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Category Archives: Book Excerpts

Book excerpts – many of which are unavailable or out of print – These excerpts are here with the hope that you will like what you read and purchase books by the authors (if available) for your own study and the edification of those you influence as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

TIM KELLER: Preaching The Gospel In a Postmodern World: Session 4 Notes

SESSION 4: INTRODUCTION TO CHRIST-CENTERED APPLICATION

Tim Keller preaching image

INTRODUCTION

The historic Protestant doctrine is that we are not only justified by faith rather than our works, but we are also sanctified by faith rather than our works. Yet very few ministers know how Christ’s finished work is the dynamic and guide for growth into holy character.

A. Moralism vs. Sanctification by Faith.

1. The distinctives of sanctification by faith.

Excerpts from G.C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification (Eerdmans, 1952):

“The ancient feud of Rome with the Sola-fide doctrine, based as it is on the view that Sola-fide is subversive of sanctification, must be called Rome’s most fundamental error. It was no other than Sola-fide which made clear the true significance of sanctification, and distinguished it from all moralistic effort at self-improvement…” p. 14.

“Wesley admitted full acceptance of the Sola-fide doctrine. [But] one may accept the doctrine and then fail to do justice to it…One can assume it as one’s starting point, as did Wesley, and subsequently view the process of sanctification in terms of a dynamic category—a power plus its effects—without taking account of the bearings which faith always sustains toward divine grace. Sola-fide becomes a point of departure and breaks its connection with sanctification…When the victory of Christ is lost sight of, the warfare degenerates into self-reliant activism…it is on the road to making sanctification independent from justification.” pp. 52, 63.

Luther and Calvin taught that not only was justification by faith in Christ’s work—not ours, but sanctification is also by faith in Christ’s work, not ours. In practice, however, nearly every evangelical teaches that: 1) we are justified by faith in Christ’s work, and 2) we are sanctified by trying very, very hard to live according to biblical principles (with the Holy Spirit’s help, of course). Berkouwer insists that it is not salvation by grace, but sanctification by grace which is the biggest difference between the Reformers and the Catholic church and between the Reformers and later Methodism (Wesley) and much Protestantism today.

2. The general relationship of justification to sanctification.

Excerpts from G.C. Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification (Eerdmans, 1952):

“Orientation”“Genuine sanctification—let it be repeated—stands or falls with this continued orientation toward justification and the remission of sins…too often the bond between sanctification and Sola-fide was neglected and the impression created that sanctification was the humanly operated successor to the divinely worked justification.” P. 78.

“Feeding”“Holiness is never a ‘second blessing’ placed next to the blessing of justification…The exhortation which comes to the Church is that it must live in faith out of this fullness: not that it must work for a second blessing, but that it must feed on the first blessing, the forgiveness of sins. The warfare of the Church…springs from the demand to really live from this first blessing.”  p. 64.

“Commerce”“The believer’s constant ‘commerce’ with the forgiveness of sins and his continued dependence on it must—both in pastoral counseling and in teaching—be laid bare, emphasized, and kept in sight…Faith preserves us from autonomous self-sanctification and moralism.” pp. 84, 93.

Berkouwer says that it is a mistake to ask: “we know we have imputed righteousness, but now how do we move to actual righteousness?” We do not ‘move on’. Any particular flaw in our actual righteousness stems from a corresponding failure to orient ourselves toward our imputed righteousness. Sanctification happens to the degree that we “feed on” or “orient to” or “have commerce with” the pardon, righteousness, and new status we now have in Christ, imputed through faith.

3. The practical relationship of justification to sanctification.

Excerpts from martin Luther’s, Treatise Concerning Good Works (1520).

“There is not one in a thousand who does not set his confidence upon the works, expecting by them to win God’s favor and anticipate His grace; and so they make a fair of them, a thing which God cannot endure, since He has promised His grace freely, and wills that we begin by trusting that grace, and in it perform all works, whatever they may be” (Part IX).

“All those who do not at all times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this [First] Commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and innocence of all the saints combined. For the chief work is not present, without which all the others are nothing but mere sham, show and pretense, with nothing back of them…If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if we presumptuously expect to please Him only through and after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false [savior]…” (Part X, XI).

“This faith, faithfulness, confidence deep in the heart, is the true fulfilling of the First Commandment. Without this there is no other work that is able to satisfy this Commandment. And as this Commandment is the very first, highest and best, from which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which they are directed and measured, so also its work, that is, the faith or confidence in God’s favor at all times, is the very first, highest and best, from which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed and measured…” (Part IX).

“Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are: keeping the First Commandment with outward works only, and keeping it with inward trust. For this last makes true, living children of God, the other only makes worse idolatry and the most mischievous hypocrites on earth…” (XII).

All people sin in general because we are sinners, but why do we sin in any particular instance? Luther—any sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something which comes because we are trusting in that thing rather than in Christ for our righteousness or salvation. Therefore, in sin we are always ‘forgetting’ what God has done for us in Christ and instead are being moved by some idol. Luther says that to fail to believe God accepts us fully in Christ and to look to something else is a failure to keep the first commandment—love God with all the heart. Thus beneath any particular sin is the general sin of rejecting Christ-salvation and indulging in self-salvation.

Excerpt from the Belgic Confession – Chapter 24.

“We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true that his justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore, it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man; for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith which is called in Scripture a ‘faith working through love,’ which excites man to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word…We would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be continually vexed if they relied not on the merits of our Savior.”

Unless we believe the gospel, we will be driven in all we do—whether obeying or disobeying—by pride (“self-love”) or fear (“of damnation”). Apart from ‘grateful remembering’ of the gospel, all good works are done then for sinful motives. Mere moral effort, may restrain the heart, but dos not truly change the heart. Moral effort merely ‘jury rigs’ the evil heart to produce moral behavior, out of self-interest. It is only a matter of time before such a thin tissue collapses.

B. Moralism vs. Gospel Virtue

1. The ‘Splendor’ or Common Virtue and its Weakness.

Excerpts from Jonathan Edwards. Abridged and paraphrased, from Charity and Its Fruits, in vol. 8, Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Paul Ramsey (Yale, 1989) and Religious Affections, in vol. 2, Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. J. Smith (Yale, 1959).

“A result of ‘faith working by love’ is freedom. On this basis, obedience is called “evangelical” (gospel-based)—the obedience of children to a Father, done with love and delight, as opposed to legalistic, slavish, and forced. God is now chosen for his own sake; holiness is chosen for its own sake, and for God’s sake” (CF, p. 182).

“No matter how many our acts of justice, generosity and devotion, there is really nothing given to God…if God is not the end (or ultimate aim) in what is given. If your aim is the gaining of reputation and love, then the gift was offered to your reputation. If your aim is for profit and comfort, then the gift was offered to your profit…indeed, in such cases the gifts are but an offering to some idol…It is true that by doing great things something is worshipped, but it is not God…” (CF, pp. 180-81).

“Those whose affection to God is founded first on his profitableness to them, only regard God to the limit of the good things he does to meet their desires…But in gracious gratitude, Christians are affected by God’s goodness and free grace, not only as it benefits them, but as infinitely glorious in itself…” (RA, pp. 243, 248).

What makes people honest? Generous? Jonathan Edwards tackled this over the years in his Miscellanies and then in his moral philosophy works: Charity and Its Fruits, Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, and The Nature of True Virtue. He also says many relevant things about this in Religious Affections. The following is my summary of his “gist”.

There are two kinds of moral behavior: “common virtue” and “true virtue.” Let’s take one virtue: honesty. “Common” honesty is developed in two ways:

1) First it can be inspired by fear. There is the secular version—“be honest—it pays!” or “if you are not honest, society doesn’t work”. There is also the religious version—“if you are not honest, God will punish you!” These are all versions of the same motive, namely, that it is impractical to be honest.

2) Second, it can be inspired by pride. There is the secular conservative version—“don’t be like those terrible dishonest people who hurt others and have no virtue!” or the secular liberal version—“don’t be like these greedy people who don’t work for the common good”. There is also the religious version—“don’t be like these sinners, these bad people. Be a good godly person”. These are all versions of the same motive, namely, that I am better than these people who lie.

Edwards is by no means scornful of common virtue. Indeed, he believes in the ‘splendor of common morality’ (Paul Ramsay), which is the main way God restrains evil in the world. He does call it virtue and not sham. Nevertheless, there is a profound tension at the heart of common virtue. We just said that the main reason people are honest is due to fear and pride.

But what is the main reason we are dishonest? Why do we lie? Almost always—it is our fear or pride. So in common virtue, you have not done anything to root out the fundamental causes of evil. In ‘common honesty’ you have restrained the heart, but not changed the heart. You are doing an ingenious for of judo on yourself. (Judo depends on using the enemy’s forward motion against him). You have ‘jury-rigged’ your heart so that the basic causes of dishonesty are being used to make yourself honest. But this is quite a fragile condition. At some point you will find that honesty is not practical nor humiliating and you will do it. Then you will be shocked. You will say, “I was not raised to do such a thing.”

But the reason you did, was that all your life, through the sermons and moral training you had, you were nurturing the roots of sin within your moral life. This is true whether you grow up in a liberal-moral environment or a conservative-moral environment. The roots of evil are alive and well and protected underneath your moral-behavior progress. And some day they erupt and show themselves and we are shocked.

2. The roots of “True Virtue” and its Nurture

Luther told us that the essence of every sin is a desire to be one’s own Savior and Lord in some particular way. It is to set up some idol which is the real way you are going to save yourself. It may even be a very ‘religious idol’ (cf. Judges 17:1-13). It may be a very religious life, but at the heart it is a way of using God as an object, rather than adoring him as being beautiful for who he is in himself. It is using obedience to God to achieve comfort, security, self-worth/status—therefore our ‘virtue’ is self-centered and conditional. It’s a form of bargaining. It is using our virtue to put God in our debt—he now owes us. He must give us salvation and blessing. Therefore, our obedience is a way to save ourselves and control God. Edwards (see above quote #2) also understands ‘common virtue’ as an idolatrous effort at self-salvation, rather than a response to grace (see above quote #3) in which God is adored for his sheer beauty.

So Edwards says—what is true virtue? It is when you are honest not because it profits you or makes you feel better, but only when you are smitten with the beauty of the God who is truth and sincerity and faithfulness! It is when you come to love truth telling not for your sake but for God’s sake and its own sake. But it particularly grows by a faith-sight of the glory of Christ and his salvation. How does ‘true honesty’ grow? It grows when I see him dying for me, keeping a promise he made despite the infinite suffering it brought him. Now that a) destroys pride on the one hand, because he had to do this for me—I am so lost! But that also b) destroys fear on the other hand, because if he’d do this for me while I’m an enemy, then he values me infinitely, and nothing I can do will wear out his love for me. Then my heart is not just restrained but changed. It’s fundamental orientation is transformed.

3. Thomas Chalmers on Moralism vs. Gospel Virtue.

“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, from The Works of Thomas Chalmers (New York: Robert Carter, 1830) vol. II.

The object of the gospel is both to pacify the sinner’s conscience and to purify the heart, and it is of importance to observe that what mars the one of these objects mars the other also. The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one…Thus it is that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying the Gospel. The more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more it will be felt as doctrine [leading to godliness]…

On the tenure of “do this and you will live”, a spirit of fearfulness is sure to enter; and the jealousies of a legal bargain chase away all confidence of intimacy between God and man; and the creature striving to be square and even with his Creator is, in fact, pursuing all the while his own selfishness instead of God’s glory. With all the conformities which he labors to accomplish, the soul of obedience is not there, the mind is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed under such an economy can it ever be. It is only when, as the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance. Only then can he repose in Him as one friend reposes in another…the one party rejoicing over the other to do him good…in the impulse of a gratitude, by which is he awakened to the charms of a new moral existence.

Salvation by grace, salvation by free grace, salvation not by works but according to the mercy of God is indispensable to godliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel…and you take away the power of the Gospel to melt and conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of Antinomianism [lawlessness], is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit, and a new inclination against it.

Along with the light of a free Gospel, does there enter the love of the Gospel, which in proportion as you impair the freeness, you are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation, as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness.

[Why is this grateful love so important?] It is seldom that any of our [bad habits or flaws] disappear by a mere process of natural extinction. At least, it is very seldom that this is done through the instrumentality of reasoning…or by the force of mental determination. But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed—and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection in the mind.

It is thus that a boy ceases at length to be a slave of his appetite, but it is because a [more ‘mature’] taste has brought it into subordination. The youth ceases to idolize [sensual] pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has…gotten the ascendancy. Even the love of money can cease to have mastery over the heart because it is drawn into the whirl of [ideology and politics] and he is now lorded over by a love of power [and moral superiority]. But there is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object is conquered—but its desire to have some object…is unconquerable…

The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one…It is only…when admitted into the number of God’s children, through faith in Jesus Christ, that the spirit of adoption is poured out on us—it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, the only way that deliverance is possible.

Thus…it is not enough…to hold out to the world the mirror of its own imperfections. It is not enough to come forth with a demonstration of the evanescent character of your enjoyments…to speak to the conscience…of its follies…Rather, try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of Him who is greater than the world.

C. Moralism vs. Christ-centered Exposition.

We alluded above to the fact that Christ-centered exposition is very directly linked to Christ-centered application. It is possible to expound Christ and fail to do Christ-centered application, but it is impossible to do Christ-centered application in a sermon if you have not first done Christ-centered exposition.

For example, look at the story of David and Goliath. What is the meaning of that narrative for us? Without reference to Christ, the story may be (usually is!) preached as: “The bigger they come, the harder they’ll fall, if you just go into your battles with faith in the Lord. You may not be real big and powerful in yourself, but with God on your side, you can overcome giants.” But as soon as we ask: “how is David foreshadowing the work of his greater Son”? We begin to see the same features of the story in a different light. The story is telling us that the Israelites can not go up against Goliath. They can’t do it. They need a substitute. When David goes in on their behalf, he is not a full-grown man, but a vulnerable and weak figure, a mere boy. He goes virtually as a sacrificial lamb. But God uses his apparent weakness as the means to destroy the giant, and David becomes Israel’s champion-redeemer, so that his victory will be imputed to them. They get all the fruit of having fought the battle themselves.

This is a fundamentally different meaning than the one that arises from the non-Christocentric reading. There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done? If I read David and Goliath as basically giving me an example, then the story is really about me. I must summons up the faith and courage to fight the giants of life. But if I read David and Goliath as basically showing me salvation through Jesus, then the story is really about him. Until I see that Jesus fought the real giants (sin, law, death) for me, I will never have the courage to be able to fight the ordinary giants in life (suffering, disappointment, failure, criticism, hardship). For example how can I ever fight the “giant” of failure, unless I have a deep security that God will not abandon me? If I see David as my example, the story will never help me fight the failure/giant. But if I see David/Jesus as my substitute, whose victory is imputed to me, then I can stand before the failure/giant. As another example, how can I ever fight the “giant” of persecution or criticism? Unless I can see him forgiving me on the cross, I won’t be able to forgive others. Unless I see him as forgiving me for falling asleep on him (Matthew 27:45) I won’t be able to stay awake for him.

In the Old Testament we are continually told that our good works are not enough, that God has made a provision. This provision is pointed to at every place in the Old Testament. We see it in the clothes God makes Adam and Eve in Genesis, to the promises made to Abraham and the patriarchs, to the Tabernacle and the whole sacrificial system, to the innumerable references to a Messiah, a suffering servant, and so on. Therefore, to say that the Bible is about Christ is to say that the main theme of the Bible is the gospel—Salvation is the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

So reading the Old Testament Christocentrically is not just an “additional” dimension. It is not something you can just tack on to the end of a study and sermon. (“Oh, and by the way, this also points us to Christ”). Rather, the Christocentric reading provides a fundamentally different application and meaning to the text. Without relating it to Christ, the story of Abraham and Isaac means: “You must be willing to even kill your own son for him.” Without relating it to Christ, the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel means: “You have to wrestle with God, even when he is inexplicable—even when he is crippling you. You must never give up.” These ‘morals-of-the-story’ are crushing because they essentially are read as being about us and what we must do.

Source: Doctor of Ministry Class – Personal Notes – Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando – Class co-taught by Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney – early 2000’s. Class available for free on I-Tunes.

 

 

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Glorifying God in Conflict: The Four G’s Of Conflict

The Four G’s Of Conflict

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By Ken Sande

Conflict is not necessarily bad or destructive. Even when conflict is caused by sin and causes a great deal of stress, God can use it for good (see Rom. 8:28-29). As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, conflict actually provides three significant opportunities. By God’s grace, you can use conflict to:

  • Glorify God (by trusting, obeying, and imitating him)

  • Serve other people (by helping to bear their burdens or by confronting them in love)

  • Grow to be like Christ (by confessing sin and turning from attitudes that promote conflict).

These concepts are totally overlooked in most conflicts because people naturally focus on escaping from the situation or overcoming their opponent. Therefore, it is wise to periodically step back from a conflict and ask yourself whether you are doing all that you can to take advantage of these special opportunities.

1st G: Glorify God

As mentioned above, you can glorify God in the midst of conflict by trusting him, obeying him, and imitating him (see Prov. 3:4-6; John 14:15; Eph. 5:1). One of the best ways to keep these concerns uppermost in your mind is to regularly ask yourself this focusing question: “How can I please and honor the Lord in this situation?”When the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to live “to the glory of God,” he was not talking about one hour on Sunday morning. He wanted them to show God honor and bring him praise in day-to-day life, especially by the way that they resolved personal conflicts (see 1 Cor. 10:31).

2nd G: Get the log out of your own eye

One of the most challenging principles of peacemaking is set forth in Matthew 7:5, where Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

There are generally two kinds of “logs” you need to look for when dealing with conflict. First, you need to ask whether you have had a critical, negative, or overly sensitive attitude that has led to unnecessary conflict. One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time meditating on Philippians 4:2-9, which describes the kind of attitude Christians should have even when they are involved in a conflict.

The second kind of log you must deal with is actual sinful words and actions. Because you are often blind to your own sins, you may need an honest friend or advisor who will help you to take an objective look at yourself and face up to your contribution to a conflict.

 When you identify ways that you have wronged another person, it is important to admit your wrongs honestly and thoroughly. One way to do this is to use the Seven A’s of Confession.

The most important aspect of getting the log out of your own eye is to go beyond the confession of wrong behavior and face up to the root cause of that behavior. The Bible teaches that conflict comes from the desires that battle in your heart (James 4:1-3; Matt. 15:18-19). Some of these desires are obviously sinful, such as wanting to conceal the truth, bend others to your will, or have revenge. In many situations, however, conflict is fueled by good desires that you have elevated to sinful demands, such as a craving to be understood, loved, respected, or vindicated.

Any time you become excessively preoccupied with something, even a good thing, and seek to find happiness, security or fulfillment in it rather than in God, you are guilty of idolatry. Idolatry inevitably leads to conflict with God (“You shall have no other gods before me”). It also causes conflict with other people. As James writes, when we want something but don’t get it, we kill and covet, quarrel and fight (James 4:1-4).

There are three basic steps you can take to overcome the idolatry that fuels conflict. First, you should ask God to help you see where your have been guilty of wrong worship, that is, where you are focusing your love, attention, and energy on something other than God. Second, you should specifically identify and renounce each of the desires contributing to the conflict. Third, you should deliberately pursue right worship, that is, to fix your heart and mind on God and to seek joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in him alone.

As God guides and empowers these efforts, you can find freedom from the idols that fuel conflict and be motivated to make choices that will please and honor Christ. This change in heart will usually speed a resolution to a present problem, and at the same time improve your ability to avoid similar conflicts in the future.

3rd G: Gently Restore

Another key principle of peacemaking involves an effort to help others understand how they have contributed to a conflict. When Christians think about talking to someone else about a conflict, one of the first verses that comes to mind is Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” If this verse is read in isolation, it seems to teach that we must always use direct confrontation to force others to admit they have sinned. If the verse is read in context, however, we see that Jesus had something much more flexible and beneficial in mind than simply standing toe to toe with others and describing their sins.

Just before this passage, we find Jesus’ wonderful metaphor of a loving shepherd who goes to look for a wandering sheep and then rejoices when it is found (Matt. 18:12–14). Thus, Matthew 18:15 is introduced with a theme of restoration, not condemnation. Jesus repeats this theme just after telling us to “go and show him his fault” by adding, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” And then he hits the restoration theme a third time in verses 21–35, where he uses the parable of the unmerciful servant to remind us to be as merciful and forgiving to others as God is to us (Matt. 18:21–35).

Jesus is clearly calling for something much more loving and redemptive than simply confronting others with a list of their wrongs. Similarly, Galatians 6:1 gives us solid counsel on our what our attitude and purpose ought to be when we go to our brother. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Our attitude should be one of gentleness rather than anger, and our purpose should be to restore rather than condemn.

Yet even before you go to talk with someone, remember that it is appropriate to overlook minor offenses (see Prov. 19:11). As a general rule, an offense should be overlooked if you can answer “no” to all of the following questions:

  • Is the offense seriously dishonoring God?
  • Has it permanently damaged a relationship?
  • Is it seriously hurting other people? and
  • Is it seriously hurting the offender himself?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, an offense is too serious to overlook, in which case God commands you to go and talk with the offender privately and lovingly about the situation. As you do so, remember to:

  • Pray for humility and wisdom
  • Plan your words carefully (think of how you would want to be confronted)
  • Anticipate likely reactions and plan appropriate responses (rehearsals can be very helpful)
  • Choose the right time and place (talk in person whenever possible)
  • Assume the best about the other person until you have facts to prove otherwise (Prov. 11:27)
  • Listen carefully (Prov. 18:13)
  • Speak only to build others up (Eph. 4:29)
  • Ask for feedback from the other person
  • Recognize your limits (only God can change people; see Rom. 12:18; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)

If an initial conversation does not resolve a conflict, do not give up. Review what was said and done, and look for ways to make a better approach during a follow up conversation. It may also be wise to ask a spiritually mature friend for advice on how to approach the other person more effectively. Then try again with even stronger prayer support.

If repeated, careful attempts at a private discussion are not fruitful, and if the matter is still too serious to overlook, you should ask one or two other people to meet with you and your opponent and help you to resolve your differences through mediation, arbitration, or accountability (see Matt. 18:16-20; 1 Cor. 6:1-8; for more guidance on getting such help, click Get Help With Conflict.)

4th G: Go and be reconciled

One of the most unique features of biblical peacemaking is the pursuit of genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. Even though Christians have experienced the greatest forgiveness in the world, we often fail to show that forgiveness to others. To cover up our disobedience we often use the shallow statement, “I forgive her—I just don’t want to have anything to do with her again.” Just think, however, how you would feel if God said to you, “I forgive you; I just don’t want to have anything to do with you again”?

Praise God that he never says this! Instead, he forgives you totally and opens the way for genuine reconciliation. He calls you to forgive others in exactly the same way: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:12-14; see also 1 Cor. 13:5; Psalm 103:12; Isa. 43:25). One way to imitate God’s forgiveness is to make the Four Promises of Forgiveness when you forgive someone.

Remember that forgiveness is a spiritual process that you cannot fully accomplish on your own. Therefore, as you seek to forgive others, continually ask God for grace to enable you to imitate his wonderful forgiveness toward you.

Other Considerations

Be Prepared for Unreasonable People

Whenever you are responding to conflict, you need to realize that other people may harden their hearts and refuse to be reconciled to you. There are two ways you can prepare for this possibility.

First, remember that God does not measure success in terms of results but in terms of faithful obedience. He knows that you cannot force other people to act in a certain way. Therefore he will not hold you responsible for their actions or for the ultimate outcome of a conflict.

All God expects of you is to obey his revealed will as faithfully as possible (see Rom. 12:18). If you do that, no matter how the conflict turns out, you can walk away with a clear conscience before God, knowing that his appraisal is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Second, resolve that you will not give up on finding a biblical solution. If a dispute is not easily resolved, you may be tempted to say, “Well, I tried all the biblical principles I know, and they just didn’t work. It looks like I’ll have to handle this another way (meaning, ‘the world’s way’).”

A Christian should never close the Bible. When you try to resolve a conflict but do not see the results you desire, you should seek God even more earnestly through prayer, the study of his Word, and the counsel of his church. As you do so, it is essential to keep your focus on Christ and all that he has already done for you (see Col. 3:1-4). It is also helpful to follow five principles for overcoming evil, which are described in Romans 12:14-21:

  • Control your tongue (“Bless those who curse you;” see also Eph. 4:29)
  • Seek godly advisors (identify with others and do not become isolated)
  • Keep doing what is right (see 1 Pet. 2;12, 15; 3:15b-16)
  • Recognize your limits (instead of retaliating, stay within proper biblical channels)
  • Use the ultimate weapon: deliberate, focused love (see also John 3:16; Luke 6:27-31)

At the very least, these steps will protect you from being consumed by the acid of your own bitterness and resentment if others continue to oppose you. And in some cases, God may eventually use such actions to bring another person to repentance (see 1 Sam. 24:1-22).

Even if other people persist in doing wrong, you can continue to trust that God is in control and will deal with them in his time (see Psalms 10 and 37). This kind of patience in the face of suffering is commended by God (see 1 Pet. 2:19) and ultimately results in our good and his glory.

Get Help from Above

None of us can make complete and lasting peace with others in our own strength. We must have help from God. But before we can receive that help, we need to be at peace with God himself.

Peace with God does not come automatically, because all of us have sinned and alienated ourselves from him (see Isa. 59:1–2). Instead of living the perfect lives needed to enjoy fellowship with him, each of us has a record stained with sin (see Matt. 5:48; Rom. 3:23). As a result, we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Rom. 6:23a). That is the bad news.

The good news is that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing in Jesus means more than being baptized, going to church, or trying to be a good person. None of these activities can erase the sins you have already committed and will continue to commit throughout your life. Believing in Jesus means, first of all, admitting that you are a sinner and acknowledging that there is no way you can earn God’s approval by your own works (Rom. 3:20; Eph. 2:8–9).

Second, it means believing that Jesus paid the full penalty for your sins when he died on the cross (Isa. 53:1–12; 1 Peter 2:24–25). In other words, believing in Jesus means trusting that he exchanged records with you at Calvary—that is, he took your sinful record on himself and paid for it in full, giving you his perfect record.

When you believe in Jesus and receive his perfect record of righteousness, you can really have true peace with God. As you receive this peace, God will give you an increasing ability to make peace with others by following the peacemaking principles he gives us in Scripture, many of which are described above (see Phil. 4:7; Matt. 5:9).

If you have never confessed your sin to God and believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord, and King, you can do so right now by sincerely praying this prayer:

Lord Jesus,

I know that I am a sinner, and I realize that my good deeds could never make up for my wrongs. I need your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins, and I want to turn away from them. I trust you now to be my Savior, and I will follow you as my Lord and King, in the fellowship of your church.

If you have prayed this prayer, it is essential that you find fellowship with other Christians in a church where the Bible is faithfully taught and applied. This fellowship will help you to learn more about God, grow in your faith, and obey what he commands, even when you are involved in a difficult conflict.

Get Help from the Church

As God helps you to practice his peacemaking principles, you will be able to resolve most of the normal conflicts of daily life on your own. Sometimes, however, you will encounter situations that you do not know how to handle. In such situations, it is appropriate to turn to a spiritually mature person within the church who can give you advice on how you might be able to apply these principles more effectively.

In most cases, such “coaching” will enable you to go back to the other person in the conflict and work out your differences in private. If the person from whom you seek advice does not have much experience in conflict resolution, it may be helpful to give him or her a copy of Guiding People through Conflict, which provides practical, nuts-and-bolts guidance on how to help other people resolve conflict.

When individual advice does not enable you to resolve a dispute, you should ask one or two mutually respected friends to meet with you and your opponent to help you settle your difference through mediation or arbitration (see Matt. 18:16-17; 1 Cor. 6:1-8). For more information on how to get guidance and assistance in resolving a dispute, click Get Help With Conflict.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. © 1997, 2003 by Ken Sande. All Rights Reserved.

Source http://www.peacemaker.net- See more at: http://www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.958149/k.303A/The_Four_Gs.htm#sthash.JWNdgZLx.dpuf

 

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How Is God’s Word Profitable?

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All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

After stating that the Bible is God-breathed, Paul spelled out its purpose and value. Scripture, he said, is profitable for several things, including doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

The value of the Bible lies, first of all, in the fact that it teaches sound doctrine. Though we live in a time when sound teaching is denigrated, the Bible places a high value on it. Much of the New Testament is concerned with doctrine. The teaching ministry is given to the church for building up its people. Paul said, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12).

The Bible is also profitable for reproof and correction, which we as Christians continually need. It is fashionable in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him.

This yields a practical help for Bible study: read the Bible with a red pen in hand. I suggest that you put a question mark in the margin beside every passage that you find unclear or hard to understand. Likewise, put an X beside every passage that offends you or makes you uncomfortable. Afterward, you can focus on the areas you struggle with, especially the texts marked with an X. This can be a guide to holiness, as the Xs show us quickly where our thinking is out of line with the mind of Christ. If I don’t like something I read in Scripture, perhaps I simply don’t understand it. If so, studying it again may help. If, in fact, I do understand the passage and still don’t like it, this is not an indication there is something wrong with the Bible. It’s an indication that something is wrong with me, something that needs to change. Often, before we can get something right, we need to first discover what we’re doing wrong.

When we experience the “changing of the mind” that is repentance, we are not suddenly cleansed of all wrong thinking. The renewing of our minds is a lifelong process. We can accelerate this process by focusing on those passages of Scripture that we don’t like. This is part of the “instruction in righteousness” of which Paul speaks.

Finally, Paul explained the overriding purpose for Scripture study. It comes in the final clause, where the apostle wrote, “… that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It was as if Paul was warning Timothy that if he neglected the study of God’s Word, his life would be incomplete. He would be missing out on this vast resource, this treasury of truth that is the Word of God. And the same is true for us.

Source: Adapted from R.C. Sproul’s little book: Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow.

 

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What is an Evangelical?

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “What is an Evangelical?”

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Dr. Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 – 1 March 1981) was a minister in the 20th century who spoke concerning the issues within evangelicalism with an almost prophetic character. Lloyd-Jones recognized that evangelicalism, in a desire to influence wider society and academia, was making compromises that would lead to the inevitable decline in gospel preaching and godly living. At the 1971 IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) conference the doctor spoke on the topic “What is an Evangelical?” While addressing the particulars that an evangelical believes, Lloyd-Jones stated “the first is the doctrine of Scripture.” In the extract below the preacher expands what a true evangelical should believe regarding this central doctrine.

