John T. Willis

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Majoring in Minors--Part 3 continued

One matter that some people have considered as MAJOR in the Church of Christ Denomination is that it is unscriptural and thus against the will of God for women to participate orally in a church assembly. This has included (1) sharing thoughts on the Lord's Supper, (2) passing the Lord's Supper, (3) leading singing or music; (4) teaching; (5) preaching; (6) serving as a deacon; (7) serving as an elder; (8) leading the assembly in prayer; (9) baptizing another person; (10) giving a testimony. Depending on an individual and a local church, this list may be much longer.

I. This is based on two New Testament texts: 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15. Of course, one is free to study numerous scholarly articles and commentaries and Bible Dictionaries and monographs on these two texts. One will discover a wide variety of interpretations. Only one blog will never cover or satisfy every thinker. Here are only a few ideas for consideration.
    a. 1 Corinthians 11:5 clearly states that for Paul it was perfectly fine for a woman to "pray or prophesy" in the church as long as her head is veiled. To prophesy clearly means to preach. Thus, at the Corinthian Church, women lead public prayers and they preached. Is this a contradiction to 1 Corinthians 14:33-36. Is Paul contradicting himself? It is more logical to recognize that the problem Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 has to do with speaking in tongues, NOT with leading prayers or preaching. The problem in 1 Corinthians 12-14 is SITUATIONAL or OCCASIONAL. Paul NEVER dreamed that what he was proclaiming was for all churches at all times in all circumstances.
     b. 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is also SITUATIONAL or OCCASIONAL, not an eternal teaching for all churches in all places in all times. Carefully write a list of the instructions Paul gives in this text.
          1. Men should pray, lifting up holy hands. How many churches insist that men lift up their hands when they pray? On the contrary, many people and churches have declared that such a practice is against God's will--against the Bible. How ironic is such a thought!!! Verse 8
          2. Women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing--note that what follows clearly has in mind wearing too much clothing as a show. Verse 9
          3. Women should not have braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. How many people and churches demand that women not have braided hair, wear gold, pearls or expensive clothes? Verse 9
          4. Women should do good works. Paul does not specify what good works involve. This leaves this idea wide open. Verse 10
          5. Women should learn in silence with full submission. Women should not teach or have authority over men. Women are to be silent. Does this mean that a woman cannot engage in a dialogue with a man in church? What is the real issue that Paul is trying to get at? A simple example might be helpful: Was it a sin for Priscilla [a Christian woman] to teach Apollos [a Christian man] to teach the Way of God more accurately? Acts 18:24-26. Verses 11-12
          6. Women will be saved through childbearing. Is Paul saying that if a woman cannot have a child, she cannot be saved? Verses 13-15.
      c. There are several clear texts in the New Testament which show that Jesus, Paul, and composers in the early church taught that women are to preach, teach, and lead God's people. Here are ONLY a few examples.
           1. The four unmarried daughters of Philip who had the gift of prophecy or preaching--Acts 21:8-9.
            2. Peter announces that when the church is established:
                  God declares: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
                                            and your sons and YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY,
                                         and your young men shall see visions,
                                            and your old men shall dream dreams.
                                         Eve upon my slaves, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN
                                             in those days I will pour out my spirit;
                                             and THEY SHALL PROPHESY (Acts 2:17-18).
             3. Paul says in Romans 16:1 that Phoebe [a woman] was a DEACON of the church at Cenchrea.
              4. Paul emphasizes the important role of two women in the church at Philippi: Euodia and Syntyche, worked side by side with Paul in the work of the gospel along with some men as well. Philippians 4:2-3.

II. An equivalent biblical teaching from Jesus Himself is that his followers must WASH ONE ANOTHER'S FEET.
     a. Just before the Jewish religious leaders arrested and crucified Jesus on the cross, Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper and during that event, Jesus washed his disciples' feet. Then he said to them: "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." (John 13:12-15). How many individuals and churches follow Jesus' example and commandment in this text? It is inconsistent to make a major issue about women praying and prophesying in the church and not make a major issue about true Christians washing one another Christian's feet.
      b. 1 Timothy 5:9-10 contains this teaching: "Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old, and has been married only once; she must be well attested for her good works, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, WASHED THE SAINTS' FEET, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way." How many individuals and how many churches insist that they help a widow of that widow has washed the saints' feet? It is inconsistent to make an issue about women participating freely in church assemblies and not make an issue about washing one another's feet.

III.  At least five New Testament texts contain the commandment: "Salute or Greet one another with A HOLY KISS--Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26;
1 Peter 5:14.
       a. How many Christian people and churches obey this commandment to salute one another with a holy kiss? They insist that the proper way to greet people is by a hug or a handshake. This is NOT what the Bible teaches. Why do we not follow the Bible on this matter?
       b. It is not consistent to make a MAJOR ISSUE out of the function of women in church assemblies and not make a major issue about the greeting or saluting one another with a holy kiss.

IV. All of this is to say that throughout history, Christian individuals and churches have Majored in Minors. One of these is diminishing the role of women in the church.
       a. The REAL issue is treating all human beings with honor and respect as creature of dignity because every human being on earth is created in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:26-27.
       b. It has ALWAYS been common to make mountains out of mole hills, to EXAGGERATE a belief or a concept or an idea and to oppress, mistreat, desecrate, disrespect human beings--whether this be a person of another race, a child, a woman, a blind person, a lame person, etc. The Bible emphasizes this truth consistently throughout all scripture, Old and New Testaments.

Share YOUR ideas and reversals and misgivings and dreams and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis



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