Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Paul (page 2 of 4)

Measuring Sin

Is it good to take stock of our sin? Should we meditate on it and measure it against God and against the sins of others? Is it right to pay that much attention to sin? I think the answer is both yes and no, depending on how you do it.

Measuring Against God

The kingdom is given to those who are poor in spirit, humble, broken, mourning, and contrite over their sin (Matt 5.3-5). This only comes from rightly evaluating yourself before the throne of a holy God. Before we find any good in the gospel, we must find the bad (Is 6.1-7; Is 66.1-2). God is holy and we are not. Our sin, measured against his purity, means we are filthy before him (Is 64.6).

Measuring against God is a good place to start. It makes us realize our need for a Saviour who will take all our sin and pay all our guilt (Is 53.4-6).
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The Sufficiency & Centrality of the Gospel

Looking Back

Looking back over the last few years of my life, there has been really only one significant doctrinal change so far as I can see. And even that doctrinal change hasn’t been a change of mind so much as a change of priority.

The biggest change in my theological worldview has been an increasing awareness of the expansiveness of the gospel and its ultimate sufficiency. But rather than reflecting here on being gospel-centred (there are lots of other places you can read about that), I thought I would simply identify a few of the key events God has used to help me realize the ongoing significance and relevance of the gospel for all of life.

1. The Toronto Pastors Conference 2010

The keynote messages preach by Mike Bullmore were especially used of God to help me see the sufficiency of the gospel for all of life.

2. Preaching through 1 Timothy

Preaching through the book of 1 Timothy taught me to see just how ‘gospel-centred’ the apostle Paul was in his approach to pastoring. Throughout the book he insists that Timothy protect the right doctrine of the gospel of Jesus because it alone is what changes lives. No matter what pastoral problems the Ephesian church was facing, Timothy’s charge was one and the same: protect the gospel, because that’s why the church is there, that’s what saves sinners and teaches them how to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

3. Sitting Under the Faithful Preaching of a Faithful Preacher

One of the incalculable blessings of being in a church where more than one pastor preaches is the blessing of sitting under the ministry of another man as he teaches the word. For the 13 years or so before planting GFC I sat under the ministry of Pastor Paul Martin. While there are many things which mark his ministry, none is more prominent in my view than this: he is a man faithful to preach the word. What the word says, he says. The effect of sitting under that week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year can only be known in eternity. But over the last few years in particular, I have been profoundly affected by the bigness and the omnipracticality of the gospel as Paul preaches. I hope, by God’s grace, to be able to replicate that for our people in our church plant.

Looking Forward

I pray that this trajectory of growth in understanding the gospel in new and dynamic ways through all of Scripture will continue. I also pray that my ministry will continue to grow, like the apostle Paul’s, to be one that is rooted and grounded in the gospel. The truth of the good news of what God has done for us in Christ must be the guiding principle for all my decisions, words, and actions as a pastor.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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.

The Answer to Everything

I’ve been preparing lately to begin preaching through the book of 1 Timothy at GFC. Any time you begin a new book, there is always a lot of background reading that you have to do to set the stage for where the book is going to take you. Most of what you read never makes it into the sermons, but it helps you understand what are the main themes of the book, what’s the historical context, what’s the background of the people being talked about, and things like that.

In particular, I’ve been reading today all kinds of speculation about what the doctrinal problems were that faced Timothy and Titus in their local churches. Since Paul doesn’t specify in any of the three letters exactly what the heresy is that they’re dealing with, we’re left to fill in the gaps by putting together hints and drawing inferences — not ideal exegesis.

Anyway, this thought struck me as I was reading: ‘Isn’t it interesting that God never details for us what the doctrinal problem was; I guess he didn’t want us to know. I wonder why that is…?’

Then I got to a particularly helpful section of Mounce’s commentary where he says, basically, it doesn’t matter on one level what the issue was; Paul’s answer to everything is the gospel.

Ding! The bulb above my head flicked on.

The very fact that the individual errors aren’t highlighted serves to draw those problems to the background and highlight the one great thing that’s the answer to everything: the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s the point. No matter what the problem is in your local church, the answer is always found in a right understanding of what God has done for a fallen people in his Son Jesus Christ, by the power of his Holy Spirit.

And here’s how Mounce concisely summarizes that glorious gospel, the answer to everything:

God has acted in grace and mercy through the death of Christ with an offer of forgiveness, to which people must respond in faith, turning from evil, receiving empowerment through God’s Spirit, and looking forward to eternal life. (William D. Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles, WBC v.46, lxxvi.)

So if you want to be a part of the answer instead of a part of the problem in your church, ask yourself this: Am I focusing on the gospel? Is the gospel part of my conversation? Do I speak it with others? Is it an essential part of my ministry in my local church?

The gospel is glorious truth, and one that we can never major on enough. That’s what Timothy and Titus had to be reminded of and that’s what we must remember.

Praying for Each Other

Wednesday night at GFC we had our monthly meeting for the men and the women. Usually our Wednesday night meetings are times for the whole family, with our kids program in full swing. On the first Wednesday of every month, however, we have a meeting where we aim to build relationships between the men and between the women.

In the past we’ve separated the two groups from the beginning and had separate studies on biblical manhood and womanhood. This year (since September) we’ve mixed it up a little and kept everyone together to study some issues that relate to all of us and how we relate to each other as men and women. These times have been quite beneficial.

