Tag Archives: Women

Acts 2: Temporary markers of a new reality

OK, I’ll wrap up this analysis of Acts 2 (check the posts from the last two weeks if you’ve missed them).

For now, I’m leaning toward seeing the destruction of Jerusalem as the “day of the Lord” being discussed. New Testament writers felt a freedom to use Old Testament passages in ways that the original writers didn’t use them; I write that off to an inspiration that I don’t possess. The Holy Spirit could lead them to reuse words outside of their original intent; I don’t feel good doing the same.

I don’t think Joel necessarily had the destruction of Jerusalem in mind. I think Peter was talking about just that, though I agree with Nick’s comment yesterday that he would have seen that as a type of the final judgment. (Much like Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24)

The dreams, visions, and prophecy described in the Joel don’t seem to be ongoing aspects of the new age of the Spirit any more than the apocalyptic signs of verses 19-20 were expected to be permanent realities. There was an outpouring of the Spirit, accompanied by special signs. All of that was a warning about the coming judgment.

Does the fact that God included women in the signs point to a new approval for women taking leadership roles in the church? I just can’t see that, not if we’re going to be fair with this passage. We take a whole list of things and pick one of them to be an ongoing part of the church age, while seeing everything else as temporary? Doesn’t make sense to me.

I see the miraculous signs listed in Acts 2 as temporary signs marking a new age and warning of coming judgment. I don’t see any of them as permanent aspects of the Christian era.

Resources for UCC Bible Study

At the University Church of Christ, we’re discussing “Men and Women in Scripture.” My site was given as a resource, but I know it’s not always easy to locate the articles. So here’s a list of the main ones:

Thinking about the thinking about women in the church
Women, men, and what the church is supposed to be focused on
My understanding of gender roles in the church
The Bible, Culture and Gender Roles
Gender roles and the cultures of the Bible
Does Paul go against the rest of the Bible on the topic of gender roles?
Does Galatians 3:28 provide the final word on gender roles in the church?
Do we dare appreciate wives and mothers in the church?
What does the creation story tell us about gender differences?
Miscellaneous thoughts on gender roles in the church
Women speak to the value of motherhood
Submission and gender
Phoebe, Junia, and the women of Romans 16
Microphones do not a leader make
Form versus function, revisited
Form, function, and passages about gender differences
Men, women, and the resurrection
Ephesians 5 for husbands and wives
What 1 Peter says about husbands and wives
How we live out submission and leadership in our marriage
Veils and heads, men and women
Women in the church: Silence is golden?
Holy hands and simple clothes
Silence or quietness? What does submission call for?
Spiritual giftedness and gender
Baptism, gender, and Galatians 3
The discussion of gender in the church is more than a two-position conversation
Jews, slaves, women, and baptism
Gender by design
The woman desiring her husband in Genesis 3… it might not mean what I thought

What 1 Peter says about husbands and wives

Bible in the shadowI guess we could have discussed 1 Peter 3 yesterday, but it deserves some time of its own. Here’s the passage in question:

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives— when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:1–7)

Let’s look at immediate context. Following an admonition to live good lives “among the Gentiles” (2:12), Peter lays out a series of “submit yourself to” instructions: everyone submit to governmental authorities (2:13-17), slaves to masters (2:18-25), and wives to husbands (3:1-6). This final instruction is tempered by a warning to husbands to be understanding and show honor to their wives. Two reasons are given for that:

  1. They are co-heirs of salvation
  2. Mistreating one’s wife will be a hindrance to prayer

In Buried Talents, Jay Guin argues that this passage is specifically directed to women with unbelieving husbands. I don’t think that’s the case. Peter does feel that this behavior could lead to the conversion of non-believers, but note that he thought only some would be in a mixed marriage (vs. 1). Much of the language is similar to Ephesians 5, speaking of a relationship of submission and respect (the same word used in Ephesians 5:33). And the following instructions seem to be given to believing husbands (vs. 7); why wouldn’t we see them included in the discussion about wives living in submission?

Guin also points to the reference to Abraham and Sarah, reminding us that their marriage had a lot of problems. While I think that’s true, it’s no reason to disregard Peter’s point. Think about Abraham being continually held up as a person of faith. What if we merely focused on his weak points: moments of doubt, times of sin, disobedience to the Lord’s call, even falling on his face laughing at God. We could say, “Abraham is no model of faith; look at his failures.” I’d suggest instead that we trust that Peter (and Silas – 5:12) were guided by the Holy Spirit as they wrote these words.

