Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Problem We Face After Becoming a Christian and How to Deal with It (How a Classical Apologist uses Presuppositionalism)

We know of the first problem the Bible presents, that there is a separation between God and man, and we know that Jesus alone is the mediator, the Savior, our redeemer, and our solution to the problem. Many of us however, do not understand the (second) problem we face after we are saved from our sins.
Paul, on a huge discourse about the Law and sin in Romans, comes to a place inevitably examining his own sin. He says in Romans 7:

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.[1]

Paul hates what he does. What I find interesting is that he writes in another letter, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”[2] With this in mind, it causes me to think, why did Paul hate what he was doing in Romans 7? Was the message of the cross foolishness to him at one point? It would seem to go without saying…
Now frustrated at his own actions because he knows what is good and what is right, every time he sets out to do what is right, he fails. But what is it that causes him to want to do what is right? The question here is on the noetic effects of sin. How did the curse, after the fall of mankind, effect our thinking? The fact that Paul was a Christian is what made him hate what he was doing. This is because Paul was at this point indwelled by the Spirit.

Paul shifts this idea from impossibility to possibility in Romans chapter 8 and says that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” which we know. Jesus saves us from our past sins, our present sins and our future sins. Slight Rabbit trail alert: I define sin as a moral failure, by the way. I get that definition from the Ten Commandments. Breaking any of those is a moral failure against God, and so a sin, an archer’s term for missing the mark, is failing God… Falling short; coming up short (Romans 3:23).
He knows what is good but cannot carry it out. (Here enters another issue to the second problem) The question is why not? But then in Romans 8, it seems that he can carry it out!

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.[3]

Examine this text for a moment… Paul says in chapter 7 that he cannot carry out living a good life in the eyes of God. He knows what is right but he cannot do it. I want to now answer why he knows what is right (which is different than the idea that he cannot carry out what is right, which we will get to below).
The reason he now knows what is right, as alluded to above, is because the Holy Spirit indwells him. He explains in Romans chapter 8 verse 9 above that “You however are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. What he is saying here is that the Spirit of Jesus dwells in Christians. The moment one becomes a Christian, they become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.[4] Again, look at verse 9 from above: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.” The opposite of this statement is also true. If you belong to Christ, then you have the Spirit of Christ! What this means is that if you are a Christian, then: God.  Lives.  In.  You.  This idea answers a lot of questions that I frequently hear from young Christians and people who are trying to learn about Christianity (For instance, can a Christian be possessed? Jesus says, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”[5] If this is the case and God lives in us as Christians, then there is no room for a demon in us if the Spirit of God lives in us!).
Paul now knows what is good because the Spirit indwells him, but he is not yet filled with the Spirit; he is not yet walking by the Spirit. There is a difference. The moment one becomes a Christian, they become deeply aware, in a sense, of their own sin. This comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Let me remind you at this point that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” This is why Paul hated what he did in Romans 7. He couldn’t carry out what is right, but at the same time, he now recognized what is right.
John 16 teaches us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. This answers the question of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.[6] This is the only unforgivable sin. What this means is that one suppresses the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regard to his or her sin and the need for a Savior. In other words, if you leave planet earth without trusting in, relying on, and hoping in Jesus alone for your forgiveness of sin and for eternal life, then this is unforgivable, and you will be condemned to hell for eternity (I will soon write about this as well). So then, because God lives in us, we cannot be possessed by the devil (“if in fact the Spirit of God lives in you”), and we have the opportunity to live a life pleasing to God.
Paul is frustrated at how he is living (in Romans 7) because he now knows what is right and pleasing to God because the Spirit lives in him, but because he draws his power to please God from his flesh, he realizes that he cannot carry it out. He is trying to get fruit to grow from a dead branch, so to speak (The flesh is dead[7]). It simply will not happen. Yet in Romans 8, especially considering verse 11, Paul teaches us that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies. This is a key phrase. He is not saying that we will one day be able to please God, but that we can do it now. We can live a life pleasing to God in our mortal bodies! The reason is because the Spirit of God lives in us! We just have to give the control over to Him in every circumstance, in every decision, which I will elaborate on below. Romans 8 (et. al.) is where Paul not only knows what is right, but that because the Spirit of Christ lives in Him, he can now carry out what is right/ good.
Now, I am not advocating that we can ultimately be perfect in this life, I think that our flesh makes that impossible.[8] I do not believe that a soul of a man, when separated from the flesh, will “look on a woman with lust and therefore commit adultery with her in his heart.”[9] There is no longer flesh in which to lust. The flesh is dead. With this in mind, because we do have access to the power of God, we can ultimately please Him. 2 Peter 1 says,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Peter tells us to make every effort, in verse five, and also explains that we can take part in the divine nature. What does that even mean?! The divine nature is moral perfection. The reason that we can take part in the divine nature is because the Spirit of Jesus lives in us. We can take part in moral perfection! But we can only take part in it because we are still in the flesh. Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”[10] Now (as in, while we are in the flesh) we see dimly (partly). Then (when we shed/molt the flesh; I. e. die) we shall fully know.
Consider also 2 Peter 1:3… Peter says that we, as Christians, are equipped with everything we need to live a life of godliness. What is this “everything we need?” Well, it is God, of course! If God lives in us, what more do we need to please Him who called us to His own Glory and excellence? The answer is nothing.
One might ask, “Can Christians sin?” This seems like a no-brainer, but in case someone doubted, think of 1 John 1:9, which is, in fact, written to Christians: “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us for our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Interestingly, King David, a man after “God’s own heart,” says in Psalm 66:18 that if he had cherished sin in his heart, the Lord would not have heard him. In any event, it is clear that Christians (those who have the Spirit of Jesus indwelling them) can sin.
Paul, in Romans 7 is indwelled by the Spirit. This gives him a knowledge (and also justification before God) that he is not pleasing God by what he is doing, and one can get a deep sense of his frustration. Being indwelled by the Spirit is very different than being filled with the Spirit.
Look at another thing Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.[11]