            The basis of faith says: ‘We believe in the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.’ I contend that it is not enough just to say that; we have got to go further. There are people who claim to subscribe to that doctrine, who, I would suggest, in some of their statements raise very serious doubts as to whether they really do accept it…

            It seems to me that we have got to spell out much more clearly the whole notion of revelation. It is difficult to do that in a short statement. The basis speaks of ‘the divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness’, but we must go beyond that. We have got to assert today this category of revelation. We have got to exclude the notion that men have arrived at the truth as a result of searching and thinking, or by means of philosophy. We must affirm that it is entirely given, that ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ (2 Pet. 1:21), or, as Paul is constantly reminding his readers, that his gospel is not his own, ‘For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 1:12). We have to underline in a new and very definite way the whole notion of revelation and also, in the same way, of inspiration, showing that by inspiration we do not mean that these men were inspired in the way that certain poets have been ‘inspired’ and given glimpses into truth, but that they were actually controlled by the Holy Spirit. ‘Borne along’, as Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:21, or as Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 3:16: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’; it is ‘God-breathed’. These things we must assert with particularity.

            In the same way we have got to assert today that we believe that Scripture contains propositional truth. This has often been the dividing line between evangelicals and pseudo-evangelicals. I have noticed over the years it is one of the first points that indicate a departure from an evangelical position when men begin to object to, and to reject, propositional truth, as Karl Barth did and as most of his followers still do. But we claim that in the Bible there are propositions, truths stated in propositional form, with regard to God and His being and His character, and many other matters. We have got to assert this element of propositional truth.

            Likewise we have to assert particularly the supernatural element in the Scripture. What do I mean? Well, we have got to emphasize that we believe in prophecy in the sense of foretelling. The emphasis today is on ‘forthtelling’. We admit that we agree that prophecy is forthtelling but, over and above that, it is foretelling. To me one of the profoundest arguments for the unique inspiration of the Scriptures is the truth of prophecy, the fulfillment of prophecy. We have got to emphasize this extraordinary manifestation of the supernatural.

            We have also to insist upon a belief in the literal truth and historicity of the miracles of the Old and the New Testament, because there are people who say that they can still subscribe to our general statement about the inspiration and the authority of the Scriptures, who increasingly are denying the historicity of many of the Old Testament miracles, and indeed are trying to explain away some of the New Testament miracles in terms of science or psychology. We must assert the historicity of these manifestations of the supernatural.

            Then the next thing to be said under this heading of Scripture is that we must believe the whole Bible. We must believe the history of the Bible as well as its didactic teaching. Failure here is always an indication of a departure from the true evangelical position. Today there are men who say, Oh yes, we believe in the Bible and its supreme authority in matters of religion, but, of course, we don’t go to the Bible for science; we go to it for help for our souls, for salvation and help and instruction in the way to live the Christian life. They are saying that there are, as it were, two great authorities and two means of revelation: one of them is Scripture and the other is nature. These they say , are complementary, they are collateral, and so you go to the Scriptures for matters concerning your soul, but you do not go to them to seek God’s other revelation of Himself in nature. For that, you go to science.

            You are familiar with this view which, it seems to me, is not only extremely dangerous, but tends to undermine our whole position. We have got to contest it, and contest it very strongly. There is one thing about this present tendency which is quite amazing to me, and it is that those who advocate it seem to think that they are saying something quite new; but it is not new. It is precisely what Ritschl and his followers were teaching a hundred years ago. ‘Judgments of fact’ and ‘judgments of value’, as they called them. It is just a return to that. That is how evangelicals in the last century went astray in the 1840s and subsequently. That is precisely how it came about. Their argument was that they were merely out to defend the truth of the gospel against this increasing attack from the realm of natural science. And that was the method they adopted. They hold that the Bible is only concerned with ‘religious’ truth and so, whatever science may discover, it cannot affect this truth.

Our friends today with the same motive- and let us grant that their motive is good and true- are doing exactly the same thing. It seems to me that in so doing they are on the same path as the followers of Ritschl and others, and it always ends in the same result, namely that the gospel itself is compromised. We must assert that we believe in the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis and all other biblical history.

Source: The full manuscript of Lloyd-Jones’ address may be found in Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. Knowing the Times: Addresses Delivered On Various Occasions 1942-1977. Edinburgh U.K.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013. (pages 299-355).

 

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The “Putting On” The Full Armor Prayer

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By Charles Stanley (Winning the War Within, pp. 128-130)

Good morning, Lord. Thank You for assuring me of victory today if I follow Your battle plan. So by faith I claim victory over _______________ (I normally list some things I know I will be faced with that day).

To prepare myself for the battle ahead, by faith I put on the belt of truth. The truth about You, Lord–that You are a sovereign God who knows everything about me, both my strengths and weaknesses. Lord, You know my breaking point and have promised not to allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able to bear. The truth about me, Lord is that I am a new creature in Christ and have been set free from the power of sin. I am indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who will guide me and warn me when danger is near. I am Your child, and nothing can separate me from Your love. The truth is that You have a purpose for me this day–someone to encourage, someone to share with, someone to love.

Next, Lord I want to, by faith, put on the breastplate of righteousness. Through this I guard my heart and emotions. I will not allow my heart to attach itself to anything that is impure. I will not allow my emotions to rule my decisions. I will set them on what is right and good and just, I will live today by what is true, not by what I feel.

Lord, this morning I put on the sandals of the gospel of peace. I am available to You, Lord. Send me where You will. Guide me to those who need encouragement or physical help of some kind. Use me to solve conflicts whenever they may arise. Make me a calming presence in every circumstance in which You place me. I will not be hurried or rushed, for my schedule is in Your hands. I will not leave a trail or tension and apprehension. I will leave tracks of peace and stability everywhere I go.

Lord I now take up the shield of faith, Lord. My faith is in You and You alone. Apart from You, I can do nothing. With You, I can do all things. No temptation that comes my way can penetrate Your protecting hand. I will not be afraid, for You are going with me throughout this day. When I am tempted, I will claim victory out loud ahead of time, for You have promised victory even now because I know there are fiery darts headed my way even as I pray. Lord, You already know what they are and have already provided the way of escape.

Lord, by faith I am putting on the helmet of salvation. You know how Satan bombards my mind day and night with evil thoughts, doubt, and fear. I put on this helmet that will protect my mind. I may feel the impact of his attacks, but nothing can penetrate this helmet. I choose to stop every impure and negative thought at the door of my mind. And with the helmet of salvation those thoughts will go further. I elect to take every thought captive; I will dwell on nothing but what is good and right and pleasing to You.

Last, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is Your Word. Thank You for the precious gift of Your Word. It is strong and powerful and able to defeat even the strongest of Stan’s onslaughts. Your Word says that I am not under obligation to the flesh to obey its lusts. Your Word says that I am free from the power of sin. Your Word says that He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world. So by faith I take up the strong and powerful sword of the Spirit, which is able to defend me in time of attack, comfort me in time of sorrow, teach me in time of meditation, and prevail against the power of the enemy on behalf of others who need the truth to set them free.

So, Lord, I go now rejoicing that You have chosen me to represent You to this lost and dying world. May others see Jesus in me, and may Satan and his hosts shudder as Your power is made manifest in me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

 

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Is There Such a Thing as a Carnal Christian?

By Ernest C. Resinger

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Introduction 

Many who regularly occupy church pews, fill church rolls, and are intellectually acquainted with the facts of the gospel never strike one blow for Christ. They seem to be at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin and, apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ, there is no biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the gospel in their lives. Yet in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be just what their teachers teach them — that they are ‘Carnal Christians’. And as carnal Christians they believe they will go to heaven, though perhaps not first-class, and with few rewards.

That something is seriously wrong in lives which reveal such features will readily be admitted by most readers of these pages; no argument is needed to prove it. But the most serious aspect of this situation is too often not recognized at all. The chief mistake is not the carelessness of these church-goers, it is the error of their teachers who, by preaching the theory of ‘the carnal Christian’, have led them to believe that there are three groups of men, — the unconverted man, the ‘carnal Christian’ and the ‘spiritual Christian’.

My purpose in this essay is to argue that this classification is wrong and to set out the positive, historic, and biblical answer to this ‘carnal Christian’ teaching. The argument from Church history is not unimportant, for it is a fact that less than two-hundred years ago this teaching was unknown in the churches of North America, but I am concerned to rest my case on an honest statement of the teaching of the Bible. I have written after study, private meditation and prayer, and after using many of the old respected commentaries of another day, but my appeal is to the Word of God and it is in the light of that authority that I ask the reader to consider all that follows.

I must also confess that I am writing as one who, for many years, held and taught the teaching which I am now convinced is erroneous and which has many dangerous implications. As one who has deep respect for many who hold this position, I am not going to attack personalities, but to deal with principles, and with the interpretation of the particular passages of Scripture on which the teaching is built.

In matters of controversy it must ever be kept in mind that a Christian’s experience may be genuine even though his understanding of divine truth is tainted with error or ignorance. The opposite is also possible — a man’s intellectual understanding may be good and his experience poor. I pray that if I am in error on this or any other doctrine I shall be corrected before I leave this world. I trust I am willing ever to be a learner of divine truth.

I know that one of my motives is the same as that of many who hold this erroneous view, namely, to advance biblical holiness and to seek to ‘adorn the doctrine of God our Savior’.

To accomplish my purpose it is of the greatest importance that the whole subject should be set on a proper foundation. I do not want to make a caricature of the view of others and then demonstrate success by tearing it apart. I shall also seek to avoid disproportionate and one-sided statements. The danger that we may ‘darken counsel by words without knowledge’ is still with us. I pray that this effort will elicit truth and that the existence of varied opinions will lead us all to search the Scriptures more, to pray more, and to be diligent in our endeavors to learn what is ‘the mind of the Spirit’.

My greatest difficulty will be to achieve brevity because this subject is so closely related to, and interwoven with the main doctrine of the Bible, particularly with justification and sanctification, the chief blessings of the new covenant. The subject therefore involves a right understanding of what the gospel really is and what it does to a person when applied efficaciously by the Spirit. Our view of this matter will also affect our judgment of the relationship of the Ten Commandments to the Christian in the area of sanctification, and of the biblical doctrine of assurance.

Some of the fundamental questions which need to be faced are these:

1. Are we sanctified passively, that is, ‘by faith’ only, without obedience to the law of God and Christ? If sanctification is passive — a view represented by the slogan ‘Let go and let God’ — then how do we understand such apostolic statements as ‘I fight’, ‘I run’, ‘I keep under my body’, ‘let us cleanse ourselves’, ‘let us labor’, ‘let us lay aside every weight’? Surely these statements do not express a passive condition, nor do they indicate that by one single act we may possess the experience of ‘victory’ and thus become spiritual and mature Christians.

2. Does an appeal to the so-called ‘carnal Christian’ to become a ‘spiritual Christian’ minimize the real conversion experience by magnifying a supposed second experience, by whatever name it may be called — ‘higher life’, ‘deeper life’, ‘Spirit-filled life’, ‘triumphant living’, ‘receiving Christ as Lord, and not merely as Savior’, and so on? The words we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, ‘Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’, do not refer to a second experience but rather to what happens when any real conversion occurs.

3. Has the ‘spiritual Christian’ finished growing in grace? If not, what is he to be called as he continues to grow in grace? Do we need to make yet another class whose members are the ‘super-spiritual Christians’?

4. Who is to decide who the carnal Christians are, and exactly what standard is to be used in determining this? Do the ‘spiritual Christians’ decide who the ‘carnal Christians’ are? Does a church or preacher decide where the line is to be drawn that divides the two classes or categories? Since all Christians have sin remaining in them, and since they sin every day, what degree of sin or what particular sins classify a person as a ‘carnal Christian’?

5. Do not all Christians sometimes act like natural men in some area of their lives?

6. Do not the inward sins, such as envy, malice, covetousness, lasciviousness (which includes immorality on the mental level) demonstrate carnality as much as do the outward and visible manifestations of certain other sins?

In Romans 8:1-9 there is a division stated, but it is not between carnal and spiritual Christians. It is a division between those who walk after the flesh (the unregenerate) and those who walk after the Spirit (they that are Christ’s). There is no third category.

Again, in Galatians 5:17-24 we have only two classes or categories — those that do the works of the flesh and those that are led by the Spirit. There is no third or fourth class or group.

My purpose, then, in these pages is to contend that the division of Christians into two groups or classes is unbiblical. I want also to show the dangerous implications and present-day results of this teaching.

The interpretation that I will seek to establish is a result of studying the proven and respected commentators of former days, such as, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, John Gill, and John Calvin; and theologians such as Charles Hodge (of the old Princeton Seminary), James P. Boyce (founder of the first Southern Baptist Seminary), Robert L. Dabney (the great theologian of old Union Seminary, Virginia) and James H. Thornwell (distinguished Southern theologian who was Professor of Theology at Columbia, South Carolina). I have also examined the writings of John Bunyan and searched the old Confessions and Catechisms, such as The Heidelberg Catechism, and Westminster Confession (that mother of all Confessions), the Baptist Confession of 1689 (The London Confession, later known as the Philadelphia Confession), and the Declaration of Faith of the Southern Baptist Church.

In all these sources there is not one trace of the belief that there are three classes of men. All of them have much to say about carnality in Christians, and about the biblical doctrine of sanctification and its relationship to justification, but there is no hint of the possibility of dividing men into ‘unregenerate’, ‘carnal’ and ‘spiritual’ categories. If the sources I have named had come across the ‘carnal Christian’ theory, I believe that with one voice they would have warned their readers, ‘Be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines’ (Hebrews 13: 9).

I confess that I take up my pen in this controversy with deep sorrow. Although the teaching that I wish to expose is so relatively new in the church, it is held by so many fine Christians, and taught by so many able and respected schools of the present day, that I can only approach my present undertaking with caution and anxiety.

We live in a day when there are so many books and such a variety of teaching on the subject of the Christian life that Christians are ‘tossed to and fro’, and liable to be ‘carried about by every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14). There is also the Athenian love of novelty and a distaste for the old, well-tested, and beaten paths of our forefathers. This excessive love of the new leads to an insatiable craving after any teaching which is sensational and exciting, especially to the feelings. But the old paths lead to a ‘meek and quiet spirit’ which the apostle Peter commends: ‘But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price’ (I Peter 3: 4).

The Issue in Controversy

At a church service that I attended recently, the preacher, a sincere minister, was expounding 1 Corinthians chapter 3, and he said to a large congregation, ‘Now after you become a Christian you have another choice — either to grow in grace, follow the Lord and become a spiritual Christian, or to remain a babe in Christ and live like natural men.’ He used 1 Corinthians 3: 1 — 4 to state that there were three categories of men — the natural man, the spiritual man, and the carnal man. He described the carnal man as being like the natural man who was unconverted.

This is the essence of the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching. One reason why it is so widespread is that it has been popularized for many years in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. A statement from these notes will indicate the precise nature of the teaching: ‘Paul divides men into three classes: “Natural” i.e. the Adamic Man, unrenewed through the new birth; “Spiritual” i.e. the renewed man as Spirit-filled and walking in the Spirit in full communion with God; “Carnal”, “fleshly”, i.e. the renewed man who, walking “after the flesh”, remains a babe in Christ.” (Scofield Reference Bible, pp. 1213, 1214.)

It is very important to observe the two main things in this Scofield note. First, the division of men into three classes; second, we are told that one of these classes of men comprises the ‘carnal’, the ‘fleshly’, ‘the babe(s) in Christ’, ‘who walk after the flesh’. To ‘walk’ implies the bent of their lives; their leaning or bias is in one direction, that is, towards carnality.

We ought not to miss three very salient and important facts about the teaching:

First, we note again that it divides all men into three classes or categories. With this fact none of its proponents disagree, though they may present it differently and apply it differently.

Second, one class or category is set out as containing the ‘Christian’ who ‘walks after the flesh’. The centre of his life is self, and he is the same as the unrenewed man as far as the bent of his life is concerned.

Third, all those who accept this view use 1 Corinthians 3: 1-4 to support it. Consequently, if it can be established that the preponderance of Scripture teaches only two classes or categories of men — regenerate and unregenerate, converted and unconverted, those in Christ and those outside of Christ — the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching would be confronted with an insurmountable objection. It would be in conflict with the whole emphasis of Scripture and of the New Testament in particular.
Before I turn to some of the errors and dangers of the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching it may be wise to indicate what I am not saying.

In this discussion of the ‘carnal Christian’ theory I am not overlooking the teaching of the Bible about sin in Christians, about babes in Christ, about growth in grace, about Christians who back-slide grievously, and about the divine chastisement which all Christians receive.

I acknowledge that there are babes in Christ. In fact there are not only babes in Christ, but there are different stages of ‘babyhood’ in understanding divine truth and in spiritual growth.

I also recognize that there is a sense in which Christians may be said to be carnal but I must add that there are different degrees of carnality. Every Christian is carnal in some area of his life at many times in his life. And in every Christian ‘the flesh lusteth against the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:17).

All the marks of Christianity are not equally apparent in all Christians. Nor are any of these marks manifest to the same degree in every period of any Christian’s life. Love, faith, obedience, and devotion will vary in the same Christian in different periods of his Christian experience; in other words, there are many degrees of sanctification.

The Christian’s progress in growth is not constant and undisturbed. There are many hills and valleys in the process of sanctification; and there are many stumblings, falls and crooked steps in the process of growth in grace.

There are examples in the Bible of grievous falls and carnality in the lives of true believers. Thus we have the warnings and the promises of temporal judgment and of chastisement by our heavenly Father.

These truths are all acknowledged and are not the point of this present discussion. The question we have to consider is: Does the Bible divide men into three categories? This is the issue at the heart of the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching.

The teaching that I am opposing involves nine serious errors:

1. The misuse of I Corinthians 3

First: This ‘carnal Christian’ doctrine depends upon a wrong interpretation and application of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, ‘And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ… are ye not carnal?’ To understand the true meaning of these words it should be remembered that 1 Corinthians is not primarily a doctrinal epistle. Like all Scripture it contains doctrine, but it was not written — as was the Epistle to the Romans — to lay doctrinal foundations. Paul’s immediate concern in writing this Epistle was to deal with practical problems in a young church. In the third chapter, and earlier, he is dealing with the danger of division arising out of a wrong esteem for those from whom they heard the gospel. They were looking at second causes and forgetting the God to whom alone all glory belongs. Instead of saying, ‘We are Christ’s disciples’ and recognizing their union in him, they were forming parties and saying, ‘We are Paul’s for he founded the church in our city'; or ‘Apollos is more eloquent than Paul and he edifies us more'; or, ‘We are of Peter’. Thus opposing parties were set up.

It is important to see that the whole context is dealing principally with this one problem of unwholesome division. However, it has a common root with all the other problems in 1 Corinthians — the defrauding of one by another, the disorder at the Lord’s Table, and so on. All the problems were the result of carnality, the outcome of that remaining principle of sin in all believers which Paul describes in Romans 7:2I-23: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

In endeavoring to understand how Paul thinks of those he addresses in 1 Corinthians 3 we must bear in mind the designation he gives to them in chapter 1. He says they are ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus’, they are recipients of ‘the grace of God’, enriched by Christ ‘in all utterance, and in all knowledge’ (1:2-5). They are rebuked in chapter 3, not for failing to attain to privileges which some Christians attain to, but for acting, despite their privileges, like babes and like the unregenerate in one area of their lives.

This is very different from saying that the Apostle here recognizes the existence of a distinct group of Christians who can be called ‘carnal’. When Paul comes to speak of classes, he knows only two, as is clear in chapter 2 of this same Epistle where he divides men into ‘natural’ and ‘spiritual’, and says, ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man’ (1 Cor. 2:14-15). Under the term natural the Apostle includes all those persons who are not partakers of the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God has not given to them a new and higher nature then they remain what they are by their natural birth, namely, natural men.

The spiritual may be but babes in grace and babes in knowledge. Their faith may be weak. Their love may be in its early bud, their spiritual senses may be but little exercised, their faults may be many; but if ‘the root of the matter’ is in them and if they have passed from death unto life — passed out of the region of nature into that which is beyond nature — Paul puts them in another class. They are all spiritual men although in some aspects of their behavior they may temporarily fail to appear as such.

Certainly these Christians at Corinth were imperfectly sanctified, as indeed are all Christians to a greater or lesser degree. But Paul is not saying that they were characterized by carnality in every area of their lives. He is not expounding a general doctrine of carnality but reproving a specific out-cropping of carnality in one certain respect. When Paul does state a foundational truth respecting the position of all Christians it is in such words as, ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’, and for all who are ‘in Christ’ it is also true that, ‘old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ (2 Cor. 5:17). There is no place for two classes of Christians in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, and indeed no place for it anywhere in the teaching of Scripture. To interpret 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 in such a way as to divide men into three classes is to violate a cardinal rule for the interpretation of Scripture, namely, that each single passage must be interpreted in the light of the whole. It was a wise saying of one of the church fathers, ‘If you have one Scripture only on which to base an important doctrine or teaching you are most likely to find, on close examination, that you have none’.

2. New covenant blessings are separated

Second: The ‘carnal Christian’ teaching divides the two basic blessings of the new covenant because it denies that one of them is experienced by all true Christians. Let me point out how basic the covenant is to Christianity. Jesus was the mediator of the new covenant – Hebrews 8:6-10: ‘But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises’. The New Testament preachers were ministers of the new covenant — 1 Corinthians 3:5, 6: ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (A.S.V. new covenant); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.’

Every time we come to the Lord’s table we are reminded of the blessings of the new covenant – Luke 22: 20, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood…’

These facts are enough to establish the importance of the new covenant. But what are the two blessings of the new covenant? The answer is clearly seen in many scriptural statements:

‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts … I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more'(Jeremiah 31:31-34).

‘For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them’ (Ezekiel. 36: 24-27).

‘Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more’ (Hebrews 10:15-17).

It is important to note that this is one covenant with two inseparable parts — the forgiveness of sins and a changed heart. When a sinner is reconciled to God something happens in the record of heaven, the blood of Christ covers his sins. Thus, the first blessing is the forgiveness of sins. But at the same time something happens on earth in the heart, a new nature is given.

From the above Scriptures we also learn that Christ purchased the benefits and blessings of the new covenant. And the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that the gospel which the apostles preached as the gospel of Christ was the gospel of the new covenant. Therefore, whatever else sinners may receive when they are savingly called by the gospel, they must come into the primary blessings of the new covenant, namely, the forgiveness of sins and a new heart.

Well, what is the forgiveness of sins? It is an essential part of the justification of a man before God. And what is a new heart? It is nothing less than sanctification begun. But the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching appeals to those who are supposed to be justified, as though a new heart and life are optional. Sanctification is spoken of as though it can be subsequent to the forgiveness of sins and so people are led to believe that they are justified even though they are not being sanctified!

The truth is that we have no reason to believe that Christ’s blood covers our sins in the record of heaven if the Spirit has not changed our hearts on earth. These two great blessings are joined together in the one covenant. The working of the Spirit and the cleansing of Christ’s blood are inseparably joined in the application of God’s salvation. Hence the teaching which calls for an act of submission or surrender (or whatever else it may be called) subsequent to conversion in order that the convert may live the spiritual life, cuts the living nerve of the new covenant. It separates what God has joined together.

3. Saving faith and spurious faith are not distinguished

The third major error is that this teaching does not distinguish between true, saving belief and the spurious belief which is mentioned in the following Scriptures: ‘Many believed in his name … But Jesus did not commit himself to them’ John 2:23,24. ‘Many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him’ John 12:42,43. ‘These have no root, which for a while believe’ Luke 8:13. Simon Magus ‘believed’ and was baptized but his heart was ‘not right in the sight of God’ Acts 8:12-22. In other words, it was ‘belief’ without a changed heart and because this was Simon’s condition Peter says he would perish unless he came to true repentance: he was ‘in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity’ (vs. 23). And the evidence that Simon Magus was indeed unsaved can be seen in his prayer. He, like all unregenerate people, was only concerned with the consequence of sin and made no request to be pardoned and cleansed from the impurity of sin. ‘Pray ye,’ he says to Peter, ‘to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me’. Like the so-called ‘carnal Christian’ he wanted Jesus as a kind of hell-insurance policy but he did not ask for deliverance from sin!

In all these scriptural instances men ‘believed'; they had ‘faith’, but it was not saving faith. And all ‘carnal Christians’ profess their faith but it is not always saving faith.

Charles Hodge, following the Scriptures, makes a clear distinction between the different kinds of faith, (1) Speculative or dead faith, (2) temporary faith, (3) saving faith.’ Robert Dabney differentiates, (1) Temporary faith, (2) historical faith, (3) miraculous faith, (4) saving faith.’ The ‘carnal Christian’ teaching makes no allowance for these distinctions, it gives little or no recognition to the possibility of a spurious belief, instead it implies or assumes that all who say they ‘invite Jesus into their lives’ are in possession of saving faith. If these professing believers do not live and act like Christians, their teachers may well say that it is because they are not ‘spiritual Christians’. The fact is they may not be true believers at all!

4. The omission of repentance

A fourth flaw in the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching lies in its virtual exclusion of repentance from the conversion experience. This is implied by the suggestion that the ‘carnal Christian’ has not changed in practice but lives and acts just like the natural man. This teaching is obviously set forth in the diagram given above where self is still on the throne in the case of those in the second group. But thus to suggest that repentance, including a changed attitude to sin, is not an essential part of conversion is a very grave error. It is to depart from the apostolic gospel. No one who so minimizes the necessity of repentance can say with Paul, ‘I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20: 20, 21).

John Cotton, one of the Puritan leaders of New England, was right when he wrote: ‘There is none under a covenant of grace that dare allow himself in any sin; for if a man should negligently commit any sin, the Lord will school him thoroughly and make him sadly to apprehend how he has made bold with the treasures of the grace of God. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid: None that has a portion in the grace of God dareth therefore allow himself in sin; but if through strength of temptation he be at any time carried aside, it is his greatest burden’.

5. Wrong teaching on assurance

In the fifth place the three-class theory is prone to give assurance to those who were never really converted. When a person professes to belong to Christ and yet lives like the world, how do we know that his profession is genuine? How do we know it is not genuine? We don’t! There are always two possibilities: he may be a true Christian in a condition of back-sliding, or it is quite possible he was never savingly united to Christ. Only God knows. Therefore when we speak of a back-slider two errors must be avoided: (1) Saying unequivocally that he is not a Christian; (2) Saying unequivocally that he is a Christian. The fact is that we do not know, we cannot know

The Bible certainly teaches that to make men consider they are Christians when in reality they are not is a great evil, and insofar as the ‘carnal Christian’ theory allows for a whole category of ‘Christians’ whose hearts are not surrendered in obedience to Christ, its tendency is to promote that very evil. Nothing could be more dangerous. Lost, self-deceived souls who should be crying out to God for that supernatural change which is made known to themselves and to the world by a changed heart and life are often found hiding comfortably behind this very theory. As long as they believe it they will never seek a real salvation. Although they profess to hold evangelical truth their position is far worse than that of natural men who know that they are not converted!

The ‘carnal Christian’ teaching ignores much biblical teaching on the doctrine of assurance, especially those Scriptures which show that Christian character and conduct have a bearing on our assurance. The short First Epistle of John was written in order that those who believe may know that they have eternal life; that is, may know that they are born of God (5.13). Throughout the Epistle John stresses the marks that accompany the new birth (3:9; 5:18). He shows that a man born again is not at home in the realm of sin, and that disobedience to God’s commandments cannot be the bent of a Christian’s life, as the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching would lead us to believe. ‘For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (5:4). ‘And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him (2:3-5). 
From such texts it is clear that obedience is intimately related to assurance; if we do not live and practice righteousness we have no reason to think that we are ‘born of God’.

Again, Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments,’ (John 15.10) not, ‘To be a spiritual Christian keep my commandments’, for obedience is for all disciples. ‘Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). ‘Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him’ (Hebrews 5:8, 9). ‘But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation, because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy'(1 Peter 1:15, 16).

The Bible makes it crystal clear that there is a close relationship between assurance and obedience; but the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching gives assurance to those who are at home in the realm of sin. They are classed as Christians. Many times this is a false and damning assurance because such have no biblical reason to believe that they are Christians at all.

6. A low view of sin.

Sixth: The fruits of this teaching are not new to Christianity even though the teaching appears on the present scene under a new mask. It is the old doctrine of Antinomianism. Paul attacks this in Romans 6:1, 2 when he asks, ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid…’ By implication, the answer of the three-category teaching to Paul’s question is, ‘Yes, you can continue in sin and be a carnal Christian’. And that is Antinomianism!

7. A second work-of-grace made necessary

Seventh: ‘carnal Christian’ teaching is the mother of many second work-of-grace errors in that it depreciates the biblical conversion experience by implying that the change in the converted sinner may amount to little or nothing. It goes on to say that the important change which affects a man’s character and conduct is the second step which makes him a ‘spiritual Christian’.

8. A wrong view of Christ

Eighth: The ‘carnal Christian’ teaching is also the mother of one of the most soul-destroying teachings of our day. It suggests that you can take Jesus as your Savior and yet treat obedience to his lordship as optional. How often is the appeal made to the so-called ‘carnal Christians’ to put Jesus on the throne and ‘make him Lord’! When they accept Jesus as Lord, they are told, they will cease to be ‘carnal Christians’. But such teaching is foreign to the New Testament. When our Lord appeared in human form in history the angel announced his coming in the words, ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11). He cannot be divided. The Savior and Lord are one. When the apostles preached they proclaimed Christ to be Lord. To bow to his rule was never presented in the Bible as a second step of consecration. ‘For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians 4:5).

When sinners truly receive him they do receive him as Lord. ‘As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him’ (Colossians 2:6).

Matthew Henry, in his Introduction to the Gospel according to Matthew said: ‘All the grace contained in this book is owing to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; and, unless we consent to him as our Lord we cannot expect any benefit by him as our Savior.’

Charles Haddon Spurgeon warned his students: ‘If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows the Lord’s will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their Savior, while they are wedded to their idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.’

