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

Jesus curses an Unproductive Fig Tree and Heals a Crippled Woman--Luke 13:1-17

As Jesus continued to travel toward Jerusalem, some unidentified people told him that Pontius Pilate had killed several Galileeans. Then Jesus told a parable about an unproductive fig tree. Later, when he was teaching in one of the synagogues in Galilee, Jesus healed a crippled woman. Luke relates these events in Luke 13:1-17. This falls into three paragraphs. I. Repent or Perish. Luke 13:1-5. a. Certain unnamed people in the crowds came to Jesus and told him that Pontius Pilate mingled the blood of certain anonymous Galileeans with their sacrifices. These people from Galilee must have come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the temple. 13:1. b. Jesus responds to their statement. First, Jesus openly states that the Galileeans were sinners and thus deserved death. Many people today resist the clear teaching of the Bible that when we sin, God often punishes us in this life. Second, Jesus told his audience that these sinful Galileeans are not worse that the people in his audience. Therefore, Jesus emphasize that they must repent, or else they will perish just like the Galileeans perished. 13:2-3. c. Then Jesus adds a second example. Jesus tells the well-known story of the people in his audience that the tower of Siloam on the east southward tower above the fountain of Siloam fell on 18 people and kill them as God's punishment for their sins. But Jesus declares that these sinners are not worse that people in Jesus' crowd; thus, the people in his crowds must repent or they will perish just like these 18 people. 13:4-5. II. Jesus Curses the Unproductive Fig Tree. Luke 13:6-9. a. Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a fig tree in his vineyard. This man looked for fruit on the fig tree for three years, but he found no fruit. 13:6. b. Jesus said that the man who planted the fig tree said to his gardener, Cut down the fig tree because I have looked for fruit for three years, and have found no fruit. The unproductive fig tree is wasting the soil. The gardener pleaded with the owner to give the fig tree one more year, then if it does not produce fruit, I will cut it down. Unfortunately, Luke does not tell the audience what this event means. 13:7-9. c. Mark 11:12-13 and Matthew 21:18-22 relate a similar story. Matthew emphasizes the fact that God the Father through Jesus Christ withered the fig tree, and thus if one has faith, God can do anything. Some scholars think that the fig tree is a symbol of the Jews, but there is nothing in any of these texts which suggest this is the meaning. d. Clearly, the main point in Luke 13:6-9 is that God expects all people to be productive. God gives us magnificent gifts and blessings and resources, and expects us to respond by using those resources to glorify God and help other people. III. Jesus Heals and Crippled Woman. Luke 13:10-17. a. As Jesus traveled, he came to an unstated town and went into one of the synagogues and taught. A woman with a spirit that had crippled her for 18 years appeared. She was bent over and could not stand up straight. 13:10-11. b. When Jesus saw this women, Jesus told her that her ailment was "set freed"=healed. Jesus laid his hands on this woman, and immpediately she stood up straight, and then she praised God before the people. Two very important ideas appear in this text in 13:12-13. 1. Laying hands on someone is very, very important. One may lay hands on a person to heal that person, to bless that person, to encourage that person, etc. Unfortunately, we often ignore and even oppose such a gesture. But if one follows the Bible, one will lay hands on other people. For only a few examples, see Matthew 9:18; 19:13, 15; Mark 5:23; 6:5; 7:32; 10:16; 16:18; Luke 4:40; Acts 6:6; 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6; 28:8; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Hebrews 6:2. 2. When God delivers an individual from pain, from sin, from illness, from disability, from enemies, from anything or anyone else, the natural response is that that person should praise God before other people. This crippled woman was a preacher, a witness, a testimony to all people who experienced God's healing of her; now, in turn, she declares God's message to all people. Yes!!! Women, as well as men, are natural preachers of God to bring others to God. c. When God our Father through Jesus Christ healed the crippled woman on a sabbath day, the LEADER of the synagogue became indignant because Jesus healed on the Sabbath Day, and quoted Exodus 20:8-11-Deuteronomy 5:12-15 that God's people must keep the Sabbath. This is just another example of the wrongheaded attitude that LEADERS are Christians. True Christians are followers, disciples, servants, not leaders. The ONLY RELIABLE LEADER is God our Father through Jesus Christ. We must abandon the rage of exalting LEADERS in Christian communities. Such a concept elicits arrogance and all types of sins because of self-centeredness. The LEADER of the synagogue in Luke 13:14 was a "religious" person who quoted scripture. But he was not a servant of God or of the crippled woman or of others. God is looking for servants, not leaders. 13:14. d. Jesus proclaimed that this LEADER was a HYPOCRITE. This LEADER would lead his ox or donkey to water that animal on the sabbath day. Is an ox or a donkey more important than a human being created in the image of God? SATAN had bound the crippled woman for 18 years. Now God our Father through Jesus Christ broke the chains of Satan and delivered this woman. 13:15-16. e. When Jesus made this point, ALL HIS OPPONENTS were obviously put to shame, but THE ENTIRE CROWD rejoiced at all the wonderful things that Jesus was doing. True followers of God see clearly God's work; would-be leaders are self-centered and cannot see God's nature and work. 13:17. Share YOUR problems and losses and aspirations and inclinations with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Political, Social, National, Religious Superiority: This is a Heart Issue

