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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

He called them gods

34 Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS '?
35 "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken ),
36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God '? (John 10)


the objective of Jesus


Jesus, in the gospel according to John, reiterated these words from Psalm 82 to the Jews who took offence at him. They were ready to stone him, as they said, not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy. This was the blasphemy, as the Jews saw it, for which they were ready to stone Jesus because You, being a man, make yourself out to be God. Jesus knew quite well why they wanted to stone him when he posed the question to them I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?


The dialog into which Jesus drew them was in order for them to articulate what they did not understand about the scriptures (and the scripture cannot be broken) but which they could see plainly with their own eyes. This is an understatement about the unbroken unity of the scripture as the revelation of the word of God. Here is a clip from my blog article:

what God sought to impress on Israel

God sought to impress something on Israel for all time when He spoke through his servant Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4,5; the Shema. There are various words and phrases which appear before and after the Shema. Here are a few of those words and phrases:

the commandment, the statutes and the judgments . . . to teach . . . to keep . . . you should listen . . . Hear, oh Israel . . . These words . . . talk of them . . . bind as a sign . . . You shall write them . . .

All of these words and phrases are about the words God was saying to Moses in that moment. Since Deuteronomy is a second telling of the law to Israel those words and phrases are as much about what God had said (past) already. These were things which Israel was to learn and keep as of that day. (present) Israel was to teach these things to their children going forward. (future) Their children were to learn, keep and teach these things to impress to their children; generation after generation.

This is what Israel was to understand from that moment going forward. Israel was to understand that the revelation of the will of God was one in unity and harmony as is God. Israel was to understand that 1) everything that God said was to be obeyed, 2) everything that Moses said that God said was to be obeyed, 3) everything that the prophets said God said was to be obeyed, 4) everything that Jesus said was from the Father said was to be obeyed, 5) everything that the apostles said was from the Holy Spirit was to be obeyed, and 6) everything that the saints in Christ read from the written word as what God said was to be obeyed. There is no variation. There is no discrepancy. What God said is no less the authoritative commandment of God after he spoke it, when it was repeated, before it was written, after it was written, before it was printed, after it was printed and when the reading of his commandments is heard by listeners. The saints in Christ are living in a time when many among them, as in the days of ancient Israel, so desperately and frantically seek after something, surely, anything that is flashier than words.

There is complete, total harmony and oneness from beginning to end from God himself, from Moses, from the prophets, from Jesus, from the apostles and the saints. This is the unity, oneness, true nature, characteristic and description of God who is one; not a quantitative, numeric value; as is his word so too is the Father, with the Son, with the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus accomplished his objective when the Jews articulated their response to these words of Jesus: I and the Father are one. (John 10:30) Specifically and technically as the text reads in English, (rest easy. we’re not going Greek) these four expressions in order, 1) I and the Father are one, 2) You . . . yourself out to be God, 3) You are gods, and 4) I am the Son of God spoken between the Jews and Jesus equate to and amount to the same thing. This is the clarification which Jesus reveals openly even if they no more understand him than they understand the scriptures.


the Word that came


These words from the psalmist were taken by Jesus to respond to that situation in which the Jews were ready to stone him. The application of these words was, on the surface, simple enough: if God called "gods" those (men and women) to whom the word of God came why are you (the Jews) so upset because I (Jesus) say, I am the Son of God? Unlike those to whom the word of God came, the word did not come to Jesus: He was the Word that came into the world that was with God and is God. (John 1) Ironically, the psalmist's words have come to be taken by some as a back paddling, denial or diminishing by Jesus himself of any semblance of self-claims of his deity as well as any mistaken claims concerning the deity of Jesus by his followers. Ostensibly, and perhaps arguably and for the sake of discussion, one could conclude that, 1) Jesus had misspoken some things about himself, or 2) that the Jews had misunderstood him. However, after stirring their minds concerning the scriptures and the meaning of what they read in those scriptures what follows in the passage debunks both of these conclusions.


The works


The fact is that the Jews had failed to understand the scripture. Jesus did not expound the theology of the text, but he held firmly to his assertion. What he did urge and direct them to examine for significance and understanding was the works which they had seen Jesus perform before their own eyes. These works were just as powerful as the scripture and capable of bringing them to faith in Jesus. The works were what the Father had given him to perform in order that they might believe in the one whom the Father had sent.


the prophet


There is another instance which serves as an example in which the Jews' revealed their misunderstanding of the scriptures. It was concerning what they had likely been taught by the scribes about the prophet (Deuteronomy 18) mentioned by Moses. The popular belief and expectation of that prophecy by Moses was reflected by the Jews. (John 6:14) They expected an individual who would fulfill that prophecy. This mistaken interpretation is just as common among Christians today. However, in the only two instances in which the Deuteronomy 18 reference to the prophet is found in the New Testament it is cited by Peter and Stephen in Acts 3 & 7 respectively. The references to the prophet in both passages are encompassed by Peter and Stephen's messages with_ the prophets. Note the specific use of the plural form. The Deuteronomy 18 passage on the prophet was a prophecy concerning the succession of servants of God; the prophets, whom God would raise up from among Israel’s brethren to send to Israel. They were to heed and obey these prophets as messengers of God as much as they heeded the words which Moses was given by God.


