God's Created Order
About a month ago I was reminded that we are coming up on a portion of Romans that would lend itself to speaking to the issue of the ordination of women. Well, that portion of Romans came upon me quicker than I thought, and as I was going over these verses today, it just seemed like a natural progression to not only look at that issue but at the issue of the womanís role in the worship service itself.
We begin today at Rom 15:23,
Ro 15:23 But now no longer having a place in these parts,
Paul writes this letter from Corinth at the close of his third missionary journey. He had spent the last three months of this journey in southern Greece. We know he was in Corinth because of the mention of ďErastus the city treasurerĒ in the next chapter:
Ro 16:23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.
Erastus is associated with Corinth in two other very important places:
2Ti 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth,
And in an archaeological find in Corinth that contains an inscription mentioning Erastus as a city official. Just another piece of evidence of the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, in fact, where history remains silent on Erastusí position in city government, Paul does not! He is the city treasurer!
Paulís point to the Romans is he has gone as far as he can in introducing the Gospel of Jesus Christ where it has not been introduced before, and therefore it looks like a visit to Rome is possible, and he desired that greatly.
ďand having a great desire these many years to come to you,Ē
This desire was mentioned early on in the letter and mentioned again here. Then Paul breaks out his Triple A Triptik, he goes to mapquest and lays out his proposed itinerary for the Romans.
24 whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.
25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.
So Paul plans to leave Corinth and retrace his steps to Ephesus, kind of a spiritual check-up of all the churches he had planted, and then head back to Jerusalem. It is his hope that when he eventually gets to Rome, the Romans will take ownership of his missionary trip to Spain and supply him with financial backing and companions for the trip.
But before he leaves for Spain it is his desire to enjoy their fellowship for awhile. So that they may be mutually strengthened, and that he may bestow a spiritual blessing on them. Way back in Romans 1 we read:
Ro 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be establishedĖ 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
This should be our attitude in small group Bible Study and in giving testimonies to gathered saints. Paulís visit to Rome was a long way off, but he was already looking forward to this time of fellowship and mutual edification. Is that how you view small group Bible study?
I think we have gotten off base in the idea of small group Bible study. We have turned it into a rabbi/student thing rather than participating with the attitude that God has given you something to share for the edification of the group.
Do you pre-read the area in which you will be studying? Does God teach you some things as you prepare for the next meeting? Has He shown you something in your daily devotions that you never saw before? Something edifying? Why not share these things with others? You will be amazed at who will be blessed by what you bring!
The problem is, people have this attitude that they couldnít possibly bring something more important than the leader, or they are afraid that what they bring isnít good enough or may even be incorrect.. So what if itís incorrect, it becomes a teachable moment for the whole group!
You know what that is? It is pride! Put a sock in it, and come prepared to share, prepared to impart something that God spoke to your spirit that week. But itís not just for small group Bible Study. ....itís for large groups too! Look around!
Okay, itís for small large groups too! But have you received something from God or His Word ? Could you not come to church prepared to give testimony to that gift? The Psalmists says:
Ps 40:10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth From the great assembly.
And listen to Paulís admonition to the Corinthians: and hereís where the bunny trail of the womanís role in the worship service begins.
1Co 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. (Paul is admonishing the Corinthians here because there was no sense of order to their worship service.
It was wonderful that everyone was bringing something to share, but everything was being blurted out at once, it was chaos and there was no opportunity for edification.)
He says, ďLet all things be done for edification.Ē
Did the Lord give you a psalm to share with the congregation of Living Word this week? A teaching? A tongue to speak in? A revelation? An interpretation?
Itís too late this week, unless youíd like to share it after the service, but from now on, come and be prepared to share. But be prepared to share it within the following guidelines.
27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. (One tongue speaking, followed by one interpretation) 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
Without an interpreter present, there is no edification, itís nothing but gibberish. Move on to those who have something to say which can be understood!
