Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Doctrine (page 2 of 6)

On the Creation of Women

In the beginning God created all things, but according to Genesis 1, the climax of God’s creation was humanity. God literally ‘saved the best for last.’ He made them alike, male and female, in his image, after his likeness. He created them with distinct beauty and inherent value and dignity. They were (and are) equal, but different.

Does the Bible Attribute Less Value to Women?

Sometimes skeptics try to make the case that the Bible runs women down of makes little of women. In my study last week, however, I was reminded of just the opposite. Here, in point form, are some of the evidences from the creation account of how highly Scripture views women.
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Newsflash: The New Testament is Shorter

Call me Captain Obvious if you like, but the New Testament is shorter than the Old Testament. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that in some sense the length of the two covenant documents speaks to the relationship between the covenants themselves and what is required of the people who are part of those covenants.

Simply asking the question, ‘Why is the New Testament shorter?’ helps us to see the nature of the covenants in contrast. For example, here are at least two parts of the answer that I would give you to that question:

1. There are no genealogies in the New Testament

One of the things that makes the Old Testament longer is the accumulation of stories of family lines. So, for example, the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 is vital because it records God’s preservation of the line of Judah. The Old Testament is filled with both genealogies and narratives that preserve bloodlines.

The New Testament, on the other hand, has no genealogies (except for that of Jesus, which is the climax of the Old Testament). There are no stories of fathers and children, no stories of family lines being preserved.

This makes the New Testament shorter. It also illustrates one of the fundamental differences between the covenants. The older covenant was passed on from generation to generation through bloodlines and families (Gen 15.3-5), while the newer is passed on through gospel proclamation and faith (2 Tim 2.2). Therefore, the New Testament simply has the book of Acts which records how the gospel was proclaimed and believed. That’s all there is for narrative. There is no ongoing record of families which must be saved because God’s people will now be made up of ‘all nations’ as they become disciplines… adopted children.

2. There is no case law in the New Testament

A second reason why the Old Testament is longer is because Moses and many prophets after him are forced to belabour the teaching of the Law in any and every imaginable context (and even some rather unimaginable ones!). Every time I read through the Old Testament I’m amazed at some of the case law and think to myself, ‘Really? Someone did that? And they needed to set a precedent law against it?’

In the New Testament, however, there is a distinct lack of laws (note: I didn’t say distinct lack of Law). You would think that as the New Covenant was being received and applied across cultural boundaries and geographical regions and religious backgrounds there would be a lot more Acts 15-type-moments. But in reality, there aren’t, simply because the New Covenant isn’t about setting case law. That’s not the nature of this covenant.

For example, when the Corinthians ask Paul about whether or not they are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he does not deliver case law that is binding on all Christians. Rather, he holds up the ideal of freedom and then allows it to be swallowed up by the law of love so that individual Christians simply cannot answer the ethical question without coming face to face with the question, ‘What is love and am I willing to be governed by it?’ (see 1 Corinthians 8-10). He does the same thing again when it comes to the exercise of spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). Love is the law that governs all of Christian behaviour in the New Testament (John 13.34-35).

And so it is written…

When you’ve only got one law that trumps in any and every situation, and you don’t have to record genealogies and family histories spanning thousands of years, you can write a much shorter covenant document. Which is precisely what we have.

How Do You Feel About Predestination?

Abraham & Isaac

The doctrine of God’s electing individuals to salvation, apart from any good in them (either actual or foreseen) is known as unconditional election (o predestination). It is exemplified in Isaac’s twin sons: ‘…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”‘ (Romans 9.10-13).

Predestination is a doctrine that is often at the centre of controversy. And too often the controversy could be quelled, if not quenched, by a calm tongue and a gentle answer (Prov 15.1). But too much of the time those who believe the most strongly in predestination are (rightly or wrongly) associated with pride and arrogance and preachiness, rather than humility, gentleness, and love.

But that should never be.

That’s just one of the reasons why I loved reading this in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith the other day:

The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)

That’s a big mouthful, but basically it’s saying that this isn’t a doctrine to be wielded like an ax, to wound our enemies, but should be applied carefully, like a balm to give courage to wounded souls, and like a call to worship for those who embrace it and are humbled by God’s grace. For those who know the doctrines of grace and love them, this should be the very thing which calls forth our humility and our worship like nothing else. It should never be a source of pride and it is not a doctrine to be handled flippantly.

So how do you feel about predestination? Does it make you condemn those who don’t understand it? Or does it make you marvel at God’s mercy?