Husbands are again warned not to treat their wives in a domineering way. Family leadership does not include high-handed, despotic behavior. That’s part of the curse in Genesis 3, not part of God’s original design. Women may be “weaker vessels” (Peter’s words, not mine), but they are by no means inferior. They are co-heirs with us and with Christ. No one can mistreat his wife and be right with God.

Ephesians 5 for husbands and wives

BibleEphesians 5:21 and following comes at an interesting point in the book of Ephesians. It seems to be part of the fleshing out of verses 16 and 17:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16)

(The NIV Study Bible says that the grammar ties verses 21 and following to the filling of the Spirit in verse 18; I’ll trust them on that one. They indicate that Paul is saying that the Spirit’s power makes the following instructions possible)

Part of that fleshing out was to live lives of submission. Verse 21 states the principle that Christians are to submit to one another. Yet that principle needs some explaining. Wives are to submit to their husbands. Children are to obey their parents. Slaves are to obey their masters. In each of those cases, a limit is put on the other party. In reverse order, masters are to treat their slaves as people made in the image of God, not mere property. Parents are to avoid exasperating their children while training them in God’s way.

And husbands are to love their wives. Paul expounds on what this love looks like. It’s a sacrificial love, with the husband giving of himself in order to help his wife be more spiritual. He is to love his wife as he loves his own body.

Paul’s final word on the subject is: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)

The word respect is the same one that Peter uses in 1 Peter 3:2 when discussing wives’ submission to their husbands. It’s also used of the attitude Christians should have toward government officials (Romans 13:7) and toward God himself (Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 7:1). It’s also used of slaves’ attitudes toward their masters (Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 2:18).

We can go far beyond this basic analysis, looking at the meaning of “head” and “submission” in this passage. (I will mention that Jay Guin does a good job with that in Buried Treasures, although he puzzlingly applies things to both men and women that are only addressed to one or the other) But I think this is more than enough to begin the discussion.

This passage does not directly address men and women in the church. However, so much of what is said about the genders seems to hinge on the marriage relationship, this seems to be a good place to start.

One of my key points is this: this teaching does not seem to precede Galatians 3:28 historically. The equality of men and women as regards the spiritual inheritance does not eliminate the differences between husband and wife.

Microphones do not a leader make

churchI want to repeat myself a bit. I think this point gets lost in so many of the discussions about gender: much of the problem stems from an overemphasis on public worship.

We define our churches by that once-a-week gathering of the saints. We define much of the work of the church by what is done during that time. Think about your church’s budget. What percentage goes to providing for that time? I’m talking about salaries, about building costs, about everything involved in allowing us to bring dozens or hundreds of people together. Isn’t that the main thing our church does?

If it is, then our church has little right to exist. Our weekly time together prepares us to go out and do the work of the church. If three hours a week (or five or one) make up the bulk of our Christianity, then something is really, really wrong.

Much of the discussion about men and women in the church comes down to who is going to get to stand up, who is going to get to speak, who is going to get to be seen by everyone else present.

So let me restate my radical views:

  • I don’t think the focus of the early church was a once per week assembly. To be honest, you have to do some piecemeal Bible study to even present a case for a weekly assembly.
  • I don’t think the focus of the church was on gathering hundreds of Christians together in one place. That wasn’t practical in many settings. And if it were the focus, wouldn’t we have more discussion of such in the New Testament?
  • I think a lot of our angst comes from the modern design of assemblies. Not the New Testament example. The modern design. Suddenly stepping up to a microphone implies authority. Where someone telling their story to a gathered group of friends feels like sharing, “giving your testimony” to a crowd seems to place you above them, if only for a moment.

I know that not all of the problems mentioned in gender discussions revolve around public worship. But a high percentage of them do.

I also know that pointing out that problem doesn’t solve it. Fact is, we have large weekly assemblies. We are guided by modernism’s idea of what should be done at such times. And we’ve got to work out how to proceed.

Let’s just recognize that there should be flexibility in how we proceed, with each congregation being given the freedom to work out its own standards and norms. Those who damn other Christians for not being more inclusive of women are running the risk of damning themselves. Those who damn other Christians for allowing women to participate more fall under the same threat of divine judgment.