbles, bronze defaces, dates drop from calendars, biographies go out-of-print; streets are renamed after new heroes.  Men’s monuments do not last, but God’s memorial remains.  It is two thousand years old now and will last until the Lord returns.  At the same time, its component parts deteriorate with a few days.  Left unattended, the grape juice soon ferments and the unleavened bread soon molds.  Interestingly, it is indestructible precisely because it is destroyed.  Saints destroy the bread and juice each Lord’s Day; yet, it becomes a part of them.  As one generation commits the truth to the next (1 Timothy 2:2), the Supper will remain until Jesus comes back.  “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come (1 Corinthians 11:26).

It Is Universal While Limited To One Place.

Stalin’s monument has never enjoyed popularity in America.  Robert E. Lee might be popular among some in the South, but above the Mason-Dixon his memory is not highly favored.  Dr. King is loved by many, but not by all.  Hitler may receive honor in Germany, but the world frowns on him.  There are few monuments that receive universal support.  In cities nationwide and countries worldwide, the communion will be kept this Sunday.  No other monument is in as many continents, countries, cities and communities.  It is not limited to one place like a statue or to one country like a Memorial Day.  Neither eastern land nor western civilization can lay exclusive claim to it. It is, though, limited to one place – it must be eaten in the Lord’s kingdom.  Just hours before his death, Jesus said, “For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come . . . That ye may eat and drink at my table in the kingdom . . .” (Luke 22:18, 30).  Incidentally, those who do not believe the kingdom has come (e.g., premillennialists), are inconsistent when eating the Supper for Jesus said it would be “in the kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

It Gives Life And Takes It.

The communion is life-giving.  It provides nourishment for the physical body and strength for the soul.  By remembering the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, commitments are renewed each week to live for the Savior (1 Peter 2:21).  But it can be soul condemning.  Speaking of those who partook unworthily, Paul said, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).  Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and abusing the Lord’s Supper is sin, then to take it unworthily brings spiritual death.  Properly taken, the Lord’s Supper gives life.  Improperly taken, it destroys.

It Is Simple In A Complex Way.

A child understands that the bread represents the broken, punished, tortured body of Christ (Luke 22:19).  A preschooler can see the likeness in the vine’s cup and the Savior’s blood (Luke 22:20).  At the same time, the depths of truth that surround the Lord’s Table challenge great minds.  How does one comprehend love that dies for the unlovely (Romans 5:8)?  Why did Jesus come to earth as a man (in a body) in the first place (John 1:14; Luke 19:10)?  What is the significance of blood in the Bible?  God has always required blood to seal a covenant (Deuteronomy 5:2; Genesis 8:20; 15:9-10; Matthew 26:28).  When the covenant at Sinai was given, Moses sprinkled blood on the people (Exodus 24:8; cf. 24:3-12).  John Mac Arthur writes:
When God brought reconciliation with Himself, the price was always blood, because “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22; cf. 1 Peter 1:2).  A sacrificial animal not only had to be killed but its blood had to be shed . . . Although Jesus did not bleed to death, He bled both before He died and as He died – from the wounds of the crown of thorns, from the lacerations of the scourging, and from the nail holes in his hands and feet.  After He was dead, a great volume of His blood poured out from the spear thrust in His side.  The blood . . . symbolized . . . the giving of His unblemished, pure, and wholly righteous life for the corrupt . . . sinful lives of unregenerate men . . . (New Testament Commentary, Matthew 24-28, Moody Press, p. 152-153).
Jesus mentions His blood in connection with the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:25).  The cup reminds of the horror of sin – it caused the “Passover Lamb” to be killed (John 1:19; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8).  The juice speaks of the price paid for the church (Acts 20:28).  It reminds the partaker of his baptism when he was washed in blood (Romans 6:3-4; John 19:34; Revelation 1:5; Acts 22:16).  It impresses with the need to walk in the light, so the blood will continually cleanse (1 John 1:7). You don’t have to go on vacation to see the world’s greatest monument.  It’ll come by you in your pew Sunday morning.

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" Paul's Missionary Policies (14:21-28) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                Paul's Missionary Policies (14:21-28)

INTRODUCTION

1. Following the attempt on Paul's life in the city of Lystra...
   a. The next day Paul and Barnabas went on to Derbe - Ac 14:20
   b. Where they preached the gospel and made many disciples - Ac 14:21

2. At this point, Paul and Barnabas began to retrace their steps...
   a. Visiting many of the places where they had established churches
   b. Finally returning to Antioch of Syria where they had started

[In this lesson we will review "Paul's Missionary Policies" that we can
glean from his first missionary journey.  But first, let's briefly summarize...]

I. THE RETURN TRIP HOME

   A. VIA LYSTRA, ICONIUM, ANTIOCH... - Ac 14:21
      1. Lystra - where Paul healed a lame man, but then was stoned
      2. Iconium - where Paul had spent some time, but the fled an attempt to stone him
      3. Antioch of Pisidia - where Paul preached the gospel in the
         synagogue until expelled from the region 

   B. STRENGTHENING THE DISCIPLES - Ac 14:22
      1. Exhorting them to continue in the faith
      2. Telling them to expect tribulations for the kingdom of God

   C. APPOINTING ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH - Ac 14:23
      1. With prayer and fasting
      2. Commending them to the Lord 

   D. PREACHING IN PERGA OF PAMPHYLIA - Ac 14:24-25
      1. Perga - from where John Mark left them earlier - Ac 13:13-14
      2. No mention was made of them preaching before, but now they do

   E. VIA ATTALIA TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA - Ac 14:25-26
      1. Attalia - a city on the coast of Pamphylia
      2. Antioch of Syria - the place from which they began their journey

   F. REPORTING WHAT GOD HAD DONE - Ac 14:27
      1. To the church that had sent them - cf. Ac 13:1-3
      2. Telling how God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles

[At this point Luke mentions that Paul and Barnabas stayed a long time
with the disciples at Antioch of Syria (Ac 14:28).  Looking back over
Paul's first missionary journey, let's glean what we can about...]