In verse 18, Paul is advising the Ephesians to not get drunk, but instead that they should be filled with the Spirit. He is referring to taking part in the divine nature here. He is saying “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”[12] The Ephesian people to whom Paul writes are already Christians (those who have the Spirit of Jesus indwelling them),[13] but apparently they are being a little crazy. They have the indwelling of the Spirit, but are not filled with the Spirit… they are not walking by the Spirit. What this means is that we have the opportunity to please God with how we live. The Spirit of Jesus gives life to our mortal bodies... The bodies we have now. We can please God through the power of Christ living in us.
This second problem we encounter is that because we continue in sin and know it, we become frustrated and angry about it because the Spirit convicts us of our sin; because we, by having the Spirit, have a keen awareness of our sin. We want to please Him, but cannot do so by drawing our power from the flesh. We must draw power from God in order to please Him. He alone is good.
This is likely why there are people who go to church for 20 or 40 years and are still a little crazy. They are not walking by the Spirit. They are not being filled with the Spirit. They are ultimately not drawing their power to please God from the Spirit of Him who indwells them. They are attracted to Jesus because they know that He saves them from their sin, and they are saved “if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in them.” But Jesus saves the whole person! He is the answer to the problem of living to please God after we are saved as well.

It seems that one of the reasons God desires us to walk by the Spirit/ be filled with the Spirit, is because there is to be Order in the Church. All through the New Testament, one can see the patterns that continue to arise, in which one of them is the idea that followers of Christ are to be gentle, loving, thinking, compassionate, logical, and respectful, and they are to have a very specific behavior that marks them. I think that one of the major reasons for this is because when someone peeks into the windows of the church, they should not see chaos, which I will elaborate on further below. 1 Peter teaches us that our behavior really says something about the body of Christ; the church. We are ambassadors individually and as a body of believers.
I think that ultimately and naturally, people are attracted to order. I have heard an objection to this with the idea of addictions, but let’s think of the nature of an addict for a moment. We might think at first, that they want chaos, but this is in fact the opposite of what is true. The reason people become addicts is because they want to escape the chaos. Sometimes, reality is chaotic. Early on, when we dabble in alcohol, drugs, sex, etc., it often works the same way that cults try to win someone over to their false religion. Someone has a bad day and they want to escape. Alcohol is something an adult drinks. Kids want respect from their peers, they want to have freedom, so they sometimes try to find these things that help them leave reality. Cult member’s prey on those who have been through hard times and offer them a false hope, which is enough to get their wing caught in the flytrap. Addiction is very similar. The false hope is a temporary escape, and in these cases, escape from disorder. Unfortunately, the result is also disorder, because addiction is not the means to find order.
People are attracted to order, and this is why I believe the New Testament is filled with arguments for good behavior… As in, why does good behavior please God? Is it only because He Himself is good? Or could there possibly be more reasons? Peter teaches us about our collective and individual behavior in 1 Peter 3 and so does the author of Hebrews in chapter 13. The thing is, when people look into the windows of the church, the body of Christ, the New Testament teaches that order will attract the curious, the disorderly. Who would want to go into a bar, honestly, when there is a giant brawl and the cops are everywhere? The same goes for the church. No one wants to go into a place where there are a bunch of known hypocrites, or adulterers, or greedy people. These are the kinds of things that push people away from the church. You have probably even heard the excuses before if you didn’t use one of them yourself.
In any case, order in the church will possibly attract those who are looking for a break from the chaos of life. People naturally want to have peace, which is order. The body of Christ is to be a place of peace and hope for those who wander aimlessly through life, or who are experiencing war. Walking by the Spirit causes order. Being filled with the Spirit results in order in the church.

