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Draw me close, let Your love surround me./ Bring me near, draw me to Your side./ And as I wait, I’ll rise up like the eagle/ And I will soar with You, Your Spirit leads me on/ In the power of Your love.

(Chorus of Lord, I Come To You by Geoff Bullock (C) 1992)

What do you think when you hear worship songs like this? Do you shudder, roll your eyes and think:

I must confess, you probably could have described me as one of the “Jesus is my boyfriend” crowd when I was younger. There’s a lot out there on the interweb about songs like that, and most churches will have come across worship songs that sound romantic.

Much ink and many pixels have been used in talking about what’s wrong with romantic imagery in worship, so I won’t add much more here. And I won’t belittle the people who wrote those songs, because I’m pretty sure that most of the time they were written with good intentions. The main danger – and one that I’ve been caught up in myself – is that in singing to God like we would sing to our boy/girlfriend we can forget that it isn’t a human being that we’re singing to. We worship God. “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of their fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7) The one who sits in heaven on a throne surrounded by angels and heavenly creatures constantly singing praise to Him; who knows and sees everything; who created the universe and commands it; who is so perfect and impressive He looks like jewels; and who is so powerful He’s like a thunderstorm (see Revelation 4; Ephesians 1:15-20; and many other places in the Bible)! We can’t sing to Him like He’s one of us. It dishonours who He is.

Yet we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. It’s wrong to treat God like He’s not God, but I think it’s also wrong to misunderstand the relationship that He has with His people. As John Piper says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever” (Desiring God), and we won’t delight in and enjoy a God we don’t want to love. And we won’t want to love a God who seems cold, distant, or permanently angry with us. When I feel like I’m drifting away from God, or my faith isn’t going cold, I find it helpful to be reminded of the relationship that my Saviour has won me into.

I first discovered the awesomeness of the book of Song of Songs through a sermon series at my church and some talks by Mike Reeves (some links below). I found it so encouraging I wanted to share it on here, in the hope that it’ll encourage you lovely people who read this blog. It’s taking me a while (sorry!), but here’s what I’ve found great as I’ve been learning about Song of Songs. I’ll focus on what it says about the relationship we have with Christ, rather than what it says about marriage. Having a healthy, Biblical view of marriage is important for single people as well as married people or those in a romantic relationship, but Song of Songs can deeply encourage us in faith because it speaks deeply of the relationship that we have with God.

Hmm, really?

If this is sounding a bit weird, stick with me.

The book of Song of Songs contains a whole load of love poetry from a husband to his bride, and the bride to her husband (subtitled “She” and “He” in the ESV), with a few verses from their friends in the mix. It’s packed with colour and imagery and sensuality as the couple express their joy in each other and their friends rejoice in their love as well. It’s much like how I remember the weddings I’ve been to – the bride and groom, beaming, can’t take their eyes off each other, and their friends and family delight in celebrating the couple’s relationship and new commitment. The book also celebrates the sexual relationship of the couple, too. Many people have been happy to leave it there, as a book talking about the goodness of love and marriage. But if all of Scripture is about Jesus (see John 5:39), what do we do with Song of Songs? It can seem a bit weird to say that a book that talks about romance and marriage and sex and all that is about God Himself, but let’s have a look at what it says about its main players:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you! Take me away with you – let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers.”

– Song of Songs 1:2-4 (emphasis added)

The woman (She) is talking about her love for this man, whom she describes as a king. And later in the chapter, she describes him as a shepherd:

Tell me, you whom I love, where were you grazing your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday. Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?

– Song of Songs 1:7 (emphasis added)

These aren’t two different men that She is talking about. And looking after a herd of sheep is a strange hobby for a king. In chapter 3, She describes him like this:

Who is this coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?

– Song of Songs 3:6 (emphasis added)

Ring any bells? A king, coming from the wilderness, like a column of smoke? That’s how God led Israel out of Egypt in Exodus. And perfumed with myrrh and incense – myrrh was used to anoint the high priest and embalm dead bodies, and incense was used in the temple to represent prayers going to God as they worshipped. So He is not only a king and a shepherd, but a priest, and looks a lot like God. Verses 9-10 also talk about him arriving in a carriage made of gold.

Come out, you daughters of Zoin, and look at King Solomon wearing the crown, the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced.

