Review the sermon outline and slides for Sunday. Pray through Acts 4:23-31 and consider how God may be calling you to more prayer.
We're studying 1 Timothy in our Sunday morning bible study. This is a great study, and we've come to a difficult passage--1 Tim. 2:8-15. This passage raises a number of questions:
1. Are we to take it literally (as we typically do for 2:9-15 about women)? If so, why do we not hold it as a requirement for men to pray and lift up their hands?
2. What are we to make of Paul inserting himself into this passage through first-person language? Are these instructions merely his opinion?
3. What does Paul mean by "assuming authority" (2:12)? How far should this extend?
4. Why does Paul talk about Adam and Eve?
For the purpose of this note, I'm going to completely bracket out a discussion of verse 15, as well as any argument about Paul's restrictions on women.
To answer the first question: If we take one set of instructions literally (either to the men or to the women), we must also take the second set of instructions literally. It is not enough to say the instructions for men to pray with hands lifted is cultural but the instructions about how women are to dress or the restrictions on women are timeless (the apparent theological reference to Adam and Eve notwithstanding).
Secondly, we sometimes overlook how often Paul refers to himself in the Pastoral Letters (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). Because this can be an emotionally charged passage, we look for ways to "soften the blow." Some even look for ways to evade these instructions, either by throwing out an uncritical "cultural" argument or by pointing to Paul's first-person language as though these instructions are merely Paul's opinion that can be taken or left as one desires.
Paul uses personal language often in these letters. For example, Paul refers to the way God used him to demonstrate God's great mercy (1:12-17). Are we to infer that this is just a good idea or one way of looking at things merely because Paul uses himself as an example to make a larger point about Christ Jesus' patience towards those who would believe in him (1:16)? On the contrary, Paul's theological argument is valid; his experience extends his argument and is secondary to it.
Further, Paul considers himself an apostle (1:1). In earlier New Testament letters Paul has shown no fear in arguing from his apostleship. He derives authority from his apostleship and uses it from time to time (for example, 2 Corinthians 10-12). It is fair to say that when Paul uses first-person language in this passage, he is not passing on his opinion, but his apostolic teaching about the issue at hand.
Thirdly, Paul deals with Adam and Eve (2:13-14). For what purpose? Are they offered merely as an illustrative example, or as the theological basis for Paul's argument? In my view, Paul uses them merely as an example to illustrate his point. This is in part because of verse 15, which Paul includes as a way of indicating that his example in verses 13-14 breaks down.
Finally, what does Paul mean when he says "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man"? The italicized phrase is difficult to interpret. It is a verb that is relatively rare in Greek and, in fact, only appears in the New Testament in this one place. That makes it even more difficult to interpret because there are no other uses in the NT to compare it to.
The rest of the sentence, as well as verse 11, is pretty clear. Taken simply and literally, Paul teaches that women are to be learners, not teachers, in the church. Grammatically, the verb for "to assume authority" is an infinitive used in a complementary way. Daniel Wallace says, "The infinitive is very frequently used with "helper" verbs to complete their thought" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics [Zondervan, 1996], p. 599).
As an example, Wallace cites Matthew 6:4--"You cannot serve God and mammon." Notice how the verb, "serve," is complemented by "God" and "mammon."
Thus, in 1 Tim. 2:12, "to teach" and "to assume authority" complement the (negative) verb, "I do not permit." They both relate what Paul doesn't permit, and because they are complementary, they relate to the same thing. Specifically, in this passage, according to Paul, a woman teaching a man is the same as a woman assuming authority over a man, that is, to set herself above him.
However, if we understand that the phrase "to assume authority" refers to taking, seizing, or usurping authority from men, what if the authority to teach is granted to a woman from the leading men? Does that alleviate her from "assuming authority"? Which is the real issue in this passage--promoting male leadership in teaching, or teaching proper roles that respect cultural distinctions in society? [Consider that Paul is also concerned that the church not run afoul of the authorities (2:1-7) and the latter takes on more relevance.]
If, grammatically and contextually, "assuming authority" is limited to the teaching act (and even more specifically, to the act of women teaching men the bible in the church), then we must recognize its limitations. How do we extend this to cover the whole of the worship service? How do we apply this over other passages that clearly demonstrate the communal nature of worship, and the involvement of women in such (1 Cor. 11:2-16)?
