Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Brothers Means Brothers

In 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul exhorts the readers of his epistle to "be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong".

In the whole epistle of 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses the recipients as "brothers" 28 times (as in 1:10, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree..."). By a glance at my concordance, I see that Paul addresses his readers in this way, in all his epistles, around 98 times.

The Greek word translated "brothers" is adelphos, which does in fact mean "brother". The ESV footnotes, though, remark in every instance that it could also mean "brothers and sisters". And yep, they even do so in 1 Corinthians 16:13 (right after Paul has told these brothers and sisters to "act like men")!

Though I don't know all the reasoning behind my favorite Bible translation's notes on this, I don't think earlier generations of Christians were too worried that the apostles unabashedly looked to the men of the church to provide leadership for their churches and families. Paul and the other apostles simply understood that this is God's design. Yet men have always been tempted to avoid this responsibility and accountability, and women have always sought to take it upon themselves.

More and more as a Christian woman, and as an older Christian woman particularly, I ponder the Bible's teachings on men and women in the church. Women have a vital role, to be sure, in the church, just as we do in the home and in the world. But I often wonder--what would happen in the church if we women prayed more and talked (and taught) less? (Ouch.) What if we women determined to excel in the task of teaching the Bible assigns us--that of training (or receiving training) in godliness for marriage and parenthood and the home (Titus 2:3-5)? Wouldn't the men of the church be strengthened and encouraged by this? Might it not have the effect, especially through our prayers, of seeing men begin to take more seriously the roles God means for them to have?

Paul tells the brothers he addresses to be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and be strong. I've seen so many Christian women, myself included, very tempted to step up to this plate because of the seeming absence of men who will do so. But it is no accident, and not simply a cultural thing, that the apostles address their instructions mainly to the men of the church. Though Eve fell first (1 Timothy 2:13-14), it was for the man God came looking in the garden (Genesis 3:9). Surely God will be most glorified, and homes and churches will be most helped, if we recognize that "brothers" means brothers.

Monday, October 3, 2011

On Waxing Eloquent Without Knowledge

Comments on Acts 17 from author Michael John Beasley:

"Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man" (Acts 17:29).

The primary verb in this statement is opheilomen [we ought]. This is a word that speaks of one's debt to another, and in the case of man's relationship to God, it refers to our divine obligation towards the Lord who is the Creator and Despot of everything. What Paul states here is... that men are not at all free to entertain thoughts about God that He Himself has not revealed. Implicitly, Paul is indicating to us that it is Scripture, and Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) that must be embraced in order to have an explicit revelation of the One who is, Himself, the exegesis of the Father, Jesus Christ. 

When men wax eloquent regarding their own philosophies and subjective feelings about God's nature, they are violating their divine obligation towards the One who created them. Ultimately, man's lack of freedom to think of God as he wishes mirrors the principal commandments found within the Decalogue [Exodus 20:3-5].

(From  Altar To An Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man by Michael John Beasley)

Why, In Particular, Me?

(An excerpt from an essay on the Banner of Truth website. It talks about something many Christians struggle with: the secret, and often difficult providences of God. You can read the whole thing here.)

There are Christians here who are asking ‘Why?’ They have been walking through a dark valley. They have fallen into a fearful pit. They are being overwhelmed with trials and tribulations and they are not coping very well with them, but they are coping much better than I would if I were experiencing the pain of their providences. I am thinking of child abduction, a car accident, cancer, a genetic illness, a birth deformity, the violence of wicked men, war and religious persecution, the death of our loved ones. 

I was listening to the testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada speaking of her initial suicidal despair when she realised as an 18 year old that she was paralyzed from the neck down for life. She longed for a friend to help her commit suicide, and then one day a fellow teenager came and sat with her. His name was Steve and later he went to the same theological seminary that I went to. She asked him why God had done this to her if God were all powerful and all loving. Imagine as a 19 year old being asked by a paralyzed, beautiful, despairing girl that question. But God helped Steve to answer her. 

He spoke to her of the cross of Calvary where the Son of God was nailed. He also couldn’t move. God allowed wicked men to do that to his Son, and out of it God brought deliverance and eternal life to billions. Steve planted those seeds in Joni’s anguished mind and said no more. God gave him that wisdom. We know, many years later, that out of Joni’s life multitudes have received hope and blessing. Her example and teaching have been life-transforming. But why her in particular? . . . why you in particular? . . . is a secret thing.