RSS

Author Archives: Nathan A. Rinne

“Women and the Pastoral Office” by Christianna Eckstein

 

I am greatly pleased to be able to publish this excellent piece by Christianna Eckstein, who will be entering the deaconness program at Ft. Wayne in the fall.

+++

Introduction

Within the Christian church, it is becoming increasingly common for people to advocate for the ordination of women into the pastoral office. After all, if women can vote and hold the same professional positions as men, then why should they not also be allowed to be pastors? Examination of the Scriptures shows that the pastoral office is not meant to be held by women, even in the modern Western context.

Pastoral Office

In discussing the issue of women’s ordination, it is beneficial to explain what is meant by the pastoral office. Descriptions of the pastoral office are found within the Scriptures, within the tradition of the church, and within the Lutheran Confessions.

Passages of Scripture addressing the Pastoral office

Although all Christians are called to be part of “the priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:9), God has established specific men to be public leaders and minister to the church. The word “pastor” or “shepherd” is commonly used today to refer to those who publically minister to the Christian church by preaching, teaching, forgiving and retaining sins, and administering sacraments in the place of Christ. Paul described this office in Ephesians 4:1 in this way: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” The Scriptures also use the terms “teacher” (Ephesians 4:11), “elder” (1 Peter 5:1) and “overseer” (1 Timothy 3) to refer to this position.

Although all Christians are used by God to proclaim his word (Acts 11:19-21), some men, like the eleven apostles (Acts 1:8), Saul/Paul (Acts 9:15-22), and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3), were uniquely called and sent by God to minister among the people. As the church began to grow, others were appointed to positions of leadership among Christian churches by the apostles. Acts 14:23 says, “And when [Paul and Barnabas] had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” The elders were not appointed by people only. In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the Ephesian elders to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” This notion that God has put certain people in the church to care for the people is repeated in Ephesians 4:12-13a, which says that shepherds and teachers are given to the church by God “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…”, so that Christians may be freed from false doctrine and instead grow into Christ.

There are certain things that these pastor or elders are supposed to carry out. Paul states that it is vital that pastors hold to and teach sound doctrine in 1 Timothy 4:6-16, 2 Timothy 1:8-2:19, 4:1-5, and Titus 2:1. In 1 Peter 5:1-3, elders are told to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

Various qualifications for elders and overseers are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16. These qualifications include certain marks of good character and maturity. Some of these qualifications are that one should be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 2), “he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). The individuals who fulfill these positions are men.

Historical

The Christian Church continued to appoint men as pastors in order to lead and take care of congregations.[1]  The ordination of men to this office usually involved the laying on of hands. As the course of Christian history progressed, “there developed in time seven orders of clerics, all of whom were ordained.”[2]

Lutheran Confessions

The Lutheran Confessions speak about the nature and purpose of the pastoral office.  Article V of the Augsburg Confession is on the Ministry. It begins by saying: “So that we might obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.”[3] The article continues by saying that the Holy Spirit works through these means when and where he pleases and that this happens on account of Christ and not by sinful human merit. This article confesses that the ministry is instituted by God, bound up with the means of grace, and is given for the justification of sinners. Article V immediately follows the article on Justification in which it is explained that sinners are justified on account of the works of Christ through faith.

Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession addresses who ought to fill the roles of distributing the Word and Sacraments in the church. It reads: “Our churches teach that no one should publically teach in the Church, nor administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.”[4] This posits that one cannot appoint themselves as the pastor of a church, but that there must be an orderly way to call that person into the office. This ordered call is not tied to a certain ceremonial event or to specific governmental structure, the latter of which is addressed in AP XIV. This rightly ordered call is something that belongs to the Christian church wherever the word and Sacraments are properly taught and administered.

The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope addresses the Church’s role in ordaining pastors in the section titled The Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops. After acknowledging the priesthood of all believers, it explains that it is right for the Church to appoint pastors “since it alone has the priesthood” (Treatise 69).[5] The Treatise explains that pastors where often elected by the people and then affirmed by another bishop by the laying on of hands. Other ceremonies have since been added. In response to the abuse of the structure of the church at the time, the Treatise says, “Therefore, when the bishops are heretics or refuse to administer ordination, the churches are by divine right compelled to ordain pastors and ministers for themselves by having their pastors do it” (Treatise 72).[6]

Article XIV of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession emphasizes that the ministry is not tied to a specific order or succession of the laying on of hands, but rather to the Word and Sacraments. In the article it is explained that, even though the signers to the AC want “to keep Church orders and ranks”[7] that were invented by people for the process of ordaining people into the pastoral office, they are free to do so apart from the Roman Catholic church since some of their bishops had been urging priests to reject the doctrine being taught by the reformers along with other abuses. This article asserts that the order of ordination practiced in the Roman Catholic Church was not necessary for making new priests and maintaining the true Church, but that “the Church is among those who teach God’s Word rightly and administer the Sacraments rightly.”[8]

Article XXVIII of the Augsburg confession addresses the particular authority of the ministry:

Our teacher’s position is this: the authority of the Keys (Matthew 16:19), or the authority of the bishops – according to the Gospel – is a power or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer the Sacraments…This authority is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, either to many or to individuals, according to their calling.[9]

This shows that a pastor’s primary duties are to preach the Word and administer the sacraments.

Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession is about the number and the use of the sacraments. This article also addresses the roles of priests. This article counters the adversaries’ position that the role of priests (i.e. pastors) is to offer sacrifices by saying that Christ was the final sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Consequently, “They are called priests….to teach the Gospel and administer Sacraments to the people.”[10]

Complementarian

1 Corinthians 14:33-35

The view that the role of pastor is to be filled by men and that women are to serve in the church in other ways besides that of the pastoral office will be referred to here are the complementation view. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 is a sedes doctrinae for the teaching that women are not to hold the pastoral office. Before addressing verses 33-35 specifically, it is important to look at the purpose of 1 Corinthians and the literary context leading up to the verses in question. In the opening to his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul addresses a church that is in the midst of confusion and chaos and is experiencing division among its people. Some of the issues that Paul addresses includes the sexual misconduct of a member and the church’s failure to punish this man, how Christians ought to handle legal matters, principles for marriage, the eating of food offered to idols, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, orderly worship, and the resurrection of the dead. Throughout his letter, Paul exhorts the people to be united in the one faith Christ and to flee from immorality.  Leading up to his addressing of orderly worship in chapter 14, Paul emphasizes the unity of the Christian church in Christ, even though the members of the body of Christ are given different gifts and tasks in chapter 12, and then exalts love above the prized gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues.

In chapter 14, Paul then explains how worship ought to be conducted in the church, especially in regards to the use of prophecy and speaking in tongues. In this section the following verses appear: “…As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:33b-35). Paul concludes the section by stating that the words he has written are from the Lord saying: “If anyone should think he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).

This section shows that women are to “keep silent in the churches” and that this command is from the Lord, and so is applicable to the whole church. It is necessary to clarify what it means that women are to keep silent. Paul is not indicating that women are not to make any noise or speech at all, but he is referring to a specific kind of speech. The kind of speech that women were prohibited from exercising was the kind that would demonstrate their authority to teach within the Christian assembly. This can be determined from examining the use of the word έπερωτάω in verse 35.

…[J]udging from the word έπερωτάω (“to ask”) in a significant number of other texts, it is not unlikely that the questions took the form of interrogation and disputation with the speaker on the grounds that the woman wanted to learn. Every experienced pastor and public speaker knows how easy it is for a person in the audience to use a question as an opportunity to instruct, even to undermine the speaker’s message.[11]

The command that women should keep silent in the churches and not ask questions is then referring to a prohibition against a method of asking questions that can be connected to instruction. This use of a form of the word έπερωτάω also appears in Luke 2:46, where the young boy Jesus was asking questions (έπερωτῶντα) of the teachers in the temple and “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47).[12]

1 Timothy 2:11-12

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is another sedes doctrinae for the teaching that women are not to hold the pastoral office. As with the 1 Corinthians 14 passage, it is important to summarize the context surrounding 1 Timothy 2. Paul wrote 1 Timothy as a letter of instruction on how Timothy should oversee the church in Ephesus. Paul explains that he writes this letter to Timothy in order that “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Throughout his letter, Paul exhorts Timothy to hold to the true faith and to beware of false doctrine. Paul addresses various things concerning how Timothy should oversee the church, including the qualifications for overseers and deacons, how one ought to treat elders and widows and how these people ought to serve others, and how Christians ought to pursue righteousness and flee from immorality. In chapter 2, Paul lists various topics concerning how the people of the church should and should not be behaving. Paul urges that people pray for those in governmental authority, for this is pleasing to God. Paul mention here that he was appointed as a preacher and apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He then urges that “in every place” men ought to pray “without anger or quarreling” and that women should not be concerned with outward appearance, but rather with good works. It is within this context that Paul writes the following: “Let a woman learn quietly and in submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). Since Paul is writing this epistle as a way to instruct Timothy on how the church ought to be, and since he asserts his authority as an apostle shortly before giving this exhortation, this command is one that is applicable to the Christian church as a whole.[13] In chapter 3, Paul goes on to list the qualifications for overseers and deacons in the church, continuing the theme of who is and who is not fit to hold certain offices in the church.

In the verses immediately following 11-12, Paul write this as an explanation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith and love and holiness” (1 Timothy 3:13-15). These verses can be especially challenging to readers in a contemporary western context. Because 1 Timothy 3:13-15 is closely connected to verses 11-12 concerning the role of women in the church, it is important to explain the content of verses 13-15. Paul begins by saying that “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” This does not imply that men are superior to or somehow have more value than women, for Scripture show in other places that men and women are equally valued by God (Galatians 2:8). Instead, Paul is referring to the original created order as evidence that women are not to teach in authority over men, but that the proper order is for men to give teaching and for women to receive teaching. One complementarian explanation of this is that that the mention of Adam being “formed first” is not referring merely to the chronological order of creation, but is asserting that Adam was “formed as the first” (πρῶτος ἐπλάσθη), meaning that he had a place of authority over Eve. “Πρῶτος is the predicate adjective and not the adverb. Adam was created as ‘the first.’ He existed some time before Eve was formed. That certainly reveals God’s intention that Eve was not to direct, rule, supervise him, that she was not to be the head, but he.”[14] This order of creation then is connected to how men and women relate to each other:

It is a relationship of equals which has its own intrinsic and organic order and which is not given to interchangeability and mutual reciprocity. It is a relationship of equals established in and through the creating of God, and consists in the bestowal of the self upon another and the corresponding receiving by the other of the one’s self-giving. Adam relates to Eve as the one who gives of himself to her. Eve relates to Adam as the one who receives Adam’s self-giving.[15]

This notion of the man having authority over the woman, and not the other way around, is also touched on by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 where he addresses how men and women ought to display themselves in a way that reflects that man is the head of woman just as “the head of every man is Christ…and the head of Christ is God.” It is not a domineering authority that the Father holds over Christ, but there is a distinction between who begets and who is begotten and between who sends and who is sent. This distinction does not imply inferiority. Also, it is not a brutal authority that Christ holds over people, but Christ makes himself a servant to all, even to the point of laying down his life. Similarly, the headship of men over women is not one of cruelty or brutality, but one of love demonstrated through giving and receiving of gifts.