It is vital in this connection to notice how the apostles preached the lordship of Christ. The word ‘Savior’ occurs only twice in the Acts of the Apostles (5:31; 13:23), on the other hand the title ‘Lord’ is mentioned 92 times, ‘Lord Jesus’ 13 times, and ‘The Lord Jesus Christ’ 6 times in the same book! The gospel is: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’

It is the ‘carnal Christian’ teaching that has given rise to this erroneous teaching of the divided Christ. When Peter preached what we might call the first sermon after our Lord’s ascension he made it abundantly clear that we do not make Christ Lord at all: ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36). God has made him Lord! ‘For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of the dead and living’ (Romans 14: 9). And the same grace which saves brings sinners to recognize this. But the three-category teaching invites ‘carnal Christians’ to make Christ Lord and thus become spiritual Christians. Again, we see that this is treating our acceptance of his lordship as something additional to salvation, when, in fact, recognition of him as Lord is an integral and necessary part of conversion. A. A. Hodge has written:

‘You cannot take Christ for justification unless you take him for sanctification. Think of the sinner coming to Christ and saying, “I do not want to be holy;” “I do not want to be saved from sin;” “I would like to be saved in my sins;” “Do not sanctify me now, but justify me now.” What would be the answer? Could he be accepted by God? You can no more separate justification from sanctification than you can separate the circulation of the blood from the inhalation of the air. Breathing and circulation are two different things, but you cannot have the one without the other; they go together, and they constitute one life. So you have justification and sanctification; they go together, and they constitute one life. If there was ever one who attempted to receive Christ with justification and not with sanctification, he missed it, thank God! He was no more justified than he was sanctified.”

9. False spirituality

Ninth: This teaching breeds Pharisaism in the so-called ‘spiritual Christians’ who have measured up to some man-made standard of spirituality. There ought to be no professed ‘spiritual Christians’, much less ‘super-spiritual’ ones! George Whitefield, a man who lived very close to his Savior, prayed all his days, ‘Let me begin to be a Christian’. And another Christian has truly said: ‘In the life of the most perfect Christian there is every day renewed occasion for self-abhorrence, for repentance, for renewed application to the blood of Christ, for application of the rekindling of the Holy Spirit’.

Conclusion

The effect of believing the truth set out in these pages ought to be that we long to see more true evangelism.

The ‘carnal Christian’ teaching is, after all, the consequence of a shallow, man-centered evangelism in which decisions are sought at any price and with any methods. When those pronounced to be converts do not act like Christians, do not love what Christians love, and hate what Christians hate, and do not willingly serve Christ in his church, some explanation must be found other than calling upon them to ‘decide’ for Christ. They have already done that and have already been pronounced by the preacher or personal worker to be ‘Christians’. But when they don’t act like Christians something is wrong. What is it? The teaching I have sought to answer says that the trouble is that they are just ‘carnal Christians'; they have not made Christ ‘Lord’ of their lives; they have not let him occupy the throne of their hearts. Once this explanation is seen to be unscriptural it will also be seen to be closely connected with an initial error over evangelism itself. Too often, modern evangelism has substituted a ‘decision’ in the place of repentance and saving faith. Forgiveness is preached without the equally important truth that the Spirit of God must change the heart. As a result decisions are treated as conversions even though there is no evidence of a supernatural work of God in the life.

Surely the best way to end this evil is to pray and labor for the restoration of New Testament evangelism! Whenever such evangelism exists it is certain that men will learn that it is not enough to profess to be a Christian, and not enough to call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord’ (Luke 6:46). The gospel preached in awakening power will summon men not to rest without biblical evidence that they are born of God. It will disturb those who, without good reason, have believed that they are already Christians. It will arouse backsliders by telling them that as long as they remain in that condition the possibility exists that they never were genuine believers at all. And to understand this will bring new depths of compassion and urgency to the hearts of God’s people in this fallen world.

One of the greatest hindrances to the recovery of such preaching is the theory we have considered. To reject that theory is to be brought back to a new starting-point in evangelism and in the understanding of the Christian life. It is to bring God’s work into the center of our thinking. It is to see afresh that there are only two alternatives — the natural life or the spiritual life, the broad way or the narrow way, the gospel ‘in word only’ or the gospel ‘in power and in the Holy Ghost’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5), the house on the sand or the house on the rock.

There is no surer certainty than the fact that an unchanged heart and a worldly life will bring men to hell. ‘Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience’ (Ephesians 5: 6)

It is not only in the world today that evangelism is needed. It is needed in the church.

Source: steward@peacemakers.net

 

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Romans 9-11 and The Millennial Controversy

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By Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. 

Upon initial consideration one might reasonably conclude that Romans 9-11 has little direct reference to the millennial controversy. After all, the word kingdom is not even found in Paul’s great theodicy, and there is no reference, of course, to the duration of it.

The chapters, however, are a studied attempt by the apostle to vindicate God’s dealings with men from the standpoint of justice they related directly to what Dodd called,”the divine purpose in history” (C.H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1932). And if that is so, then they bear rather closely upon the doctrine of the messianic kingdom, for the messianic kingdom is a leading theme of the divine purpose as unfolded in the Scriptures.

To take this line of thought one step further, the Scriptures of the Old Testament have as their central theme the coming Redeemer and His purpose through the Abrahamic, David and New Covenants to confer in grace eternal salvation on His chosen people Israel and the Gentiles. This sovereign and covenantal dealing with His people is the overarching theme of Romans 9-11 and, although the length of the kingdom is not a subject of the chapters, the kingdom itself is intimately related to the apostle’s exposition.

The indirect reference of the chapters to the millennial controversy is clear and significant.

First, as we shall see, the meaning of the term Israel, a key eschatological point, finds clarification here.

Second, the hermeneutics of eschatology as it relates to the millennial question also finds clarification in Paul’s use of Hosea in Romans 9.25-26, thought to be a troublesome passage for premillennialists.

Third, the most significant contribution of the section to the controversy is the lengthy eleventh chapter with its climactic, “and thus all Israel will be saved” (v. 26). The ethnic future of Israel, which seems to be taught plainly here, bears with weighty force upon the question of an earthly kingdom of God. The contrary viewpoints of Anthony A.Hoekema (The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, pp. 139-47) , G.C. Berkouwer (The Return of Christ. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972, pp. 335-49), and Herman Ridderbos (Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975, pp.  354-61) and other Amillenarians will be considered at this point in the study.

Underlying all of this, fourth, is Paul’s conviction of the relevance of the Abrahamic Covenant’s provisions to the present age of Gentile salvation and to the future time of Israel’s restoration (cf. 4:1-25; 9:5-13; 11:1, 11-32; Gal. 3: 1-29). At this point it will be useful to consider the question. If an earthly kingdom including the land promised to Abraham is the teaching of the Old Testament covenantal promises, why is there not specific repetition of the land promises of the Abrahamic Covenant in the New Testament? I hope to give a sufficient answer to that good question.

I. The Meaning of the Term Israel

A. Exposition of the Occurrences of the Term

Romans 9:6, 27, 31

The term Israel occurs five times in chapter nine. Two of its occurrences occur in verse six, where Paul writes, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” It is sometimes thought that Paul in this statement says that believing Gentiles are to be found in the expression, “all Israel.” Thus, their salvation would justify his statement that the Word of God has not failed, “Israel” being big enough to include both believing Jews and Gentiles.

That cannot be true. The idea is foreign to the context (cf. vv. 1-5). Rather the apostle is making the same point he has made previously in the letter (cf. 2:28-29; 4.12). The division he speaks of is within the nation, they “who are descended from Israel” refers to the physical seed, the natural descendants of the patriarchs (from Jacob, or Israel). In the second occurrence of the word in the verse Paul refers to the elect within the nation, the Isaacs and the Jacobs. To the total body of ethnic Israel the apostle denies the term Israel in its most meaningful sense of the believing ethnic seed. Gentiles are not in view at all (Gutbrod comments, “On the other hand, we are not told here that Gentile Christians are the true Israel. The distinction at Romans 9:6 does not go beyond what is presupposed at John 1:47, and it corresponds to the distinction between ‘a Jew who is one inwardly’ and ‘a Jew who is one outwardly’ at Romans 2:28 ff., which does not imply that Paul is calling Gentiles true Jews.” Cf. Walter Gutbrod. Israel, TDNT, III, 387. Or, as Dunn puts it, “Not all who can properly claim blood ties to Israel actually belong to the Israel of God [cf. Gal. 6:16]” See James D.G. Dunn. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 38, Romans 9-16. Dallas: Word Books, 1988, p. 547).

As a matter of fact, the sense of the term Israel is clearly established by the meaning of the term “Israelites” in verse 4, and it can only refer there to the ethnic nation’s members.

The two occurrences of the term Israel in verse 27 fall plainly within this sense, for the apostle there cites in merged form Isaiah and Hosea as support for the certainty of the fulfillment of the promises, though they may be enjoyed by the remnant only. Israel still refers to the ethnic nation. Finally, in verse 31 the term has there the same sense, referring to the nation’s failure to find justification by faith.

Romans 10: 19- 21 

The two occurrences of Israel in chapter ten are also plainly references to ethnic Israel. In verse 19, asking if Israel has not known the truth, the apostle cites in proof of an affirmative answer Deuteronomy 32:21, the Song of Moses, delivered “in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel” just before entrance into the land (Deut. 31 :30). Ethnic Israel is meant.

The second occurrence in verse 21 is also part of the apostolic exegesis of the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 65: 1-2). The rebellious people to whom Yahweh has spread out His hands in appeal for repentance, as Isaiah wrote, Paul identifies as ethnic Israel. In fact, in this context the rebellious people are specifically distinguished from those who have responded in faith, presumably the Gentiles (Dunn, pp. 626, 31-32).

Romans 11:2,7,25,26

The four occurrences of Israel in the eleventh chapter fall into the same category, referring to ethnic Israel the nation. In verse 2, referring to Elijah’s complaint to Yahweh regarding Israel, Paul reminds the Romans that God responded to the prophet that He had kept for Himself (what a magnificent statement of divine sovereignty in salvation!) a remnant who had not bowed the knee to Baal. The context of I Kings 19:1-21, with its clear statement that Elijah was speaking of the nation ( cf. v. 10), defines the term Israel in its ethnic sense.

The second occurrence in verse 7 refers to the same entity, and the apostle makes the same distinction between the two elements within the nation, the believing remnant and the unbelieving nation as a whole. The fact that the mass of the nation was hardened is supported by texts from the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets.

The reference to Israel in verse 25, clearly defined by the statements made in vv. 7-10 and in vv. 11-15, where the nation’s hardening and blinding is stated, can only refer to the ethnic nation of Israel ( cf. the use of the verb “to harden” in vv. 7 and the noun “hardening” in v. 25, both from the same root).

That brings us to the eleventh and final use of Israel in Romans 9-11. On the face of it, one would need clear and full justification for finding a different sense of the word here, particularly since the use in verse 26 is closely related to the sense of the term in verse 25. The apostle adds the adjective “all” in verse 26 to make the point that he is speaking not simply of a remnant, but of the nation as a whole, “His people” as he puts it in verse 1. When we come to the interpretation of this section, the divergent interpretations of the term will be handled. One thing may be said: It is exegetically and theologically highly unlikely that the term Israel, having been used in the three chapters of the theodicy ten times for the nation, should now suddenly without any special explanation refer to “spiritual Israel,” composed of elect Jews and Gentiles.

This spiritualizing interpretation cannot be supported by Galatians 6:16, as even Berkouwer admits. He writes, “But it is indeed open to question whether Paul, in writing to the Galatians, had in mind the church as the new Israel. the meaning may well be: peace and mercy to those who orient themselves to the rule of the new creation in Christ, and also peace and mercy be upon the Israel of God, that is, upon those Jews (italics mine) who have turned to Christ” (Berkouwer, p. 344. For a fuller treatment of Galatians 6:16 see my “Paul and The Israel of God: An Exegetical and Eschatological Case Study,” in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, ed. by Stanley D. Toussaint & Charles H. Dyer. Chicago: Moody press, 1986, pp. 181-96. It is unfortunate that the NIV rendering of the text still follows what Berkouwer calls “the spiritualizing interpretation.” It should be abandoned for, like the emperor, it has no clothes).The people Paul is talking about are defined in verse 28 as those who “are beloved for the sake of the fathers.”

B. Conclusion

In summary, Romans 9-11 contains eleven occurrences of the term Israel, and in every case it refers to ethnic, or national, Israel. Never does the term include within its meaning Gentiles. The New Testament use of the term is identical with the Pauline sense of this section.

II. The Hermeneutics of Eschatology and Paul’s Use of Hosea in Romans 9:25-26

A. The New Testament Context of the Citation

The apostle, having in chapters 1-8 unfolded his magnificent account of God’s glorious plan of salvation, finds it necessary to explain the almost complete absence of Israel in the account (cf. 2:17-29; 3: 1-8). In fact, Israel has been the most rebellious entity in the story. That, however, presents a problem: Either Paul’s message is true and the Jewish promises are nullified, or the promises still hold and Paul’s gospel is false, and Jesus Christ is a messianic imposter (F. Godet. Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Edinburgh: T&T Clark Limited, 1979, vol II, 27).  Paul’s answer, of course will not be an either/or, but both/and. His gospel is true, and the promises to Israel still hold. The chapters, then, are not parenthetical, or an excursus. The argument is not yet complete. The indictment of Israel in 2:1-29 and particularly the apostle’s question in 3:1, “Then what advantage has the Jew?,” cry out for explanation in the light of the unconditional Abrahamic promises. Further, in the light of Paul’s description of the gospel of God as “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David,” and that the Son was “Jesus Christ (=Messiah) our Lord” (cf. 1:1-4), then it is clear that in the apostle’s mind the gospel is unintelligible without a full exposition of its relation to Israel, God’s people. Thus, Romans 9-11, where that exposition is found, is “an integral part of the working out of the theme of the epistle” (C.E.B. Cranfield. A Critical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1979, II, 445. Beker is right in saying that the chapters are “a climactic point in the letter” [J. Christiaan Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in the Life and Thought. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980, 87]).

One might ask the question, “But why should the theodicy be put here, after chapters 1-8, rather than after 12:1- 15:13?” Perhaps the apostle realized that the great stress upon God’s sovereign elective purpose and the believer’s certainty of hope in Romans 8:28-39 might be rendered questionable by Israel’s rejection. After all, if God might be frustrated in His purpose, as it might appear from Israel’s history, then is His purpose a reliable ground for our faith? One can see that it should be eminently necessary that Paul respond to that problem. Romans 9-11 is his answer. As Beker says, “Israel’s betrayal does not thwart Israel’s destiny in the plan of God” (Beker, p. 88) Further, not only does Israel’s failure not cancel the promises made to her ( cf. 3:1-8), the facts are that, if the Gentiles are to share the promises of God, then they must get them through Abraham or theory will not get them at all! (Cf. Paul I. Achtemeir. Romans. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Atlanta: John Know Press, 1985, p. 79). That is how far wrong are those who take the position that the church has supplanted Israel forever (Dunn suggests that the church is a “subset of Israel” in the light of Paul’s grafting illustration in chapter 11, II, 520).

After expressing his sorrow over Israel’s failure (9:1-5), Paul proceeds to explain that their falling away has its analogy in biblical history itself (9:6-13). The divine dealings with Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau indicate that there is an elective purpose of God being accomplished within the history of salvation. The natural seed of Abraham inherit only if also the products of the divine elective purpose. The apostle finds the matter illustrated in two passages in the Old Testament, Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:2-3.

Of course, Paul’s line of reasoning raises the common question, “Is God righteous in His sovereign choice?” That question, incidentally, should be the response of the natural man to all preaching true to the Pauline standard.

The apostle’s answer takes the form of replies to two rhetorical, or diatribe-like, questions (vv. 14, 19), one looking at the matter from the Godward side, and the other from the manward side. He affirms God’s right to show mercy and to harden (vv. 14-18), and he denies that God is responsible for man’s lost and rebellious condition (vv. 19-24. For an interesting and helpful study of Romans 9:1-23 one should consult John Piper’s The Justification of God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983. One of the delights of this book is its recourse to exegesis in the solution of the great problem of divine election and human responsibility. I must confess that to my mind Arminians usually answer the question, “Is God righteous in His sovereign choice?,” by an appeal to human reason, while Calvinists more often appeal to exegesis of the texts. It brings to mind Carl Bangs’ reference to a statement of an English Calvinist friend of his,” Arminianism is the religion of common sense; Calvinism is the religion of St. Paul” [Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation. Nashville, TN.: Abingdon, 1971, p. 18]).

After the illustration of God’s sovereign autonomy in the potter and the clay, he points out that, in actual fact, God has been long-suffering in order to demonstrate His wrath and His mercy on both Jews and Gentiles (vv. 22-24). What, then, remains of their complaints? (This sentence is supplied as the apodosis of the condition begun with the ei of v. 22, a common enough phenomena in Greek; cf. Cranfield, II, 492-93). To be God is to exercise mercy against the background of wrath to whomever He pleases apart from any constraints that arise outside His sovereign will. That is His glory and His Name. At this point Paul calls forth the witness of prophecy to show that the Scriptures have predicted that vessels of mercy were to come from both Gentiles and Jews, and that the majority of the nation Israel was to become vessels of wrath (vv. 25-29; see Piper, 203-5).). The expression, “not from the Jews only,” would have been troublesome to many Jewish readers, for it might have implied that the mass of God’s ancient people were left in unbelief “Did Jewish prophecy,” Liddon asks,”anticipate this state of things, which placed Gentiles and Jews, religiously speaking, each in a new position?” (H.P. Liddon. Explanatory Analysis of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids. Zondervan, 1961, p. 171).

B. The Old Testament Context of the Citation

Hosea, the Prophet of Unconditional Love, ministered to the Northern Kingdom in the turbulent era of the eighth century before Christ. By divinely designed marital sufferings he played out in his own experience the unfaithful straying of Israel from Yahweh and Yahweh’s conquering love, of which Calvary is the ultimate exposition. Israel’s sin is represented by its ugliest figure, harlotry, and, God’s love by its counterpart, selfless, forgiving, faithful love.

The passages cited freely by Paul come from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10. They both appear to affirm the restoration of ethnic Israel after an indefinite time of discipline to their ancient “favored nation” status. The disastrous opening oracles of chapter one are astoundingly reversed, and the pained appeal of a forgotten God in chapter two, followed by unsparing discipline, issues in eternal covenantal union. “The mood,” Kidner says, “is that of the great parable, as though to say, ‘These my sons were dead, and are alive again; they were lost, and are found” (Derek Kidner. Love to the Loveless: The Message of Hosea. Downers Grove. IVP, 1981, 25).

The apostle’s citation is a merged one that contains some interesting variations from the Old Testament Hebrew and Greek texts, but basically follows the Greek Septuagint text (I do not have the space to list and discuss all the modifications of the Old Testament Hebrew and Greek texts in Paul’s merged citation. One variation is significant. The apostle in verse 25, citing Hosea 2:23 modifies the verb, “I will say” to “I will call,” this making a clear connection with the “called” of Rom. 9:25 and 9:26. The three fold use of the verb kaleo, to call, underlines the sovereign effectual grace in the nation’s future restoration (cf. Rom. 8:30).

The critical point for millennialism is the Pauline hermeneutical handling of the Old Testament passages. It is at this point that premillennialism’s claim that one should follow a grammatico-historico-theological method in the interpretation of prophetic passages has come under spirited attack. Premillennialists have claimed that this method of interpretation leads inevitably to a literal kingdom of God upon this present, although renewed, earth. Amillennialists have disputed this “literal,” or “normal,” use of the Old Testament by the New Testament authors. It is their contention that the New Testament writers, while generally following a literal approach, nevertheless in certain crucial New Testament eschatological passages have followed the principle of “spiritualizing,” or reinterpretation of the Old Testament passages.

Premillennialists, therefore, often accuse amillennialists of following “a dual hermeneutic,” that is, of following a grammatico-historical sense generally, but a spiritualizing hermeneutic in eschatology. I am not sure the accusation is a fair one. What amillennialists are saying is simply this: We follow a grammatico-historical method always, but in handling eschatological passages in a grammatico-historical sense it becomes plain that often the New Testament authors give a “spiritualized” sense to Old Testament texts. They “reinterpret” them, and we are obligated by grammar and history to follow them in what they do.

Premillennialists deny that the new Testament authors spiritualize, or reinterpret, Old Testament texts. That is really the Brennpunkt, the focus, or issue, it seems to me. Does the New Testament, for example, apply Old Testament promises made to ethnic believing Israel to the New Testament church (cf. Acts 15:13-18; Gal. 6: 16)?

We cannot settle this question, as many hermeneutical manuals attempt to do, by theological logic alone. Greg Bahnsen’s counsel is correct, “The charge of subjective spiritualization or hyperliteralism against any of the three eschatological positions cannot be settled in general; rather the opponents must get down to hand-to-hand exegetical combat on particular passages and phrases” (Greg Bahnsen, “The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, 3, Winter, 1976, p. 57). That is to the point, and that is what must be done by premillennialists, if they wish to prevail. The meaning of the sacred text is to be found by the perusal of the sacred pages themselves. It is from them that our hermeneutics must originate. Scriptura ex Scriptura explicanda est, or interpretatio ex Scriptura docenda est.

C. Leading Interpretations of Paul’s Use of Hosea 2.23; 1:10.

The late George Ladd, for many years Professor of new Testament Exegesis and Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, was a premillennialist who contended that the New Testament authors spiritualized, or reinterpreted, the Old Testament texts. He said, “The fact is that the New Testament frequently interprets Old Testament prophecies in a way not suggested by the Old Testament context” (George Eldon Ladd, “Historic Premillennialism,” The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views, ed. be Robert G. Clouse. Downers Grove, IVP, 1977, p. 20). He also claimed that there were “unavoidable indications” that promises made to Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church (Ibid, 27).

One would naturally like to know the passages upon which Ladd has built his thesis, and he has given us his principal ones. It would be unfair to spend time on the first two examples, for they are so easily refuted, namely, the use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15 and Isaiah 53:4 in Matthew 8:17. His third example is the citation we are studying, that of Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 in Romans 9.25-26. He obviously thought this was a clinching text, for he calls it “a most vivid illustration” (Ibid, 23) of the principle. To its interpretation we now turn.

The questions at issue are these: (1) First, to whom do the passages in Hosea refer? (2) Second, to whom are they referred in the New Testament?

As far as the first question is concerned, the context of Hosea seems to make it plain that the Northern Kingdom of Israel is indicated by the phrase, “not my people” (Gr., ou laos mou, vv. 25,26). Commentators overwhelmingly favor this.

A few students have suggested that, in the light of Israel’s apostasy in Hosea’s day, God now has taken the position that they are as the Gentiles, having no claim any longer upon Him at all (cf. Rom. 9:6; 3:1-8). Such an abandonment of the nation as a whole does not seem contemplated by Hosea (cf. Hos. 3:1-6) or Paul (cf. Rom. 11:2,31-36 [Andersen and Freedman may be right in claiming, "In Deut. 32:21 unidentified foreigners are gathered under the head of lo'-'am, 'a non-people,' What we have in Hosea 1-2 is not a negation of 'ammi 'my people,' but a suffixation of the noun compound lo'-am, my 'non-people.' In the latter case ownership is still claimed, but Israel is no better than the heathen" in Francis I Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Hosea: A New translation with Introduction and Commentatry, The Anchor Bible. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1980, p. 198]).

As far as the second question is concerned, there are several ways of taking Paul’s usage. ( 1) First, as Ladd does, we may refer the Hosea verses about Israel to the church. If this is so, then those who espouse a consistent grammatico- historico-theological interpretation of the Bible would have to modify their position.

Aside from Ladd, there are others who take the view that Paul changes Hosea’s sense of the texts. C. H. Dodd comments, “When Paul, normally a clear thinker, becomes obscure, it usually means that he is embarrassed by the position he has taken up. It is surely so here… It is rather strange that Paul has not observed that this prophecy referred to Israel, rejected for its sins, but destined to be restored: strange because it would have fitted so admirably the doctrine of the restoration of Israel which he is to expound in chap. XI. But, if the particular prophecy is ill-chosen, it is certainly true that the prophet did declare the calling of the Gentiles” (C.H. Dodd. The Epistle to the Romans. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1932, pp. 159-160).

Ernst Kasemann’s comment, “With great audacity he takes the promises to Israel and relates them to the Gentile-is unclear , for he does not really tell us how the passages are related to the Gentiles, that is, Christians,” (Ernst Kasemann. Commentary on Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980, p. 274). is unclear, for he does not really tell us how the passages are related to the Gentiles, that is, typically?, analogically?, or by direct application?”

There are things to be said for this position. First, the following sentence’s opening de (NASB, “and”) can be translated by but. Taken with the phrase, “concerning Israel,” it might appear to contrast Israel to the preceding clauses about Gentiles. Second, the pattern of preference for the “non-nation” in 10:19-20 followed by judgment upon Israel in verse 20 is similar. The “non-nation” there is a reference to the Gentiles (cf. 10:19; 11.11, 14). Third, Peter, it is thought, has the same view of Hosea 2:25 (cf. I Pet. 2:10).

(2) Second, others, wishing to maintain Hosea’s reference to Israel as still harmonious with Paul’s reference to the Gentiles in some way, have seen the Pauline usage as an application by way of analogy of Hosea’s words concerning Israel, to the Gentiles. No claim of fulfillment in Gentile salvation is made. This is the view of scholars with no premillennial bias, such as Sanday and Headlam, (William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1895, p. 264. They write, “St. Paul applies the principle which underlies these words, that God can take into His covenant those who were previously cut off from it, to the calling of the Gentiles. A similar interpretation of the verse was held by the Rabbis.”) and John Murray (John Murray. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids. Eerdmans, 1950, II, 38. Murray states that “Paul finds in the restoration of Israel to love and favor the type in terms of which the Gentiles become partakers of the same grace.”). Charles Hodge, also with no premillennial bias, has pointed out that verses of the ten tribes are “applicable to others in like circumstances, or of like character… This method of interpreting and applying Scripture is both common and correct. A general truth, stated in reference to a particular class of persons, is to be considered as intended to apply to all those whose character and circumstances are the same, though the form or words of the original enunciation may not be applicable to all embraced within the scope of the general sentiment” (Charles Hodge. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950, pp. 326-27. It would only unnecessarily enlarge the apparatus to cite others who hold the same view).

In support of this view one notices, first, that the introductory formula, “as He says also in Hosea,” comparative in force, agrees. There is an analogy between the calling of the Gentiles at the present time and Israel’s future calling as sons of the living God. Second, the threefold occurrence of the concept of the efficacious call (vv. 24, 25, 26), obviously connected, underlines the heart of the analogy. In fact, as the apostle points out in the chapter, the present calling of the remnant (vv. 7, 11-12; 8:28-30; 11:5) is, indeed, an earnest of the calling of the mass.

So, to sum up this analogical view, the elective calling of the unbelieving Gentiles finds its counterpart in the future calling of the mass of unbelieving ethnic Israel. Both are works of grace from God. This view, in my opinion, is a legitimate view.

(3) But, third, I suggest a more appropriate view, also analogical, but centered in a different correspondence and grounded more soundly in the chapter’s context. The stress of the apostle in chapter 9 does not lie in God’s call of both Jews and Gentiles, although, of course, that is true. The real point is Paul’s desire to show from a salvation history that God has had a sovereign elective purpose of grace in His dealings with Israel (cf. vv. 6-13). Why is the mass of Israel missing from the elect people of God whose spiritual status has been so marvelously set forth in chapters 1-8? God’s elective purpose is the primary cause. The mention of the Gentiles in verse 24 is only incidental at this point. It is the sovereign purpose of grace in the salvation of both Israel and the Gentiles that is the point. In other words, the analogy is not a national, or ethnic one, it is a soteriological one. It is not so much the fact of the calling of the Gentiles now and the future calling of Israel that forms the analogy. Paul, thus, lays stress from Hosea on the electing grace of the calling of both the Gentiles in the present time and the mass of ethnic Israel in the future. This is the point that he finds in Hosea, and it is most appropriate.

The use of the verb to call supports the point, emphasizing the fact that God’s effectual calling in elective grace is true both in the salvation of the Gentiles today and in the salvation of ethnic Israel in the future. Therein lies the resemblance, the analogy, the apostle sees in the present situation and in Hosea’s texts.

The mention of the salvation of the Gentiles in verse 24 is very appropriate, but their admission into the people of God is itself an act of divine sovereign grace, his theme in this respect their call is analogical to the call of both Israel’s remnant (cf. 11:5) and the future ethnic mass of believers at the time of the Messiah’s corning (11:25-27).

A careful study of Hosea’s references will lead the reader to the conviction that no passage could better and more tenderly extol God’s sovereign electing mercy in His compassionate courting and winning of the adulterous wife. He takes the initiative, “allures” her, “speaks comfortably” to her, and triumphantly brings her to songs of salvation grace as in the days of the Exodus. His advances, His efforts to win her back, and His final success are the results of His purpose. The fragment from Hosea 2:23, “I will call those who were not my people, ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved, ‘beloved,'” if one is conscious of its context, underlines the great principle of sovereign mercy.

It should also be noted that, while Paul mentions the Gentiles’ salvation in verse 24, and it is in harmony with his theme of sovereign electing mercy, nevertheless his chief interest is in Israel, as the final verses of the chapter indicate (vv. 27-33; the de of verse 27 is not adversative, as if the preceding verses are about Gentiles, but is continuative, properly rendered by “and” [NASB]).

The two passages from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 illustrate the royal sovereignty in the rejection and reception of men, Paul’s immediate theme. The sovereignty itself is set forth more clearly in the merged citation, while the second states the glorious result of it in Israel’s history more clearly than in the first (CF. Franklin Johnson. The Quotations of the New Testament from the Old Considered in the Light of General Literature. London: Baptist Tract and Book Society, 1896, pp. 354-55).

Professor Ladd and others have made their mistake in their initial analysis of the context, thinking that Paul is arguing primarily the relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the divine purpose. That will be more upon the apostle’s mind in chapter eleven. For now it is God’s sovereign dealing with Israel. His usage of Scripture aptly illustrates his purpose.

We conclude, then, that there is no legitimate reason to deny to Paul an analogical use of Hosea to support the manner of the calling of the remnant of Israel and the Gentiles in his day. The truth of the divine gracious calling unites the continuing work of God through the ages.

Professor Ladd’s best example fails of demonstration, and with it that contention that the Old Testament Scriptures are on occasion “reinterpreted” in the New. More recently the well-known evangelical, Clark Pinnock, at the present engaged in a fevered one-sided vendetta against all the purveyors of sovereign grace from Augustine, Luther and Calvin to modem upholders of the doctrine, has written, “Let us by all means begin with the original sense and meaning of the text,” adding in a new paragraph, “But when we do that, the first thing we discover is the dynamism of the text itself. Not only is its basic meaning forward looking, the text itself records a very dynamic process of revelation, in which the saving message once given gets continually and constantly updated, refocused. and occasionally revised” (italics mine; Clark H. Pinnock, “The Inspiration and Interpretation of the Bible,” TSF Bulletin, 4, October, 1080, p. 6).

There are “no crucial reinterpretations” (ibid) of the Old Testament in the New, only inspired interpretations, the Holy Spirit being the final arbiter in biblical interpretation. As John Ball put it in the 17th century, “We are not tyed to the expositions of the Fathers or councils for the finding out the sense of the Scripture, the Holy Ghost speaking in the Scripture is the only faithful interpreter of the Scripture” (Charles Augustus Briggs. General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 460. Briggs notes that John Wycliff, the morning star of the Reformation, echoed the though, “The Holy Spirit teaches us the sense of Scripture as Christ opened the Scriptures to His apostles” , p. 455). This is the watchword of historic orthodoxy.

III. The Ethnic Future of Israel and Romans Eleven

A. A Survey of Paul’s Argument

Two relatively recent books, one authored by the late Anthony A. Hoekema and the other one to which he has made a significant contribution, have enabled Professor Hoekema, for many years Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, to emerge as the leading defender of amillennialism in our day. His position is well-earned, for his works are soundly argued and written and represent a significant advance over the older works from that position (Cf. Hoekema. The Bible and the Future; Robert G. Clouse, ed. The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views. Downers Grove, IL: 1977).

It must, however, be pointed out that he has primarily simplified an approach popularized in the Netherlands among such Dutch scholars as Herman Ridderbos of Kampen and G. C. Berkouwer of Amsterdam, who have been followed in the United States by their spiritual compatriots, such as William Hendriksen, Palmer Robertson, and Charles Horne.

Crucial to the views of these men is the question of the ethnic future of Israel, and it is to this significant eschatological issue that we now turn. Professor G. C. Berkouwer, formerly Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam and generally regarded as the Coryphaeus of conservative Dutch Reformed Theology, excused a separate chapter on Israel in his The Return of Christ for two reasons: (1) First, the renewed attention given to Israel due to “the tragic outbursts of anti-Semitism in our age,” (Berkouwer, p. 323) and, (2) second, the rise of the Jewish state in Palestine.

We might add a third reason, namely, the importance of the question of the ethnic future of Israel for amillennial eschatology. If Israel has an ethnic future in biblical teaching, then how is it possible to deny to her a certain preeminence in the kingdom of God? The same passages in the Old Testament that point to her future point also quite plainly to her preeminence in that day.

So we come to Romans eleven to consider the question. It is the one chapter in which Paul discusses “thematically” the future of Israel (Nils Alstrup Dahl. Studies in Paul: Theology for the Early Christian Mission. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1977, p. 137).

As we have suggested, in Romans 1-8 the apostle has described an elect company’s emergence from sin by divine grace, but Israel (but for a remnant 11:5) is missing from among them! Why? In the heart of the book Paul makes three points in reply.

First, Israel’s failure is due to spiritual pride and self-sufficiency, which a careful reading of the Scriptures with their doctrine of divine elective grace might have prevented (cf. 9:6-13, 31, 33; 10:3, 21). Chapter 9 stresses the divine election, while chapter 10 emphasizes Israel’s human responsibility.

Second, in chapter 11 a consideration of the existence of the remnant of believers in Israel leads to the conclusion that Israel’s failure is not total (cf. vv. 1-10).

Third, and finally, since Israel still has “the oracles of God” (cf. 3:2, their “advantage”), her failure is not final (cf.11:11-32). Her future is glorious and, through her, the Gentiles’ future is glorious, too. The temper of Paul is that suggested by Luthi, “The joy in the House of the Father at the return of the prodigal son will always be tempered as long as the elder brother refuses to come in.”

Israel’s failure is not total (1-10)

The Pauline question (1a), introduced by “then,” is followed by the Pauline answer ( 1b-6) and the logical conclusion (7-10). General apostasy is not contrary to the existence of a remnant, to whom God has been faithful. The failure of the mass is traceable to Israel’s perverse attempt to gain acceptance by works and to the divine election (6-7).

Israel’s failure is not final (11-32)

In this section Paul makes three points: (1) First, a final fall for God’s people is unthinkable and blasphemous (cf. 3: 1-8). (2) Second, the falling away of the mass of Israel has led to the divinely intended Gentile salvation (cf. vv. 11- 12). (3) Third, arguing from the logic of the situation, Paul says that, if the fall of the mass of Israel has meant “the reconciliation of the world,” their recovery must result in tremendous world blessing, something like life from the dead (cf. vv. 13-15, 12).

To illustrate the situation, the apostle unfolds his great parable of the olive tree (cf. w. 16-24). Its intent is to warn the Gentiles against pride and arrogance and to remind them that, while they have inherited with Israel’s believing remnant the covenantal blessings, they will suffer the same fate as the mass of Israel, if they do not continue in faith. The parable closes with a massive a fortiori argument for the restoration of national Israel (23-24 ).

That leads into the prophecy of restoration of the mass of the nation to salvation (25-27). Paul has at this point shown that Israel’s restoration in the purpose of God is both possible (faith is the lone condition) and probable (it is more likely than Gentile salvation, which has occurred). He now shows that it has been prophesied. The free citation of verses 26b-27, taken from Isaiah 59.20-21,27:9, Psalm 13:7 (14:7, MT), and probably from Jeremiah 31:33-34 also attests it.

The preceding verses have raised the question of the broad sweep of the plan of God for the nation and the nations, and the apostle obliges his readers by surveying the divine purpose. The final balanced sentence is a kind of “reiteration and confirmation” (W.G.T. Shed. A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967, p. 351) of verses eleven through twenty-seven. The end of the road for both Jew and Gentile is God’s mercy, and for each of them the road leads to it through disobedience (28-32).

The Doxology (33-36)

Paul, caught up in the spirit of Wesley’s “Love Divine,” with its “lost in wonder, love and praises,” concludes the chapter with a doxology, a Hymnus (Otto Michel. Der Brief an die Romer. 14th ed.; Gottingen: Vendenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977, p. 359) cast in Old Testament language (cf. Isa, 40:13; Job 41:23 [Eng. v. 11]). After extolling the inscrutable wisdom and knowledge of God, he mentions His independent sovereignty as the sufficient answer to the preceding questions. As one might expect, he concludes on the note of the ineffable glory of God in verse thirty-six. He is the source, the means, and the goal of all the divine acts of creation, providence, and redemption (cf. Dan. 2:21; 4:35), As someone has said, “We have learned Paul’s meaning only when we can join in this ascription of praise. “

B. The Crucial Questions of Romans 11:25-27

The interpretation of kai houtos (v. 26, NASB, “and thus”)

Among the warmly debated words and phrases of the passage is the sense of kai houtos in v. 26. F. F. Bruce, for example, has consented to a temporal sense for houtos, claiming that the force is well attested (F.F. Bruce. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963, p. 222. garret evidently agrees, seemingly approving the rendering, “when this is done.” Cf. C. K. Barret, A Commentary On the Epistle to the Romans. New York: Harper & Row, 1957, p. 223). It is, however, a rarer use of the adverb (cf. I Cor. 11 :28?; Gal. 6:2?).

Others have suggested an inferential force. The sense is good, but again there is little support from usage (cf. Gal. 6:2? See Murray, II, 96).

A third possibility is to take the houtos as correlative with the following kathos (NASB, “just as”; Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. New Edition rev. and augmented by Sir Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie. Oxford, 1940, p. 1277). Cf. Luke 24:24; Phil. 3: 17. The sense would be this: And so all Israel shall be saved, just as the prophetic words indicate. The sense is good

Finally, the majority of the commentators have given the phrase a comparative force, translating it by and so, or and in this manner, that is, the manner indicated in the preceding context (1-24, or 25). But there is disagreement over the force of the preceding context, so two views have been taken of the meaning of the comparative force. On the one hand, Berkouwer, together with Hendriksen, Home, Rodderbos and Robertson, refers the expression to the remnant of Jewish believers being saved in this age. It is in this way that all Israel shall be saved. The method is that of Gentile provocation to jealousy, a continuing process throughout the age between the two comings of Christ. Thus, according to these scholars there is no ethnic future for Israel in the sense of a great national conversion at the end of the present age. (Berkouwer, pp. 335-49. There are some differences of opinion among the Dutch group of scholars. Some, like Ridderbos, do expect an eschatological salvation to some extent. “Nevertheless, with however much justice Berkouwer places the emphasis on the ‘now’ of 11:30, this does not alter the fact that ‘all Israel will [only] be saved when the pleroma of the Gentiles shall have come in.’ That speaks of the final event: pleroma here has a future-eschatological sense, just as in v. 12, and pas Israel is synonymous with it [= to pleroma auton; v. 12],” he says. Cf herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975, pp. 354-61).

On the other hand, Sanday and Headlam and others refer the phrase to the entrance of the Gentiles into the community of the saved. The phrase would normally refer to the nearest antecedent, which is the salvation of the whole number of the Gentiles (25), rather than the more distant reference to Jewish salvation. It is Jewish hardening and Gentile salvation in the immediate context, not Jewish salvation. By provocation to jealousy through the salvation of all the Gentiles Israel shall come to salvation herself. One of the failures of the “Dutch” view is at this point.

An important consideration is the future tense of the verbs, “shall be grafted” (24) and “will be saved” (26). The future is ordinarily aoristic in force, that is, it refers then to an event, which would be more compatible with a future national conversion than a continuing one, although the point is not decisive. The final solution is related to other questions to be considered in a moment.

The meaning of pas Israel (26; NASB, “all Israel”)

The term, if read without consideration of biblical usage might be thought to refer to all Israelites without exception, but the usage of the term and the teaching of the Scriptures argue to the contrary. It means in usage Israel as a whole, not necessarily every individual Israelite (Cf. I Sam 7:25; 25:1; I Kings 12:1; 2 Chron. 12:1-5; Dan. 9:11). The clues to its force are not only the sense of people in verse one, but also the nature of the rejection of the Messiah by the nation, a rejection by the nation as a whole (the leaders and the great mass of the people, but not every Israelite) This usage, as is well-known, is found in rabbinic literature. The Mishnah tractate Sanhedrin (x. 1) says, “All Israel has a share in the world to come,” and then enumerates notable exceptions in a rather lengthy list, including Sadducees, heretics, magicians, the licentious and others. Thus, Paul affirms that ethnic Israel as a whole shall be saved.

The Old Testament citation

After the declaration of Israel’s restoration, Paul gives the biblical attestation. It is a free citation from Isaiah 59:20- 21, 27:9, Psalm 14’7, and perhaps Jeremiah 31:33-34 as well. The blend of passages is designed to support the statement, “and thus all Israel will be saved.” The citation makes this simple point: The Deliverer shall save Israel at His advent (cf. Acts 3:19-21; 2 Cor. 3:16).

The most remarkable thing about the blend of texts is their foundation in the unconditional (=unilateral) covenants of Israel. In 26b, Paul refers to Isaiah 59:20, a Messianic passage about the corning of the Deliverer. The Davidic Covenant is evidently before him, In 27a, Isaiah 59:21 is in Paul’s thought, and that text is, in turn, “a renewal of the words of God to Abram in Gen, XVII.4,” (Franz Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1877, II, 408. For further comments on the use of the Old Testament here see Michel, pp. 355-56; Joseph Huby, Saint Paul: Epitre aux Romains. Paris: Beauchesne et sea Fils, 1957, pp. 402-3; Ulrich Wilckens, Der Brief an die Romer. Koln: Benziger Verlag, 1980, II, 256-57; Cranfield, II, 576-77; Dunn, II, 683-83; Matthew Black, Romans. Greenwood: The Attic Press, 1973, pp. 147-48, and others).  Thus, the Abrahamic Covenant finds its fruition here, too. Finally, in 27b, either Isaiah 27:9 or Jeremiah 31:33-34 are referred to, but the reference to forgiveness of sins makes it fairly plain that the New Covenant is in view (cf. 59:21). All the unconditional covenants are fulfilled at that time!

C. The Principal Interpretations of Romans 11:25-27

The interpretation of John Calvin

Almost all premillennialists and some important postmillennialists, such as Charles Hodge, John Murray and others, affirm the ethnic future of the nation Israel. And even some amillennialists affirm that their view does not exclude such a future for Israel. Anthony Hoekema writes of the possibility of a large-scale conversion of the Jews in the future (Hoekema, pp. 146-47). While Romans 11 has little to say directly concerning the millennial question, it is difficult to see how it is possible to fit an ethnic future into the amillennial view of the future. The reason for this is simple: The same passages that declare an ethnic future for Israel also speak of Israel’s preeminence among the nations in the kingdom of God. But how can an amillennialist admit a preeminence for Israel in his view of the future, that is, in the new heavens and the new earth?

John Calvin took the term Israel to mean here the church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. He writes, “Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning, – ‘When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the firstborn in God’s family” (John Calvin. The Epistles of Paul and the Apostles to the Romans and to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960, p. 437). He claimed Galatians 6:16 supported his view.

There are compelling objections to his view. First, the usage of the term Israel in the New Testament is against it. As we have pointed out, never does the term refer to Gentiles, not even in Galatians 6:16. Historically the view is weak, since there is no evidence that the church was identified with Israel before 160 A.D. Further, in the special context of Romans 9-11 Israel is mentioned 11 times and, as we have shown, in not one of the cases are Gentiles in view. And, finally, such a sense would introduce hopeless confusion into the interpretation of verses 25 and 26. If Israel refers to spiritual Israel, composed of Jews and Gentiles, what is the meaning of hardening in part has happened to Israel?

The “Dutch” interpretation

We have referred above in the brief survey of Paul’s argument in Romans 11 to the view of the chapter offered by well-known interpreters from the Netherlands, such as G. C. Berkouwer and Ridderbos, and others influenced by them. Among the latter perhaps Anthony A. Hoekema is the most important. It is the contention of these for the most part that Paul refers to the remnant of elect Jews that are saved throughout the centuries by provocation to jealousy through Gentile salvation. Hendriksen’s principal point is that Romans 9-11 contains one important point, namely, “that God’s promises attain fulfillment not in the nation as such but in the remnant according to the election of grace” (William Hendriksen. Israel and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968, p. 49). Is it not rather that Israel’s covenantal promises are not forgotten, because there is a remnant being saved now, while the future holds promise of the fulfillment of the promises in the salvation of the nation as a whole? Hendriksen’s other strong point is that the and so must be interpreted in the light of the immediately preceding context, a point well taken. He then contends that the point of the context is that the hardening of Israel is not complete and never will be. The mystery is that in every age elect Jews will be saved by grace until “all Israel” is saved (Ibid., p. 51). In my opinion there are weighty objections to this view, and I will seek to indicate them against the views of Hoekema and Hendriksen primarily.

(1) First, it must be kept in mind constantly that the passage has to do with Israel as a nation, as a people (cf. 10:21; 11:1). As a people they have been rejected, they have fallen away, and the mass of the people, the majority, have rebelled and have been hardened (7, 12, 15). The figures of the passage are collective in nature, not individualistic in nature,–“people” (10:21; 11:1) and “olive tree” (16-24). A reversal of the present situation in this collective sense is an important ingredient of the text (cf. 12, 15,23, “again”).

Anthony Hoekema, whose defense of the “Dutch” view is found in his excellent book on eschatology, takes all Israel to be simply the sum of all the remnants of Jewish believers in the church throughout history. But the sum of the remnants cannot equal “all Israel,” as the usage of the term indicates. The sum of the remnants through the ages is still the remnant within Israel.

(2) Second, there are two related concepts in the passage that militate against Hoekema’s view. First, there is the concept of a reversal of fortune for the nation (7, 11-12, 15, 23-24). In Hoekema’s view there is simply the continual saving experience of a minority of Jews down through the history of the church. The other concept is that of a future transformation of Israel’s status before God. The note of the future change is found in the same texts, with the addition of verses 25-27.

(3) Third, if all that Paul means in this section is that there is taking place a constant grafting in of believing Israelites into the olive tree, since this would have been a rather obvious truth, why would the question, “God has not rejected His people, has He?,” ever have arisen in the first place?

(4) Fourth, the a fortiori argument of verse 12 and the statements in verses 11, 14-15, taken together with the future sense of the passage, support the doctrine of the ethnic future of Israel. The views of Berkouwer and Hendriksen have no real “casting away” and “receiving,” no imposition of judicial hardening and no lifting of it. And, further, the auton’s (NASB, “their”) of verses 12 and 15 must refer to different entities, at one time to the mass of the fallen, and then to the remnant of the elect. And, finally, since the verse clearly suggest consequences for the whole world of the salvation of the Israel under discussion, it may be asked reasonably: Why does the conversion of a Jewish remnant, one by one in the “trickle down theory” of the Dutch, lead to such undreamed of abundance in the conversion of the Gentiles? Why does not this happen when individual Gentile elect persons are converted one by one? The Dutch view finds it difficult in the extreme to explain why Paul is so concerned with Israel, when they are no different from anyone else.

(5) Fifth, Hoekema equates the continuing “remnant” with “all Israel,” but the context of the chapter certainly seems to contrast them (cf. 10:21; 11:1,5,7,26). And, as was noted earlier, Paul contrasts the two entities in time also, one being now (5), and the other future (23-24, 26).

(6) Sixth, in verse 23 Paul says that Israel shall be grafted in “again.” If this is said of the remnant, as Hoekema says, how can this take place? The remnant of elect, being part of the tree, were never broken off (17). The grafting in again of Israel must be, then, the grafting in again of those broken off, the mass of the nation, or the nation as a whole, “His people, ” who have been cast away but shall be received again by virtue of the faithfulness of God to the covenantal promises made to them.

(7) Seventh, the interpretation of Berkouwer and the others destroys the climactic element in Paul’s statement that “all Israel shall be saved.” If all that is meant is that all the elect of national Israel shall be saved, as Hoekema appears to claim, then the conclusion is insipid and vapid. Why, of course, the elect shall be saved!” (Murray, II, 97. Robertson seeks to answer this, laying stress on the manner of Israel’s salvation, but the attempt does not succeed in my opinion. Cf. O. Palmer Robertson, “is There a Distinctive Future for Ethnic Israel in Romans 11?,” Perspectives on Evangelical Theology, ed. by Kenneth S. Kantzer and Stanley N. Gundry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979, pp. 219-21).

(8) Eighth, finally, while there is reason for honest difference of opinion over this (Hendriksen sees the reference as pointing to the first advent, but the majority of orthodox commentators who comment on the citation refer the texts to the second advent), the Scripture citation from Isaiah 59:20-21 and 27:9 does not agree, for the citation in its most prominent sources refers to the Messianic salvation at the second advent, not the first advent, as required by the Dutch view.

Conclusion

We, therefore conclude that the history of God’s dealings with ethnic Israel as set out in verses 1-11, the logic of Israel’s reversal of fortune in verses 11-15, supported by the illustration of the olive tree and the regrafting of the natural branches of ethnic Israel into it “again” in verses 16-24, and the prophecy of the salvation of “all Israel” in verses 25-27 combine to establish the future of ethnic Israel as a glorious future hope of both Israel and the church.

W. D. Davies, in his significant Presidential Address at the meeting of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas at Duke University in August, 1976, emphasized some important points that are true to Paul’s thought here. Covenantal forgiveness will take place at the Parousia for Israel. That will be the consummation of genuine Judaism itself The “advantage” of Israel still obtains (cf. Rom. 3: 1-2), priority without superiority. There is a continuity between the olive tree and the root of Abraham, between the Patriarchs (28) and the nation. Fundamental to the fulfillment of the promises is the faithfulness of God. While the Gentiles partake of the promises, Israel still has a “favored nation” status; it is “their own olive tree” (24). And, finally, it is the Lord God who is responsible for the co nsummation the program (W.D. Davies, “Paul and the People of Israel,” New Testament Studies, 24, October, 1977, pp. 25-39,29).

IV. Romans Eleven, The Abrahamic Covenant and an Earthly Kingdom

A. The Abrahamic Covenant

“The greatest human character in the Bible is Abraham,” so said Donald Grey Barnhouse some years ago (D.G. Barnhouse. God’s Remedy. Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1954, p. 350). Barnhouse’s reasons for the patriarch’s greatness included the frequency of his name in the New Testament. Outside of such expressions as, “Moses saith,” or “Moses wrote,” Abraham’s name stands forth behind Paul, Peter, and John the Baptist in frequency of mention. Further, Abraham’s encounter with God is the pattern of justification by faith (cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-25). Rabbinic theology’s failure is related to its views of the precedence of Moses, over Abraham, as well as its failure to see divine grace in his justification. In an ancient midrashic work (Mekilta 40b) it is said that Abraham was justified by “the merit of faith. ” And, finally, Abraham’s life becomes the New Testament pattern of the life of faith (cf. Heb. 11:8-19).

The Abrahamic Covenant has a corresponding importance in biblical eschatology. Premillennialists have laid great stress upon its nature and provisions, sometimes claiming that the correct interpretation of its content really settles the argument over the question of a kingdom of God upon the earth. It is, therefore, rather revealing that Hoekema has no detailed treatment of the significance of the biblical covenants for eschatology (While Hoekema in his chapter on “The New Earth” has some things to say concerning Abraham’s promises, one of the most disappointing features of his work is the absence of a treatment on the covenants and eschatology).

The promises that God gave Abraham were threefold: (1) personal promises to the patriarch (Gen. 12:2, “make your name great”); (2) national promises to Abraham’s ethnic believing seed, the stress resting upon the grant of land (12:1; 13:14-17; 15:7; 17:8); (3) universal promises to Abraham’s Gentile seed (12:3; Gal. 3:7, 16, 29; Matt. 1:1 ). Christ is the “in thee,” finally.

The promises were unconditional promises, that is, dependent ultimately upon God’s sovereign determination as the striking ratification of the covenant indicated (Gen. 15: 7- 21) .While there are several important features of the ratification, the most striking feature is the peculiar action of God. In other covenants of this nature both parties walked between the pieces of the animals. In this instance, however , God symbolically walks between the pieces, has no detailed treatment of the significance of the biblical covenants for eschatology. and Abraham is not invited to follow! The meaning is clear: This covenant is not a conditional covenant in which certain duties rest finally upon man alone. God undertakes to fulfill the conditions Himself, thus guaranteeing by the divine fidelity to His Word and by His power the accomplishment of the covenantal promises. Herman Ridderbos vividly describes the unilateral nature of the event,” Abraham is deliberately excluded–he is the astonished spectator (cf. Gen. 15:12,17; 54 [Herman N. Ridderbos. The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953, p. 131]).” Even the faith that Abraham would exercise is the product of divine efficacious grace.

The remainder of the Bible is concerned with the ongoing fulfillment of these promises. In the Old Testament, as the promises receive expansion by the Davidic and New Covenants, many prophetic passages assure the readers of Scripture of their continuing validity ( cf. Isa. II: I-II; Jer . 16:14-16; 23:3-8; 33:19-26; Hos. 1:1–2:1 [Heb., 2:3]; Amos 9:11-15; Mic. 5:1-9; 4:1-7; 7:18-20).

Micah 7:18-20 is particularly striking. The final section of this great prophecy shifts to a more lyrical, or hymnic style (Delbert R. Hillers. Micah. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984, p. 91). It is a choral piece of devotion, a doxology for the noble character of a God who forgives and delights in constant love (v. 18, hesed). Micah means “Who is like (Yahweh)?,” and fittingly the last section of the book begins reminiscently. This type of rhetorical question is usually reserved for His mighty acts ( cf. Exod. 15:11; 34 :6- 7).

The closing verses are read in the Yom Kippur service every year, and should be sung by the congregation (cf. 19, “us”). One is reminded of lines from Samuel Davies’ expressive hymn,

“Who is a pardoning God like Thee,

Or who has grace so rich and free?”

The challenge is thrown out in verse 18. The book had begun with His advent in wrath against the peoples of the earth (1:1-5). It concludes with a magnificent choral promise of His faithfulness and unchanging love to Jacob and Abraham. The prophet was convinced of the impossibility of the frustration of God’s covenant promises.

The cause of the challenge is set out in verses 19-20. Here is the theology undergirding the preceding context. As Allen says, “They have come to repentance, but that is not enough to win back the blessing of God. He is no petulant princeling to be wooed away from a fit of capricious temper. Nothing they can do will avail of itself to secure God’s acceptance. The sole ground of their hope lies in the noble character of God as one who forgives, forgets, and offers a fresh beginning” (Leslie C. Allen. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976, p. 401) Micah finds his deepest ground of confidence in the patriarchal promises (Psa. 105:8-11). God’s ancient word of grace in His elective promises to Abraham and his seed is expressed in verse 20 as “Thou wilt give truth (‘emet) to Jacob and unchanging love (hesed) to Abraham. ” Jacob and Abraham are used representatively as corporate objects of God’s grace (the latter is unparalleled as a name for the people in the Old Testament [Cf. Hillers, p91; James Luther Mays. Micah: A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976, p. 168]). God’s unfrustratable loyal love is expressed no more pointedly anywhere else in the prophetic literature. Thus did the prophets understand the Abrahamic Covenant.

To the New Testament authors the Abrahamic Covenant is still in force (Leon Morris has pointed out that the New Testament sees the covenant as still being in force in three of its four occurrences, and possibly in the fourth occurrence as well. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955, p. 93). Passages of significance include Luke 1:46-55, 67-80, where in verses 55 and 73 a clear indication of the continuing validity of the covenant is affirmed, and that in spite of the apostasy of the Prophetic age that has intervened. And, further, there is no indication that the promises of the land are not included. The swearing of the oath in Zacharias’ prophecy (Luke I :73) is related to Genesis 22: 16-18, and Israel’s supremacy in the age to come is indicated by the clause, “and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (Gen. 22:17).

B. Romans 11 and the Abrahamic Covenant

Romans 9-11 is filled with references to the Abrahamic Covenant (cf. 9:4-5,6-13,25-26; 10:19 [Deut. 32:9, 18, 29, 36, 43]), but the most important section is Romans 11:11-27. We have already sought to show that the passage clearly points to the ethnic future of Israel, and that the merged citation of verses 26-27 includes a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant as fulfilled at the time of the second advent of the Messiah.

C. The Abrahamic Covenant and an Earthly Kingdom

Two questions deserve some answer. The first is: “What about the land promises? They are not mentioned lit the New Testament. Are they, therefore, cancelled?” In my opinion the apostles and the early church would have regarded the question as singularly strange, if not perverse. To them the Scriptures were our Old Testament, and they considered the Scriptures to be living and valid as they wrote and transmitted the New Testament literature. The apostles used the Scriptures as if they were living, vital oracles of the living God, applicable to them in their time. And these same Scriptures were filled with promises regarding the land and an earthly kingdom. On what basis should the Abrahamic promises be divided into those to be fulfilled and those to be unfulfilled?

And, then, remember that Peter urged the church to ( recall both the words of the prophets and the things spoken by the apostles, obviously with a view to adherence to them (cf. 2 Pet. 3:1-2). So far as I can tell, Papias, Irenaeus, Justin and others knew no such division of the prophecies.

Finally, there is no need to repeat what is copiously spread over the pages of the Scriptures. There seems to be lurking behind the demand a false principle, namely, that we should not give heed to the Old Testament unless its content is repeated in the New. The correct principle, however, is that we should not consider invalid and worthy of discard any of the Old Testament unless we are specifically told to do so in the New, as in the case of the Law of Moses (the cultus particularly [Gordon H. Clark first called my attention to this; Cf. Biblical Predestination. Nutley: P&R, 1969, p. 12]).

The second question is this: “Were not the land promises fulfilled in Old Testament times, both regarding the multiplied seed (cf. I Kings 4:21; I Chron. 27:23; 2 Chron. l:9; Heb. 11:12 [partial fulfillment is conceded by all]) and the land (cf. I Kings 4:21)?” The answer is plain: Israel never had anything but an incomplete and temporary possession of the land. The boundaries of Genesis 15:18 were attained only in David’s reign, “and then as an empire rather than a homeland” (Derek Kidner. Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Chicago: IVP, 1967, p. 125). Further, the prophets were ignorant of this “fulfillment,” and long after the incomplete and temporary possession of the land looked on to the fulfillment of the land promises (Am. 9:13-15).

I see no compelling reason why our Lord’s counsel should not be heeded. We, too, with the apostles and prophets, send our petition heavenward, “Thy kingdom come!”

Addendum

After my paper, “Evidence from Romans 9-11,” found in A Case for Premillennialism. A New Consensus, ed. by Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey Townsend (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 199-223, was published, a paper incidentally which is essentially the same as this paper, an article by W. Edward Glenny, containing some comments regarding my understanding of the use of Hosea 2:23 and 1.10 appeared in the journal Bibliotheca Sacra (152 [January-March, 1995], pp. 42-59, entitled, “The ‘People of God’ in Romans 9:25-26.” One can see from the title of the article that it touches very definitely upon a section of my paper. In his article, while noting there is much of value in my paper, Professor Glenny went on to criticize my understanding of the use of the citations from Hosea in Romans 9:25-26. I thank Professor Glenny for his kind words, but I would like to respond to his criticisms.

He finds three flaws in my sense of the use of Hosea by Paul. First, my understanding is not consistent with the New Testament context, adding that the context is characterized by “typological fulfillment.” Second, my interpretation weakens Paul’s argument, which is summarized in verse 30. Third, my understanding disregards the connection between the original subjects of Hosea’s prophecies and the subjects of Romans 9.25-26, and Glenny adds, “If Paul only wanted to say that God is electing Gentiles in this age, he could have used other Old Testament passages.”

In answer to Professor Glenny, let me say a few things. In the first place, I believe that, while he mentions my principal point, he does not seem to understand it. I am not arguing, as Charles Hodge suggested was appropriate, that a general truth referring to a particular class of people (in this case, Jews) may be considered as applying to others who fall into the same corresponding character or situation. Thus, what is said in Hosea of Jews may be said of Gentiles who fall into the same spiritual situation by analogy. The adverb “as” in v. 25 introduces the correspondence. While Hodge accepts this interpretation, which would justify taking Old Testament passages, that refer in context to ethnic Israel, to refer legitimately to Gentiles, I still do not think the context supports it. The context suggests another approach, for the overriding sense of the context is that of the freedom of God to act in electing grace in the salvation of men. It does not have to be argued that Romans 9:6-29 has to do with His sovereign electing grace and mercy (vv. 22-23). Then with a threefold usage of the verb to call, a verb he uses elsewhere of sovereign divine calling in effectual grace (cf. 8:30; 2 Thess. 2:13-14), he cites the passages of Hosea 2:23 and 1.10 and makes his principal point, not that Gentiles may be saved, but rather that the Gentiles and others being saved in this age are saved in the same way that the chosen ethnic Jews of the future are to be saved at the Lord’s coming.