II. PAUL'S MISSIONARY POLICIES

   A. PREACH THE GOSPEL...
      1. He preached the gospel of Jesus Christ - Ac 14:7,21
      2. As commanded by Jesus Himself - Mk 16:15-16

   B. MAKE DISCIPLES...
      1. He made disciples by preaching the gospel - Ac 14:21
      2. Not just baptizing them, but teaching them as disciples - cf. Mt 28:19-20

   C. ESTABLISH LOCAL CHURCHES...
      1. Today, missionaries often establish missions (i.e., parachurch organizations)
      2. Paul's policy was to establish churches - Ac 14:23; cf. Ro 16:16

   D. STRENGTHEN AND EXHORT BRETHREN...
      1. Which may explain why he retraced his steps - Ac 14:21-22
      2. Which explains why he visited them again and again 
          - Ac 15:36,41; 16:1-5; 18:23

   E. APPOINT ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH...
      1. These were bishops (overseers), also known as pastors 
         (shepherds) - Ac 14:23; 20:17,28
      2. Older men who had to meet certain qualifications - cf. 1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9
      3. The quick appointment may be due to Jewish converts, already
         well versed in the Word and who may have served earlier as 
         elders in the synagogues

   F. COMMEND THEM TO THE LORD'S CARE...
      1. The early church did not practice "apostolic succession" - Ac12:2
          (James was not replaced)
      2. Instead, apostles left the churches to the grace (providence) of
         God - Ac 14:23; 20:28-32

   G. REPORT TO THE CHURCH THAT SENT THEM...
      1. The church at Antioch of Syria had sent Paul on this journey- Ac 13:1-3
      2. It was only proper to report back to them what took place - Ac 14:27

CONCLUSION

1. Paul's missionary policies were actually those of the Holy Spirit...
   a. Who sent Paul and Barnabas on their journey - Ac 13:1-4
   b. Who undoubtedly guided them in the work that they did

2. Today, many churches and missionaries involved in foreign work...
   a. Establish missions instead of churches
   b. Create paternalistic oversight of indigenous churches

3. Such practices are without scriptural authority...
   a. Paul and Barnabas established independent, autonomous congregations
      - Ac 14:23; 20:28
   b. They commended such congregations to God's Word and God's care
      - Ac 14:23; 20:32

If we desire to increase the kingdom of God (and not denominations of 
men), then we do well to study carefully and apply faithfully the 
policies of those like Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey...!
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

"THE BOOK OF ACTS" Tribulations For The Kingdom Of God (14:1-22) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

             Tribulations For The Kingdom Of God (14:1-22)

INTRODUCTION

1. Previously, we read about Paul and Barnabas at Antioch of Pisidia...
   a. Where they experienced both success and conflict - Ac 13:42-45
   b. They were eventually expelled, though leaving joyful disciples behind - Ac 13:49-52

2. Paul and Barnabas then went on to Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe...
   a. Cities of Phrygia and Lycaonia, in Asia Minor (Turkey)
   b. Establishing churches to which Paul likely wrote Galatians - cf. Ga 1:1-2

[As with Antioch, Paul and Barnabas found success mixed with ill 
treatment (cf. 2Ti 3:11).  Paul's observation about such treatment (Ac
14:22) raises some questions, but let's first summarize...]

I. THE MINISTRY AT ICONIUM, LYSTRA, AND DERBE

   A. ICONIUM...
      1. Again the procedure was to start with the local synagogue - Ac 14:1; 17:1-2
      2. Unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles against the brethren 
         - Ac 14:2; 13:45
      3. Paul and his companions stayed "a long time", speaking boldly in
         the Lord with signs and wonders - Ac 14:3; cf. Mk 16:19-20; He 2:4
      4. It may have been during this time to which Paul had reference 
         when he later wrote to the Galatians of their reception of him  cf. Ga 4:13-15
      5. The city eventually became divided between the Jews and the apostles - Ac 14:4
         a. Note that Paul and Barnabas are referred to as "apostles"
            - cf. also Ac 14:14
         b. Likely because they had been "sent" by the Holy Spirit - cf.Ac 13:2,4
         c. Not in quite the sense as used of the Twelve - cf. Ac 1:15-26; Re 21:14 
      6. An attempt to stone them forced Paul and Barnabas to flee to
         Lystra and Derbe - Ac 14:4-6

   B. LYSTRA...
      1. They preached the gospel throughout the region - Ac 14:6-7
      2. Paul healed a lame man, whom he saw had faith to be healed - Ac 14:8-10
      3. The Gentiles assumed Paul to be Hermes, Barnabas Zeus, and
         prepared to offer a sacrifice to them - Ac 14:11-13
      4. Barnabas and Paul reacted strongly, scarcely restraining them- Ac 14:14-18
         a. By proclaiming there is one living God, the Creator of all things
         b. Who bore witness of Himself through the blessings of nature- cf. Ac 17:24-25
      5. Jews from Antioch and Iconium persuade the multitude to stone 
         Paul - Ac 14:19; 2Co 11:25
      6. The next day Paul and Barnabas departed and went to Derbe - Ac 14:20

   C. DERBE...
      1. They preached the gospel - Ac 14:21a
      2. They made many disciples - Ac 14:21a

[Paul and Barnabas soon retraced their steps, returning to Lystra,
Iconium, Antioch (Ac 14:21).  There they strengthened the disciples and
exhorted them to continue in the faith, saying "We must through many 
tribulations enter the kingdom of God." (Ac 14:22).  This has led some to ask...]

II. MUST ALL CHRISTIANS SUFFER TRIBULATION FOR THE KINGDOM?

   A. THE APOSTLES CERTAINLY DID...
      1. As Jesus said they would - Mt 10:22
      2. As Paul mentioned of others and himself - 1Co 4:9-12; 2Co 4:8-10; 11:23-29
      3. Indeed they all died as martyrs, with the exception of John who suffered exile

   B. MANY EARLY CHRISTIANS DID...
      1. The church in Jerusalem - Ac 8:1,3
      2. The churches in Thessalonica and Philippi 
           - 1Th 1:6; 2:14; 3:2-4; 2Th 1:4-6; Php 1:29-30
      3. As Jesus warned those of Smyrna - Re 2:10

   C. BUT NOT ALL EARLY CHRISTIANS DID...
      1. There were periods of peace among the churches - Ac 9:31
      2. Jesus promised the church at Philadelphia they would be spared- Re 3:10
      3. Why pray for peace /aspire for quiet lives/ if tribulation is 
         inevitable? - 1Ti 2:3-4; 1Th 4:11

