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United But With Disagreements

March 28, 2019

This humble blog can’t settle the issue of gender roles in the church.  If only it were that simple!

Neither will your blog, nor your church, nor your favorite preacher or scholar.

Local leadership has to settle the question of how they will respond to the issues in their own congregation. I would love to make other congregations see it my way, but I must leave that in God’s hands.  If some leader wants to discuss this topic with me I’d be happy to supply them with the principles and rationale that bring me to my conclusions.  But that’s as far as I can go.

What’s far more important in today’s environment is finding a way for our congregations to cooperate and interoperate given our differences on this issue.  Romans 14 gives us valuable instructions for this kind of situation.

1.  We must stop passing judgment on each other.

Rom 14:3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.
Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

God is able to make the other person stand. Don’t take it upon yourself to make him stand where you want him to stand. And don’t reject those whom the Lord has accepted.

2.  We must respect and protect the consciences of those who cannot follow our view.

Rom 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Rom 14:15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.

Rom 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Rom 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
Rom 14:21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

Do we want to be able to continue working together, having joint worship services, conferences and the like? Unless we find a way to do so without forcing the other side to do what is sin for them, then we cannot. Jesus wants us to be united. Before you decide to force your position on the others, ask yourself this: “Is this issue really worth dividing over?”  Let’s make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.

3.  We must not quarrel about these things (especially in public)

Rom 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.

Quarreling about this in public is divisive.  People who hear will take sides and will come to disrespect those who see the issue differently.  Factions will form and people will be drawn away from one congregation to another. Actually, we already see this happening. Instead, we should let God sort out the matter. Have faith in God!  It’s those who wait upon the Lord who will renew their strength.

4.  People on each side must not violate their own consciences

Rom 14:23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Individuals must not yield to pressure to do what in their consciences they believe to be wrong.  And leaders must not apply that kind of pressure to anyone.

Summary

There is a way for us to move forward with united hearts despite disagreements.  Our flesh wants to win the argument and get our way.  The way of the Gospel is different.  Let’s choose the way of peace and mutual edification.

See also:

Romans Part 14: Accept One Another

 

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Addressing Gender Roles in the Church

March 15, 2019

Controversy over gender roles is an unavoidable danger to churches today.  Opinions across the spectrum are flying across social media, and church members are being influenced.  People are gathering online into factions around whichever pundit says what they want to hear.  The resulting factions are forming inside congregations as well as between congregations.

Forming factions in the church is sin (Gal 5:19-21).  Those who promote division are self-condemned. (Titus 3:11) Christians are instructed to avoid such people. (Rom 16:17).  But still, the factions grow larger and the divisions deeper, as each person finds teachers who say what they want to hear. (2 Tim 4:3)

As an elder in the Lord’s church, what am I supposed to do about it?

  1. Focus on my own congregation (Acts 20:28)
  2. Teach the scriptures.  (2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:9)
  3. Silence false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 1:11, Titus 3:10)

In large part, churches are in this situation because their membership has not been taught what the scriptures say on the subject of gender roles.  In the absence of a biblical foundation, the church is being influenced by the loud voices of the surrounding culture. As the apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders,  even from our own number men are arising to draw people after themselves, using the controversy over gender roles to build their own following.  The flock is vulnerable to the wolves because they were not taught the scriptures.

The responsibility for addressing this falls upon elders.  Paul set the example of teaching the whole counsel of God to the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:27) and he called the Ephesian elders to follow his example. He reminds elders in every era that it was the Holy Spirit who appointed us as overseers of the church which Christ purchased with his blood.  He charges us with protecting the flock against the savage wolves that would be coming.

Paul sent Titus to appoint elders in each congregation in Crete in order to teach sound doctrine and to refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:9) Today’s elders have that same charge.  We must not stand by on the sidelines while the wolves ravage the flock.  Elders cannot pass the buck on the issue of  gender roles.  The buck stops here.