Obviously, there is a lot more that could be fleshed out here. In this note I wanted to detail what Paul was actually saying in this passage as opposed to what we often think he was saying. Did I succeed? What do you think?
Another angle, this time on how temptation opens a door for sin, which grows larger and larger until it becomes a huge problem for us, unless we turn it away.
Get ready! On Sunday, we'll tackle how to turn away temptation when we're confronted with it by studying how Jesus turned away temptation. In the meantime, read the study notes and questions on Luke 4:1-13, view the slides, and study the sermon outline to help you prepare for Sunday.
Please share this page with anyone you think might find it useful, and please leave any comments or questions you have.
I'm preaching from Luke 4:1-13 on Sunday. Here are some notes and study questions to get you thinking about Jesus, temptation, and your own spiritual growth.
Did You Know?
We grow spiritually by making a plan, focusing on the "next steps" of that plan, and taking action.
Read the sermon study notes, preview the slides, or study the sermon outline for Sunday.
Sermon Study Notes
This is a long post. I recommend downloading the PDF of this post, reading it, then coming back to leave your comments.
Introduction: Nutrition and Exercise for Body and Soul
Every spring, after the long Michigan winter, I begin a walking program. I walk up Ridgeway Road until it dead ends, then come back to a cross-street, where I turn left and walk through the subdivision until it comes back out onto Ridgeway Road. Then I return home. It's about a two-mile walk, which I try to complete at least four times a week. I walk this route through spring, during summer, and into the fall, stopping it only when the temperatures fall to uncomfortable levels.
But that hits the point--when late fall or early winter hits, I quit the discipline. And I don't restart until spring. You can imagine the rest. In Michigan, we get colder temps beginning in November. Which means I typically go through the gigantic meals of Thanksgiving and Christmas and a long winter where I eat all the candy well-meaning people gave me for Christmas without exercising. Which means, I pretty much undo the good I did by walking for three seasons. Which means, starting a walking program in the spring is easier said than done!
I can't be the only one this happens to. If you've ever begun an exercise program, or a nutrition program, or a self-improvement program, you've probably experienced the initial rush of excitement as you began the program and experienced positive results. But unless you've been extremely committed to this program, you've also probably experienced the dullness of it around the two- or three-week mark. You may also have quit the program, giving up on the positive results you achieved.
How to Be Immature
We can see this process as a metaphor for our spiritual growth as well. We often begin well in our spiritual lives, but if we don't pay attention, we may find ourselves quitting the program we began. There are too many times I began a new year with the intention to read through the bible only to fizzle out mid-January when the reading called for me to slog through Leviticus and Numbers!
But just like a good exercise or nutrition program will help us maintain optimal health, so a good spiritual nutrition plan will help us keep our attention on God and his mission for us in Jesus. This is what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 when he tells the Christians in Corinth, "I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it" (3:1-2, TNIV). He's referring to their early lives as Christians--they were not yet experienced in faith and had a lot to learn. That is why he gave them milk. They weren't ready for solid food. They were like infants.
Paul means this statement non-critically. This is the way it was; it's the same way with us. When we were first baptized, none of us had the depth of faith or spiritual maturity that we have now. At least, hopefully not. Therein lies the problem. Paul continues, "You are still worldly" (1 Cor. 3:3, TNIV). They haven't grown, they haven't advanced in faith, and they haven't matured. They are still acting like infants. They haven't engaged in spiritual growth.
Why? Because they are too busy fighting and arguing among themselves. They are too busy manufacturing divisions among them. Paul says as much when he states, "For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?" (3:3, TNIV). [Paul also points out several other reasons throughout 1 Corinthians why they are immature--they are putting up with worldly behavior in the congregation (ch. 5); they are suing each other (ch. 6); some of them are engaging in gross sexual immorality (ch. 6); some are using their freedom in Christ to lead others down a slippery slope (chs. 8-10); they are arguing about worship (chs. 11-14); and they are unclear about the resurrection of Jesus (ch. 15).]
