Archive for November 7th, 2019

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1 Timothy 2

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

In The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,(LCMS) a recent Sunday Epistle reading was 2 Timothy 2: 1-15.   A lector was told by his pastor (LCMS) not to read verses 8-15.  The lector asked the pastor about this and the pastor said that if the lector read them, then the pastor would have to preach on the Epistle and later he told the lector that these verses were only relevant in St. Paul’s time.

This raises many questions:  By who’s standards are the Scriptures considered ‘offensive’?  What is the standard(s) being invoked?  If they are actually offensive to a segment of a given congregation, is that reason enough not to read them?  What if another segment in the political spectrum does not like another ‘kind’ of Scripture reading, then are those verses not read?  Where does one stop? Is this reading in question relevant only in St. Paul’s time?  Again, who or what decides ‘relevancy’?  Is a Scripture passage to be read in isolation from the rest of the Holy Bible?  If a passage is ascertained to be ‘offensive’, is it then no longer the inspired Word of God in written language, i.e. the words of the Bible? Is a pastor sufficient in his ordained authority to censor the Bible? I hope to answer these questions but if I do not, please let me know!

This situation does raise the question of the interpretation of these Scripture verses.  I approach these verses with the understanding that they are all quite relevant to our day and time:  as are all Scripture.  I would guess in other times, other Scripture passages were offensive to sensibilities of those times, that are not today. Yet, I would think that the faithful Church would not have not read them.  After all, “We must be obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  The Apostle Peter was told not to preach Christ Jesus.  If we obey a segment of the congregation, in similar fashion, NOT to read, and so hear God’s Word, ‘It’s only a small portion of the Bible’, then it will be much easier to capitulate to a worldly authority when they say cease and desist to publicly preach and teach the Word under the threat of temporal punishment.  Our fear should be eternal punishment. 

The incorrectness of adding or subtracting from Scripture is clearly and amply attested in the Bible:  Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19; Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 5:18; Joshua 1:7-8; Mark 7:7-9; Romans 1:18-19; Genesis 3:2-3; Deuteronomy 8:3; Psalm 119:152; Matthew 4:4; Matthew 15:2-3[MS1] Clearly, a pastor has authority to read, teach and preach Scripture but has no Divine authority to censor it.  Then the pastor is using an interpretative lens that is against the Scripture. It is worldly, like feminism.  If a pastor, or a church member, censors Scripture, then he is no longer standing under the Word of God but over it and so understanding and loving God’s Word diminishes. In a similar vein, “…we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? “ (Hebrews 13: 8).

Note also this key passage on the verbal inspiration of Scripture:

All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 2: 16-17)

ALL Scripture is inspired by God, not those passages I like or don’t like, which we agree or disagree with our cherished political and theological opinions. When Scripture does disagree with my opinion is probably the time I should be listening! The Bible tells us what to do, not what we want the Bible to say or do.

About the Epistle Reading:

In the Epistle reading we are looking at, clearly, the Apostle Paul is equipping Timothy (and us!) on the way we are to conduct ourselves when we come together for worship: all verses. This Epistle reading is about public worship, not private worship for his cautions are about public behavior:  men arguing after praying and women’s attire.  There are two aspects of our public and corporate prayer, that is, content and conduct:  first the content of our prayer and our hope in Christ, and second our conduct in our public and corporate prayer.

In the first section, verses 1-7,we are urged, “… that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”   This is prayer for the public square by the public Church. This is a key passage for Church’s prayer for government. 

It is clear from this first section:  we are to pray for Caesar, not to Caesar. We are to pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not. When our nation had a Democrat President, a member asked me, do we have to pray for the President?  When we had a Republican President, a member asked me, you guessed it, do we have to pray for the President? What would have happened if I capitulated both times because of the possible offense such a prayer (and the Scripture passage the prayer is based upon) would have caused? Answer:  we would not be living in this sound directive to pray for government and we would not pray for the government at all. As Pastor, I would have subverted Scripture for my own ease in possibly not offending someone.

When I taught on this first section at a Bible class, that it is prudent to pray for peace for the Church so that the Gospel may be preached and heard, a member said, “Isn’t that self-serving, Pastor?”, with a grin.  No.  It is serving the Lord and the spread of His Word for the salvation for many, as Christ is the mediator between God and man and that is quite public for all to see.  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:  “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Gal. 3: 1;  emphasis added).  The Lord wills His Word of salvation in Jesus Christ to be heard and seen in the open so that people will be saved. If we hide part of it, then the Savior’s loving embrace will likewise hid.

The second part of the Epistle reading are verses 8-15 and as the content of public prayer in the Divine Service is for the public and the open and free preaching of the Word, so those who are pray-ers are likewise public, male and female. We see in this second section the uncomplimentary ways of the complementary roles of man and woman were not in keeping with God’s Word in the public worship.

First, men, using the ancient prayer posture, orans, arms uplifted were engaging in, “anger or quarreling”, and quite publicly “in every place”(vs. 8).   Yes, men have a tendency to anger and quarreling in their disagreements with each in especially politics and religion, more than women. Men will argue about anything from comic books to sports.  As anger against a brother in Christ is a sin, (Matt. 5: 21-26) and while praying say, for Lord’s peace, then the prayer is obviously hypocritical and not helpful at all to the public witness of the Church.