The correspondence is not, then that Gentiles are being called and saved now as the ethnic Jews of the future shall be at the Lord’s coming. The correspondence is more narrowly made: The fact is that the Romans are being saved by sovereign grace apart from works through faith alone (v. 30), and they should not be surprised, for their own Scriptures have set out a similar divine work of grace for their benefit (and for the world) in the future. The Jews have stumbled at the rock of offense, although they had in their hands the ancient promise of Isaiah 28: 16 (cf. 8.14).

Thus, this analysis of the Pauline usage is in thorough harmony with the preceding context of Romans 9:1-24. Professor Glenny is correct in saying, “If Paul only wanted to say that God is electing Gentiles in this age” (this certainly was not my point in the paper as a careful reading will indicate), “he could have used other Old Testament passages.” That, of course, is true and, as a matter of fact, in this same book he later cites a series of passages from the Old Testament to make that point (15:9-12). His point is not that here; it is the similar manner of the salvation of the ethnic nation in the future, a salvation effected by God’s sovereign action in grace as Hosea declares, to the present divine sovereign activity in grace now, designed to indicate to the Romans and others that for Israel to rebel against His activity in sovereign grace to believing Gentiles at the present time is to run contrary to the hopes of their own people, ethnic Israel, for their hopes rest upon the same overflowing bounty of the God of all grace in their Messiah, Jesus Christ Second, if my answer to Glenny’s first criticism is correct, then his second criticism that Paul’s argument, summarized in verse 30, is weakened will not stand. The statement in verse 30 simply affirms that the righteousness of the Gentiles is theirs by faith alone, underlining the gracious principle at the heart of God’s dealings, which toward both Jews and Gentiles is the same, righteousness through faith alone and thus by grace alone, as the apostle argues in chapter four, verses 1-25,

Third, Professor Glenny’s argument is that my exegesis disregards the New Covenant connection between, the original subjects of Hosea’s prophecies and the subjects of Romans 9:25-26. I simply say that the connection is not specifically set out by Paul here as clearly part of his argument. In a few paragraphs he will argue the point that the believing Gentiles and believing ethnic Israel are branches belonging to the same olive tree (Rom. 11:13-24). Having concluded his reasoning on the note that the olive tree, to which Gentile believers belong by grafting (=adoption?), the apostle looks on to the great event of Israel’s national restoration at the Messiah’s coming (vv. 25- 27). In a remarkable citation in verses 26 and 27 he clearly identifies believing Gentiles and Jews as possessors together of the blessings of the unconditional covenantal program of the Old Testament. The citation is remarkable in that it is compounded by elements of all three of the most important covenants, the Abrahamic, the Davidic, and the New Covenant. Here Professor Glenny has his New Covenant reference, as I suggest in my paper. My words are, “Finally, in 27b, either Isaiah 27:9 or Jeremiah 31 :33-34 is referred to, but the reference to forgiveness of sins makes it fairly plain that the New Covenant is in view (cf. lsa. 59:21). All the unconditional covenants are fulfilled at that time.”

Thus, I plead not guilty to the crimes and suggest without any rancor that my explanation is harmonious with the context. There is no need to appeal to a typological-prophetic fulfillment. The simple analogy, implied in Paul’s “as also,” is sufficient to explain the connection of the Old Testament citation to the New Testament context as, I believe, the majority of commentators, who are not looking desperately for a text upon which to pin their belief that the term Israel may be used to refer to Gentiles (Professor Glenny is not one of them), agree.

SOURCE: Modified from a chapter titled, Evidence from Romans 9-11, by S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. in A Case for Premillennialism: A new Consensus. ed. by Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey Townsend (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992, (c) by Kregel Publications) pp. 199-223.

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Are Women Called to Function as Pastors, Elders, or Overseers in the Church?

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Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner: A Complementarian Perspective on Women In Ministry 

I believe the role of women in the church is the most controversial and sensitive issue within evangelicalism today. This is not to say that it is the most important controversy, for other debates–the openness of God, and inclusivism versus exclusivisim, for example–are more central. Nonetheless, “the women’s issue” generally sparks more intense debate, probably because women who must defend their call to pastoral ministry feel their personhood and dignity are being questioned by those who doubt their ordination. Men who support the ordination of women are often passionate about the issue, both for exegetical reasons and because they feel compassion for women who have shared their stories with them (It is clear, e.g., that Craig Keener [Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and women's ministry in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1992] is influenced significantly by the sense of call many women feel). Most women who feel called to ministry have experienced the pain of speaking with men who have told them their desires are unbiblical.

I am as affected by the cultural climate as anyone, and thus would prefer, when speaking with women who feel called to pastoral ministry, to say they should move ahead and that they have God’s blessing to do so. It is never pleasant to see someone’s face fall in disappointment when they hear my voice on the matter. On the other hand, I must resist the temptation to please people and instead must be faithful to my understanding of Scripture. And I understand Scripture to forbid women from teaching and exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). In this essay I will try to explain what is involved in this prohibition. Following the lead of others, I will view the complementation view, and I will call the view that believes all ministries should be open to women the egalitarian view.

History, Hermeneutics, and Terminology

Before I undertake an explanation of the biblical text, I want to say something about the history, hermeneutics, and accurate terminology.

History

Throughout most of church history, women have been prohibited from serving as pastors and priests (See Daniel Doriani, “A History of the Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2,” in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, eds. Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995], 23-67). Thus, the view I support in this essay is “the historic view.” I readily admit that those supporting the historic view have sometimes used extreme and unpersuasive arguments to defend their views, and that low views of women have colored their interpretations. Nor does the tradition of the church prove that women should be proscribed from the pastorate, for as evangelicals we believe in sola scripture. Nonetheless, evangelicals must beware of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” (C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy [New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1955], 207). The tradition of the church is not infallible, but it should not be discarded easily. The presumptive evidence is against a “new interpretation,” for we are apt to be ensnared by our own cultural context and thus fail to see what was clear to our ancestors. An interpretation that has stood the test of time and been ratified by the church in century and century–both in the East and the West and in the North and the South–has an impressive pedigree, even if some of the supporting arguments used are unpersuasive (Karen Jo Torjeson. When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity. Harper: San Francisco, 1993, 9-87; argues that women actually functioned as priests in the earliest part of church history. Ruth A. Tucker and Walter L. Liefeld [Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to Present. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987], 63, 89-127, who are egalitarian scholars, are more careful and persuasive in their analysis of the evidence).

Moreover, the view that women should not be priests or pastors has transcended confessional barriers. It has been the view throughout history of most Protestants, the various Orthodox branches of the church, and the Roman Catholic Church. All of these groups could be wrong, of course; Scripture is the final arbiter on such matters. But the burden of proof is surely on those who promote a new interpretation, especially since the new interpretation follows on the heels of the feminist revolution in our society. Despite some of the positive contributions of feminism (e.g., equal pay for equal work and emphasis on treating women as human beings), it is scarcely clear that the movement as a whole has been a force for good (See Mary A. Kassian, The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism with the Church [Wheaton, ILL.: Crossway, 1992]; Robert W. Yarbrough, “The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis, 155-96; Harold O. J. Brown, “The New Testament Against Itself: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and the ‘Breakthrough’ of Galatians 3:28,” in Women in Church: A Fresh Analysis, 197-211. From a secular point of view, see Nicholas Davidson, The Failure of Feminism [Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1988).

Hermeneutics

A brief word on hermeneutics is also necessary. We are keenly aware that all interpreters are shaped by their previous experience and culture (For a helpful analysis of common hermeneutical errors on both sides, see Andreas J. Kostenberger, “Gender Passages in the New Testament: Hermeneutical Fallacies Critiqued,” WTJ 56 [1994]; 259-83). No one encounters a text with a blank slate, without presuppositions. A detached objectivity is impossible, for we are finite human beings who inhabit a particular culture and a specific society. On the other hand, we must beware of thinking we can never transcend our culture. Otherwise, we will always and inevitably read into texts what we already believe. If we are ensnared by our own histories and social location, then we can dispense with reading any books, though we may enjoy reading those that support our current biases. If we can never learn anything new and if we invariably return to our own worldview, then there is no “truth” to be discovered anyway. Every essay in this volume (Two Views on Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2005) would simply represent the cultural biases of the contributors, and your response as a reader would be your own particular cultural bias. If we are trapped by our past, we may as well relish who we are–and conclude we’re simply wasting our time in reading anybody else’s opinion.

The idea that we are completely bound by our past is hermeneutical nihilism. Instead, awareness of our cultural background and presuppositions may become the pathway by which we transcend our past. People do change, and we can with diligent effort understand those who are different from us. Similarly, comprehending texts that are distant from us is possible, and we may even accept such a “foreign” world as the truth. Indeed, hermeneutical nihilism is really a form of atheism, for evangelicals believe in a God who speaks and who enables us to understand his words. The Spirit of God enables us to comprehend and embrace the truths of his word (1 Cor. 2:6-16), truths we rejected when we were unregenerate. Christians are confident that God’s word is an effective word, a word that creates life (John 6:63). Naturally, this does not mean Christians now have perfect knowledge, nor does it imply we will agree on everything; neither am I denying that some texts are difficult to interpret. We “know in part” (1 Cor. 13:12) until the day of redemption (Unless otherwise noted, Scripture citations are taken fro the New American Standard Bible [NASB]). And yet we can gain a substantial and accurate understanding of the Scriptures in this age. I approach this issue, therefore, with the confidence that God’s word speaks to us today and that his will on the role of women can be discerned.

Another hermeneutical matter must be discussed at this juncture. Occasionally the debate between the complementation and egalitarian views is framed as a choice between fundamental texts. For example, one author using the ordination of women as an illustration in discussing the millennium declares the following about the role of women: “The crucial question becomes which passages control the discussion: the passages where no limits seem to be expressed or those that do. Different sides take different positions based on whether they regard the nonrestrictive texts to be more fundamental to determining the view or the restrictive texts.”

Let me simply say at the outset that I reject the dichotomy expressed here. I do not believe the issue relates to which texts are “more fundamental” or which texts “control the discussion.” Such a view assumes that one set of texts functions as a prism by which the other set of texts is viewed. All of us are prone, of course, to read the Scriptures through a particular grid, and none of us escape such a tendency completely. But this way of framing the issue assumes that the decision on women’s ordination is arrived at by deciding which set of texts is more fundamental. If this perspective is correct, it is hard to see how one could possibly say that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is more fundamental than Galatians 3:28. The game seems to be over before it begins. I am convinced the complementation view is correct, not because 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is “more fundamental” or that it “controls the discussion” when interpreting Galatians 3:28. Rather, complementarians, in my opinion, have done the most justice to both Galatians 3:28 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 when these texts are interpreted in context. Neither text should have priority over the other; both must be interpreted carefully and rigorously in context.

I have often heard egalitarians make another hermeneutical statement quite similar to what is noted above. They will say Galatians 3:28 is a clear text, and the texts that limit women from some ministries are unclear (So Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Equal to Serve: Women and Men in the Church and Home [Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1987], 183-89). Then they proceed to say that clear texts must have sovereignty over unclear ones. Who could possibly disagree with this hermeneutical principle when it is abstractly stated? I also believe clear texts should have priority. However, the claim that Galatians 3:28 is the clear text begs the question. Both Galatians 3:28 and texts that limit women in ministry yield a clear and noncontradictory message. Those who preceded us in church history did not think that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 was unclear and that Galatians 3:28 was transparent. Our ancestors did not perceive the same tension between the two texts that many feel today. The texts strike us as polar because a modern notion of equality is often imported into Galatians 3:28. My own position is the main point of Galatians 3:28 and texts that limit the role of women is clear. I am not arguing that every detail in texts like 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is transparent, but the basic teaching is not hard to understand, nor is the main truth in Galatians 3:28 difficult to grasp.

Terminology

A word about terminology is also in order. Even though I use the phrase “ordination of women” for convenience, the real issue is not ordination but whether women can function in the pastoral office. The language of ordination is not regularly used in the NT of those who serve as leaders in the church. The NT presbyteroi (“elders”) and episkopoi (“overseers”) who serve as leaders in the early church. That elders and overseers constitute the same office is evident from Paul’s address to the Ephesian leaders at Miletus (Acts 20:17-35). In verse 17 they are designated as “elders,” while in verse 28 the same group is described as “overseers.” The term “elders” probably designates the office, while the term “overseers” refers to function–the responsibility to watch over the church. Verse 28 also contains a pastoral metaphor, for the overseers are responsible to poimainein (“shepherd”) God’s flock . Here we have an indication that pastors, overseers, and elders refer to the same office.

Titus 1:5-9 also supports the idea that “elders” and “overseers” refer to the same office. Paul charges Titus to appoint elders in every city (v. 5) and then proceeds to describe the requisite character (v.6). In verse 7 he shifts to the word “overseer.” The singular use of the word “overseer” (episkopon) does not designate another office but is generic. The “for” (gar) connecting verses 6-7 indicates a new office is not in view, since Paul continues to describe the character required of leaders. Indeed, the very same word (anenkletos, “above reproach”) is used in both verses 6 and 7, functioning as further evidence that “overseers” and “elders” refer to the same office. Peter’s first letter (5:1-4) provides confirmatory evidence as well. Peter addressed the elders (presbyterous) in verse 1, calling on them to shepherd (poimanate) the flock. The participle episkopountes (“overseeing”) is also used (verse 2), and so I conclude that shepherding (pastoring) and overseeing are the responsibilities of the elders.

Nor is it the case that elders and overseers were exceptional in the NT. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church planted on their first missionary journey ([Acts 14:23] – The appointing of elders in “every church” indicates a plurality of leadership in local churches. So also Acts 20:17 refers to presbyterous tes ekklesias, showing that there were plural elders for a single church. This is the most plausible way of reading Philippians 1:1, as well as the other texts regarding elders). “Overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1) comprise the two offices in Philippi. Leaders in the church at Jerusalem are designated as “elders” (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4). We have already seen that Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in Crete (Titus 1:5). The qualifications and responsibilities of overseers and elders are explained in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and 5:17-25. Peter’s reference to “elders” (1 Pet. 5:1) indicates that elders were appointed in churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bitynia (1 Pet. 1:1). When James refers to the leaders of the church, he calls them “elders” (Jas. 5:14). This brief survey reveals that elders and overseers were common in the NT church. Elders are not limited to Paul’s letters but are also found in the writings of James, Peter, and Luke. Geographically, elders and overseers stretch from Jerusalem to Philippi to Crete. The terminology, of course, is not fixed. Leaders of churches are also referred to without the use of the titles “elders” or “overseers” (1 Cor. 16:15-16; Gal. 6:6; 1 Thess. 5:12-13).

My thesis in this essay is that women were not appointed to the pastoral office. Sometimes we ask, “Are women called to the ministry?” I used that very language in introducing this essay. But such language is too imprecise. All believers, including women, are called to ministry. There are a multitude to ministries women can and should fulfill. Similarly, the question is not whether women should be ordained, since ordination in not the central issue in the NT. The question I want to raise is quite specific: Are women called to function as pastors, elders, or overseers? My answer to this question is no, and this essay will explain why.

The Dignity and Significance of Women

We are apt to misunderstand the Scriptures if we immediately delve into texts that limit women from the pastoral office, for the dignity and significance of women is consistently taught in the Bible. Genesis 1:26-28 teaches that both men and women are made in God’s image, and together they are to rule over the world God created. Not only are both males and females made in God’s image, but also they are equally made in his image. No evidence exists that males somehow reflect God’s image more than females. Stanley Grenz provides no evidence for saying that contemporary complementarians deny that both men and women equally share God’s image (Stanley J. Grenz with Denise Muir Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry [Downers Grove, IL.: Intervarsity, 1995], 169. Amazingly, Grenz cites Ruth Tucker, who is an egalitarian, in support but cites no primary sources to prove his charge). Anyone who has read the literature knows that such an allegation is not true of the vast majority of complementarians.

The dignity of women is often portrayed in the OT. We think of the courageous life of Sarah (Gen. 12-23), the faith of Rahab (Josh. 2), the commitment of Hannah (1 Sam. 1-2), the devotion of Ruth (Ruth 1-4), Abigail’s gentle but firm rebuke of David (1 Sam. 25), the humble faith of both the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17) and the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4), and the risk-taking faith of Esther (Esth. 1-10). As the author of Hebrews writes, “time will fail me” (Hebrews 11:32) were I to narrate the lives of these OT women and others I have skipped over.

It has been noted often and rightly that Jesus treated women with dignity and respect and that he elevated them in a world where they were often mistreated. He displayed courage and tenderness in speaking to the Samaritan woman when it was contrary to cultural conventions (John 4:7-29). The compassion of Jesus was evident when he raised from the dead the only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), for that son would have become her sole means of support. He lovingly healed the woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage of blood for twelve years (Mark 5:25-34) and delivered the woman who had been unable to stand up straight for eighteen years (Luke 13:10-17), even though he was criticized in the latter instance for performing such a healing on the Sabbath. Jesus’ tender firmness toward women in bondage to sin was remarkable, as is evidenced in the stories of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus healed women who were hurting, such as the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30) and Peter’s mother-in-law (1:29-31). When suffering agony on the cross, he was concerned for his mother’s welfare and requested John to care for her (John 19:26-27).

Jesus often used women or the world of women as examples in his teaching. He commended the queen of Sheba (Matt. 12:42), likened the kingdom of heaven to leaven which was put in dough by a woman (13:33), told the parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13), and defended his ministry to sinners with the parable of the lost coin of a woman (Luke 15:8-10). The necessity of steadfastness in prayer is illustrated by the widow who confronted the unjust judge (18:1-8). Jesus upheld the dignity of women by speaking out against divorce, which particularly injured women in the ancient world (Mark 10:2-12). Nor are women simply sex objects to be desired by men, for Jesus spoke strongly against lust (Matt. 5:27-30). Jesus also commended the poor widow who gave all she owned–more than the rich who gave lavish gifts out of their abundance (Luke 21:1-4).

Women were also prominently featured in the ministry of Jesus. His ministry was financed by several women of means (Luke 8:1-3), and it is likely that some of these women traveled with him during at least some of his ministry. Jesus commended Mary for listening to his word, in contrast to Martha, who was excessively worried about preparations for a meal (10:38-42). The account is particularly significant because some in Judaism prohibited women from learning Torah, but Jesus encouraged women to learn the Scriptures. His close relationship with Mary and Martha is illustrated by the account of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44) and his anointing for burial by Mary (12:1-8). The devotion of women was also apparent in their concern for Jesus, even on his way to the cross (Luke 23:27-31; cf. Mark 15:40-41). Finally, Jesus appeared to women and entrusted them to be his witnesses when he was raised from the dead (Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18), even though the testimony of women was not received by courts. What is particularly striking is that Jesus appeared to women first, showing again their significance and value as human beings.

The importance of women was not nullified by the early church after Jesus’ ministry. Women participated with men in prayer before the day of Pentectost (Acts 1:12-14). Widows who were lacking daily provisions were not shunted aside, but specific plans were enacted to ensure their needs were met (6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:3-16; see also Jas. 1:26-27). Tabitha was commended for her loving concern for others (Acts 9:36-42), and Luke features the conversion of Lydia, who worked as a merchant (16:14-15). Concern for women is illustrated in the eviction of the demon from the slave girl (vv. 16-18); her owners were concerned for profits (vv. 19-21), but Paul desired her salvation and deliverance.

All of these confirm the teaching of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Some scholars see this verse as containing an early baptismal formula, but the prehistory of the text need not detain us here). Both women and men, slave and free, are valuable to God. Women are made in God’s image and thus possess dignity as his image bearers. The fundamental purpose of Galatians 3:28 in context is to say that both men and women have equal access to salvation in Christ. The Judaizing opponents had rocked the Galatian churches, causing them to wonder if one had to be circumcised to be saved (5:2-6; 6:12-13). Paul reminded them that one belongs to the family of Abraham by faith alone (3:6-9, 14, 29). One does not need to become a Jew and receive circumcision in order to qualify for membership in the people of God. Nor are the people of God restricted to males. Anyone who believes in Christ, whether male or female, is part of God’s family.

Klyne Snodgrass argues that Galatians 3:28 cannot be confined to salvation but also has social implications (Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Galatians 3:28: Conundrum or Solution?” in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickelsen [Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 1986], 161-81). Jews and Gentiles, for instance, now relate to each other differently because of their oneness in Christ. I believe Snodgrass is correct. The main point of this verse is that all people, including both men and women, have equal access to salvation in Christ. Nonetheless, it also true that such a truth has social consequences and implications. However, we must read the rest of what Paul says to explain accurately what these social implications are. It is extraordinarily easy to impose on the biblical text our modern democratic Western notions of social equality (Rebecca Merrill Groothuis [Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997], 46 – falls into this very error in defining equality. She does not derive her definition from Scripture but from classical liberal thought. For a persuasive critique of Snodgrass and egalitarian interpretations of Galatians 3:28, see Kostenberger, “Gender Passages,” 274-79; and the insightful work of Richard W. Hove, Equality in Christ? Galatians 3:28 and the Gender Dispute. Wheaton, ILL.: Crossway, 1999). As we proceed, we will attempt to discern Paul’s own understanding of the social implications of Galatians 3:28.

The late F.F. Bruce’s understanding of Galatians 3:28 was fundamentally flawed, for he red into it his own philosophical conception of equality: “Paul states the basic principle here; if restrictions on it are found elsewhere in the Pauline corpus…, they are to be understood in relation to Galatians 3:28, and not vice versa” (F.F. Bruce, Commentary on Galatians [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982], 190. Judith M. Gundry-Volf would draw different conclusions than I would from Galatians 3:28, but she rightly argues that this verse does not abolish all gender differences. See “Christ and Gender: A Study of Difference and Equality in Galatians 3:28,” in Jesus Christus als die Mitte der Schrift: Studien zur Hermeneutik des Evangeliums, eds. C. Landmesser, H.J. Eckstein, and H. Lichtenberger [BZNW 86; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1997], 439-77). Bruce’s assertion begged the question. He assumed all the verses to be interpreted through the lens of Galatians 3:28, but thereby he ensured that his own notions of equality would be read into the verse. Nothing Paul writes elsewhere can qualify or limit his view of Galatians 3:28.

Let me apply Bruce’s logic to the issue of homosexuality (I am not saying that the issues of women in ministry and homosexuality are of equal clarity or importance, for I am persuaded that anyone who thinks homosexuality is acceptable is no longer evangelical. The scriptural teaching on homosexuality is clearer than its teaching on the role of women. Nonetheless, the very principle propounded by F.F. Bruce could logically lead to the result I point out above). What if I were to say, “Galatians 3:28 is Paul’s fundamental statement on what it means to be male and female. Any verse written elsewhere on the matter must be read in light of Galatians 3:28. Therefore, those verses in Paul’s letters that proscribe homosexuality are to be read in light of Galatians 3:28. Paul says that whether one is male or female is of no significance to God. Therefore, whether one marries a male or female is irrelevant.” Evangelicals would rightly protest that such an exegesis reads modern notions of sexual relations into the text. My point is that precisely the same kind of question-begging exegesis is being employed in egalitarian interpretations of Galatians 3:28. Women have equal access to salvation, and there are social consequences to this truth, to be sure, but we need to read Paul and the rest of the Scriptures to determine what these implications are.

At this juncture we need to remind ourselves of the teaching of Galatians 3:28. The Bible does not teach that men or masters or Jews are somehow closer to God. Males and females, masters and slaves, and Jews and Gentiles all have equal access to salvation. It certainly follows that we should treat every human being, whether male or female, with dignity and respect. We also proclaim the gospel to all people groups and both genders in the hope of their salvation.

Since men and women have equal access to salvation, they are also joint heirs “of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). Peter teaches here that both men and women have an equal destiny; both will receive an inheritance on the day of the Lord. The Bible does not teach that women will have a lesser place in heaven. Men and women are equally heirs of the salvation God has promised.

WOMEN IN MINISTRY

It would be a fundamental mistake to so concentrate on the Scripture passages that limit women in ministry that we fail to see the many ministries in which women were engaged during Bible times. My purpose in this section is to show the variety of ministries involving women and also to explain how such participation in ministry does not contradict the view that women are prohibited from serving in the pastoral office.

The Scriptures clearly teach that women functioned, at least occasionally, as prophets. In the OT, Miriam (Exod. 15:20-21), Deborah (Judg. 4:4-5), and Huldah (2 Kgs. 22:14-20) are prominent. Anna in the NT also functions like an OT prophet, since she exercised her gift before Jesus’ public ministry (Luke 2:36-38). In Peter’s Pentecost sermon he emphasizes that Joel’s prophecy has been fulfilled and that the Spirit has been poured out on both men and women (Acts 2:17-18). Philip’s four daughters were prophets (21:9), and women in Corinth apparently exercised the gift as well (1 Cor. 11:5). The spiritual gift of prophecy belongs to women as well as men (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11). Egalitarians often argue that prophecy is actually ranked above teaching (1 Cor. 12:28), and thus if women have the right to prophesy, they must also be able to teach and preach because they possess all the spiritual gifts.

To handle this issue adequately, we must define the gift of prophecy. Some define prophecy as preaching (See, e.g., J.I. Packer [Keep in Step with the Spirit. Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1984, 215], who essentially defines prophecy as “preaching.” Packer is a complementarian. For this notion of prophecy, see also David Hill, New Testament Prophecy [London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1979], 213; Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000, 960-61; Craig L. Blomberg, “Neither Hierarchicalist nor Egalitarian: Gender Roles in Paul,” in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James R Beck and Craig L. Blomberg. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001, 344-45). It is true that those who prophesy proclaim God’s word to the people of God. On the other hand, identifying prophecy as preaching is misleading, since those who preach the Scriptures use the gift of teaching in their exposition. Women are banned from the pastoral office, since one of the fundamental roles of elders is preaching that involves teaching men (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9). Even though prophets declare the word of God, the gift of prophecy should not be equated with the regular teaching and preaching of God’s word.

In 1 Corinthians 14:29-32, Paul indicates that prophecy involves spontaneous reception of revelation or oracles from God (For studies of prophecy that support this basic view, see David E Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983]; Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in 1 Corinthians [Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1982]; Graham Houston, Prophecy: A Gift for Today? [Downers Grove, ILL.: Intervarsity, 1989], 82-86; Christopher Forbes, Prophecy and Inspired Speech in Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment [WUNT 2/75; Tubingen: Mohr, 1995], 218-21; Max Turner, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, rev. ed. [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1996], 185-220). This is evident from verse 30, for a revelation is suddenly given to a prophet who is seated. Clearly a prepared message is not involved, for the person sitting down receives a revelation from God without warning and stands to deliver this spontaneous word of God to the congregation. Such a definition of prophecy fits with Agabus’s prophecies in Acts. The Lord revealed to him that a famine would spread over the world (11:27-28), and he also prophesied that Paul would be tied up and handed over to the Gentiles (21:10-11). These prophesies are hardly prepared messages but are oracles that come supernaturally from God.

The oracular nature of prophecy is also evident in the prophecies of Deborah (Judg. 4:4-9) and Huldah (2 Kgs. 22:14-20), for they deliver God’s specific word in response to particular situations. From this I conclude that prophecy is not to be equated with the teaching required of those serving as elders/overseers/pastors. It also follows that prophecy is distinct from the gift of teaching. Teaching involves the explanation of tradition that has already been transmitted, whereas prophecy is fresh revelation (See TDNT, 6:854, S.V. “prophets“; Heinrich Greeven, “Propheten, Lehrer, Vorsteher bei Paulus,” ZNW 44 [1952-53]:29-30; Forbes, Prophecy and Inspired Speech, 225-29; Turner, Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, 187-90, 206-12).

It is not the purpose of this essay to resolve whether prophecy still exists as a gift today (For a discussion of this issue, see Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views, ed. Wayne A. Grudem [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996]). What must be observed is that the presence of women prophets does not neutralize the prohibition against women serving as pastors. God has raised up women prophets in the history of the church, but it does not follow that women should serve as elders or overseers of God’s flock. In the OT, women served occasionally as prophets but never as priests (For development of this argument, see Gordon J. Wenham, “The Ordination of Women: Why Is It So Divisive?” Chm 92 [1978]: 310-19). Similarly, in the NT, women served as prophets but never as pastors or overseers or apostles. Not a single NT example can be adduced that women served as pastors, elders, or overseers. When we examine 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 in more detail later, we will also see that Paul instructs women to exercise their prophetic gift with a submissive demeanor and attitude, since man is the head of a woman (v. 3).

Another difference between prophecy and teaching must be noted. Prophecy is a passive gift in which oracles or revelations are given by God to a prophet. Teaching, on the other hand, is a gift that naturally fits with leadership and is a settled office, for it involves the transmission and explanation of tradition (Previously I argued that a women’s gift of prophecy was not exercised as publicly as it was by men [see my “The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A Suvey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem [Wheaton, ILL.: Crossway, 1991], 216. I know have some reservations about the validity of this argument.). I am not arguing that prophecy is a lesser gift than teaching, only that it is a distinct gift.

Isn’t there a flaw in the above argument? For women have the gift of teaching, just as men do. When the spiritual gifts are listed (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), no hint is given that women lack the gift of teaching. In fact, Priscilla and Aquila together instructed Apollos more accurately about the things of the Lord (Acts 18:26), and the listing of Priscilla first may signal that she was more learned than her husband. Paul also testifies to the powerful ministry of this couple, calling them fellow workers in the gospel and referring to a church that met in their home (Rom. 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19; cf. 2 Tim. 4:19). Some egalitarians also point to Titus 2:3, where the teaching of women is commended.

In many respects I agree with egalitarians here. Sometimes complementarians have given the impression that women are unintelligent and that they lack the ability to teach. Such a view is clearly mistaken, for some women unquestionably have the spiritual gift of teaching. Men should be open to receiving biblical and doctrinal instruction from women. Otherwise, they are  not following the humble example of Apollos, who learned from Priscilla and Aquila. Moreover, women should be encouraged to share what they have learned from Scriptures when the church gathers. The mutual teaching recommended in 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16 is not limited to men. Sometimes we men are more chauvinistic than biblical.

