Paul averred that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NIV). Its source is God. Its value is exhaustive. Its result is practical. That is how the all-wise God intended it.
In the first letter to Timothy, Paul gives his thesis statement that all he wrote in the epistle was to give the young preacher knowledge of how the church was to conduct itself in various matters (1 Tim. 3:15). One of several matters addressed in the letter was what role Christian women were to take in “the household of God” (the church) in matters of teaching and leadership. We read about that in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Here is what we find:
- The Christian woman must receive instruction with entire submissiveness (11).
- The Christian woman is not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man (12).
- The Christian woman is to remain quiet (12).
- There are biblical reasons for this, reasons that go all the way back to creation (13-14).
- The order of creation (13)
- The deception of the woman (14)
- The Christian woman has an honored role to help the church thrive and grow (15).
What is remarkable is the lack of ambiguity regarding this teaching. It is clear and straightforward. No cultural issues or problems are stated to occasion these words. One does not find contradictory instruction in another New Testament context to offset or clarify the words here. Perhaps it is the straightforwardness of the words that have chaffed many who appear desirous of bending truth to fit the culture. Such bending is not limited to this issue, but as the culture regresses from truth more and more matters are getting reexamined in order to change truth to fit the culture.
We must understand that all such efforts, in effect, place human beings as the authority in place of God and Scripture. It causes people to say, “You have read this, but I say unto you.” The problem is that it is not our place to say that Scripture does not mean what it says. That authority belongs to Christ, and He exerts that authority through the men who wrote down His will in the New Testament. It is His voice and their voices that need to be heard. Whoever they say should teach and lead is whose voices need to be heard. Any other voice is speaking without the utterance of God (1 Pet. 4:11).
- If the theory of evolution is true, why haven’t they found any transitional fossils? Charles Darwin, on page 413 of his tome Origin of Species, said, “Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.” Almost 150 years of archaeological digging and an incredible volume of fossil-findings later, the objection should be even stronger!
- If the documentary hypothesis is true, why can’t they find even one copy or fragment? The idea that later scribes and penman wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, some almost 1000 years after the time Moses lived, is widely believed among liberal religious scholars. That there are no copies or fragments of these post-Moses writers has not done much to defuse the zeal of those who teach it. Neither is any attempt given to explain or rebut the many statements in the Pentateuch claiming that Moses wrote them (cf. Ex. 17:14; 24:4-7; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Dt. 31:9-11).
- If the idea of being genetically predisposed to homosexuality is true, where is the genetic evidence of it? The study most supportive of “the gay gene,” conducted in 1991 by Baiiley and Pillard, found 52% of the pairs of identical twin brothers studied were homosexual. A much larger sample size, in an Australian study released in 2000 by Bailey, Dunne, and Martin, found only 20% concordance in identical twin males and 24% among identical twin females. Bearman and Brucker, in 2002, found less than 10% concordance (via Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(3): 524-36; Archives of General Psychiatry, 48 (12): 1089-96; and the American Journal of Sociology, 107: 1179-1205).
- If the idea that a “fetus” is part of the mother is true, why does that unborn one have its own unique genetic code? Not only that, but the unborn can be a different blood type, gender, race, hair color, eye color, and more.
- If the big bang theory is true, what did it and why? Whether it is thought to have been highly concentrated matter, energy, or combination, what force acted upon it? It was there, presumably for an eternity. Why didn’t it “bang” before it did? Why did it bang when it did? How did mind emerge from matter? How did morality emerge from non-morality? How did an explosion or expansion form such order out of chance and chaos?
- If it is true that making moral judgments about others’ behavior is wrong, why is that moral judgment not wrong?
None of these questions is intended to exhaustively address any of the theories or world-views they represent. Yet, so many unquestioningly and blindly accept these premises as fact when they are far from it. Seemingly, the last resort, if ever taken, would be to accept and follow what the Bible says. However, that is the fundamental dividing line. Hebrews 11:6 puts it well, that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
This now famous motto came into the public consciousness as part of a contest run by the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal magazine, BEAT, in 1955. Officer Joseph Dorobek submitted the winning entry with “to protect and to serve.” Nearly 60 years later, it continues to be seen on the side of the department’s patrol cars and serves to “embody the spirit, dedication, and professionalism” of the LAPD’s officers (via joinlapd.com).
With so much animus and distrust of law enforcement in some circles right now, it can be easy to forget their vital role of keeping peace and enforcing the law. Without them, anarchy and violence would reign, with no one to restrain the lawless from violating and harming those incapable of defending themselves. While there are unethical, lawless individuals in every profession, many who hear reports against law enforcement never stop to ask whether there is ever bias on the part of the reporters. Perhaps it is a bias against law, authority, or the perceived power delegated to those wielding a badge. It is good to remember that God has appointed the governing authorities of each locale (cf. Rom. 13:1ff).
