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November is moving fast, and Christmas is approaching! Time to think of what presents to buy for friends and family! I quite like planning what to buy for the people I know well enough to have a good idea of what to get them, but some people are harder to buy for than others. At times like these the invention of vouchers is something invaluable. I tend to always get vouchers from a member of my family at Christmas, and it’s quite fun choosing what to spend them on. I enjoy the satisfaction that comes from getting a good bargain. But although I want to get the most out of what I spend, I know it isn’t worth spending money on something that’s cheap and low-quality. It’s far better to exchange my shiny pieces of paper for something that I know that I’ll enjoy for a while. You wouldn’t redeem something broken or old or tatty with your vouchers, would you?

You might be wondering why on earth I’m talking about what I’ll be spending my Christmas money on, but I think that as we go through the short and sweet chapter of Hosea 3 we’ll find something surprising. We’ll see a God who spends big on something that we might think is a rip-off, but something He thinks is worth every last bit of what He paid.

In Hosea 1, God describes Israel’s relationship with Him like that of an unfaithful wife. They were a people who keep on forsaking God for idols, and God says He’ll judge Israel because of their spiritual adultery. God originally warned against forgetting Him a few generations before in Deuteronomy 8, yet we see in Hosea 2 that Israel did just that, and left God her husband for the empty promises of other gods. So God says He’ll take away everything she has to bring her to her senses. He will then allure His unfaithful wife, and give back all He has taken away, and Israel will once again call Him her husband. Not only will God restore their relationship but He will make it a closer, deeper, purer one. An eternal one.

In chapter 3 we take a short break from God’s message to Israel to see what is happening in Hosea’s life. This is the last time we hear about Hosea himself in the book, and again God uses it to show profound and powerful truths about His relationship with, and His plans for, His people. In this passage it involves two actions: redemption and restoration. This won’t be an easy passage to look at. We will be challenged. We will be humbled. But we will also be allured by the unrelenting love and astonishing forgiveness of our God. A God who willingly redeems a broken people at a cost much greater than a gift card.

So let’s look at the passage:

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love has as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin-cakes.”

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”

For the Israelites will live for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterwards the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.”

Redemption

Firstly, the passage describes redemption. The chapter begins with God giving Hosea some instructions: ‘The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin-cakes.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.’ (v1-2)

Gomer has left Hosea. Not only has she left him, but she has left him for another man while still being his wife. By Old Testament law, Hosea was well within his rights to drag both Gomer and her lover to the city gate to be stoned to death. And, let’s be honest, wouldn’t you sympathise? If the man, or woman, you loved, you had married, you had given all that you had to, you had looked after, who had promised to be with you for life, one day turned around and said “Sorry, I’m in love with someone else” upped sticks and left – wouldn’t you be angry? Wouldn’t you be hurt? Would you ever want to see them again? It’s incredibly painful when anyone you’re close to hurts you, and all the more for a marriage, a relationship that’s meant to be one of intimacy and close trust.

Yet what does God tell Hosea to do? “…Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites…” (v1) God is using Hosea’s life as a picture of His relationship with Israel. Can you see the parallel here? “Go, show your love to your wife… though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin-cakes.” (v1) God is saying that just like Gomer left Hosea for another man, Israel has abandoned her divine Husband for the idol Baal, and loves not God, but raisin-cakes, things used in rituals. She does not love God Himself, but desires things, and has turned to other gods to give her those things. And God, being holy, righteous, and just, has every right to condemn Israel to destruction for her unfaithfulness.

Yet He doesn’t do that. If you remember, in chapter 2 God didn’t declare intentions to annihilate Israel, although He would punish her. He said He would love her and woo her and betroth her to Him for ever. And as God decided to show His love in restoring His idolatrous people, He asks Hosea to do the same for his wife. And verse 2 says that that involves buying Gomer back. The price is fifteen shekels of silver and one and a half homers of barley. Some interpreters think this adds up to thirty shekels of silver – this was how much it cost to buy a slave’s freedom. Hosea doesn’t say why she needs to be bought back, but Gomer’s return came at a price. And the fact that Hosea had to make up the difference with barley shows He couldn’t pay in cash. It was costly for him.