One of the qualifications for eldership is that the we must hold to the trustworthy message as it has been taught (Titus 1:9).  As elders, we are not free to teach according to our own preferences, nor the preferences of the flock. We must not deviate from what the apostles taught in the first century.

In my congregation, we have recently completed a month-long series on the subject.  Previously it had been about ten years since we had addressed the subject directly to the church.  That was too long, especially given the pressures coming from the culture around us.

Elders are the overseers who must watch over the church as men who must give an account (Heb 13:17).  Elders must be men of courage.  It’s time for elders everywhere to speak up and defend the trustworthy message that was taught by the apostles on the subject of gender roles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Blog Awakens!

March 15, 2019

Where have I been?   Almost eight years have elapsed since my last post on this blog. I continue to be as eager as ever to promote Christian unity.  Somewhere along the line I felt like I had said what was on my mind on that subject.  So I turned my attention to blogging  a few Bible studies and then paused to address other issues.  And paused, and paused….

Today there are new threats to unity that need to be addressed.   The root cause of these threats is a lack of biblical teaching in our churches on certain challenging subjects. Some voices in our culture are growing more hostile toward the message of the Bible.  The church urgently needs its leaders to equip the Christians to stand strong in the face of pressures from the world.  They need to know how to answer the challenges they face with “Thus says the Lord!”

We also need to re-visit the biblical principles on how to conduct ourselves as Christians in an environment where there are differences on matters of opinion.  Nothing could be more pertinent today to our Christian unity.

Let’s get started.

 

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Revelation: Final Judgment

July 10, 2011

Rev 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison
Rev 20:8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.
Rev 20:9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Rev 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Why would God permit Satan to be released, even for a short while? We are not told. Perhaps it was to demonstrate that Satan has not repented of his evil, because we see that he will go right back to the same kind of efforts to destroy the church. But as far as is revealed, Satan is not permitted to inflict harm on the church during this time. Apparently, before he actually launches his attack, he and his armies will be destroyed by fire from heaven. And they will be thrown into the lake of fire, utterly destroyed forever.

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
Rev 20:13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
Rev 20:15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The dead are raised and judgment begins! This is a single resurrection of all the dead, as foretold by Jesus himself:


Joh 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
Joh 5:29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

This resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous comes at the end of the thousand years — not a resurrection followed by a thousand year reign, as is often mistakenly taught.

Interestingly, there are two sets of books. One set of books contains record of all the deeds of each person to be judged. The other book, the Book of Life, simply contains names of those who will be permitted to enter into eternal life. The rest will thrown into the lake of fire. As Jesus taught,

Luk 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

We should take note that names that have once been recorded in the Book of Life might be subsequently removed if we are not faithful:

Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

This admonition to be faithful would not be meaningful unless the converse were also true — that failing to overcome may lead to the name being blotted out of the Book of Life — a horrific consequence!

Finally, Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire:

Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

Death and Hades, of course, are not living beings but nonetheless are counted as enemies of the saints:

1Co 15:24-26 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

With the final destruction of Death and Hades, no more enemies remain, but only goodness and blessings. Christ then hands over the kingdom to God the Father, and we will be ready to be introduced to our eternal home in Heaven!

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Revelation: Binding Satan and the Thousand Years

July 10, 2011

Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
Rev 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Rev 20:3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

The Roman Empire, the great enemy of the early church, had been destroyed. Now God took measures to prevent Satan from raising up another nation to make war on the church.

It was not the first time God had restrained Satan to varying degrees:

Job 1:12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Job 2:6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Mat 12:29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

Col 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

1Co 10:13b … And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

There is a mistaken notion that God and Satan are two great powers of near equal strength, in an eternal stalemate between good and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has always held absolute power over Satan, and has limited his evil activities as he saw fit. This time, God sent a single angel to arrest Satan and bind him with a chain. He saw no need to send his legions of angels for the task.