   D. HOW DO WE RECONCILE PAUL'S STATEMENTS...?
      1. Which sound as though all Christians must suffer 
           - e.g., Ac 14:22; 2Ti 3:12
      2. Consider the context:  To whom and when did he say such things?
         a. Was it to those who would be given the privilege to suffer? 
            - cf. Php 1:29-30
         b. Living at a time and in a place where persecution might arise?
      3. It seems that some of the early Christians were permitted to suffer
         a. To confirm the testimony of those early witnesses of the faith
         b. But not all Christians suffered the persecutions of others
      4. But Christians were not told to seek out persecution
         a. They were permitted to flee persecution -  Mt 10:23
         b. As Paul did on one occasion - Ac 9:23-25; 2Co 11:32-33 
      5. If they were persecuted for the cause of Christ...
         a. They were told to glorify God - 1Pe 4:16
         b. They were told to rejoice for the honor - 1Pe 4:14; Mt 5:10-12

CONCLUSION

1. When Paul and Barnabas suffered tribulation for the kingdom of God...
   a. They did not give up preaching the gospel
   b. It did not hinder the growth and development of the church

2. We may not suffer the persecution they did...
   a. Ours may in the lesser form of ridicule, or being ostracized
   b. But we must always be prepared to suffer should it become our lot

Are we preparing ourselves with the proper mindset should persecution
come our way?  Willing to suffer for Christ?  Quick to forgive those
who persecute us?  Steadfast in the proclamation of the gospel of Christ...?
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

The Quran and the Person of Jesus by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=8&article=1083

The Quran and the Person of Jesus

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Christianity and Islam are in hopeless contradiction with each other regarding several significant concepts and core doctrines—contradictions that strike at the very heart of their respective approaches to religion, life, spirituality, and human existence. The most crucial contention—the greatest tension between the two religions—pertains to the person of Christ. On this solitary point, Islam and Christianity, the Bible and the Quran, can never agree. This disagreement is of such momentous import, and of such great magnitude, as to make the inexorable incompatibility permanent.
Observe a few of the Quran’s declarations concerning the person of Jesus (taken from the translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall [n.d.]):
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah (Surah 3:64).
And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou art the Knower of Things Hidden. I spake unto them only that which Thou commandedst me, (saying): Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things (Surah 5:116-117).
Praise be to Allah Who hath revealed the Scripture unto His slave…to give warning of stern punishment from Him…and to warn those who say: Allah hath chosen a son, (A thing) whereof they have no knowledge, nor (had) their fathers. Dreadful is the word that cometh out of their mouths. They speak naught but a lie (Surah 18:1-5).
And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Assuredly ye utter a disastrous thing, whereby almost the heavens are torn, and the earth is split asunder and the mountains fall in ruins, that ye ascribe unto the Beneficent a son, when it is not meet for (the Majesty of) the Beneficent that He should choose a son. There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficient as a slave (Surah 19:88-93).
Allah hath not chosen any son, nor is there any God along with Him; else would each God have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be Allah above all that they allege (Surah 23:91).
He unto Whom belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, He hath chosen no son nor hath He any partner in the sovereignty. He hath created everything and hath meted out for it a measure (Surah 25:2).
These references, and others (e.g., 2:116; 6:101; 17:111; 19:35; 39:3-6; 43:14,59,81; 72:3-4), demonstrate that the Quran depicts Jesus as a mere man—a prophet like Muhammad—who was created by God like all other created beings: “The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him” (Surah 5:75; cf. 42:9,13,21). Indeed, when Jesus is compared to any of the prophets (listed as Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob), Allah is represented as stating: “We make no distinction between any of them” (Surah 2:136; 3:84). Though the Quran seems to accept the notion of the virgin conception (Surah 21:91), to attribute divinity to Jesus, or to assign to Jesus equal rank with God, is to utter a “dreadful” and “disastrous” thing—to formulate “nothing but a lie”!
Here, indeed, is the number one conflict between Islam and Christianity—–the deity, person, and redemptive role of Christ. If Christ is Who the Bible represents Him to be, then Islam and the Quran are completely fictitious. If Jesus Christ is Who the Quran represents Him to be, then Christianity is baseless and blasphemous. On this point alone, these two religions can never achieve harmony. But the New Testament is very, very clear: the heart, core, and soul of the Christian religion is allegiance to Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior.
To exhaust what the New Testament has to say on this subject would require volumes (cf. John 21:25). However, it takes only a few verses to establish the clarity with which the New Testament affirms the divine nature of Jesus. The entire book of John is devoted to defending the divine identity of Christ, articulated in its thematic statement: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31, emp. added). The book of John pinpoints seven “signs,” i.e., miraculous acts, performed by Jesus while He was on Earth that proved His divine person—beginning with the very first verse that forthrightly affirms: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:1-4). The “Word” is Jesus (1:14). This thesis reaches its climactic pinnacle when Thomas was forced to arrive at the only possible conclusion regarding the person of Jesus, when he exclaimed: “My Lord and My God!” (20:28). To the Muslim and the Quran, such a declaration is preposterous, horrifying, blasphemous, and absolutely unacceptable. But it is the clear teaching of the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, when Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he asked God to clarify His name so that Moses would be able to respond appropriately to the Israelites when he went to them in Egypt on God’s mission. God answered: “ ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14). “I AM” is a reference to the eternality of God. Being God, He is eternal with no beginning and no end. He is self-existent and has always existed. Yet in the book of John, Jesus repeatedly identifies His own person with this same appellation (4:26; 8:24,28,58; 13:19). For example, when Jesus explained to the hostile Jews that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day, they responded, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus retorted: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58). The Jews unquestionably understood Jesus’ remark to be a claim to divinity, and promptly took up stones to kill Him (vs. 59).
Another Bible text where the deity of Jesus is set forth in unmistakable terms is the book of Colossians. Paul forcefully affirmed regarding Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (1:15-17). “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9).
Such depictions of Jesus are frequent in the New Testament. Jesus was certainly a prophet, as the Quran itself affirms (Surah 4:163); but Jesus was not just a prophet. He was God in the flesh. In fact, oral confession of the deity of Christ is prerequisite to becoming a Christian (Romans 10:9-10). This singular point makes Christianity and Islam forever incompatible. One must be a Christian to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and yet one cannot be a Christian without believing in, and verbally confessing, the deity of Christ. The Bible declares that Jesus was the final revelation of God to man (Hebrews 1:1-3). There have been no others.