God didn’t give Hosea the option of backing out of his relationship with his wife, because God is uncompromising in His relationship with His people. He would not give up on Israel, although abandoning them would save Him the pain of their unfaithfulness; and He wouldn’t settle for anything less than for them to call Him their husband. The love that God asks of Hosea is but a taste of God’s own love for His people – vast, relentless, eternal.

But was it worth it? Hosea knew that Gomer was adulterous right to the core, it was why God told him to marry her in the first place. Wouldn’t Gomer just keep on running to her lovers? Wouldn’t Israel just turn away again? It’s what they had been doing for generations! It wasn’t enough to merely remove the wife from slavery. No, she would have to change as well.

 

Restoration

Therefore, after redemption the second act we see is that of restoration. After Hosea has bought Gomer, he says to her, “You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” (v3) This sounds a bit cryptic, but Hosea is saying that she is to remove herself from the temptation of adultery. She is to live with Hosea as his wife, yet since sexual intimacy was her downfall, she is not to sleep with any man – including Hosea – for a time. Gomer had to get out of the habit of unfaithfulness so that she could be a faithful wife. And then Hosea would fully be a husband to her again.

Why did Hosea do this? “For the Israelites will live for many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol.” (v4) God will remove from Israel the things that were leading them astray. They weren’t all bad things in themselves. It wasn’t wrong for Israel to have a king, to offer sacrifices, or to have objects of worship. These were all good things. But Israel’s rulers had led them astray, and more often than not had rejected God. Sacrificial offerings were something ordained by God, and in previous years God’s people had set up memorial to remind them of what God had done for them. Yet the people were now sacrificing to other gods and making idols in honour of them. Even ephods, parts of the system of worship that God had set up through Moses, had become idols. In fact, the history of the northern kingdom of Israel was founded on idolatry and a broken relationship – they rebelled against King David’s grandson and set up their own king and made their own rival religion. Israel was riddled with idolatry! Like a shopping trolley with a dodgy wheel, they kept veering away from God and running in the wrong direction.

Like Gomer, Israel needed to be removed from the things that were leading them astray. It would be hard: They would be conquered, and their system of worship would be removed. Yet instead of being an unloving thing for God to do, this purging is a part of His love. God will remove the very pillars of Israel’s culture, but He will not remove Himself. And He knows that for Israel this will prove to be ultimate gain: “Afterwards the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.” (v5) The people of Israel needed to have these things removed so that they would return to God. So that they would see that it was the Lord who gave them everything, the Lord who heard their prayers, the Lord who kept them safe – not anything else. They would turn to God again, remembering their divine Husband for who He really is. Hosea says that they will come trembling – in repentance, knowing the wrong they have done, and asking for forgiveness. But there is more to this, and I’ll come to that soon.

The best is yet to come…

In this chapter of Hosea, we’ve seen two things: That an unfaithful wife was bought back at great cost, and that her husband would help her to be someone who would love him fully again. Does this story sound familiar?

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That’s Romans 5:6&8.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures… But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

That’s Titus 3:3-7.

You see, in verse 5 Hosea when talks about “the last days” he isn’t just looking for a time when Israel would be restored. No, he is talking about something beyond the Old Testament, looking forward to a time when God would fully restore His relationship with His people. He was looking forward to the time when God would buy an unfaithful people from a master that would drive them to death, paying a great cost, and making them His own people. A people who love and desire Him greatly.

We saw first that Hosea bought back his wife at great cost. And this is what God has done at the cross. Sin is not just breaking rules – it’s the breaking of a relationship. The breaking of God’s heart as His beloved people run after other lovers. As the Titus quote said, we were enslaved by desires and a broken nature that couldn’t help but be unfaithful to God. Like that Romans passage said, we were powerless to get ourselves out of the situation.  And just like Hosea had every right by the law to have his adulterous wife executed, that same law condemns us to death for our sin. Yet at this time, when we had rejected the God who created us, when we had turned to other things to satisfy our cravings for love or security or hope, at this time Jesus Christ died to free us from our slavery to sin. He swapped places with us so that we could be free from the punishment we deserve, and instead be made into God’s perfect bride. As 1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and send his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Isn’t this the greatest display of love? God didn’t give up on the human race, even after we had rejected Him from the beginning, after the people He chose to display Him to the world consistently turned to other gods, and even now when those He has redeemed still fall by the wayside every so often.

