Pastors Must Be Men

I made this in response to another photo I saw floating around Facebook with something about how girls should have women pastors to look up to. If they don’t, the thinking went, they won’t feel empowered.

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The reality is that any woman who has imagined she is a pastor can’t speak with God’s authority since she is a walking, talking example of her own disregard for His Word. She speaks her own words. She empowers rebelliousness. God has revealed His will for men only to fill the role of pastor, so they may speak His words and not their own, just as I am doing this very moment.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, 1 Tim. 2:12

Several years ago, when I was a chaplain in the Army, we had a joint exercise going on with a bunch of Army and Air Force units. All the chaplains from the different units decided to get together for lunch. The Air Force chaplain, a woman, said she had arranged for a chapel service to be held later that day. She said that she would be glad to preach and lead the service, unless there was anyone else there who might want to? I looked around the table. There were at least five male chaplains, all more senior than me, none of whom offered to preach instead of this woman. After some awkward moments of silence and light banter about who should preach, it became very clear to me that this woman was going to preach that day unless I volunteered. Even though I was by far the most junior chaplain there, still a seminary student, I reasoned that whatever message I brought would be preferable to the indignity of a woman preaching to a bunch of men. I spoke up, everyone seemed glad I did (and a little relieved), and I preached later that day.

These men had an easy option not to allow a woman to preach and they still punted on it. Imagine if the option was hard. Imagine if there was a cost associated with dissenting. How much less would they speak up, in that case? Men who tolerate women pastors have been trained already to submit to them.

 

Meditation Upon My Father’s Death

My father, Gwillim Law, is being buried today in Chapel Hill after 71 years of life and battling cancer of the brain for the past year. He was a godly and kind man that will be missed very much by his family and grandchildren. Since I was unable to attend the service, I sent the presiding minister a meditation on Scripture I composed. He will be reading it for the graveside service. May God comfort all who are missing Gramp.

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Ecclesiastes 7:1-3

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

Along with the glorious and precious promises of God contained in Scripture for our relief and comfort at the passing of a loved one, the Lord supplies a word to His people from that wise Preacher, the writer of Ecclesiastes, that invites us to grieve. Though death is our enemy, because it separates us from one another at this time in the history of redemption, godly grief is a good thing. It is right for us to grieve the loss of our dear ones, just as the Lord Himself does; precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Psalm 116). Or, take for example, Christ’s grief over Lazarus: He wept. For us to never grieve would be unhealthy. It would be vanity. Better, Solomon says, to allow grief to take its course, and the promise is that this will result in gladness of heart.

How is this possible? Three ways.

First, by seeing God’s faithfulness in having a good name. By God’s grace, my father had a good name. All who knew him trusted him completely. My father, more than any man in my life, has demonstrated to me the value of a good name; that it is better than precious ointment. A good name is not something that is acquired all at once, but it is accrued over a lifetime of integrity and walking with Christ. This is why the day of death is better than the day of birth, because God’s faithfulness is evident in the good name His people have received over a lifetime. As one commentator has put it, “We were born to uncertainty, but a good man does not die at uncertainty.” Thinking on this makes the heart glad.

Second, it is better for us to be at the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Although there is a time and season for all things, and celebration and festivals are very good, the Preacher reminds us that there is more to be learned by mourning than by feasting. God knows our nature, that we are easily distracted and excited by that which is festive or full of mirth. Therefore, He has called us to go to the house of mourning that we may not forget this is the end of all mankind. In the house of mourning, we are confronted with the present reality of death separating us from each other, and that it is appointed for each of us once, to die, and after that comes judgement (Heb. 9:27). Solomon continues in this vein, saying the living lay it to heart. If we are wise, we will lay it to heart. If we grieve rightly and take care to consider our own standing before the Lord, seeing that He will not judge or destroy the righteous who call upon the Son, this can only make our hearts glad.

