Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Sufficency of Scripture

           Many within the church today will wholeheartedly affirm the Bible’s inspiration (it being God’s very words), inerrancy (it containing no errors), and authority. However, there does seem to be a doubt as to its sufficiency in several cases. That it is all we need when it comes to the profession and practice of our faith. While some would not claim to deny the sufficiency of Scripture, they in essence do just that in their practice. This can be seen today by those who continue to look for God to speak to them through some means other than Scripture, indicating that they must believe that His Word is not enough to guide and direct us. Something more or in addition to it must be needed. How many today desire some sort of supernatural explosive encounter with God rather than being content with His Word? A growing number of churches are adopting the dangerous and divisive teachings of Critical Race Theory to address racism as if the gospel cannot fully and completely be used to deal with the matter itself. Again, the idea is that something else must be needed. Not too terribly long ago, books purporting to be first or second hand accounts of people who have been to heaven and back were jumping off the shelves, being promoted as a way to conclusively prove that “heaven is for real.” Thus implying of course that the witness of Scripture itself can’t ultimately do so. That such a supposed experience is necessary to truly convince someone. And for years several churches have sought various pragmatic ways to grow the church because they obviously didn’t believe that a ministry centered on the Word of God alone could do it. From car raffles to hosting a rock concert at an Easter service (yes, sadly these are real examples!), some of these churches seem to almost be willing to stop at nothing to try to get people into the doors, all the while casting the one means that God has ordained to serve as the instrument to grow His church to the side or at the least minimalizing it. Why would they ever do these types of things? Simply because they are not convinced that the Bible being taught, preached, and used in evangelism is sufficient to do it itself.


            But to deny the sufficiency of Scripture is to deny the testimony of Scripture itself since it claims to be enough for us. Paul reminds young Timothy that it is the “sacred writings” of Scripture “which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). He didn’t say that it was these “sacred writings” AND something else that are able to make you wise unto salvation but these “sacred writings” PERIOD. These “sacred writings” ALONE. Furthermore, he goes on to write that “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work” (vv. 16-17). The fact that the man of God can be described as “having been thoroughly equipped for EVERY good work” indicates that he is not lacking for anything that God has called him to do. The very God-breathed words of Scripture provides him with everything needed for the task. Not one good work is out there for him to do that Scripture has not equipped him for. Likewise, Peter points out that the Lord’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). The full knowledge of Him revealed in His Word has not granted us SOMETHINGS pertaining to our life and godliness or even MOST THINGS but EVERYTHING. With God’s Word, we have all that we need to place our trust in Christ for our salvation and to live for His glory. As Charles Spurgeon so well put it, “This weapon [the Bible] is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross.”


            When you think about it, the apostles didn’t have nowhere near the technological advancements which we have today and didn’t rely on any gimmicks. Yet, they were described as having “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The Lord continued to add to His church through their preaching of the Word by the power of the Spirit. The Word of God proved sufficient for the growth of Christ’s church just as it will continually do today. The instrument that sparked the Protestant Reformation was not the hammer Luther used to nail his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church but the Bible he relentlessly preached and taught from. Towards the end of his life when he was reflecting on the work of reformation he had been a part of, he stated, "Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all.” God’s Word is always sufficient for every believer and minister of the gospel.


            The sufficiency of Scripture even more so can be seen in the parable that Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. At the end of their lives, the rich man finds himself in agony in Hades with Lazarus at Abraham’s bosom. What is really interesting in this story is the interaction that the rich man has with Abraham. He asks him to send Lazarus back to warn his five brothers of this place of torment so that they would repent and not have to experience it (v. 28). But Abraham tells him that “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29). Even when the rich man objects that surely if someone would go to them from the dead, they would repent (v. 30), Abraham reiterates, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (v. 31). “Moses and the Prophets” was a shorthand way of referring to the entire Old Testament as Moses served as the human author of the first five books and the prophets much of the other. The point here clearly is that God’s Word is enough to convince someone of the reality of hell and heaven and the need of repentance and faith in Christ to escape the former and to dwell in the latter. Not even someone having been to heaven and back can convince anyone about the need for repentance. God’s Word alone can do that and should they neglect that, nothing else will work. Such supposed claims of those who have been to heaven and back are not needed to prove to anyone that “heaven is for real” because we have God’s Word on the matter and that is enough. If that is not believed, neither will any other testimony about heaven be believed.


            The good news for us as believers is that we have been given everything needed for our faith and life in the Lord. We are not lacking in any way nor do we need to look elsewhere for God’s assistance. We have God’s Word and that is enough for us. God has not sent us out with only a handful of equipment and we need to shop elsewhere for the rest. It is all there for us in His all-sufficient Word. Let’s be sure not only to profess that but also to live like it!