Nonetheless, the above Scripture texts do not indicate that women filled the pastoral office or functioned as regular teachers of the congregation. All believers are to instruct one another, both when the church gathers and when we meet in smaller groups of two or three (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16). To encourage and instruct one another is the responsibility of all believers. But such mutual encouragement and instruction is not the same thing as a woman’s being appointed to the pastoral office or functioning as the regular teacher of a gathering of men and women.

Complementarians can easily go too far and think that women cannot teach them anything from Scripture, when the example of Priscilla says otherwise. On the other hand, a single occasion in which Pricilla taught Apollos in private hardly demonstrates that she filled the pastoral office. Let me use an example from today. If a member of my church named Jim took aside another person in my congregation and explained something from the Bible to him, it does not follow that Jim was actually functioning as a teacher or pastor in our church. Other information would be needed to clarify Jim’s precise role. Egalitarians can be tempted to read more into the Priscilla account than it actually says. And egalitarians are sometimes disingenuous about Titus 2:3, for the context reveals that Paul encourages older women to instruct younger women (See Grenz, Women in the Church, 129). It is eisegesis [reading into the text] to use this text to defend the belief that women can teach men in pastoral ministry, for the ministry of older women to younger women is what is commended here.

Paul celebrates the contributions of women in ministry. One of his favorite terms for those who assist him in ministry is synergos (“co-worker,” “fellow worker”). The lineup of coworkers is impressive: Timothy (Rom. 16:21; 1 Thess. 3:2; Phlm. 1), Apollos (1 Cor. 3:9), Urbanus (Rom. 16:9), Titus (2 Cor. 8:23), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), Aristarchus (Col. 4:10; Phlm. 24), Mark (Col. 4:11; Phlm. 24), Jesus Justus (Col. 4:11), Epaphras (Phlm. 24), Demas (Phlm. 24), and Luke (Phlm. 24). But coworkers are not limited to men. Pricilla is called a synergos (“fellow worker”) in Romans 16:3. Euodia and Syntyche are commended as coworkers in Philippians 4:3, and Paul says they struggled together with him spreading the gospel.

Paul also often uses the verb kopiao (“to labor”) to designate those involved in ministry (1 Cor. 16:16). Indeed, the term kopiaomm often describes his own ministry (1 Cor. 4:12; 15:10; Gal. 4:11; Phil. 2:16; Col. 1:29; 1 Tim. 4:10). In some texts, leaders are said to labor, or work hard (1 Cor. 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17). What is remarkable is that a number of women are noted by Paul as having worked hard: Mary (Rom. 16:6) and Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis (v.12). Egalitarians conclude from this that women functioned as leaders in the early church.

We ought not to miss the point both egalitarians and complementarians agree on: women were obviously significantly involved in ministry. And they worked hard in their ministries. But the evidence does not clearly indicate that women functioned as leaders, for the terms are fundamentally vague on the matter of leadership. We know women worked hard in ministry, but these terms do not tell us they functioned as pastors. The flaw in such reasoning is easily apparent if we consider the case of the apostle Paul. Let me construct a simple syllogism:

Paul the apostle often describes his ministry as labor, or hard work. A number of women are said to labor in ministry. Therefore, women functioned as apostles. The logical flaw here is immediately apparent, for “labor” is not unique to or distinctive of apostles. People can labor in ministry without being apostles. Similarly, women labor in ministry without necessarily functioning as leaders. In my own church, many women are working hard and laboring in the ministry, but they do not fill pastoral leadership roles. The reader should note carefully what I am not saying. I am not arguing that the terms “fellow worker” (“co-worker”) and “labor” (“work hard”) clearly exclude women from pastoral leadership. I am merely saying the terms do not demonstrate they functioned as such.

Did women serve as deacons in the NT period? The debate centers on Romans 16:1 and 1 Timothy 3:11. Many complementarians are persuaded that women were not deacons. Unfortunately, the text is unclear, so certainty is precluded, and we are limited to a study of two verses! On balance I think women did serve as deacons, and I believe we should encourage them to fill this office in our churches. The word for “deacon” (diakonos) often refers to service in general, with no specific office being intended. Nevertheless, it seems that Phoebe filled an office in Romans 16:1, for she is spoken of as a “deacon of the church at [TNIV, "in"] “Cenchreae” (NRSV). The addition of the words “of the church at Cenchreae” after diakonos suggests an official position, for it appears she filled a particular role in a specific local church.

It is possible 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to the wives of deacons instead of women deacons, but a reference to women deacons is more likely for a number of reasons. First, the women in verse 11 are introduced with the term “likewise”–the same term used to introduce male deacons in verse 8, so it is most reasonable to think Paul is continuing to describe offices in the church. Second, some English versions translate the word gynaikas (“women”) here as “wives” (KJV, NKJV, NIV), but the Greek language does not have a separate word for “wives” and the term could just as easily be translated “women” (NASB, NRSV, RSV, TNIV). In fact, the reference would clearly be to wives if Paul had written “their wives” (requiring simply the addition of the Greek auto) or “the wives of deacons” (requiring simply the addition of the Greek diakonon). Since neither of these terms is used, women deacons rather than wives are probably in view (In support of a reference to wives, see George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992] 170-73). Third, the qualifications for these women are identical or similar to the qualifications of male deacons and elders. The similarity of qualifications suggests an office, not merely a status as the wives of deacons. Fourth, why would Paul emphasize the wives of deacons and pass over the wives of elders, especially if elders (see below) had greater responsibility in the act of governing the church? Failure to mention the wives of elders is mystifying if that office carried more responsibility. A reference to women deacons, however, makes good sense if women could serve as deacons but not as elders (more on this below).

I conclude that women did serve as deacons in the NT and that they should serve as such in our churches today. We see once again that women were vitally involved in ministry during the NT era, and churches today are misguided if they prohibit women from doing what the Scriptures allow.

But if women served as deacons when the NT was written, how can they be prohibited from governing and teaching roles today? One of the problems in contemporary church is that many churches have deviated from the biblical pattern in which there were two offices: elders/overseers and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). In many modern churches the deacons function as the governing board of a church. This is unfortunate, for deacons are nowhere identified with or made a subcategory of elders in the NT. The offices of deacon and elder are distinct.(I discussed the evidence for elders previously in this essay).

And appointing women as deacons does not affect the validity of the complementation view at all, for elders/overseers–not deacons–are responsible for leadership and teaching in the church. Two qualities demanded of elders, namely, being able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9) and governing the church (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17; Acts 20:28), are nowhere required of deacons. The elders, not the deacons, have the responsibility for the doctrinal purity and leadership of a church. The deacons are responsible for ministries of mercy and service in the church, and they do not exercise leadership in teaching and governing the church. It is significant, then, that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching and exercising authority over men. Notice that women are prohibited from doing the two activities that distinguish elders from deacons (teaching and exercising authority). I conclude, then, that women can and should serve as deacons, but they should not occupy the pastoral office, which involves teaching and exercising authority (Some people appeal to the NT accounts of Stephen and Philip and argue that their ministries show that deacons functioned as leaders and were not restricted to “service” ministries [Acts 6:1-8:40]. Let me make a few brief comments. First, we’re not absolutely sure Stephen and Philip functioned as deacons, for the title is not used of those appointed in Acts 6:1-6, though the noun diakonia is used of the need [v. 1] and the verb diakonein [v. 2] of the task to be fulfilled. On balance, I think the Seven were deacons, but certainty eludes us. Second, the preaching ministry of Stephen and Philip hardly proves it is part of the ministry of deacons to preach, for the Seven are appointed so that the Twelve will not abandon the ministry of the word [vv. 2,4]. Third, simply because some deacons did more than required [Stephen and Philip served and preached], it does not follow that all deacons can or should teach and preach. Luke features Stephen and Philip precisely because they were exceptional).

Egalitarians are convinced women did serve as leaders in the early church. They identify Junia as a woman apostle in Romans 16:7. Some women functioned as leaders because John wrote in his second letter to “the chosen lady” (2 John 1), and this lady is understood to be an individual woman leading the church (See Aida B. Spencer, Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry [Nashville: Nelson, 1985], 109-12; Tucker and Liefeld, Daughters of the Church, 74-75). Others think women served as elders because Paul refers to women elders in 1 Timothy 5:2 (cf. Titus 2:3). Many egalitarians point to Phoebe in Romans 16:2, understanding the word prostatis to refer to a leader (See Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 238-40; Spencer, Beyond the Curse, 113-17). Still others say women must have functioned as leaders because churches met in their houses, and as the patrons of these houses they would have been leaders–for example, Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12-17), Lydia (16:13-15), Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-5), and Nympha (Col. 4:15) [This appears to be the view of Grenz, Women in the Church, 90-91].

The arguments of egalitarians in the preceding paragraph are unconvincing. Some argue that women should preach because they bore witness to the resurrection. We should reason, however, that Mary Magdalene was qualified to be a leader because Jesus appeared to her (Contra Grenz [Women in the Church, 79], who also supports women as leaders on the basis of Rhoda’s telling the others that Peter was at the door of the house [Acts 12:14]!). Nor is there any evidence elsewhere that she functioned as such. Seeing the risen Lord and bearing witness to his resurrection was a great joy and privilege, to be sure, but it doesn’t logically follow that such women should serve as leaders or teachers. Indeed, if Jesus had appointed female apostles, then it would be clear that all ministry roles are open to women. We know however, that Jesus appointed only male apostles. Now I do not believe a male apostolate settles the issue on the role of women. But if Jesus were as egalitarian and bold and radical as egalitarians make him out to be, it is passing strange he did not appoint any female apostles, especially since these same egalitarians see Paul as commending female apostles (Rom. 16:7). Jesus seems to accommodate to the culture more than Paul–when he could have made a bold statement that would resolved the whole issue definitively. A male apostolate does not prove that women should not serve as leaders, but when combined with the other evidence, it does serve as confirmatory evidence for the complementarian view.

Nor is it at all compelling to say that women patrons functioned as leaders of house churches. No convincing evidence supports such a view. Does anyone really believe that Mary the mother of John Mark was one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem simply because the church met in her house (Acts 12:12)? Acts makes it clear that the leaders were Peter, John, and James the brother of the Lord (in addition to the other apostles and elders). No correlation can be drawn between the church’s meeting in Mary’s house and the assuming of a leadership role.

Similarly, not even a hint is given of Chloe’s functioning as a leader in Corinth. The church, in fact, is exhorted to be subject to the house of Stephanas (1 Cor. 16:15-16), and Chloe is left out. Nor is it persuasive to define prostatis as “leader” in Romans 16:2. What Paul says in this verse is that the Romans should parastete (“assist”) Phoebe wherever she needs help because she has been a prostatis (“helper”) of many, including Paul himself (For further discussion on Phoebe, including a bibliography citing alternative views, see my Romans [BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988], 786-88). The play on words between parastete and prostatis is obvious. Phoebe is commended here as a patroness. Paul is scarcely suggesting she functioned as his leader or as the leader of the church. Paul did not even agree that the Jerusalem apostles were his leaders (Gal. 1:11-2:14) and so it is impossible to believe he would assign such a role to Phoebe!

The evidence that women served as elders is practically nonexistent and unpersuasive. For example, it is obvious in Titus 2:3 that the office of elder is not in view, for Paul refers to older men (v. 2), older women (v. 3), younger women (vv. 4-5), and younger men (v. 6). The mention of the various age groups reveals that Paul refers to age rather than office. The same applies to 1 Timothy 5:2. In verses 1-2 Paul gives Timothy advice about how to relate to older men, older women, younger men, and younger women. Any notion of office has to be read into the text here, and virtually all commentators agree that age (not office) is intended. Nor does “chosen lady” in 2 John refer to a woman leader or elder (Grenz, Women in the Church, 91-92. Grenz admits the evidence is ambiguous, but he fails to inform the reader that virtually all the commentators agree a specific woman is not in view. The sources he mentions [see his p. 242, nn. 95, 96] are a commentator from 1888, another commentary without a date, and Spencer, Beyond the Curse. The standard commentaries all stand in agreement against him. See, e.g., Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John [AB; Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1982] 651-55; Stephen S. Smalley, 1,2, 3 John [WBC; Dallas: Word, 1984], 318; John R.W. Stott, The Epistles of John [TNTC; Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1964], 200-201). Almost all commentators agree it is a reference to the church as a whole. The plurals in verses 6, 8, 10, and 12 indicate that John writes to the church as a whole, not simply to one person. Referring to the church as a “lady” comports with the rest of Scripture, for both Paul and John describe the church as Christ’s bride (Eph. 5:22-23; Rev. 19:7). And Israel is also portrayed as a woman in the OT (Isa. 54:1; Jer. 6:23; 31:21; Lam. 4:3, 22). readers would naturally understand the metaphor of the church as a lady to refer to Christ’s church. The distinction between the lady and her children should not be used to say a woman was the leader and the children were the congregation. The lady designates the church as a whole, and the children refer to the individual members of the church.

The support for women serving as elders or leaders vanishes when closely examined. The most plausible argument for the egalitarian view comes from the example of Junia, for she and Andronicus are identified as apostles in Romans 16:7 (For a careful assessment of the evidence, see Andreas J. Kostenberger, “Women in the Pauline Mission,” in The Gospel to the Nations: Perspectives on Paul’s Mission, eds. Peter G. Bolt and Mark Thompson [Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 2000], 221-47. For further discussion on Junia see John Thorley, “Junia, A Woman Apostle?” NovT 39 [1996]: 18-21; Richard S. Cervin, “A Note Regarding the Name ‘Junia(s)’ in Romans 16:7,” NTS 40 [1994]: 464-70; Schreiner, Romans, 795-97). But the verse is far too ambiguous to make a case. It is hermeneutically akin to finding support for baptism for the dead from 1 Corinthians 15:29, for the purpose of the verse is not to speak to women in leadership roles. The text is ambiguous at three levels: First, is Paul referring to a man or a woman? Second, are Andronicus and Junia(s) outstanding in the eyes of the apostles, or are they outstanding apostles themselves? Third, is the term “apostle” used as a technical term, or is it used nontechnically to refer to missionaries? Scholars continue to debate whether the reference is to a man or a woman (Junias or Junia). If it is the male Junias, then we have a contradiction of the name Junianus. Personally, I believe a woman is in view. This was the majority view in the history of the church until at least the thirteenth century. Moreover, a contradiction of Junianus is nowhere else found in Greek literature, and so I think we can be confident Junia was a woman.

Second, is Paul saying Andronicus and Junia were :outstanding among the apostles,” or “outstanding in the eyes of the apostles”? The former is the view of almost all commentators. Michael Burer and Daniel Wallace, however, recently conducted an intensive search and analysis of the phrase, compiling evidence to support the idea that “noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles” is the best translation (Micahel H. Burer and Daniel B. Wallace, “Was Junia Really an Apostle? A Reexamination of Romans 16:7, “New Testament Studies 47 [2001]: 76-91. See now Richard Bauckham who has raised serious objections about the interpretation of the evidence proposed by Wallace and Burer in his Gospel Women: Studies of the named Women in the Gospels [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 172-80).

Their research indicates it is unlikely that Junia is identified as an apostle here, and hence the verse says nothing about women serving in the apostolic office. Further research, however, may indicate Burer and Wallace are mistaken, and support the conclusion that Junia is identified as an apostle. If women served as apostles, can any leadership role be ruled out for them?

But here a third consideration arises. Paul is not assigning Andronicus and Junia a place with the Twelve. The term apostolos is not always a technical term e.g., (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25) [See Wolf-Henning Ollrog, Paulus ind seine Mitarbeiter: Untersuchungen zu Theorie and Praxis der paulinischen Mission [WMANT 50; Ne ukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1979], 79-84). It can also be used in a nontechnical sense to refer to missionaries. Biblical commentator Rudolph Scnackenburg wrote, “The apostles referred to in Romans 16:7 without further qualification, could hardly have been anything else but itinerant missionaries” (Rudolph Schnackenburg, “Apostles before and during Paul’s Time,” in Apostolic History and the Gospel, eds. W.W. Gasque and R.P. Martin [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970], 294 so also E. Earle Ellis, Pauline Theology: Ministry and Society [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989], 66).

In the Apostolic Fathers, apostolos is used of itinerant evangelists (Did. 11:3-6; Herm. Vis. 13.1; Herm. Sim. 92.4; 93.5; 102.2). If Junia was an apostle, she probably functioned particularly as a missionary to women. Ernst Kasemann observed that “the wife can have access to the women’s areas, which would not be generally accessible to the husband  (Ernst Kasemann, Commentary on Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 413; so also Peter Stuhlmacher, Paul’s Letter to the Romans [Louisville, Ky.: Westminster, 1994], 249). In the culture of Paul’s day, the reading of Kasemann and Schnackenburg is much more likely than the modern view that Junia was an apostle in the technical sense. To sum up, the verse does not clearly identify Junia as an apostle, and even if this view is incorrect, “apostle” is not used in a technical sense.

Egalitarians, however, detect a contradiction when complementarians say women can function as missionaries but not as pastors. I think Romans 6:7 and Philippians 4:2-3 indicate that women did indeed function as missionaries, and complementarians should celebrate and encourage such a ministry. But I fail to see the contradiction, for the very same Paul who celebrated women missionaries also prohibited them from serving as pastors/overseers/elders. If there is a contradiction, it exists in Paul himself, and no evangelical would want to say this. Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, barred women from the pastoral office and permitted them to be missionaries.

Many women missionaries in the history of the church have agreed with the complementation view, and once a church was planted in a particular mission field, male leaders were appointed. I am not, however, baptizing everything women missionaries have done in the field throughout history. Very likely some roles were fitting and others were questionable. We derive our view of what women missionaries can and should do from Scripture, not from what they have done. We would not want to claim that everything male missionaries have done has been right either. Nonetheless, many women missionaries throughout history have actually held the complementation view and ministered and preached the gospel in such a way that this view was not violated.

DIFFERENT ROLES FOR MEN AND WOMEN IN THE FAMILY

Established in Genesis 1-3

We have already seen that men and women equally are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27) and are thus of equal value and significance as God’s creatures. But I would also contend there are six indications in Genesis 1-3 of a role differentiation between men and women. By role differentiation I mean Adam has the responsibility of leadership and Eve has the responsibility to follow his leadership. Before explaining these six points I must make a crucial comment: Equality of personhood does not rule out differences in role. For moderns, the tension between these two truths (equality of personhood and differences in role) is nearly unbearable. For instance, the basic point of Rebecca Merrill Groothuis’s book Good News for Women is that one cannot logically posit both equality of personhood and differences in role. Groothuis, however, simply reveals that she imbibes the modern enlightenment view of equality, which insists that equality must involve equality of function. Anyone familiar with American society knows that this notion of equality continues to exert tremendous influence.

The biblical view, however, is very different. God is not an equal opportunity employer–at least as far as installation into ministry is concerned. God decreed that priests could come only from the tribe of Levi, but all Israelites had equal worth and dignity before God (See James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981], 44-45). Similarly, the pastoral role is reserved for men only, and yet women have equal dignity and value as persons created in God’s image. Groothuis and other egalitarians are faced with the daunting prospect of saying that Israelites who could never serve  as priests are of less dignity and value than those who were qualified for the priesthood. (Grenz [Women in the Church, 152] faces the same problem. Complementarians are spared such a problematic conclusion, for we acknowledge that a permanent difference in role (the tribe of Joseph could never serve as priests) does not mean those who cannot fill that role (descendants of Joseph) are of lesser worth or dignity. The six indications Adam had a special responsibility as a leader are these:

1. God created Adam first, and then He created Eve.

2. God gave Adam the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

3. God created Eve to be a helper for Adam.

4. Adam exercised his leadership by naming the creature God formed out of Adam’s rib “woman.”

5. The serpent subverted God’s pattern of leadership by tempting Eve rather than Adam.

6. God approached Adam first after the couple had sinned, even though Eve sinned first.

I am not suggesting every one of these arguments is of equal weight or clarity. Arguments two and five, for example, are plausible only if the other arguments are credible. They cannot stand alone as decisive arguments for the interpretation proposed. Each argument needs to be investigated briefly.

Adam Was Created Before Eve

First, the responsibility for leadership belonged to Adam (and hence to males) because Adam was created before Eve (Gen. 2:7, 21-24). I am unpersuaded by those who argue that Adam was neither male not female–a sexually undifferentiated being–before the creation of Eve (Phyliss Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978], 80, 98). When Yahweh fashioned the woman out of man, he made a person who was suitable for man (v. 18), and Adam recognized her as a fitting counterpart (v. 23). What the text emphasizes is the creation of Adam first and the act of the woman being formed from man’s rib (vv. 21-23). Nothing is said about ha-adam suddenly becoming male. Nor does the creation account in Genesis 2 abandon the theme of equality, for, as Adam said, the woman was “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (v. 23). The man and woman were united in a love relationship as partners (v. 24).

The narrative in Genesis 2, however, adds a dimension that is missing in chapter 1(I believe the two creation accounts are complementary, not contradictory). Contemporary scholars rightly emphasize that the narrative was written carefully and artistically to convey a message to readers (See Robert Altaer, The Art of Biblical Narrative [New York: Basic Books, 1981]). The discerning reader observes that the man was created before the woman and that the woman was even fashioned from part of the man. The narrator writes with great skill, summoning us to ponder thoughtfully the elements of the story. Why does the narrator bother to tell us the man was created first then the woman? That the woman shares full humanity and personhood with the man is evident, as we have already seen, from 2:23-24. But if the only point of the story were the equality of men and women, then creation at the same point in time would be most fitting. An egalitarian message would be communicated nicely by the creation of man and woman at the same instant. I believe the narrator relays the creation of man first to signal that Adam (and hence males in general) had a particular responsibility to lead in his relationship to Eve. Correspondingly, Eve had a responsibility to follow Adam’s leadership.

Egalitarians object to this interpretation by saying such logic would lead us to think that animals should rule over human beings, since animals were created before humans (Paul Jewett, Man as Male and Female: A Study of Sexual Relationships from a Theological Point of View [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975], 126-27). This objection has always struck me as a clever debating point instead of a substantive argument. The narrator did not worry about readers drawing such a conclusion, since it is patently obvious human beings are distinguished from animals, insofar as humans are the only creatures made in God’s image (1:26-27). But readers would be inclined to ask this question: “Why is the human race differentiated into male and female, and why is the male created first?” A more serious response could be that females were created last as the crown of creation, and if anything, females rather than males would assume leadership. Such a reading would fit the pattern of Genesis 1, where human beings are created last and are responsible to rule the world for God. This latter reading suffers, however, from imposing the narrative pattern of Genesis 1 on Genesis 2. Instead, the Hebrew reader would be disposed to read the second creation account in terms of primogeniture (See Hurley, Man and Women in Biblical Perspective, 207-8). The firstborn male has authority over the younger brothers after the father dies. The reversal of primogeniture explains why stories of Jacob’s primacy over Esau (cha. 26-36) and Joseph’s rule over his brothers are so shocking (chs. 37-50).

Egalitarians of course, face another problem with their particular reading of Genesis 2–a canonical one. Paul forbids women to teach and exercise authority over a man because Adam was created before Eve (1 Tim. 2:12-13). Many egalitarians, when interpreting Genesis 2 fail to mention 1 Timothy 2:12-13. The most natural reading of the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 supports the complementation interpretation of Genesis 2: men bear the responsibility to lead and teach in the church because Adam was created before Eve (see also 1 Cor. 11:8-9).

The Command Was Given to Adam, Not Eve

Second, the command to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given to Adam, not to Eve (Gen. 2:16-17). This argument for male leadership is not decisive but suggestive. God likely commissioned Adam to instruct Eve about this command, signaling Adam’s responsibility for leadership and teaching in the relationship. Closely connected is the injunction given to Adam to cultivate and take care of the garden of Eden (v. 15). It is possible, of course, that nothing should be made of the fact that the prohibition in verses 16-17 was given only to Adam. On the other hand, the story could have been constructed so that the command was given to the husband and the wife. I believe the narrator is providing a hint of male leadership by revealing the restriction was communicated only to Adam.

Eve Was Created to Be a Helper

The third indication of male leadership is that Eve was created as a “helper” (ezer) for Adam (vv. 18, 20). The standard egalitarian objection is that Yahweh is often designated as Israel’s helper, and yet he is clearly not subordinate to Israel (Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, 90). Yahweh surely is Israel’s helper in that he saves and delivers Israel–so how can complementarians possibly think that describing Eve as Adam’s helper supports the case for male headship? If anything, it seems the argument could be reversed. Yahweh was Israel’s helper and leader. The objection appears to be a strong one, and it has the merit of precluding a simplistic argument for the complementation view.

The egalitarian interpretation, however, is also in danger of promoting a simplistic argument that is not contextually grounded. Anyone who has read the OT knows that Yahweh was often portrayed as Israel’s helper, and thus the term “helper” alone does not signify male leadership in Genesis 2. And yet words are assigned their meanings in context, and in the narrative context of Genesis 1-3, the word “helper” signifies that Eve was to help Adam in the task of ruling over creation. Indeed, in some contexts in the OT, the word “help” designates those who assist a superior or ruler in accomplishing his task. (See David J. A. Clines, “What Does Eve Do to Help? and Other Irredeemably Androcentric Orientations in Genesis 1-3,” in What Does Eve Do to Help? and Other Readerly Questions in the Old Testament, ed. David J.A. Clines [JSOTSup; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990], 31-32). For instance, in 1 Kings 20:16, thirty-two kings who have less power than Benhadad helped him in war. Indeed, the verb “to help” is used of warriors who helped David militarily (1 Chron. 12:1, 22-23), and it is clear that David was the leader and they were assisting him. Similarly, David exhorted leaders to help Solomon when he was king (22:17), in which case there is no doubt these leaders were assisting Solomon in his leadership over the nation. An army also helped King Uzziah in a military campaign (2 Chr. 26:13) Yahweh pledged he would nullify those who helped the prince in Jerusalem (Ezek. 12:14; cf. 32:21), and those who helped were obviously subordinates of the prince. These examples show that context is decisive in determining whether the one who helps has a superior role or inferior role. Egalitarians cannot dismiss the complementation view simply by saying that Yahweh helped Israel, for in other texts it is clear that leaders were helped by those who were under their authority.

I believe there is contextual warrant in Genesis 1-3 for the idea that women help men by supporting the leadership of the latter. If we read Genesis carefully, we see that the rule of human beings over creation, which is a call to careful stewardship (not exploitation), is combined with the injunction to have offspring who will, in turn, exercise dominion over the earth for God’s glory (1:26,28). One of the ways women help men, therefore, is by bearing children, as David J.A. Clines rightly argues. I am not suggesting this is the only way women function as helpers, but the difference in roles between men and women is established at creation in that only women bear children. We are not surprised to learn that the curse on Adam focuses on his work in the fields, so that thorns and thistles grow as a consequence of his sin (3:17-19). Correspondingly, Eve is cursed in her sphere, so that she experiences pain in the bearing of children (v. 16; Ibid., 33-36). It is important to notice that the distinct role of women–bearing children–is not the result of the fall. The consequence of the fall is an increase in pain during childbirth, but the actual bearing of children, which is the distinct task of the woman, was established before sin entered the world.

A contemporary observation is appropriate here. The support of abortion rights by radical feminists is closely linked with the goal of changing the role of women. Radical feminists rightly perceive that pregnancy and giving birth to children distinguish women from men. If women are liberated so that sexual relations are severed from motherhood, then women can enjoy the same rights as men. I would contend that such feminist aspirations run counter to God’s created intention, for God himself decreed that women, and not men, would bear children.

Once again, a canonical reading of Scripture confirms the interpretation adopted here. In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, Paul reflects on the narrative in Genesis 2, for in 1 Corinthians 11:8 he observes that man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Then in verse 9 he declares, “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” How do we explain Paul’s words in this verse? I think it is quite likely he was reflecting on the word “helper” in Genesis 2:18, 20. We know the creation account in Genesis 2 was in his mind, and the notion that woman was created “for the man’s sake” is almost certainly a Pauline commentary on the word “helper.” The woman was created for Adam’s sake to help in ruling the world for God’s glory. Such an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:9 fits the context of that chapter nicely, since man is designated here as the “head” of the woman (v. 3). We have strong Pauline evidence, therefore, that “helper” refers to the subordinate role of women.

The Woman Was Named by The Man

I am now prepared to assert my fourth argument from Genesis–the naming of the woman by Adam. A prefatory comment is in order. For clarity each of the arguments presented is separated from the other, but we need to remember that each one is closely linked in the narrative. For example, the narrator linked the naming of the animals with the man’s need for a helper (2:18-20). The narrator wanted us to perceive that a suitable helper was not found among the animals. Adam needed a partner who was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (v. 23) to assist him in his task of cultivating and caring for God’s garden. A unique creative work of God was needed in order to provide a woman for him. Adam perceived, when naming the birds, wild animals, and domestic animals, that none of these were suitable partners. The intertwining of the various parts of the narrative actually functions as an argument for the complementation view, for we must see that the word “helper” appears in a context in which animals are named by Adam.

What is the significance of the naming of the creatures God made (vv. 18-20)? The link in the text is obvious, for this was certainly one of the means by which Adam exercised his rule over the creatures according to God’s mandate (1:26, 28; 2:15; See Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, 210-12). God exercised his rule and sovereignty in calling the light “day” and the darkness “night” (1:5), and in naming the firmament “heaven” and the dry land “earth” (vv. 8,10). Similarly, Adam exercised his rule, under God’s lordship, by naming all the animals. Even today the scientific study of species consists in classification and naming. We distinguish dogs from cats and whales from seals. Naming the animals was not a whimsical and arbitrary game for Adam. He named the animals so that their names corresponded to their nature. It is significant that Adam named animals, and not vice versa! The narrator signals that Adam was beginning to fulfill God’s mandate to exercise dominion over the world and God’s garden.

The naming of the woman occurs in 2:23, suggesting that Adam had the responsibility for leadership in the relationship. It would be easy to misconstrue my argument here. I am certainly not suggesting Eve was comparable to the animals! The very point of the narrative is that she was remarkably different, wholly suitable to function as Adam’s helper. Contrary to the animals, she was taken from the man and was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. The man instantly and gladly perceived the difference (v. 23)! As noted before, the mutuality and equality of man and woman are also communicated in the narrative.