Here, we go a bit deeper: As far as presuppositionalism being the starting point from which to do apologetics, I would beg to differ. Presuppositionalism presupposes the idea that God exists and that the Bible is the word of God. How do we know that God exists? Because the Bible tells us so. This circle of reason traps a person who is trying to build their theistic beliefs on firm foundation. Perhaps this is convincing to one who already is a theist, but likely questionably unconvincing to a skeptic. On the other hand, if one is already a Christian, a presuppositional apologetic platform could be used to teach Christians that this suppression of the Holy Spirit goes deeper than our first problem as we discussed above.
There is a second level, in a sense, of suppressing the Holy Spirit. The first is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The second is not walking by the Spirit, which ultimately is grieving the Holy Spirit. [14] Paul says, in Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” It is one or the other. Your mind is either set on the things of the flesh or on the things of the Spirit. If it is set on the flesh, it is hostile to God.[15] Therefore, grieving the Holy Spirit is walking by the flesh instead of walking by/ being filled with the Spirit.
Presuppositionalism has its place, but it is not the place which is historically understood. It is useful, but only to one who is already a follower of Christ.

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”[16]

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’”[17]

[1] Romans 7:13-20.
[2] 1 Corinthians 1:18; emphasis mine.
[3] Romans 8:5-11.
[4] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
[5] Matthew 12:25.
[6] Mark 3:28-30: “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."
[7] Romans 8:6.
[8] 1 John 1:8-9.
[9] Matthew 5:28.
[10] 1 Corinthians 13:12; emphasis mine.
[11] Ephesians 5:17-21; emphasis mine.
[12] Galatians 5:16-17.
[13] See Ephesians 1:1.
[14] Ephesians 4:25-32.
[15] Romans 8:7.
[16] Galatians 5:16-17.
[17] Luke 17:5.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Order in the Church: What does the Bible teach about Women in Leadership?

I admit that this does not have a lot to do with defending the faith, but it does have a lot to do with defending the church: the body of Christ. I am often confronted with many arguments for the idea that women should be in pastoral leadership. I hear that many women were leaders in the Bible from Deborah, to Anna, to Lydia, and I think we should look at each of these. It seems that the first thing we have to look at is what do we mean by leadership? I think the question points to eldership (overseer). In other words, can a woman be an elder in the church? A pastor is an elder by office, and therefore, the question is ultimately, can a woman be a pastor (overseer) in the church? This is the question that this article seeks to answer.
It seems that this is a good place for us to see what the scriptures say about women in leadership and then discuss them in turn. Following this examination of scriptures, I will list several arguments concerning the biblical stance, some in regard to the biblical female characters already mentioned.