Third, that sorrow is better than laughter. Even though we are perfectly redeemed by Christ, we still sin every day. Even though Christ is putting all His enemies under His feet, we are oppressed and afflicted by our foes at every turn. We see the terrible suffering of others, as we observed in my father’s steady decline over the last year. The Preacher wisely reminds us that godly sorrow really is more fitting for us in our present condition than laughter. How can this make the heart glad? Because even in this vale of tears, God provides life-giving streams. There are benefits to be had in our sorrow that won’t be found in laughter. Our minds may become more serious, and more concentrated upon God’s purposes. Our hands may loosen their grip upon the things of this world, as we see that our life is but a breath; like the grass of the field. And, finally, our hearts may grow to love the things of God more than the things of the world.

As we have seen, God’s Word gives us reason to mourn and grieve; yet not as those without hope, and not forever. Because of Christ’s redeeming work for His people, we have reason to rejoice. Our hearts may be glad, even in great suffering, because we believe what has been promised. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev. 21:4). Knowing that our rejoicing and relief when the end comes will be in proportion, in some sense, to the amount of death and mourning and crying and pain we have experienced in this vale of tears, isn’t that enough to make the heart glad?

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

No Estimation of the Man

I wear a black robe for leading worship, but not for teaching Sabbath School. The other Lord’s Day, I was thinking about not wearing a suit, but just a shirt and tie. After all, that’s what I wear underneath my robe during worship. However, I decided to put on my suit anyway. For some reason, I felt I did not want to teach Sabbath School without a suit on, especially if we had a visitor come. “Who’s this guy that doesn’t wear a suit?” I heard this imaginary visitor say in my mind.

No sooner had I thought that, than I understood the real reason I felt I should have a suit on. Vanity. At that point, it wasn’t the good desire to appear reverently and presentable as one who takes their calling seriously that was driving me to wear the suit. Rather, it was the desire to appear professional in the eyes of men.

This caused me to recall why it’s so fitting for the minister to be robed while leading worship. It guards against any self-consciousness on his part about what he wears. It prevents others from all estimation of the man’s worthiness to preach God’s Word based on his appearance or attire. The worthiness of the man is not in his training or credentials, or anything about him personally, but in God’s calling. There are plenty of men who have all the credentials and many letters following their names, yet are worthless men. There are others who “dress down” and wear casual clothes out of a desire to be seen as relatable  or authentic. These would both do better to remember their position as servants. The robed minister is a reminder to listen to the Word because you are hearing it from God’s appointed servant; not from a professional, not from a guru.

 

In Defense of Obscurity

Something a little bizarre is happening in Louisiana. Some legislators want the Declaration of Independence recited by school children each day and some don’t. The worthiness of the Declaration as a creed has been debated over the last several days here. In a sound bite on the radio, I heard Rep. Valerie Hodges give an impassioned appeal to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. She recounted how the Declaration and its language has been used to bring about such things as the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and “bringing women out of obscurity“. A fascinating phrase.

Who knew? Presumably, before the Women’s Suffrage movement of the latter 19th century and early 20th century, all women were “in obscurity”. As in, they were unknown, inconspicuous, or unimportant.

But, don’t we know that’s not true? Women have never been unimportant to society. It’s not like someone walked into a library in the 18oo’s, asked for a book on women, and was told, “Huh? Gee, I don’t know if we have any books on that.”

We know that Rep. Hodges isn’t talking about obscurity in its most basic definition. What kind of obscurity is she talking about, then? And, why was it so bad that women needed to be brought out of it? It isn’t too hard to guess. She’s talking about a political obscurity.

To her, the boys have been playing fort for thousands of years while the girls have been playing dolls. In the last few generations, more of the girls have left playing with silly dolls to play fort with the boys, with the help of things like the Declaration of Independence and Women’s Suffrage. Now, these girls are taken quite seriously, you see. Everyone knows they aren’t silly like the ones playing with dolls, the ones in obscurity.

Can we please be done with this idea that women who labor in the home, ministering to their husbands and children with the unique gifts God gave them, are somehow insignificant or “in obscurity”? They don’t think they are. They love teaching the straight paths of the Lord to their children. They love encouraging and supporting the leadership of their husbands. They understand they are serving the Lord in an essential role. However, the godly women who minister in the home are frequently met with a weird pity from the world. Unfortunately, many girls sense this and seek to distance themselves from this pity.