In the next verse Paul continues: “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” This does not teach that Eve bears the responsibility for the fall of humankind into sin and Adam does not. Elsewhere, Scripture clearly names Adam as the one who brings about the fall of humankind through his fall into sin (Romans 5:12-14, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). One complementarian approach to verse 14 is that Paul is instead showing that there is a distinction between the way that Eve fell and the way that Adam fell, and that this distinction is connected to the question of who has authority over whom. “Adam was not deceived in the manner in which Eve was deceived. See Gen. 3:4-6. She listened directly to Satan; he did not. She sinned before he did. She was the leader. He was the follower.”[16] In other words, Adam abandoned his role as leader when he failed to lead Eve by continuing to hold to the Word of God and instead followed her into transgression, and Eve abandoned her role as disciple when she neglected hold to the teaching of God that had been given to them and instead disobeyed and led her husband to do the same. It seems Paul is referencing the event of the fall into sin as a negative example in connection to the roles of men in women in the church. The argument is that, within the church, men ought to be the teachers of women and women ought to be disciples of men, which is opposite to the events of the fall.[17]

1 Timothy 2:15 is the most difficult to navigate verse of the three. The ESV translation of the verse says, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing –  if they continue in faith and love and holiness.” It can be ruled out on the basis of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9) that this verse means that women are granted salvation through the act of having children. The interpretation that this verse means that faithful women will be kept safe through the act of childbearing can also be discounted, since many faithful women have not survived pregnancy and childbirth. One complementarian approach to this verse interprets the definite article in connection to childbearing (τῆς τεκνογονίας) as referring to a specific childbirth, namely the birth of Jesus. The meaning of this portion of the verse would then be that Eve is saved through the incarnation, virgin birth, and remaining life of Jesus. There is criticism of this approach, however. Charles A. Gieschen posits , “If this was the intended meaning of Paul, however, it is much more likely that he would have expressed it explicitly.”[18] Gieschen suggests that the third person singular subject in the word translated “she will be saved” (σωθἠσεται) and the third person plural subject in the word translated “they remain” (μείνωσιν) are referring to “’woman’ in general…rather than a specific person (e.g., Eve, Mary, etc.)”, as it is “the most natural answer”.[19] Gieschen then suggests that Paul was affirming that the childbearing is not a sinful act, but rather a role that women can righteously take on as they are being saved. Paul was writing this in response to those who were denying the value of marriage (and consequently motherhood) in Christian life. Gieschen writes:

The historical context points to the probability that Paul is affirming childbearing as an important role of women through these words. It appears that some Christians were forbidding or belittling the importance of marriage and procreation in the congregations that Paul is addressing (1 Tim. 4:3)…Thus, in light of the overwhelming testimony of Paul elsewhere, one should not understand διᾶ τῆς τεκνογονίας (“though childbearing”) as the means of salvation but as an important God-ordained role of women established in creation that is not set aside through redemption. The understanding that salvation is not through childbearing but through faith is also clear from the mention of πίστει καί ἀγάπη (“faith and love”). Therefore, Paul emphasizes that women who bear children are not part of the fallen and lost order of creation as some false teachers appear to have claimed, as long as these women remain in faith that shows itself in love (1 Tim. 2:15b).”[20]

Historical Practice

Women have filled many vital roles throughout church history, as those who have prayed for the church, assisted in the instruction of the young and of other women, and visiting people within their homes, there was no large push for women to be ordained as pastors until modern times.[21]

…until the very recent past, the “office” of teaching and of the sacramental ministry, with the jurisdictional powers this implies, has been reserved for men. Of course, there have been historical anomalies, and there have been sects and peripheral groups that accepted women preachers who may have also offered the eucharist. Yet, in its broad central tradition and practice, the church- East and West and in a multiplicity of cultural and social settings- has consistently maintained that to men alone is it given to be pastors and sacramental ministers.[22]

Examples of people in the history of the early church who wrote about the pastoral office as being for men only include Tertullian, Photius, Origen, Epiphanius, Ambrosiaster, and Pelagius.[23] These men wrote in response to heretical groups who were placing women in pastoral roles. These groups included Gnostics, Montanists, and Collyridians.[24] “There were occasional instances into the early Middle Ages when women did serve at the altar. Invariably this practice received stiff ecclesiastical censure.”[25] The practice of women functioning as priests was understood to be against the practice of the church. This understanding was also held by figures in the age of the reformation, including Luther, Calvin, and Wesley.[26] The Quakers notably denied that women were prohibited from speaking in the public assembly and argued that “the authority of the indwelling Spirit gave women equal right and obligation to speak, even in public assemblies.”[27] Wesley tried to distinguish between the Quakers and the Methodists who held to the rule that women were not to speak in the church assemblies with room for exceptions.[28]

During the 20th century, various factors contributed to the rise of the ordination of women as pastors including “theological movements that set the charismatic distribution of the Spirit in opposition to an established office, the emerging egalitarianism of the feminist movement, historical criticism’s distrust of the biblical text, and…pragmatism.”[29]

Egalitarian

Galatians 3:28

The view that women may be ordained as pastors will be referred to here as the egalitarian view. One of the passages of scripture that is often cited[30] in support of women’s ordination is Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The claim is that this verse summarizes the Christian freedom that all believers now possess and that it illustrates that there are no significant distinctions between men and women, even in regards to who ought to carry out the pastoral office. Alvera Mickelsen explains this interpretation of Galatians 3:28 by saying,

Paul’s letter zeroes in on this freedom so essential for Christian growth and experience…Christian men and woman are not to be entangled in a yoke of bondage. Men and women are to preach. Men and women are to make disciples. They are to minister with the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Christ freed men and women to serve, to love, to care for, to strengthen, to support. The Galatians had lost sight of this freedom. Have we?[31]

Galatians 3:28 is also cited (among other verses) as being in support of women’s ordination within A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men, a document prepared within the Lutheran Church of Australia for the purpose of arguing for a “theological basis for the ordination of women and men.” The document reads:

The unity of all believers before God through baptism led to a breakthrough in the way that people of Jewish and Gentile background, and masters and slaves, related to one another. Likewise, the new creation in Christ transcends and transforms any barriers built by humans which prohibit the ordination of women. This new creation in Christ enables women, in the midst of ever-changing social and cultural contexts, to serve in the office of the public ministry.[32]

Prominent Biblical Women

There are multiple examples of women within the Scriptures who have noteworthy positions and are mentioned by name as being helpful to the Church in some way. Egalitarians state that the existence of these women support the claim that it is right for women to hold the pastoral office. Examples from the Old Testament include Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah. Walter L. Liefeld adds “The fact that ancient Jewish society was patriarchal makes it even more striking that [God] chose women” to “have ministries of leadership.”[33] New Testament examples are more numerous. The women who went to the tomb of Jesus are cited as important examples in this context since “Both the angel of God and Jesus himself instructed these women to take to the disciples the most important message that has ever come to human beings – the resurrection of Christ.”[34] The women who received the gift of prophecy (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:17-18) are also cited as evidence in support of women as pastors. Other New Testament figures that are cited include Phoebe, Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche, Mary, Traephena, Tryphosa, and Junia. A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men says the following on the subject:

The Holy Spirit led the early Christians to establish a variety of ministries, such as prophets, bishops (overseers), teachers, evangelists, pastors and deacons. Many of these included women. Women served as prophets in Corinth and in Caesarea by the Sea (1 Cor. 11:5; Acts 21:9). Phoebe was a deacon (minister) of the church at Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1,2), an office occupied also by Epaphras and Timothy (Col. 1:7; 1 Tim. 4:6). Priscilla was Paul’s co-worker in Rome and a teacher of the church (Rom. 16:3; Acts 18:26). Euodia and Syntyche ‘struggled in the gospel’ alongside Paul in Philippi (Phil. 4:3), Mary, Traephena and Tryphosa ‘worked hard’ as the church was established in Rome (Rom. 16:6,12), and Junia was ‘prominent among the apostles’ (Rom. 16:7). The inclusion of women in these significant ministries supports the case for their inclusion in the public office of the ministry today.[35]

1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy

There are various ways in which those who support the ordination of women deal with 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Those who aim to adhere to the integrity of Scripture while affirming women’s ordination tend to say that, because the verses in question were written within particular cultural contexts, the prohibitions against women functioning as pastors are not to be applied universally. Since modern readers exist in a different context than the original audience, the texts are to be applied differently. This allows for the possibility of women’s ordination.

One approach to interpreting 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 so that it does not conflict with the egalitarian position is the idea that Paul wrote this section only in reference to a particular group of women within the Corinthian congregation who were being disruptive during public worship and that Paul never intended to bar all women from acting as pastors. Mickelsen writes: “Paul may be telling wives to stop interrupting the services by asking their husbands what everything means.”[36] In response to Paul’s reference to “the law” as justification for women remaining silent, she writes:

So what law does this passage refer to? It may refer to some of the numerous local laws against women speaking in public meetings. Or it may refer to the rabbinic interpretations of the Old Testament. If the passage is a quotation from the Judaizers, it probably refers to a rabbinic interpretation.[37]

In any case, the conclusion is that the prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14 does not prevent women from functioning as pastors because it was a localized prohibition for a very specific time and place. Elizabeth A. Yates suggests this as the context of the text: “The only certainty here is that silence is demanded of at least some women in this particular case. . . .  Might it be as simple as Paul . . . addressing “those women” at Corinth?”[38] This is also the approach used in A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men.[39]

As similar approach is taken by the egalitarians in relation to 1 Timothy. Mickelsen implies that the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (along with the surrounding verses) was written only to address a specific situation in Ephesus involving the surrounding cults. “It seems that newly converted women from Greek backgrounds of Artemis worship and pagan cultures were particularly vulnerable to the false teachers who came to Ephesus.”[40] The restriction is seen as a culturally specific application of a general principle, like the verses referencing how women ought to dress in the public assembly. Just as it is generally accepted that women can have braided hair and wear jewelry so such practice among Christians is not scandalous, it ought to be acceptable for women in modern contexts to preach and teach as pastors considering the difference in cultural climate.