1 Peter 3:1-7. “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Peter starts this new idea writing to a very specific group of people: Wives. In the same fashion as the prior text, Peter explains that in the family unit, there must be an authoritative figure. The responsibilities must fall on one head. The reason for this, Peter explains, is because if any of your husbands do not believe in the gospel, they may see your conduct and when we see conduct, we act accordingly.
Peter is banking on the power of influence. He is talking about a voluntary submission. He is saying that you will have more influential power by being a certain way rather than the opposite way. First I think we should understand what the goal is here. Peter says, “Even if some do not obey the Word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (v. 1). What he is saying is that the goal is that they come to know Christ! Now what tools do you use in order to do your part in making this environment as malleable as possible for salvation?
Peter talks about conduct. He says that women should “…be subject to your own husbands… because they may be won over by your conduct.” The way you handle situations matters more greatly than you think, which goes for anyone.We will discuss this in greater detail further below.
Peter is saying that what makes you beautiful is not the way your hair is braided… you can lose your hair. Then what is it that makes you beautiful? He is saying that the ornaments and jewelry you put on yourself is not what makes beauty, those things can be stolen or lost. Where then is your beauty? How about skimpy clothes? It shows the sleek silhouette of your body, but what happens when that isn’t as sleek as it used to be? Where then is your beauty? Peter reasons that a woman’s beauty must come from something else.
I think it is most natural for women to value beauty. Beauty is what first attracts a man. I have seen psychological studies on how fast a man can know if he is attracted to a woman. Several men were shown pictures of random women’s faces and it was discovered that men could detect attraction or not in less than a few seconds. With women looking at pictures of men’s faces, it took like ten seconds. Slowpokes…
But seriously, I think what Peter is saying here is that women should not misplace their value in beauty. Peter is saying that wives should definitely have value in beauty, but it should be used for the benefit of the gospel. That it should be used in bringing your husband into the kingdom of God. Now that is objectively beautiful. The world does not decide what is beautiful…
I find that gentleness is a common theme with Peter. He mentions it several times in regards to character and how one should respond. He is on this kick with gentleness. He is saying that your beauty should come from inside you rather than outside you. He is saying that in your heart is where imperishable beauty is found. This is where gentleness comes from. This is where a quiet spirit comes from. The heart being full of these things, in Peter’s mind, is what equals beauty. He is saying that there is nothing more beautiful than the true heart of a true wife. Seriously, the heart of a wife is powerful enough to drop her husband to his knees to fervently thank Jesus for her. It happens to me all the time. I think this is what Peter is trying to communicate.
He then discusses fear. Whaaat? Peter is saying that wives back in the day did not fear anything when in their right minds. As with anyone, when they were in their right frame of mind, they placed their hope in God and feared nothing (v. 5). I think that Peter is keenly aware of some things here. I think he knew that if wives placed their hope in their husbands, it would ultimately end in despair. He is saying that wives need to get their priorities right. When they mistake real beauty for being outward rather than inward, they will be putting their hope in something that is incorrect. In a world of relationships that are disastrous, Peter is saying that your hope belongs in God alone. If it is in your husbands, then it is in the wrong place. (v. 6). You do not fear anything that is frightening because your real hope is in God.
Then after he explains how wives are to live, some husbands were probably like “What about us? …What are we just chopped liver?” Ok maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but in any event, I hope you are making the connections of how this applies to us today. Peter says that husbands should live with their wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the weaker vessel… Whoa! Didn’t Peter ever hear about feminism? What is wrong with him?! You see how I keep putting all the weight on Peter? I don’t want any part of this madness. “I’m sorry Pete, but you’re on your own.” Look at what he says here...
He is saying that husbands should show honor to our wives. What he is saying is that our wives are a thing of beauty. We should treat them as such. He is saying that they are the weaker vessel, but what does this mean? I have been making bowls lately out of wood… some of them are super cool looking, mostly by accident, and this one that I made I was blown away myself. I dropped this bowl after I finished it on the cement and my heart sank. I thought that I broke it after putting several hours into making it something useful and yet, beautiful. Now, if I were making paper plates and I dropped one, how would I feel then? Would my heart sink? How many of you have used aluminum pie pans as Frisbees? Would you ever do this with a wooden bowl that you just made? No. You show the wooden bowl honor as a weaker vessel. You would not play football with a lamp. You would show it honor, just as you should your wife. You would put it in a place of honor in your home. You would keep it clean and unhindered. You would protect it from danger. You, O man, would do all of these things because you have a role to carry out. The Bible says that they are heirs with us of the grace of life. We are no better than them. Peter says, show them honor so that your prayers may not be hindered. Catch that. Something that hinders your prayers is how you treat your wife.