– Song of Songs 3:11 (emphasis added)

And a king who is getting married! All these things together point to Jesus – the King of all who would die to be our perfect high priest, who has made us able to worship God and become His own as His bride, the Church, and who looks after her as a good shepherd would have cared for his sheep.

And what about his other half?

Dark am I, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon. Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I have neglected.

– Song of Songs 1:5-6 (emphasis added)

There’s a lot of vineyard imagery in Song of Songs. In the Old Testament, it was a metaphor for Israel, the people of God (see Isaiah 5) – and this points to the Church, the “New Testament” people of God. There are also contrasts in who She is, e.g. “Dark am I, yet lovely… dark like the tents of Kedar, like the tent curtains of Solomon.” Kedar was one of the sons of Ishmael (i.e. the son without God’s promise, unlike his brother Isaac) and the place was in Arabia (non-Jewish territory) but it talks about “curtains of Solomon”, temple imagery. It’s a dual identity – someone from outside the country and God’s promises, but brought in. And isn’t this our identity as Christians? People who are imperfect and sinful and broken – dark and stained – yet united with Christ, given His purity and righteousness – lovely?

There’s much more to say about Song of Songs, and you’ll have to wait for further posts to read about that (and get excited! :D). It’s a good reminder of the relationship we have with Christ – one with God, who also makes His people His beloved Bride.

There’s a danger with romantic-sounding worship songs in that they can almost bring God down to a human level. But we mustn’t forget the relationship that God has chosen to have with His people: as a husband has with his wife. I think Isaiah 54:5 strikes a good balance between these two things “… your maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” We must not make out that God is like us. He isn’t. And we also must not forget how He loves and cares for His people: intimately, passionately, devotedly. When we forget that God is God, we dishonour Him by not giving Him the worship He deserves, and harm ourselves by not having a true picture of the God who is worth all and gives us hope because He is God. When we forget how much He loves us, we dishonour Him by forgetting an important part of His character and end up fearing Him without loving Him, and this hurts us, too.

Is Jesus my boyfriend? No. But Christ is the heavenly Husband of the Church, and as members of the Church, His Bride, Christians should worship holding both parts of God’s character together. We should worship “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light” (see 1 Timothy 6:15-16) with intimacy as well as awe.

These were the things I read and listened to for writing this post, and I’d recommend reading/listening to them yourself:

“Expressing Love to God” article by Bob Kauflin: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2005/11/22/expressing-love-to-god-in-worship/

“The Love of Christ in Song of Songs” series of talks by Mike Reeves: http://www.theologynetwork.org/unquenchable-flame/the-reformation-in-britain/getting-stuck-in/the-love-of-christ-in-song-of-songs.htm

Song of Songs sermon series (October 2012): http://www.stmaryswollatonpark.co.uk/podcast.html

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Now here is a beautiful truth.

But before I get to it, we’ll need a bit of background. During the recent Relay conference that I went to, we had a series of talks on 1 Corinthians 12-14, about the Church reflecting who God is. Now, the Corinthian church was big on “spiritual” stuff – they were very spiritually gifted (1 Corinthians 1:7), and things like speaking in tongues and prophecy might have been a regular occurrence with them. They might have looked super-holy, but theirs was a church with all kinds of issues. They had a kind of snobbery going on, taking sides depending on who their favourite preacher was (1 Corinthians 3). They had issues with taking each other to court (chapter 6), and they thought that they were very spiritual. But Paul wrote to them saying that, actually, for all their gifts they were not spiritual, because they weren’t showing who God is. Chapters 12-14 talk about what true spirituality is – showing God, specifically through love.

So in chapter 13, Paul famously writes:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This is something we often hear read at weddings. We think “aw, isn’t that nice?” because it’s talking about love. And, in a way, rightly so – because love like this is a great thing! But Paul didn’t write this to be all fluffy and cuddly. Actually, he was writing this as a correction; because this is exactly what the Corinthians weren’t doing. He’s making the point that all these spiritual gifts that the Corinthians were enjoying were pointless if they weren’t showing love to each other, and so showing God’s love. In a Hubbard paraphrase:

Love is patient, love is kind; and you are not. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud; but you are, Corinthians. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Can you say this about yourselves? Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Do you? It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

And also – love won’t disappear. (keep going, we’re getting closer to the point now!) Paul continues:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears… Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

(1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 12)

Paul is saying that, eventually, gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues and the like will disappear because in heaven we won’t need them. The Greek word that’s been translated as “perfection” here is το τελειον – to teleion, meaning “the perfect”, or, more literally, “the place it was meant to flourish”. Heaven is the place that we were made to flourish! It’s literally what we’re made for – when we will be in our element, where we will be happiest, where we will have what we’re born for. And here is what we’re made for: seeing God face to face. This isn’t like standing in the same room as someone (as much as we would call that a face-to-face meeting), but in the Bible “face to face” is the language of intimacy, carrying a meaning of having your faces filled up with each other. We are made to know God intimately. We are made for it!