God creates all human beings in the image of God: Genesis 1:26-27. God expects all human beings to be inferior to God our creator and to treat all other human beings as equals, whether they be old or young, whether they be male or female, whether they be one race or another, whether they be wealthy or poor, etc. However, unfortunately, many people on planet earth, individually and collectively, often they feel they are superior to other people and use various means to gain authority over other people. This is why there is much war and division between people. The Bible emphasizes this reality, and clearly declares that this is a HEART problem. 1. Some nations think they are superior to other nations. This was the attitude of Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer of Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s. He declared: "We are the Master Race," we are superior to all other people on earth. Through history, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome felt the same way. Unfortunately, many people in the United States feel the same way. Such an attitude is a sinful heart issue. Yahweh through the prophet Isaiah addressed this issue in Isaiah 10:5-7 concerning Sennacherib and the Assyrians who destroyed 46 fortified cities in Judah. He said: "Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger, the club in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation [Judah] I send him, and against a people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tred them down like the mire of the streets. But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; but it is in his HEART to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few." Even though Assyria SEEMED to be overwhelming, Yahweh was always in control. In Isaiah 10:15, Yahweh explains: a. I am like a lumberjack; Assyria is like an ax to punish sinful Judah. The lumberjack is always in control of the ax. b. I am like a carpenter; Assyria is like a saw to punish sinful Judah. The carpenter is always in control of the saw. c. I am like a parent; Assyria is like a rod to punish sinful Israel. The parent is always in control of the rod. 2. Many people attain a leadership position and then feel they are in control of everyone in their company or church. This is contrary to God's picture as clearly taught in the Bible. If an elder or the eldership dominates a church, this is contrary to God's will. Elders, CEOs, presidents, the works, only have ONE function to work with all other people involved. God through Paul lays out this picture in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. In the human body, an ear is not more important than a hand; an eye is not more important than a foot. Every member of the body is very important. Each member of the body has a function for supporting the whole body. ONLY God through Jesus Christ is the head of the body. See also Ephesians 4:11-16. Any time one use the term "leader" in a superior sense, this is contrary to the will of God as taught in scripture. As one example, see Mark 10:41-45. 3. Many people and groups of people assume they are superior to other people spiritually or religiously. God has CHOSEN Israel to be his own people, and God has CHOSEN the church to be his own people, but he has not done this to make such people superior to other people, but to use them as God's instrument to attempt to save all people. 1 Peter 2:9-10. Jesus emphasized this truth in his parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14. This text says: "He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were rightous and regarded others with contempt. Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." Many people and churches have fallen into this sin. They think they are superior to other people. This attitude is a HEART issue, which must be addressed. Share YOUR insights and dreams and failures and shortcomings with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis