Monday, January 28, 2013

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

What has gone before...

Simon the Magician was a big fish in the small pond of Samaritan mystics, but that all changed when Philip came to town. Now it was Simon's turn to be amazed.

"But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed." Acts 8:12-13 (ESV)

Philip's preaching transformed Samaria.

Moving on...

BELIEVED: pisteuo (to have faith, to credit or entrust); from pistis (persuasion or credence; conviction of truth or reliance upon; constancy); from peitho (to convince by argument, whether true or false; to pacify or conciliate; to assent to or rely upon)

Philip preached about the kingdom (the royalty, rule and realm) of God and the name (history, teaching, reputation and fame) of Jesus Christ. The people were convinced that Philip was speaking truth, and they accepted that truth as the framework of their lives from that moment on. They declared their faith in Christ by public baptism, and Simon himself joined in that belief.

Simon attached himself to Philip, following him from house to house, from town square to synagogue, amazed by signs and miracles performed by Philip. Soon, the apostles remaining in Jerusalem were hearing news of the new converts in Samaria.

"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit." Acts 8:14-17 (ESV)

Despite their faithful act of baptism, the believers in Samaria had not yet been given the Holy Spirit.

RECEIVE: lambano (to take, to get hold of)

FALLEN: epipipto (to embrace or seize); from epi (superimposition or distribution; over, upon, rest at, rest on, towards, upon) and pipto (to fall); probably akin to petomai (to fly)

BAPTIZED: baptizo (to make whelmed, fully wet); from bapto (to whelm, to cover wholly with a fluid; to moisten or stain)


Why could Philip not have prayed for the new believers? Why didn't the Holy Spirit come at the moment of belief, or at the moment of baptism? What made the apostles think the new converts were not filled with the Holy Spirit?

What did the apostles know of the Holy Spirit? What experience had they of the Holy Spirit falling upon them?

It is likely that the apostles of Jesus first learned from John the Baptist the truth that God's Holy Spirit indwells people.

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Matthew 3:11 (ESV)

The apostle John recorded a much more detailed account of the Baptist's teaching concerning Jesus and the Holy Spirit:

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, - After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me. - I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel. - And John bore witness: - I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, - He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. - And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." John 1:29-34 (ESV)

John the Baptist performed baptisms as a public testimony or witness to repentance.

REPENTENCE: metanoia (compunction for guilt and reformation; reversal of a decision); from metanoeo (to think differently, to think afterwards, reconsider or feel compunction); from meta (accompaniment, "amid", association or succession) and noeo (to exercise the mind, to observe, comprehend, heed); from nous (the intellect, the mind's thought, feeling or will; meaning); probably from ginosko (to "know" absolutely)

"Compunction" might be an unfamiliar word to many. It means guilty uneasiness, remorse, regret for something done wrong. The word evolved from Latin "com" (with) and "pungere" (to prick or sting).

John the Baptist was daily performing water baptism. Each person baptized was publicly announcing his repentance, his desire for God's mercy and forgiveness that had been motivated by the prick of guilt.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? From what did Jesus repent? In what way was water baptism a fitting announcement of His change of heart and mind? What painful, uneasy "compunction for guilt" did the Lamb of God experience?

From the very beginning, the disciples and apostles of Jesus would have understood from John that baptism was only a physical act, a declaration or witness testifying to a person's change of mind in response to their sin. Baptism represented a person's dependence upon God for forgiveness and mercy, a request to be washed clean of their guilty regret.

Baptism was a witness to a changed heart and mind, but it in itself was not sufficient. John helped believers get baptized with water, but he told them to expect something more from Jesus: God's Holy Spirit and fire.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What has been your experience with baptism? Did you believe first, and then get baptized? What purpose do you remember having in getting baptized? How has your understanding of baptized changed over the years? In what way did water baptism seem insufficient for you?

John taught the disciples that water baptism was only a statement, although an important statement of one's faith and dependence upon God. But he told them to expect something more from Jesus.

That "something more" took a long time in coming. Jesus spent three years with His disciples, teaching and protecting them, until He was murdered by crucifixion. Three days after His death He rose from the tomb and returned to His disciples, staying with them for forty more days until His ascencion into heaven. Even then, that "something more" had not been given.

Shortly before leaving earth and returning to His Heavenly Father, Jesus reminded His disciples of that promise of "something more":

"It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:46-49 (ESV)

Luke recorded this same promise again in his Book of Acts:

"Wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, - you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)

That "something more" was unmistakeable in its power and effect. About ten days after Christ's ascencion into heaven, His disciples, led by the twelve apostles, experienced an incredible immersion into God's Holy Spirit:

"Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:2-4 (ESV)

Peter recognized this experience as fulfillment of the promise given by Jesus, supported by Old Testament prophecy:

"This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: - And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved...This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing." Acts 2:16-21,32-33 (ESV)

This was the experience of the apostles, and they taught others to expect the same pattern.

"Peter said to them, - Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)

God calls Whom He chooses, softening their hearts and minds toward Him, pricking them with pangs of guilt and remorse and a desire for merciful forgiveness. They believe Jesus is their Saviour, and they gladly declare their faith by being baptized in water, and then, only then, and perhaps only after a time of waiting, will they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps immediately, perhaps later, but they will receive the Holy Spirit's baptism.

The apostles expected believers to receive divine power to speak and teach, help and serve, but they also expected a delay between the moment of belief and the moment of the Holy's Spirit's baptism.

The apostles spoke powerfully, and thousands heard and believed (Acts 4:1). But there is no mention of the experiencing a baptism of the Holy Spirit.

So, it seems natural that Philip would preach powerfully, the people responding in repentance and gladly being baptized in water, yet with no immediate sign of the Holy Spirit coming upon them. That had been Philip's experience, as well as that of the the other apostles. Once the Christians remaining in Jerusalem had heard of the Samaritan revival, they would naturally assume that the new believers had not yet experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. They would calmly send a couple of apostles to Samaria to lead the believers on to the next stage of their journey of faith in Christ.

It seems likely that Philip, although quite able on his own to pray for the new believers, purposely waited for the Jerusalem leadership to be part of it, as a way of confirming the start of the Samaritan Christian church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Many Christians have lived a life of faith without experiencing a powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit, yet they are convinced that they are indeed filled with God's Spirit. From what we've studied so far, does it seem that there is such a thing as a "quiet" baptism of the Holy Spirit, one lacking signs and wonders such as speaking in tongues, healing or miraculous power? What has been your experience concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

The manner in which the Holy Spirit comes upon believers does not always follow the pattern experienced by the apostles: repentance, conversion, water baptism, and filling of the Holy Spirit (after some time has passed).