On Every Page, Behind Every Line

The Big Question

Regardless of what age or part of the world you live in, one of the most central questions of the Christian faith is this: ‘Who is Jesus? Is he really God? Does the New Testament really teach that?’ While every orthodox believer quickly and heartily affirms that Jesus is in fact divine, many believers struggle with how exactly to prove that to friends & neighbours.

An ancient manuscript

While the New Testament does at times simply refer to Jesus as God (see the list here), frankly, it can be hard sometimes for many Christians to find passages that express as clearly and succinctly as we would like that Jesus is God. That’s in large part because the writers of the New Testament simply were not writing a systematic theology. They were writing to real people with real life problems and real church problems. So what we find is that more often than not the New Testament authors are addressing life’s issues in such a way that presumes the deity of Christ, without necessarily spelling it out for us.

The Basic Truth

So it’s kind of like me writing to you about how to play hockey. I may write about learning to shoot, pass, block shots, throw body checks, win faceoffs, and maybe even skate, but all the while I might not explicitly state that ice is actually frozen water. It’s understood. It’s the basis of all that we’re doing. You can’t play hockey without ice (at least not real hockey), and you can’t live as a Christian without knowing that Jesus is God.

All that being said, on every page, behind every line, this majestic truth stands: Jesus is the promised incarnation of God, the Son of God, the one who reigns. He himself is to be worshiped and served as God, because he is God. And that truth is everywhere, upholding and undergirding everything.

Here’s one little example from the passage we studied last week at GFC (1 Pet 5.1-4). In that passage, Peter admonishes elders to ‘shepherd the flock of God that is among you’ in a way that honours and pleases God, since all will be called to account. In particular, those who shepherd in this way will ‘receive the unfading crown of glory’ at the end of all things. Why? Because they have represented the true Shepherd, the ‘chief Shepherd,’ Jesus Christ.

You can read that quickly and move on, or you can stop and ponder what it means that Peter has just called Jesus the ‘chief Shepherd’ when he thought about the ‘flock of God.’ Those images are loaded with meaning from the Old Testament.

The Necessary Background

Psalm 78.52 says that, in the Exodus, ‘[God] led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.’ As you follow the Bible’s storyline it’s not long before you get to passages like Jeremiah 23-25 and Ezekiel 9 which speak words of condemnation on those who were supposed to be shepherds of God’s people (cf. Zech 10.3). Because they failed, the flock was scattered in exile. When the prophets speak of a return from exile, notice the language that is used:

I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. (Micah 2.12)

Like the first Exodus, this return from exile will be an expression of God’s deliverance, bringing his people, like a flock, to himself. But here’s what’s so significant: It is always Yahweh himself who will come as Shepherd. It is clear that when this great Shepherd comes to gather God’s people, it will be none other than God himself who brings the deliverance.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. (Micah 5.2-4)

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:9-11)

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ (Jer 31.10)

As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. … And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek 34.12; 31)

So behind Peter’s simple statement that the ‘chief Shepherd’ is Jesus lies a whole theology of the deity of Jesus, the Promised Divine Shepherd, the one who brings the deliverance of God’s people in the true Exodus. It’s on every page, in every line, behind every thought. Jesus is God.

Our Big Problem

But perhaps, in light of this example (and so many others like it), the reason why we don’t see the deity of Christ in the New Testament as clearly as we ought is not because we do not know our New Testament, but because we do not know the Old Testament like we ought. So here’s a suggestion: If you want to get to know Jesus better and see him more clearly, as the New Testament authors saw him, maybe you need to read your Old Testament more.

Does the New Testament Refer to Jesus as ‘God’?

Does the New Testament ever simply refer to Jesus as ‘God’? Absolutely! Though it is not the usual manner of asserting the divinity of Jesus (see here for a discussion of the diverse ways the NT speaks of Jesus as God), yet the NT does on several occasions simply ascribe to him the title ‘theos’ (the Greek word for ‘God’ typically reserved for God the Father).

Many texts are debated as to whether or not Jesus is referred to as theos (θεός), but the ones which most certainly do refer to Jesus as  are as follows (taken from the ESV):

John 1.1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 20.28: Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Rom 9.5: To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Titus 2.11-13: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Heb 1.8: But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

2 Pet 1.1: Simeon a Peter, a servant b and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are, of course, more texts which are debated, as to whether they refer to Jesus as Theos or not. The ones listed above are, however, the most certain grammatically, logically, and theologically.

I hope that bolsters your faith. The one we worship and serve, the one who saved us, the one for whose return we wait — he is true, Almighty God!

For more discussion on the texts above and several other debated texts, see Murray J. Harris, Jesus As God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Baker Academic, 1998).

Jesus is So Obviously God

The Holy TrinityFor those who have eyes to see, it couldn’t be clearer: Jesus is God. It’s everywhere in Scripture.

Of course there are a few key proof texts that can be used in isolation, but really it is the whole storyline of the Bible that, when brought together, can leave us with no other impression than this: Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God because ‘in him the whole fullness of deity dwells’ (Col 2.9).

I see this all the time in studying, but thought I’d just share this one because it struck me as particularly glorious today.

I’m studying to preach the last half of Mark 10 (verses 32-52). In this section Jesus prophesies his coming death and resurrection, in which he will bear the wrath of God (handed over to the Gentiles, drinking the cup, enduring the baptism — all biblical images for the wrath of God) in order to ‘ransom’ (could also be translated ‘redeem’) ‘many.’

Now, right away that should stick out to us for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is Psalm 49.7, which says, ‘Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life.’ So how can Jesus, then, if he is just a man, ransom ‘many’ with his life? Something bigger is clearly happening here. That gets drawn out more as we turn to Isaiah 44.

The burden of this section of Isaiah (40-48) is twofold: (1) God will redeem his people from exile — a second ‘Exodus’; and (2) the fact that he announces beforehand what he will do is what clearly sets him alone apart as God. That God has the power to act to redeem his people and the ability to declare the future before it happens are the two things that make it clear to Israel that he is God and there is no other.

So I find it pretty awesome that in Mark 10, just before Jesus enters Jerusalem to be rejected by Israel he is (1) declaring that he will redeem his people, and, (2) declaring it in advance, before it comes to pass. For anyone with eyes to see, it’s there to be seen.

What I love though, is that if you read Isaiah 44 in light of Mark 10 and Jesus’s impending conflicts in Jerusalem, it becomes even more glorious:

  • I am the Lord … who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish (Isa 44.24-25)
  • [I am the Lord … who says] of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ (Isa 44.28)

Isn’t that exactly what Jesus is about to do, beginning in the very next chapter? Confrontation after confrontation with the ‘wise’ of Israel, until no one dares to ask him any more questions, because he turns them back in their ‘wisdom,’ making their foolishness evident to all (Mark 12.34). And isn’t the very charge brought against him by the Sanhedrin that the temple will be destroyed (Mark 13) but that he will ‘lay the foundation’ and rebuild it (Mark 14.58)?

As the narrative of Jesus’s life unfolds, the gospel writers make it clear for any with ears to hear: this Jesus does what God himself said only he could do. From the forgiving of sins and the cleansing of sinners to the ransoming of a people and the rebuilding of the true temple, all has been declared ahead of time that when Jesus comes we will know that in him we see our God.

Saved Through Childbearing (1 Tim 2.15)

Yesterday, Tim blogged his interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.15 — an admittedly difficult verse. Mary Kassian responded with her take on the verse, which was somewhat different than Tim’s (although, the practical import of the differing interpretations is probably negligible.

I’m thankful for the discussion on the passage, which is tough on any understanding, so I thought I’d contribute my 2 cents. Here’s the passage in question:

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (ESV)

The Context

Before getting to verse 15, let me offer a word on the passage. Paul is very clearly addressing the church with very plain, straightforward instructions on how they are to function in a normative sense. He is hoping to come to them soon to give these instructions in fuller detail, but in case he is delayed, he wants them to know how to behave right away (1 Tim 3.14-15).

Furthermore, all these instructions on how the church is to operate (their ‘godliness’) is to be built on the foundation of the ‘mystery’ of Christ, which is the gospel (1 Tim 3.16). That’s what he’s doing in this whole section of the book, so that’s what we can expect to find here. In other words, we won’t here find temporary fixes based on temporary principles, nor will we find allegories or metaphors, but plain pastoral instruction on how to behave because of the gospel.

The Instructions

Now, to our section. Verses 11-12 give the instructions: women must not teach or have authority over men, but should learn quietly, with all submissiveness. Now, don’t miss the obvious. Paul actually commands women to learn in the churches. That is stunningly ground-breaking. Women were not typically allowed to learn, but Paul here commands it. He wants women who care about theology because they love their God. Nevertheless, they are to learn in a manner fitting their role as women.

The Reason

If verses 11-12 give the instructions then verses 13-14 give the reason for the instruction. Paul, a wise pastor (like a wise parent) won’t give blanket instructions with a ‘because I say so’ attitude to a church that loves him. If they are to obey God in a way that honours him, they need to know why this type of behaviour honours him. So he expresses that this was always God’s order–it’s the way God made it. Why did God make it like that? He doesn’t answer here. The mind of God is the mind of God. But we know what we need to know to honour him: he made it this way on purpose, and we’ll do well to keep it that way.

