Fascinating lecture on First Century epistles and how Paul’s letters were really used and read in the early church. (Lecture starts at about the 4:55 mark.)
[JFG: I apologize for the length of the article, but it seemed best to present this information in a single setting, as it all ties together so closely. A draft of this article was sent to the authors of the articles mentioned prior to publication with an offer of an opportunity to respond here and a request for correction if I’ve misrepresented their views.]
Like the February issue of Wineskins, the February issue of the Gospel Advocate is dedicated to unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I can think of no better topic. I thought it would be good to review the teachings of the writers of the GA. My own reactions are placed in [brackets].
Essential Ingredients for Maintaining Unity
Tim Lewis, who preaches for a Church of Christ congregation in Oklahoma City, leads off a series of five articles on the magazine’s theme. He takes his lesson from Eph 4:1-3, arguing, “Unity is possible for this generation of believers, but certain indispensable components must be in place if we are going to be one in Christ.”
(Eph. 4:1-3 ESV) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
He then reflects on humility, gentleness, patience, and love. He concludes,
If God’s people do not work harder to join together in unity, the same tragic cry might ring out on the day Christ comes again, “Would to God we had joined hands sooner!”
[Amen.] Read more »
Stone’s point regarding our need for fire (Spirit) union leads inevitably to —
(Eph. 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Our spiritual disease, which Stone calls book, head, and water union, is amply demonstrated by the fact that, to many among us, this passage is about what it does not say. It says nothing of instrumental music, and so it’s read as a prohibition against instruments. We thereby entirely miss what it does say!
It says that we are to “be filled with the Spirit … .” The references to singing are, grammatically, participles hanging on the verb “be filled.” You can’t get the participles right if you don’t understand the verb they modify. Hence, we should not make the least attempt to apply this passage without first exegeting “be filled with the Spirit” — as this is the central point of the passage — and yet this is the one part of the passage the we refuse to read, teach, preach, or understand! Read more »
Barton W. Stone
The Restoration Movement, which gave birth to today’s Churches of Christ, was founded by Barton W. Stone and Thomas Campbell. Stone was earlier than Campbell by a few years, and worked in Illinois at a time when Illinois was the American frontier.
Stone had been an ordained Presbyterian minister, but he was excommunicated when he began serving communion to non-Presbyterians. He had preached at the famous Cane Ridge Revival and seen men and women converted by gospel preaching — even though many of the preachers weren’t fellow Presbyterians. Even Methodist and Baptist preachers brought people to Jesus. Indeed, in his autobiography, Stone declared, while near his own death many decades later, that not a single convert from Cane Ridge had strayed from Jesus. Each conversion had been clearly genuine as shown by the fruit of the Spirit borne by each.
His rejection by Presbyterian authorities led him to participate in the dissolution of the Springfield Presbytery, an organization of Presbyterian congregations that decided to be Christians only but not the only Christians. To explain their decision, they wrote the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery — the earliest document of the Restoration Movement.
THE PRESBYTERY OF SPRINGFIELD, sitting at Cane Ridge, in the county of Bourbon. Being, through a gracious providence, in more than ordinary bodily health, growing in strength and size daily; and in perfect soundness and composure of mind; but knowing that it is appointed for all delegated bodies once to die: and considering that the life of every such body is very uncertain, do make, and ordain this our last Will and Testament, in manner and following, viz: Read more »
The schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches is over 1,000 years old. Ecumenical efforts have been attempted over the centuries, all to little avail. But things are changing thanks to — amazingly enough — persecution.
According to Christianity Today, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of the Orthodox churches, met in Cuba’s Havana airport. This is the first such meeting in a thousand years. Their discussion dealt with the persecution of Christians in the Middle East — many of whom are either Catholic or Orthodox. Many are also evangelical or Protestant. We Protestants have had missionaries in the Middle East for centuries.
Moreover, there are Christian churches in the Middle East that date literally to the apostles themselves. Much of Paul’s activity was in Asia Minor: modern-day Turkey. Other apostles worked in modern-day Syria and Iraq. We think of these as Muslim nations, but they were Christian nations centuries before Mohammad.