Cornelius, a centurion, invited Peter to preach to his entire household of family and friends, all non-Jew Gentiles.

"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, - Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? - And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

In this instance, the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers instantly and vividly.

Peter connected this event directly to the promise given by Jesus:

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, - John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. - If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" Acts 11:15-17 (ESV)

The believers saw the Holy Spirit's empowering new believers as evidence that God had worked in their hearts and minds:

"They glorified God, saying, - Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." Acts 11:18 (ESV)

Greek-speaking Christians who fled persecution spoke to other Gentiles far from Jerusalem:

"And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord." Acts 11:21 (ESV)

Luke made no mention here concerning the Holy Spirit, implying that the converts did not experience an immediate, powerful filling spiritual baptism.

Paul preached in a synagogue, with Jews rejecting the message and Gentiles gladly rejoicing in it, but again, there is no mention of a baptism in the Holy Spirit, nor any baptism at all. (Acts 13:48)

Challenged by Jewish religious rulers, Peter defended his ministry to Gentiles by referring to that one singular event in the recent past where the Holy Spirit instantly and powerfully fell upon the believers:

"After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, - Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith." Acts 15:7-9 (ESV)

Notice Peter's use of the past tense: God "bore" witness (once, in the past) just as he (God) "did" (once, in the past) to us.

This is not to say that the Holy Spirit did not repeatedly fill believers as needed when facing the need for divine power. But the context implies that there was a single instance in the past, both for the Jews and for the Gentiles, when God baptized the believers in a striking way, a way meant to introduce or confirm the beginning of His work in their lives.

Apollos was a Jew, converted to Christianity, and given by God an ability to teach and preach. He ministered in Ephesus, and preached solid truth about Jesus, except he knew nothing of the baptistm of the Holy Spirit. All he knew of baptism was that it was a public declaration of repentance from sin and a desire for God's mercy and forgiveness. (Acts 18:24)

Priscilla and Aquila met with Apollos and "explained to him the way of God more accurately", implying a better understanding of the Holy Spirit's ministry, but still, there is nothing recorded here to suggest that Apollos, or the other believers in Ephesus, had experienced a powerful, miraculous filling of the Holy Spirit.

Shortly after, Paul came to Ephesus and asked the believers directly, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

"And they said, - No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. - And he said, - Into what then were you baptized? - They said, - Into John's baptism. - And Paul said, - John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus. - On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying." Acts 19:2-6 (ESV)

There is no doubt that the people in Ephesus were believers, yet the Holy Spirit did not powerfully and vividly fill them until much later after their conversion, until Paul had specifically prayed God to grant them this spiritual gift.

Paul prayed for the believers to be baptized into the Holy Spirit, but he did not institute this practice as part of his legacy to other pastors:

"I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood...I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified...In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, - It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:25-28,32,35 (ESV)

If a specific experience of being publicly, miraculously filled with the Holy Spirit were essential to Christianity, it seems that Paul would have referred to it as he left instructions, for the last time, to the church which he loved.

There is no doubt that Paul taught the filling of the Holy Spirit, but in the letters that followed Luke's Book of Acts, all of the references seem to become less dependent upon a single, miraculous experience of divine power. Paul's references to the Holy Spirit become connected to larger, wider goals:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13 (ESV)

"You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17 (ESV)

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." 1 John 4:11-13 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Has there been a noticeable change in you since you first repented of your sinful condition and sought God's mercy and forgiveness in Jesus? What "big things" have changed in your heart and mind, things listed as "fruits of the Spirit"? How do you explain non-Christians who seem to display similar strength of character?

When Paul does refer to signs and wonders, it is to confirm his own ministry given him by God:

"In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience-by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God - so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ." Romans 15:17-19 (ESV)

"I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (ESV)

"It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." Hebrews 2:3-4 (ESV)

It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the manner in which the Holy Spirit fills a believer, as well as the times in which it happens, is entirely up to God Himself. The experience may be astounding and miraculous, or it may be peaceful and unseen. It may occur immediately upon conversion or much later. It may be rare or frequently repeated.

But it is always under the direction of God.

Most likely, the Book of Acts records instances of astounding, miraculous baptisms of the Holy Spirit because this was a new work of God in the world. The apostles were confirmed as genuine prophets and servants of God by signs and wonders. As churches grew and spread, the work of the Holy Spirit became less of a sign and wonder, and more of a relationship, more as a Helper and Encourager for every individual Christian.

"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17 (ESV)

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you ever prayed specifically for a miraculous, divine filling of the Holy Spirit? What was the circumstance and what was the result? Have you ever been disappointed or frustrated by a seeming lack of God's Holy Spirit working in your life? What part does the Holy Spirit have in your faith and Christian walk? What seems to accompany times in which you feel forsaken by God's Spirit?

BAPTism by Don & Tonya Christner, Creative Commons License

Monday, January 21, 2013

Amazed By Magic

Amazed By Magic

What has gone on before...

Fleeing violent persecution, led by Saul, Christians have scattered out from Jerusalem, leaving only the leaders, the apostles appointed by Jesus. Philip went to Samaria to preach Christ and the city erupted in joy as he healed many who were paralyzed or lame.

People watching from a distance would have found the preaching and healing interesting or intriguing, but for those whom God touched, the miracles confirmed Philips words about Jesus.

This was, however, not the first time Samaritans had been astounded by great power.

Moving on...

"There was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, - This man is the power of God that is called Great. - And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic." Acts 8:9-11 (ESV)

MAGIC: mageuo (to practice magic); from magos (a Magian or Oriental scientist; a magician); from rab mag (Hebrew, meaning chief Magian, a Babylonian official); from rab (abundant); from rabab (to cast together, to increase or multiply by the myriad)

"Rab" in Hebrew means "chief" or leader. "Mag" is a Babylonian word meaning "Magian", a person belonging to a group of magi, which is plural for magus. Magus meant a Persian priest, of a religion similar to Zoroaster (Zarathustra). The prophet Zoroaster taught that Ormazd, lord of light and goodness, wars ceaselessly against Ahriman and the hosts of evil. Ormazd created man to aid him, and finally the good kingdom will be attained. (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1949)

The writings of Zoroaster were old even by the time of ancient Greek philosophy. For the Greeks, anyone with a reputation for "alien wisdom", having "authority of a remote and revelation wisdom", deserved the title of "Magi", which was directly connected with mysterious powers: "magic".

The three wise men from the east, come to worship the Baby Jesus in Jerusalem, were "magos", or magicians. Their journey to Jerusalem was initiated by their study of stars and planets. They also readily accepted direction from dreams. (Matthew 2:1,7)

Ex-magician, Simon of Samaria, was a "magi" in name only, not necessarily due to association with Zoroaster, but simply because anyone demonstrating mysterious powers was called "magi" or "magian" or "magician".