If you aren’t a Christian, then please hear this. The relationship that God has with His people is not a cold contract of rules. It’s a living, breathing, vibrant relationship; one that satisfies our need to be known, to be accepted, to be loved. It’s a relationship that has cost God dearly to have. Isn’t that something worth thinking about?

For those of us who may think that we’re too broken for God to want anything to do with us, or know that we keep on getting things wrong and wonder whether we’re one mistake away from being abandoned, who know that secret darkness in the deepest corner of our heart – don’t disqualify yourself from coming to God. Jesus knew what He was doing when He died for you. And He came back from death so that you could be made whole again and be caught up in the life that He has. And don’t be fooled – these Christians may look like they’re all sorted and holy, but they’re not. I’m one of them, and I’m far from being the woman that I’d like to be. Becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly transform you into a perfect demi-god. It just starts the journey of being made right.

And God knows this. I find it incredibly moving that Jesus deliberately took the punishment for His unfaithful Bride upon Himself. That as He was taking those last excruciating breaths on the cross Jesus knew He was saving a people for Himself that wouldn’t get it right until He brought them to heaven. This is the greatness of God’s grace – that He knows we will hurt Him again, and forgives us anyway. He knows that before the day is out, I’ll have acted like something is more important than He is, probably done something to hurt the people I know and love, and definitely got something completely wrong, but still when I ask for forgiveness He can’t wait to give it. He is our heavenly Husband, who betrothed us to Himself at the cross, and again and again when we turn from Him He is ready to welcome us back with open arms. All we need to do is come trembling to the Lord, fully acknowledging our weakness and asking for Him to take away our wrongs, and trusting that He will forgive us like He’s promised.

The second thing we’ve seen in Hosea 3 is that Hosea had to guide Gomer away from running after other livers and bring her back into living as his wife. If you are a Christian, we’ve got a great warning and encouragement to take from this. We have been saved by Jesus from condemnation and judgment. He has given us His righteousness so that we have a good relationship with God. But we would be fooling ourselves to think that we’re all perfect now, wouldn’t we? The battle against sin in our hearts is still ongoing. I know that if I take a long, hard look at myself I won’t like what I see. Because I see that I do still have a heart that runs to things other than God. As human beings, we are very good at making things into idols and putting them in the place that God should have in our lives. And I find that this is still a problem now that I’m a Christian. It’s not just the obvious things that we can see people who aren’t Christians run after – things like money, or escapism, or success, or the dream house or family or car. More dangerous is when good things, sometimes God-things like having quiet times or serving at church or praying – anything that can become a box-ticking exercise – these become idols because we can easily fool ourselves that it’s out of some desire to please God that we care so much. But the thing is, idols consume you and leave you empty. They promise us everything, and give us nothing. Every time I sin – and I sin frequently – it’s because I think doing wrong is better than doing the right that pleases God. In that moment, I believe that I will get more satisfaction, more pleasure, by that thing rather than by loving God; whether it’s getting my own way, or not doing something because it puts me at risk of rejection, or giving in to that constant temptation because I just can’t keep fighting it any more.

We need to keep an eye on where our priorities lie because if you’re anything like me it’s all too easy to forget that it’s God, not my money or job or that relationship, who gives me joy and is worth everything. We’re on the right track, but the wheel of our proverbial trolley isn’t quite fixed yet. So we need to make sure that we aren’t led astray permanently. We should pursue God first and foremost, and if something is stopping that happening we need to do something about it. Also, we shouldn’t be afraid of times when God does take things away that distract us from Him, or when life gets hard, because He is growing us to be more faithful and could well be preparing us to be captivated by Him again.

As we’ve looked at Hosea 3, we’ve seen that Hosea buying back his unfaithful wife was meant to reflect God’s unrelenting love and forgiveness of His people; how God refused to give up on them despite their constant turning away from Him to other gods. And we’ve seen that God has bought us for Himself with the blood of Jesus, who died so that we could be forgiven.  And we’ve seen that, although we still do get things wrong, God forgives us time after time. He does not leave us to die in our sin, but welcomes us back to Him, and He will make His people to be a perfect Bride for Himself. A Bride who longs for Him, and who will enjoy perfect relationship with Him into eternity. In verse 5 what it says Israel will return to “the LORD and his blessings”. The blessing of relationship with Him now, and the future blessing of heaven – where there will be no more death, or evil, or anything that would cause us pain; where we will spend eternity with the Lover of our souls, seeing Him face to face, forever. This is what we have to look forward to! So let’s leave the empty seductions of this world and run towards the Husband who will give us more than we can dream of.