Those who believe that verse 12 forever bars all women of all time from teaching or having authority over men usually ignore the commands in the other six verses in thus section… If this passage is universal for all Christian women of all time, then no woman should ever wear pearls or gold (including wedding rings) or have braided hair or expensive clothing. Also, they should never participate in a Sunday-school class or any other church meeting.[41]

In opposition to the “headship” interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:13-15, Mickelsen argues that the creation account of Genesis 1:26-28 clearly shows that the man and woman had the same responsibilities over creation, and so implies that there is no headship relationship.[42] Consequently, there is no argument that can be drawn from creation to support a male-only pastorate. She argues that the references to Genesis in 1 Timothy 2:13-15 where placed there solely to address false teachings concerning Eve and the acceptability of childbearing.[43] She also opposes the idea of a God-ordained headship, saying “Male dominance appears in Genesis 3:16 as part of the result of sin.”[44]

Concerning both 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Liefeld writes:

What we may not realize is that not only women’s appearance, but even the very act of their speaking publically had serious implications in first-century society…We need to realize that in Paul’s day a woman’s speaking and teaching in the church could constitute a moral problem and bring shame on the church and on the Lord, thus keeping people from Christ. That is simply not true in most societies today, at least in the Western world. In fact, the situation is reversed: to prohibit women from having the same dignity and opportunity in church as she does in society is a stumbling block to many people. Therefore, by earnestly trying to make the same application (the silence of women) rather than following the same principle (avoiding the shame and dishonor to the husband), we can actually commit the very error Paul sought to avoid- that is, offending people’s moral sensibilities and hindering them from accepting the gospel.[45]

Complementarian rebuttals to Egalitarian arguments

Galatians 3:28

The assertion that Galatians 3:28 demonstrates that women are eligible to hold the pastoral office does not hold up.  Paul is not addressing women’s relation to the pastoral ministry in this verse, nor in any other portion of Galatians. This portion of Galatians is primarily about the common inheritance that all Christians have because of their being in Christ.[46] In his commentary in Galatians, A. Andrew Das writes, “Paul does not speak in Galatians of women as authority figures or teachers in the public assemblies. Affirmations of those sorts of roles go beyond what Paul actually says in the letter to Galatians.”[47] Although Galatians 3:28 does imply “powerful social change,” this does not mean that Paul is teaching that women ought to hold the pastoral office.[48]

Prominent Biblical Women

The various examples of women in the scriptures who have held different kinds of notable positions do not conflict with a male-only pastorate and do not indicate that women ought to hold the pastoral office. In the Old Testament, women like Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah did not prophesy or teach in a public assembly, but in private.[49] These women also were not made into priestesses. The Levitical priesthood was not only restricted to men, but, even further, only particular men within a particular family. God is not hesitant to place restrictions on who holds certain positons of service for his people.

The examples of women from the New Testament are not proof that women ought to be ordained as pastors. Jesus chose only men as apostles. The women that witnesses his resurrection were not made into apostles like the eleven or like Paul, but they spoke of what they heard and witnessed to others. There is no indication that these women began to preach and teach in the Christian assembly like pastors.

In regard to New Testament era prophesying and its relation to woman having authority in the church, the Concordia Commentary on 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon says the following:

The prophesying was by way of exception, to be granted only to those women who had a special charismatic gift from the Holy Spirit and to be exercised in such a way as still to respect the headship of man. And even such charismatically endowed women were apparently barred from the public ministry. Imparting religious instructions in the homes was another matter and a function permissible to the female sex. Perhaps 1 Tim. 2:12 does not forbid a woman to instruct her husband if she is better trained then he, but she ought not to use this opportunity to arrogate to herself authority over her husband.[50]

The commentary also mentions:

When the forthright prohibition of 1 Cor. 14:34 ff. is modified in 1 Cor. 11:5, where the woman is described as prophesying, this concession is prefaced by the reminder: “The head of a woman is her husband” (v. 3). Therefore, whatever the nature of the exception, the different and permanent role of man must be respected. It thus appears that not the limitation but rather the exception is temporary and conditioned by peculiar circumstances [the supernatural charismatic gift of prophecy] prevailing at the time.[51]

Phoebe is described as a deaconess and is not described as having a role of preaching or oversight over a church like a pastor. Priscilla taught alongside her husband in a private setting, not in the church. Euodia’s and Syntyche’s laboring with Paul does not indicate that they were preaching, teaching, speaking, or administering Sacraments within the church. It could plainly mean that these women were helpful to Paul in any multitude of other ways, like tending to the needs of widows, being roles models for other women, or nurturing children (Titus 2:3-4). Mary “worked” (Romans 16:6), and Traephena, Tryphosa were “workers” (Romans 16:12). There is no indication that the work which these women had been doing was that of the pastoral office. In summary, “none of these women preached, led, or taught the church in worship or administered the Sacraments.”[52]

The example of “Junia” is an unreliable support for women’s ordination for several reasons: 1. Ἰουνίαν may be a masculine name, “Junias”, in which case this person has nothing to do with women’s ordination,[53] 2. If the name is referring to a woman, then ἐπισημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλις can simply mean “well-known by the apostles”, in which case this does not support women’s ordination,[54] 3. It is unlikely that ἐπισημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλις means that Junia(s) was an outstanding apostle because this person is never mentioned anywhere else.[55]

1 Corinthians 14

The assertion that 1 Corinthians 14:33b-34a is not applicable to the universal church, but only the unique context of the Corinthian church at that time is inadequate. The general context of 1 Corinthians is that Paul is writing as a called apostle to correct problems within the Corinthian church because the people there are not in line with the right doctrine and practice of the whole Church. Paul applies the law in order to administer the gospel.[56]

The specific context of 1 Corinthians 14 is dealing with how Christians are to act and worship. This is an exhortation for the Corinthians to repent form their current arrogant and disorderly form of worship and to instead carry out, in love, a certain order, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” Women are told not to speak, instructed to learn in quietness, and told not to ask questions in the assembly of the church. As indicated earlier, the nature of these questions is likely a nature of “interrogation and disputation,” and so it is indicated that women are prohibited from a teaching role within the assembly.[57] The prohibition of women asking questions in a way in which they appear as an authoritative speaker to the congregation does not then conflict with the other instances in which Paul allows for women to prophesy and pray in other contexts.[58] Paul indicates that this prohibition of speech and exhortation to learn is not merely local when he says in verse 33 “As in the churches of all the saints, the woman should keep silent in the churches.” Paul implies the divine origin of this prohibition through the use of the words οὐ…ἐπιτρέπεται.

The passive form of the verb ἐπιτρέπω, “to permit,” in the phrase “it is not permitted” (οὐ…ἐπιτρέπεται, 14:34) indicates that God is behind the command, as does the final clause in the sentence, “as the Law also says”.[59]

1 Corinthians 14:38 also indicates that this prohibition is to be upheld when it says, “If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” Again, the passive form of the verb indicates that the one not recognizing the things Paul is writing is not recognized by God.[60]

The prohibition on women taking on prominent roles in worship is also a counter-cultural statement within its original context, since Corinth was come to various cults that included prominent roles for women. “Accustomed as they were to this pluralistic and tolerant milieu, the Corinthian Christians found it difficult to adjust to the exclusive claims of their new faith and were tempted to lapse into syncretism.”[61] So, any claim that this prohibition was written as a holdover of the deeply-rooted tendencies of the cultural context is not accurate, since the cultural context of Corinth was not opposed to a prominent female presence within their religious practices.

There is a need to address how 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 relates to women speaking in the church, as the verses seem to show that Paul allows for women to speak and prophesy in public worship, whereas he later says they are not to speak. How do these verses relate to each other? Lockwood argues that the best explanation for how 1 Corinthians 11:5 and 14:35-36 fit together is that “Paul prohibits the women from speaking in tongues, prophesying, and, a fortiori, authoritative (pastoral) preaching and teaching in the worship service” and that Paul was not encouraging women to prophesy  within the Christian assembly in 11:5 in the first place.[62] Lockwood explains that Paul began “to lay the theological foundation for approaching the issue” of women speaking in the church in 11:5 and then clearly named the prohibition in 14:35-36 in a way that is similar to how Paul approached the topic of the participation in cultic meals in chapter 8-10. In other words, Paul did not immediately spell out that women are to be prohibited from speaking in the Christian assembly in 11:5 because he was addressing one issue at a time and was concerned with covering other topics (headship, spiritual gifts, Christian love, the proper roles of tongues and prophecy) before leading up to the explanation that women are to keep silent in the church instead of speak. [63] This still allows for women to prophesy and teach in other contexts, like in the cases of Philip’s daughters and Priscilla.

1 Timothy 2

In 1 Timothy, Paul is writing to Timothy in order to instruct him on how he should lead and order the church in Ephesus so that it is in accordance with the Christian faith. Paul’s authority as an apostle is apparent from the beginning of his letter.

It is to be clear from the outset that Paul issues directives relative to church affairs on the basis of his apostolic office, not on the basis of a mere personal relationship between the two men. It will also be salutary for the congregation to be aware that Paul’s directives are not unwarranted intrusions but that they are legitimated by his apostolic office. As an apostle, that is, one sent by Jesus, he functions as a representative of Jesus.[64]

The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2 is universal and is not restricted only to the particular context of the original environment to which Paul was writing. One indication of this is the fact that Paul’s writings concerning the roles of women in the church conflicts with the cultural contexts and expectations of his audience. Paul’s expectation that women would be part of the Christian assembly and especially his insistence that women should learn what is being taught in the Church is in conflict with the restrictions put on the discipleship of women within the Jewish world that Paul and many other early Christians were raised with.[65] On the opposite end of the spectrum, Paul’s insistence that women are not to teach in the public Christian assembly conflicts with pagan cultures of Corinth, Ephesus, and other cities that allowed women to function as priests and hold positions of authority. A dual-gender pastorate would be acceptable for the people in Corinth, because it was not unusual for women to hold prominent positions in pagan practices.

Viewed in its historical setting, the limitation imposed on women is both a relaxing of the rigidities of Judaism and a stiffing of the current Gentile flexibilities. The religious position of women in Judaism tended to be harshly subordinate. In the pagan world, however, priestesses had long been common. Besides this, in more recent times women had come to enjoy new and more extensive privileges, including higher education and positions as magistrates. The fact that Paul departs from both areas of his environment indicates not the compromise of middle ground but the independence that asserts and abiding principle.[66]

The universal nature of the prohibition is also indicated by the fact that, instead of referencing a local incident as justification, Paul relates this prohibition to the events of the creation and the fall. “…Since Adam and Eve are archetypes having an enduring descriptive significance for their posterity, male and female, it becomes even clearer that Paul is not speaking merely to a passing situation.”[67] The apostle Paul himself makes the connection between the prohibition of women speaking in church and the first man and woman in the garden, so connecting a male-only pastorate back to the first few chapters of Genesis is biblically founded. One egalitarian argument states that, since Adam and Eve were both made in the image of God and both were given dominion over creation, it follows that Adam and Eve related to each other in an identical way, and consequently men and women can relate to each other in an identical way within the church when both men and women are pastors. This argument does not hold up because the creation of humans in the image of God and their subsequent dominion over creation does not speak of Adam and Eve’s relationship to each other nor is there a connection drawn between those things and the places of men and women in church. The order of creation, however, is connected to how men and women relate to each other and what the places are of men and women in the church and this connection is made in Scripture. The connection is made in order to reinforce the statement that women are not permitted to speak in the church, but are to learn instead.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Scripture supports the historical practice of church ordaining men as pastors and not women. Those who are advocating for women to be ordained are going against the witness and command of Scripture, as well as the interpretation of Scripture and the practice that the orthodox catholic church has had since the beginning of church history. Consequently, the church ought to ordain only properly qualified men as pastors.

 

 

Bibliography

Commission on Theology and Church Relations. The Ministry In Its Relation to the Christian Church. St. Louis: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1973.

Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations. A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men. Lutheran Church of Australia, 2018.

Clouse, Bonnedell and Robert G. Clouse, editors. Women in Ministry: Four Views. Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press 1986.

Das, A. Andrew. Galatians. Concordia Publishing House, 2014.

Harrison, Matthew C., and John T. Pless, editors. Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2012.

Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus. Baker Book House, 1979.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon. Augsburg Publishing House, 1964.

Lockwood, Gregory J. 1 Corinthians. Concordia Pub. House, 2000.

McCain et al. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord. Concordia Publishing House, 2005.

Meyer, Marie, et al. Different Voices/Shared Vision. Male and Female in the Trinitarian Community. ALPB Books, 1992.

Middendorf, Michel P. Romans 9-16. St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2016.

Moellering, Howard Armin, and Victor A. Bartling. Concordia Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus. St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1970.

 

[1] Commission on Theology and Church Relations, The Ministry In Its Relation to the Christian Church (St. Louis, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1973), 8.

[2] Ibid, 8.

[3] McCain et al., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 59.

[4] Ibid, 65.

[5] Ibid, 330.

[6] Ibid, 330.

[7] Ibid, 213.

[8] Ibid, 213.

[9] Ibid, 84.

[10] Ibid, 211.

[11] Gregory J. Lockwood, 1 Corinthians (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2000), 510.

[12] Ibid, 506.

[13]  John W. Kleinig, “Disciples But Not Teachers: 1 Corinthians 14:33b-38 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15” in Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective,  eds. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 58.

[14] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1964), 565.

[15] William Weinrich, “’It Is Not Given to Women to Teach’: A Lex in Search of a Ratio” in Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, eds. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 484-485.

[16] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1979), 110.

[17] Gregory J. Lockwood, “The Ordination of Women” in Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, eds. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 148.

[18] Charles A. Gieschen, “Ordained Proclaimers or Quiet Learners? Women in Worship in Light of 1 Timothy 2” in Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 102.

[19] Ibid, 102.

[20]  Ibid, 102.

[21]William Weinrich, “Women in the History of the Church: Learned and Holy, But Not Pastors” in Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, eds. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 172-173.

[22] Ibid, 188.

[23] Ibid, 188-191.

[24]Ibid, 189-191 .

[25] Ibid, 192.

[26] Ibid, 194-195.

[27] Ibid, 195.

[28] Ibid, 195.

[29] Matthew C. Harrison, and John T. Pless, editors, “Section II, Historical Studies” in Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective  (Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 169.

[30] Lockwood, 1 Corinthians, 535.

[31]Alvera Mickelsen, “There is Neither Male nor Female in Christ” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, ed. Bonnedell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse (Downs Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1986), 204-205.

[32] Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations, A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men (Lutheran Church of Australia, 2018), 3.

[33] Walter L. Liefeld, “Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, ed. Bonnedell Clouse and Robert G. Clouse (InterVarsity Press, 1986),134.

[34] Mickelsen, “There is Neither Male nor Female in Christ” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, 187.

[35] Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations, A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men, 2.

[36]Mickelsen, “There is Neither Male nor Female in Christ” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, 198.

[37]Ibid, 198-199.

[38]Marie Meyer et al, Different Voices/Shared Vision. Male and Female in the Trinitarian Community (Delhi, New York, ALPB Books, 1992), 27-28.

[39] Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations, A Theological Basis for the Ordination of Women and Men, 3.

[40] Mickelsen, “There is Neither Male nor Female in Christ” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, 202.

[41] Ibid, 201.

[42] Ibid, 182.

[43]Ibid, 200-201.

[44] Ibid, 184.

[45] Liefeld, “Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy” in Women in Ministry: Four Views, 141-142.

[46]  A. Andrew Das, Galatians (St. Louis, Concordia Pub. House, 2014), 389.

[47] Das, Galatians, 387, footnote 276.

[48] Ibid, 387.

[49] Lockwood, 1 Corinthians, 540.

[50] Howard Armin Moellering and Victor A. Bartling, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus  (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1970), 63.

[51]Ibid,  60.

[52] Lockwood, 1 Corinthians, 541.

[53] Michel P. Middendorf, Romans 9-16 (Saint Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 2016), 1547-1548.

[54] Middendorf, Romans 9-16, 1526-1527.

[55] Ibid, 1561-1562.

[56] Lockwood, 1 Corinthians, 3.

[57] Ibid, 510.

[58] Ibid, 533.

[59] Ibid, 508.

[60] Ibid, 514.

[61] Ibid, 6.

[62] Ibid, 533.

[63] Ibid, 534.

[64] Moellering and Bartling, Concordia Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 31.

[65] Lockwood, 1 Corinthians, 516.

[66] Moellering and Bartling, Concordia Commentary: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 61.

[67] Ibid, 62.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Saved by a Good Samaritan to be a Good Samaritan (sermon text and video)

 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer

 

+++

 

 

I think any pastor or teacher of God’s word really needs a prayer like that for today, because today’s Gospel reading not only is very artfully constructed – and rich in all kinds of fascinating details – but is also a super difficult head scratcher.

 

We could talk about the meaning of the story – or the levels of meaning contained in it – or the deeper *possible* meanings of it people put forth—for a very long time.

 

I’m going to try though… to zero in on what I think are the key elements…

 

Let’s start with the lawyer’s opening question:

 

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 

We might wonder about what prompts this question from the lawyer…

 

It says that he asked it to test Jesus, and perhaps it is helpful to recognize the context in which this test takes place….

 

Throughout the book of Luke, much has been said about urgent issues like the Kingdom of God, salvation, and eternal life.

 

In chapter 3 of the book, John the Baptist told other Jewish leaders to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…” and even said it was the Gospel that the Lord would gather the wheat in His barn, that is, His people, *but burn the chaff*…

 

Shortly after this, beginning in chapter 4 of Luke, Jesus says “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God” and “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance…”

 

…And later on in the book, after chapter 10 where we hear this story of the Good Samaritan He will proclaim “unless you repent, you will all…perish” (Luke 13:5).

 

Also, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…” (Luke 15:7)[i]

 

Indeed, a constant theme in the book of Luke is the Kingdom of Heaven—Eternal Salvation—and the great desirability of being a part of this through repentance and faith in His work… culminating in His work at the cross and being raised from the dead![ii]

 

So just what is the main thing that we should pay attention to in this story about the lawyer asking Jesus about inheriting eternal life?[iii]

 

+++

 

Well, first of all, we should note that in spite of the fact that Jesus tells this lawyer that he answers his own question rightly, this man is still in a world of hurt.

 

Like many others in the Jewish leadership class, he is in a really deep pit and only Jesus can pull him out, because he not only doesn’t grasp Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God—the good news of Jesus’ gospel—but he has not even began to grasp the law of God.

 

The law which prepares us for the Gospel….

 

It seems that repentance is going to be very, very difficult for some of the Jews—particularly with men like this of its leadership class.

 

Just before Jesus tells this story, a few verses earlier, He speaks about the “wise and learned” from whom things remain hidden, and He contrasts them with his own followers who are like children who get it. Infants, even! who get it! If it helps, think about the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes…..

 

This lawyer in the text is one of these “wise and learned” from whom things remain hidden…. Why? Well, in this case, we should recall how Jesus, throughout the Gospels, spoke about how, for many, the “traditions of men” became more important than hearing the Word of God and putting it into practice…

 

God’s law does not let up in its requirement that we freely revere, love, and trust in God with our whole heart—and do to others what we would have them do to us.

 

We are God’s people, and so of course these duties towards God and men have to do with things in line with the Ten Commandments. All this should also cause us to reflect on our responsibilities to God’s whole creation… “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

 

Yes.

 

And yet, in our story, one can’t help but notice the assumption embedded within the lawyer’s question “who is my neighbor?”. The embedded assumption is that there are, there must be, not just degrees of neighbors, but actual *non* neighbors!

 

Love your neighbor as yourself? Well, the utter hostility between the Jews and Samaritans is well known… One saying from the time is that “He who eats the bread of a Samaritan is like one that eats the flesh of swine…” (big deal for a Jew).

 

And this kind of attitude did not only display when it came to Samaritans! One older pastor notes that “[g]enerally among Jews, the ‘neighbor’ was defined as a fellow countryman, one of the same race…” Jesus’ answer, he says, “shatters the values of the Jewish religion as practiced by the experts of the law and the Pharisees…”

 

Another commentator writes: “Probably [the lawyer] had in his thought the Rabbinical limitations which made it as much duty to ‘hate thine enemy’ as to ‘love thy neighbour.’…

 

He goes on to say “‘Neighbourhood,’ in [the lawyer’s] judgment, implied ‘nearness,’ and he wished to know how far off the boundaries of the region included in the command lay.”[iv]

 

Just like a modern lawyer, right? We’ll refrain from lawyer jokes at this time…

 

Well, in any case, in this story Jesus certainly makes it clear that men like the lawyer are, captive to their own traditions and false wisdom, ignoring very clear parts of God’s Word.

 

They are not going to “get” God’s Gospel because, critically, they are not “getting” God’s law.

 

+++

 

I submit that there is a second thing here that this text calls us to pay attention too as well – and I think that it is even more challenging.

 

Especially for us who bear the name “Lutheran,” we who are children of the 16th century Reformation of the church.

 

The point is this: does Jesus simply replace the lawyer’s way of inheriting eternal life by doing good with another one? In other words, you might not be able to attain salvation, you might not be able to attain peace with God, by doing good the lawyer’s more limited and seemingly reasonable way – but you certainly can do so by doing good Jesus’ more difficult and challenging and loving way!

 

After all, in the end, He does say “Do this and you will live!”

 

So – here is a deeper question to go along with those other questions. Is this about, as one modern theologian has said, knowing that the hope of reward—and a corresponding fear of punishment—are right or legitimate motivations for keeping God’s law?

 

I’m not saying that it’s wrong if a person, terrified by the requirements of God’s law, throws himself on God’s mercy in Christ and is converted. That’s a very good thing.

 

Furthermore, I’m also not saying that Christians should not be discouraged from committing deliberate sins by meditating on the fact that such sins will lead us to, gain us, eternal death.

 

We still have an “old Adam,” after all, who must be beat down, contained, continually warned, even killed, by God’s law. Another good thing!

 

What I am talking about is a Christian living not wholly from God’s love in Christ, but rather by the law: telling him or herself that the hope of reward and fear of punishment is, if not the way we become Christians, the way we stay Christians….

 

Let’s talk about this in the context of the story that Jesus tells us…

 

And let’s also get really blunt and focus on that negative side, that punishment aspect… (because it is there, even if we ignore it)…. Is this story that Jesus tells us primarily here to….

 

put the fear of God into us,

 

lighting a fire under our butts,

 

prompting us to get in gear and get busy?!

 

After all, there is Kingdom Work to accomplish! And don’t forget what Jesus also says in the book of Luke (6:46): “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”!

 

Ouch.

 

Well, perhaps it is to put the fear of God into us – depending on where a person is with God. And maybe what we all need, once in a while at least, is to actually try and do God’s law a bit more—after we begin to grasp what it really is—and then to see

 

  1. how valuable and satisfying it is to do what He says! ;

 

  1. to see how difficult – nay, impossible – it is to do…

 

At the same time, for some who do this, they might fall into the trap of thinking that God’s perfect plan for harmony—for “peace on earth”—is first and foremost about noting what He demands and getting really busy, doing that good… Living by fear of punishment and hope of reward.

 

We might fool ourselves by thinking something like this:

 

“I mean, not to be proud (I’m not keeping track or anything), but I really do try and find ways to be doing good works constantly. We’ve got to be finding more and more opportunities every day, in every way, to be a Good Samaritan, like Jesus. I think that God is going to recognize how hard I’m trying, and I’m quite confident He’ll let me into heaven.”

 

A bumper sticker I’ve seen comes to my mind: Jesus is coming again – look busy!

 

There is no doubt that such a person’s neighbors might just appreciate an attitude like this to some degree – even as they also make jokes about Christians caring more about saving our own souls rather than really caring about others in any real sense…

 

In the end though, for some, fear of punishment and hope of reward are the way the Christian life is to be lived. They are legitimate or right motives for conforming to God’s law. This, they think, is the way of salvation.

 

But that way, Martin Luther would remind, us, leads either to pride or despair….

 

Why pride? Because, ignoring the fact that we need forgiveness for our lack of perfect trust and love, we fool ourselves into thinking we are pulling it off! In some sense! Surely, we are doing a satisfactory job, a “heaven-worthy-job,” when it comes to how we should be living! (oh yes – with God’s help of course!)

 

That is the height of foolishness! What are we saying?: “Loving all my enemies – sacrificing for them and maybe even risking my life to do so? Man, I’ve so got that covered!”

 

This pride is insane, and doesn’t stop growing more insane.

 

In an especially insidious twist, we might even presume to make God an equal partner—or even our lesser!

 

Well, I’m doing what He asks… and God better keep his end of the bargain! If I comply—and God knows I am—then He is obligated to reward me just like He should….

 

Why despair?

 

Because those who sincerely recognize the wisdom of God’s law, try to do it, and are honest with themselves, know that they don’t even come close to doing what they should do.

 

We don’t do all the things we should do – even many of the easy things.

 

The good we do is done with very, very mixed motivations…

 

It is often done with nary a though of God, His ultimate goals, or in thankfulness to Him….

 

Hence, they know that they just can’t survive the audit… No. Hope.

 

Oh, and by the way, maybe we are having enough trouble with the evil things we do much less have time to worry about the good things we fail to do!

 

No, in the end, flirting with legalism—where we think the core thing is our forcing ourselves to do things out of either hope of reward or fear of punishment—is really only a counsel of despair…

 

So, what is the way forward? How are we to find our bearings here?

 

The answer is that when we hear people talk about how this story shows us the “central demand of discipleship,”[v] we take that very seriously, but don’t end in despair….

 

+++

 

Why do we not end in despair?

 

How is it we can overcome?

 

Because we know the ultimate context.

 

Even though we are sinners and for that reason should be terrified by God in the right sense, our primary identity is children of God who rejoice because our names are written in heaven – something else Jesus says right before this story!

 

We can know this: we are to be those who live from a sense of security in God’s love, and be those who revere, love, and trust in our Father above all things.

 

So, no…. again, this fear of punishment and hope of reward approach—which in my mind naturally comes up when I hear this story of the Good Samaritan—is, to say the least, a very inadequate way of looking at things!

 

So, in the context of this story, “Do this and live” is meant to utterly break this lawyer, so that He, like the disciples eight chapters later will say, “Who then can be saved?” Then, he, like the Philippian jailer in the book of Acts, will ask “what must I do to be saved” from a heart that is ready for the Gospel….

 

What is impossible with man is indeed possible with God!

 

Part of the clue in knowing that this is the right way of looking at these matters is by looking ahead in Luke to the text that immediately follows this one…. We remember the story of Mary and Martha, don’t we?

 

Busy, busy Martha and resting, attentive Mary…

 

Do you think that story might have some real significance here?

 

+++

 

So what is the ultimate endgame here?

 

That we might be able to rest in Jesus, certainly.

 

And it is also, simultaneously, this: that you might be like your Father in heaven, who is kind to the ungrateful and wicked…

 

It’s about admiring dad and wanting to be like him, confident in His love and your identity as His child. Confident that you want to be who you are and carry on your good Father’s name in the world.

 

It’s about the sheer joy that we see in the little kid who picks up the rake and imitates their father, even if the amount of work they can do is little….

 

Or even nothing at all….

 

This, in fact, is the first thing that I think should hit us when we hear this story! Wow…wait a minute. This is exactly what Jesus did with us! Whether He intends to communicate this or not with the story, He really is the Ultimate Good Samaritan!

 

So, as He gives you the opportunities…

 

As He blesses you with “interruptions…”

 

Go and do likewise.

 

So it’s not about living by the law, with hope of reward and fear of punishment as our constant companions.

 

It’s not about obsessively doing good, about frantically being busy, so that you can be assured of your own righteousness.

 

(I hope it goes without saying its also not about being cynical about all those around you see doing good, thinking they are doing what they do for all the wrong reasons, and patting yourself on the back for knowing better…!)

 

It is about seeing things through the eyes of faith!

 

It is about depending on Jesus Christ when it comes to peace with God – and when it comes to knowing who He is and how He works in the world. To more deeply depend on Him who died and rose for all, and who made provision for all to hear this glorious message – even you!

 

He is working in all of us, even now, by His Word – that we might abandon all legalistic mindsets that push out Christ!

 

Listen to the great St. Augustine: “Legalists who cross-examine Jesus make no progress until they recognize that they are the man half dead and Jesus is the one who does mercy as neighbor, for he is the one who wishes to be called our neighbor…”

 

Again, we who are Christians live in, not by, God’s law.

 

Jesus is not looking to have a bunch of miserable hearts which ignore Him while they count this and that….

 

He is not looking for such miserable, score-keeping, tit-for-tat, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back” hearts….

 

Love doesn’t insist on keeping a tally, for love is seen most clearly in Jesus, who by love fulfils the law.

 

+++

 

I think you know what I’m really getting at here, don’t you? Is this not the core stuff? Christians are saved for good works, not saved by good works.

 

Still, I don’t know about you, but I need to really be reminded of this all the time.

 

Again, one can’t help but notice another embedded assumption within the lawyer’s question. The embedded assumption, is that there is something that we can do to earn an inheritance…

 

But an inheritance is earned by another and a gift to us!

 

The Christian inherits, not merits, eternal life!

 

Likewise:

 

The Christian makes the works – the works don’t make the Christian!

 

The Christian reflects, not effects, their salvation!

 

The good tree produces good fruit, not vice-versa. (Luke 6:43)!

 

We are not saved because we are a Good Samaritan but to be a Good Samaritan!

 

Jesus wants all of that to be driven into our heads like a nail in a board!

 

He wants people who know his Father and who have begun to understand Him!

 

And—therefore—to know about the kinds of work that He longs to do in you and among your neighbors.

 

United already with Him in faith… secure in His love… His desire is for our heart, the heart of His bride, the church, to increasingly become One with His.

 

This is why the Son of God came to earth and took on human flesh, becoming the God-Man Jesus Christ!

 

This is exactly why He lived among us as He did, as our Good Samaritan who rescued us from the damage the thief, Satan, had done!

 

This is why He took the fallen and sinful mess that is us, bound up and poured healing oil on our wounds, and brought us here this morning!…

 

1 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;

the Lord delivers them in times of trouble!”

 

 

(“The weak” — that’s you and me!)

 

 

The blood of Christ, shed at the cross, which grants healing and immortality, is for you.

 

 

And you, like Him, have been raised to new life!

 

 

This is also why we read in our Epistle for today:

 

“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light…”

 

This is also why we read what we read in Leviticus today. Always remember and do not doubt that God’s people had the best laws… they had the God who really did care and showed it in His laws. He was the one who loved the whole world and really had His people’s back….

 

So go in peace in this knowledge good Samaritan…!  And embrace the glorious interruptions He has in store for you!

 

For He is inviting you to work with Him….

 

Whose yoke is easy, and whose His burden is light…

 

FIN

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Peter Scaer: Wake Up and Prepare for the Coming Persecution.

Lifted from the Facebook page of Peter J. Scaer.

Faithful Silence

Sometimes, I think my fellow Christians are living in a world of make believe. Church officials talk about evangelism programs, a if we’re not winsome enough. Youth leaders say we live in a messed up world, and we’re all, golly gee, messed up and broken. We talk about anything and everything, but the elephant in the room, the spreading persecution.

Drag queens? Who will say a word? Who takes a picture with fired non pronoun using teacher John Kluge, pledging support. All easy for me to say as a professor. No doubt.

But then I talk to the youth, the college grads. And now women, faithful women out in the workforce, as teachers, home schoolers, pharmacists, counselors, and more. And they know. They face the rainbow challenge daily. They are under pressure, under the gun. The rainbow is insidious, finds its way into countless memos, emails, meetings, and yes, mandates. The Christian conscience everywhere is under assault, and it means getting a job, not getting a promotion, even keeping a job. What are they to do? Who stands with them?

It’s time to get real. And it’s not as easy as to say, well, if your conscience won’t allow, then leave. Where will there be voices of kindness, Christian voices among the teachers, nurses, counselors, pharmacists, doctors, and more? Some will work undercover, doing what they can while they can. But I’m amazed, continually amazed at how little we speak of such things even in the relative safety of our sanctuaries and our bible studies, our women’s and men’s groups, our youth groups.

Go to the gospels, and see how much time our Lord spends preparing his disciples for persecution. And yet, we are silent, perhaps in denial. Hoping a happy face will make it all go away. But know that the faithful are struggling, really struggling. And those are the good stories. Others, sadly, will not struggle, but will simply be swept away by the tide, and like frogs, having become so used to the warm water of so called gay marriage will find a faith that has been boiled to death in cauldron. And of course, no one is more vulnerable to all this than our children, who walk around with a bullseye for the ideological predators.

So, if you know, pray. But more, speak. If not with a megaphone, then in friendship, in heartfelt talks, in groups wherever Christians are gathered. The ropes are tightening, the darkness is descending. This is not pessimism. Our Lord will come again, and all who remain faithful will receive the crown of life. That’s true. And so let us encourage one another to do just that.