So, although we know God “in part” now, when we will be in heaven we’ll know Him as intimately as He knows us. And the most precious thing about this is that it wasn’t easy to make this happen. We don’t deserve to go to heaven, because we aren’t perfect. But God made a way for us to become perfect. Since before time began, Jesus (God the Son) has had a perfect face-to-face relationship with His Father, but He was willing to lose this by being punished as we should be so that we could have it!

The Hubbard paraphrase:

Love. Never. Fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect such as these disappears. Think of it like this: when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways, such as how you are acting, behind me. Now – in our prophecies and speaking in tongues and knowledge – we see but a poor reflection; then, in heaven, we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known by God now.”

 

Even better

Even better than this, though, is thinking about just who it is that we’ll have an intimate relationship with. Because, let’s be honest, heaven wouldn’t be all that great if God was a bit disappointing. It’s all very well to have an all-powerful nice person with a beard to spend eternity with, but surely it would stop being exciting eventually. There’s only so many times you can make a square circle or the sun glow purple or have wings and play your golden harp on a fluffy white cloud (whilst wearing a bed sheet) before it gets a bit samey. So is God all that great a prize? Is spending forever with Jesus an exciting idea, or will He just get annoying after a few thousand years of being holy?

The book of Revelation at the end of the Bible is brilliant. At first glance, it can seem like LOST on steroids – a load of crazy supernatural stuff with an unbelievable plot – but when you understand that lots of the language used is symbolic and represents a deeper reality than at face value, you begin to see just how awesome its content is. And the picture that we get of Jesus in Revelation is incredible!

In Revelation 1:12-18 it says:

… I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man’, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “… ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

This is describing Jesus in the midst of His Church (the lampstands represent the churches that Revelation was written to) with epic imagery – dressed as a king and priest, wise and with authority (that’s what the white hair bit means), with eyes of fire, skin glowing with His glory, and a voice as powerful as the sea. He holds the Church in His care (the stars, like the lampstands earlier, represent the churches that John was writing to) and His words are penetrating. Jesus Himself says that He is the Beginning and End of everything; that He has defeated death and holds ultimate power over it.

Revelation 4 (sorry, it’s too long to put here) describes God as breathtakingly beautiful, and that He is a life-giver. Chapter 5 describes Jesus as being the only person who can wield history and the loving sovereign power of God. And He uses His power for those He loves:

Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

(Revelation 7:16-17)

He uses His power to get rid of evil so that He can bless His people, the Church! Jesus Christ is self-giving, and the nature of His power is self-giving: He can wield the power of God the Father because of His fundamental part in God’s plan to make everything right – Jesus died so that everyone can live.

The Church is often called the “Bride of Christ” because of what it says in Revelation 19:6-9:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like to roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! [Jesus]’ ” And he added, “these are the true words of God”

You see, the Church is going to get married to Jesus. The white clothes represent God’s righteousness being given to us, which make us worthy of being united with Jesus like this.

And Jesus has brought this about – how?

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no-one but he himself knows. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean… On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

                KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

(Revelation 19:1-16)

Our God has gone to war to win us. Here we see Jesus riding into battle in a robe dipped in His own blood, symbolising what He did when He died on the cross. Jesus has won us the victory by shedding His own blood in self-giving love.

So, is it worth spending eternity with Jesus? He has the ultimate authority, He is stunningly beautiful, He has given up His own life so that we can have something better than all the good things we’ll ever know. And, most of all, He gives us Himself to be united to and to know intimately for the rest of time and beyond!

What do you think?

Many thanks to Lewis Green for his talks on 1 Corinthians 12-14, and to Mike Reeves for his talk on Jesus in Revelation, both at Relay 3 2012.