29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. (There should be a limit of two or three testimonies at the most)
30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, (if the sharing causes another to be able to contribute, or prompts a response, ) let the first keep silent. (Let there be an edifying, orderly exchange)
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. (Individual self-control in these matters must be exercised. You may have something to add, but it may not be the right time...wait until you are sure.)
33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace,
A new and very important thought now starts: And it is important that you separate the two. God is not the author of confusion but of peace concerning order in the worship service. Period, not comma.
Some Bibles have a comma here, but a more accurate reading of the Greek indicates a period. Followed by the new thought. This is important because a universal rule about worship services is about to be introduced:
ď As in all the churches of the saints, 34 let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, (if they have questions) let them ask their own husbands at home (if not married, ask an elder after church) for it is shameful (read that improper) for women to speak in church.
Now ladies, donít get all defensive here. This is the Word of God and we need to submit to it. Be submissive as the law says. You very well may have been given a psalm, or a teaching, or a tongue, or a revelation, or an interpretation.
It may even be more profound than what is given to a man. But, it will have to be shared outside the arena of the public worship service. And the public worship service begins, with the invocation and ends with the benediction.
And thatís why we have a time before our worship service for such testimonies.
Paul says this about the ladies, ďFor they are not permitted to speakĒ and that means that this right is not turned over to them, it is withheld from them.
And the most important part and undeniable part of this phrase is it is written in the perfect tense which means it is an action that was completed in the past but has continuing results. In other words, this rule is not subject to culture or the times, it stands for all time no matter what the accepted practices of society.
It doesnít mean that women cannot sing a song or otherwise participate in the worship service, with all the other voices, itís just that the prophesying (proclaiming and expounding and teaching of Godís Word is not to be done by a woman during the worship service.
One thing is certain according to this perfect tense, this ďthen and forever passageĒ ....women are not to be ordained pastors. The AFLC will be taking up this matter at the Annual Conference in Warm Beach Washington next month, when they will be voting on a proposed statement concerning why we do not ordain women in the AFLC.
Some people reject this clear word from Scripture by pointing out the passage in Joel that speaks of our daughters prophesying, or they point to other female prophets in Scripture, or to women who held places of leadership, but the duty of priest or pastor in the worship service was never turned over to a woman.
Some point to an earlier portion of Paulís letter to the Corinthians when he states:
1Co 11:4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. (NKJV)
This verse would seem to approve of women prophesying, but note that no modifier was given here regarding where such activity should take place. There is no restriction given to the man or the woman as to where they could exercise their gift of prophecy. Is Paul contradicting himself? Not at all!
Because there is one restriction given. The matter becomes clear when we consider that the section of 1 Corinthians from 11:17 until the end of chapter 14 deals with the gatherings of the congregation for public worship. It was in these public assemblies that Paul forbade the women to speak. That was their only restriction!
His basis for this is the law. ďWomen are to be submissive, as the Law also says. The Law Paul refers to is the Old Testament Law and is explained further in his instructions to Timothy as far as the womanís role in the church service.
Those instructions begin in 1Ti 2:8 and continue through verse 14: Remember this is for the public worship service only!
1Ti 2:8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, (everywhere means in every congregational worship service) lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; (I must confess and ask your forgiveness here. I have been remiss in my duties as your spiritual head to allow women to pray in our worship service. This is improper.
Itís not that you arenít capable, itís not that your prayers arenít beautiful, it is just not in Godís created order for the worship service and it is explicitly forbidden both in 1 Corinthians and in 1 Timothy. I have allowed us to get sloppy as it concerns the instructions for worship found in the Word of God. I plead ignorance, but in reality....it was just plain laziness on my part.
But women praying is not my only error. It is also not given to women to read Scripture as part of the worship service. Again, itís not that you are poor readers, in fact we can say just the opposite! But to read the Scriptures in public service has not been given to you by God and it usurps the God-ordained order.
A typical worship service of the early church, handed down by the Jewish practice of maintaining the created order, would have one elder leading the congregation in prayer, another reading from Scripture, and still another teaching. It would behoove us to return to that order. Leave the reading, the praying, and the teaching within the confines of the worship service to the elders.