FIN

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 13, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

“Independence Day and Loving America” by Peter Scaer

Again, I’m taking the summer off of blogging myself! : )

Had to post this article from “Facebook Apostle” Peter Scaer though…

Peter is an eloquent defender of God’s law and gospel.

Everyone have a happy 4th…

+++

I pledge allegiance to the flag. And when the national anthem is played, I not only stand and take off my hat, I sing with full voice and heart. Hardly ever miss a Memorial Day parade. Love to fly the flag, and thank God for our constitution, and our founding fathers. Try to learn as much as I can from them. In short, I love America. That love is deeply rooted in its ideals, but so also in the land and our common heritage.

Does my church? Well, yes. We pray for our nation, even as we recognize that the gospel is for all nations, and that our ultimate home is the City of God.. And we all do well to live in gratitude for all this nation and its heritage has afforded us. Lack of gratitude is conspicuous among so many who despise those who came before them, who give no thought to those who made our lives possible. Consider only the assault on Columbus day, the disparaging of pilgrims and their religion, the condescension towards Founding Fathers who are lumped together as old white guys who were not woke.

For good reason, many Christians are looking to American traditions as a way to express reverence and gratitude. I see it especially in our love for the troops. Thank you for your service. Honor flights. These things are indeed very good. But it has to be more. It is not enough to honor our troops, though honor them we must. It is not enough to express gratitude for our nation’s founders, though express it we must.

As Christians, of course, we have a higher calling, a deeper duty. The great prophets of old spoke first against their own kings, and only then against the kings of the heathen. What does that mean? Well, it means that even as we honor our country, we call her to account.

Thomas Jefferson doesn’t seem to have been a Christian. His personal bible took out all the passages concerning miracles and Christ’s divinity. But he did grasp natural law, the foundational principle that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights. These rights include foremost the right to life. And so, to honor the truth that the founders grasped, we must call our nation to account for the holocaust of abortion.

Likewise, marriage, male and female, are part of natural law, apart from which, as Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, no law is just. And yet in our land we have so quickly embraced gay marriage, as if leaving a child without a mom and dad were nothing. I am not sure of any country in the past who went so far into sin. And now it’s 50 genders, Christians persecuted, Drag Queen Story hour and all the rest.

So, shall we celebrate our nation? Yes. But with the recognition that repentance must come now. That we have put business and money ahead of things that matter. That we are now creating a culture in which are children are not safe, either from the abortionist’s instruments, or from the corruption and perversion for which we hold parades.

So, yes, honor the troops. But Independence Day is not about the troops. Nor can our troops keep us free from that which endangers us most, and that is our own sinful ways, our own embrace of death and sexual perversity. Sing the national anthem. I know I will. And in gratitude. But do it knowing that singing the song calls us to courage.

If you truly love America, stand up for John Kluge, Barronelle Stutzmann, and Jack Phillips. If you care about the principles on which our nation was founded, drive away the Drag Queen Story Hour, attend a life rally, and rally for natural marriage. Speak out against the totalitarianism that is coming not from some foreign shore, but is being planted, watered, and tended in our very own kinder-gardens, in our schools. Promoted by the Chamber of Commerce, and a rainbow flag that will eventually push aside all memories of what the Stars and Stripes meant in the first place. And instead of singing God Bless America, we’ll just be whistling Dixie past the graveyard.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

The Apostle Paul’s—and Luther’s—Law and Gospel Teaching: Paragon of True Progress

Pedagogue and boy.

+++

Prefatory material:

Vicaring now and gave a sermon two days ago. Thought the message was good to share and so doing another rare summer blog post.

My suspicion is that even some of those who consider themselves Radical Lutherans may really appreciate this message.

Honestly though, I’m not totally sure! If you consider yourselves Radical and would let me know, I’d deeply appreciate it…

The texts for the day were Is. 65:1–9 Psalm 3 Gal. 3:23—4:7 Luke 8:26–39

+++

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” – Gal. 3:23

This is the first verse from our reading in Galatians and it introduces us to a part of the New Testament that can really be quite difficult to understand…

It’s hardly impossible though, and I submit to you that God demands our full attention and reflection here.

What is the absolute crux of what Paul is saying?

In short, He is saying that when it comes to our being justified before God… when it comes to the matter of whether we can be at real peace with God… we, as His true people, can only identify with Abraham and not with Moses.

What do I mean?

Very early on in the Bible, after the flood which destroyed the world, God wanted to call a special people to Himself.

Therefore, he chose Abraham, and gave him some very important promises. A careful reading of Genesis shows us that these promises were made to Abraham without any conditions whatsoever:

Abraham was told to go with God and that he was going to get land, a ton of descendants, and that he would also be a blessing to all the nations. The key word here is Promise. A promise without conditions.

And as the Apostle Paul always reminds us in the great book of Romans, Abraham believed God.

Years later, God called Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, out of a 400-year slavery in Egypt.

And after freeing them from their enemies, He gave them help and guidance in the form of the 10 commandments as well as certain “ceremonial laws” (you know, things like things like circumcision, food laws, special days of obligation, worship in Jerusalem at the Temple, sacrifice, etc.).

In this case, there was not strictly a one-way-promise but a two-way covenant.

Under the clouds of thunder at threatening Mount Sinai, the people swore to God that they would follow these commandments.

The key word here is not promise—certainly not unconditional promise—but law.

The matter in the Old Testament seemed pretty straightforward: if they followed those commandments, they would attain all manner of earthly blessings and victory.

If they did not, they would be cursed…

We know what happened right? The Old Testament is the narrative of Israel’s constant failure and rebellion.

+++

Here in Galatians though, Paul wants to show us how the law cannot, must not, overshadow God’s promise.

He means to clear up any confusion we might have about this: the law given to God’s people through Moses was meant to be a temporary matter.

When “faith comes” in the “fullness of time,” meaning when Jesus Christ comes in human flesh, this law will have served its purpose, and in a very real sense the law would no longer have dominion over God’s people, legally and otherwise!

As Paul bluntly puts it later on in Galatians, “if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise, but God gave [this inheritance] to Abraham by a Promise.

In part this means the following: Jesus’ work as the true Lamb of God, the true Priest, the true Temple, etc… means that He is the fulfiller of all those ceremonial laws – He reveals what these were ultimately all about and pointing too!

And now, for example, God declares to His Apostles that certain animals that were once “unclean” to us are now “clean” – good to eat!

According to God in the book of Acts, this also means that the Gentiles can come into the church without having to submit to these ceremonial, or purity laws (practices)….

Again, God declares all of these unclean animals clean – even if Jesus has cast the unclean demons into the unclean pigs! No doubt about it – parts of God’s law had now been rescinded or abrogated.

The times they were a-changing. We wonder where modern notions of “progress” come from…

+++

I bet you didn’t know that the Apostle Paul is the paragon of true progress. His teaching is the thing.

Really? Yes! Paul gives us some more excellent clues about just what God was doing here in the rest of our Galatians passage for today. He tells us that the purpose of the law was to serve as a pedagogue.

And what does he mean by this term? Well, it seems “child-leader”. “Child-leader”—think about that.

In Paul’s time, in the Greco-Roman world, a pedagogue, or child-leader, was a slave who accompanied a schoolboy—a schoolboy who would also one day be the heir of that slave’s master—in order to make sure that he got to where he needed to go.

In other words, Paul is saying that the law is a pedagogue, whose role was very limited: the pedagogue was put in place to make us pay attention to what God’s will is and what He wants to teach us… where He wants to lead us.

More specifically and historically, Paul is saying that for Jews to be ready for the Messiah, one needed the “pedagogue,” or family slave, to basically force us see who and what is true and good – and what is good is certainly good for us and all our neighbors

Again, the pedagogue was needed in order to help God’s people to see that who He is and what He sets up, what He commands, what He decides to punish, etc. is simply and unapologetically good.

Some of it, surely, is only necessary in a fallen world, but it is unquestionably good nonetheless!

This the family slave would attempt to deeply impress, or “inculcate,” in his young charge, who was also, legally at least, a slave.

The child simply could not graduate from these “elementary principles”—or perhaps “ABCs”—without this help from the pedagogue, the “child-leader”!

By the way, these pedagogues often did have the reputation of being quite unbending and harsh…

(and by the way again, as a bit of an “aside”: the Galatian Gentiles to whom Paul writes, who believe the Gospel, also had been under the slavery of “elementary principles” in another sense – that of the “natural law” found in the world. They did not have the same kind of benefit the Jews had, who had the revealed law of God, this special “pedagogue,” and other privileges…)

+++

So does this mean that once “faith comes” and we are “all one in Christ Jesus” that the law no longer has any relevance? Can we just get rid of the pedagogue, the family slave, and be on our way?

Well, not exactly. Listen to Martin Luther talk about how while the ceremonial laws—again, things like circumcision, food laws, special days of obligation, worship at the Temple, sacrifice, etc.—completely go away, the Christian still must give heed to what he calls the “moral law”:

Peter explains in Acts 15 how it is to be understood that neither the ceremonial law—with which he deals there chiefly—nor the moral law, is to be imposed on the neck of the brethren; ob­viously because Christ has come in order to fulfill the law, which neither the fathers nor their offspring were able to bear; and to liberate all who believed in him from the curse of the law. Since, therefore, [the Law’s] office is to terrify and condemn, its yoke is to be removed from the necks of the believers, Gentiles as well as Jews, and Christ’s yoke is to be imposed on them, so that they may live under him in peace who rendered the owed obedience required by the law and gave it to those who believe in him. It is nonetheless to be fulfilled by the pious also, to mortify the works of the flesh by the Spirit, in order to purge out the old leaven (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 5:7). Thus, the law remains, but its burden or yoke does not weigh down the necks of those upon whom Christ’s burden is imposed, because it is easy and light (Matt. 11:30)” (SDEA 73)

So what is Luther saying here? Has he, like the demoniac, been captured by Satan’s wiles? Is he putting those who should be free back under the law?

Not at all. What is happening is this:

Those who are in Christ are to have it firmly engrained in their minds that even though God has completely eliminated parts of the Old Testament law – particularly those “ceremonial” things that made it extremely hard for Israelites and Gentiles to mix and mingle[i]there are also things about it that accurately show us what it means to be God’s people even today. What it means to be His child and to live in his household.

What it means to be an heir of the Most High King!

Those who are no longer under the law are no longer under its dominion in part because they have come to the knowledge and conviction that God is good and that His will is good… that all His commandments and judgments are good!

Jesus fulfills this law for them because it is good!

They also know that they still have a nasty sinner inside them, one who still needs the watchful eye and even the unartful threats of the family slave, or pedagogue.

Sure the law couldn’t produce the needed righteousness, the real “righteousness-externally-and-in-the-heart” in us – and it was “weak” in just this way – but at the same time that was never its purpose.

Rather, true believers know that they still need that reliable family slave. They still need the pedagogue to be their “child-leader”: to show them, in various circumstances and contexts, what sin really is.