Colossians 3:18-19. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”

This verse calls women to submit to their husbands as well. Why is it fitting in the Lord to do so? Because the idea here is much like what Peter was discussing above: conduct. I think a more fitting term here would be order. It is orderly for a voluntary submission of a wife to her husband because this gives order in the family unit, much like it does in the church. This submission does not place a woman in an inferior role to a man, but merely makes the operation a well-oiled machine.

1 Corinthians 11:3-16. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

Paul uses five arguments in the above passage and all of them point to submission, which ultimately give order to the operation of the church. The body of Christ is absolutely meant to be a place of order as opposed to disorder. Imagine someone peeking into the windows of the church building and seeing chaos. What would they think if there were chaos among “the body of Christ?” Who would want a part of that? The church is where people come to find hope and rest and come to know more about eternal life. Paul frequently addresses order and behavior in his letters. Again, this submission does not mean inferior. It means a voluntary submission.

Ephesians 5:22-33. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Again, this passage reveals to Paul's readers the proper behavior of men and women in the body of Christ through the separation of roles. He establishes for the Ephesians (and for us) the way that men and women are to treat each other in the family units and ultimate in the body of Christ. Also noteworthy is that men are not without authority themselves. Men are under the authority of Christ. Women are under the authority of men.

Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I frequently hear this verse being used against the idea that women cannot be leaders in the church. The problem with this is a frequent one: it is taken out of context. But how? The question must be asked, what is this verse referring to? What is it talking about? We are all one in Jesus? Let’s look at two verses prior to this in order for us to have some contextual background… “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”[1] This is clearly discussing salvation. In other words, it doesn’t matter who or what we are, as long as we are human beings, we can be saved. This verse/passage does not mention leadership in the church in any form. It does not address the way a church is supposed to behave, but discusses something entirely different. 

1 Timothy 2:8-15. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”[2]

Saved from what? This word does not mean in context that she will be saved from her sins by giving birth to children. It means that she will be “preserved (from insignificance) by means of her role in the family.”[3] In other words, childbearing is a huge deal, a huge role to assume, and all men and women come through only women. This is a great honor! It is a deeply special thing that women are the childbearers, and it is also special that men are the authority figure. Paul is using the order in the family unit to explain the order in the church. A man will never be able to assume the childbearing role. Likewise, a woman is not to be in an authoritative leadership role over men. 
Imagine if men were somehow also able to have babies. I think this is the idea that Paul is talking about here. What kind of chaos would there be if men were able to also have babies? Think of the competition between men and women! It would be as divisive as if someone thought that women could be pastoral leaders in the church… Oh wait, that is already a source for division… This is not how things are supposed to be. Just like it would be a disaster if men were having babies, it would also be a disaster for women to be leaders in the church.
I do not mean that it would be a complete loss of order if men were able to have babies, eventually we would pretend to have some type of order for the craziness, and we would function haphazardly as a society. But compared to how it is supposed to be, it would be a disaster. Much like having female pastors. Men would not make themselves look like donkeys. Why? Because there would be no reason if the Church were what it was meant to be. There would not be division in local church bodies over such things, because this issue would not exist. Just like Men cannot have babies, there is no issue of competition.
When God cursed women in Genesis, He said “Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you”[4] This meant that her desire will be for the man’s position. There is an issue of competition because of this desire. Now whether that desire was part of the curse or that position was part of the curse is in question. Perhaps this is a false dilemma, but if so, then the position would not exist, and there would be no order in the Garden. This would have lead to chaos if mankind had any type of autonomy. The Garden of Eden was absolutely a place of order as we can see from reading the account of it. Disorder came when the serpent (Satan) whispered into Eve’s ear. Satan was clearly acting out of order in his deception. This is why it makes more sense that desire for the position was the focus of the curse. If there were no desire, then the positions (or role) would not matter. If the desire were absent, then the order would be complete. At this point, the reader should continue having childbearing in mind. Most (in an extreme sense) men do not wish that they could also bear offspring. This was not part of the curse. There was even order to the curse found in Genesis chapter three. In any event, the Bible is clear that men do not have babies, and women are not to be in pastoral leadership in the household of God.[5]

I frequently hear that “If men are not stepping up, then women need to take their place in pastoral roles.” For starters, where does it say that in the Bible? Secondly, this responsibility is not on women, but on men. If men are not stepping up, this burden is on them. On top of all of this, God does not need anyone to make His gospel spread. What kind of God would He be if He needed anything? Therefore, God does not need men or women for anything, including being leaders in the church, but has established the proper order for His church.