Simon had amazed the townfolk.

AMAZED: existemi (to put, or stand, out of wits); from ek (origin, from, out) and histemi (to stand)

Simon had "blown them off their feet" with his mysterious feats. He called himself "great" (megas) and the people called him the "Great Power of God".

What were Simon's "powers"?

Perhaps they were similar to those of a girl who Paul had encountered.

"As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling." Acts 16:16 (ESV)

SPIRIT OF DIVINATION: pneuma (a current of air, a breath or breeze; spirit, soul, vital principle, mental disposition; angel, demon, God) and python (Python, a monstrous serpent in Greek mythology, implying inspiration or soothsaying)

FORTUNE-TELLING: manteuomai (to divine, utter spells); from mainomai (a prophet, as if raving through inspiration); from mao (to long for, insensate craving; to rave as a "maniac")

Philip performed signs and wonders, healing disease and disabilities, and exorcising evil spirits. Simon the Magician and the slave girl amazed the people with mysterious powers.

How are mysterious powers different than signs and wonders?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do we encounter supernatural, mystic, mysterious power today? How does our faith distinguish between magic and ministry? What aspects of magic might be spiritually dangerous, and what might be innocent and good?

Philip's contact with Simon the Magician points toward controversial topics: the supernatural and paranormal. The Bible describes examples of both real and false supernatural power, and both are consistently identified as abominable.

"When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this." Deuteronomy 18:9-14 (ESV)

This passage lists several practices that are forbidden by God.

PRACTICES DIVINATION: qasam (to distribute or determine by lot or magical scroll) and qesem (a lot, divination, oracle)

Pronounced: kaw-sam' keh'-sem

The Philistines practiced divination to determine what to do with the ark they had captured. (1 Samuel 6:2)

King Saul, facing invasion by the Philistines, trembling with fear, was given no direction by God, neither by dreams, Urim or by prophets. He resorted to a medium to use divination to allow him to speak to the dead prophet Samuel. (1 Samuel 28:7)

The prophet Ezekiel described the king of Babylon using divination:

"The king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows; he consults the teraphim (a healer, a family idol); he looks at the liver." Ezekiel 21:21 (ESV)

TELLS FORTUNES AND INTERPRETS OMENS: anan (to cover or cloud over; to act covertly); related to anan (a cloud, as covering the sky; nimbus or thunder-cloud and nahash (to hiss, to whisper a magic spell, to prognosticate)

Literally, "tells fortunes" means to cover with clouds. God covers the earth with clouds to bring rain, using the same word as "tells fortunes" (Genesis 9:14).

A literal use of "interprets omens" is seen in the actions of captured enemies brought before Ahab, the king of Israel. The prisoners pleaded for mercy in the name of their leader, Ben-hadad. Ahab expressed curiosity, calling Ben-hadad his "brother". The prisoners "were watching for a sign", and quickly took courage from Ahab's favorable response. (1 Kings 20:33)

These two words together, however, describes an attempt to perform a supernatural power.

Joseph pretended to use a silver cup to "practice divination", using the same word used for "interpret omens". (Genesis 44:5) He continued the deception later, recognizing his brothers but pretending as if he had divined their identity. (Genesis 44:15)

SORCERER: kashap (to whisper a spell, to inchant or practice magic)

Egyptian sorcerers performed the same signs of divine power as Moses. (Exodus 7:11)

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, relied upon sorcerers to interpret his dreams. (Daniel 2:1)

CHARMER: habar (to join, to fascinate) and heber (a society or a spell)

Pronounced khaw-bar' kheh'-ber

Typically, the word "habar" is used to describe the common action of joining things. Curtains were joined together using this word (Exodus 26:3). Kings joined together in policy or common interests (2 Chronicles 20:35). Long, windy speeches are composed of words joined together (Job 16:4).

The concept of joining can also describe the voice of snake charmers:

"The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. They have venom like the venom of a serpent, like the deaf adder that stops its ear, so that it does not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter." Psalms 58:3-5 (ESV)

Combining "habar" with "heber" implies a ritualistic, religious, practiced chanting for the purpose of fascinating or hypnotizing someone or something.

MEDIUM: sha'al (to inquire, request or demand) and ob (a mumble, as if prattling a father's name; a hollow sound from a water-skin; a necromancer or ventriloquist, as if speaking from a jar); from ab (father)

Closely associated with "medium" is "necromancer", often translated as "wizard":

"You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:26-27 (ESV)

WIZARD: yidde'oni (a knowing one, a conjurer or ghost); from yada (to know, as if by seeing; observation, care, recognition, instructive, designation, punishment)

Isaiah described wizards as ones who "chirp and mutter", "inquiring of the dead on behalf of the living." (Isaiah 8:19)

"Necromancer" is also the English translation of another Hebrew word:

NECROMANCER, ONE WHO INQUIRES OF THE DEAD: darash (to tread or frequent, to follow, seek, ask or worship) and mut (to die or kill)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Look back over the definitions of each example of supernatural power. What common characteristics can you find? What distinguishes mystical practices from the signs and wonders performed by the apostles?

The Wizard, by Sean McGrath, Creative Commons License

Monday, January 14, 2013

Learning Godliness

Learning Godliness

What has gone before...

Paul asked the women in the Ephesian church to examine how their dress and adornment should genuinely reflect what is in their hearts.

The word for "adorn" means to put in proper order, implying all that is deeply essential. "Modesty" means bashfulness toward men, or awe towards God, closely related to respect or reverence. "Self-control" means soundness of mind, or sanity.

A woman who dresses simply, modestly and inexpensively, must depend upon personality in order to impress or attract others. Without skin-revealing dress or expensive decoration, a woman must express strength and goodness by her words and actions.

Paul is not forbidding braided hair, gold, pearls or expensive dress. Rather, he's emphasizing the need to allow God's Holy Spirit to develop within us the inner qualities of respect, modesty and self-control, expressed by good works. We cannot rely upon outer appearances to make us "good" or "valuable".

Moving on...

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." 1 Timothy 2:11 (ESV)

Paul began this letter to Timothy with a rebuke of the teachers in the Ephesian church who were swerving away from genuine love, caring little for purity, good conscience and sincere faith. He named two of the teachers, both men, Hymenaeus and Alexander.

Chapter two of his letter began with a call to prayer, asking the church to pray in four, specific ways, always toward the goal of peace, quiet, godliness and dignity.

Paul implied that all people, including kings and leaders, lack peace and quiet, godliness and dignity. Now, Paul has returned to that theme, focuing on the needs of the women in the Ephesian church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Examine verses one through four again. Is Paul implying that prayer will allow politics to bring peace and quiet? Or is Paul urging the church to pray for everyone, including kings as well as themselves, pleading with God for the inner peace and quiet that we all often lack? What is there about the nature of women that may especially tend toward a lack of quietness?