While the world pities the “obscurity” of women of past generations (and their modern-day counterparts), God celebrates it. Peter writes to women when he says, “But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Pet. 3:4)

 

Eight Hours a Day

With news of President Obama’s bathroom directive sent out to public schools last week, I had a disturbing thought. Perhaps many schools and teachers will disregard the directive. However, this week, it’s very possible that in thousands of classrooms across this nation, zealously progressive teachers will read Mr. Obama’s letter to their students and encourage them that they can each decide if they feel like they are really a boy, or a girl, or neither, or something in between.

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Am I the only one who remembers being a child? I believed the things my teachers said. I thought they were nice people. I reasoned that my parents sent me to school because the teachers were trusted authorities. For one of them to tell me, with a straight face, that I could really be a girl on the inside? I wouldn’t know who to trust anymore, or what was real; if anything. Maybe that’s the point.

Last year, I wrote a paper for seminary that I’d like to post (in part). It deals with the wisdom of believers sending their children, by choice, to be educated in Caesar’s schools.

 

The Purpose of Education

The Lord has revealed Himself to man through His Word. To each generation of His people, He has commanded that they teach the next generation His statutes (Deut. 6:6-7). Therefore, the tasks of subduing the earth and teaching all nations to observe what He has commanded have the subtasks of education and literacy as implicit.

While the Word of God is most concerned with the spiritual and moral education of children, there is also great value placed on more practical pursuits. Working well is praised in the book of Proverbs (Prov. 22:29, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings,”). Musical theory should be studied to compose works that honor God. Understanding of grammar, logic, and rhetoric will aid the one whom God calls to preach the Gospel. The study of physics, astronomy, geology, and biology will expand our understanding of God’s universe and assist defenders of God’s Word against scoffers. All these practical pursuits are of value and should be taken up by Christians, but none are more important than spiritual education.

To whom does this great responsibility of education fall? To fathers. In God’s economy, the family is the basic unit of human civilization (Ex. 20:5, 20:12; Josh. 7:24, 22:13-14; Acts 11:14, 16:31) and the father is the authority God has ordained to be over the family (Gen. 2:15-22, 1 Tim. 2:13, 3:4). Bottom line: if a child is ignorant of the things of God and morally bankrupt, it is the failure of the father more than any other party. The father may choose to delegate the task of training and education to others, and often does. What is the course of wisdom in this delegation, if the father does not want his children to end up like wicked ones in Psalm 1, who walk and stand with sinners, and sit in the seat of scoffers?

 

Public Schooling

In many ways, public school is the easiest of all options. Based upon your child’s birth date and address, the state will determine to which school district they will belong and a bright, yellow bus will come to pick them up and drop them off each day. Many parents take it as a given that the state will care for their children “free of charge” for eight hours each day. Some mothers post celebratory photos of themselves leaping with glee as their school-aged children trudge off to begin another school year. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, public education in this country was viewed as more of a charity for the children of the extremely poor. The idea was that cities and counties could raise the money to educate the children of impoverished families along with the support and, many times, direct involvement of the church. At the time, the majority of Americans schooled their children in the home. Everything changed with the adoption of the Prussian model of education by the United States. The state school was attractive because of the social influence it could exert upon the impressionable minds of youth. Following the German lead, the first state-sponsored teacher’s college (also known as “normal school”) was opened in Boston, 1826. Commenting upon the power wielded by such an institution, James Gordon Carter writes:

An institution for this purpose would become by its influence on society, and particularly upon the young, an engine to sway the public sentiment, the public morals, and the public religion, more powerful than any other in the possession of government. (Essays Upon Popular Education)

In 1843, Horace Mann traveled to Germany to further study the innovative educational model; returning and lobbying for its adoption in Massachusetts in 1852. The tenets of this model were compulsory, standardized education with government-trained teachers to instruct according to the latest trends in educational theory. Franz de Hovre wrote of the Prussian model in 1917:

The prime fundamental of German education is that it is based on a national principle… A fundamental feature of German education: education to the State, education for the State, education by the State. The Volksschule is a direct result of a national principle aimed at a national unity. The State is the supreme end in view. (Quoted in Sheldon Richman, Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families)

American leaders in education fell in love with the efficiency, order, and obedience they witnessed in Germany and desired similar virtues among the wide array of American children, increasing numbers of whom were immigrating to America from nations all over the world. These forerunners to the modern American education system saw themselves as social crusaders, saving children from the ignorance of their backwater families.

Now, 150 years later, let us consider which group is actively purveying ignorance.

As the documentary, IndoctriNation, produced by Colin Gun, relates: public schools are opening the doors to many forms of sexual deviancy. Children are led to believe their “sexual orientation” is plastic and that they may soon discover they themselves are homosexual or transgender; that this is healthy. Sources quoted in the film say, “By the time they get partway through high school, the stats will show almost half have had sex with multiple partners…” In addition, Gunn points out that many school districts have programs of passing out free condoms to students as young as elementary age, all without parental knowledge.

Gunn goes on to feature several Christians who are educators in the public school system. These are people whose consciences are tattered on a daily basis by their inability to present more than decapitated facts and figures, neglecting wisdom entirely. One principal in a public school used the illustration of a weary old dyke, springing more and more leaks. He felt that, as a Christian, he was able to use his faith and what the Bible teaches him to plug some of the holes in the dyke. The whole enterprise, he says, is futile; the foundation of the dyke is made of sand since it is not built upon the Word of God. Another educator, an elementary school teacher, relayed the deep, inner conflict she faced as she tried her best to carry out her teaching responsibilities while concealing what she knows to be true about the Source of wisdom. She confessed:

“I have never felt so ashamed as a Christian as I did standing in front of those parents and presenting to them with our plan for the school year and making them feel good about their decision to place their children in a public school…When someone is in a position of authority is telling them that the earth is hundreds of millions of years old and things that are directly against what the Bible teaches, and their parents are sending them to this place, they are learning that their parents must not really believe…the Bible must not really be the Word of God because my teacher, who I like, and who seems to be a good person, is saying otherwise…If I talk about my faith the way I want to, I know I would lose my job.” (Sarah LaVerdiere, Raleigh, NC)

This painful testimony makes it clear that the public school setting is not only void of the things of God, it is openly hostile to them. R. L. Dabney’s words were bordering on prophetic when he wrote in 1873, “Any training which attempts to be non-Christian is therefore anti-Christian.”

Perhaps the most fundamental and oft ignored question to ask is: does the government have any right to teach people’s children in the first place? The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XXIII outlines the role of the civil magistrate as it is taught in Scripture. The role of government is to serve the public good (read: property) for the glory of God, to punish those who do evil, and to defend and encourage them that do good. As we have discussed above, the family (and church) have the primary duty of education. The government has largely taken over this duty assigned to the family, representing a gross overreach. This intrusion on the part of government should be protested, not encouraged by Christians voluntarily enrolling their children in these institutions. As R. L. Dabney asserts, “To train a soul away from Him is robbery of God. This task is not for the state, but committed to the family and to the church.”

 

Alternatives

Any education that begins with the fear of the Lord is preferable to one that does not. A quality Christian school can provide every opportunity afforded in government schools while teaching a consistent Christian world view.

Home school in a Christian family is an inherently Christian school. Children are afforded personalized education. Due to the flexible nature of home school, parents are able to take children on field trips and educational family vacations that would only be dreamt of by other teachers. Many have levelled the charge against home school families that the children become insular and socially awkward, due to spending every day “at home”. In reality, homeschool children have the freedom to explore many interests and often interact with adults as they compete in state fairs, enter science competitions, play sports in home school leagues, participate in home school co-ops, and volunteer in all manner of charities and mercy ministry. These interactions with other families and adults socialize children far better than the mob and clique socialization of a public school setting, by way of comparison.

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If you’re still reading, chances are, you are contemplating pulling your kids out of public school. You may be concerned about any number of things, from finances to scheduling to feelings of inadequacy, but do not be stymied by these things. Your children are a heritage from the Lord not to be willingly offered up and exposed to deceit and risk of sexual assault. There are ways to educate your children outside of public schooling. Talk to your friends. Research online. Talk to your pastor. Above all, pray.

Troubadour God

The Army was sometimes a dreary place. There was drudgery in basic combat training, and there were long, cold days with cloudy skies, when your body ached and the men were unkind to one another.