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OK, I promise I’ll post the Song of Songs stuff soon (hopefully!) – it’s just taking me ages to write it. In the meantime….

Humans are relational people. As the famous saying goes, “no man is an island”. And our friends are important to us – can you think of the people you couldn’t live without? On the internet someone has predicted that we meet on average about 100,000 people in our lifetime[1]. That’s a lot of people! But not all of them will be our friends. We have circles of friends, best friends, and acquaintances, with different levels of closeness with each person we know. We love different people differently, too. I wonder who your closest friend in the world is; the person, or people, who you love the most?

1 Samuel 20 focusses on the relationship between King Saul’s son, Jonathan, and the David who we know was later to become king of Israel. But first, let’s look at a bit of background.

Saul was Israel’s first king, and had failed in his duty to be faithful to God. So God rejected him as king, and instead chose David to be the next king of Israel. David was a nobody, a shepherd boy from the backwater of Bethlehem, but God chose him because of his heart after God. He blessed him with success – first in his defeat of Goliath, and then in victories as a commander of Israel’s army. But Saul became jealous of this upstart shepherd boy, and several times in the previous two chapters had tried to kill him. At the beginning of chapter 20, David has just fled from one of Saul’s attempts on his life. Jonathan’s response to David was much different to his father’s. He became close friends with David, and formalised their friendship in a covenant where he symbolically handed the kingdom over to David.

This passage is huge, so I won’t quote the whole thing here. But here’s the basic story:

At the beginning of this passage, Saul has once again tried to take David’s life, so David has run away. He goes up to Jonathan and asks why Saul wants him dead (v1). Jonathan won’t believe that his father wants to kill David, but David insists that Saul is trying to kill him and makes a plan to prove Saul’s hatred. The next day is the start of the New Moon festival, where, as a member of the court, David was expected to attend the feast. David plans to not go, and make an excuse about having to be elsewhere. If he is missed, he asks Jonathan to tell Saul that he had to go home. Saul’s reaction will show whether he really does hate David and want him dead. In case David and Jonathan can’t be seen speaking to each other, they invent a cunning way of communicating. The New Moon festival arrives, and, sure enough, David’s place at the feast is empty. To start with, Saul thinks nothing of this, since it wasn’t unusual for people to miss such an event because of accidentally becoming ceremonially unclean. But on the second day of David’s absence, Saul askes Jonathan why David isn’t there. Jonathan gives David’s excuse, and Saul explodes in anger – not just at David, but at Jonathan as well! He even tries to kill his own son in his anger! Jonathan now knows beyond a doubt that his father hates David, and the next day goes to tell David of this.

As we look at Jonathan and David’s friendship, we’re going to see what this passage shows us about God, what it shows about Jesus (or, rather, the correct response to Him), and what we can learn from it. Let’s start by looking at what this passage shows us about God.

There is no “God did this” or “God did that” explicitly in this text, but can you see how God is at work behind the scenes? To start with, God is keeping His servant safe. He has protected David thus far from Saul’s anger and now is using Jonathan to protect him. Not only is God providing safety for David, but He has given David a faithful friend in Jonathan. Because of Saul’s public statement that David must die in verse 31, he now has to leave his home and his place at court, and is on the run from the authorities. In all of this, God provides a friend for David who has promised love and protection. Thirdly, God is securing His sovereign plan. David was the man that God had chosen to be the next king of Israel. Where Saul had failed as God’s servant, David was intended to succeed. David wasn’t perfect, but he was a man after God’s heart and a foreshadowing of God’s true King, Jesus Christ. God used David as part of His promises to His people, and by keeping David safe, He was carrying out His own plan for salvation.

So that’s what we can see about God. Let’s now look at what we can see about Jesus here. There isn’t so much in this passage about Jesus explicitly. However, we can have a look at Jonathan’s relationship with David as God’s promised king, and see if this has any relevance for us since David was foreshadowing Christ. David wasn’t just Jonathan’s covenant close friend. Jonathan knew that God’s plan was to have David as the next king. And, where his father rejected God’s plan and hated David, Jonathan accepted what God was doing and loved David.