REFERENCES

Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).


What Did You Expect? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=859

What Did You Expect?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In contrasting the God of Israel with the pagan idols of old, the prophet Isaiah issued a challenge to those who believed in the potency of their pagan deities. Isaiah said this about the idols: “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them…. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods” (41:22-23). According to Isaiah, any deity that could consistently forecast the future would be recognized as a true God, while any unable to tell the future should be relegated to the rubbish pile of false religions. In order to prove that the God of Israel was the true God, Isaiah quoted this from the mouth of God: “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times thins that are not yet done” (46:9-10). Truly, Isaiah’s God could tell the future. The fall of Babylon, the reign of Cyrus, and the coming Messiah are but a few of the more prominent examples found within the book of Isaiah itself. In fact, the writers of the New Testament quoted the book of Isaiah more often than any other book of the Old Testament. The first-century Jewish community respected the book of Isaiah as inspired and infallible. Yet, the majority of first century Jews missed one of the main points of the book—that the coming Messiah would be not only a conquering king, but also a suffering servant.
Much of the time, people find what they want to find. During the time that Isaiah wrote his prophecy, the children of Israel suffered persecution from the surrounding nations. Years after Isaiah wrote, the nation of Israel fell into even greater troubles, even being led away into captivity by the Babylonians and being scattered throughout many different nations. During their various persecutions, they began to formulate a picture of the promised Messiah. The Coming One was He of whom it was spoken:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).
From this prophecy, what else could one expect but a mighty, conquering Savior Who would carry the burden of the government on His own two shoulders; a sovereign Ruler the likes of David, Who would sit on the throne of a united, far-reaching kingdom? How Israel longed for such a Ruler Who would cast the burden of foreign bondage from their backs and lead them into a physical kingdom, victorious and everlasting!
However, Isaiah did not paint a one-sided picture of the Messiah. In fact, the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 details a suffering servant who would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” This suffering Messiah would be oppressed, afflicted, bruised, and stricken. At His death He would be counted among the wicked, led as a lamb to the slaughter. This picture of the Messiah was not of a conquering warrior, but rather of a beaten servant, carrying the sins of the world.
Of course, the pictures painted by the prophets were not mutually exclusive. The conquering power of the Messiah would result from His ability to bear the sins of the world through suffering and shame. But for most of the first-century Jews, a suffering Messiah was too much to bear. When Christ came from the despised Nazareth as a lowly carpenter’s son, He just wasn’t what they expected. They taunted Him to prove His power when they said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42). They failed to recognize the “time of their visitation” because they kept in mind only the prophecies that they liked—only those pictures that suited their fancy.
Let us learn a valuable lesson from those first-century Jews. What we expect from Christ is not always what we find. Christ’s Gospel was not one of health and wealth on this Earth. It was not one of moral laxity, or a half-hearted call to devotion. The Christ of the New Testament turned over moneychangers’ tables, set fathers against sons, cried out against divorce, and demanded undivided adoration. When we see something in the character of Christ that we did not expect to find, let us not join the majority of first-century Judaism in rejecting Christ and His Word based on a one-sided acceptance of the evidence. Instead, let us probe deeper for the full portrait of our Savior, based on all the evidence. Let us have the courage to go where that evidence takes us so that we can join the apostle Andrew in saying, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41).

The Omnipotence of God by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1397

