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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Royal Priesthood

The Royal Priesthood of Believers

The apostle Peter calls the body of believers a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9) It is this priesthood, brothers and sisters of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, who have received a glorious calling to: offer up prayers, praise, edification of the body and the ministry of teaching and preaching. short version article

They proclaim the excellence of the Lord our God who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Yet, that is a call, specifically teaching and preaching, which has been fulfilled primarily by brothers in the faith in private and public gatherings.

Certainly, this is not for lack of will on the part of sisters in the faith.

Whether it is fear or lack of understanding; fear of what men and brethren might think and say or a lack of understanding of the scriptures it is not the triumph of the love that casts out fear.

The contributions of word studies, interpretations for and against the opposing views and terminologies are often lost to the preference and influence of culture. Teachers and preachers in the church often fail to see the abysmal shallowness of their default use of the culture trump card with their listeners. Yes, culture was an undeniable component in the first century but too often the reference to culture is to conceal our lack of understanding of scripture, or despite having that understanding, lacking in conviction. For example, gender inclusivity or women preachers rather than familiar, biblical terminology, of royal priesthood of believers. There are Greek language word study contributions which are excellent and abound in good number. Although these have been resourced and consulted they are not the focus of this contribution to the discussion. Readers are encouraged to consult those sources themselves. The apostolic phrase royal priesthood of believers is not bound by function or gender whether feeding widows or proclaiming the scriptures.

The apostles encountered great personal challenges. However, these personal challenges were always secondary to the preaching of the gospel and their concern for the saints. They taught the royal priesthood how we are to conduct ourselves in the assembly and what and how we are to teach and proclaim in the church and in the world. Ephesus represents that world grand stage, the cultural battlefield challenge, between the renown goddess Artemis with her temple priestesses and priests and the young church with her own royal priesthood of believers, her elders and a young minister named Timothy.

What do Paul's writings to Timothy and the church in Ephesus reveal about confronting the worship cult of Artemis for the priesthood of believers?
How does Paul confront the culture and worship of Artemis while building up the royal priesthood of believers?
How does Paul's defense in this match-up of beliefs impact the royal priesthood of believers?
Why did Paul forbid women to teach a man?
Why did he make a point about a woman exercising authority over a man?

The perspective of past and present in this discussion, with some references and allusions to other contributions to this discussion, will be on the church and the scriptures primarily. The authority of scripture and our understanding of that authority, not unsupported thoughts, opinions or sentiments is what produces conviction, confidence and boldness in our faith, life and ministry in the church now and for the future.

The ancient perspective of scripture

(A definition of perspective: The relationship of parts or points, [for example, past, present and future] to one another.) God established an ancient perspective in the Old Testament scriptures with the house of Jacob, the sons of Israel when God chose and called Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6) The selective Levitical priesthood established shortly afterwards under the law of Moses was exclusively all male. They were charged with leading Israel in prayer, praise, offering sacrifices and teaching the commandments and the law to Israel. The perspective of graphic lessons from the past of those who trifled, rebelled or usurped the word of the Lord are preserved in scripture for the royal priesthood.

The death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who offered up strange fire is seared in the minds of those who minister to the people of God before the Lord. Uzzah was struck dead when he presumed to touch the ark of the covenant which not even the priests were permitted to touch. God was greatly displeased when Saul trifled the role of Samuel as the one designated by God to offer sacrifice. Saul offered the sacrifice when Samuel delayed his arrival. Although God was displeased with Saul the consequences were not unlike Moses' failure. Moses failed to honor God at Meribah and lost the honor of leading Israel across the Jordan into the promise land. Saul lost the honor of being king and was stripped of the kingdom. Saul and Moses were not struck dead for their respective failures before God. Lastly, Moses’ sister Miriam predates the Levitical priesthood. She did not die, but God struck her with leprosy because she presumed herself and Aaron on equal footing with Moses before God.

Although all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests. This stricture as applied to the tribe of Levi precluded men from all other tribes in Israel from the priesthood. Even among the Levites who were qualified to serve in the temple with their brothers their duties were assigned accordingly to the families of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The all-male Levitical priesthood of the past was not an open door for all aspiring males. It was no less reverend towards scripture, the commandment of God, in its selection and service than is the present royal priesthood of believers.