Paul implies that the women in the church exhibited the same lack of genuine love as the men, but they expressed it differently. Their beautiful, bright clothing disguised hearts of disrespect and recklessness, with little desire to help those in need.

Now, Paul suggests that the women were part of the distorted, false teaching that the church was experiencing.

LEARN: manthano (to learn, in any way)
What is "learn" and why is it best that women learn quietly and submissively?

Paul used the word "learn" in another letter, in a way that sets "learning" near the top of a series of experiences:

"What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9 (ESV)

PRACTICE: prasso (to "practice", to perform repeatedly or habitually)

LEARNED: manthano (to learn, in any way)

RECEIVED: paralambano (to receive near, to associate with, to assume an office)

HEARD: akouo (to hear)

SEEN: eido (to see or know)

Paul places "practice" at the end of the list, as if it is the ultimate goal or object of all the other experiences. But the remaining actions seem to be arranged in descending order of importance or affect.

  • "Practice", a lifestyle or habit, depends upon the experience of "learning".
  • "Learning" depends upon being willing to come near to, or associate with.
  • "Receiving" depends upon the ability to hear and see.
  • "Hearing and seeing" are the first steps toward learning and practicing.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? School, training, classrooms and study have been a part of all of our lives, beginning from a young age. What have you discovered about the way you learn best? When asked to prepare for a test or certification, or to study for a change in work, have you recognized a sequence in your learning, going from simple hearing and seeing, to learning and practice? Which step is most important or essential for you?

The only undefined link in this chain of development is that of "learning". How is "learning" different than practice or habit? Why did Paul command women, not men, to "learn" quietly and submissively?

In reality, developing a practiced habit, a lifestyle, depends upon a mix of experiences, at different times, in different ways. A person will see a portion of truth, hear another, put them together, see something else, begin to practice one aspect of the truth, hear something new and so on.

But there remains the fundamental progression: "seeing" can be literally looking at something, or it could be mentally considering. "Seeing" is essential as a first step, but people often will go no further than casual observation or curiosity. The thing looked at affects them little or not at all.

The same can be said for "hearing". "Seeing" and "hearing" are both gateways to our mind and heart, but it is easy to allow only fleeting access to our minds and heart, ushering the "new truth" out quickly when it seems to promise little reward or interest.

"Receiving" is a huge step forward. After seeing or hearing something new, a person will "receive", or desire to step nearer, to examine it more carefully, to spend time thinking about it, exploring all its potential and influence.

At this point, "learning" may develop. The exploration, research, meditation and consideration are not in themselves "learning", but they may immediately lead into "learning".

What is "learning"?

It seems reasonable to conclude that "learning" is the bridge between study ("receiving") and practice. We can call that bridge, "skill" or "ability". After seeing and hearing something new, a person might carefully study that new truth, coming to the point of acquiring a skill or ability that applies that truth.

"Learning": the ability to demonstrate a new skill or ability.

This definition fits well with theories of education, but it also fits well with the Bible. Several instances of "learning" occur in the New Testament, supporting the idea of changed behavior or applied skill.

"Go and learn what this means, - I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. - For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:13 (ESV)

Jesus connected "learn" with "go", implying that merely hearing His words would not lead to "learning". Action, outwardly observable behavior, must be experienced before "learning" can occur.

Jesus urged Christians to "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me," (Matthew 11:29)..."Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me," (John 6:45).

Jesus taught in the temple for the first time, causing the Jews to marvel:

"How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" John 7:15 (ESV)

"Learning" requires study ("receiving"), and learning is expressed or validated by the ability to do something new, such as teach.

"They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!" Ephesians 4:19-20 (ESV)

Here, Paul connected "learning" with behavior. Paul expected that the Ephesian Christians would demonstrate that they had "learned" Christ by behaving in a way different than that of those who have rejected Christ.

One final example of "learning":

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

Paul was not saying that he had merely seen or heard of the notion of contentment. He was not saying that he was studying the concept of contentment. He had alreadly gone through these basic steps toward learning. He's saying that he's arrived at the point of "learning" contentment because he knows that he's able to act contentedly. God has allowed Paul to develop the ability to live contentedly, therefore Paul says that he has "learned" contentment.

Truth, whether the Gospel or natural science, is not "learned" in a classroom or temple. Truth, to be learned, must be acted upon in the world, among real people, within real-world conditions.

Children and grandchildren are to learn (develop the skill of) godliness by caring for the needs of parents unable to earn their own livelihood (1 Timothy 5:4). Christians are to learn the skill of good works, helping those in urgent need, and being fruitful (Titus 3:14). Jesus learned obedience, not by memorizing Scripture or completing a study guide, but through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).

Women in the church are to demonstrate their skills of godliness and good works, quietly with all submissiveness. This would have been a radical change for the women in Ephesus. To this point they had been learning all the wrong things, far removed from quietness and submissiveness.

"Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not." 1 Timothy 5:11-13 (ESV)

Young women in the church had seen and heard, not truth, but temptation. They became captivated, not by Christ's love, but by the world's pleasures. They studied and meditated, not on doctrine taught by Christ, but on the delicacies and depravities of uncontrolled passions. After eagerly receiving the savor of temptation, they learned the skills of sensual gluttony, idle time-wasting, gossip and meddling.

We will come later to this same passage, but for now, look at the skills the women had learned:

PASSIONS: katastreniao (to become voluptuous against, full of sensual delight that disregards all else)

MARRY: gameo (to wed, emphasizing the ceremony, rather than the relationship)

ABANDONED: atheteo (to set aside, to disesteem, neutralize or violate)

IDLERS: argos (inactive or unemployed, lazy, useless)

GOSSIPS: phlyaroa (a garrulous person, a prater, a chatterbox); from phluo (to bubble)

BUSYBODIES: periergos (working all around, officious or meddlesome)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? If "learning" is the result of "receiving", or study, where do women "study" to learn the skills of sensual delight, wedding ceremonies, idling, gossipping and being busybodies? What opportunities do women in our church have for study in godliness? What opportunities do women have in our church for "learning", or demonstrating godly skills?

This then, is the context in which Paul found the women of the church in Ephesus. As they were depending upon bright, beautiful clothing to cover their immodest, irreverent, disrespectful hearts, the women were learning, or demonstrating, the skills of noisy, reckless social excitement. They found disobedience to be sensually satisfying. They revelled in dominating and manipulating others.

