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Monday, June 26, 2017

Announcements, communion and reading in the assembly by women

The three items which make up the title of this article represent three areas in which my sisters in Christ will soon be active in the assembly of the saints. Our sisters in Christ are being called on by the anointed shepherds of the Lord’s people to make announcements concerning the congregation. They will assist and participate in serving the communion cup and bread as well as the collection. Additionally, they will read from the written word of God before the assembly of the saints. I commend and praise our elders for this decision which, even if it is with the understanding and conviction of the written word of God, there can still be an emotional struggle of the heart, both for leaders and those whom they lead. I do not speak for anyone nor does the content of this article reflect the understanding, convictions and expressions of anyone other than myself.

voices
It ought not to come as a surprise to hear different voices and reactions to such a decision.
These voices are welcomed and are neither to be muted or ignored. They are not to be mocked or ridiculed. I know my summary of these voices here into two categories is hardly complete. Nevertheless, for the sake of brevity I will say that these voices are mostly one of the two, 1) this has never been done, therefore, it must be wrong and ought not to be done, and 2) this is the new millennium and it is time women have their equal rights in the church. Perhaps a third voice would be that it is good to do something new, but  I will not address this voice. Again, I am being extremely brief with these descriptions.

It is to be noted that these voices do cry out with some passages of scriptures as to why or why not concerning the service of ours sisters in the assembly. They cry out just as much about what the scripture does not say. Additionally, the speculations are heard as to what this might lead to in the future, but this, too, hardly reflects an understanding of the scriptures.

articles
If the reader is interested here are some for in-depth articles [1] [2] on the my blog which I have written over the years from the scriptures concerning our sisters in Christ and their active service in the assembly. My book also appears in the blog. I am going to reiterate very briefly a response which to just one of the commonly cited verses of a prohibitive nature against our sisters. It is found in I Timothy 2:12.

two plain and clear passages
It is often stated that the verse is plain and clear enough and that it needs no interpretation. This approach to the scriptures seems not much different than either 1 or 2 of the descriptions above. Here is a test, as the apostle John stated, of that spirit concerning the scriptures. Then the reader can judge the consistency, genuineness and truthfulness of such an approach on scripture by those who profess to lead, teach and preach.

If you still have your right eye and your right hand it must be safe for all to assume that these members of your body have never caused you to stumble and sin, right? After all these words of Jesus seem no less clearer than the words in I Timothy 2:12, right?  Invariably, the response is heard that I need to understand Hebrew language expressions, because what Jesus meant . . . So, then clearly the need for the reader or the inquirer to understand requires a grasp on Hebrew expressions. What was initially touted as being quite clear turns out to require explanation. Why is I Timothy any different? This strikes me as the standard cover often thrown up to conceal rather than reveal.

There is another example which reveals the inconsistency of what some who profess to lead, teach and preach simply ignore. Despite the much touting about being guided by commands, examples and necessary inferences here is a telling inconsistency of that shroud covering. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples he stated clearly that he had given them an example that they were to do to one another. Please. I understand the lesson from Jesus with this example and these words. I am not suggesting, advocating or calling for the practice of washing feet in the assembly of the saints. My point is about the telling absence of these practice by those same brothers and sisters who profess to adhere to the plain and clear words of the scripture. Once again, the explanations, however feeble, are heard as to what Jesus meant with these plain, clear words. Surely, the inconsistencies concerning gouging out the right eye and cutting off the right hand that causes you to stumble are as evident as the absent, avoided practice of washing feet.

nothing glamorous
There is something in common between these these two statements of Jesus concerning body members and feet washing and words of the apostle Paul’s words in I Timothy 2:12. There is nothing glamorous in the words of Jesus for one who purports to be a leader of the people of the Lord. There is nothing to be desired about cutting off body members and certainly not in something as the lowly service of washing feet. (I am not the one stating the plain and clear nature of these words are to be followed in the same manner as I Timothy 2:12)

the desire to lead and be first
What seems quite evident and it testifies as to the likely reason why those words of Jesus are either ignored or explained versus the words of Paul. Here’s a clue: it was modeled by the apostles and for which they were admonished by Jesus. It is the desire to lead, to be first. I should expect and I anticipate similar explanations for the desire to lead and be a leader as are heard about the words of Jesus in the above passages. No,this is not a call to do away with leaders in the body of believers. It is to note as I have often responded to the mistaken notion of some brothers to equate teaching and preaching with leading as though the prophets were leaders of Israel. Yes, the apostles were definitely leaders in the infant church, but they never touted it as something to be coveted.

prophets and prophesying
Here is one final note about the inconsistency and the tendency to ignore what does not suit our sensibilities rather than submit, accept and do the will of the Lord. When God poured out his Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost the saints readily say it was according to the prophecy of the prophet Joel. They are correct. What I suspect that they never hear is that the prophecy of Joel was first prophesied as the longing desire of Moses that all the Lord’s people were prophets with which he admonished a young Joshua. (The significance of this opposition and jealousy by Joshua reveals the much older tendency to mistakenly equate prophesying with the leadership. It  was not the modern jealousy of gender. Moses, and later Joshua, were leaders, not prophets.)  This prophecy was affirmed, validated and fulfilled when Jesus spoke the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. The actual fulfillment was on the day of Pentecost. Note that God poured out his sons so that they would prophesy. Note that the text states that God poured out his spirit on his sons AND daughters for the similar purpose, namely, that they prophesy. Something that is of greater significance than the longing desire of Moses was that fulfillment of the prophecy did not make the sons and daughters of God prophets. It empowered them to prophesy. The difference being that while prophets prophesy, not all who prophesy are prophets. Moses himself was no more a prophet than Caiaphas or Jesus. See what God said as to what constitutes a prophet. There is no contradiction, error or inconsistency in the word of God. If at any point one thing, such as the daughters, like the sons, of God prophesying while elsewhere they are instructed to be silent the word of the Lord cries out for us to examine and understanding what he has commanded.

reputation, Spirit and wisdom
Here is what is ignored even when it strictly involves the selection of men for even a seemingly mundane task as serving tables. It is that those individuals be of good reputation, be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Should anything less or other than those men be expected of one who would prophesy, or even as is the case in this passage, of being of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom to make announcements, serve communion and reading the word of God before the holy people, the royal priesthood of believers? As much as men, and quite a few women, purport a faithful adherence to the word of God reputation, Spirit and wisdom are not commonly heard from them.

conclusion

I mentioned at the start of this article the emotional struggles of the heart. I expect that I will may experience some unease and discomfort when I see my sisters serving communion. I recognize this unease and discomfort as the emotions of the heart. I will not be governed or guided by the emotions of the heart, but as the Spirit has given me the convictions of my understanding of his written revelation of the will of God. Be leery of what and for whom is your jealousy.

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