The Omnipotence of God

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

God is the only being Who possesses omnipotence. In the Oxford English Dictionary, “omnipotence” is defined as “all-powerfulness,” or “almightiness.” In other words, when God wants something to be done, it is done. God has all power in heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18), so unlike the limited power of humans, which is constrained by time, space, and force, God’s capabilities are limited only by His own character (see Miller, 2003). Paul wrote of God’s omnipotence in the sense that He is “above all, and through all, and in you all,” (Ephesians 4:6). God is preeminent for many reasons, not the least of which is His great power.
God has complete power over the Earth. The very first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1) is full of references to God’s power. The words of His mouth brought the Universe into existence; He spoke the Cosmos into existence with only a word (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3). In order to create the Universe, God needed no pre-existing matter with which to work; rather, He Himself spoke the very first matter into existence (see Thompson, et al., 2003a, 2003b). After He created “the heavens and the Earth,” He spoke “light” into existence on Earth (Genesis 1:3). After creating light, He created the firmament, and much more, all by the power of His word.
God has complete power over the spiritual realm. Just as the first chapter in the Bible reveals that God created light on Earth, the last chapter in the Bible reminds us that God’s power will be responsible for the eternal light in heaven (Revelation 22:5). Christ repeatedly cast out devils during His earthly ministry (Matthew 8:16; 9:32-33; 12:22), and James revealed that the demons believe in the one God of the Bible, and that because they are aware of God’s omnipotence, they tremble (Luke 8:31; James 2:19). God now limits Satan himself, keeping him from directly inhabiting people or causing people physical pain (Zechariah 13:1-2).
Only God can perform “wonders,” and only God can furnish that capability to others (Job 5:9; Psalm 72:18; John 3:2). Christ again revealed His power over the spiritual realm when He brought Lazarus’ soul back from the realm of departed spirits, and returned it to Lazarus’ body (John 11:43). Similarly, God will resurrect all the dead one day, having already determined the fate of their souls (Mark 12:26-27; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:15,32; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
God has complete power over the affairs of men. John Waddey observed: “God was known to the patriarchs as El-Shaddai, God Almighty (Exodus 6:2-3). The term Shaddai, when connected with the Hebrew word El (God) means, ‘the mighty One to nourish, satisfy and supply.’ Thus we see His power to send forth blessings for He is the all-bountiful One” (1987, p. 1). It makes sense, then, that when Moses spoke to the entire assembly of the children of Israel the lyrics of a lengthy song, he included this line: “Nor is there any that can deliver out of My [God’s] hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Of course, just as God has the power to bless us and deliver the righteous from spiritual harm, He also has the uncontainable power to destroy the wicked, as can be seen in His utter destruction of the world through the global Flood of Noah’s time (except eight souls; see Thompson, 1999a).
The plural form of El, Elohim, brings to light the fullness of God’s power, in that it highlights the Trinity (Psalm 38:75). Still another Old Testament expression used to denote omnipotence is Abhir, or “strong One” (Genesis 49:24; see Vos, 1994, 3:2188-2190). Jesus said that God is Spirit, emphasizing that God is not limited by impotence of flesh, as are humans (Isaiah 2:22; 31:3; John 4:24).
God’s power over the nations of the Earth is evident. Though God used the children of Israel as His means for bringing Christ to Earth, God’s power over large groups of people has never been limited to Israel. God has authority over all nations, and frequently has used them to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 10:5; Jeremiah 25:9; Amos 1). Job said: “He makes nations great and destroys them” (Job 12:23). Kings have their dominion only because God allows it (see Custance, 1977, p. 134). Vos observed: “The prophets ascribe to Jehovah not merely relatively greater power than to the gods of the nations, but His power extends into the sphere of the nations, and the heathen gods are ignored in the estimate put upon His might (Isaiah 31:3)” [1994, 3:2189]. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was warned:
This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men…. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:17,24-25, emp. added).
God has complete power over the devil, whom He created (though the devil was not evil at the time of his creation; see Colley, 2004). While the devil has certain powers that humans do not possess (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 11-12), Satan is not omnipotent. During his temptation of Christ, Satan admitted that whatever power he possessed had been “delivered to him” (Luke 4:6). Satan had to ask for God’s permission to harm Job (Job 1:7-12). Jesus said that Satan had desired to sift Peter as wheat; that is, Satan sought the express permission of God. Without it, Satan would be powerless to tempt Peter. While God never had a beginning, Satan was created (Colossians 1:16). For this, and other reasons, Satan is not omnipotent, and his power is far less potent than the power of God. John wrote: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
If we were to try to imagine someone whose power approached God’s might, we might think of Satan. Yet, the Bible reveals that nothing is too hard for the Lord—even defeating Satan (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17). In fact, Christ already conquered the devil, and eventually will punish him everlastingly in hell (Matthew 25:41; see Thompson, 1999b, pp. 12-13). Hebrews 2:14 reads: “He [Christ] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Milton, in Paradise Lost, wrote of Satan: “Him the Almighty Power hurled headlong flaming from th’ ethereal sky…Who durst defy th’ Omnipotent to arms” (1.49).
God’s complete power is unending. Because God would not be God if He were not omnipotent, and because we know that God will never end, we can know that God’s power will never cease or diminish (see Colley, 2004). Furthermore, Isaiah plainly stated: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable” (40:28).

CONCLUSION

God’s omnipotence reassures us, because it is through the Divine power that His servants know that “nothing will be impossible” to those who faithfully serve Him (Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:23; Philippians 4:13). Those who are not faithful to the Lord should be terror-stricken by God’s omnipotence, because, in the Day of Judgment, the very force that created the Universe will condemn them to an everlasting punishment. Vos commented that omnipotence
evokes a specific religious response. This is true, not only of the Old Testament, where the element of the fear of God stands comparatively in the foreground, but remains true also in the New Testament. Even in our Lord’s teaching the prominence given to the fatherhood and love of God does not preclude that the transcendent majesty of the Divine nature, including omnipotence, is kept in full view and made a potent factor in the cultivation of the religious mind (Matthew 6:9). The beauty of Jesus’ teaching on the nature of God consists in this, that He keeps the exaltation of God above every creature and His loving condescension toward the creature in perfect equilibrium and makes them mutually fructified by each other. Religion is more than the inclusion of God in the general altruistic movement of the human mind; it is a devotion at every point colored by the consciousness of that Divine uniqueness in which God’s omnipotence occupies a foremost place (1994, 3:2190).
Little wonder that the multitude of Revelation 19:6 cried: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” The fact that God so willingly uses His omnipotent capacity for the ultimate benefit of His servants should motivate everyone to obey the Gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). We will not escape the vengeance of God if we neglect the great salvation offered us (Hebrews 2:3).

REFERENCES

Colley, Caleb (2004), “The Eternality of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2565.
Custance, Arthur C. (1977), Time and Eternity and Other Biblical Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Things God Cannot Do,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2292.
Lockyer, Herbert (1997), All the 3s of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Thompson, Bert (1999a), The Global Flood of Noah (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), second edition.
Thompson, Bert (1999b), Satan—His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, 2001 reprint).
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003a), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/22.
Thompson, Bert, Brad Harrub, and Branyon May (2003b), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/26.
Vos, Geerhardus (1994), “Omnipotence,” The International Bible Encyclopaedia, ed. James Orr, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Waddey, John (1987), “The Omnipotence of God,” Firm Foundation, 104[18]:1,4, September 22.

Male and Female Roles: Gender in the Bible by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5007

Male and Female Roles: Gender in the Bible

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

In little more than half a century, American culture has experienced a massive restructuring of values and reorientation of moral and spiritual standards. One facet of this multifaceted effacement and erosion of biblical values has been dramatically altered gender roles. The feminist agenda has penetrated the American social landscape. Indeed, the onset of the feminist movement in the turbulent 1960s sparked a significant adjustment of societal norms resulting in the transformation of virtually every sphere of American culture—from the home and the church to the business world and beyond. Women now routinely serve in historically male capacities, including the military, politics, sports, and a host of community services including fire, police, ambulance, etc.
Make no mistake, a number of changes with regard to gender have emerged that may be deemed beneficial and positive. Nevertheless, the overall impact on American civilization has been negative, and the erosion of femininity has ushered in a host of evils that are hastening America’s moral implosion (e.g., abortion and homosexuality). Concomitant with the effort to eradicate gender differentiation has been the degradation of masculinity and the restructuring of the family unit (the fundamental building block of humanity—Genesis 1:27; 2:24). As womanhood has been devalued and her function altered, the rest of society has suffered dramatically. After all, women inevitably exert a profound influence on culture and society—for good or ill. Virtuous femininity is the glue that holds human civilization together. In the words of American poet William Ross Wallace’s immortal poem, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Rules the World” (1865). Sadly for America, feminism has overturned the rocker, thrown the baby out with the bathwater, punched Dad in the face, and stomped away from the house in a huff.