Nonetheless, the leadership role of Adam is also reflected in the narrative. He perceived she was different from the animals and qara (“called”) her by name ‘issa (“woman,” v. 23), using the same verb for the naming of animals in verses 19-20. The assigning of a name to the woman in such an abbreviated narrative is highly significant. Yahweh could have reserved such a task for himself and removed any hint of male leadership. Of course, the woman is remarkably different from all the other creatures God made, but Adam’s naming of the woman signifies that he bears the leadership role. There is no exegetical warrant for assigning a different significance to the naming of the animals and the woman. We need to be very careful here. In both instances naming is a symbol of rule, but it would be unwarranted to deduce that the rule is precisely the same or that women are like animals. The entire narrative illustrates there was both continuity and discontinuity between Adam’s rule over woman and his dominion over God’s creatures.

The most significant objection to this interpretation is found in the work of Phyllis Trible (See Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, 99-100). She says the notion of naming is only present when the verb qara (“call”) is joined with the noun sen (“name”), pointing to a number of texts in which “name” is joined with “call” (e.g., 4:17, 25-26). The naming of animals, according to Trible, signified Adam’s power and authority over them, but no parallel can be drawn to 2:23, since the woman was not named there. Trible’s argument is unpersuasive (Contra Trible’s view, see Clines, “What Does Eve Do to Help?” 37-40 [esp. 39, n. 3]. George W Ramsey [“is Name Giving an Act of Domination in Genesis 2:23 and Elsewhere?” CBQ 50 [1988]: 24-35, maintains that naming is linked only with discernment, not domination. But this view ignores the connection between the injunction to rule the world and the act of naming). She is correct that the noun “name” is usually linked with “call” in naming formulas, but she mistakenly concludes the noun “name” must be present in order for naming to occur. Such a conclusion demands more precision from language than is warranted, for we must not demand in advance that naming occurs only when a pattern is followed. The repetition of the verb qara (2:19-20, 23) links the naming of the woman with the naming of the animals, so that the reader naturally recognizes the parallel between the two accounts. Adam perceived she was “woman” precisely because she was taken from the man, revealing that his classification was in accord with reality and that he understood the remarkable difference between woman and the animals.

Trible’s more substantive objection is that calling this person ‘issa (“woman” [v. 23]) cannot be equated with naming, for “woman” is “not a name; it is a common noun, not a proper noun. It designates gender; it does not specify a person” (Cited in Clines, “What Does Eve Do to Help?” 100). Trible’s comment reveals she misunderstood the parallel between the naming of the animals and the naming of the woman. When Adam named the animals, he did not give them personal or proper names. He classified the animals into distinct groups, presumably distinguishing between, say, lions, tigers, and bears. He did not name any tigers “Tony.” He identified them as tigers over against bears.

So too, it is completely irrelevant that a personal or proper name is lacking for the woman in verse 23. In naming the woman, Adam was classifying her–in effete, distinguishing her from the other creatures named. He recognized her distinctiveness and aptly captured it with the name “woman,” thereby noticing how closely related she was to himself as a man. To conclude, male leadership is communicated by the naming of the woman, and the parallel with naming the animals stands, even though the biblical narrator hardly suggests animals and women are parallel in every way (Incidentally, Trible’s view that the naming of Eve [Gen. 3:20] is an inappropriate act of male dominance [God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, 133-34] is unconvincing, for the text provides no clue that an abuse of power is involved. Instead, his word is linked in the narrative with the promise of life [vv. 20-21]. For a critique of Trible see Clines, “What Does Eve Do to Help? 39).

The Serpent Tempted Eve, Not Adam

The fifth indication of male leadership is that the serpent, which was exceedingly astute, approached Eve rather than Adam in the temptation (3:1-7). Thereby he subverted the pattern of male leadership, as Paul himself hints at in 1 Timothy 2:14. I don’t want to make too much of this argument, and my case hardly depends on it. I acknowledge forthrightly it could be incorrect, but in any case it would not affect the other arguments presented. I mention it because I am persuaded that what actually occurred (and what did not occur) in the narrative is significant.

Adam Was Rebuked before Eve

Finally, the responsibility of men is indicated by the fact that Adam was rebuked before Eve (Gen. 3:8-12). If God were truly egalitarian, Eve would have been reprimanded first, since she ate the fruit before her husband and presumably convinced Adam to eat of it as well. Yahweh spoke to Adam first because he bore primary responsibility for what occurred in the garden. In Romans 5:12-19, Paul confirms this reading of the narrative, for the sin of the human race was traced to Adam, not to Eve. I am not suggesting Eve bore no responsibility for her sin. Yahweh censured her actions as well and judged her for what she did (vv. 13, 16). Greater responsibility, however, is assigned to Adam as the leader of the first human couple.

Before the Fall

It is crucial to see that these six arguments relate to the relationship between Adam and Eve before the fall. God instituted role distinctions between men and women before sin ever entered the world. Even the two arguments I presented from Genesis 3 depend on a role difference established before the fall. If Adam and Eve possessed different roles before the fall, then the distinct roles of men and women are not the result of sin; they would stem from God’s intention in creation–and everything God created is good. Male leadership is not the result of the fall, but it is God’s good and perfect will for man and woman.

The doctrine of creation is of enormous significance for the debate on the roles of men and women. From Jesus himself, we know marriage is to be permanent because permanence in marriage was God’s intent in creating us male and female (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:24; Matt. 19:3-12). We know homosexuality is prohibited because it counters God’s creational intent (Rom. 1:26-27). We know food is to be eaten with thanksgiving because God created it (1 Tim. 4:1-5). Similarly, we know role differences between men and women are not the result of the fall but are part of the fabric of God’s good and perfect created order.

Sin has entered the world and distorted how men and women relate to one another. Men transgress by turning their responsibility to lead into a privilege so that they tyrannically abuse their authority or abdicate their responsibility and descend into abject passivity. Women try to subvert male leadership by contesting their leadership or by responding with an obsequiousness that is not fitting (My view here depends on my interpretation of Genesis 3:16, which I do not have space here to explain. See Susan T. Foh, “What Is the Woman’s Desire?” WTJ 37 [1975]: 376-83). Similarly, we can see how sin has thwarted God’s intent that a man and woman should remain married for life, with the result that divorce is all too common. But role differences, like the permanence of marriage, remain God’s intention. And such differences in role are good and beautiful and, through the redemption accomplished by Christ, can be lived out today in a beautiful, albeit not perfect, way.

Confirmed in Marriage Texts

We are debating the role of women in ministry in this book [essay] not whether husbands and wives have different functions within a marriage. And yet this latter issue cannot and must not be neglected for the biblical teaching about the family forms the fabric and background for what is said about women in ministry. If role differences exist in the family, they plausibly exist in the church as well. Indeed, in 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul compares the church to God’s household, and in 5:1-2, Paul exhorts Timothy to treat other church members as he would a father or a mother, a brother or a sister (For an illuminating study on the relationship between the church and the family, see Vern S. Poythress, “The Church as Family: Why Male Leadership in the Family Requires Male Leadership in the Church,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 233-47). We must note that Paul does not instruct Timothy to treat everyone with undifferentiated sameness. The wise person responds differently when speaking to an older man rather than to a younger man, in a way that shows more deference and respect for the older man’s experience. If God has assigned husbands a particular responsibility as leaders of their homes, it would make sense he has also ordained that men should bear responsibility in the leadership of the church. Ministry and family should not be segregated rigidly from one another. The two spheres interpenetrate, and what is true of the one is generally accurate in the other.

When we examine the biblical texts on husbands and wives, it is clear husbands have a responsibility to exercise loving leadership, and wives are called on to submit (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7) Space precludes a detailed analysis of these texts, and thus only a few major issues can be addressed here, particularly those areas where egalitarians question the complementation view. We should note at the outset that husbands are exhorted to love their wives, to refrain from all bitterness, and to treat them gently. The Bible nowhere suggests the husband’s leadership is to be used as a platform for selfishness or abuse of his wife. Rather, the husband should pattern himself after Christ, exercising a loving leadership on the wife’s behalf. I want to add only that the love and tenderness of a husband is still exercised in leadership. Christ served the church by giving his life for it, and yet he remains the leader and Lord of the church. We ought not to think, therefore, that the leadership of husbands is canceled out in the call to serve.

Many egalitarians appeal to Ephesians 5:21 (“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ”) to support mutual submission in marriage, but the argument is unpersuasive (See, e.g., Grenz, Women in the Church, 115, 178; Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 159, 168-72). When the verse is interpreted in context, it is doubtful mutual submission in marriage is intended. Verse 21 is transitional, bridging the gap between verses 18-20 and the household exhortations in 5:22-6:9. It is doubtful, though, that the content of 5:21 should be read into the exhortations that follow. Otherwise, Paul would be suggesting that parents and children (6:1-4) and masters and slaves (vv. 5-9) should mutually submit to each other. It is highly implausible that parents would be encouraged to submit to children, or masters to submit to slaves (Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, 158). While such an idea may appeal to some people today, it would scarcely enter into the mind of someone writing almost two thousand years ago. We look in vain for any clear indication elsewhere in the Scriptures that parents should submit to children, or masters to slaves (Keener [Paul, Women and Wives, 186-88] acknowledges that mutual submission is not demanded of children, showing his inconsistency, for if this is the case, Ephesians 5:21 does not function as the introduction to all of 5:22-6:9. Nor do I find persuasive Keener’s view [Paul, Women and Wives, 206] that 6:9 teaches submission for masters. The persistent fact is that husbands, parents, and masters are never told to submit to wives, children, and slaves, respectively). Nor do the Scriptures ever call on husbands to submit to their wives, but they consistently summon wives to submit to their husbands.

How, then, should we interpret Ephesians 5:21? Two interpretations cohere with the complementation view. Paul may have in mind the relationship we have with one another in the church (see vv. 19-21), one in which believers mutually submit to one another. These words cannot be imposed on the marriage relationship but refer instead to a corporate setting in which believers praise God in song and submit to one another in the community (I am not suggesting, incidentally, that husbands never follow the advice of their wives. Wise husbands do so often. Some complementarians interpret verse 21 to say that only some members of the congregation submit to others [e.g., Wayne Grudem, “The Myth of Mutual Submission as an Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21,” in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem [Wheaton, ILL.: Crossway, 2002], 228-29; cf. also Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, 139-41]. Such a reading is possible but unpersuasive, for typically the pronoun allelois refers to all members of the congregation [see Ernest Best, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians [ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998], 516. A call to submit to one another as brothers and sisters in the church does not yield the conclusion that husbands should submit to wives or that parents should submit to children. Verse 21 refers to the corporate life, where all members are enjoined to submit to one another. Daniel Doriani’s article ["The Historical Novelty of Egalitarian Interpretations of Ephesians 5:21-22," in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, 203-19] indicates that many scholars throughout the history of the church have understood the text in the way I suggest here). Alternatively, but perhaps less likely, Paul refers to the submission of some to others in the church. According to this view, the subsequent context indicates who is to submit to whom–wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters. (Peter O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians [PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 400-404, and previous note above).

Others contest the complementation view by disputing the meaning of kephale (“head”). Egalitarians typically define it to mean “source” instead of “authority over” (See, e.g., Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About a Woman’s Place in Church and Family, rev. ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985], 215-52; Berkely and Alvera Mickelsen, “What Does kephale Mean in the New Testament?” in Women, Authority and the Bible, 97-110; Catherine Clark Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,'” in Hull, Equal to Serve, 267-83. For another complementation view, see Richard S. Cervin, “Does kephale Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority’ in Greek Literature? A Rebuttal,” TJ 10 [1989]: 85-112. For the weaknesses in Cervin’s view as well, see the second article listed under Grudem in the next note). The meaning of the term kephale can be established only by careful analysis of its use in biblical and extra biblical literature. Wayne Grudem and Joseph Fitzmyer have demonstrated that “authority over” in many contexts is the most likely meaning of the term (See Wayne Grudem, “Does kephale ['Head'] Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples,” TJ 6 [1985]: 38-59; Grudem, “The Meaning of kephale (‘Head’): A Response to Recent Studies,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 425-68, 534-41; Grudem, “The Meaning of Kephale (‘Head’): An Examination of New Evidence, Real and Alleged,” JETS 44 [2001]: 25-65; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Kephale in 1 Corinthians 11:3,” Int 47 [1993]: 52-59). It may well be, however, that kephale in some contexts denotes both “authority over” and “source,” as Clinton Arnold argues (See Clinton E. Arnold, “Jesus Christ: ‘Head’ of the Church [Colossians and Ephesians],” in Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ. Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament Christology, eds. J.B. Green and M. Turner [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994], 346-66). The definitions “authority over” and “source” make sense of Colossians 2:19 and Ephesians 4:15, where Christ as the Head both reigns over and provides for the church.

In any case, even if kephale should be defined only as “source” (which is very unlikely), it would still support male leadership. Let me explain. In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul exhorts wives to submit to their husbands in everything. What reason is given for such a command? Paul provides the rationale in verse 23 (note the hoti): “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.” If the word kephale means “source” then Paul exhorts wives to submit because their husbands are their source. So even if kephale means “source,” wives are to fill a supportive and submissive role, and husbands, as the “source,” are to function as leaders.

The same argument prevails in 1 Coritnhians 11:12-16. If kephale means “source,” then women are to defer to their source by adorning themselves properly. The idea that the source has particular authority hearkens back to Genesis 2:21-25, where the woman comes from the man (see 1 Cor. 11:8). Similarly, children should obey their parents because parents are the source of their existence. Nonetheless, the meaning “authority over” cannot be exorcised from Ephesians 5:22-24, for the call for wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ indicates that the authority of Christ as Head is in view (cf. Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; 2:10). I am not denying there may be an idea of source as well, since husbands are to nourish and care for their wives, just as Christ has tenderly loved the church. In any case, the husband’s special role as the leader of his wife cannot be explained away in Ephesians 5:22-33.

A few egalitarians have maintained that the word “submit” (hypotaso) does not cannot the idea of obedience. For instance, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull suggests that hypotaso means “to identify with” rather than “to obey” (See Hull, Equal to Serve, 195). Certainly there is no suggestion that husbands should compel their wives to submit. Submission is a voluntary and glad response on the part of wives, and husbands are commanded to love their wives, and husbands are commanded to love their wives, not to see to it that they submit. Nor is it fitting if a wife’s submission is conceived of in terms of a child’s obedience to parents, for the relationship of a husband and wife is remarkably different from the relationship between a parent and a child. Indeed, Paul can speak of the mutual obligations husbands and wives have to one another (1 Cor. 7:3-5), emphasizing that the husband ultimately does not have authority over his own body and that the wife has authority over his body. Complementarians have too often made the mistake of envisioning the husband-wife relationship in one-dimensional terms, so that any idea of mutuality and partnership is removed and wives are conceived of as servants (or even as slaves) of husbands. Such a militaristic conception of marriage is foreign to the biblical perspective, and 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 reminds us that mutuality also characterizes the marriage relationship. Indeed, any marriage relationship that lacks a sense of mutuality has serious problems!

On the other hand, we cannot dismiss the particular calling of the wife to submit, and such submission does involve obedience. In the Bible, submission is required to God’s law (Rom. 8:7), to the government (13:1, 5; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13), of slaves to masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18), and of younger people to their elders (5:5). The submission of Christ to the Father (1 Cor. 15:27-28) and of demons to Christ (Eph. 1:21; 1 Pet. 3:22) is also described.

The above examples illustrate that the concept of obedience is involved in submission. Indeed, 1 Peter 3:5-6 removes any doubt, for Peter commends the holy women of the past, who were “submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham.” Notice the “just as” connecting the word “submissive” to the verb “obeyed.” When Peter describes the submission of Sarah, he uses the word “obey” to portray it. Such submission should not be construed as demeaning or as a denial of a person’s dignity or personhood, for Christ himself submits to the Father (1 Cor. 15:27-28)–and as the Son, he did what the Father commanded, yet there is no idea that the Son lacks dignity or worth. To say those who submit are of less worth and dignity is not a biblical worldview but a secular worldview that pervades our highly competitive society (Most egalitarians deny that there is any sense in which the Son submits eternally to the Father. See, e.g., Gilbert Bilezikian, “Hermeneutical Bungee Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead,” JETS 40 [1997]: 57-68. But Craig S. Keener [“Is Subordination within the Trinity Really Heresy? A Study of John 5:18 in Context,” TJ 20 [1999]: 39-51], who is himself an egalitarian, properly suggests that the eternal subordination of the Son, rightly understood, is supported biblically). The example of Christ also clarifies that the obedience and submission of wives to husbands is not comparable to the obedience children should render to parents; after all, husbands and wives are mutual partners in a way parents and children are not.

It is possible, though, that the submission required of wives is an example of cultural accommodation? In the contexts where wives are exhorted to submit to husbands we also see that slaves are commanded to submit to their masters (Eph. 5:22-33 and 6:5-9; Col. 3:18-19 and 3:22-4:1; Titus 2:4-5 and 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 2:18-25 and 3:1-7). Evangelical egalitarians accept as the word of God Paul’s admonitions to slaves. In the culture of Paul’s day, submission to masters was fitting, for societal revolution is not the means by which a culture is transformed. Indeed, in Paul’s day, people would reject the gospel if they felt it was overturning cultural norms. So, it is argued, Paul counsels submission to wives “so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:5; see Alan Padgett, “The Pauline Rationale for Submission: Biblical Feminism and the nina Clauses of Titus 2:1-10,” EvQ 59 [1987]: 39-52. This view has been advanced further and developed hermeneutically by William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis [Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 2001]. For my response, see Thomas R. Schreiner, “William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: A Review Article,” SBJT 6 [2002]: 46-64). Similarly, slaves are to live responsibly “so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10).

In our culture, however, the same norms do not apply. Our contemporaries will reject the gospel, it is claimed, if women do not have the same rights as men, just as it would be a hindrance to the gospel if we recommended slavery. Egalitarians put the point even more sharply. If we insist wives should submit today and women cannot serve as pastors, then we are also recommending the reinstitution of slavery? Many Christians in the 1800s appealed to the Bible to defend slavery, and many egalitarians think those who defend the complementation view on women’s roles are making a similar mistake today (For this thesis, see Willard M. Swartley, Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation [Scottsdale, Pa.: Herald, 1983]; Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 184-224; Kevin Giles, “The Biblical Case for Slavery: Can the Bible Mislead? A Case Study in Hermeneutics,” EvQ 66 [1994]: 3-17 [unfortunately, Giles [p.4] relinquishes the Bible’s authority in social relations]. See the critique by Yarbrough, “The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 189. For the ongoing debate see Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part I,” EvQ 72 [2000]: 151-67; Giles, “A Critique of the ‘Novel’ Contemporary Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Given in the Book, Women in the Church. Part II,” EvQ 72 [2000]: 195-215; Andreas J. Kostenberger “Women in the Church: A Response to Kevin Giles,” EvQ 73 [2001]: 205-24; Giles, “Women in the Church: A Rejoinder to Andreas Kostenberger,” EvQ 73 [2001]: 225-43).

We must admit this objection is a thoughtful one. I believe egalitarians are correct in saying some of the commands and norms in Scripture are the result of cultural accommodation. Slavery is not God’s ideal, and yet the Scriptures regulate and transform cultures in which slavery is practiced. The Bible does not recommend revolution to wipe out existing institutions but counsels a transformation from within. Paul, for instance, did not require Philemon to give up Onesimus as his slave, but he expected the relationship between the master and slave to be transformed by their unity in Christ so that Onesimus would be treated as a brother in the Lord and not merely as a slave. If egalitarians are correct in saying that the admonitions to wives and the retractions on women in ministry are analogous to the counsel given to slaves, then I would agree that the restrictions on women are due to cultural accommodation and not required of believers today. Nevertheless, I think egalitarians make a crucial mistake when they draw a parallel between exhortations given to slaves and those given to wives. The marriage relationship is not analogous to slavery, for slavery is an evil human institution regulated by Scripture. Marriage, on the other hand, is a creation ordinance of God and part of God’s good will for human beings (Gen. 2:18-25). Thus, the parallel between marriage and slavery does not stand (Craig Keener [Paul, Women and Wives, 208-9] objects that the issue is whether a wife’s submission to her husband is permanently mandated, not the ordinance of marriage itself. But I would contend Paul’s argument in Ephesians 5:22-33 demonstrates that the marriage relationship mirrors Christ’s relationship to the church. In addition, Genesis 2-3 indicates that role distinctions between husbands and wives was God’s intention in creating man and woman).

The weakness of the parallel between slavery and marriage is obvious when the relationship between children and parents is introduced. In the household passages, Paul exhorts husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and slaves (Eph. 5:22-6:9; Col. 3:18-4:1). The inclusion of parents and children is instructive. Those who say the admonition to wives is culturally bounded by appealing to the matter of slavery must also (to be consistent) say the admonition for children to obey their parents no longer applies today. But there is no doubt that children are mandated by God to obey parents, and such a command is not harmful for children but is part of God’s good intention for them (Of course, I am not denying that sin has affected the relationship between parents and children, with the result that no parents raise their children perfectly, and, in fact, some parents do great damage to their children). Bearing and raising children is, from the time of creation, part of God’s good intention for human beings (Gen. 1:28). Similarly, the marriage relationship stems from God’s creational intent (2:18-25). The same cannot be said for slavery! Both the marriage and parent-child relationships hearken back to creation, but slavery does not, and hence the appeal to slavery as a parallel to the relationship between men and women fails (Nor is it clear from Titus 2:3-5 that wives submit only in order to avoid cultural scandal in Paul’s day. Padgett ["The Pauline Rationale for Submission"] provides no clear basis by which we can discern whether the admonitions are culturally dated or transcendent, for in these very verses, Paul also summons wives to love their husbands and children, and to be kid, sensible, and pure. These commands are given for the same reasons as the command to submit to husbands, namely, so that the gospel will be honored. But, of course, no one would think these commands no longer apply today).

The analogy Paul draws between Christ and the church and husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33 also demonstrates that exhortations for husbands and wives are transcultural. Husbands are to pattern their love after Christ’s love for the church, and wives are to submit in the same way the church submits to Christ. Verse 32 adds a crucial dimension to this argument. Paul remarks, “This mystery if great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” What Paul means is that the relationship of a husband and wife mirrors an even greater reality, namely, the relationship between Christ and the church. It is not the case that marriage was instituted first, and then God decided marriage would function as an illustration of Christ’s relationship to the church (For an analysis of this theme, see Andreas J. Kostenberger, “The Mystery of Christ and the Church: Head and Body, ‘One Flesh,'” TJ 12 [1991]: 79-94). Instead, from all eternity, God envisioned Christ’s relationship to the church, and he instituted marriage as a picture or mirror of Christ’s relationship to the church. The husband represents Christ, and the wife represents the church. We must beware, of course, of pressing the typological parallel too far, for a husband does not die for the wife or cleanse or purify her. But the typological relationship indicates the wife’s submission to the husband is not merely a cultural accommodation to Greco-Roman society. Such submission mirrors to the world the church’s submission to Christ.

Correspondingly, the husband’s loving leadership is not a reflection of a patriarchal society but intended to portray Christ’s loving and saving work for his church. The institution of marriage and the responsibilities of husbands and wives within it are not culturally limited but are God’s transcendent intention for all time, since all marriages should reflect Christ’s love for the church and the church’s submission to Christ. Few believers ever think of their marriages in such terms, indicating that a secular mind-set has infiltrated our view of marriage as well. How glorious and beautiful and awesome it is to realize our marriages reflect Christ’s love for the church and the church’s loving response to Christ.

DIFFERENT ROLES FOR MEN AND WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Women Prohibited from Teaching Men: 1 Timothy 2:11-15

It is not surprising discover that, just as there are distinct roles between husbands and wives in the family, different roles between men and women are also mandated in the church. Women should not fill the role of pastor/elder/overseer. The fundamental text on this matter is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (Some scholars believe Paul is addressing husbands and wives rather than men and women here. So, e.g., Gordon P. Hugenberger, “Women in Church Office: Hermeneutics or Exegesis? A Survey of Approaches to 1 Timothy 2:8-15,” JETS 35 [1992]: 341-60. Such a view is not contextually convincing. For a refutation, see my essay “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15: A Diologue with Scholarship,” in Women in Church: A Fresh Analysis, 115-17). This text is a battleground in current scholarship and entire books are being written on it (From the egalitarian point of view, see Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992]; Sharon H. Gritz, Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus: A Study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Light of the Religious and Cultural Milieu of the First  Century [Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1991]). In this essay I summarize my understanding of the passage. For a thorough  treatment, I refer readers to a book I co-edited (Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. A new edition is forthcoming, and I have used some of the wording from this new edition in a few of the footnotes below. For a recent attempt to support an egalitarian reading, see J.M. Holmes, “Text in a Whirlwind: A Critique of Four Exegetical Devices at 1 Timothy 2:9-15″ [JSNTS up 196; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000]. For a convincing rebuttal, see Andreas Kostenberger’s review: RBibLit [www.bookreview-s.org/pdf/974_506.pdf], 2001).

Before examining 1 Timothy 2:11-14, I want to comment on verses 9-10. Some ask why we forbid women from functioning as pastors when we do not prohibit women from wearing jewelry (Alvera Mickelsen, “An Egalitarian View: There is Neither Male nor Female in Christ,” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, eds. Bonidell G. Clouse and Robert G. Clouse [Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 1989], 201).  Let me say this: if the Scriptures (rightly interpreted) banned the wearing of jewelry, then we should cease wearing it. The Bible, not our culture, must reign supreme. On the other hand, we must interpret the Scriptures in their historical and cultural context. They were written to specific situations and to cultures that differed from out own. The prohibition regarding the braiding of hair and the wearing of jewelry would not surprise Paul’s readers, for such admonitions were part of the common stock of ethical exhortation in the Greco-Roman world (See Stephen M. Baugh, “A Foreign World: Ephesus in First Century,” in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis, 47-48; Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 103-7).

Discerning why a command was given is appropriate, precisely because culture has changed. We must distinguish between the principle and the cultural outworking of a principle. We do not practice the holy kiss today (1 Cor. 16:20), but we still derive a principle from it, namely, to greet another warmly in Christ–perhaps with a warm handshake or a hug. We do not demand that people with indigestion drink wine (1 Tim. 5:23), but we do think taking an antacid is advisable for those who suffer from stomach pain. Similarly, the principle in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 is that women should dress modestly and without ostentation (For a more detailed discussion of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 see my essay “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 114-21). As a complementation, I do not believe we should try to revert to the culture of biblical times; I do believe we should follow the moral norms and principles taught in the Bible.

So as we study 1 Timothy 2:12, we must discern how its admonition applies to us today. In verses 11-12 Paul exhorts the women to learn quietly and submissively, forbidding them to teach or exercise authority over a man. It has often been observed that Paul departs from some of his contemporaries in encouraging women to learn the Scriptures. The influence of Jesus, who instructed Mary (Luke 10:38-42), is obvious here. Nevertheless, the emphasis in this context is on the manner in which a woman learns, i.e., quietly and submissively. Paul assumes women should learn; what concerns him is that some of the women in Ephesus are arrogating authority to themselves and are not learning with submission. The prohibition in verse 12 further explains verse 11. Paul does not allow women to teach or to exercise authority over a man.

Andreas Kostenbergerhas conclusively shown that the two infinitives–didaskein (“to teach”) and authentein (“to exercise authority”), which are connected by oude (“nor”)–refer to two distinct activities. (See Andreas J. Kostenberger, “A Complex Sentence Structure in 1 Timothy 2:12,” in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis, 81-103). He establishes this case by consulting verbal forms connected by oude in biblical and extra biblical literature. He also discovered that the two distinct activities are both viewed either positively or negatively when connected by oude; whether the activities are positive or negative is established by the context. Kostenberger rightly notes that the verb didasko (“to teach”) is a positive term in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:2), unless the context adds information to indicate otherwise (Titus 1:11). When Paul wants to use a verb to designate false teaching, he uses the term heterodidaskaleo (“to teach strange or false doctrines”) [1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3]) (I.H. Marshall [A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999, 458-60] is unpersuasive in seeing a negative connotation in the terms).

Kostenberger’s study is significant for our understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul prohibits two distinct activities–teaching and exercising authority. Both teaching and exercising authority are legitimate activities in and of themselves. He does not prohibit women from teaching and exercising authority as if these actions are intrinsically evil. Both teaching and exercising authority are proper activities for believers, but in this context he forbids women from engaging in such activities. Kostenberger helps bring clarity to the debate on the meaning of the verb auhtentein (“to exercise authority”) in verse 12. In 1979 Catherine Kroeger proposed that the verb meant “to engage in fertility practices,” but scholars of all persuasions dismiss this view(Catherine Clark Kroeger, “Ancient Heresies and a Strange Greek Verb,” RefJ 29 [1979]: 12-15). Now the Kroegers propose that verse 12 should be translated, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to proclaim herself the author or originator of a man” (See Kroeger and Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman, 103. Linda L. Belleville proposes a translation similar to the Kroegers in some respects [Women Leaders and the Church: Three Crucial Questions [grand Rapids: Baker, 2000], 177. Philip B. Payne [“The Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15: A Surrejoinder,” in What Does the Scripture Teach about the Ordination of Women? [Minneapolis: unpublished paper, 1986], 108-10] lists five different meanings for the infinitive, which does not inspire confidence he has any definite sense of what the infinitive means). Three careful and technical studies have been conducted on authentein, and all three demonstrate that the most natural meaning for the term is “to exercise authority” (George W. Knight III, “Authenteo in Reference to Women in 1 Timothy 2:12,” NTS 30 [1984]: 143-57; Leland E. Wilshire, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to Authenteo in 1 Timothy 2:12,” NTS 34 [1988]: 120-34; H. Scott Baldwin, “A Difficult Word: Authenteo in 1 Timothy 2:12,” in Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis, 65-80, 269-305. See my summary and more detailed analysis of this word in my essay “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 130-33). Scott Baldwin, in particular, has examined virtually every use of the term and carefully separated the verb from the noun, for many scholars mistakenly blend the verb and noun together in their study of the term. Of course, it is just possible in context that a term with a positive meaning (“to exercise authority”) could have a negative meaning (“to domineer”; See, e.g., Carroll D. Osburn, “Authenteo [1 Timothy 2:12],” ResQ 25 [1982]: 1-12). But at this juncture Kostenberger’s work applies again, for he has shown in his study of the sentence structure that both terms are either inherently positive or inherently negative. Since the term “teach” has no negative sense into “exercise authority.” I realize the discussion of this point has been rather technical, but my conclusion is this: technical study has verified that complementarians have rightly interpreted this verse. Paul prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men 87 (Some egalitarians have appealed to the phrase oukepitrepo ["I do not permit"] to support their case, arguing that the indicative mood demonstrates the exhortation is not even a command and that the present tense suggests the exhortation is merely a temporary restriction to be lifted once women are qualified to teach [see, e.g., Philip B. Payne, “Libertarian Women in Ephesus: A Response to Douglas J. Moo’s Article, ‘1 Timothy 2:11-15: Meaning and Significance,'” TJ 2 [1981]: 170-72; Grenz, Women in the Church, 127-28]. Both assertions are incorrect. Paul often uses indicatives to introduce commands. E.g., the famous admonition to give one’s whole life to God [Rom. 12:1-2] is introduced with the indicative parakalo ["I exhort"] It is linguistically naive to insist commands must be in the imperative mood [see 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 4:2; 1 Tim. 2:8; 5:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; Titus 3:8]. Nor can one appeal to the present tense to say the command is merely temporary. The same argument could then be used to say Paul desires believers to give their lives to God only for a brief period of time [Rom. 12:1] or he wants the men to pray without wrath and dissension merely for the present time [1 Tim. 2:8], but in the future they could desist).