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." 1 Timothy 2:11 (ESV)

QUIETLY: hesychia (stillness, desistance from bustle or language); from hesychios (keeping one's seat, sedentary, still, undisturbed and undisturbing); probably from hezomai (to sit) or echo (to hold)

Bright, beautiful dress can disguise and distract a woman, leading her to act superior to others, encouraging her to be disrespectful and uncontrolled. Loud talk, forceful meddling and insatiable desire for sensual pleasure without geniune relationships based upon love...these are all skills that will ruin a Christian woman.

Paul is revealing the hearts of the women in the church and pointing them toward the rewards of learning skills of godliness. Confronting one of the primary skills of sin, loud and endless chatter and disruption, Paul calls Christian women to develop the skill of stillness, the ability to sit calmly and immerse herself in God's Word and His Holy Spirit's presence.

Paul is not issuing a blanket command forbidding women to refrain from discussion or questions or comments in church. Rather, he is directing women to demonstrate two specific spiritual skills: stillness and submission. These were the two skills lacking in the woman of Ephesus.

SUBMISSIVENESS: hypotage (subordination); from hypotasso (to subordinate, to obey); from hypo (under, beneath or through) and tasso (to arrange in an orderly manner, to assign or dispose)

Literally, "submissiveness" means to arrange one's self under or beneath another. Obedience to another is the same a submission. Deferring to another's desires or needs is submission. A soldier submits to an officer's leadership. A nation submits to its king.

This second spiritual skill, submissiveness, is controversial. In our culture, submissiveness is a negative thing, almost a hated notion. The early founders of our country rejected submission to Great Britain. We regard submission as a weakness, as compromise, as surrender to a stronger, but hated, force. We "submit" to torture. We "submit" requests for assistance. Angry, insecure men abuse women by forcing them to "submit" to their control.

Submit is a four-letter word in our dictionary.

How is "hypotage", meaning subordination, used elsewhere?

Paul wrote a compassionate letter to another church, that of Corinth, rejoicing in their generosity in serving others in need.

"The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others." 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 (ESV)

The members of the Corinthian church submitted themselves to the needs of others, genererously. Their submission flowed from their deeply held faith in Christ. The word "flow" means to or into, implying that the Christians submitted to the gospel and gave generously.

Every description of this act of generosity recorded in Paul letter to the Corinthians indicates that the charitable contribution was given freely, as a willing gift, with cheerfulness and thanksgiving. "Submission" here has no element of compulsion or control. The act of giving money to those in need was a joyful opportunity to express faith in Christ as Savior and Sustainer, and Paul called it "submission".

That which motivates your behavior, that which you love to follow and demonstrate by your actions, is that to which you have submitted.

Submission is glad obedience.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? There is much in the world which directs our lives. Describe some of the things to which we all must obey, whether spiritually or physically. What experience have you had with refusing to submit to one thing because of a desire to submit to something better or stronger? Since we all must submit, especially to Jesus Christ, why did Paul single out women for this specific reminder to be submissive?

Another instance of submission:

"If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task...He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" 1 Timothy 3:1,4-5 (ESV)

We will dig into this passage later in our study of the Book of First Timothy. For now, look at Paul's use of the word "submissive".

A father is expected to "manage his household" and "keep his children submissive" in the same way as he would "care for God's church".

MANAGE: proistemi (to stand before, as in rank; to preside or practice)

KEEP: echo (to hold, as in possession, ability, relation or condition)

CARE: epimeleomai (to care for, physically or otherwise); from melo (to be of interest to)

Children, by definition, are not adults. They are weaker physically, with little ability to provide for, or protect, themselves. Fathers are expected to stand before their children, using their strength, time, ability and passions to care for them until they themselves become adults.

The father's responsibility to stand up and care for his children requires obedience on the children's part. They must allow their father to fulfill his responsibility to them. They must avoid hindering or frustrating his goal of providing and protecting them.

Children must submit to their father's providence and protection.

Faithful and compassionate providence and protection are inherent acts of love. If conducted with dignity, a father's leadership of his children will be a cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. Submission, for the children, will become synonymous with safety and security.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What examples can you give from your own experience of expecting obedience from your children in order to protect or help them? Have you had experience with your expecting them to obey in order to protect or help you? At what point would submission to you as a parent become the wrong thing for your children to do?

Paul required fathers to keep their children submissive, but to do it with dignity.

DIGNITY: semnotes (venerableness or probity); from semnos (venerable or honorable); from sebo (to revere or adore)

"Dignity" means to be worthy of respect and admiration, mingled with awe.

It is impossible to to admire someone who stomps on you. It is ludicrous to imagine respecting someone who is cruel or manipulative, selfish or violent.

Bad men have long abused children, women and peoples, demanding their surrender and calling it "submission".

It is not submission.

It is not submission if it is not out of dignity.

It is not submission if it does not result in protection and providence, compassion and care.

Submission is meant to be a glad response to an authority's loving provision and protection.

Paul describes an instance in his own life when he refused to submit to someone pretending to be a provider and protector.

Paul had been preaching to Gentiles for fourteen years when he returned to the Christian leadership in Jerusalem for a "conference". The leaders had expressed concern that Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was straying from the established teachings of Christ.

Paul was happy to meet with the other apostles, and the conference went well, with the Hebrew Christians completely supporting Paul's theology, especially concerning the practice of circumcision. Paul believed circumcision was a Jewish rite, not essential to salvation and the the gospel of Christ. The assembly agreed...most of them.

"Even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in — who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery — to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you." Galatians 2:3-5 (ESV)

"False brothers", enemies of Christ disguised as Christians, attempted to control Paul, commanding obedience to circumcision, cloaking their tyranny with religious labels of "truth", "tradition", "holiness" and "authority".

Paul rejected their "providence and protection". He immediately realized that their demands were opposed to Christ's teaching. He understood their desire for control, their hatred of Paul's freedom in Christ, their fear of losing influence and power within the church.

Paul refused to submit to ungodly demands.

How does this relate to women?

The church in Ephesus was weakened, divided and confused by its leadership. Men were using heresy, fantasy and genealogy to manipulate and control the church. Women were using beauty and seduction, unending chatter and confrontational distractions to control the church.

Paul charged Timothy to set things right.

Men were to return to purity, good conscience and sincere faith, using God's Word lawfully, in godliness. Women were to become beautiful on the inside before dressing beautifully on the outside. Women were to allow God's Spirit to calm their hearts and turn their passions and desires toward Him. Women were to allow men to fulfill their godly responsibilites toward them: standing before their families, protecting and providing for them.

A man and a woman, with their children, are a model, a reflection of all creation.