the bible still has the correct perspective

Amid this polarization that plagues American civilization in general, and Christendom in particular, one chasm continues to widen between those who wish to conform to Bible protocol and those who wish to modernize, update, and adapt Scripture to a changing society. The cry of those who are pressing the feminist agenda is that the church in the past has restricted women in roles of leadership and worship simply because of culture and flawed hermeneutical principles. They say we are the product of a male-dominated society and have consequently misconstrued the contextual meaning of the relevant biblical passages.
The underlying catalyst for this social turmoil, and resulting gender confusion, has been the rejection of the Bible as the authentic Word of the divine Being Who created the Universe and humans. Even among those who continue to profess their allegiance to Christianity, large numbers have capitulated to political correctness and abandoned the traditional, i.e., biblical, depiction of gender roles as defined by the Creator. In their quest to maintain relevance among the shifting sands of secular culture, they have imbibed the spirit of the age, been infected by humanistic philosophy, and consequently have compromised the clear teaching of Scripture on the role of women (cf. “Gender Inclusive…,” 2013; “Believe It…,” 2006; Pauls, 2013; “The Role of…,” 2006; Stirman, 2010).
As attitudes soften and biblical conviction weakens, Scripture is being reinterpreted to allow for expanded roles for women in worship. If one who studies the biblical text concludes that women are not to be restricted in worship, he is hailed as engaging in “fresh scholarly exegesis.” But the one who studies the text and concludes that God intended for women to be subordinate to male leadership in worship is guilty of prejudice and being unduly influenced by “Church tradition” or “cultural baggage.” How is it that the former’s religious practice and interpretation of Scripture is somehow curiously exempt from imbibing the spirit of an age in which feminist ideology has permeated virtually every segment of American society?
Nevertheless, Bible teaching on this subject is not that difficult to ascertain. Recent attempts to redefine gender roles fall flat, not only before a sensible assessment of relevant Bible passages on the subject, but in the face of the 2,000 year history of Christianity which has, for the most part, demonstrated a generally accurate grasp of the basic parameters of God’s will on this matter. Such has certainly been true in America where the Founders and 18th century men and women embraced the Christian worldview, and believed that “family integrity was indispensable for the public safety and happiness” (West, 1997, p. 85).

Relevant Bible Passages

A detailed study of the relevant biblical texts in one article is impossible. However, God’s Word is essentially simple on any significant subject in the Bible [NOTE: For useful discussions see Hicks and Morton, 1978; Piper and Grudem, 1991; Cottrell, 1992; Highers, 1991; Laws, 1994; Warren, 1975; Miller, 1994; Miller, 1996.] In fact, it is the more recently emerging “scholars” with their intellectual complexities and imported seminary bias that have contributed to the confusion over this subject (e.g., Osburn, 1993). Carroll Osburn summarized his discussion of 1 Timothy 2 in the words—“Put simply, any female who has sufficient and accurate information may teach that information in a gentle spirit to whomever in whatever situation they may be” (1994, p. 115). Is such a cavalier attitude to be allowed to so easily dismiss the historical and biblical distinction between the sexes? The reader is invited to give consideration to the following brief summary of New Testament teaching on the subject of the role of women in leadership in worship and the church.

1 Corinthians

Chapters 11 and 14 of First Corinthians constitute a context dealing with disorders in the worship assembly. The entire pericope of 11:2-14:40 concerns the worship assembly, i.e., “when you come together” (cf. 11:17,18,20,33; 14:23-26). Paul articulated the transcultural principle for all people throughout history in 11:3—“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” “Head” clearly refers not to “source” but to “authority” (see Grudem, 1985, pp. 38-59). Therefore, God intends for women to be subordinate to men. [NOTE: The equality of male and female in Galatians 3:28 pertains to salvation status, not role.] Corinthian women were obviously removing their veils and stepping forward in the assembly to lead with their Spirit-imparted, miraculous capabilities, i.e., prophecy (12:10; 14:31) and prayer (14:14-15). Such activity was a direct violation of the subordination principle, articulated by Paul in chapter 14. In chapter 11, he focused on the propriety of females removing the cultural symbol of submission.
The women were removing their veils because they understood that to stand and exercise a spiritual gift in the assembly was an authoritative act of leadership. They recognized that to wear a symbol of submission to authority (the veil) while simultaneously conducting oneself in an authoritative fashion (to lead in worship) was self-contradictory. Paul’s insistence that women keep their veils on during the worship assembly amounted to an implicit directive to refrain from leading in the assembly—a directive stated explicitly in 14:34. The allusions to Creation law (11:7-9; cf. 14:34) underscore the fact that Paul saw the restrictions on women as rooted in the created ordernot culture. Also, Paul made clear that such restrictions applied equally to all churches of Christ (11:16).
Later in the same context (in chapter 14), Paul addresses further the confusion over spiritual gifts and returns specifically to the participation of women in the exercise of those gifts in the assembly. He again emphasizes the universal practice of churches of Christ: “as in all churches of the saints” (14:33). [NOTE: Grammatically, “as in all churches of the saints” links with “let your women keep silence.” Cf. the ASV, RSV, NIV, NEB, NAB, etc.] The women who possessed miraculous gifts were not to exercise them in the mixed worship assembly of the church. To do so was disgraceful—“a shame” (14:35). To insist upon doing so was equivalent to (1) presuming to be the authors of God’s Word, and (2) assuming that God’s standards do not apply to everyone (14:36).
Granted, 1 Corinthians chapters 11 and 14 address a unique situation. After all, spiritual gifts are no longer available to the church (1 Corinthians 13:8-11; see Miller, 2003a), and veils, in Western society, are no longer a cultural symbol of female submission (see Miller, 2003b; cf. Moore, 1998). Nevertheless, both passages demonstrate the clear application of the transcultural principle (female subordination in worship) to a specific cultural circumstance. The underlying submission principle remains intact as an inbuilt constituent element of the created order.