Love in Christ,

Pastor Lee

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

On Women Keeping Silent in the Churches and Not Being Permitted to Speak: An Exegetical Look at 1 Corinthians 14:34-35


What are we to do about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 regarding women needing to keep silent in the churches? The passage certainly has caused quite a stir and no little debate. Well, what we cannot do is simply dismiss it because we do not like what it has to say or try to explain it away since we are uncomfortable with it. It is the Word of God for us as a church. Therefore, we must accept it and obey it. But of course we need to be sure that we understand it. And that is my goal here in this blogpost. To help us make sense of this teaching so that we are able to properly put it into practice. I recently preached on this passage so it allowed me to dive in to restudy the topic yet again. The following is an edited version of my sermon manuscript.

One thing we need to recognize with this command for the women to keep silent in the churches because they are not permitted to speak is that this is not an absolute commandment. It cannot mean that a woman is not allowed to say a word at all in the entire worship service. We would all be in trouble if that was the case. Ladies would not be able to share any prayer requests with us and they could not join in the singing. Things which occur regularly each Lord's Day. But thankfully, that is not what Paul has in mind here. We know that cannot be the case because just a few short chapters ago, back in chapter 11, he taught that a woman was to have her head covered according to the cultural custom whenever she would pray or prophesy. And you cannot publicly pray or prophesy without speaking. To do those things in the context of the Sunday morning gathering requires someone not to be silent. So, this cannot be saying that a woman should never open her mouth to speak anything in worship. It must then be limited to a certain form of speaking which occurs in the church.


For the type of speaking that a woman is not permitted to do, please look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15. My mentor would often say that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. If you ever find yourself struggling to understand a specific passage of Scripture, just keep reading and you may discover more clarity given about it somewhere else later in the Bible. The Holy Spirit had Paul bring more clarity to this issue in his first letter to young Timothy much later.  1 Timothy 2:11-12 says, A woman must learn in quietness, in all submission. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.


We see here that the kind of speaking that Paul says a woman is not to do is to teach or exercise authority over a man. Teaching in a way that would have her perceived as having authority over a man or that would place her in authority over a man. Interestingly enough, in the very next chapter, we find Paul laying out the qualifications of an elder or pastor; a position of authority in the church. And the one skill required of such is that he must be able to teach (3:2). This would prohibit then a woman from serving as a pastor or performing the function of a pastor. And the fact that the pastor must have the ability to teach indicates that his authority is exercised through teaching. Through the teaching of the Word.


Does this mean that a woman cannot teach anyone in the church at all? Absolutely not. The issue is teaching that would place them in authority over any MEN in the congregation. Titus 2 instructs us that older women are to teach the younger women in the church to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be slandered. We need more women in congregations to do this important work. The work of teaching other women. In fact, there are things that a woman can teach other women much more effectively than I could simply because, as a man, I have not had the same experiences, and frankly, never will. And we know that women can teach children because every mother is called to do that. Women can teach other women and children. In fact, they should teach other women and children. But from my understanding of this passage, they are not to teach adult men.


In the earlier days of her ministry, Beth Moore got this. Unfortunately, she has now repudiated such a teaching as well as apparently what she once taught on homosexuality and modesty which are just a few reasons I cannot recommend any of her Bible studies and books. Throw in her bizarre accounts of God supposedly telling her to go on a “play date” with Him and wash a random woman’s hair at the airport, and her teachings can be downright dangerous. But, anyway, she used to begin her women’s conferences with an address to the husbands who had come along with their wives. She would tell them that it was alright for them to stay but she did not desire to have any kind of authority over them. Her message was directed towards the women. At the time, she recognized this teaching of Scripture. Not any more though. And there are those like Elisabeth Elliott in a previous generation and Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth now who only direct their ministry to women. They are cautious not to step into a role of teaching or preaching to men that God has not called them to.


In the context of what was going on in Corinth, this meant that a woman could not evaluate or explain a prophecy that had been given because that would place them in judgment over the men in the congregation, and possibly even their own husbands. That would make them to be in essence in authority over them when they are to submit to their leadership. And if they had any questions about the prophecy, rather than join those in the congregation who had been tasked to sift or judge that prophecy, they are to ask their husbands at home. It very well could be that some of the women in the congregation were stepping up to give an explanation of the prophecy and Paul had heard about it. So, he needs to remind them of what they have been called to do in the church. 