For its purpose was to make them ever aware of our great need for total deliverance…

And that deliverance, of course, comes from and in Jesus Christ: now in His declaring us righteous! Now in His beginning to sanctify us by His Spirit! And later too: in our final glorification, to be completed when Jesus comes…

For this reason, they are happy to be in God’s law, even though they are no longer under it! Indeed, the “righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us”…

+++

Let’s talk now a bit more about those interesting ceremonial laws that we’ve been discussing.

What makes all of this so complicated is that while the whole law given to Moses could not produce righteousness, there were, evidently, some parts that really needed to go…

So what does God want to teach us here?

Remember, earlier we talked about how because of Jesus, God declares that animals which were once unclean are now “clean”.

This means, in part, that the Gentiles can come into the church without having to submit to the Jewish ceremonial, or purity laws….

Also, we pointed out that “Jesus’ work as the true Lamb of God, the true Priest, the true Temple, etc… means that He is the fulfiller of all those ceremonial laws – He reveals what these were ultimately all about and pointing too!”

So again, what does God want to teach us here? Can we get any more clues?

Should we say, like some in the world do today: “Why don’t some in the church accept homosexual practice? Should you then not eat shellfish either?”

You can see the reasoning here. God said shellfish were unclean in the Old Testament. He said the same thing about homosexual actions.

In the New Testament though, shellfish are “clean,” and so why not homosexual actions as well?

Perhaps you have noticed that persons who are more secular but who also pay a little attention to religion see things in this manner… In short, getting right to the point, the world today wants parts of the Christian heritage but not the whole thing.

Many, for example, like the idea of Christ’s compassion, of the “image of God”, or the dignity of all persons, of unity, of a “new man” and “new creation” – but do not want the entire Christian life…

The thing is, if you listen to some folks like this, a lot of the time they seem to make some sense.

But they, being self-made persons, subscribe to a very different notion of progress.

Therefore, we need to pay attention not to man’s own way of reasoning and “being logical,” but rather to the specific explanations that the Scriptures give us concerning these things.

So what does the Apostle Paul say about these ceremonial laws? He says that they were “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

Things like religious festivals, New Moon celebrations and Sabbath days, he tells us, were meant to point us to the coming Christ and teach us about Him and His work.

The same thing can be said for the Temple, the priests, the sacrifices, the scapegoat, the food and purity laws, and circumcision.

Perhaps look at it this way: those ceremonial laws are like the scaffolding for a building. When the building has finally come, when the Christian faith has finally come, the scaffolding is no longer necessary.

I hope that is helpful and also hope that all of this makes you curious! Compels you, in a good way, to learn even more and go deeper!

Just as we can learn much about God, man, and His and our character from His moral law, the same is certainly true about these ceremonial practices.

We know that while we are no longer under the law’s dominion, it indeed was and remains good!

Again, many today have missed these core issues we are talking about and skate on the surface of the Bible.

For example, many today love to quote the part from Galatians where it talks about how “there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave or free, male or female…” and speak eloquently and compellingly about the equality of all, how there should be no real differences or that these should not matter at all, etc.

Our response to this is that this passage, though it is primarily about how we can all stand equally before God on the basis of Jesus Christ, certainly does have very real implications in the world. It can’t not, and this is, quite frankly, why we live in what we call “the West”.

Again though, this passage does not mean much of what people tend to claim it means, for in truth many really don’t know or value God’s word like they should.

I’m not going to go into detail about these things, as we have limited time and addressing controversial topics in what would amount to a rather bullet-point fashion is probably not a good idea.

Still, I’ll assume you kind of know what I mean about this other kind of “progress,” but if you don’t, feel free to ask me about it…

In any case though, there is a good reason why these problems exist for Christians and Christian cultures.

These words are explosive because the Gospel is absolutely explosive. Absolute dynamite.

And when change happens… when surprising shows of unity happen… when the walls of division, confusion, and hostility between people began to fall—even if just on a more local basis!—this stunning show of divine power may well cause many an unbeliever to question themselves and fear… just as many did when the demon-possessed man was healed…

Then, as the prophet Isaiah says:

I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that was not called by (or did not call upon) my name.

We don’t want to get in the way of this! And so, in Galatians, Paul goes on to urge us to “walk by the Spirit,” for when we do this, we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh”:

“Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these”

It is precisely because we have the Holy Spirit and its fruits—and, correspondingly, are “not under the law”—that the abject wrongness of these things, and the hell-bound character of these things, is now even more evident to us than it may have been before.

We, because of the Gospel—not the pedagogue—are God’s new creation. And so things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” are to characterize us…

And do.

Go forth in the light of His truth and His gospel.

Amen.

 

[i] Very interestingly, Luther suggests that it is not so much what Christians believe – in this case about God’s law – that the world finds problematic, but rather its willingness to act on its beliefs, which we all know tends to, uncomfortably, reveal divisions and distinctions among persons. To the idea that Eph. 2:14 suggests the wall destroyed by Christ is his law, Luther responds as follows:

“And here Paul speaks about the law of Moses proper, not about the Decalogue, since the latter pertained to all nations. For the nations did not hate the Jews because of the Decalogue, but because they separated themselves from the remaining nations by way of unique worship and cer­emonies, and called themselves alone the people of God, all the others they called atheists and unbelievers. The quarrel was about the temple and the ceremonies. Yet finally Christ came and destroyed this obstruction and Jews and Gentiles were made one. But if the Decalogue is referred to, it is well, and it is here removed, and destroyed insofar as it is damnation, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (ODE, 123)

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

You Tube Videos I’ve Now Done

Still not really blogging for the summer, but decided to put some of the videos I’m doing for a class up on You Tube. Here are #1-4 (will be 14 total). After the intro (#1), they basically go chronologically through parts of the biblical text. I don’t expect to become a regular You Tuber, but hope you enjoy taking a look…

Web Media #1 — Introduction to Historic Biblical Christianity

Web Media #2 — Man’s Fall and God’s Promise

Web Media #3 — Whose Side are You On? The God Who Divides.

Web Media #4 — Is it God’s Responsibility to Do Good?

 

Feedback about how these could be improved welcome. I’m on a limited budget though. : )

FIN

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

C.F.W. Walther’s Talk on God’s Law and My Talk on God’s Law

The measure of very little.

 

(Note: my last post for a while. Summer break…)

Man!

I don’t mean that statement as praise of what we today call “human beings”.

I mean that both in the sense of quiet exclamation and as a key topic of this post….

I’m talking about W. H. T. Dau’s Preface to C.F.W. Walther’s Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.

Yes, it was written way back in 1928, but nevermind that… I was glad to take this ride again, and if follows below for you too.

You will find that there is some very strong “second use of the law” here (that is, the law as a mirror that shows us our sins): the concrete sins addressed below being those of the first table of the Ten Commandments (in sum, we are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things…)

I’ve put in italics things that stand out to me, given recent discussions and debates in the Confessional Lutheran world…

“When I hear Nadia Bolz-Weber, I hear the Gospel” — many a “conservative Lutheran” a couple years ago. Today?

 

In sum, I find all of that which follows to be rather excellent. While Dau does not allude directly to the fact that a conscience can be seared, an important topic that is little discussed today, I note he does say this: “[fallen man] loved to cheat himself by believing that he was complying with the Law of God, which he had grossly changed by his wanton misrepresentations….”

To be sure though, ultimately, this too, is true:

“No single or concerted effort of lawless spirits and men can put [the moral law] out of commission.”

Again though, as I think Dau alludes to above, this does not mean that the Law of God – not just a general sense that there is indeed a God and a right and wrong that we should apply to all – cannot become increasingly suppressed, ignored, denied, in the hearts and minds of most in this or that people… In other words, as he says, the “Law of God,” which they might tell themselves they are complying with has been altered more and more….

Hatred of God, His Christ, and His Kingdom grows… even as all kinds of nice things are said about Jesus in this or that context. I submit that unless we give real attention to the progressive sanctification Dau alludes to, we will, increasingly, go with that flow.

Whether it be outside or inside the church we know…

In these last days, I do indeed recommend reading the whole of Walther’s great work, freely available here. And please – don’t believe for a minute that he was the forebearer of the “Gospel reductionism” and “antinomianism” that is now engulfing us more and more…

And here also, as promised, is a bit from the recent talk I gave on the Law’s “Third Use” in the context of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I hope you find the short outline helpful…

Let’s jump into Dau’s great introduction of Walther’s great work….

+++

The treatise which is herewith offered to the public will be found, in the last analysis, to be a searching study of the will of God as related to the will of man.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures teach us that the will of God is directed towards man along two distinct lines. While the divine will itself is always one and never self-contradictory, it operates from distinct purposes and for distinct ends. But no matter how it operates, the element of man’s sin is always a factor in its operations. The will of God is related to the possibility and actuality of man’s sinning and exerts itself in two peculiar ways, against man’s sin and all its effects, by denouncing, opposing, fighting, and destroying them.

In the first place, God has willed, is now willing, and will never cease willing, that man shall not sin. Sin is the absolute negation of that moral rule and order which God has set up for the universe that He created and in which He placed man as His foremost creature. Sin is lawlessness and constitutes the doer thereof a rebel against the righteous rule of His sovereign Lord.

God created man in His own image. That means that the original human being whom the almighty Maker of heaven and earth and all their substance fashioned from a clod of earth and made a living soul by breathing into him the breath of life, — that this original, primeval man was holy and righteous as his Creator is. He was holy because His entire being, body, soul, and spirit, with all their faculties and functions throughout man’s life on earth, were consecrated solely and entirely to the service of God in whatever station the divine Ruler might place him or to whatever task He might appoint. He was righteous because his essence and actions were in perfect conformity with the will of his Maker. His human intellect, will, and affections were at no point out of harmony with the divine intellect, will and affections. God had put the attributes of holiness and righteousness which exist in him as His very essence into man as created gifts and as reflections of that perfection which exists in Him essentially.

God has worked into the very nature of man the rule of right — of being right and doing right. This rule has been permanently fixed in man. St. Paul says it is “written” in man’s heart. Even sin does not wholly eradicate it; for the pagans, who are without a divine code of law, still do “by nature” the things contained in the code of Law which God published at a later time. Accordingly, what God is by a law of His own and in autonomous fashion, that man is to be by submitting to his divine Ruler and Potentate and in a heteronomous fashion. In God, holiness and righteousness are the characteristics of the one Sublime, Sovereign Being, to whom no one can issue a command or lay down a law. In man, holiness and righteousness are concreated characteristics of an intelligent creature of God that was made dependent upon, and subaltern to, God, of a being that was never meant to be a law unto himself or the sole arbiter of his volitions, judgments, and desires, or answerable to no one for what he might choose to do.