Now we typically put all that on the pastor, but it wasnít always that way. But what always was the same is that these functions were performed by qualified men, not women because of Godís created order.
Again I confess and ask your forgiveness for Iím afraid I have led us down an unnatural and improper path as it concerns our worship at Living Word. And as Lenski says, ďThe facts of creation abide forever. They can be ignored without resultant loss or harm as little as can other facts of nature.Ē
In other words harm is done, even though we may not see it.
Women are to be silent in the matters of teaching, praying, and reading of Scripture in the public worship service. Modesty and submission is to be the rule for women in church and Paul says it should even be reflected in their dress.
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,
10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
No, we are not going to enforce a dress code here, but it is proper to ask that women (and men) dress in good taste during worship.
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. This verse equals 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 which we have discussed earlier. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
Again, this is relegated to the confines of the worship service itself. Women are certainly allowed to teach other women, and children, and even men in some instances. (Remember there was no modifier given as to where this gift can be exercised, just a restriction that it was not to take place in the public worship service.) It is an obligation for the older women to teach the younger women the ďmarital ropesĒ if you will, as we read in
Tit 2:3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good thingsĖ 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
Even in Acts 18:26 we read of Priscilla assisting her husband in straightening out the erroneous views of the male Apollos: But this was not done in a public worship service.
Ac 18:26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
There are some magnificently gifted women teachers, but they are not to exercise that gift during the worship service and Paul explains why in the next verses:
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
These facts are valid for all time in the church. The gospel doesnít alter them, and society does not alter them. There are two facts, the greater is stated first. Fact # 1 Adam and Eve were not created at the same time. Every worship service is to be a public statement of that fact!
God couldíve created both at the same time, but He didnít.
And as the Lutheran commentator Lenski says, ďToday many think and act as though God had really done so.Ē
Adam (man) has pre-eminence...not Eve. Man is not of the woman, but woman was crafted out of man. She was taken from a rib of his side, not from his head, hand, or foot. She was called woman because she was taken out of man.
This is Godís order and the people of God know that in the church family this order is not to be reversed, and headship is not to be shared. In a congregation just as in a family, the mature men have the duty to lead and direct. And the reason women have fallen into this position is that men have voluntarily abdicated it, weíve dropped the ball just as Adam did. Weíve created a vacuum, and it has been unbiblically filled.
Still another reason for us to encourage our young men to be listening for Godís call to the ministry and be ready to respond. Another great reason to send our young men off to Bible School.
The second fact adds to the first. It is not complimentary ladies, but it still remains a fact. Eve, by taking leadership into her own hands without warrant the fatal sin was committed . Eve usurped the headship in the fall, and Adam became the feet and followed Eve in sin.
Again, itís not about ability as if a woman is more susceptible to temptation than a man, ...thatís a lie! Itís about the divinely appointed relation between man and woman. That relation must remain undisturbed, in the family and in the congregation, and in the worship service.
For God said to Eve after the fall, ďĒYour desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.Ē This is the way God set it up and itís about time we ďlearn to deal with it.Ē
Itís not about a woman being a better reader or a better prayer warrior, or teacher. Itís about keeping the divinely appointed creation order. An order that just as marriage was established at creation and it is a perpetual order just as Jesus said in
Mt 19:8 He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
The Lord who bestows prophetic gifts on men and women alike will offer ample opportunities for women to exercise those gifts outside the public worship service. There are plenty of women and children in need of instruction. Plenty of false doctrine that needs to be corrected.
But the desire to be elevated above men, flaunting their God-given authority is just not consistent with Godís order of creation. It violates His Law. And this Law, as we have seen, written in the perfect tense, is not to be changed in public worship.
I think it is reasonable to honor this word from the Lord. Itís a small way in which we can show our willingness to obey. Itís a small way in which men can once again take their God-ordained place in spiritual leadership. A small way in which we can pass that value on to our young men as well.
Lu 16:10 "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
We are not stripping women of any God given rights and privileges, we are only seeking to restore things to Godís created order. May He grant us the humility and the courage to do so.