An argument for women as overseers is that women are prophets as well as men, but the problem is that this is speaking of prophecy, not leadership. Again, this is an issue of eisegesis; inserting ideas into the text. For instance, Anna was a prophetess.[6] Does this mean that she lead a church? Definitely not. If the church is "the pillar and the foundation of the truth," then we need to make sure that the stress fractures that we get in the foundation are addressed.

“But didn’t Lydia have a home church?” Read Acts 16. Lydia did not have a home church, but she had the apostles of Christ stay with her. She clearly had a powerful gift of hospitality.[7]

Does the New Testament abrogate the Old Testament? Some people look at the Old Testament and see that Deborah is recorded in the Bible as a great leader,[8] and they try to use this as an argument for women pastoral leaders in the New Testament church. But the question is, was she a leader in the New Testament church? Did the church exist at this time? The answer is clearly, no. Deborah was not a church leader because the church did not even exist yet. The body of Christ was not yet established.
The problem, as mentioned several times before in this article, is that this assumption also makes a common violation, which is that it is taken out of context. We can literally make the Bible say anything when we do this. For instance, believe it or not, the Bible, of all things, says “There is no God.”[9] If you see the context that this verse is in, it will immediately make sense. Some things are not so easily understood, or do not seem to stand out so drastically, but this is an example of a common mistake in biblical discussion.

Does this mean that women have different spiritual gifts? No! The issue here is roles. If there is any question, we can ask, “Can women teach?” the answer is Yes! When Paul, the old man, writes to the young preacher, Titus, he says in Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Teaching, by its nature, assumes an authority over the students. This is why Paul says in the 1 Timothy 2 passage above, that "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over  man..." A woman can and should definitely teach biblical doctrines both to children and younger women.

Men and women have different roles. Men cannot bear children. Women should not be authoritative leaders in the Body of Christ. I’ll briefly mention the transgender issue here because this also seems to be at the heart of the issue for female pastoral leadership. The reason that transgenderism is such a colossal disaster is because it is so far from the truth. For instance, is it true that a man can become a woman or vice versa? Absolutely not. When people get away from the truth, disaster is sure to follow. Remember, disaster comes in many levels. Some things are more disastrous than others. This is one of them. See what it is doing not only to society, but to the individuals themselves. They are cutting off perfectly healthy body parts and mangling them by having another human recreate them. It will never be what it is supposed to be, and people often make the claim that there is no difference between genders, but the very fact of the transition reveals that there is a difference. By transitioning, one is saying that one gender is better than the other. Likewise, it is not true, according to the Bible, that a woman should be an authoritative pastor, no matter how much she is forced into the position.

Did Jesus make a mistake in describing His church? Does He not know that this is the 21st century? Seriously, the church is not what people make it, it is what Jesus makes it. It cannot be changed. Jesus doesn’t make a mistake. The Bible is the manual for how the church should look. It is where we go for troubleshooting.
We might think that this is a cultural issue, but then what else would be a cultural issue? Where would we draw the line on what is cultural? Homosexuality? Abortion? The world already draws the line on transgenderism and abortion and homosexuality. In fact, there is no line. The point is, having female pastors is not a slippery slope, but making the teachings of the Bible out to be something cultural is dangerous. Paul says that people will remove this line in the sand in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. He says, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” We are at this time. People have removed the line between what is cultural and what is not. In so doing, they have distanced themselves from what is true.
Do we want to be found as the bride of Christ when He returns for His bride as disorderly? As the reader can clearly see, one of the main themes in the New Testament is how the church (the body of Christ) is supposed to behave. The reason for this is because the church is to have order, and order speaks volumes to the world (of disorder). I encourage you to go back and look at all of these passages listed and have the word, order, in your mind as you read them. 

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

[1] Galatians 3:26-27.
[2] Emphasis mine.
[3] Litfin, A. Duane. “1 Timothy.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 736. Print.
[4] Genesis 3:16.
[5] Ephesians 2:19.
[6] Luke 2:36-38.
[7] Romans 12:13.
[8] Judges 4.
[9] Psalm 14:1.