Saul knew that God had rejected him as king, and was jealous of David’s success and rise in popularity. He hated David so much that when talking with Jonathan at the feast he won’t even say David’s name! He treats David shamefully, as it says in v34, and his anger is uncontrollable to the point of trying to kill his own son for defending David (v33).

Jonathan, instead of hating David, loved him. He knew that God had chosen David to be the next king of Israel, which was why he symbolically handed over the kingdom to him in the covenant in chapter 18, and has promised to protect him now. Jonathan saw God’s plan and submitted to it, whereas Saul railed against it. Throughout the passage we see David and Jonathan’s close friendship – to start with, Jonathan says that if Saul wanted to kill David, he would tell him (and he has done so in the previous chapter). Although he doubts whether his father wants to kill David, he still agrees to follow through on David’s plan to test Saul’s motives. He also agrees to protect David, working out a way to communicate with him in case it is dangerous for David to be seen.  He was a loyal friend to David, defending him when Saul’s anger flared up against him; and Jonathan was livid at Saul’s treatment of his friend. And when David had to leave, the friends’ grief showed their affection for one another. So Jonathan not only submitted to God’s plan, but he also loved God’s king.

We’ve had a look at what we see of God in this passage, and we’ve seen Jonathan’s reaction to God’s new king. Now we come on to looking at what this means for us.

There are three applications that we can draw from what we’ve seen here. The first application here is from what we’ve seen about God preserving His plan in these events. Even the smaller details of the events here, which to David and Jonathan must have seemed very distant to God’s big picture at the time, were all part of God’s outworking for His Sovereign plan for salvation. You see, God works in the big picture, and He works in the details, and each these are never separate from other. God has the holy ingenuity to weave His plan and our lives together. Isn’t this great? And since God Himself is behind it all, we know that we can trust in what He is doing, no matter how dire life might seem at the time.

The second application here comes from Jonathan’s submission to God’s plan and love for God’s king, which made him willing to give everything up for him. His position as crown prince means a lot in the world – with wealth, power, and influence, it is one of the highest positions a person can have. Yet he gave it all over for the sake of God’s plan and God’s king. How readily do we give all we have to Jesus? I find it all too easy to say that I’ll give everything to God, but when it comes to that money, that dream for my future, or even that sin, I want to cling to them. If God wants it, He’ll have to prize it out of my hands. My life is relatively comfortable, and I may say that I’m willing to sacrifice what I have for the sake of the Gospel, but I know that when the rubber hits the road I’m more likely to walk away rather than stand up for Jesus. We can easily forget that God is carrying out His Sovereign plan today. And when we forget this, it’s easier to want to hold on to our own little kindgoms – maybe our reputation, or that job we want, or that relationship we hope for – instead of surrendering them to Jesus.

The third, and main, application, is this: Jonathan loved God’s promised king. He showed it formally in his covenants with David, but also personally in his relationship with him. There is obviously a close brotherly affection in how David and Jonathan interact – they trust each other, Jonathan defends David to his father, and Jonathan protects David’s life. Obviously, Jesus doesn’t need us like David needed his friend, but can you see the challenge to love, to trust, to devote ourselves to Jesus like Jonathan was devoted to David? How personal is our relationship with Jesus? Is it just a formal declaration of love that we give in our songs and prayers on a Sunday, or do we live like Jesus is actually a person, our Friend as well as our Redeemer and King, who is with us every day till the end of the age? How much do we talk to our King? How honest are we with Him? We can devote ourselves to Jesus in prayer, in trust, in standing firm in our faith and telling others the Gospel.

Jonathan had great love and devotion for God’s promised king, David. And this is a foreshadowing of how we should love God’s King, Jesus. We should be devoted to our King, who is also our Friend and Saviour. Jesus deserves our hearts and our lives, and there is no sweeter thing than giving everything to our King to gain eternity with Him.

First of all, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you! And thanks for reading the blog 🙂

And no, I’m not getting married. You wish 😉

Despite my lack of nuptials announcement, this year will very much be the Year of the Wedding for me. It’s that time of life when you reach your early-to-mid-20s and all the Christians get married! I’m doubling the number of weddings that I’ve been to in my entire life in 2013, so (other people’s) marriage and relationships are very much on my mind. Having been pretty much a lifelong Christian Singleton, it can be as much of a struggle and heartache as it is a genuine joy and delight seeing my friends get married and be in relationships. It is so easy for doubt to creep in – perpetual loneliness, insecurity, lack of love, etc. It gets more and more ridiculous as you work yourself up, but it happens. And with the often well-meaning but unintentional obsession with marriage and matchmaking in Christian circles, it can be hard to be single beyond the age of studenthood.