A similar problem exists in Hebrews 5:11-14. Throughout this letter, Christians are reminded that it is relatively easy to walk away from your Christian faith if you do not remain anchored to that faith (see 2:1). The writer thus warns Christians to be careful not to wander away (6:4-6). But in 5:11-14 the writer makes clear that if people are not serious about their own faith they will likely fall short. In fact, he rebukes them on this point! "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make clear to you because you no longer try to understand" (5:11, TNIV).
He rebukes them for being too immature. He states that they should be teachers but can't, because they still need to be taught themselves (5:12)! They live on milk and are not mature (5:13-14).
How to Begin a Spiritual Nutrition Program
How do we avoid this fate? How do we become mature instead of wallowing in immaturity? We need to put ourselves on a spiritual nutrition program. We need to put away the milk and begin eating meat.
The meat of spiritual growth is prayer and the word of God. Just like we need to eat good food in a physical nutrition program and exercise daily, so in our spiritual nutrition program we need a daily workout and regiment of prayer and the word of God. Jesus declared as much in response to a temptation when he said, "People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, TNIV). Jesus knew that without the word of God, and without prayer, we wouldn't be able to sustain our spiritual growth. The word of God and prayer are the meat of maturity.
We process the word best through meditation. The psalms attest to this over and over. In meditation, we digest the word of God and seek application, rather than simply accumulate knowledge about God.
But a nutrition program also requires action. It's not enough just to eat right. We also need to exercise. In our spiritual nutrition program, we also need action. We need strength training. We do this through serving others. Going back to 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds them that, instead of fighting among themselves, they should learn from his example and be a servant (3:5). Later, he teaches about love and instructs them to love each other--which means not fighting and actively seeking the good of others.
In Hebrews, serving takes on more of an encouraging aspect. The writer teaches Christians to be together, to encourage each other, to not avoid others. In this way their faith would be strengthened and they would grow together (10:25).
Begin Your Spiritual Nutrition Program
A spiritual nutrition program combines food with action. Our food is prayer and the word of God. Our strength-training is serving and encouraging others. It's important to include all these aspects. If we eat right, we're only going partway. We're missing out on the fullness of what we can do as God fuels us. If we only serve and encourage others, we're missing the deep intimacy that comes from time with God.
We build our spiritual nutrition program through discipline. We start day-by-day, bit-by-bit, adding to it and refining it until we get where we need to be (and as God leads us). For some, this will require daily bible reading. Others may find more nourishment in praying the daily office. Some may read a big chunk of the bible once a week. However we receive the word, let us focus on the action that comes from it. This action is our strength training exercises. We build our strength through serving and encouraging others.
Today: Begin your spiritual nutrition program.
On Sunday we'll continue our bible study in 1 Timothy. As we consider chapter 2, please read 1 Timothy and think through these questions.
Christians, Prayer, and the Government (2:1-7)
How Christians are to Worship (2:8-15)
This is a follow-up to a post from last week where I wrote about how we used Twitter and Facebook in our church. That post detailed the basics. This post will detail the specifics of our follow-up.
1. I began the day by posting two tweets from our church Twitter account. The first tweet encouraged tweeting church members to provide thoughts, commentary, and questions during the sermon. The second tweet contained a theme sentence for the sermon as well as links to my sermon outline and slides.
2. Just like last week, I had someone in the office tweet the main points of my sermon while I preached. These points were tweeted in real time.
3. We used the Twitter hashtag #hrcc to organize the sermon tweets as well as any responses.
4. In the afternoon, I went back to Twitter, searched the hashtag, and responded to the tweets that came in during the sermon. For example, one member noted a similarity between the Joseph story and a movie, and I responded, asking for more information on that connection. Another member commented that goals help us persevere and I replied by asking if that part of the sermon was unclear and stating what I thought the goal should be.
5. As the week goes on, I plan to follow up both with questions to help church members apply the biblical teaching from Sunday as well as questions to help me focus my sermon for the upcoming Sunday.
6. I did pretty much the same thing on Facebook. On our Horton Road Church of Christ ministry page, I requested that church members leave a comment detailing their reflections on the sermon. To facilitate this, I had earlier messaged several church members to ask them for their participation.
7. I went back to Facebook in the afternoon and added my own comment to the thread. On Monday, I posted a follow-up question to help church members apply the sermon. I also posted a thread to generate discussion ahead of my sermon coming up this Sunday.
I plan to keep refining this system, and if you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, please leave them in comments!