The authority of truth in the scriptures

The sons and daughters of God revere the truth and authority of scripture saying, speak where the Bible speaks, keep silent where the Bible keeps silent. The inherent truth in the latter part of that phrase is often overlooked:
There is as much authority in the silence of the scriptures as when they speak
and require no less discernment by the saints.
Others think to determine as greater or lesser the weight of truth and the authority in scripture by the number of times or where that truth appears in the scriptures. Still others rule out study and discussion of what is clearly and indisputably stated in the scriptures. However, indisputable clarity of a passage does not preclude study and discussion of the word of God. The indisputably clear words of Jesus that the disciple is to cut out the eye or hand that causes him to stumble are no less clear than Paul’s words,

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

There’s a readiness to examine and explain the clarity of Jesus’ words for meaning, but a dismissal for similar examination and explanation of Paul’s words for their meaning.

It is important to note truth in the scriptures is not determined by the number of times it appears in the scriptures or its location in the scriptures.

The nominal number of times and location of some matters of doctrine in scripture is cited by some to diminish the importance of what the scriptures state. Other efforts to trump one truth over another is (as though the writers of the scriptures competed with each other) touting and positing classifications of historical narrative and doctrinal accounts against each other. Therefore, as an example, in this manner it is no less true that Philip's four daughters who were prophetesses  and (Acts 21:9) of whom the scriptures testify one time in the book of Acts, prophesied.

There is neither male nor female

Jesus did choose all men as apostles whom he sent into the world with an extraordinary task. However, neither their gender nor apostleship is unique in the royal priesthood of believers. What is unique about the apostles is not that they received the Holy Spirit as did the household of Cornelius, too. (Acts 15:8) What is unique about the apostles is that they received the ability to impart that gift through the laying on of their hands. This past perspective of the apostles as servants entrusted with a gift to impart gifts in the royal priesthood. The are reveal as being not unlike the Levites in the Levitical priesthood not for their gender, but in terms of their divine, select, assigned duties. The designation by Luke of Barnabus in Acts 14 and by Paul of Junias in Romans 16 as apostles is as inspired as it is undeniably true. However, the likelihood these individuals were sent by the apostles does not signify extended enrollment with the apostles and to associate the gender and apostle designations of these, Junias particularly, as an authoritative example for women preaching is as much a stretch as it is unnecessary.

It was the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in these servants of Jesus to bring to their remembrance what Jesus had taught them and to guide them into all truth. The apostles did not exalt themselves on the basis of gender or their apostleship above the saints in Christ to whom they ministered.

What makes the apostles together with all the saints in Christ unique is not in the church herself. It is in the world who beholds this unique marvel of selfless servant love in the royal priesthood of believers it can not comprehend.

This royal priesthood in which there is neither male nor female is not bound or limited to ministry within four walls or only to those who enter those walls like the Levites with Israel. This royal priesthood, particularly in its proclamation, ministers to the church and in the world. The royal priesthood, its shepherds and body of believers, is no less selective than the Levitical priesthood in the matter of discerning those full of the Spirit called to minister before the congregation of the Lord. A divine pattern was established by the apostles when they called for the church to select men who were full of the Spirit, _ to serve widows. The word choice (man from anthros not males as from aner and similarly translated men from anthros in I Timothy 2:4 as meaning mankind) in Acts 6 by Peter is equivalent to calling for a selection of seven persons without regard to gender. The divine pattern was not that the chosen seven were males. Rather it was the prerequisite that they be full of the Spirit; the Spirit who was poured out on sons and daughters as prophesied in Joel 2 and fulfilled on Pentecost in Acts 2. The selection of seven males by the church may be more an reflection of a male-dominant culture and not as per the apostles stern instruction. We know the priority of evangelism by the apostles was not as though by mandate to undue or reverse gender status anymore than to dismantle institutionalized slavery.

Prophesy is for believers

Two key passages in the discussion concerning the ministry of teaching and preaching in and by the royal priesthood of believers are I Corinthians 11, 14 and I Timothy 2. The epistle to the Ephesians is of vital importance, too.

Paul instructed the Christians in Corinth a woman is to keep silent in the assembly. This was equally true and authoritative as when he admonished those with the gift of tongues. If an interpreter was absent to interpret the message for the church they were to keep silent. Prophets were to sit and wait their turn to address the assembly. Paul's reference to the women as wives suggests they were probably directing questions to the prophets, their husbands, who were prophesying before the assembly. It was simply an improper interaction by wives with their husbands in the context of the assembly. It would have been equally improper for the husband to interact with his wife while she was prophesying (see I Corinthians 11:5) before the congregation. It is in response to this situation that Paul says wives can direct their questions to their husbands at home. It would be just as improper for an elder or other male to interrupt the speaker with questions and create a scene of chaos and confusion among those present. Even if the speaker were to deliver a false teaching the leadership can address and instruct the congregation afterwards without grandstanding or making a spectacle.

It is plausible Philip's daughters were of like-mind with their father in matters of the kingdom of heaven. They may well have received the gift of prophesy through the laying of the apostles' hands perhaps at the same time as their father received the gift (Acts 6:5, 8:6,7) to cast out spirits and heal the lame. Furthermore, it is as reasonable to conclude that they prophesied in the assembly of the saints. (see I Corinthians 11:5) Some have wondered whether Philip's daughters exercised their gift of prophecy in the assembly. However, that speculation is contrary to what Paul states about the gift of prophecy.

Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe I Corinthians 14:22

Paul's point is that the gift of prophecy was to be used among believers. Those believers to whom that gifted person was to prophesy could well have been outside of the assembly. However, the context speaks of the assembly of the royal priesthood and it is here that the one with the gift of prophecy was to speak also. We have decorum in the church. We expect and encourage question and answer and discussion in the Bible study class from men and women, believers and non-believers alike, but not during the preaching of the word. The Corinthian worship assembly tended towards chaos and disorder and it is in this matter that Paul gives his instructions for men and women.

Confronting the cult worship of Artemis of the Ephesians - - Fighting with beasts in Ephesus

Paul was concerned about what non-believers might think about the chaos and disorder of the Corinthian assembly. He was just as concerned about Timothy's challenge in Ephesus. Paul stayed in Ephesus at least two years (Acts 19:10) and became keenly aware of life in that city. That challenge was none other than the culture and worship of Artemis of the Ephesians. It is with these observations and experiences in Ephesus in mind that Paul wrote his epistles. He wrote two to Timothy and one to the same church where Timothy ministered. Timothy ministered in the shadow of one of the seven wonders of the world: The temple of Artemis, huntress and protectress of wild beasts.

The myth and worship which developed around Artemis (or Diana) is too diverse and not the focus here. Historical sources attribute three beliefs in Artemis which were common in various regions, cultures and languages: 1) the succession of kings, 2) savior of virgin girls and women, and 3) she came from heaven. Additionally, in response to the killing of a bear by local citizens Artemis punished the people. The people killed the bear for killing a virgin girl. Artemis retaliated angrily by commanding that thereafter virgin girls were to serve in her temple. The New Testament scriptures testify of the frenzied devotion (Acts 19) of the Ephesians towards Artemis in Asia and the world and that she was regarded as sent from heaven. The following may well be Paul's insights to enlighten the eyes of the hearts of the saints at Ephesus on the Spirit message of the gospel to these Artemis cult beliefs.

Artemis was believed to ensure the succession of kings:
Jesus is the King I Timothy 1:17
Jesus is the blessed and only sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords I Timothy 6:15
The saints are to make intercession for kings and all who are in authority I Timothy 2:2

Artemis was believed to be the savior of virgins and women:
God our savior I Timothy 1:1
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners I Timothy 1:15
God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved I Timothy 2:3, 4
The wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus II Timothy 3:15

Artemis was believed she fell down from heaven:
The great Artemis, and of the image which fell down from heaven (Acts 19:35)
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:9,10

It is reasonable to expect that with Paul having spent two years in Ephesus, his ties with Timothy in Ephesus and the fellowship of newborn believers of the faith in Christ Jesus in Ephesus that Paul knew he must confront the culture and worship of Artemis. Like the apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation Paul may have been cryptic in his writings to the Ephesus church praying that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened so as to not provoke hostilities against the church from wild beasts unleashed by their protectress Artemis against Paul himself.

Paul’s reference to wild beasts (I Corinthians 15:32) is likely a metaphor for men. Artemis’ wild beasts may have been restrained by the city clerk in Acts 19, but it is likely Paul had various encounters with those wild beasts. Whatever Paul suffered at the hands of those wild beasts would have been gladly endured if it meant his brethren in Christ at Ephesus were spared. The city clerk’s testimony of Paul indicates that the apostle was not as iconoclastic in deed as was his preaching and writing against the beliefs of Artemis' worshipers in Ephesus.