"The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. - Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. - This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:23-33 (ESV)

Submission is to be a willing, joyful acceptance of God's sovereignty, God's protection and providence. A woman gladly allowing her husband to be the Protector and Provider of her family is an expression of her faith in God as Protector and Provider over all.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? A woman is not a child, unable to provide for, or protect, themselves. From what does a women require protection, and what does a husband provide for his wife? What are some common mistakes made by women regarding the concept of submission? How might a woman mistakenly hinder or prevent her husband from fulfilling his responsibility to provide for and protect her?

Submission is not only for the woman:

"Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:18-21 (ESV)

Submission is not only for the family:

"Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." 1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)

"You who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for - God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

It does seem, however, over-harsh for Paul to forbid women to teach:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." 1 Timothy 2:12 (ESV)

TEACH: didasko (to teach); from dao (to learn)

EXERCISE AUTHORITY OVER: authenteo (to act of oneself, to dominate); from autos (self) and hentes (a worker)

This prohibition suggests that the women in the Ephesian church were actively and purposely controlling and disrupting the church. The context creates an image of war between men and women, each side using whatever skills or weapons were most advantageous at the moment.

Paul lists two specific activities: teaching and exercising authority. The two activities are closely connected. Paul is not prohibiting women from teaching in general. Rather, he is prohibiting women from teaching in a way that dominates men. Notice the modifying clause: "she is to remain quiet." This implies that the meetings had degenerated into a shouting match between men and women, or perhaps a practice of heckling from the audience, challenging and confronting the speakers.

The word translated as "exercise authority over" occurs only this one time in the Bible. Biblically, no man, or woman, is ever encouraged to "exercise authority over" others. No one is told to "exercise authority over".

Paul was very careful not to "exercise authority over" others:

"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith." 2 Corinthians 1:24 (ESV)

This is solidly based upon the teaching of Christ:

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant." Matthew 20:25-26 (ESV)

Thus, Paul was not rebuking the women in the church for teaching, but for using teaching to dominate and control the church...precisely the same wicked motive demonstrated by the men in their use of heresy, fantasy and genealogy.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What experience have you had with teachers who seemed to use their position and authority in order to advance themselves, rather than serve their students? In the Ephesian church, both men and women were abusing the office of teaching, but only women were commanded to cease teaching. Why?

There must be a single leader in every family, as well as in church. A car cannot have two drivers, no matter how well-intention each may be. From the beginning God established order.

"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Genesis 2:18 (ESV)

Adam, the First Man, was created in the beginning. Eve, the First Woman, was created next, as a helper, as someone that would complete Adam. Where Adam was weak, Eve would be strong. Together they would form Mankind, the First Family.

Adam was the Namer, the Initiator, the Leader. To Adam belonged the responsibility to protect and provide for Eve.

Eve's decision to eat of the forbidden fruit was an act of her own, a form of domination over Adam. Without seeking his counsel, disregarding his responsibility to protect and provide for her, she took it upon herself to defy God.

Ultimately, both Adam and Eve joined in rebellion against God's command, and both suffered consequences that persist to this day. For the woman, God decreed consequences that directly touch her original sin of "exercising authority over":

"To the woman he said, - I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Genesis 3:16 (ESV)

DESIRE: teshuqa (a longing, as if stretching out for); from shuq (to run after or over, to overflow)

RULE OVER: mashal (to rule)

God's response to Eve's sin intensified His original plan: Eve would be Adam's helper, yet would be filled with a longing to dominate him. Her heart would focus intently upon what she could not, and should not, have: authority over Adam.

Here we see the genesis of the sin that Paul was seeing in the Ephesian church. Women had rejected men as their protectors and providers. Instead, they were stretching their hands out to wrest control of the church out of the hands of their husbands. They were dressing provocatively, flirting immodestly, chattering incessantly, shamelessly pursuing sensual pleasure and heckling the men, challenging them for control of the speaker's platform.

They were addicted to feminine power and influence.

Paul offers compassionate hope, however. He points them to godliness, to seeing God as their Protector and Provider, allowing time for quiet prayer and meditation to make them beautiful on the inside.

Encouraging them to allow their husbands to fulfill their God-given responsibility to protect and provide for their family.

Encouraging them toward faith and love and holiness.

"She will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." 1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Only a woman can have the insight necessary to answer this question: How could childbearing have a good effect upon faith, love, holiness and self-control? Have you experienced spiritual growth as a result of childbearing? What experience for men would be comparable to childbirth?

Why would Paul connect childbearing with salvation?

SAVED: sozo (to save, deliver or protect); from saos ("safe")

THROUGH: dia (through, as the channel of an act)

CHILDBEARING: teknogonia (childbirth or parentage; maternity or the performance of maternal duties); from teknogoneo (to be a child-bearer, a mother); from teknon (a child, as something produced) and ginomai (to cause to be "gen"-erated, to become, or to come into being); from timoreo (to protect one's honor, to avenge or inflict a penalty); from time (a value, money paid; valuables, esteem or dignity); from tino (to pay a price or penalty)

It is certain that "saved" does not refer to eternal salvation in Christ. Rather, it connects directly with the context of a woman submitting to her husband, allowing him to be her protector and provider. In some way, childbirth and child-rearing will help a woman learn, or develop the skill of, faith, love, holiness and self-control. Childbirth can restore a woman to God's original intention that she complete her husband, that she become a "fit" helper for him.

Paul suggests that childbearing can "save" a woman from uncontrolled sensuality, irreverence and wicked works.

"Save" is frequently used to describe physical deliverance, apart from eternal, spiritual salvation in Christ.

The disciples in the capsizing boat called out to Jesus to "save" them, meaning physical deliverance from drowning (Matthew 8:25). A woman reached out to touch Christ's garment, certain that she would be "saved" from her disease (Matthew 9:21). Hanging on the cross, Jesus was mocked for His apparent inability to "save" Himself by escaping the crucifixion (Matthew 27:42). Paul warned the sailors to remain with their ship in order to be "saved" (Acts 27:31).

In none of these examples would it be reasonable to consider "saved" to refer to eternal, spiritual salvation and regeneration in Christ. The meaning of "saved" must be determined by context.

Childbearing cannot in itself satisfy God's righteousness, but it can provide circumstances in which a woman develops the spiritual skills of faith, love, holiness and self-control...skills which are essential to eternal, spiritual salvation in Christ.

A related situation is described in Paul's letter to the Corinthian church. Paul responded to the question of how a Christian can live with an unbeliever in marriage. He encouraged the Christian in each instance to remain with their spouse, if possible.

"If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband...For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" 1 Corinthians 7:13-14,16 (ESV)

It would be completely unbiblical to think that marriage alone can bring eternal, spiritual salvation to a person. But a godly relationship, even between unbelievers, can lead to hearts that become skilled in holiness, which can lead to salvation. A wife cannot eternally "save" her husband, nor the husband his wife, but they can help each other learn (develop the skills of) holiness, which God can use to save them.