Pope Frances recently commented, Read more »
1 Cor 12 and giftedness
Now that we have a better understanding of 1 Tim 2:11-14 and 1 Cor 14:33b-35, we can consider the significance of giftedness without feeling like we’re pitting one scripture against another. How does Paul say giftedness should be lived out in the church? The obvious place to look is 1 Cor 12 —
(1 Cor. 12:4-7 ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
We immediately learn that the Spirit gives a variety of gifts to Christians. Each Christian is given “the manifestation of the Spirit.” BDAG (the premier biblical Greek lexicon published) states, in defining phanerosis, the word translated “manifestation,” that clearly Paul is referring to the charismata, that is, gifts of the Spirit. That is, the gifts the Spirit gives us manifest to others the presence of the Spirit in us. Read more »
The missing Holy Spirit
I couldn’t help but notice that Matthew’s article, arguing that giftedness does not provide authority, never once mentions the Holy Spirit or even uses “Spirit” or “spirit” in any form. How can someone write an article dealing with the question of giftedness and omit the member of the Holy Trinity — that part of God — who gives gifts?
Matthew tells me that he accepts the teachings of H. Leo Boles in The Holy Spirit: His Personality, Nature and Works (1942) (I can’t find an electronic version), a book that, along with J. W. McGarvey’s commentary on Acts (free download), has had a huge influence on Church of Christ thinking regarding the Spirit.
Read more »
What if the text is authentic and expresses Paul’s own teaching? How would we then interpret the passage?
Reconciling with chapter 11
First, this passage can’t repeal the first half of chapter 11. And no matter how you exegete chapter 11, the fact is that women were praying and prophesying in the presence of men in the assembly. Some speculate that the early church had a separate event for prayer and prophecy, but (a) there is no historical or biblical evidence for this and (b) we know from chapter 14 that prayer and prophecy took place in the regular assembly. So if we interpret 1 Cor 14:33b-35 to simply say, “Women may not speak in the assembly,” well, that interpretation is flatly contradicted by chapter 11 and is therefore false.
Some argue that 1 Cor 14:33b-35 does not apply to Spirit-inspired speech. But there is nothing in the passage that actually says that. While the prophecy in chapter 11 was certainly Spirit-inspired, on what basis do we conclude that the prayers of the women were inspired by the Spirit any more than their questions? We can’t just assume and then ban half the church from speaking based on a human assumption. Doctrine built on assumption is nothing but speculation. Read more »
In the September issue of the Gospel Advocate, Matthew Morine challenged the claim that women may be authorized to speak to a worship gathering including men because of their giftedness. The article is available on the Internet here. Matthew writes,
The argument is that if God has “gifted” a woman with the ability to speak in public, God must want women to speak before men and women. …
The Pepperdine keynote speaker said that every role of church leadership should be available to women. Why? Because they have been gifted. This idea of giftedness authorizing preaching or leading highlights the current culture of our time. Instead of going to the Bible for the answers on this debate, those who advocate this change are appealing to the entitlement mindset within America today.
In this article, I want to focus on the substance of Matthew’s concerns regarding women leading in worship. What does the Bible really say? Read more »
A few days ago, Matthew Morine published an article in the September issue of the Gospel Advocate about the role of women: “The Feminist Agenda Within the Churches of Christ.” Mike Cope has posted a response in Wineskins: “Judgment Free Disagreements: A Response to Matthew Morine.”
I appreciate Matthew’s and the Advocate‘s willingness to post Matthew’s article on the Internet so that anyone may read the article and consider Matthew’s article for himself. I encourage the reader to read both articles in full.
Now, I have a soft spot in my heart for Matthew, because he was among the earliest readers to regularly comment on my blog One In Jesus back when it was new, and I was just hoping that someone — anyone — would read my writings. I’ve enjoyed exchanging barbs with Matthew about SEC football. I’m an Alabama fan. Matthew pulls for the Volunteers of Tennessee (bless his heart). I actually know Matthew much better than I know Mike.
I’m also quite fond of Greg Tidwell, the editor of the Gospel Advocate. I’ve corresponded with him ever since we worked together on the GraceConversation dialogue. I believe he improved the quality of the Gospel Advocate in many ways.
Nonetheless, I believe Mike has correctly criticized the tone of Matthew’s article. And yet I’m sure many readers have wondered what’s so wrong with calling your opponents “hypocrites” or saying things such as —
– “Instead of following the plain teachings of the Word of God”
– “This disregard for the intent of the word of the Scriptures”
– “The feelings of those promoting women into leadership are fickle”
– “Hidden forces are at work seeking to corrupt your congregation and lead it into an unfaithful direction”
After all, a reader might wonder, Jesus said similarly harsh things about his opponents, and shouldn’t we follow his example? Read more »