One day, I remember the drill sergeants had us all waiting for something and they allowed us to sit (on the freezing pavement) while we waited. Boredom led to conversation and tossing pebbles at one another’s helmets. We had an older man from Puerto Rico in our platoon and someone asked him if he knew how to sing. He obliged us all with a few verses of some lilting, Spanish song. It was strong at times and tender at others; like something you would hear from a Mariachi troubadour. His singing reverberated on the pavement and the brick buildings around us. I barely understood a word he sang, but I enjoyed it all the more that way.

Why do people go to an opera to hear songs in a language they don’t know? Why do we sing Frère Jaques to our children? I didn’t figure out what those words meant until I was fifteen, but it was one of my favorites as a kid. Because it isn’t always about knowing exactly what the words mean. So much is given in the rest of the song.

When we worship God, it is very much about the Word. We are a people of logos and Word is central when we worship God. But not all of worship is the same kind of Word. There is liturgy. There is posture. There is water, bread, and wine. John says the water and the blood, along with the Spirit of God, bear witness to the truth of Christ. These are all types of Word, but not exactly in the same language as the Word preached. Like He did in the Old Covenant, God desired to showcase the glories and realities of the New Covenant in more than grammar alone.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a Mighty One Who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph. 3:17

We know what it is for us to speak to God in prayer and to sing His praise from the heart. We are familiar with the challenging, comforting voice of the Shepherd when God speaks to His people by His Word. Next time you enter into the liturgy of worship, see someone baptized, or partake of the Lord’s Supper, consider the mighty, splendid, and joyful singing voice of the Lord. So much, more than we can articulate, is given in the musicality of these things.

 

Participation in the Blood and Body

These three children were interviewed and questioned by the church session (elders) yesterday evening for admission to the Lord’s Table as baptized, professing members of the church. What a blessing it was, as the pastor and father of these children (and others), to hear little ones professing faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.

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Here are a few of the questions I asked them:

  • Are you a sinner?
  • What does every sin against God deserve?
  • What is the only way to escape this punishment?
  • Do you believe all the Words God gave us in the Bible are true?
  • What special meal did Jesus give for His people to remember Him and receive His grace?
  • Is the Lord’s Supper the same as eating a regular meal?
  • Who serves the Lord’s Supper to us?
  • What is the meaning of the bread?
  • What is the meaning of the wine?
  • Do the bread and wine really change to Jesus’ flesh and blood, or does God give us the grace and spiritual benefits of Jesus’ flesh and blood broken and shed for us through the bread and wine?
  • What should we think about when we take the Lord’s Supper?
  • Should we take the Lord’s Supper if we don’t confess our sins at the beginning of church?

Though they were nervous, they all answered well. Though I did not coach them any more than our regular family worship or sidebar discussions about the things of the Lord, they were mostly confident in their answers. In fact, some answered as well as grown-ups might, with as many years in the church as they’ve had. I think any session would sustain the interview of a 40-year-old who answered along the same lines as my five-year-old daughter.

I once felt that children should be older to undergo this process. I believed perhaps the age of 12 was appropriate; the same age when Hebrew boys would undergo a transition into men of the Covenant. Yet, as I have studied this issue more and more, I have seen that the Supper is for those who are united to Christ by faith. The meal renews and confirms the union between Christ and His people by ministering to their faith and nourishing them spiritually by the grace communicated in it.

After years of hearing my children speaking about their belief in Christ, their displeasure over their sin, and their desire to know the love of God, I guess my wife and I were still waiting to “see it” in the way they act. We were discouraged by the typical tantrums and disobedience and episodes of selfishness we saw. I think we were waiting for our children to have a kind of “lightbulb” moment when they would impress us with their great deference and obedience in the Lord, giving us a warm, fuzzy feeling about their salvation.

But, is this biblical? Does everyone need a radical conversion experience, or is it enough to “Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,” (Rom. 10:9) as the Scripture says? Isn’t it faith to confess our sins and seek God’s grace whenever we do fail? Reflecting on this, I had a bit of a “lightbulb” moment myself. The Lord’s Supper is one of the means of grace. What if that greater evidence of faith we have been looking for would be there to greater degree if my believing children were coming to the Table? The grace conferred is not nothing.