What’s significant about God’s order in this context, however, is that it was inverted in one famous instance: the fall of humanity. There Satan dishonoured God by ignoring his order, and encouraging Eve to do the same. When Paul says ‘Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived,’ he’s not saying outright that Adam wasn’t deceived, and still less is he saying that women in general are more gullible than men. Anyone with a half a brain and a few years’ worth of living under their belt knows that there are just as many gullible men out there as women. What is Paul getting at then? In saying that Eve was deceived, he’s emphasizing that it was Eve that Satan came to; it was Eve who was tempted; it was the woman who took the lead. Satan inverted God’s roles and brought destruction and death to all mankind.

So the instructions are don’t invert God’s order in the male-female relationship in the church. And the reason is that this is the way Satan operates to bring disorder and destruction. But again, as the gospel-centred pastor that Paul is, he will not simply draw out principles and command them without rooting them in the gospel (remember the pattern of 1 Tim 3.14-16). That would be to motivate by law, not gospel, and in the NT it is grace that compels obedience (cf. Rom 6.1-14). So verse 15 offers the gospel hope which is to undergird all of our actions in maintaining role distinctions within the church.

The Gospel-Hope which Compels Endurance

Paul, building on his case from Genesis 2-3, recalls that even the curse (which would bring a competitive striving for ruling the home between the woman and her husband) still brought a promise of deliverance through childbearing (Gen 3.16). Immediately after the curses, comes these words: ‘The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living’ (Gen 3.20). Before the curse and after the curse, God’s plan was unchanged–women had a role; but it will be cursed with pain now, so that they must endure. Mary would ultimately fulfill this purpose and promise, giving birth to the Saviour of the world, who delivers us from the curse (Gal 4.4-5). The creation of woman in the image of God, the promise of the seed of the woman bringing salvation, and the coming of the Saviour from a woman all give nobility to that role. Paul is reminding the Ephesian women that this is no second class calling, but was the role and the means essential for bringing salvation to men, women, and children worldwide. They will do well to follow in the pattern set in creation and in redemption.

As for the word ‘saved,’ I think it is best to take that in the typical Pauline sense of ‘salvation from sin and judgement.’ But it’s important to see that it’s in the future tense. He is holding out the completion of the work of salvation in a holistic sense–you will be saved, if you endure. The work of salvation will finally be accomplished, if you persevere, content in your role. This fits well with the curse-redemption motif, and with the Satan-temptation motif as well. Just a couple chapters later Paul says, ‘So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan (1 Tim 5.14-15).’ There again we have a reference to biblical femininity and being ‘saved’ from the temptations of Satan who would induce discontentment and uprising from the God-ordained role. Just as Eve would have been saved, and just like younger widows will be saved, the women of the church will be saved by contentedness in fulfilling their role.

But the trouble with this, of course, is that it seems to make childbearing and role-fulfilling a work necessary for salvation. But the remainder of the verse takes care of that. These women will be saved as they persevere in ‘faith, love, and holiness.’ Those are important concepts, as related to salvation within the letter of 1 Timothy. Paul has already said that the aim of his gospel-protecting charge is ‘love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience (holiness) and a sincere faith‘ (1 Tim 1.5). That only comes from the gospel. Those things that women are called to persevere in are only found in the gospel. Again, in 1 Tim 1.13-14, Paul says of himself, ‘though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy … and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’ So even the apostle Paul had no other hope of holiness, faith, and love, than what is found in the gospel Christ Jesus. The gospel which was, after-all, first prophesied to a woman (Gen 3.16) and first witnessed by women at the tomb (Luke 24.10-11).

Conclusion

So what am I saying? That Paul is laying out a gospel-hope as the foundation for living in godly submission as a Christian woman. Christian women, though called to submission in their role, and denied the role of teacher in the church, are no less human and are in no more need of salvation than men. Their role is dignified, honourable, pleasing to God from the beginning of creation to now, and was used powerfully by God in the redemption of humanity. Women are, at the end of the day, to be saved in the exact same way as men–even the apostle himself: clinging to the gospel of Jesus, and walking in a manner worthy of that gospel.

The ‘self-control’ he reminds them of, then, is merely a concluding word, noting that all of what he has written to women from verse 9-15 can only be carried out as they use gospel-gained self-control to persevere in their role, thus saving themselves from the temptation of Satan and the judgement that follows it.

Again, at the end of all the debate, I really don’t think that the practical outworking of all this will be much different from this interpretation than from Tim’s or Mary’s, but I do think this is probably the best way to understand Paul’s line of reasoning in this text.

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