And we cannot limit this to the situation there at Corinth. The way that this is worded does not allow us to do so. It says that The women are to keep silent in the churches plural. This is not just for the church in Corinth. And the last statement of v. 33, As in all the churches of the saints, actually could go with v. 34 indicating that this should be the practice in every church. (My copy of the Greek text of the letter actually has the sentence of v. 33 ending with peace and this phrase beginning the sentence of v. 34. It actually makes more sense for it to be attached to what follows instead of that which proceeds.)


It is important that we realize that this is not Paul’s opinion that he is giving here with this. He does not write this because he is some kind of misogynist chauvinist who devalues women. Some have accused him of such. No, in fact, this teaching actually predates Paul. You will notice that this is just as the Law also says. The Law is Paul’s shorthand for the entire OT. We know this to be the case because when he quoted Isaiah 28:11 earlier in v. 21, he stated that In the Law it is written. The OT Scripture teaches this and Paul is just calling on the church in Corinth to follow such teaching in their worship services.


As to where in the OT this is found, don’t go looking in Exodus or Leviticus. That’s not where Paul is thinking. He is actually going farther back than that. To the testimony of God’s very creation of man and woman in Genesis 2. This is where the parallel of 1 Timothy 2 helps us yet again. When you jump back there, we find the reason Paul gave the instruction about women not being permitted to teach or exercise authority over a man in v. 13. For it was Adam who was first formed, and then Eve. It is based on the order of creation and God’s good design in that. Why is God’s making of Adam and Eve significant? Because God made man first to serve as the head of the family and the woman afterwards to be the man’s helper. To serve alongside of him under his leadership. Contrary to our culture today, there is a distinction between the two genders by design and some things that God has called men to do that He hasn’t called women as well as certain things He has called women to do that He hasn’t men. One of these things that men have been specifically called to do is to lead in their homes and in the church. As I pointed out earlier, a leading that is done through teaching. I would argue that a major problem in both the home and the church today is that there is an absence of men leading so the women are feeling the need to step in to fill in the gap left by the men. But such should not be the case. It is not the very way God has intended.


There are a number of responses that these verses elicit in people. Some think it appears unfair for women not to be allowed to teach and lead in the church, at least over men. I answer that it is no more unfair than God designing for women to bear and birth children and not men. That is the specific role God has crafted most women for. Billy Graham's wife, Ruth, once said that she thought that men excell women in various areas from music, politics, writing, and athletics [we currently are witnessing that with the young man who is masquerading as a girl breaking all of these swimming records in the girls category] but women make the best wives and the best mothers. Much better than any man ever could! I’ll acknowledge that most men don’t take issue with this as women often do to what God has not given them to do. But then again, Genesis 3:16 indicates that this would be the case. That women will have the desire to overtake the authority of their husbands though God has designed for him to be the head over them. 


This teaching may seem old-fashioned and out of place in today’s world. But I think that that just goes to show us how much we have allowed the culture to mold and shape us and not the Scriptures. Whenever we may find the church to be in agreement with the culture, we need to pause and evaluate it. Because the two are seldom in agreement. The way of Christ is different from the way of the world. I am convinced that the feminist movement with its emphasis that women should be able to do whatever men can is responsible for us being so open to women fulfilling roles that God has intended specifically for men. Hence, why virtually no church or denomination had a woman pastor over 50 years ago but now few denominations can be found who haven’t compromised to the spirit of the age we could say.


And let me be clear that this teaching in NO WAY limits women to use the gifts that God has graciously given them in the ministry of the church. One of my pet peeves is when someone claims that this position is against women serving in ministry in the church. The only way that would be true is if you limit ministry only to what goes on behind the pulpit which 1 Corinthians 12 will not allow us to do. Every member in the congregation is involved in ministry. We are to minister to one another with the specific gifts that the Spirit has given us. No one is less important or less needed in a fellowship because he or she is not the pastor or preaching behind the pulpit. The only difference between me and the other members of the congregation is that God has called me to serve as their pastor and has called them in a different capacity.


And if all of us were pastors, preachers, or teachers, all the work of ministry which God has for us to do would never get done. We would surely be hurting at Mt. Joy without all of the faithful ladies serving in so many various ways and areas. And there is a plethora of ways to serve that do not involve teaching or having authority over men. So, don’t let it ever be said that a woman does not have a place to serve in ministry simply because God has not designed for her to serve in leadership as a pastor, preacher, or teacher over men.


I see no way of getting around the clear teaching of Scripture on this topic. Paul didn't stutter in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 or in 1 Timothy 2:12-15. And what he teaches in these passages is consistent with the prescriptions and patterns throughout Scripture regarding gender roles. In the end, it comes down to whether we desire to follow Scripture or the spirit of the age. Whether we accept what God has said and called both men and women respectively to do in the home and in the church or reject it due to us being uncomfortable with it. 


 Love in Christ,