You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Theology’ category.

What do you think about women pastors and what would you say to a young woman interested in the pastorate? I was recently asked about this by a very special young lady. This is what I told her. If you are thinking of reading it, please do not, unless you are willing to read the entire letter.

Dear Sister in the Faith,

I am so glad to hear that you are interested in being a pastor. Not long ago Rachel and I were talking about how we saw God working in your life. It seemed to us he had given you a love for himself and a desire to allow his Word to take root in your life. So while I am happy you have had an interest in being a pastor I am even more excited to hear that you desire to know if this is what God would have for you.

You have asked a great question. To answer it, I think we need to go all the way back to the beginning. We need to answer two questions, “Did God create men and women to have different roles?” and if he did, “What are those roles?

Genesis 2:5-8 and 2:15 tells us that God created man to work the garden and keep it. Then in 2:18 God states, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So we see that the man was given the role of working the garden to produce fruit and of guarding the garden and the woman was given the role of helping the man. Therefore, we should notice that according to God’s plan, before sin entered the world and messed things up, God intended for the man to have a leadership role with the woman as his helper. The proper order of authority was then God, man, woman, and then creation (the animals and plants).

But notice when Satan came to tempt the humans he turned the order of authority upside down. He, an animal, went to talk to the woman and not the man whose job it was to protect his wife. This was Satan’s way of rejecting God’s established order of authority.

Then sin entered the picture.

It is important to notice that when God speaks to the serpent and the humans in 3:14-19, he first curses Satan (But he does not curse the humans!). He then causes the woman’s pain in child bearing to increase and the man’s pain in working the garden to increase. God causes pain to occur in the areas related to the woman’s primary role and the man’s primary role. He also says to the woman in 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This means the woman, because of sin, will desire to take the leadership role over her husband. But God then reestablished his original plan by saying the man will “rule over” (or lead) the woman.

So, why does all of this matter? It matters because we see that different roles for men and woman are not the result of sin but are part of God’s good and gracious plan from the very beginning. Therefore, to say that men should lead and protect is not being sexist, traditional, or abusive. It is how God has created us. But I have to emphasize, because of sin men tend to be poor leaders and poor protectors. They can be overly authoritative and abusive or they can be reluctant to lead or to protect at all. Both are sinful and not right. Because of sin, women also tend to either want to take leadership over men or make the opposite mistake of thinking they cannot do anything without a man. These distortions are also sinful.

But you asked about women serving as pastors. What does any of this have to do with women pastors?

It seems that God’s original plan for different roles between men and women is also present in the New Testament. For example Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches that men are to take a leadership role in caring for their wives. They are to love their wives as Christ loves us, the Church. Women are to submit to their husbands because they know this is what it means for them to follow Christ (“as to the Lord” in verse 22) The order of authority from Genesis is again present in verse 22: God is the head (meaning authority) of the Church (both men and women) and man is then the “authority” over his wife. It all goes back to God’s plan in Genesis. It then follows all the way through the Bible to this passage where it was revealed for the first time that men and women are suppose to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his Bride; the Church. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

To understand all of this allows us to understand the major passages on women in ministry. They are 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36. The easiest one to understand is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” and goes on to tie the reason for this to God’s original plan in Genesis.

The next passage 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, seems pretty difficult to understand at first. But it teaches that women should dress like women when they pray or prophecy in church. (At that time a head covering was considered dressing like a woman.) But why would Paul care what a woman was wearing? It is because dressing as a woman indicates that the women praying knew her distinct role as a woman. She was not trying to reject God’s plan for men’s and women’s roles by dressing like a man. It showed that the woman was recognizing her submission to the male leadership as she prayed or prophesied.

Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 is another verse that seems hard to understand. It is set in the context of interpreting prophesy. It is talking about how the Church should interpret what God has said. It tells us that, “women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission.” But! This does not mean women are supposed to sit silently in church. As we have seen in the previous verse women are allowed to prophesy and pray in church. Both of these require a woman to speak. We need to remember that this verse is in the context of interpreting prophecy. It is only saying that women, because of the role they have been given, should not stand before the congregation and interpret what God has said. Today, the person who stands before the congregation and interprets what God has said is the pastor. This is why I believe Scripture teaches that only men should serve as pastors.

But please do not be discouraged by this! I am very glad that you have a desire to serve as a pastor and even more thankful that God has given you the desire to see what his Word says about it. I think you very well may have a calling to “full-time” or “professional” ministry, just not as a pastor. Women can, and should, serve in roles appropriate for what God has designed. Women are desperately needed to teach younger women (Men are not allowed to do this), children, or in a women’s ministry (Something men would not be good at!). These kinds of ministries are extremely valuable to the glory of God. I think you may be called to full-time ministry. I think you should seriously consider it and pray about it!