Now men have not dressed in such a way to draw attention to themselves, especially in a sexual way (until our times),  and the women, writes Paul, were obviously strutting their stuff by dressing up with, “…with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire”.  The Christian women here were not only dressing in a provocative worldly fashion but trying to usurp the public headship of the pastor/bishop in teaching publicly in the public worship of the Church.  Verses 12-15 are the key offensive verses to the current zeitgeist:  women should be quiet within the worship in terms of teaching and having authority over men. This does not mean that women can not teach Sunday School, in parochial schools, etc. There were deaconesses in the New Testament Church.   There is a divine order in creation as Adam was formed first by God and then Eve.  Adam was deceived in eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Adam’s clear sin was not exercising his loving headship as Eve’s helpmate.  The husband is both the head and the helpmate.  The roles of man and woman, in the penultimate covenant of husband and wife, are complementary: 

This does not mean men are more important than women (Eph 5:22-33) but that God established different callings for them. The relationship between husband and wife(1 Co I I Eph 5:23-24), set in place before the fall into sin, remains unchanged today. Thus the commands and prohibitions concerning men and women in this passage are not simply reflections of first-century Jewish culture or Paul’s personal opinions. Paul roots the practices of the Church in God’s created order. [Lutheran Study Bible (LSB), footnote, page 2072]

And as Matthew Henry (+1714), in his commentary on the entire Bible (still in print) observed on the covenant of marriage:

Eve’s being made after Adam, and out of him, puts an honor upon that sex, as the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7). If man is the head, she is the crown…. The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one removed further from the earth. [She was] not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

The Apostle Paul pointed out the unique vocation of women:  childbearing.  Here every husband has  bowed down in awe to see what his wife endures in childbirth.  Yet,  this verse  sounds like works righteousness.  Again, from the LSB footnotes: 

Women are not saved by giving birth. Through faith in the child Jesus, women are saved as they live out their God-given vocations. Childbearing is an example of a most noble, exclusively feminine vocation. “‘She will be saved through childbearing,’ . . . But what does St. Paul mean? Let the reader observe that faith is added, and that domestic duties without faith are not praised. ‘If they continue,’ he says, ‘in faith.’ -For he speaks of the whole class of mothers. Therefore, he requires especially faith, through which a woman receives the forgiveness of sins and justification. Then he adds a particular work of the calling, just as in every person a good work of a particular calling should follow faith. So the duties of the woman please God because of faith, and the believing woman is saved who devoutly serves her calling in such duties” (Ap XXIII 32). “faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (vs. 15): Though these virtues apply to both sexes, Paul applies them specifically to women here. These qualities characterize the life of every Christian woman (vv 9—10).

In the Greek, the observation is even more in focus as the article before the word “childbearing” is definite: “the childbearing”, that is, Christ.  And in the holy childbearing, He was born to bear our sin for all:   male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile.

There are differences between men and women and we are made and called to love the “hetero”, literally, the other.  These verses are offensive to the public despisers of Scripture, and so let it be, but we are called to be true to God’s Word and His created order.  What happens when the roles of men and women are subverted?  We see the bitter fruit of transgenderism, same-sex ‘marriage’, adultery, pornography, rape, “hooking up”, ad nauseam.  When the divine order is usurped as in Genesis 3, then chaos ensues as we read that men and even boys being castrated.  When we do not engage in the more difficult passages of Scripture, then we are not like those being taught by the Lord.

Conclusion: We must abhor censorship, in the political order of our constitutional republic and especially of Holy Scripture. Just like so many clip off in the reading of John 14,”…on one comes to Father but by Me “, as the Episcopalian priest did that at Reagan’s funeral in the National Cathedral in DC reading John 14. And I think it can be a slippery slope as it distorts God’s Word which opens the door for other distortions as we have seen in Church and society.  I have worked with a handful of dedicated Lutheran women who are confessional Lutherans, yet the vast majority do so out of feminism and ‘social justice’.  None of this, including inclusive language, has at all stemmed the tide of sin against God in the 6th Commandment: You shall not commit adultery. Only God’s pure Word can in faith and obedience in Him

Thomas C. Oden (+2016)  was an orthodox and conservative Reformed theologian in the United Church of Christ, probably the last such theologian.  Oden has this comment on this Epistle reading:

Men and women are encouraged by Paul not to resist and protest the limitations of their sexuality. Sexuality is a gift and a responsibility. Men are asked to refrain from complaining to God about the special burdens of their maleness. Women are asked to resist crying out against God for the special tasks of their femaleness. Neither males nor females are to writhe against creation or to resist the special challenges of having been born a man or a woman. If human life can be only male or female, never both and never neither, then if God is to give humans life at all it must be as male or female.(emphasis added)

We even have now the utter distortion of the created orderThe publishing date of Oden’s commentary is 1989, well before the current transgender controversy, yet when Scripture is censored, so is godly teaching and look where we have ended up! Men and women have denied their sex as political gender that can be changed! Today many think there is no difference at all between men and women, when clearly there is as science has shown us down into our very DNA. 

When anyone, pastor or lay person, censors Scripture, not doing the hard work of study and teaching the Bible,  then we are back in Eden and we are asking the question, “Did God really say?”.  And that question was the devil’s (Genesis 3: 1). Let us not do the devil’s work but do the work of the Lord and His Word which alone endures forever.

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