BUT this is not a rant about that. No, because the important thing is not ‘woe is me, it’s so hard to be single’ or whatever, but about where our heart lies. Is having a spouse or boy/girlfriend an idol? I openly confess that I spent years with my aim in life to be married, and it was no help at all. OK, so it’s not wrong to want to have a special person and be someone’s special person; but I think that this longing for intimacy is something rooted in us. Because, at the end of the day, we all do have a relationship like that which we can look forward to. A relationship of intimacy and beautiful love that is offered to all of us. And that, my friend, can encourage both the singletons and married among us.

I hope to write more about this soon because it’s very much a theme in my life that God is using to encourage me – not just the weddings of friends, but also what God has been speaking about in sermons and talks that I’ve been listening to. And the relationship that we have, or could have, with Jesus is something utterly exquisite. I want to take time to do justice to it, but in the meantime, I’ve put what I’ve been reading/listening to below.

Song of Songs is a book that’s been fantastically opened up as a wealth of imagery and encouragement, and

Mike Reeves’ series on Song of Songs on the Theology Network website: http://www.theologynetwork.org/unquenchable-flame/the-reformation-in-britain/getting-stuck-in/the-love-of-christ-in-song-of-songs.htm

Henry Curran’s sermon series on Song of Songs on the St Mary’s Wollaton Park website (back in September 2012: http://www.stmaryswollatonpark.co.uk/podcast.html – you’ll have to scroll down to find them) have been really helpful. What you might also like is the series on Ruth also on the St Mary’s podcast page (May 2012).

I’m sure there’s loads more to put down that I can’t quite remember now! Enjoy 🙂 And watch this space!

Football is a hugely popular game, with millions of supporters in the UK (it’s pretty much our national sport, whether it’s official or not), and everyone supports their own team. How can you tell which team someone supports? Well, they go to the matches, they wear their team’s shirt, and they follow them in sports news. My brother is an avid supporter of what was our local team, Oxford United. He asked for a new shirt for his birthday whenever the strip changed, he had a season ticket and went to all the home matches before he moved away to university – actually, he still makes trips home to watch important matches! He spends hours on their website, and watching them on the local sports news when he can. It is beyond me why he bothers with such devotion over a game – or of OUFC for that matter cos they’re no Premiership side at the moment, it has to be said – but he undeniably is a supporter of the ‘U’s through and through, because of how he lives. His motivation for his fanaticism is his love for his team; and in a similar way, we are called to reflect our status as children of God in how we live, because we love God:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with Him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favouritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

 – Colossians 3:;1-4:1

At first glance, it looks like the writer, Paul, is giving a list of rules to follow, just after he has said in the previous chapter that there is no need to follow rules for salvation. But we will see that here, his motivation for action is different – it isn’t “works for salvation”, but “works because of salvation”. We will see that our identity in Christ should motivate us to live in a way that reflects who we are.

So, what is our identity as Christians? We are raised with Christ to new life, as it says in verse 1. We are dead to sin and the rules of this world, and are hidden in Christ (v3). Christ Himself is our life, and we await the time when we will appear with Him in glory (v4). We are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, as it says in verse 12. We are members of the body of Christ, with a promised inheritance. So, who are we? We are the chosen, beloved, people of God. We have been made holy by Jesus Christ, who is our very life now that we are hidden in Him. And we expect and hope for a heavenly inheritance and an eternal, perfect life with God Himself.

If you notice, throughout this chapter Paul gives this identity as being the reason for doing the things he encourages the Colossians to do. Since we have been raised to life with Christ, we should set our hearts and minds on heaven (v1). Verses 3-5 say that we should put to death our sinful nature because we are hidden in Christ and will appear with Him in glory. As God’s chosen people, we should clothe ourselves with such things as love, kindness, and peace (v12-15). And 3v18-4v1 give the Lord as a reason for their instructions – whether it’s for the sake of pleasing Him, worshipping Him, or remembering that He is our Master.