We have seen previously that prohibiting a woman from teaching or exercising authority over a man applies to the tasks of an elder, for elders have a unique responsibility to teach and rule in God’s church. But on what basis does Paul forbid women from teaching and exercising authority? His words in verse 13 provide the reason: “For it was Adam who was created, and then Eve.” The gar (“for”) introducing this verse is best understood as a ground for the command, since a reason naturally follows the prohibition (Egalitarians often understand this verse to be merely an illustration. So Gritz, Mother Goddess at Ephesus, 136; Witherington, Women and the Genesis of Christianity, 194-95; David M. Scholer, “1 Timothy 2:9-15 and the Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry,” in Women, Authority and the Bible, 208; Alan Padgett, “Wealthy Women at Ephesus: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 in Social Context,” Int 41 [1987]: 25; Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 115-17. In defense of this verse functioning as a reason for the command, see Douglas J. Moo, “The Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15: A Rejoinder,” TJ 2 [1981]: 202-3). Women should not teach men or exercise authority over them because this would violate God’s intention in creation. Since Paul appeals to creation, the prohibition transcends culture. Paul disallows homosexuality because it contravenes God’s created order (Rom. 1:26-27). Jesus asserts the permanency of marriage by appealing to creation (Matt. 19:3-12). There is no suggestion in the 1 Timothy passage, therefore, that the prohibition is temporary, nor is there any indication that the resurrection is somehow due to human sin or to the limitations of women. The restriction on women stems from God’s creation mandate, not from the cultural situation at Ephesus.

Egalitarians often argue the restriction can be explained by the lack of education among the women in Ephesus, or alternatively they suggest these women were duped by false teachers–and thus the women would be allowed to teach once their doctrinal deficiencies were corrected (For documentation of the egalitarian view, see my essay “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 137). Both of these views are unconvincing. Paul could have easily written this: “I do not allow a woman to teach of exercise authority over a man as long as she is uneducated and unlearned.” He gives no indication, however, that lack of education is the problem. In fact, egalitarians skate over the reason given (Paul’s appeal to the created order) and appeal to one not even mentioned (lack of education; see Royce Gordon Gruenler [“The Mission Lifestlye Setting of 1 Timothy 2:8-15,” JETS 41 [1998]: 215-38] argues that the subordination of women is explicable from the missionary situation in 1 Timothy. But he doesn’t really engage in an intensive exegesis of the text, nor does he persuasively demonstrate that the prohibition is due to mission. Once again, Paul could have easily communicated such an idea, but he did not clearly do so). Furthermore, as Steven M. Baugh points out, it is not the case that all women were uneducated in Ephesus (See Baugh, “A Foreign World,” 45-47). Indeed, we know from 2 Timothy 4:19 that Priscilla was in Ephesus, and she was certainly educated.

Nor is the second attempt to explain away 1 Timothy 2:12 any more persuasive. Paul could have written, “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. For she is being led astray by false teachers.” There are multiple problems with this hypothesis. First, why does Paul only mention women, since we know that at least some men were being duped by the false teachers as well? It would be insufferably sexist to prohibit only women from teaching and exercising authority when men were being led astray as well (See D.A. Carson, “Silent in the Churches': On the Role of Women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 147). Second, the theory requires that all the women in Ephesus were deluded by the false teachers. Paul gives no indication the restriction applies only to some women, but it is incredibly hard to believe that every single woman in Ephesus was beguiled by the false teaching. Third, egalitarian scholars have been busy remaking the background to the situation in verses 11-15, but their reconstructions have been highly speculative and sometimes wildly implausible. For example, in their work on 1 Timothy (I Suffer Not a Woman) the Kroegers allege that Ephesus was feminist; they appeal to later evidence to vindicate their thesis and ransack the entire Greco-Roman world to sustain it. They have rightly been excoriated in reviews for producing a work that departs from a sound historical method (See Steven M. Baugh, “The Apostle among the Amazons,” WTJ 56 [1994]: 153-71; Albert Wolters, “Review: I Suffer Not a Woman,” CTJ 28 [1993]: 208-13; Robert W. Yarbrough, “I Suffer Not a Woman: A Review Essay,” Presb 18 [1992]: 25-33). They fall prey to Samuel Sandmel’s warning against parallelomania, and they would have been wise to apply the kind of sober method recommended in John Barclay’s essay on reconstructing the teaching and identity of opponents (See Samuel Sandmel, “Paralelomainia,” JBL 81 [1962]: 2-13; John M.G. Barclay, “Mirror Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a test Case,” JSNT 3 [1987]: 73-93. See also Jerry L. Sumney, “Identifying Paul’s Opponents: The Question of Method in 2 Corinthians” [JSNTSup 40; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990]. For a sensible and cautious description of the opponents in the Pastorals, see Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, 140-52; cf. also William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles [WBC; Nashville: Nelson, 2000], lxix-lxxxvi). Bruce Barron blithely appeals to second-century gnostic sources and gives no indication that appealing to later evidence is a problem (See Bruce Barron, “Putting Women in Their Place: 1 Timothy 2 and Evangelical Views of Women in Church Leadership,” JETS 33 [1990]: 451-59). In Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus, Sharon Gritz argues that the Artemis cult is responsible for the problem in Ephesus. Her work is much more careful than that of the Kroegers, but at the end of the day she does not provide any hard data from the letter to substantiate her thesis (See my “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 107-12, for a discussion of the setting of the text).

Speculation runs rampant among those defending the egalitarian thesis. I challenge egalitarians to demonstrate from 1 Timothy itself the nature of the false teaching instead of from later and external sources. I conclude egalitarians have not yet provided a plausible explanation for Paul’s argument from creation in 2:13; in fact, they often complain that Paul’s argument in this verse is unclear and hard to understand (For documentation, see my “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 136. Jerome D. Quinn and William C. Wacker [The First and Second Letters to Timothy. ECC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 227, rightly remark that the brevity of the words in verse 13 demonstrates that the truth presented here was both familiar and intelligible). Yet most Christians throughout church history did not think the verse was so obscure, nor do I think it is hard to grasp. I would suggest the verse seems difficult because it runs counter to our own cultural intuitions. But the Scriptures exist to challenge our worldview and to correct our way of looking at the world.

In verse 14, Paul gives a second reason for the prohibition. Women are forbidden to teach because Eve was deceived, and not Adam. Egalitarians occasionally appeal to this verse to say women were responsible for spreading the heresy in Ephesus, and that is why they are prevented from teaching (For a detailed discussion of this verse, see my “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 140-46, though I am less certain about my previous interpretation of this verse). When we read 1 Timothy and the rest of the Pastoral Epistles , however, the only false teachers named are men (1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17). The only evidence were influenced by the heresy, not that they were purveyors of it (2 Tim. 3:5-9). Nor does 1 Timothy 2:14 suggest that women were disseminating false teaching, for to say that one is deceived is not to say one is spreading error, but only that one is being led astray by it. What the verse highlights is what transpired in Eve’s heart, namely, deception, and nothing is said about her giving Adam faulty instruction.

Nor is it plausible to say this verse highlights Eve’s ignorance of God’s command, and then to conclude the women of Ephesus are prohibited from teaching because of a lack of education. The problem with this interpretation is that deception does not equate with lack of education, for the latter is remedied through instruction while the former has a moral component. Nor does it make sense to say Eve was ignorant of God’s command given to Adam. If she were ignorant because Adam had failed to inform her of the command, then the blame would surely rest with Adam. Alternatively, if Adam muddled the command and explained it poorly to Eve, this would scarcely fit with an injunction that encouraged men to teach rather than women. Presumably, Adam explained the prohibition to Eve, and it is hard to see how she could not have grasped it, since it is quite easy to understand what was forbidden. If Eve couldn’t understand it, then she was inherently stupid–which would explain why men should teach. But the deception should not be equated with stupidity. Paul is not saying Eve somehow lacked education or intelligence. He argues that she failed morally and was deceived by the serpent.

Egalitarians often allege they have a better explanation of verse 14 than complementarians. I maintain none of their explanations are persuasive, for there is no evidence in this verse that women were banned from teaching because they were spreading heresy, nor is there any indication they were uneducated, for deception cannot be equated with a lack of education.

What, then, is the point of 1 Timothy 2:14? Let me acknowledge at the outset the difficulty of the verse. I believe the complementarian view stands on the basis of the clarity of verse 13, so that resolving the interpretation of verse 14 is not crucial for the passage as a whole (Craig L. Blomberg ["Not Beyond What Is Written: A Review of Aida Spencer's Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry," CTR 2, 1988: 414] intriguingly suggests verse 14 should be read with verse 15 instead of functioning as a second reason for the injunction in verse 12. On this reading, Paul says the woman will be saved, even though Eve was initially deceived. There are at least three weaknesses with this view [cf. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 142]: (1) the kai in verse 14 naturally links verse 14 with verse 13; (2) the structure of verse 13 nicely matches verse 14, for both verses compare and contrast Adam and Eve in an a-b a-b pattern; and (3) Blomberg’s view does not account well for the reference to Adam in verse 14. Any reference to Adam is superfluous if the concern is only the salvation of women. But the reference to both Adam and Eve fits with the specific argument in verse 12 that women are not to teach men. In my view Blomberg does not answer these objections convincingly in his response to Mounce’s objections [see his essay, “Neither Hierarchicalist nor Egalitarian: Gender Roles in Paul,” in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James R. Beck and Craig L. Blomberg [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001], 367). In the history of the church, some have argued that women are less intelligent or more apt to be deceived than men. The idea that women are less intelligent is not taught elsewhere in Scripture, and Paul does not argue from lack of intelligence but from the experience of deception. Others suggested the point is that Eve was deceived first, and Adam was deceived afterward (Paul W. Barnett, “Wives and Women’s Ministry [1 Timothy 2:11-15],” EvQ 61 [1989]: 234). As Paul writes to his trusted coworker, he knows Timothy will reflect on the Pauline teaching that sin has been transmitted through Adam (Rom. 5:12-19). So even though Eve sinned first, sin is traced to Adam, pointing to male headship.

We can combine the above interpretation with the observation that the serpent took the initiative to tempt Eve rather than Adam, thereby subverting the pattern of male leadership (See also Gruenler, “The Mission-Lifestyle Setting,” 217-18, 20-21). I argued in a previous essay that perhaps Paul is suggesting women are more prone to deceit than men, but this view has the disadvantage of suggesting an inherent defect in women, for the language of deceit in Scripture always involves a moral failing. Thus, I think Paul likely is reflecting on the fact that the serpent subverted male headship by tempting Eve rather than Adam (Due to space limitations, I am bypassing the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15. For my view, see “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” 146-53. I do not believe my specific interpretation affects the major teaching of the text in a decisive way [contra Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 118; Scholer, "1 Timothy 2:91-15 and the Place of Women," 196]. For an alternate interpretation see Andreas J. Kostenberger, “Ascertaining Women’s God-Ordained Roles: An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:15,” BBR 7 [1997]: 107-43). And yet sin is still traced through Adam, even though Eve was deceived and sinned first. On this view verse 14 supports the command in verse 12, providing an additional and complementary reason for male leadership in the church.

Women Exhorted to Prophesy with a Submissive Demeanor: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

One of the most controversial NT texts regarding men and women is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (For further discussion, see my essay “Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 124-39). Several issues need to be examined here, beginning with the custom that is in view. How did Paul want the women to adorn themselves? We must admit immediately that complete certainty eludes us. Scholars have suggested veiling, the wearing of a shawl, or the tying of hair atop the head so that the hair didn’t fall loosely onto the shoulders (Supporting a shawl or veil is Gordon D. Fee, The Epistle to the Corinthians [NICNT; grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 506-12; Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 22-31; Cynthia L. Thompson, “Hairstyles, Head-Coverings, and St. Paul: Portraits from Roman Corinth,” BA 51 [1988]: 99-115. Supporting hairstyle is Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, 254-71; David E. Blattenberger III, Rethinking 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 through Archaeological and Moral Rhetorical Analysis [Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1997). Whatever the custom was, the failure of Corinthian women to abide by it was considered disgraceful. The behavior of the Corinthian women was as shocking as if they shaved their heads altogether (v.6).

Even if we cannot specify the custom, why would Paul be concerned about how the women adorn themselves?  (Bruce W. Winter [After Paul Left Corinth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001, 121-41] argues that the injunction to veil demonstrates that wives and not women in general are in view here, supporting this with evidence from the culture of Paul’s day. Winter’s arguments are quite attractive, but further research and discussion are needed to establish this claim. I have some hesitancy about his view because it is unclear from the text itself that only wives are in view, though perhaps Winter is correct in saying that the reference to veiling indicates such is the case).  We have already noted that honor and shame come to the forefront (vv. 4-7, 13-15). Those who repudiate the custom bring dishonor on their heads. The word “head” in verse 5 is probably a play on words, for the women who adorn themselves improperly bring dishonor on themselves and their husbands. It is evident the women’s adornment impinges on the relationship between men and women, since Paul introduces the whole matter by saying, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (v.3).

I noted previously that the word kephale (“head”) may have both the idea of “authority over” and “source.” The meaning “authority over” is clear in many texts, and whether the term ever means “source” is difficult to discern. Nevertheless, svn if one adopts the translation “source” male leadership cannot be expunged from the text. Paul is concerned about the way women adorn themselves, because shameful adornment is a symbol of rebellion against male leadership. A woman who is properly adorned signals her submissiveness to male headship. That woman was created to assist and help man is clear from the Pauline commentary in verses 7-9: “For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” We should note the woman is required to adorn herself in a certain way because she came from the man, showing that even an argument from source does not exclude male leadership (I am not suggesting kephale means only “source” here; both “authority over” and “source” are probably involved. My judgment on this issue represents a change from my “Head Coverings, Prophecies and the Trinity,” 124-39).

Paul does not merely impose restrictions on women. He encourages women to pray and prophesy in church if they are properly adorned (v. 5). Complementarians who regulate such prayer and prophecy by women to private meetings fail to convince, because the distinction between public and private meetings of the church is a modern invention; in Paul’s day, the church often met in homes for worship and instruction. Moreover, it is evident that 11:2-14:40 relates activities when the church is gathered together. Paul commends women’s praying and prophesying in church, but he insists on proper adornment, because such adornment signals submission to male leadership.

It is also crucial at this juncture to reiterate what was said earlier. The permission to prophesy does not mean women fill the office of teacher or pastor/elder/overseer. When women pray and prophesy, they must adorn themselves properly, thereby indicating they are supportive of male leadership in the church. Paul encourages women to speak in the assembly, but he forbids them from functioning as pastors or from exercising a regular gift of teaching men.

We should also notice the programmatic nature of verse 3. God is the head of Christ, which signifies that God is the authority over the Christ. The Father commands and sends, and the Son obeys and goes. Even though the Son obeys the Father, he is equal in essence, dignity, and personhood with the Father. A difference in role does not signify a difference in worth. Some scholars are now actually arguing that the Son submits to the Father, and the Father submits to the Son. Stanley Grenz posits such a thesis in defense of the egalitarian view (See Grenz, Women in the Church, 153-54). Amazingly enough, he does not provide any biblical evidence to support his assertion; he simply claims the Father also submits to the Son. There is no evidence in the Bible that the Father and Son mutually submit to one another. Grenz’s interpretation is concocted out of nothing and proposed to the reader as though it were rooted somewhere in the Bible.

The parallel between Christ’s submission to the Father and the deference of women to men is important. For right after Paul sets forth the distinct role of women in verses 2-10, he reminds his readers that both men and women are equal in the Lord (vv. 11-12). Some scholars have interpreted verse 11-12 as though Paul were now denying the male leadership taught in verses 2-10 (Scholars often appeal to verse 10 to support the idea that women have independent authority in prophesying. This interpretation was proposed by Morna D. Hooker ["Authority on Her Head: An Examination of 1 Corinthians xi.10," NTS 10. 1964: 410-16] and has been adopted by most egalitarians [see, e.g., Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 38-42]. But there are serious problems with this view [see my “Head Coverings, Prophecies, and the Trinity,” 134-37). Such a reading is unpersuasive.

Paul returns to the differences between the genders in verses 13-16, and in verse 16, he reminds the Corinthians that all the other churches practice the custom the Corinthians are resisting (Judith M. Gundry-Volf ["Gender and Creation in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16: A Study in Paul's Theological Method," in Evangelium Schriftauslegung Kirche, ed. O. Hofus, Gotingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997], 151-71, argues that Paul integrates creation, culture, and eschatological life in Christ in a complex fashion in these verses so that he, in effect, supports patriarchy and equality simultaneously. On the other hand, I disagree with her claim that verses 11-12 partially mute the patriarchy of the previous verses. On the other hand, her own proposal is overly complex and doesn’t offer a clear way forward in the debate). The text beautifully balances differences in roles with equality of personhood. Egalitarians have sometimes claimed that Paul corrects in verses 11-12 the focus on submission in verses 2-10. More likely, the themes of submission and equality are complementary. Women and men are equal in the Lord, and yet distinct roles are also demanded. Paul saw no contradiction on this point–and neither should we.

Should women wear veils or shawls today? A minority of complementarians think they should (See e.g., Bruce Waltke, “1 Corinthians 11:2-16: An Interpretation,” BSac 135 [1978]: 46-57; Robert Culver, “A Traditional View: Let Your Women Keep Silence,” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, 29-32, 48). But we must remember that the Bible was written in the context of particular historical and cultural circumstances we do not necessarily imitate today. As I noted before in the cases of the holy kiss and drinking wine for indigestion, we must distinguish between the principle and the cultural outworking of a principle. Thus, the principle in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is deference to male leadership. In our culture, such deference is not signaled by wearing a shawl or a veil, or by tying one’s hair into a bun atop the head. Women should participate in the ministry, read the Scriptures, and pray in church with a demeanor that illustrates submission to male headship, but they should not be required to wear veils, for to do so confuses the particular cultural practice with the principle.

Am I trying to escape the scandal of the biblical text? In actuality, I believe there is a custom in Western society that is somewhat analogous to the first-century situation. In some cases, women today who refuse to take a husband’s last name signal that they are “liberated.” I realize there are exceptions (e.g., famous athletes or authors who may want to retain name recognition), but I believe if Paul were alive today, he would encourage women who marry to take the last name of the their husband, signaling thereby their deference to male leadership (I am not claiming that taking a husband’s last name should always be required. Our culture may change. In some cultures, retaining one’s maiden name may show respect for one’s father. I am merely suggesting that, in some cases, women are making a statement about their view of gender relations by not taking their husband’s last name). Is it possible the same hermeneutical method I have applied to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 could be related to 1 Timothy 2:11-15? In one of my classes, a woman once said to me, “Is it possible the admonition not to teach or exercise authority over a man has an underlying principle we have missed, so that women can teach and exercise authority over men without denying the principle of 1 Timothy 2:11-15?” I replied, “Of course it is possible. But in this case, it seems the principle and practice coalesce 112 (See Kostenberger, “Gender Passages,” 270. John Stott [Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus [BST; Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity, 1996, 78-80; argues that submission to authority is transcultural but teaching is a cultural expression of the principle that does not apply the same way in our culture. Kostenberger [1-2 Timothy and Titus. EBC, rev. ed.; Zondervan, forthcoming] rightly responds that “v. 13 provides the rationale for vv. 11-12 in their entirety rather than only the sub-mission-authority principle. Moreover, teaching and ruling functions are inseparable from submission-authority, as is made clear in the immediately following context when it is said that the overseer must be ‘husband of one wife’ [i.e., by implication, male; 3:2] as well as ‘able to teach’ – 3:2″). Please explain to me what the principle is in the text if it does not relate to women’s teaching the Scriptures and exercising authority over other believers.”

I have never read any author who has successfully explained what this “other principle.” might be. Thus, I am persuaded we fulfill the admonition of 1 Timothy 2:12 when we prohibit women from filling the pastoral office and when we restrict them from regularly teaching the Scriptures to adult males (Craig Keener [Paul, Women and Wives, 19] thinks that if one abandons the head covering then the limitation imposed by 1 Timothy 2:12 must be surrendered as well. But I believe I am following Keener’s very principle of trying to discern the principle in each text [see Paul, Women, and Wives, 46].

The Principle of Submission Applied to a Particular Situation: 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36

The entire matter of principle and practice comes to the forefront in this difficult text. Gordon Fee has argued the verese are a later interpolation, but this view has been decisively refuted by Don Carson and Curt Niccum114 (See Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 699-705; Carson, “Silent in the Churches,” 141-45; Curt Niccum, “The Voice of the Manuscripts on the Silence of Women: The External Evidence for 1 Corinthians 14.34-35,” NTS 43 [1997]: 242-55. See also Keener’s fine survey of interpretive options [Paul, Women and Wives, 70-100]. Philip B. Payne [“Fuldensis, Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus, and 1 Corinthians 14.34-5,” NTS 41 [1995]: 240-62; argues that evidence from Codex Fuldensis and “bar-umlaut” siglum in Vaticanus indicate that verses 34-35 are a later interpolation. Nicccum demonstrates, however, that the evidence adduced by Payne does not really support an interpolation). On first blush the passage seems to prohibit women from speaking in church at all, but this is an unpersuasive interpretation. In 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul has already permitted women to pray and prophesy on the church. He would not bother to explain in such detail how they should adorn themselves if he thought women should desist from speaking altogether! What, then, is Paul prohibiting here? Scholars have suggested a plethora of interpretations that need not be conversed here. For instance, some have said that the text is contradictory, others that women were interrupting the worship service with questions, and still others that women were banned from assessing and passing judgment on the prophecies uttered by the prophets  (For a survey of options and the view that the judging of prophecies is forbidden, see Carson, “Silent in the Churches,” 145-53. For a survey that reaches another conclusion, see Forbes, Prophecy and Inspired Speech, 270-77). Virtually all acknowledge that the specific situation that called forth these words is difficult to identify. It seems most likely the women were disrupting the service in some way (we cannot recover the specific circumstances due to paucity of information), and Paul responds to their disruptive behavior.

Still, we cannot simply say the verses are restricted to the local situation at Corinth. The admonition here relates to what is practiced “in all the churches of the saints” (14:33). Paul summons the women to submit, for this is what the nomos (“Law”) requires (v. 34). Paul does not specify any particular verse from the OT, but “Law” in Paul virtually always refers to the OT, and here we probably have a reference to the teaching of Genesis 1-2. We may have some uncertainty about the particular situation in Corinth, but the principle enunciated here fits with the rest of Scripture. The women are not to speak in such a way that they arrogate leadership. As in all other churches, they are to behave submissively, so that the leadership of the church belongs to men 116 (Keener [Paul, Women and Wives, 87] agrees with me that the principle in the text is submission, though he would apply the text differently to today).

CONCLUSION

The Bible speaks with one voice on whether women should fill the pastoral office, and it also seems to me it forbids women from regularly teaching men and exercising authority over them. I realize, of course, that even those who ares with my exegesis may disagree on how this would be worked out in the myriad of specific situations that arise in life (I simply could not address the diversity of practical questions in this brief Title: Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism). I want to affirm in closing that the Bible also indicates that women were vitally involved in many other ministry roles in both the OT and NT. Complementarians should celebrate and advocate women’s filling such roles. We must also constantly remind our egalitarian society that differences in function do not signify differences in worth. The world may think that way–but the church knows better.

Source: Thomas R. Schreiner (He is the James Harrison Professor of NT Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an Mdiv and ThM from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and a PhD from Fuller Theological Seminary), “Chapter Four – Women in Ministry: “Another Complementary Perspective.” Two Views On Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2005.

 

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How Sinful Is Man?

By Dr. R.C. Sproul

Imagine a circle that represents the character of mankind. Now imagine that if someone sins, a spot—a moral blemish of sorts—appears in the circle, marring the character of man. If other sins occur, more blemishes appear in the circle. Well, if sins continue to multiply, eventually the entire circle will be filled with spots and blemishes. But have things reached that point? Human character is clearly tainted by sin, but the debate is about the extent of that taint. The Roman Catholic Church holds the position that man’s character is not completely tainted, but that he retains a little island of righteousness. However, the Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century affirmed that the sinful pollution and corruption of fallen man is complete, rendering us totally corrupt.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about just what the Reformers meant by that affirmation. The term that is often used for the human predicament in classical Reformed theology is total depravity. People have a tendency to wince whenever we use that term because there’s very widespread confusion between the concept of total depravity and the concept of utter depravity. Utter depravity would mean that man is as bad, as corrupt, as he possibly could be. I don’t think that there’s a human being in this world who is utterly corrupt, but that’s only by the grace of God and by the restraining power of His common grace. As many sins as we have committed individually, we could have done worse. We could have sinned more often. We could have committed sins that were more heinous. Or we could have committed a greater number of sins. Total depravity, then, does not mean that men are as bad as they conceivably could be.

When the Protestant Reformers talked about total depravity, they meant that sin—its power, its influence, its inclination—affects the whole person. Our bodies are fallen, our hearts are fallen, and our minds are fallen—there’s no part of us that escapes the ravages of our sinful human nature. Sin affects our behavior, our thought life, and even our conversation. The whole person is fallen. That is the true extent of our sinfulness when judged by the standard and the norm of God’s perfection and holiness.

Source: This excerpt is from R.C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross.

 

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John MacArthur on Biblical Eldership

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A GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH DISTINCTIVE BIBLICALLY, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. The word translated “elder” is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the epistles in reference to this unique group of leaders who have responsibility for overseeing the people of God.

 

The Office of Elder

As numerous passages in the New Testament indicate, the words “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poim¯en) all refer to the same office. In other words, overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for an overseer (episkopos) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder (presbuteros) in Titus 1:6-9 are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus 1, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (presbuteros in v. 5 and episkopos in v. 7). All three terms are used interchangeably in Acts 20. In verse 17, Paul assembles all the elders (presbuteros) of the church of Ephesus to give them his farewell message. In verse 28 he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [poimaino¯] the church of God.” First Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together as well. Peter writes, “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [poimaino¯] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkope¯o] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The different terms, then, indicate various features of ministry, not varying levels of authority or separate offices, as some churches espouse.

A Plurality of Elders

The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion or by a single pastor.

The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, the apostle referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts indicates that there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:3015:2421:18).

Again and again, reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the various churches. In fact, every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros (“elder”) is used it is plural, except where the apostle John uses it of himself in 2 and 3 John and where Peter uses it of himself in 1 Peter 5:1. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference to a one-pastor congregation. It may be that each elder in the city had an individual group in which he had specific oversight. But the church was seen as one church, and decisions were made by a collective process and in reference to the whole, not the individual parts.

…the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

In other passages, reference is made to a plurality of elders even though the word presbuteros itself is not used. In the opening greeting of his epistle to the Philippians, Paul refers to the “overseers [plural of episkopos] and deacons” at the church of Philippi (Phil. 1:2). In Acts 20:28, Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which God has made you overseers [plural of episkopos]” (Acts 20:28). The writer of Hebrews called his readers to obey and submit to the “leaders” who kept watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Paul exhorted his Thessalonian readers to “appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and

The Distinctives series articulates key bibilical and theological convictions of Grace Community Church. have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12)—a clear reference to the overseers in the Thessalonian assembly.

Much can be said for the benefits of leadership made up of a plurality of godly men. Their combined counsel and wisdom helps assure that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual (cf. Prov. 11:14). If there is division among the elders in making decisions, all the elders should study, pray, and seek the will of God together until consensus is achieved. In this way, the unity and harmony that the Lord desires for the church will begin with those individuals he has appointed to shepherd His flock.

The Qualifications of Elders

The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. That’s why Scripture stresses the importance of qualified church leadership and delineates specific standards for evaluating those who would serve in that sacred position.

The qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. According to these passages, an elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money, not fond of sordid gain, a good manager of his household, one who has his children under control with dignity, not a new convert, one who has a good reputation outside the church, self-controlled, sensible, able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict, above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout. (For an explanation of these qualifications, see pages 215-33 of The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur.)

The single, overarching qualification of which the rest are supportive is that he is to be “above reproach.” That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful because he has a sustained reputation for blamelessness. An elder is to be above reproach in his marital life, his social life, his business life, and his spiritual life. In this way, he is to be a model of godliness so he can legitimately call the congregation to follow his example (Phil. 3:17). All the other qualifications, except perhaps teaching and management skills, only amplify that idea.

In addition, the office of elder is limited to men. First Timothy 2:11-12 says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” In the church, women are to be under the authority of the elders, excluded from teaching men or holding positions of authority over them.

The Functions of Elders

As the apostolic era came to a close, the office of elder emerged as the highest level of local church leadership. Thus, it carried a great amount of responsibility. There was no higher court of appeal and no greater resource to know the mind and heart of God with regard to issues in the church.

The primary responsibility of an elder is to serve as a manager and caretaker of the church (1 Tim. 3:5). That involves a number of specific duties. As spiritual overseers of the flock, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22); oversee the church (Acts 20:28); ordain others (1 Tim. 4:14); rule, teach, and preach (1 Tim. 5:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:121 Tim. 3:2); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the New Testament church’s work.

Because of its heritage of democratic values and its long history of congregational church government, modern American evangelicalism often views the concept of elder rule with suspicion. The clear teaching of Scripture, however, demonstrates that the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

SOURCE: Adapted from John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991). For a fuller treatment of biblical eldership, consult this resource.

 

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