We spoke to them about it. We heard their profession of faith. We heard their desire to commune with the rest of the Body and receive the benefits at the Table. And, how it warmed my heart to hear my son say, “Jesus serves us the Lord’s Supper.” After interviewing my daughter, I said, “Do you have any questions for us?” She said, “Nope…” and then smiled sweetly at us and said, “I love God.”

My children are excited to come to the Table this Lord’s Day. What’s more, in undergoing this process of examination and of the session receiving them by profession of faith, they have seen that salvation is not mechanical or automatic for covenant children. Not without faith. All the male children of Israel were circumcised, but, as the Lord says, only those with circumcised hearts loved and served Him (Deut. 30:6).

This morning, my eight-year-old son said, “Wow, Daddy, I didn’t know that last night I would finally become a believer!” I told him that he already was a believer, and may have been his whole life. It is a work of God that anyone believes; we don’t always know the precise moment we are saved. Last night, the elders affirmed that he and his sisters, by their own profession, have faith, and may now actively participate in the blood and body of Christ in the partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16).

The glory of it is too marvelous for me to comprehend. I once heard about a man, a new believer in Tennessee, who was coming to church and learning about Christ, but had not yet been baptized. You can imagine the minister felt terrible when he began to administer the Lord’s Supper, but realized he had forgotten to explain to this man that he would not be able to partake unless he had been baptized. The minister explained this from the pulpit and saw the man get up and leave right after service. Worried that he had hurt or offended this new believer, the minister called him later that day. “I’m so sorry I forgot to mention that you wouldn’t be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper because you haven’t been baptized,” said the minister, “I hope you weren’t offended!”

“Offended?” came the response, “No! I heard you talk about the grace of the Lord’s Supper, how it unites and binds Christ and His people to Himself and one another… I got so excited that Jesus gave His people such a gift, that I went home to tell my wife and children all about it so they can come and believe, too!”

Have you participated in this?

 

Untestable Spirits

This past Lord’s Day I was preaching through 1 John 4, on false teachers and the spirit of error. John’s primary command to the children of God is this:

Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

The apostle John’s clear instruction is to test the spirits. He knows false prophets and antichrists will come. What’s at stake is nothing less than the Gospel. Those who come litmuswith the spirit of error deny that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh. Testing is of greatest importance. Just as it was in the Old Covenant, when God spoke through Moses in Deuteronomy 18 saying that prophets should be tested, by whether they speak with the Word of God in their mouths and if what they say actually comes to pass.

And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

The teacher must be tested by fidelity to the Word of God and by whether his word accords with reality. If what he says goes against the clear teaching of Scripture, he is not from God. If he says something will happen and it does not, he is not from God.

The Word of God says test. If the prophet speaks with ambiguity (without the authority that comes from speaking God’s Word), they resist testing. I once heard some teachers look over a multitude and say things like, “Jesus is telling me that people are being healed from hearing problems,” and, “I’m seeing the Spirit releasing people from addiction right now,” and even, “I feel someone is being freed right now; I think his name is Thompson.”

If teaching is not testable, the test is already failed. How can a believer, desiring to be discerning and obedient to Scripture, test any of the things spoken above? If the teacher had spoken with authority, it could be tested. If they had spoken with the Spirit of God, they could have taught with authority. Not ambiguity.

Could anyone imagine the apostles speaking prophecy in this way? How about Christ? By far, we should rather listen those who speak with authority, teaching plainly from the Word of God, by the Spirit of truth, which always accords with sound doctrine.

 

 

Do Not Relax

I happened to read Calvin this morning on Matthew 5:17-19, in which Christ says not to think He has come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law and prophets. Christ explains not one iota, not one dot, will pass away from the law until all is fulfilled, and says, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Calvin comments:

Christ here speaks expressly of the commandments of life, or the Ten Words, which all the children of God ought to take as the rule of their life. He therefore declares, that they are false and deceitful teachers, who do not restrain their disciples within obedience to the law, and that they are unworthy to occupy a place in the Church, who weaken, in the slightest degree, the authority of the law; and, on the other hand, that they are honest and faithful ministers of God, who recommend, both by word and by example, the keeping of the law … Those who shall pour contempt on the doctrine of the law, or on a single syllable of it, will be rejected as the lowest of men.