There is something interesting in Peter's response to Jesus in Matthew 16 as to the people's view concerning the identity of Jesus. Peter did not include the prophet of Deuteronomy 18 in that popular survey concerning the people's understanding of the identity of Jesus. Conversely, Jesus did not correct the Samaritan woman in John 4 when she stated that she perceived he was a prophet. However, Jesus was aware of that popular perception of himself as a prophet and he was quite willing to be cast along with the prophets who suffered, were despised and rejected, and without honor except in their own hometown.


what Jesus said, might have said, should have said, and what he did not say


There is much in our view of scripture, but so much of it centers on what Jesus might have or should have said and what he did not say. The problem with these approaches is that they reflect a test of God where not only do we presume to tell God to jump when we say jump in order for him to prove that he is mighty and that he is God or to tell him how high we want him to jump in order for us to believe beyond all doubt. This is the similar approach to the words, he called them gods.


There is the cry (it's hardly an argument) that Jesus DID NOT say he was God. He didn't jump when he could have and should have jumped if he really intended to prove to the Jews that he was indeed God. This is a play on the single word god with the intent to dilute and generalize it as conveying anything meaningful about the deity of Jesus. Yet, does anyone who plays that single word in that manner do likewise with the word lord? After all, it’s use is widespread in the Old Testament. Would anyone conclude therefore that the lord is not god? (caps being of no significance) If the word god was applied, as Jesus noted, to mortals to whom the word of God came would anyone conclude that there is no God, just mere mortal men and nothing more? These are rhetorical questions, but the reality is that the answers are often speculative questions themselves seemingly to create the impression that the questioner, especially when there are no responses to his questions, must certainly be right and definitely understands the subject in discussion.


conclusion


What Jesus responded to the Jews when he quoted the psalmist was neither a denial of his deity nor a diminishing of his deity so as to calm down the enraged Jews. Today, some saints in Christ, like the Jews, struggle to understand both the works and words of Jesus and the scriptures. The only time that Jesus denied an accusation and responded to it immediately was when the Jews accused him of having a demon (John 8:49) and of doing works by the power of Satan. (Matthew 12:22-29) The Jewish misunderstanding of the scriptures which cannot be broken was indeed severed when it became a muddle of disjointed, piecemeal words of God without the unity that is the God who is one. We, the saints in Christ, have every opportunity to accept the challenge of the Spirit when we go to the scriptures for our understanding, edification and teaching.

Peace to the saints in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sisters in Christ: Fulfilling the Ministry of Teaching and Preaching

two reasons

There are two reasons, one really, often given for not only the suppression of sisters in Christ to fulfill their ministry in preaching and teaching. There is the outright denial for them do so, also. The first reason on which all other reasons behind this dogma are rooted is in the Genesis account. The reason, according to proponents of this teaching, centers on 1) the order of creation, and 2) the woman sinned first.

The second related reason for this suppression and denial is essentially the same as the first reason. It is found in I Timothy 2 and is directly associated with and related to the Genesis account by the apostle Paul. Again, the argument from the I Timothy passage, proponents argue, is that the passage is clear enough and requires no interpretation. The apostle Paul conveyed to Timothy who was in Ephesus that he did not permit a woman to teach. Paul then proceeded to give two clear, specific reasons as to why he forbade women to teach, 1) Adam was created first, and 2) it was Eve who was deceived. The similarity between I Timothy 2 and the Genesis account is undeniable. It seems quite clear, right?

a third reason

A third reason is actually the response to any plausible explanations and suggestions concerning Paul's instructions in the light of his and Timothy's ministry under the shadow of the temple of Artemis in Ephesus to dismiss these as nonsense, irrelevant and unnecessary. The reason these are dismissed, proponents argue, is because Paul never mentions Artemis. This is quite true. However, this response also reflects an utter oversight and neglect of the one who did mention Artemis, namely, Luke in Acts 19. Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea what Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and Asia. See the testimony of Demetrius in Acts 19 concerning the widespread presence and influence of Artemis. (The content of this article is covered in this lengthier article.

what the saints learn

Yet, the saints in Christ mostly embrace and parrot what those who lead, teach and preach and declare as dogma. There is no need for any substantive exposition of the scriptures or understanding for the edification of the saints. The teaching to the saints concerning our sisters in Christ is rooted more on male dominance than servanthood. One clear indicator of this is how teaching and preaching are equated with and viewed as synonymous with leadership. Such notions of dominance are unknown to a servant. Those who teach and preach are foremost called to be servants, specifically in the ministry of the word of the Lord. Furthermore, the tokenism that sisters in Christ can indeed teach and preach _ to other sisters has the same, familiar shade and ring of another time when black brothers in Christ, to say nothing of our sisters under that male-dominant fellowship of the saints, lived under the dire spoken and unspoken message that they, too could indeed preach and teach _ to other blacks only. There are three responses as to why these reasons are an insufficient explanation to the words of Jesus and Paul. My response to these explanations is in the following order: the second reason, then the first reason and the third reason last.