Finally, a few side notes. First, it is often said that this point of view allows women to only teach women and children as if teaching men were the really important work of ministry. This is a terrible view that somehow places a greater value on teaching men than women and children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Men are not more valuable than women!Men and women are of equal worth, intelligence, and ability. Many women would even do a better job serving as a pastor than many of the male pastors I know, but that is not God’s plan. We need to remember it is his Church and he will build it as he sees fit. Second, there are a million objections to this teaching of Scripture. I think all of them are answerable. I will only comment on the most common one. Many people point out that Deborah was a Judge over Israel beginning in Numbers 4. But the story of Deborah does not mean women should serve as pastors. The story is really a condemnation of a lack of male leadership and the book of Numbers itself was written to show us how messed up life gets when we do not live it according to God’s Word. Everything in Numbers is messed up! Nothing is what it is suppose to be! Therefore, we should not try to base our doctrine of male and female roles from the book of Numbers when other passages are very clear in their teaching. Third, a very helpful, short, and free book on this topic can be found here: 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns About Manhood and Womanhood.

My dear sister in Christ, please, please, please consider full time ministry and may the Lord bless you as you seek his will in this area of your life.

In Christ,

will

The End. I hope you made it this far without getting bored!

If you found this post helpful, please let me know by rating it. I also invite your constructive comments.

Remember the Contagious Christian program? I do. And I’m sure many others do as well and even currently use it in their churches. It was the first curriculum in which I was exposed to and taught to use something called the “sinner’s prayer.” This prayer was designed to help lead others to Christ by providing the evangelist with an outline of what a desirous convert to the Christian faith should pray. It usually goes something like this, “Dear Father, please forgive me for my sins. I am sorry that I have sinned and I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and ask you to come into my heart and be the Lord of my life. Thank you for saving me. Amen.” Now there is nothing wrong with the sinner’s prayer or even with using the sinner’s prayer. I myself repeated the sinner’s prayer when I began to follow the Lord and have had others repeat it after me. But, I have not used the sinner’s prayer for several years now. And here is why:

First, the sinner’s prayer causes people to trust in themselves and not in Christ. What I mean is, there are moments in every Christian’s life when they ask themselves, “Am I really a Christian?” Unfortunately, too many people have thought to themselves, “Yes, I have prayed the prayer, I am a Christian.” But in that crucial moment they are trusting they are alright with God because they have prayed a prayer. This is a self-centered trust opposite of the Gospel. They believe that a prayer has made them a Christian when only Christ makes someone a Christian. I believe in times of doubt that it is better for a Christian to not have an available crutch in the sinner’s prayer on which to rest their trust but instead be forced to rely solely on Christ for the assurance of their salvation.

Second, it allows many individuals to falsely believe that they are a Christian. Many individuals sincerely believe they are a Christian and even claim to be a Christian but when they are pressed for an explanation of what makes them a Christian are unaware of such basic tenants as Jesus Christ died on a cross in their place for their sins. Often the reason for this is that they were encouraged to “say the prayer” at which time they repeated a few words and were assured they were a Christian. The sinful human heart is then all too happy to play along, insidiously whispering “you are okay” while hiding its rebellion against God even from its owner.

Third, it hinders evangelism. This is because people, who believe they are okay with God, because they prayed a prayer, often use this as the first line of defense in brushing off any future evangelistic inquiries. They say, “Don’t worry about me. I’ve prayed the prayer.” The sinner’s prayer then becomes the means by which unbelievers avoid the Gospel and rebuff casual inquires which may have borne fruit. The sinner’s prayer becomes a roadblock to evangelism and the evangelist must first undo the sinner’s prayer before effective communication of the Gospel can occur.

Fourth, it shortchanges the work of the Holy Spirit. This is because the sinner’s prayer is often treated as the goal of any evangelistic encounter. The idea is to show a person their need for salvation, present the Gospel message, and offer the sinner’s prayer as the way to be saved. But the Holy Spirit does not work on our timetable. Often He works through our words to convict the hearer’s heart of sinfulness. Then when the hearer feels their sin, we prematurely speak peace to their troubled conscience by having them pray the sinner’s prayer before the Holy Spirit was pleased to work a deep and abiding conviction of sin and need for a Savior. The sting of the Spirit’s conviction is blunted by the prayer and the unconverted individual is comforted just enough to allow themselves to think about other things. At times the most loving thing an evangelist can do is not to comfort their hearer.

