John T. Willis

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Control over Races and Women: This is a Heart Issue

God initially created ALL HUMAN BEINGS equal before God, created in God's image. God created all human beings in his image MALE AND FEMALE, NOT MALE ALONE!!! Genesis 1:26-27 makes this truth crystal clear. But it was not long until some people elevated themselves above others. In our own time, we still struggle greatly with this very issue. In this blog, we will address only two issues very relevant in our time. In subsequent blogs, we will deal specifically with other similar issues about the problem of seeking to gain control over other people. I. Race. a. Throughout human history, different individuals and groups of people have elevated themselves above people of other races. The major issue in New Testament times was the strong hostility between the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul repeatedly addressed this issue. For example, in Ephesians 2:11-16 Paul declared that He [Jesus Christ] is our peace: in his flesh he has made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into ONE and has broken down the DIVIDING WALL, that is the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might created in himself ONE NEW HUMANITY in place ofthe two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to Gid in ONE BODY through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. The very same issue lies at the heart of the hostility between Anglo-Americans and Afro-Americans. Until the 1960s Churches of Christ were segregated. The US government forced us to integrate. We have made some progress along these lines, but have a very long way to go to become the true people of God. b. Throughout the Bible, consistently, in the Old and New Testaments, God's people had slaves. Exodus 21:1-11; 1 Corinthians 7:21-24; Philemon; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-4:1. Why don't God's people today practice slavery? The answer is obvious. God works with people WHERE THEY ARE to attempt to get them WHERE THEY OUGHT TO BE!!! First, God taught his people to think of and treat all people as made in the image of God and creatures of dignity. If people follow God's instructions, they will naturally abandon the concept of making people slaves. Paul beautifully made this point when he reasoned with Philemon about his servant Onesimus: think of Onesimus as "more than a slave, a beloved brother"--Philemon 16. II. Male Gender Domination. a. Throughout human history, various cultures have adopted the idea and practice that men are superior to women. The Bible itself reflects this view. But THIS IS NOT A TRUTH OF GOD AS PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE--OLD OR NEW TESTAMENT!!! b. According to the Bible, God created human beings at the very beginning as "male and female." The term "man" in this text means male and female, not merely male. Gen. 1:26-27. c. The Hebrew term for "the children of Israel"="the Israelites" in the Bible means literally "the SONS of Israel." Obviously, the term "sons" is not a male gender term, but a general term for God's people, male and female. From Genesis 34:7, 25 and throughout the Old Testament, "the sons of Israel" are both males and females. This is a Hebrew idiom, not a gender specific expression. d. Some denominations and individuals insist that 1 Corinthians 14:33-36; 1 Timothy 2:8-15 teach that men must BE IN CONTROL in the church, and thus that women are inferior. For many, many reasons, this idea is not only incorrect, but is contrary to the will and teaching of God. Here are ONLY TWO arguments about this. 1. If women could not preach or pray in public assemblies at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:5 is incorrect, because in that passage, Paul assumes that women at Corinth should lead public prayers and preach for the church if their heads are covered. Is 1 Corinthians 11:5 a contradiction to 1 Corinthians 14:33-36? On the contrary, 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 deals specifically ONLY in a situation when people were speaking in tongues. Pay careful attention to the whole context of 1 Corinthians 14. 2. 1 Timothy 2:8-15 addresses SIX issues. a. Men must LIFT UP HOLY HANDS when they pray. 2:8. b. Women must not braid their hair. 2:9. c. Women must not wear gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. 2:9. d. Women must do good works. 2:10. e. Women must learn in silence with full submission, not to teach or have authority over a man. 2:10-11. f. Women will be saved through childbearing. 2:15. In 2013, how many people and churches demand that men lift up holy hands when they pray in public assemblies? How many people and churches demand that women do not braid their hair? How many people and churches demand that women must not wear gold, pearls, or expensive clothes? [By the way, how expensive is expensive?] How may people and churches demand that all women bear children or else they cannot be saved? If one is going to appeal to 1 Timothy 2:8-15, PLEASE be consistent. It is obvious that 1 Timothy 2:8-15 was addressed to a SPECIFIC church at a SPECIFIC time because of issues which existed AT THAT TIME in THAT SITUATION. It was NEVER intended to be used for people for all time!!! Situational, Occasional, Cultural issues permeate scripture. We must clearly distinguish between what is limited and what is eternal. Two obvious examples are: washing feet (John 13:1-20; 1 Timothy 5:10) and the holy kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). e. Many examples in the Bible show that women preached or prophesied: Miriam: Exodus 15:20-21; Deborah: Judges 4:4; Huldah: 2 Kings 22:14-20; the woman at the well: John 4:39; the seven daughters of Philip: Acts 21:9; men and women specifically named in Acts 2:17-18. f. The same principle applies to shepherds or elders in the church. The New Testament teaches VERY LITTLE INDEED about elders and shepherds. See 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4. Some people insist that this shows elders or shepherds must be males only because of the expression: "husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). However, such an interpretation is incorrect. In 1 Timothy 3:12, Paul uses the same expression about deacons. A deacon must be "the husband of one wife." And yet, Romans 16:1 clearly describes Phoebe, a WOMAN, as a deacon. More recent translators use the expression "married only once." This is non-gender specific, and captures the correct meaning in the Bible. More to come in later blogs. Share YOUR thoughts and insights and drawbacks and questions with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis


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