God does not have an official position in His Kingdom for watchdogs or police officers to police the actions of others. He made us creatures of choice and He allows us to choose good or evil. While occasionally there are preachers and other members who are self-appointed to such a position, the concept is foreign to Scripture. However, He did organize the church with elders who protect (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2) and deacons who serve (1 Tim. 3:10,13). In fact, all members are to be servants of Christ (Gal. 5:13). Preachers are to preach the word, and when they declare the whole counsel in love (Acts 20:27; Eph. 4:15), they will sometimes convict the hearts of the hearers. Particularly elders, who are commissioned to protect and serve the flock, deserve our respect and esteem (1 Th. 5:12-13). Especially is that vital in an age that disdains authority.
It was an honor for me to serve as a reserve police officer in Livingston, Alabama, for a couple of years in the early 1990s. I was able to see the dedication and sense of honor held by these extraordinary men and women. Let us honor those public servants of God (Rom. 13:6) and those spiritual servants of God (1 Th. 5:13)!
Paul recounted his conversion on several occasions and spoke of his attitude toward Christianity before embracing it himself. Of the many ways he described his pre-Christian life, think about what he said in Acts 26:11. He describes it as being “furiously enraged” at Christians. He ravaged the church (Acts 8:3). He breathed out threats against them (Acts 9:1). He had the power and desire to punish them (Acts 22:5). He was a violent aggressor toward Christians (1 Tim. 1:13). What changed him?
The word of Christ did (Acts 27:14). Jesus taught that among the conditions of heart is the good and honest one (Luke 8:15). The teaching of Christ can change people’s minds and attitudes.
A changed view of Christ did (Acts 27:15). Though Scripture does not explicitly tell us his view toward Jesus before his conversion, His vicious reaction to “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4) reveals that he was absolutely opposed to the view of Christ asserted by the disciples, that He is Lord (cf. Acts 2:36). Yet, on the road to Damascus, encountering Jesus, Paul immediately begins to acknowledge Him as “Lord” (see how Luke emphasizes the Lordship of Christ in Saul’s conversion in the account in Acts 9—1,5,10,11,13,15,17). A person will have a dramatic attitude adjustment toward Christ who comes to acknowledge and appreciate Him as Lord and Master.
A more profound life’s purpose did it (Acts 27:16-21). Christ outlines His purpose for Saul—a minister (16), a witness (16), opening people’s eyes (18) as his own were. Whatever the focus of a person’s life, it is not as meaningful as when Christ is in the center of that focus.
16th-Century Scottish historian, John Knox, wrote, “No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds. Other gods have been as devoutly worshipped; no other man has been so devoutly loved” (Haythum Khalid). That is true for those who come to take Him as He is presented in the Bible. In the public marketplace where ideas are sold and traded, we will encounter people whose mindset toward Christ and His Way mirrors that of Paul’s before He was converted to Him. Our task is to live Him in our lives and, if possible, share His Word. If their heart is good and honest, the Word will change their view of Christ and their view of their life’s purpose. If that happened so frequently in the unfriendly environment of the Roman Empire of the first-century, it can happen in our current culture!
Terrorist madmen shoot up a school in Pakistan and kill over 100 people, mostly children. A politically correct society is close to forbidding biblical teaching on matters that violates its bombastic code. Pluralism (all religious paths are equally valid) and syncretism (blending two or more religious belief systems into a new system) seem to grow more popular in the religious philosophy of a great many. An erosion of morality and ethics seems to daily redefine acceptable norms and boundaries so that things not long ago thought outrageous are now not just tolerated but celebrated. The culture of unbelief and agnosticism spreads while the spirit of humble dependency upon God seems to shrink. When we pause to consider all of this, our head can spin and we can begin to question how this happened and so quickly.
Paul often writes that we are engaged in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-13; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:12). While we will witness violence, hatred, gross immorality, an anything goes mentality, and the like, lost sinners are not the enemy. They embrace the thinking and values of the enemy, but Paul says such people are ensnared and held captive by the enemy (1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:26), “caught” (Gal. 6:1), and “subject to slavery” (Heb. 2:15). New Testament writers pinpoint the source of this enormous problem as:
- The ruler of this world (John 12:31; 16:11).
- The god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).
- The prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).
- World forces and spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12).
- The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19).
Peter simply calls him our adversary (1 Pet. 5:8). In the gospel, Jesus often alludes to him as the enemy. From Christ’s temptations in Matthew 4, we learn that he has been given the power over “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (8). They are his to dispense and disperse (9). New Testament writers pinpoint this domain with its unrighteous thinking simply as “the world” (Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). All who submit to living according to the thinking and values of this world are submitting to this ruler, god, prince, force, and evil one. They are pledging allegiance to his way and being guided by his leadership.