Fifth, it becomes the criterion by which we discern the genuineness of a person’s faith. We are led to believe a person is a Christian because they prayed a prayer with evident sincerity. But repeating words out of a tract does not make a person a Christian. Christ makes a person a Christian through faith. But the sinner’s prayer, because of its wide usage becomes the unofficial acid test of whether or not someone is a Christian. This becomes dangerous when an unbeliever, who is thought to be a believer, is placed in a position of leadership in a worship service, a youth group, a Sunday school class, or even a pastorate. They will be the person making decisions for the church and the church will suffer for it. But some may ask, “Is it even our role to judge someone else’s faith? That sounds awfully un-Christ like!” To this it should be demonstrated that Paul himself gives us the criteria by which we are to judge who is genuinely born of God when he tell us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5)

Sixth, it causes Christians to be inarticulate when sharing their faith. Anyone can say “repeat after me…” without any serious reflection on the message of the Scriptures. Without the formulaic sinner’s prayer it may become more difficult to lead an individual to Christ but it also summons greater reflection on the part of the evangelist who is forced to ponder, own, and clearly articulate the call of the Gospel for themselves.

Seventh, we don’t need it! This is not a great argument against the sinner’s prayer, after all, there are a million things we use every day that we do not truly need. But this seventh reason is simply to point out that the majority of Christians who have ever come to faith in Christ have never even heard of a “sinner’s prayer.” It is only a recent invention in Christian history. When is the last time you heard any of the early Church fathers, Reformers, writers of Scripture, or Jesus himself recommend the use of a prepackaged sinner’s prayer? You have not because the sinner’s prayer simply did not exist. Yet generations of believers before now have had no problem sharing their faith without a prepackaged prayer. We are not dependent on it, and in my opinion should be free from it as the dominant way to think about evangelism.

I say there is a better way to call people to place their faith in Christ. What do you say?

Israel 186I need the Gospel. I need it. I need it every day and my heart dies to God without it.

There are times in life when it seems that God chooses to build a theological truth into your life. I believe over the past year God has been showing me my daily need for a dose of the Gospel.

If I do not daily consider the Gospel – the truth that God through Christ has undeservingly provided for my righteousness and the forgiveness of my sins, and not because of anything I have done – then my heart begins to wander. I act as if I have to earn my salvation. Having daily evidence that I could never earn my salvation I begin to lose joy in my Savior. Scripture becomes a chore to read. I become attracted to worship music because of its catchy tune and not because of the truth contained in its lyrics. My patience with others wears thin. I am overly critical. My humor begins to sting and I am not gracious to others. Instead of my conversations being about Christ they are about ministry and church related issues. When I am presented with opportunities to tell others about Christ I don’t.

This is why I need the Gospel. I need to hear over and over again about the grace of Christ – that I do not deserve forgiveness but yet the Father had mercy on me. I was bankrupt in all things but God gave me everything in his Son. I am not smart enough to know Christ on my own but God gave us the Scriptures to know his Son. – I need to hear the Gospel daily because it shows me the mercy of God. It breaks my self reliance. It fills my heart with worship for my Savior. It glorifies God by my dependence. And it proves him to be exceedingly precious.

I need the Gospel preached to me every day if I am to live as a Christian. Those who do not know Christ need the Gospel and Christians need the Gospel.

lightI remember, as a little child, sitting in a church pew wondering if I would go to heaven. It is one of my clearest memories of being a child. I would feel anxious and I would ask myself, “Am I a good enough person to go to heaven?” In the end I was always able to convince myself that I was indeed a good person; that there was no way God could refuse me entry into heaven. Eventually I would find enough comfort in this thought and ignore my anxiety.

Since then I have discovered that this is a very common misunderstanding. Many people I have talked to, even those who consider themselves to be Christians, truly believe they will enter heaven because they are a good person. I know I myself considered myself a Christian. At that point in my life I had attended an Episcopal church, sang in the choir at a United Methodist church, attended a Southern Baptist church, another United Methodist church, been baptized in a third United Methodist church, and attended Sunday school in a Full Gospel church without ever once hearing how to get to heaven.

Once when I was sharing this with a friend at UPS he stopped me by reassuring me that he was a Christian and was a good person who deserved to go to heaven. I was very glad that he brought this up because it allowed me to point out to him that although he considered himself a Christian and believed he would be in heaven with the God of the Bible, he did not believe what the Bible taught or what Jesus himself told us about ourselves or about God. For example, the Bible tells us in Romans (chapter 3) that:

“None is righteous, no, not one”

“No one seeks for God. All have turned aside”

“No one does good, not even one.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Notice how serious this is: “None is righteous,” meaning zero. No one. No person anywhere. And just in case we missed the point the emphasis is added, “no, not one.” It is pretty clear that this is the view of Scripture: no one will make it to heaven by being a good person because no one is a good person in God’s eyes. Everyone has committed sin and turned away from God. The affect of our sin is then described in Isaiah (chapter 59):

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Therefore, according to the Bible “No one does good, not even one” and because of it there is “a separation between you and your God” so that He has hidden his face (his loving presence) from you. So, please, if you are like I was and you think you can know God or make it to heaven by being a good person, please stop. Be honest with yourself and do not play games. Do not fool yourself into thinking God accepts any “good” person. That is not what the Scriptures say. This idea has no basis in anything but the sinfulness of the human heart wanting to deny that it is really that bad.