The apostle's writings are a prudent, but bold in-your-face confrontation of beliefs in Artemis of Ephesus to build up the faithful in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 1:1) the royal priesthood of believers.

1. It is Jesus who is the only sovereign King eternal, immortal and invisible, appointed by God, not Artemis or man. There no successors to His throne.
2. It is our Savior Jesus who rose from the dead who desires salvation not for women only, as did Artemis, but for all men (mankind).
Salvation is what Jesus our King obtained for all mankind when he descended to earth, much as Artemis was believed to have fallen or been sent from the god Jupiter.
3. Unlike Artemis, Jesus ascended back to heaven after giving gifts to his church for her ministry in Ephesus and the world.

Paul's writings are lavished with two realities in the life of the believer in Christ which were in sharp contrast to the worship of Artemis: love and temple

The ransom of love

The roots of anger ran deep in the worship of Artemis. It was in anger that she had commanded the devotion and service of virgin girls in her temple. This was her punishment of the people for the killing of a bear. Is it any wonder why Paul makes as many references to anger in the Ephesians letter? What a contrasting message that our Heavenly Father should determine before the foundation of the world our redemption in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6-8) This he did while we were murderers of men, not bears, blasphemers and like Paul, persecutors. God demonstrated his love through the ransom (I Timothy 2:6) of our lives through his Son. He ransomed us with his own blood as a royal priesthood, a holy nation for his own possession

A dwelling of God in the Spirit

We focus rightfully, on Ephesians 2 for the abolishing of the law of Moses and believers in Christ becoming children of God and citizens of the kingdom. However, the Gentiles in Ephesus who obeyed the gospel knew the first hand experience of being strangers and aliens. They traveled from distant regions to Ephesus to come worship at the temple of Artemis before coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. The apostles' message of grace was as much as an eighth wonder of the world for these wayfaring strangers. They heard salvation as the gift of grace from God and that believers in Jesus were now of God's household . . . growing into a holy temple in the Lord . . . who are being built together into the dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

I Timothy 2 - - During the time of war in the Artemis female-dominated Ephesus

The apostle Paul was not timid about making concessions and taking actions as necessary in the preaching of the gospel. He had a keen sense of himself as a soldier at war. He had Timothy circumcised (16:3) to prevent that from being an obstacle among the Jews. He received money from the churches in Macedonia (see Acts 17:1,14, 18:5, Philippians 4:15) shortly after he arrived in Corinth. (Acts 18:1) Later, this was turned against him for not taking money from Corinth (II Corinthians 11:6-9) when he first arrived there preaching the gospel without charge. Yet, Paul was firm to state he would do it again. (II Corinthians 11:12) It was what needed to be done. Paul’s message to Timothy is in the time of war.

2:8 I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without anger and doubting. 2:9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 2:10 but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works. 2:11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 2:12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 2:14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 2:15 but she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.

In Ephesus Paul instructed the men to pray lifting holy hands that the saints might live in peace. Ephesus was a spiritual battleground for Paul, Timothy and the church. A gesture of hands raised heavenward was a contrast to the figure of Artemis with outstretched arms as if to receive or as to exert her power to hold down those under her authority.

It is in the context of this war zone dominated by the female cult figure Artemis and her priestesses and priests that Paul speaks concerning women in I Timothy.

The topics of king (ship), salvation and a fall concerning Artemis in these writings were more than mere discussion points. These are the reasons a soldier goes into battle in service to the king, to save his country and topple the enemy.

The Artemis cult was not limited to Ephesus. It represented an enormously, vast, dominant belief among the Gentiles. It required no less wisdom and resourcefulness from Paul than when he preached to the Jews. As a Christian Paul was no longer bound or obligated to the law of Moses. Yet, he maintained respect towards Jewish customs (hair vow, Acts 18:18) and the temple practices being mindful to not cause offense. (Acts 21:26) These measures taken by Paul were not done as under compulsion or as a requirement of faith. These were not without distortions, accusations and repercussions against him from those who did not understand his actions. He was all things to all men in order that he might win some for Christ; to accomplish the greater goal.