Fascinating that Christ warns against those who would relax the commandments while so often dealing with those who worshiped the commandments and demanded exacting obedience (the Pharisees). Paul’s ministry took a similar shape. He corrected those who gratified the flesh with grace as an excuse as well as those who laid heavy burdens on others, burdens that they themselves could not bear.

Paul deals with those who have “strong” and “weak” faith in chapter 14 of Romans. Those with strong faith have understood the freeing power of following God’s righteous commandments (which are a delight), while those with weak faith are still timid about their freedom and lay burdens upon themselves. Sometimes, Christians who are weak call others to join them in their weakness saying, “Don’t do that! It’s unrighteous.” Sometimes, Christians who are strong and free urge others to join them in their freedom saying, “Don’t do that! It’s unrighteous,” like the honest and faithful ministers Calvin has in mind. The problem is that the weak can think they are the strong, the strong can succumb to pride, and the message they both teach can sound almost identical, at first glance.

The only way for the Christian to discern which is a faithful call from an honest minister, which is a fearful call from the timid, and which is a boastful call from the prideful or licentious is to understand the Gospel as well as God’s law. This is what John says about that:

And this is His commandment, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. 1 John 3:23-24

Those who abide in God and are ruled by the Spirit love the brothers and obey the commandments of God, the chief command being that we believe in His Son. They are honest and faithful ministers who teach the rest of God’s commandments in light of the First Two; their believing and abiding in God and their love for their brothers. These ministers enjoy God’s commandments and love their brothers enough to seek their greatest benefit. They are willing to give up their freedoms out of love for their brothers. Along with this, they are willing to be thought of poorly by all men by not relaxing the smallest syllable of God’s law, which they know is life and peace to those who believe.

 

Maintain the Traditions

My wife and I have recently studied a matter in God’s Word together. It is something she became very interested in and started asking me about. In studying all the arguments and getting into the detailed exegesis of Paul’s language in this passage, we feel the Lord has blown open a portion of Scripture that was somewhat dim to us before.2016-03-21 14.52.18

This represents our current views on the issue and does not mean we believe those who read this passage differently are in rebellion. We encourage all believers to take a closer look at a passage that has often been brushed aside. I was talking to a minister friend of mine about this issue and he told me he’s heard of a few other wives of ministers switching to covering their heads after studying this passage in depth with their husbands. “What about you?” I asked. He chuckled, “I confess, I haven’t studied it in detail, yet.”

Sarah has written the following to describe her thinking on the matter now. Even if you don’t agree with us, God’s Word has powerful truths for His people in this chapter.

Why I Cover My Head in Worship

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the Head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the Head of Christ. Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice,nor have the churches of God. 1 Cor. 11:2-16

Some women are uncomfortable at the idea of covering their heads in worship. Some see wearing the head covering as a step backwards for women. To them, it is an outdated (and possibly repressive) symbol that no longer has meaning today. Your great-grandmother might have worn one in worship, but aren’t we more enlightened now? To some, the thought of a spiritual dress-code for only half of the worshipers of God is condescending.

I would like to lay out some of the reasons I have begun covering my head and the heads of my daughters when in worship. In studying this passage of God’s Word with an open heart, ready to submit myself to God’s teaching for the church, the Lord has changed my outlook and taught me a beautiful truth about His wisdom and skill in Creation. Here are four reasons for wearing the covering that the Lord has impressed upon me through His Word.

1.      The Apostle Paul’s argument appeals to created order (vv. 3, 7-8, 11) and transcends time and culture. A woman’s headcovering shows her submission to authority and her understanding of the facts of her creation; she was formed out of Adam. This is not to say that a woman is of lesser value than a man, just as Christ is not of lesser value than God. God uses symbols to remind us of important things (like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and a headcoving is simply another beautiful symbol to illustrate how men and women were created differently.

“The man reflects the glory of God and His submission to Christ by praying and prophesying with a bare head. The woman reflects the glory of man and her submission to the proper male authority in her life by praying and prophesying with her head covered. If we change the symbol or abandon it altogether we miss out on displaying to men and angels the wisdom of God in creation.” (Jeremy Gardiner, Head Covering Movement).