But, for those who come to the end of themselves and realize they cannot be good enough there is a great gift. God’s Son was born as a man. His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life, performed miracles, fulfilled precise prophecies written hundreds of years before His birth, and died on a cross as God the Father had planned before the world was even created. During His death on the cross God the Father punished Jesus as if He were the person who had committed all of our sins. The Scriptures say (Isaiah 53):

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And this is the gift, God offers us forgiveness. Free forgiveness. And righteousness, the righteousness that Jesus earned as He lived a perfect life. All of this is a gift, absolutely free, if we would place our trust in Jesus. We can never be good enough to overcome the separation our sins have made with God but God has provided a way to cleanse us from our sin if we by faith accept Jesus. This means we must come to a place where we hate our sin and desire Jesus instead. It has to be an intentional response of your will. It will not just happen. It cannot be a one-time-decision, repeated prayer, or walk down a church aisle. It might even follow a period of deep anguish and soul searching. It cannot be earned but it is a free offer:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11)

May Jesus Christ be glorified as the only Savior of men.

barbed wireI read this story today and thought it was a great testimony to God’s wisdom in appointing the suffering of his people for the sake of the Gospel. This story is about Joseph a Masai Warrior and is recorded in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (John Piper and Justin Taylor) as told by Michael Card:

“One day Joseph, who was walking along one of these hot, dirty African roads, met someone who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him. Then and there he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The power of the Spirit began transforming his life; he was filled with such excitement and joy that the first thing he wanted to do was return to his own village and share the same Good News with the members of his local tribe.

Joseph began going from door-to-door, telling everyone he met about the Cross of Jesus and the salvation it offered, expecting to see their faces light up the way his had. To his amazement the villagers seized him and held him to the ground while the women beat him with strands of barbed wire. He was dragged from the village and left to die alone in the bush.

Joseph somehow managed to crawl to a waterhole, and there, after days of passing in and out of consciousness, found the strength to get up. He wondered about the hostile reception he had received from people he had known all his life. He decided he must have left something out or told the story incorrectly. After rehearsing the message he had first heard, he decided to go back and share his faith once more.

Joseph limped into the circle of huts and began to proclaim Jesus. “He died for you, so that you might find forgiveness and come to know the living God,” he pleaded. Again he was grabbed by the men of the village and held while the women beat him reopening the wounds that had just begun to heal. Once more they dragged him unconscious from the village and left him to die.

To have survived the first beating was truly remarkable. To live through the second was a miracle. Again, days later, Joseph awoke in the wilderness, bruised, scarred – and determined to go back.

He returned to the small village and this time, they attacked him before he had a chance to open his mouth. As they flogged him for the third and probably the last time, he again spoke to them of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Before he passed out, the last thing he saw was that the women who were beating him began to weep.

This time he awoke in his own bed. The ones who had so severely beaten him were now trying to save his life and nurse him back to health. The entire village had come to Christ.” (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, p. 99-100)

Amen. This same story has been repeated over and over again throughout the world. God brings suffering into the lives of his servants that their suffering might turn others to know the grace of God in the suffering of his own Son Jesus Christ.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Joseph can now rejoice that through his suffering an entire village has come to know the one and only eternal God. Praise be to God.

This morning I was trying to picture what my foot would look like dead. This is not because I have some sick fascination with death. Yes, it may be true that I enjoy walking in the cemetery but that is because it reminds me; first, that death is a reality and my life will be short; second, that Christ is a reality and I need him; third, that people are dying and there is an urgency for them to hear the Gospel; and fourth, that wealth, fame, and comfort do not matter in the end but only what is done for Christ. So, yes, one day soon I too will die and my foot, along with the rest of me will lie lifelessly in a grave.

But on that day of my final breath I can think of no greater joy than these words: “’Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” These words from 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 are a reference to Isaiah 25:8-9: “He[God] will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”

My joy in thinking about these verses is not that I will one day my soul will be floating around “in a better place” as we often picture but that one day God will restore life to my physical body. My body will be made new and joined to my soul. I will physically step out of my grave and the sting of death which is my sin will be no more. Sin and death will be swallowed up by my God. I, who was once a sinner and under the power of death, will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye. And I, along with everyone else who knew Christ, will step out of our graves and worship Him. We will all say, “Behold!” This is our Savior! This is our Christ! This is the one who is perfect! This is the one who died for us! This is the one who took our sin! This is the one who has forgiven us! This is the one who has made death no more! “This is our God!”

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4 other followers