First, lets look at the response to the explanation of Artemis to the second reason that Paul's instructions to Timothy to forbid women from teaching are clear and require no interpretation. If this were an example of the right handling of the scriptures it ought to hold equally true of other equally clear texts. Here is one of those texts: Matthew 5. When was the last time you knew or heard of  someone who put out the eye that offended them? When was the last time you knew or heard of someone who cut off the hand that offended them? Of course, the point is that these very clear words of Jesus are invariably presented and taught with an explanation. Why? Is there something about the text of these words of Jesus which is not clear? The indication concerning Paul's words to Timothy, at the very least, is that while they may be quite clear they, like those words of Jesus, require an interpretation and explanation. It is hardly responsible to stake a case with the argument that Paul never mentioned Artemis and here is why such irresponsibility is suspect.

Just as it is true that the apostle Paul never mentioned Artemis in I Timothy and his other writings; Jesus never mentioned Rome in Matthew 24. This was the prophecy of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD. Those words of Jesus were just as much as the words of Paul a matter of salvation; the former concerning the physical salvation of the saints in Jerusalem, the latter concerning the spiritual salvation of the saints in Christ in Ephesus. Does the fact that Jesus did not mention Rome by name mean that the disciples were clueless as to what the words of Jesus might mean? How is that the saints are able to discern the political power in question, namely, Rome in Matthew 24, but seem so utterly clueless to discern the spiritual power in question, but clearly named by Luke in Acts 19 as Artemis in Ephesus? Now, with this very brief orientation on Artemis as a real factor in Paul's message and ministry and Ephesus in mind lets backtrack to the first of the two reasons on the order of creation and who sinned first.

Second, the explanation that Paul was reiterating a primer in I Timothy 1 on Jewish theology on the Genesis creation account for the Gentile saints in Christ may possibly have elicited a hearty amen from the Jews and a nice response from the Gentiles. However, Paul's mission was considerably more than eliciting hardy amens from his listeners. His mission was to debunk and dethrone the deception of Artemis before the Gentiles in Ephesus and throughout Asia and to that end what he wrote to Timothy would likely have resonated with the Gentiles as being in opposition to Artemis. They were familiar with and knew the claims of Artemis of being born first and then assisting her mother Leto give birth to her twin brother, Apollo. They were familiar with and knew the claims of Artemis as being the savior of women in childbirth. Contrast these claims of Artemis with Paul's words throughout his letters (five of six written to churches and individuals in Asia; six if Titus is included) concerning Jesus as the firstborn and the savior, not of women only, but of all mankind.

The following is an excerpt from my article, The belief of childbearing in I Timothy 2.


There are three elements Paul bears out concerning salvation and which focus exclusively on the woman: 1) the instruction (I do not permit a woman to teach), 2) the reason for the instruction ( FOR Adam was first formed . . . BUT the woman being deceived), and 3) the expected results from the instruction (BUT she will be saved through her childbearing). There is a another instance of an objective with a similar end result involving the salvation of a certain individual who became the focus of Paul's admonition in I Corinthians chapter five. Paul gave an instruction deliver such a one to Satan, (I Corinthians 5:5a) the reason for that instruction, for the destruction of his flesh, (I Corinthians 5:5b) and that his spirit may be saved. (I Corinthians 5:5c) The progression from point 1 to point 2 to point 3 in the I Timothy passage suggests these (instruction, reason for instruction and expected results from that instruction) are related and are inseparable. Any response to one part can not be done while disregarding or discarding the other two.


So, why did Paul, given the NT examples of obedience to the gospel message of salvation (a belief) through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior state the expected results for points 1 & 2 in point 3 that the woman will be saved through her childbearing?

The apostle Paul's reference to the creation account would not be something with which his former pagan brethren would be familiar. What would definitely resonate with them was the references to firstborn and savior as these related to Artemis. They learned from Paul and Timothy that 1) not only were Adam and Eve NOT born, but they were CREATED, and 2) Jesus was FIRSTBORN, not from woman, but from the dead through the power of the RESURRECTION. (see Paul exposition on the Begotten from Psalm 2 in Acts 13)

conclusion

The instruction of Paul concerning the silence of our sisters and to not permit them to teach can not be appraised without acknowledging the presence and influence of Artemis in Paul's ministry and message. Those sisters, priestesses particularly, who had emerged out of the cult of Artemis and had become disciples of Jesus as Savior could easily be mistaken for teaching a message of Artemis. It was simply not expedient for them to be teaching at the time. The time would come for them to join with their brothers in the fulfillment of their ministry in teaching and preaching. The instruction to them to learn quietly and to forbid them to not teach was no different than when the apostle himself was earlier in his travels and on the way to Ephesus was, not once, but twice forbidden to preach in north Asia by the Holy Spirit . Just as we do not see or read, but rightly understand, that the prohibition on Paul by the Holy Spirit was removed it is neither a stretch nor implausible to understand that the same was true of our sisters in Ephesus. Admittedly, the idea of being present with a sister teaching or preaching is not in my comfort zone, but heeding and proclaiming the word of God is not about what makes us or keeps us comfortable.