Paul concludes this chapter with an encouragement to the women, that they "continue" in faith, love, holiness and self-control.

CONTINUE: meno (to stay)

Each of the following verses include the words "abide", "continue", or "remain", all translated from the same Greek work meaning "to stay". For each verse, in what experience or action are we to continue, and what will be the reward?

John 15:4-5

John 15:10

1 Corinthians 7:20-24

1 Corinthians 7:39-40

2 Timothy 3:14-15

1 John 2:24

Rachel at Work, by Alan Levine, Creative Commons

Monday, January 7, 2013

Truly Beautiful and Deeply Good

Truly Beautiful and Deeply Good

What has gone before...

Paul has urged the leaders, the men, to cease their angry, devisive control of the church in Ephesus. Using prayer as a model for holy leadership, he exhorts the men to pray with the right motives, with godly desires.

Moving on...

Paul's focus of concern for the men is how their prayers might be hindered by their angry, quarrelsome hearts. For women, Paul asks that they examine how their choices in dress and adornment should genuinely reflect what is in their hearts.

"Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works." 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV)

Paul's exhortation to women begins with "likewise", meaning that his words to both men and women share something in common. The central truth of both admonitions is found in the first chapter of Paul's letter:

"The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." 1 Timothy 1:5 (ESV)

Paul knows how a pious, religious appearance can mask a heart filled with anger, superiority and perversion. He is passionate about helping people put off the same blasphemy, persecution and insolence that controlled him before he came to Christ.

Sadly, men and women both allow impurity and insincerity to sear their consciences, ruining their hearts while maintaining an outwardly pious and religious appearance.

If a woman professes godliness it would be quite appropriate for them to dress in a way that reflects that inner goodness. Braided hair, gold and pearls, beautifully expensive clothing would be a fitting reflection of a sincere, loving heart.

But the hearts of the women in the church were far from sincere and loving.

Paul observed the women dressing wondrously and exquisitely. He heard their professions of godliness. But where were their good works? Why did their words and actions express hearts filled with inner ugliness: confusion, confrontation, recklessness... contrary to the beauty of their dress?

The women adorned their outer appearance, but ignored their inner character.

ADORN: kosmeo (to put in proper order, to decorate, to snuff a wick); from kosmos (orderly arrangement, decoration; the world, including its inhabitants); probably from komeo (to tend, to take care of)

Our physical world, Earth, is an example of an orderly arrangement. Our atmosphere, climate and weather patterns, photosynthesis, liquid water...all of these characteristics, and more, make this planet habitable. The biological and ecological systems work together, and life flourishes without human intervention.

Paul urges women to "kosmeo" themselves, to put themselves together in proper order. In what way are women to have an orderly arrangement similar to that of the world? What is "proper order" for women? What is the connection between women "adorning themselves" and "snuffing a wick"?

"Adorn", or proper order, is used ten times in the Bible. A proper home is one in which one is swept and "adorned" or put in order (Matthew 12:44). Respect for loved ones who have passed away requires that their graves be "adorned" or decorated (Matthew 23:29). Wise bridesmaids were diligent in "adorning" or trimming the wicks of their oil lambs (Matthew 25:7).

A home might be clean and attractive, yet until it has necessary furniture and appliances it cannot be called "adorned" or put in order. A lamp might have oil enough, but without the final touch of trimming the wick for efficient burning, it cannot be called "adorned" or put in order.

Perhaps the most insightful illustration of the meaning of "adorn" is seen in the building of the Jewish temple of worship. The temple was "adorned with noble stones and offerings" (Luke 21:5). The purpose of the temple was expressed or reflected in the way it was decorated: "noble" or beautiful stones and precious offerings of good things all supported the central truth of worship: God is beautiful and good in all ways, at all times.

"Proper order" means that the outer appearance of a thing, or a person, should honestly reflect the inner, central character or purpose of that thing or person. Otherwise, the beautiful stones and precious offerings are hypocritical lies...attempts to deceive others and distort the truth.

This is what Paul was seeing.

The women in the church were depending upon gold and pearls, braided hair and beautiful dresses to disguise or make up for their lack of inner beauty.

Paul is calling the women back to truth: inner goodness and beauty. He does this by emphasizing the true source of inner beauty: good works, respect, modesty and self-control.

A woman who dresses simply, modestly and inexpensively, must completely depend upon her personality in order to impress or attract others. Without skin-revealing dress or expensive decoration, a woman must express strength and goodness by her words and actions.

And actions speak louder than words.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can a woman find herself in the opposite situation: dressing excessively plain in order to portray inner qualities that, in reality, she lacks? From a woman's point of view, how can someone find the proper balance of dress and jewelery? Is there such a thing as "Christian Fashion"? What part of Paul's admonition can apply to men, as well as to women?

Paul is not forbidding braided hair, gold, pearls or expensive dress. Rather, he's emphasizing the need to allow God's Holy Spirit to develop within us the inner qualities of respect, modesty and self-control, expressed by good works. We cannot rely upon outer appearances to make us "good" or "valuable".

RESPECTABLE: kosmos (orderly arrangement, decoration; the world, including its inhabitants); probably from komeo (to tend, to take care of)

"Adorn" and "respectable" are from the same root. Literally, Paul is saying to women: "Put upon yourselves in proper order that which is an orderly decoration".

"Adorn" and "respectable" are directly related to our English word: Cosmos, meaning the universe as a well-ordered whole.

Paul is painting a word-picture of a woman as a well-ordered world, with every creature, continent and circumstance carefully considered by a wise, good Creator. If a woman were a world, a "cosmos", her outer appearance would reflect the imprint of her Creator, pointing to His wisdom, goodness and power. Her dress would be an honest reflection of her inner quality. There would be no distortion or deception.

Beautiful dress would reflect a beautiful mind and heart.

MODESTY: aidos (bashfulness, especially towards men, or awe towards God); perhaps from a (not) and eido (to see, to know, through mechanical, passive or casual vision)

"Modesty", at its root, means to see something and consider it important, to not see it casually. The action of seeing results in a feeling of awe and humility. It is not a passive, insignificant experience.

This word occurs only twice in the Bible. Paul rebukes the lack of modesty in women, and the writer of the Book of Hebrews urges all Christians to be "modest" toward God:

"Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)

"Reverence" is the same word as "modesty".

It seems a bit inaccurate to translate "aidos" as "modesty". The popular meaning of "modesty" frequently describes clothing that does not reveal excessive skin.

However, the English word "modesty" does mean to have "a moderate or low estimate of one's own merits".

Considering "reverence" or "modesty" towards God, we can understand that the word implies understanding, and submitting to, the powerful wisdom and ability of God.