Of this fact, that a divine norm of holiness and righteousness is implanted in him, man is made aware by a faculty which his Maker created for him when he made man in His likeness. This faculty is called the conscience in man. It is the natural, instinctive ability of man to apply the divine rule of right to himself, to his moral state, at any given moment of his existence and to any action of his or to any failure to act when action is demanded of him. While the divine norm of right implanted may be viewed as a judge who measures actions by the law and the testimony of witnesses and renders a decision, declaring a person guilty or not guilty.

Furthermore, man is made conscious by the forces of nature that he is living in a moral universe. This great, wide world and its history through nearly sixty centuries is a witness of God’s sovereign rule over man and serves only for the glory of God. Its powers are spent for the benign purposes of the great Creator; its forces move in a heavenly rhythm to silent laws which He made for them. Man discoveres that this world was not made to sin in; that even the laws of nature resist the effort to sin, and the brute and inanimate creatures rebel, as it were, against being pressed into service to sin. Man finds out that it is really more proper, easier, and more advantageous not to sin in a world like ours and that under existing conditions a person invariably makes life here hard for himself and others by sinning. Fully to suit sinners, the world would have to be made over again.

The divine norm of right concreated in the first human being and transferred in the course of natural propagation from him to all his descendants was afterwards published in writing in the form of “Ten Words,” or commandments, and delivered by Moses to the chosen people of Israel, whom God has made the standard-bearers of the norm of righteousness in a morally decaying world, and the keepers of His oracles which from time to time He communicated to mankind through inspired writers. These Ten Words, or the Decalog, which were published more than two thousand yours after the creation of Adam, formed the subject of many a discourse delivered to the followers of the true God in Old Testament times by their prophets, teachers, priests, lawyers, and scribes and in New Testament times by Jesus Christ and His apostles. The inspired records of all those deliverances is called “the Law” in Holy Scripture and in the theological literature of the Church.

The unwritten law in men’s hearts and the conscience have revealed their existence in the efforts of natural man to do right, to lead an upright life, to serve his fellow-men and his country, to practice the virtue of religiousness and the domestic and civil virtues. The laws of nations, the ethical codes of society, are emanations and manifestations of the ineradicable notion of right and wrong implanted in man’s heart, or of the natural Moral Law. The fearful operations of this Law are also exhibited in every device which the retributive justice of legislators and courts has set up for the punishment of wrong-doing and the protection of the good. Furthermore, the terrors of the Law are produced in every human heart under the smitings of the conscience, which rivets his guilt upon the wrong-doer. The nemesis exhibited in the old Greek drama, in Shakespeare, and in every great drama since is nothing else than the cry of despair wrung from guilty souls by the accusing and damning conscience.

The Moral Law, in both its unwritten and written form, is made ever-enduring. No single or concerted effort of lawless spirits and men can put it out of commission. There will never be a time while this universe lasts when men will not feel the power of the Moral Law in their private and public lives; nor will the Moral Law ever lack advocates, defenders, and champions amidst the growing corruptions of the decadent world hastening to its final collapse. To the end of all things, up to the bar of the last assizes, and beyond the crack of doom the holy and righteous will of God will be asserted throughout eternity by the rightly reprobated in their endless, legally inflicted misery and by the Righteous One in heaven, who has made Himself the end of the Law to all who believe in Him.

“The end of the Law,” — is Paul really justified to apply a phrase like that to an interminable matter like the divine rule of right and wrong? Yes; for God, who maintains His moral rule over men forever through the expression of His holy and righteous will in the Law, has willed, in the second place, that the breakers of His Law shall be given another chance to become righteous in His sight. The Hater of sin and sinners (Rom. 5, 10; Eph. 2, 3) is at the same time the Lover of sinners, and He has declared His good and gracious intentions to the breakers of His Law by the same serious, energetic, and complete will which has been expressed in His holy and righteous Law.

This second manifestation of the will of God for the secure of sinners from the fatal effects of their sinning, viewed from our position in time and space, has occurred after, and in consequence of, sin’s coming into the world. To us this second manifestation of the divine will looks like an after thought, somewhat like this: After beholding the wreckage which the sinner has made of the original plan of the Creator concerning him, the Creator, instead of inflicting inexorably the condign punishment with which He had threatened the sinner, arrested Himself, as it were, in His avenging act and proposed to the sinner a way of escape from the doom of temporal corruption and eternal destruction which the sinner had merited. But this view would not be altogether correct.

To God nothing is an accident. He knows events before they occur, and He determines beforehand the limits of each happening. While in no causal relation to sin, God had forseen in eternity its entrance into the world and in eternity had prepared those safeguards against the ravages of sin which He afterwards proclaimed in the form of compassionate, merciful comforting promises which He made to men in their ruined condition under sin. How these two forms of the divine will can coexist in God passes our comprehension, but that they always do exist in God at the same time, God has declared throughout His written revelation. In fact, the entire Bible which He breathed into the holy writers, from Moses to John, is nothing else than a continuous account and exposition of both His holy and righteous and His good and gracious will. While the former has been called the Law, the latter has been given the endearing name of the Gospel, that is, the goodly, or godly, spell, or tale — so good that it could only come from God. The entire Scriptures, which are chronologically divided into the Old and the New Testaments, are topically, or logically, divided into the Law and Gospel, both of these running through both Testaments.

In expounding to sinners His good and gracious will, God has stated in detail what all He purposes to do in order to help the sinner out of His sinful state. He has declared that in this divine endeavor to reclaim the sinner the entire holy Trinity is to be at work. As the manifestation of the holy and righteous will is a manifestation by the entire Deity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so the manifestation of the good and gracious will embraces an account, not only of the loving and gracious counsel of God in eternity, but also of the redeeming work performed by the Son of God and the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost here in time. The contents of the Gospel have been enumerated by Christians it the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed, as the contents of the Law have been condensed in the Ten Commandments.

The Gospel, then, represents a profoundly thoughtful, elaborate, and orderly scheme of God to bring renegade man out of his rebel condition under sin into a state of loyalty to God under the Gospel. The sinner’s rescue from his wretched condition by God’s Gospel plan consists in this, that the sinner is told not only that God loves him in spite of his sin, but that He so loves the sinner, who is by nature a child of wrath, as to sacrifice His own Son for him and to send the Holy Spirit into his heart to produce in him repentance over his sins and faith in the divine forgiveness of his sins. The love of God for sinners of which the Gospel speaks is not like the easy-going attitude which an indolent and indulgent parent assumes to his libertine son, when he tells him not to bother his mind about his wrong-doing and its consequences, to forget it, and to consider himself still loved by his doting sire. No; the redemptive love of God works in conjunction with the righteousness and holiness of God. These divine attributes which God expounded to man in the Law are not put out of commission by the love of God, but without destroying the sinner, as He has threatened to do, God by His redeeming love finds a way to meet the demands which God’s righteousness and holiness make upon man and to execute the lawful punishment which the sinner has incurred by breaking God’s Law. God sent His Son, coequal and coessential with Himself, on earth in the form of a human being. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was made man and placed under the Law that had been issued to man for the purpose of fulfilling it in man’s place. Through the sinless life of Christ on earth under every condition and in every relationship which the Law of God determines for man, a treasurer of righteousness has been accumulated that balances even with all the demands of the divine Law. This treasure Christ did not collect for Himself; for He was in no need of it, being both the holy and righteous God and a holy and righteous man, who never did the least wrong in thought, word, or deed. This treasure was designed by God to be given away to every sinner as his own and to be regarded by God as the sinner’s righteousness. In other words, God in His love decreed that the sinner, who had lost the original righteousness in which he had been created and who had spent his life in unrighteousness, should be made righteous by proxy, viz., by the foreign righteousness of the Son of God, who had spent His earthly life under the Law as the sinner’s Substitute, in the sinner’s place.

Furthermore, the sinless, impeccable Christ, at the end of His sojourn among men, suffered death, which no one has to undergo except sinners; for death is the wages of sin. There is only one explanation of the death of the incarnate Son of God — it is substitutive, or vicarious, just like His life under the Law. Jesus died the death which sinners had deserved to die, and by His redeeming love, God purposes to regard the death of His Son as the death which He would have to inflict upon every sinner for breaking His Law.

The Gospel, then, embraces the entire work of Christ on earth, as the evangelical Teacher of men, as their evangelical High Priest, who makes atonement for their iniquities, and as their evangelical Regent, who sets up a new rule in their rebellious hearts by the power of His love.

By his first sinful act man had not only changed his relation to God from that of a loyal subject and loving friend to that of a mutinous rebel and hating enemy, but he had also changed his spiritual condition. The first sin was evidence that the human intellect, will, and affections no longer functioned as they had in the state of innocence; they had become blind, crooked, perverse, disorderly. Out of this changed condition other sinful acts kept springing up, and this condition was passed on from father to child by natural propagation. The blight which had fallen on the bright intellect, the strong will, and the correct desires of Adam and Even in the fatal hour of their first disobedience was inherited by their descendants.

Fallen man no longer understood fully the will of God, no longer purposed to live according to that will, no longer desired to please God. Despite the thundering accusations of the divine Law and his conscience against him he continued to live for his pleasures and defied God continually. But he loved to cheat himself by believing that he was complying with the Law of God, which he had grossly changed by his wanton misrepresentations. He managed to consider himself passing fair and even better in God’s sight, and he suppressed the misgivings and scruples that would arise in him by reckless indifference or licentiousness or by increased hypocrisy. Of the divine Law, then, he still retained a partial knowledge, but had no inclination sincerely to live up even to his partial knowledge, and of the divine Gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake he could have no knowledge, for by nature no man knew of this divine plan of salvation.

The good and gracious will of God, then, had to embrace this kindness, that, after His Son had completed His work of redemption in the sinner’s place on earth, God sent His Holy Spirit to men by means of His Word. The Holy Spirit was to lead men to a true knowledge of their wretched and hopeless condition as lawbreakers and lead them to genuine spiritual sorrow over their sins, crush their natural conceit and stubbornness, and make them contrite. Next He was to make them understand the wonderful kindness of God in sending His Son to be their Savior; He was to make them accept by an act of faith the work of Christ as performed in their place, and then teach them to lead holy and righteous lives from gratitude to God and after the pattern of Christ’s life, until God would advance them after a life of progressive sanctification to be coheirs of Christ in everlasting glory.

Since God confronts man at all times both by His holy and righteous and by His good and gracious will, He wants him to understand clearly at any moment of his life on earth what his relation to God is when measured by either will. This is a task easy enough to grasp intellectually, but quite difficult to carry out amid the vicissitudes of a life in a world steeped in wickedness and with a body every prone to sin. The task is to keep the Law and the Gospel of God strictly apart, using either for the better understanding of the other, but never mingling the teaching of the one into that of the other.

Dr. Walther’s treatise on this subject has been reproduced in this volume. It is one of the most searching disquisitions of the vitals of a truly Christian life. The reader will find in this treatise amazing insights opened up for him into his own inner life and that of other Christians and fellow-men in general.

  1. H. T. Dau
    Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind.,
    Thanksgiving Day, 1928.

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 16, 2019 in Uncategorized