Satan was bound for a thousand years — not a literal time period but representative of a long time. The period began after the destruction of the beast, the Roman Empire. And it lasts until shortly before the final judgment. So we are currently in this period, protected by God from the kind of persecution faced by the early church under Rome.

Meanwhile, during this thousand years, we see another remarkable scene:


Rev 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Rev 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

The apostle John reports that he saw the souls of the martyrs reigning with Christ during the thousand years. These same souls were seen under the altar in the throne room of God (Rev 6:9), and again before the throne of God in Rev 7:15, and yet again in Rev 14:3. John saw these souls in his vision, reigning with Christ. Since we are now in the midst of that thousand year period, that reign continues today.

Those reigning with Christ are those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. So it is the martyrs who reign. Nothing is said in the passage of anyone other than the martyrs reigning with Christ for a thousand years.

So, since they reign with Christ, where is Christ?


Mar 16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

Act 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Heb 8:1 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,
Heb 8:2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Clearly Christ is in heaven at the right hand of God. And what is Christ doing?


Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Heb 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Heb 9:24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
1Jn 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

So Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of God, serving as our high priest, interceding on our behalf. And since the souls are reigning with Christ they must also be in heaven serving with Christ on our behalf.


Rev 7:15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.

The martyrs will continue to reign with Christ until Satan is loosed just before Judgment Day.

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Revelation: Chapter 19

July 10, 2011

Rev 19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
Rev 19:2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Rev 19:3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
Rev 19:4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”

The wrath of God had been poured out upon the two beasts and the prostitute. The Roman Empire, and its capitol city Rome, stood condemned. The great persecutors of the church were about to be destroyed. Celebration ensued! The saints could now look forward to the wedding feast. As the angel said, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! These are the true words of God.”

Rev 19:11 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.

The Faithful and True rider was King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He vanquished the armies of the beast with the sword in his mouth, the Word of God. Destruction was complete. The beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire, and the vultures fed on the bodies of the armies.

So when did this happen? It depends on your definition of terms. Some might say 395 AD, at the death of Theodosius I, which marked the last time the empire was politically unified. Others might name 405 or 406 AD when the Goth’s invaded across the Rhine, or perhaps 410 when the Visigoths sacked Rome. Or perhaps it was at the second sacking of Rome, this time by the Vandals in 455 AD. By any definition, once the final Roman emperor had been deposed in 480 AD, the Roman empire had come to an end. The Roman Empire would never again threaten the church.

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Revelation: The Fate of Babylon and the Beast

June 26, 2011

Rev 17:1  One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.
Rev 17:2  With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
Rev 17:3  Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
Rev 17:4  The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.
Rev 17:5  This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

In chapter 6, the souls of the martyrs had asked “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Now the angel would explain to them how their blood would be avenged.
We previously identified the ten-horned beast as the Roman empire, and the woman riding on the beast as the city of Rome. She sat on seven hills, and she was drunk on the blood of the saints. She was the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. Her name in this symbolic apocalyptic story was Babylon the Great, but her real name was Rome. She was defeated, and would be repaid for all the blood she had shed.

Rev 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
Rev 18:5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.
Rev 18:6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup.
Rev 18:7 Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, “I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’
Rev 18:8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
Rev 18:9 “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
Rev 18:10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’
Rev 18:11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more—
Rev 18:12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;
Rev 18:13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.
Rev 18:14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’
Rev 18:15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn
Rev 18:16 and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
Rev 18:17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
Rev 18:18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’
Rev 18:19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!
Rev 18:20 Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'”
Rev 18:21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
Rev 18:22 The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.
Rev 18:23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
Rev 18:24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.”

Thus God would judge the enemy who had shed the blood of the martyrs, and thus God would avenge that blood. And God urged the saints, apostles, and prophets to rejoice over the judgment of their enemy.

The Roman Empire would fall. Rome would become a ruin. The martyrs would be avenged.