Imagine a creature glancing at its Creator, making an assessment of it Creator's worth based upon a casual, disinterested look. If the look ended with little desire or interest or esteem on the part of the creature, the encounter should be described as "irreverent" or "immodest". Rather than seeing God as a consuming fire, the creature would consider God to be an insignificant candle flame. The creature would regard itself as equal to, perhaps more important than, the Creator. Looking at the Creator, with an arched eyebrow, a superior pose or perhaps a hand gesture to imply, "Look at me, if you want to see real value!"...the irreverent attitude becomes a challenge, a desire for others to choose the creature over the Creator.

Now, transfer the situation to that of a woman looking at a man.

Imagine a woman glancing at a man, making an assessment of the man's worth based upon a casual, disinterested look. The woman sees nothing of value, at least, nothing to compare with her own value. Perhaps the casual look becomes a challenge, with a slight change in body position to reveal more skin or to assert superiority and value, as if to ask, "Do you desire me? You are right to desire me. I am of so much more worth than you!"

Paul discerned hearts of immodesty, attitudes of irreverence, within the women in the church, perhaps expressed toward men, certainly toward God.

Paul is saying that a heart of modesty, an attitude of reverence, will result in outward expressions of beauty, far beyond the power of braided hair or jewelery.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How do women express disdain for men, without using words? How do women express respect or worth of a man? Is immodesty and irreverence, whether towards people or God, expressed the same way by men, as it is by women? Why didn't Paul include men in his rebuke of disrescpect, immodesty and lack of self-control?

SELF-CONTROL: sophrosyne (soundness of mind, sanity); from sophron (safe and sound, in mind; moderate in opinion or passion); from sos (safe) and phrao (to rein in or curb)

The opposite of "self-control" is "insanity":

"Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind. - But Paul said, - I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words." Acts 26:24-25 (ESV)

Here, "rational" is the same word as "self-control". Governor Festus accuses Paul of being "out of your mind", meaning to be crazy, to rave as a maniac, to long for something with uncontrollable craving.

"Self-control", thus, is the opposite of being crazy, the opposite of running headlong after uncontrollable cravings.

"Self-control", acting in a way that is safe and sound, is always presented in a positive context in the Bible. A leader in the church is urged to exercise "self-control" (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). Older men in the church, whether active leaders or not, are commanded to have "self-control" (Titus 2:2). Women are urged to live a "self-controlled" life (1 Timothy 2:9, 15; Titus 2:5).

In their words and behavior, the women in the church of Ephesus were going beyond irreverent, immodest flirting and hypocrisy...they were going crazy with uncontrollable cravings for attention and stimulation.

They were outwardly beautiful and desirable, and this led them to believe they had license to seek and demand any and all pleasures, with little consideration for respect and service toward others.

They were lovely to look at, and fatal to live with.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Insanity is often pictured as wildly violent or socially self-destructive. Is there such a thing as "quietly insane" or "socially-acceptable insanity"? What has been your experience with being "out of control", whether yourself or another person? In what ways can the lack of self-control lead to insanity, and at what point does "lack of self-control" become "insanity"?

Paul urges women to depend upon inner qualities for their beauty and desirability: reverence and self-control. However, the strongest evidence of a woman's inner beauty, even beyond reverence and self-control, is godliness with good works.

GODLINESS: theosebeia (devoutness or piety); from theosebes (reverent of God, pious); from theos (a deity, especially The Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate; sometimes used as an adverb meaning "very") and sebo (to revere or adore)

"Godliness" (theosebeia) occurs only this one time in the Bible. A closely-related word, "reverent" (theosebes) is found in the Book of John:

"We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him." John 9:31 (ESV)

"Worshiper of God" is the same word as "reverent" (theosebeia). Both "Godliness" and "worshiper of God" share the same root word.

John is quoting a blind man healed by Jesus and later interrogated by unbelieving Jewish religious leaders. The blind man knows little of Jesus except the one amazing truth: Jesus healed the man's blindness, miraculously. The blind man attributes the power of Jesus to His adoration and obedience of God, allowing God's power to heal the man's blindness.

In this account we see that worship and obedience combine to create the spiritual quality we call "godliness" or piety. "Godliness" is adoration of God, evident or proven through obedience to God, expressed in good works toward others.

People who truly adore God, will obey God.

And their obedience will result in good works toward others.

One more word that is closely related to "godliness" is "revere" (sebo). This word occurs more frequently than "godliness", and it is often translated as "worship" or "devout".

A sterling example of how "reverent godliness" leads to loving service to others is found in the Book of Acts:

"A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, - If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." Acts 16:14-15 (ESV)

"Worshiper" and "godliness" share the same root word: sebo, meaning to revere or adore.

Lydia's heart of genuine worship, sincere adoration for God, resulted in her opening her home to Paul and those traveling with him.

Godliness always leads to loving service...else it is not true godliness.

GOOD: agathos ("good"; intrinsically good, rather than valuable for appearance or use)

"Intrinsic" means "belonging naturally", something deep within. An "intrinsic" quality or element is something that is essential to a person or thing. Some might say, for example, that a high quality of life absolutely requires access to the arts. In this instance, access to the arts is "intrinsic" to a high quality of life.

There are at least two different Greek words often translated as "good". "Kalos", means beautifully good, valuable for its appearance or use. Paul used a different word, "agathos", implying that genuine godliness leads to actions that are good because of their deep, essential nature. "Intrinsic good" goes far beyond outward appearance or functionality.

Paul connects "godliness" with "intrinsically good" works. Genuine godliness results in actions that contribute to a person's well-being. Godliness leads to good works that are essential, deeply internal, and ultimately life-giving.

One description of "intrinsically good works" is found later in Paul's first letter to Timothy:

"Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work." 1 Timothy 5:9-10 (ESV)

"Every good work" and "intrinsically good works" are from the same Greek words. Paul is describing the reputation of women who would qualify for financial assistance from the church. "Intrinsically good works" would include:

  • Child care
  • Hospitality
  • Foot-washing
  • Care for the afflicted

In his letter to Titus, Chapter Three, verses 1-2, Paul adds more the list of "intrinsically good works":

  • Speaking evil of no one
  • Avoiding quarrels
  • Gentleness
  • Perfect courtesy toward all

"Intrinsically good works" are encouraged in the Bible for everyone, whether man or woman or child. Genuine godliness leads to service toward others which is genuinely essential and thoroughly good.

Godliness and good works go together, else it is not godliness.

And it is not good.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What would be an example of good works that are NOT intrinsic, perhaps something seen as beautiful or useful, but not essential for a person's well-being? What would be an example of an "intrinsically good work" that is not mentioned in the Bible? How would a non-Christian, an atheist or a non-religious person's good works be "non-intrinsic" or less than essential?

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