I Timothy 2 – Instructing women in the Artemis female-dominated war zone of Ephesus

The foremost problem for Timothy in Ephesus involved men who engaged in discussions and teachings of myths, genealogies and speculations and knew not, Paul said, what they were talking about. It had the potential of turning the Ephesus church into another Corinth in terms of chaos and confusion. His stern instruction to the women at Ephesus was with the prayerful, confident expectation the saints in Christ would understand, especially after reading the Ephesians letter penned by an apostle whose priority in the battle was to topple the Artemis cult.

Under these circumstances this was not the time to include women teachers in the church at Ephesus. The female-dominated Artemis culture could well have produced a scene of chaos and confusion in the church not unlike those Ephesian mob stirred up by Demetrius.

The subjection with which a woman is to learn is not unlike the subjection, or the mutual submission to which all believers are called to live towards one another. Paul elaborates on that in his letter to the Ephesians. The likely reason for this explicit instruction for women to learn in subjection and not to exercise authority over a man is in the context of war. The divine examples of submission from Jesus and the apostles serve to remind our sisters and brothers in the first century and us submission is not only per our initiative or when it is convenient or requested of us, but when it is commanded of us too. The subjection of our sisters in Ephesus represented a showcase display for Artemis worshipers. The display was that submission to the authority of the one sovereign King and to one another is done willingly between men and women. There is no telling the magnitude of the impact their subjection caused, but it is a fact of history the church gained ground on the Artemis cult and triumphed over it eventually.

The common interpretation of a perpetual silence restriction on sisters in the royal priesthood of believers must be viewed and tested and in the light of Paul’s instruction to be silent in the I Corinthians 14, the I Timothy 2 passages, and the Ephesians letter. Paul did not contradict himself because God is not the God of confusion. The Artemis cult situation in Ephesus was external to the church, but addressed internally within the church. The situation in Corinth was internal, but concerned the probable impression on non-believers and was addressed internally in the church.

Note: There is a unique, if not ironic, directive which involved the apostle Paul and Ephesus. It is unique because it is not given by a man (as in the case of the directive against women teaching men given by the inspired apostle Paul in I Timothy) and the directive itself. The directive is stated twice, the first as from the Holy Spirit, the second as from the Spirit of Jesus. It is ironic because it was in Asia where Paul delivered the no less powerful directive against women teaching. Paul and his companions were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word . . .” and . . . the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them . . .” (Acts 16:6,7) to proclaim in Asia the region and location of Ephesus. Although Paul was obedient to the Holy Spirit and passed through Asia without stopping, went on to Macedonia, Athens, Corinth then Ephesus there is no mention in the scriptures of the directive being removed. Yet, we confidently understand and accept the directive was removed. The apostle Paul arrived in Ephesus and began a teaching and preaching ministry proclaiming the gospel and building up the royal priesthood which marked the beginning of the downfall of the Artemis cult.

Paul's indication that women (such as Philip's four daughters) prophesied in the assembly is not nullified or dismissed by the I Timothy 2 passage. It is significant that Paul speaks of the creation and deception of Adam and Eve in the past tense. However, he speaks in the present active indicative that woman has fallen into disobedience, or transgression. That transgression remains to the present as Paul writes. It would be a travesty on the scriptures and upon the royal priesthood of believers were we to conclude this present active indicative is Paul's belabored point of woman’s disobedience is of our sisters in the faith and not of Artemis.

Point: Artemis was a female figure who fell, or was sent, from heaven as was believed by her worshipers, into her own and her worshipers' disobedience against the true living God. It is a disobedience which remains today and cannot be overlooked or underestimated because worship of idols and idolatry is fundamentally disobedience to the living God.

Both the woman and the man are saved from their sins through faith in Jesus, not Artemis. Woman is saved, that is, she is healthy and complete when she bears children, not saved by rendering temple service from her childhood years as a virgin until her temple service was fulfilled, she married and bore children. The mythology of Artemis was that she was born first than assisted her mother with the birth of her twin brother Apollos. Paul sets the record straight. It was Adam who was first created by God. Adam was not birthed by woman. Then came Eve into God's creation. Paul is not interested in putting down ours sisters in the faith by reminding us of the fall of mankind in the garden. He was not interested in denigrating himself and his fellow apostles when he wrote they had been made as the filth of this world. (I Corinthians 4:13) Rather, his point was to accentuate the grace of God and Paul's love for his readers as his beloved children. It may be tempting to read into this some form of requirement for all women to bear children along with endless speculations about barren women, etc. There's no such requirement, no such speculation necessary.