We can see the devastating effect this is having on the peace and the practice of the masses. Yet, we must resist it in our individual lives. Perhaps Paul said it most concisely when he wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Many of the spiritual problems in our lives can be pinpointed to our following the wrong leader. May God give us the wisdom and discernment to see through his destructive schemes!
One of the more ingenious and amusing entrepreneurial moves I’ve ever heard is the company that offers to sell you a star. For a price, you can buy a star and name it for a loved one. The company will send you a gift pack along with registering the star in the name of the one you, the buyer, designate. I have never been able to figure out how that company earned the right to sell something no one will ever visit, hold, or otherwise show tangible ownership of.
When I think about some of the new, strange religious ideas along with some long held, established ones, it reminds me of the folks selling the stars. Preachers and whole denominations offer salvation on their own terms, altering and subtracting from the Lord’s established will as if salvation was theirs to offer. They urge people to pray a prayer or accept Christ in their hearts, guaranteeing them salvation by so doing. Or they tell a seeker that the Holy Spirit will irresistibly come upon them, filling them and by so doing indicate an experience of grace. Or they urge parents to sprinkle their babies, saving them from what they call inherited sin. The problem in all these scenarios is that people are offering what is not theirs to give. Christ has already established the plan that saves the lost person—hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believing it (Rom. 10:10), repenting of sins (Rom. 2:4; 6:17-18), confessing Christ (Rom. 10:10), and being buried in water in order to enjoy the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-4).
The same things occurs with worship. People claim to stand in the place of Christ and tell others what is and is not acceptable to God. They propose changes in who can lead in worship (cf. 1 Tim. 2:11-12), how worship music is to be done (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), and when the Lord’s Supper can be taken (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7). Some would say that dance, weightlifting, incense-burning, drama, and the like are acts of worship God will accept, though they do so without a scintilla of appeal to the New Testament.
When it comes to the will of God, He has exclusive rights over that. Christ does not share His authority with anyone (Mat. 28:18). He makes the rules and determines right and wrong. Beware of anyone who is selling anything else (cf. 2 Cor. 2:17).
“You folks believe baptism is essential, but we believe we are saved when we accept Jesus in our hearts by faith.” “Why does the church of Christ think it is wrong to use a piano?” “You must not like women. You sure don’t let them use all their ‘gifts’ in your worship and leadership.” These are just three random examples of statements of perception made by our friends and family concerning “our beliefs.”
How would you answer these? Even within the Lord’s church, more than one answer is often offered. Sadly, too often the heat of emotion eclipses the light of scripture in these matters. How is truth determined? Is it man’s right to decide what truth is “for him”? Can I have my truth and you have your own, different truths, and we both are right? Please understand that I am not speaking of matters of judgment, opinion, matters that must be determined by principles of scripture, scruples, and conscience. Take the three examples mentioned-baptism, church music, and the role of women. Are these matters that must be decided by mere human judgment, opinions, and conscience? Or can we “know the truth” on these things (cf. John 8:32)?
All of this ultimately boils down to our attitude and approach to God’s Word. Do we accept it at face value and glean from it what it has already said, or do we infuse (insert) into it our predetermined values and desires? Consider the three examples.
Baptism is connected to salvation in the gospels (Mk. 16:16), the history book of the New Testament (Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.), and the epistles (Rom. 6:1-6; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc.). Why would we deny it? Do we really hope to make scripture fit our view by trying to make Bible verses conflict with each other (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31)? If the Bible repeatedly says baptism is necessary for salvation, isn’t that a truth objective and universal? If not, why not?
Singing is specifically commanded in major worship passages like Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. We have no doubt that God wants us to sing. Now, some say that it is a matter of preference whether you sing with or without instrumental accompaniment. I find it interesting that a New Testament writer teaching a New Testament principle makes his point with an example from the first covenant. In Hebrews 7:14, the penman writes, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” Moses did not forbid a man of Judah from serving as a priest. God simply specified that the tribe of Levi was to be the priestly tribe. Was priesthood selection a matter of personal preference? Absolutely not (see 1 Kings 12)!
Women’s role in the church is discussed in the midst of an epistle the thesis of which is that the church may know how to conduct herself (1 Tim. 3:15). Part of that conduct regards women’s role in the church (1 Tim. 2:9-15). The Christian woman is not to teach or have authority over the man (2:11-12). The reason is not tied to Greek culture, but way back to original design at the beginning of the world (2:13-14). When some push for an “expanded” role for women, are they letting cultural pressure of heavenly desire drive them?
Certainly, we cannot be callous or altogether dispassionate in studying or discussing these matters. But, without recognizing a sovereign, divine standard of truth, what are we doing with Scripture? Whether meaning to or not, we are subjugating God’s stated will to our subjective, ever-shifting will. John 12:48 reminds us that the latter will ultimately be irrelevant.