To attribute this teaching to cultural patterns in that century is foreign to the arguments Paul himself is making. Paul tells women to look to Genesis, and to the godly women of other churches, and not at the Roman world around them. We also find that the spiritual dress-code is not for women only, but also applies to men. This chart shows the parallels between Paul’s instructions to men and his words to women (from Jeremy Gardiner):

head covering chart

2.      We are told in verse 10 that women should cover their heads because of the angels [1]. We are not told why exactly, but Paul makes it clear that the angles will observe this “symbol of authority”. Charles Spurgeon comments on the fact that angels keep record of what takes place in the worship of the church: “The apostle says that a woman is to have a covering upon her head because of the angels, since the angels are present in the assembly and they mark every act of indecorum, and therefore everything is to be conducted with decency and order in the presence of the angelic spirits.” [2] The angels in their sinless nature are very aware of our sinful nature. They saw Adam and Eve fall in the garden, transgressing against the Headship of God, and they watched in amazement as Christ poured out His blood to redeem His people. Yet, the angels are not omniscient. They do not have insight into the thoughts and intentions of men or women. In watching our worship now, they rely on the symbol of headcovering to reflect an understanding of our redeemed roles as men and women. When a man and woman come equally before God in worship (and they do), how will they display that they understand the roles of headship and submission? By their covering.

3.      The next reason Paul gives is his appeal to nature (what is considered proper) in verses 14-15. He refers to a woman’s hair as her covering and yet, this is not in the same sense as a removable headcovering for times of worship. Paul is referring to a woman’s hair not as a veil, but as a covering of glory. Women with short or cropped-off hair are considered disgraceful. Paul argues that if a woman were to pray uncovered, she might as well cut her hair off since both things are disgraceful. Long hair shows that a woman understands her role and what is considered proper.

“Verse 5 says, ‘Every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.’ Paul is making a parallel. If you are shameless enough to pray or prophesy with head uncovered, then you are acting the same as the woman whose head is shaved. But if the ONLY covering is the hair, the woman whose head is uncovered IS the same as the woman whose head is shaved. She IS THAT WOMAN.” (Paul K. Williams, http://www.headcoverings.org)

So if a woman’s hair is a covering of glory, why is she to wear a headcovering in worship? It is to veil her glory! A woman veils her glory to magnify man’s position as he is the image and glory of God. In doing this, her own dignity and glory is magnified as well. They bear the image of God together.

“So in God’s arrangement it is likewise an affront to God for a Christian woman to approach Him in prayer with her head uncovered, because the uncovered head is a public statement before God, before man, before angels, that ‘I do not recognize myself as having a head here on the earth. I want to stand before God the same way as my husband or other men do.’” (David Bercot, What Christians Believed About the Head Covering)

4.      Lastly, it is stated that headcoverings are a custom that Paul is to deliver to the church in Corinth as an apostolic tradition. He praises them (v. 2) for keeping the tradition; a tradition that did not start with the Corinthians but was the standard among all the other churches of Paul’s time.

“Paul provides a rationale which is based on an appeal to creation, not to the custom of Corinthian harlots. We must be careful not to let our zeal for knowledge of the culture obscure what is actually said.” (R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture)

As a side note, in this very chapter (vs. 17), Paul criticizes the same group of people for failing to hold to the tradition of the Lord’s Supper that he had delivered to them. Just as we accept Paul’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper as an authoritative, apostolic teaching for all Christians, we also should accept headcoverings as normative for the church.

A headcovering symbolizes the beauty of how women were made distinctly different. It highlights God’s glory. It reflects the relationship between God and Christ. It reminds us that the angels are ever-present. It unites Christians of different generations in a unique, trans-cultural custom given by the apostles. It is our duty and privilege to symbolically reveal the authority of God’s Headship to the world in this portrait painted by the Master.

[1] Some have said that this word, translated as “angels” should be understood as “messengers” or even “elders” of the church, making it an instruction limited to that particular church. While the word for “angels” can also be translated as “messengers”, if Paul had wanted to reference “elders”, there are several other words he could have used to do this.

[2] Another and a Nobler Exposition, Charles H. Spurgeon, May 4th 1862.