As part of my year as a church intern, I wrote quite a lot of short Bible talks. And, being female, this meant that the whole issue of whether women should be allowed to preach has been something that I’ve been quite conscious of recently. Personally, I know that I need to do some intense study – in a perfect world, I’d learn New Testament (NT) Greek and be able to brilliantly translate what they meant back then to what it means in a form of English that we can understand with crystal clarity now. But, sadly, I don’t have the means to do this at the moment. And my opinion tends to change as to what I think exactly. Currently, (based on talking to my vicar and hearing his reasoning) I think that it’s ok for women to preach, because the sense used in the ‘key’ passages in the NT is about usurping authority; and women preaching doesn’t necessarily usurp authority – unless, of course, they start inciting a coup/mutiny/rebellion and take the church as their own then and there. But in my experience, this isn’t what usually happens.

I’d love to put up some of my intern sermons up on here, so to warn you: if you don’t agree with women preaching, feel free to not read them 🙂

But here’s what I understand about the arguments at the moment:

From what I can tell, pretty much everyone agrees on a certain set of values, and the difference of opinion is on what exactly is meant by the text when it says certain things. The Bible verse that i have been particularly aware of as being involved in this issue is:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one who was deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

(I know there’s a lot to talk about from this passage, but you’ll have to wait till later :P)

The really important thing to remember is that this is not about men being better than women, or women better than men. It is not a ‘battle of the sexes’ issue; it is not a male supremacy issue. More often than not, it’s an issue with our messy, sinful hearts. It’s easy to judge others for their point of view and think that yours is better. Obviously, you do think it’s better, otherwise you wouldn’t have that opinion. But talking about issues such as this one where things can get heated so easily means that we need humility and wisdom. We need to be prepared to actually listen to other opinions, but more importantly, to listen to what God says even if we don’t like it (we need to have the desire to honestly seek what God wants). My view could well be wrong, and this is a challenge to myself as well to be humble and willing to hold my opinion loosely.

I haven’t been able to study this too much as of yet, but here’s the basics of my understanding:

What people agree on:

Men and women are equal. Both are made to reflect who God is, to look after creation together and be relational beings. But also, both are equally guilty of sin and equally accountable for the Fall (so Eve let herself be lied to gave in to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit, but Adam was right next to her the whole time and could have stopped her). However, both are equal in salvation – i.e. God saves men and women equally, and brings them both into a status of children of God and heirs of His Kingdom. So men and women are equal in value and status.

Men and women are not the same. God made a deliberate difference when He created man and woman back in Genesis. He made men and women to complement each other in the work that He gave them to do (look after creation).

God uses both men and women in work, whether Christian work or not.

Jesus involved women in ministry. He treated women equally to men, with value and respect.

Man is the head of woman. – I can hear you say, ‘Hang on there!’ The above points are fairly easy to go along with because they’re quite nice and non-controversial. OK, so this is not something that always seems natural, especially in our Western culture. But I think this is definitely a biblical view (especially because the Bible says it explicitly, so…). Let’s unpack this…

Normally, the first place people start is back in Genesis. But I think it might be more helpful to go back further than the beginning of the universe – to God Himself. You see, there is some form of hierarchy within God Himself, in the Trinity. And this isn’t about superiority or inferiority at all – all three Persons of the Trinity are completely God and so have utterly the same status as God (if you want to know more about the Trinity… er… you’ll have to look elsewhere for the moment, sorry. I’ve just started what promises to be a great book on the Trinity – The Good God by Mike Reeves – and it’s definitely something that’s worth delving into. Because, like, you know, it’s about who God is. You can’t get more important than that). There is a pattern of submission in the Trinity. 1 Corinthians 11:3 says that God (the Father) is the head of Christ (the Son) – they’re both equal, but the Son submits to the Father. There are other verses about this; John 5:19 (the Son only does what the Father does) and John 14:31 (the Son does exactly what the Father tells him to) are a couple of examples. I hope you can see what I’m getting at: the whole submission issue and the order that God has given is not an issue of superiority/inferiority, because it never was since it exists in who God is.

On to creation. God created man (Adam) first and gave him the first command before He made woman (Eve) (see Genesis 2). Adam’s responsibility was to pass this command on to his wife. Adam was given the responsibility of naming things, even the woman, and in the Bible, naming things is an act of authority. In Genesis 3, when Eve listens to the serpent instead of Adam (i.e. not obeying the command from God via Adam to not eat from the tree), and Adam does nothing, he is punished for a) listening to Eve, and b) failing in his responsibility as ‘custodian of the command’. This started the battle of the sexes:

“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16b)

“desire” here is all about possessing or mastering. i.e., women would have the desire to control and rule over men, and men would want to ‘lord it’ over them. But the God-ordained way of things is for men to be in authority. You can see the problem. Sin messes things up. It turned something that was always intended to be a wholesome and beautiful reflection of who God is into a twisted battle for power.