Let’s explore what Paul says it means to live in a way reflecting our identity in this passage. In verses 1-4, Paul says that we should set our hearts and minds on heaven, because we are dead to the world, have been raised with Christ, and our lives are hidden in Him. We will share in His glory in the future, so we should live lives that glorify Him now. Verse 5 says that we should put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature. Here Paul lists two lots of five characteristics that we should put to death or rid ourselves of: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil practices and greed in verse 5; and anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language in verse 8. These are characteristics of the earthly nature – of how we used to live before we were saved. But now, we are God’s people, and so need to discard and put to death these aspects of our old nature and embrace the righteousness that we have been given. We still sin, granted, but sin’s power over us is broken, and now we desire to please God and live righteously. After he has described what we should get rid of, Paul describes what we should “put on” as God’s people. In contrast to the old self, we should clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace. Everything we do is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him,” as it says in verse 17.

Can you see what this means for us? We are called to live in a way which reflects our status as God’s redeemed people. We are God’s chosen people, all of us who are saved. He loves us greatly, and has made us holy. He has forgiven us for our sins. And so, we can show the same forgiveness and love to each other. Or should do, rather, because each and every Christian is God’s chosen, holy and dearly loved child (v12). The characteristics of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience that Paul lists are seen throughout the Bible in the character of God. So as God’s people, we are called to reflect who God is in how we live.

Paul gives some practical applications of what living like people of God looks like in 3v18-4v1. His applications are based on what households were like at the time, but we can still learn from what he says. Wives are asked to submit to their husbands, honouring and obeying them freely, and affirming their husbands’ leadership and supporting his role in the family. In parallel to this, husbands are called to love their wives and be gentle with them. In Ephesians [5:25-33] Paul gives Christ’s sacrificial love for His Church as an example to follow. Children are asked to obey their parents, and parents are asked not to provoke their children so that they don’t become discouraged. Why? Because this “pleases the Lord” (v20). The instructions to slaves and masters seem a bit removed from how our society works today, but a similar relationship does exist between employees and employers today. So, slaves, or employees, are called to obey their masters, or employers – not only in ways which their masters can see, but also in ways that go unnoticed. Their service should be wholehearted, and as if God Himself were asking them to do it, because they know that they have an inheritance in heaven and that God will reward them for their fruitful work (v24). Everything we do should serve God, and that implies serving those on earth who have authority over us, since God put them in that position. Paul’s address to masters in 4v1 is short, but contains a serious warning to masters to treat their slaves fairly.

All of these relationships share the motivation of pleasing God, or of having God as their Master. And ultimately, this should be our motivation for how we live as well. Yes, we should live as people of God, reflecting our identity in Christ, but what is our underlying motivation for this? Is it to keep God on our side so that He will be nice to us? Remember, we are already God’s dearly loved people because of our new status in Christ, so whether we do or don’t get it right as being Christians doesn’t change the fact that God loves us and wants the best for us. We should live the way we live in order to please God, not appease Him. We should act out of love for Him, as part of our worship to Him. And when we do this, when we live as compassionate, kind, gentle, patient people, this reflects who God is. It brings Him glory when people look at us and see Christ! If we were to live like God’s people fully, it would be a refreshing foretaste of heaven! Such love, respect and honour would glorify God to all who see.

Living in this way is part of setting our hearts and minds on heaven (v1). As we look forward to future glory, to meeting Jesus face-to-face, to everything being made right, we should reflect what we look forward to in what we do now. We live in the time between Jesus’ act of salvation and the time when He will return to take us home – the time of “now and not yet”, where we live in the now looking forward to what is to come. We cannot claim our righteousness for ourselves, because we know we’re not perfect, but we can point to Christ. We need God’s help to do this, to fight against our sinful nature and actively seek to act in a Christ-like way. So let’s wear the shirt, sing the songs, and walk the walk that honours God and isn’t ashamed to be His.

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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Jesus is the Word of God

Christ is Beautiful

"I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." – Jesus (John 17:26)

phil moore

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

The Knight of Nottingham

Blogging about God, Nottingham and nursing

Phil Whitehead

... needs a cool tagline ...

The mighty mighty Monk Seal

Would like to apologise to anyone he's offended by having an opinion

From the Vicarage

Henry Curran's musings