This past Wednesday, since Paul was sick and unable to teach, we took a break from teaching and took some extended periods of time to read Scripture publicly and to meditate on the truths that we had read as we responded in song (thanks to Joshua for his extra work!). We sang lots, and read lots of Scripture, which was a tremendous blessing. 

But the part that I just about always find to be the greatest blessing is spending time in corporate prayer. What a blessing to be able to pray with God’s people! What an encouragement to hear them intercede for me and for each other!

Of course, one of the greatest hindrances to praying for your brothers and sisters is simply not knowing how to pray for them. Here is the handout that we used on Wednesday to spur us on to pray biblically. It’s simply a small collection of Paul’s prayers from the New Testament. Reading through passages like this really does help you to realize Paul’s priorities–and what our priorities in prayer should be as well!

I hope this might be of some value to you, as it has been to me: 

How Should I Pray for My Brothers and Sisters?

When Gifts, Then Quarrels

Kids love Christmas… and kids love Christmas presents. Just about the only thing that’s better than getting a great Christmas gift is getting a Christmas gift that’s better than any of the gifts your siblings or friends got. Nothing ruins a good gift quicker than realizing that someone else got a better gift.

Kids and earthly-minded churches aren’t all that different.

Apparently, the churches to which James wrote (Jas 4.1-3) weren’t the only ones who struggled with the presence of gifts (or lack thereof) and quarrels. It struck me the other day that the apostle Paul was keenly aware of the danger here.

The potential for gifts given by the Father to his spiritual children to become an issue over which to quarrel is quite strong. And yet, just as no human father would desire for his good gifts to be used as weapons of war between his children, so also the heavenly Father desires for gifts to be a blessing to all, not a source of division. Paul warns against this reality time and again. For example, take Romans 12.

Before the apostle lists some of the spiritual gifts given to the church in Romans 12.6-8, he begins by emphasizing humility:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Rom 12.3)

His next step is to argue that the church is one body in Christ, built by one Spirit. Even though the members of the body have different functions, they are still one (Rom 12.4-5). Once he has listed the gifts, he returns his focus immediately to maintaining peace in the church (Rom 12.9-21).

Why book-end a listing of gifts with admonitions to humility, love, honour, empathy, and grace? Because the opposite of all those virtues is fleshly reaction to seeing others blessed in ways we ourselves would like to be blessed. Without love, humility, etc., we would quickly become like a jealous boy or girl on Christmas morning, complaining that our gifts are not as good as another’s.

So what should we do? We seek the best gifts, but acknowledge that whatever comes is a gracious, undeserved gift from our sovereign Father who desires our good. Then, when our brothers and sisters are blessed beyond us, we rejoice with them as they rejoice! We celebrate that the body has been blessed and will be blessed through the gifting of that individual for ministry to the church-at-large. That is what our heavenly Father desires.

All-Male Eldership, Part 6: Concluding Thoughts

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.

Conclusion

It has been the intent of this series to present several of the exegetical arguments for the complementarian position. Admittedly, some arguments are more persuasive than others, but we have been firmly founded in the God-breathed texts from the Old and New Testaments throughout.

We have not claimed to have all answers for all questions, nor have we come close to providing exhaustive definitions, arguments and proofs, so as to close the case—that was not the intent. What was desired has been accomplished, however, and the Scriptures have been allowed to interpret themselves in order to present the reader with a broad view of how God inspired his writers to structure the husband-wife relationship.

Since this has been a presentation of the classical interpretation and the plain reading of all of the passages mentioned, a personal plea to the reader must be made:

Do not allow yourself to be swayed away from the doctrine of Paul, Peter, and the historic Christian church by any showy argument.

If there is any temptation to move to a novel egalitarian position, scrutinize motives in agonizing detail: Why do you desire to depart from the biblical teaching?

Examine arguments carefully: Are they logical? Are they consistent with the style and intent of arguments of biblical writers? Are the criteria used biblical in nature?

And most importantly: Make sure your position is derived from Holy Writ and nowhere else. No other text is God-breathed, and no writer since John has been inspired. We may be absolutely sure that God’s will (at least at one point) was for wives to submit to husbands. We may not in any sense whatever be certain that it was ever or ever will be God’s desire for a husband-wife relationship to exist without headship and submission.

Seriously consider: Where does the burden of proof lie? The argument must not be framed in a way so as to make complementarians the ones who must give an explanation why we believe what we do, since what we believe is plainly revealed in Scriptures. The burden of proof clearly lies on egalitarians.

For those swayed by the “cultural exceptions” type arguments, let me ask you this: Just for a moment, put yourself in Paul’s place, wanting to lay down clear and binding regulations for the male-female relationship for all Christians everywhere… how would you present it? Would you refer to the creation order and why we were each created? Would you refer to the relationship of man and woman prior to the fall? He did. Would you refer to the undoing of the curse in redeemed Christian relationships? So did he. Would you refer to the inner workings of our Triune God? That was Paul’s approach. So now, let me ask you, what could Paul have referred to that would convince you that this commands are binding for all time? There is nothing left! You’ve rejected every God-breathed reason that has been given.

If we complementarians are wrong, it is because we have attempted to stick too closely to the revealed will of God. If egalitarians are wrong, it is out of desire to abrogate the commands of God in order to appeal to a feminist and pluralistic culture. Clearly, unless there is absolutely not one a single doubt anywhere in your mind that an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture is correct, it only makes sense to remain a complementarian with Paul, Peter and the 2000 years of church history that has followed them. May we all be able to stand before the judgment throne of God one day and be cleared of any charge of adding to or subtracting from all the words of his divine self-revelation.

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