But God didn’t leave it there. When Jesus Christ saved us through dying in our place, He didn’t just restore our relationship with God. His continuing work in us is to restore the other relationships we have, including the order that God set out right at the beginning of existence. So the model we are given in the New Testament is that of Christ:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance like a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

Christ’s example is that although He is equal with the Father, He didn’t grasp at that equality. He submits willingly to the Father. Another helpful mode we have is that of Christ and His Church:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. (Ephesians 5:22-28)

This is mainly about marriage, but I hope you can see that from this we can draw that our relationships are, in the appropriate extent, to reflect Christ’s relationship to the Church. Particularly, it’s important to remember what v25 says about husbands loving wives as Christ loves His Church – sacrificially, selflessly. But also, we can draw out that authority does not mean that you are dominating, and submission does not mean that you are a doormat to be walked all over.

What people disagree on:

How this works out in a church context, where everyone is not married to each other (thankfully – can you imagine how complicated that would get?).

There’s a decent amount of clear teaching (such as the passage above) about marriage and roles within that. It gets trickier when talking about male and female roles in church. A fair amount of detailed understanding comes from reading between the lines a bit – study of whether male or female words are used, the sense of the whole text, etc. Passages such as the 1 Timothy 2 one that I mentioned at the beginning of this post raise questions like: Can women have any authority in church? Can they preach to men, or only to women? What happens with children – can they preach to them, and when does a child become a man and hence can’t be taught spiritually by women? What counts as teaching? Does leading sung worship count? Or leading prayers? Or leading a service? Can women write books about Christian discipleship or theology?

To a certain extent, we won’t know for sure until we get to heaven, can see things clearly, and all go “Oooooohhh, so THAT’s what it meant!” I’m not saying that we can’t understand what the Bible says – not at all! But a combination of not being 1st Century Greek-speakers, our sinful hearts, and our ability to get things wrong mean that there is a difference of opinion on some things that are contentious.

My opinion

Let’s have a look at that 1 Timothy passage again:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one who was deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

So, the last sentence is a curveball. A lot of commentators have seen it and gone ‘??’ and don’t really have an answer for what Paul is getting at exactly. But that’s not quite what we’re looking for here, so I’ll very annnoyingly brush over it.

When it says “silent” in v11, this isn’t the best translation of the word used. The word used is the same as used to describe “peaceful and quiet” in v2 (in relation to how we should live – “…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”) – it’s about an attitude of listening instead of resisting authority, not women not being allowed to make a noise. When the passage above says “I do not permit a woman to teach” we need to be careful, because in other places Paul talks about women teaching in a positive way, such as Titus 2 where he encourages women to teach younger women, or when he talks about Timothy being taught by his mother and grandmother. And there’s the instance when a couple, Priscilla and Aquila, taught Apollos together. Paul isn’t saying that women can’t teach… so what does he mean? In v12, teaching goes hand-in-hand with authority. Much of 1 Timothy is talking about people who are appointed to have authority to lead the church and teach it; so Paul is prohibiting women from having overall authority in a church, i.e. being elders/vicars/pastors. It doesn’t mean that women can’t teach or preach, just that they shouldn’t take on the role of being in charge of the church.

This reasoning is followed in v13-14. Adam was formed before Eve. Being made first doesn’t mean that Adam was better or more important, but that Adam was to be followed. God made man to be the leader. Sin and the Fall messed this up.

So, my personal opinion (willing to change) is this: women can preach (so long as they are under the authority of a man, e.g. church leader/vicar/pastor/elder and this doesn’t upset the authority structure that God has set out), but overall authority is a role that God intended for men. However, this doesn’t mean that authority should ever be exploited – we are to follow Jesus’ example, whatever position we are in, whoever we are, and serve each other selflessly.

I hope my ramblings have been helpful 🙂

Thanks to Hilary Jackson and Fiona at MMTC for their instruction, and Henry Curran for his thoughts – both of which I have used heavily here.

Edit: I’d also recommend reading this article (and others in the series):

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2011/01/06/im-a-complementarian-but-women-must-be-taught-and-they-must-teach/

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