Conclusion

The Pharisees (Matthew 12) condemned the disciples for something as seemingly mundane as picking heads of grain. They were hungry. It was the Sabbath. Jesus challenged the Pharisees on their interpretation of the scriptures. Specifically, Jesus called their attention to the work the priests performed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees' established traditions prohibiting work on the Sabbath had invalidated the commandment of God. Thereby, according the traditions of the Pharisees as interpreted and applied by Jesus, the priests broke the law. Their interpretation of the scripture was at the expense of compassion and mercy towards the hungry disciples.

The disciples unwittingly cast themselves in the same lot with David and his companions. None of them were priests. This lesson concerning priests and priestly duties as put forth by Jesus speaks of the authority of scripture and non-priests in something as seemingly mundane as, _ eating. The lesson is that it is the authority of scripture which exalts man above ritual in his moment of hunger and his need to eat and to be fed. Certainly, this holds true of the bread that perishes as well as the bread that leads to eternal life. The Pharisees, presumably those expected to know the scriptures, had overlooked the disciples' need to feed their hunger.

What is the humble task of the royal priesthood of believers in which there is neither male nor female if it isn't to feed the Word of God to the hungry? How is the condemnation of anyone called to feed the word of God to his people on the basis of gender different than the Pharisees' condemnation of the disciples, and by Jesus' application, of David and his companions?

There were many disciples, men and women, who walked with Jesus alongside those whom he would send as apostles later. It is the apostles who stand out. Mary Magdalene, a woman and a later disciple, stands out. She has the seemingly insignificant designation and honor in scripture of being the first to proclaim Jesus had risen from the dead. This human, worldly response she received from the apostles was no surprise to the Father. The world had done no less with his Son.

When the scriptures are not the principle source for our word choice in forming and conveying our convictions concerning women teaching and preaching in the church we succumb to the preferences and influences of culture. Culture has become the favored, all-nullifying vague buzz word in ministry to cover lack of understanding and conviction in matters of doctrine in the scriptures. The apostle Paul's tactics on the Artemis worship culture in Ephesus represents the ultimate, not counter culture, but Spirit-guided strategy for the church, the royal priesthood, to emulate in her ministry into the cultures of the world. Whether those preferences and influences of culture are right or wrong they cannot and must not be allowed to detract or displace the significance of biblical guidance on the teaching and preaching ministry in the royal priesthood.

Certainly, there are those, like Timothy, willing, trained, competent, and most importantly called to minister before the Lord’s people. Today Timothy would probably not be looked down upon for his youth nor for his gender, _ provided, given our cultural climate, the local church where he ministered practiced and maintained politically correct gender equality. There are, to be sure, church leaders with firm convictions defined not by fear, but unless they possess an ability and willingness to declare their knowledge of those convictions the Spirit is able to reveal what is in the hearts of men. The absence of knowledge and conviction is hardly exemplary of the royal priesthood, of Spirit-filled believers and those who have had the eyes of their heart enlightened.

This is not a matter for the church to allow herself to fall into chaos and confusion. Fulfillment of the call to teach and preach is not limited to the limelight of the Bible study or the worship assembly. There are online resources including blogs, communities, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more. Teach the scriptures, not culture-speak, to communicate the call to ministry in the body of Christ. Fear and lack of understanding have a way of robbing the heart of its boldness and confidence, first within the four walls of our study and worship gatherings and second, when we go out ill-equipped in the Spirit to minister in the world.

Flooding this discussion with a barrage of unanswerable and unanswered questions and exchanging one-liners can not pass for knowledge or understanding in the royal priesthood. Comparisons on the eloquence or genetic makeup between priests and priestesses or simply feeling called and being self-assured of God's love are hardly fitting responses from anyone who stands before the congregation of the people of God.

Perfect love casts out fear. Every generation must see for itself whether it will be bound by the fears of what men might say or do as or take confidence in Peter's words, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves . . .

The Lord bless His people, the royal priesthood of brothers and sisters who offer up prayers, praise, edification of the body and the ministry of teaching and preaching the word of God privately and publicly.

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