1 Timothy 2: The Central Scripture

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-15).
The premier passage in the New Testament that treats the role of women in worship is 1 Timothy 2:8-15. The remote context of the book is proper behavior in the life of the church (1 Timothy 3:15). The immediate context of chapter two is worship, specifically prayer (1 Timothy 2:1,8). The context does not limit the worship to the church assembly, but includes the general life of the church.
In this passage, Paul affirms that adult males (andras) are to lead prayers anywhere people meet for worship. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech, metonymy, in which a posture of prayer is put in place of prayer itself. Their prayers are to usher forth from holy lives. On the other hand, women are admonished to focus on appropriate apparel and a submissive attitude. Notice the contrast framed in the passage: Men need to be holy, spiritual leaders in worship while women need to be modest and unassuming. “Silence” and “subjection” in this passage relate specifically to the exercise of spiritual authority over adult males in the church. “Usurp” (KJV) is not in the original text. Authentein should be translated “to have (or exercise) authority” (NKJV, ESV, NIV, RSV, NASB). Thus Paul instructed women not to teach nor in any other way to have authority over men in worship.
Why? Why would an inspired apostle place such limitations on Christian women? Was his concern prompted by the culture of that day? Was Paul merely accommodating an unenlightened, hostile environment, stalling for time and keeping prejudice to a minimum, until he could teach them the Gospel? Absolutely not. The Holy Spirit gives the reason for the limitations, and that reason transcends all culture and all locales. Paul states that women are not to exercise spiritual authority over men because Adam was created before Eve. Here we are given the heart and core of God’s will concerning how men and women are to function and interrelate. But what does the chronological priority of Adam have to do with the interrelationship of male and female?

Grounded in Creation—Not Culture

Paul is saying that God’s original design for the human race entailed the creation of the male first as an indication of his responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the home. He was created to function as the head or leader in the home and in the church. That is his functional purpose. Woman, on the other hand, was specifically designed and created for the purpose of being a subordinate—though not inferior—assistant. God could have created the woman first, but He did not. He could have created both male and female simultaneously,but He did not. His action was intended to convey His will with regard to gender as it relates to the interrelationship of man and woman.
This feature of Creation explains why God gave spiritual teaching to Adam before Eve was created, implying that Adam had the created responsibility to teach his wife (Genesis 2:15-17). It explains why the female is twice stated to have been created to be “an help meet for him,” i.e., a helper suitable for the man (Genesis 2:18,20, emp. added). This explains why the Genesis text clearly indicates that in a unique sense, the woman was created for the man—not vice versa. It explains why God brought the woman “to the man” (Genesis 2:22), again, as if she was made “for him”—not vice versa. Adam confirmed this understanding by stating “the woman whom You gave to be with me” (Genesis 3:12, emp. added). It explains why Paul argued in the Corinthian letter on the basis of this very distinction: “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:9, emp. added). It further clarifies the implied authority of the man over the women in his act of naming the woman (Genesis 2:23; 3:20). The Jews understood this divinely designed order, evidenced by the practice of primogeniture—the firstborn male. God’s creation of the man first was specifically intended to communicate the authority/submission arrangement of the human race (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:8).
Observe that Paul next elaborates on this principle in 1 Timothy 2:14 by noting an example of what can happen when men and women tamper with God’s original intentions. When Eve took the spiritual initiative above her husband, and Adam failed to take the lead and exercise spiritual authority over his wife, Satan was able to wreak havoc on the home and cause the introduction of sin into the world (Genesis 3). When Paul said the woman was deceived, he was not suggesting that women are more gullible than men. Rather, when men or women fail to confine themselves to their created function, but instead tamper with and act in violation of divinely intended roles, spiritual vulnerability to sin naturally follows.
God’s appraisal of the matter was seen when He confronted the pair. He spoke first to the head of the home—the man (Genesis 3:9). His subsequent declaration to Eve reaffirmed the fact that she was not to yield to the inclination to take the lead in spiritual matters. Rather, she was to submit to the rule of her husband (Genesis 3:16; cf. 4:4). When God said to Adam, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife...” (Genesis 3:17), He was calling attention to the fact that Adam had failed to exercise spiritual leadership, thereby circumventing the divine arrangement of male-female relations.
Paul concludes his instructions by noting how women may be preserved from falling into the same trap of assuming unauthorized authority: “She will be saved in childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). “Childbearing” is the figure of speech known as synecdoche in which a part stands for the whole. Thus, Paul was referring to the whole of female responsibility. Women may avoid taking to themselves illicit functions by concentrating on the functions assigned to them by God, undertaken with faith, love, and holiness in sobriety (i.e., self-control).
Some argue that this text applies to husbands and wives rather than to men and women in general. However, the context of 1 Timothy is not the home, but the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Likewise, the use of the plural with the absence of the article in 2:9 and 2:11 suggests women in general. Nothing in the context would cause one to conclude that Paul was referring only to husbands and wives. Besides, would Paul restrict wives from leadership roles in the church—but then permit single women to lead?

Deaconesses

Those who advocate expanded roles for women in the church appeal to the alleged existence of deaconesses in the New Testament. Only two passages even hint of such an office: Romans 16:1-2 and 1 Timothy 3:11. In Romans 16:1, the term translated “servant” in the KJV is the Greek word diakonos, an indeclinable term meaning “one who serves or ministers.” It is of common gender (i.e., may refer to men or women) and occurs in the following verses: Matthew 20:26; 22:13; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43; John 2:5,9; 12:26; Romans 13:4; 15:8; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 16:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:15,23; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:7,23,25; 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:8,12; 4:6.
The term is used in the New Testament in two senses. First, it is used as a technical term for a formal office in the church to which one may be appointed by meeting certain qualifications. Second, it is used as a non-technical term for the informal activity of serving or attending to. Additional words in the New Testament that have both a technical and non-technical meaning include “apostle,” “elder,” and “shepherd.” To be rational in one’s analysis of a matter, one must draw only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence. In the matter of deaconesses, one should only conclude that a deaconess is being referred to when the context plainly shows the office is under consideration.
In Romans 13:4, the civil government is said to be God’s deacon. In Romans 15:8, Christ is said to be a deacon of the Jews. In 2 Corinthians 3:6 and 6:4, Paul is said to be a deacon of the New Covenant and a deacon of God. Apollos is listed with Paul as a deacon in 1 Corinthians 3:5. Obviously, these are all non-technical uses of the term referring to the service or assistance being rendered.
Nothing in the context of Romans 16:1 warrants the conclusion that Paul was describing Phoebe as an official appointee—a deaconess. “Our sister” designates her church membership and “servant” specifies the special efforts she extended to the church in Cenchrea where she was an active, caring member. Being a “servant of the church” no more implies a formal appointee than does the expression in Colossians 1:25 where Paul is said to be the church’s servant.
Some have insisted that the term in Romans 16:2 translated “help” implies a technical usage. It is true that prostatis can mean a helper in the sense of presiding with authority. But this word carries the same inbuilt obscurity that diakonos does in that it has a formal and informal sense. But since the verse explicitly states that Phoebe was a “helper” to Paul, the non-technical usage must be in view. She would not have exercised authority over Paul. Even his fellow apostles did not do that since he exercised high authority direct from the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37-38; Galatians 1:6-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Only Christ wielded authority over Paul.
Romans 16:2 actually employs a play on words. Paul told the Corinthians to “help” (paristemi) Phoebe since she has been a “help” (prostatis) to many, including Paul himself. While the masculine noun prostates can mean “leader,” the actual feminine noun prostatis means “protectress, patroness, helper” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 718). Paul was saying, “Help Phoebe as she has helped others and me.” She had been a concerned, generous, hospitable, dedicated contributor to the Lord’s work. Paul was paying her a tremendous tribute and expressing publicly the honor due her. But he was not acknowledging her as an office holder in the church.
The second passage that some have appealed to in order to find sanction for deaconesses in the church is 1 Timothy 3:11. In the midst of a listing of the qualifications of deacons, Paul referred to women. What women? Was Paul referring to the wives of the church officers, or was he referring to female appointees, i.e., deaconesses? Once again, the underlying Greek term is of no help in answering this question since gunaikas (from gune) also has both a technical and non-technical sense. It can mean a “wife” or simply a “female” or “woman.” It is used both ways in 1 Timothy: “female” in 2:9-12,14 and “wife” in 3:2,12; 5:9.
Five contextual observations, however, provide assistance in ascertaining the meaning of the passage. First, a woman cannot be “the husband of one wife” (3:12). Second, in a discussion of male deacons from 3:8-13, it would be unusual to switch in the middle to female deacons for one verse without some clarification. Third, referring to the wives of church officers would be appropriate since family conduct is a qualifying concern (3:2,4-5,12). Fourth, “likewise” (3:11) could simply mean that wives are to have similar virtues as the deacons without implying they share the same office (cf. 1 Timothy 5:25; Titus 2:3). Fifth, lack of the possessive genitive with gunaikas (“of deacons”) or “their” does not rule out wives of deacons since neither is used in other cases where men/women are being described as wives/husbands (Colossians 3:18-19; Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Corinthians 7:2-4,11,14,33; Matthew 18:25; Mark 10:2).
Insufficient textual evidence exists to warrant the conclusion that the office of deaconess is referred to in the New Testament. Outside the New Testament, Pliny, Governor of Bythynia, wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan about A.D. 110 referring in Latin to two ministrae (female ministers). This term has the same ambiguity within it that diakonos has. He could have been referring to official appointees, or he just as easily could have been referring simply to servants. In any case, a passing reference by an uninformed non-Christian is hardly trustworthy evidence. Christian historical sources from this same period do not refer to the existence of female appointees even though they do discuss church organization (Lewis, 1988, p. 108).
Not until the late third century in the Syrian Didascalia do we find reference to deaconesses. Their work consisted of assisting at the baptism of women, going into homes of heathens where believing women lived, and visiting the sick (ministering to them and bathing them). A full-blown church order of deaconesses does not appear until the fourth/fifth centuries. Again, their responsibilities consisted of keeping the doors, aiding in female baptisms, and doing other work with women (Lewis, pp. 108-109). Those within the church today who are pressing for deaconesses and expanded roles for women would hardly be content with such tasks.
Even if women were deacons in the New Testament church, they would not have functioned in any sort of leadership or authority position over men. They were not to be appointed as elders. If Acts 6:1-5 refers to the appointment of deacons (the verb form is used) in the Jerusalem church (Woods, 1986, p. 199), they were all males and their specific task entailed distribution of physical assistance to widows.
The evidence is simply lacking. The existence of a female deaconate within the New Testament cannot be demonstrated. Those who insist upon establishing such an office do so without the authority of the Scriptures behind them.

unequal or inferior?

A final word needs to be said concerning the fact that both men and women must remember that Bible teaching on difference in role in no way implies a difference in worth, value, or ability. Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female”), 1 Timothy 2:15 (“she shall be saved”), and 1 Peter 3:7 (“heirs together of the grace of life”) all show that males and females are equals as far as their person and salvation status is concerned. Women are often superior to men in talent, intellect, and ability. Women are not inferior to men anymore than Christ is inferior to God, citizens are inferior to the President, or church members are inferior to elders. The role of women in the church is not a matter of control, power, or oppression. It is a matter of submission on the part of all human beings to the will of God (Ephesians 5:21). It is a matter of willingness on the part of God’s creatures, male and female, to subordinate themselves to the divine arrangement regarding the sexes. The biblical differentiation is purely a matter of function, assigned tasks, and sphere of responsibility. The question for us is: “How willing am I to fit myself into God’s arrangement?”

Conclusion

The role of gender, like most of the values of Western civilization, is in the throes of confusion and redefinition. Those who resist unbiblical redefinitions are considered tradition-bound, narrow-minded, chauvinistic misogynists, as if they cannot hold honest, unbiased, studied convictions on such matters; as if the Bible has been misunderstood all these years. If the Bible authorized it, no man should have any personal aversion to women having complete access to leadership roles in the church. Indeed, many talented, godly women possess abilities and talents that would enable them to surpass many of the male worship leaders functioning in the church today.
Those who reject the divine inspiration of the Bible will remain unaffected by and disinterested in the teaching of the Bible regarding gender. However, the Bible stands as an unalterable, eternal declaration of God’s will on the matter. By those words we will be judged (John 12:48). For those who respect the Bible as the Word of God, Bible teaching is fatal to the notion of female leadership in the church and home. May we all bow humbly and submissively before the God of Heaven.

References

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