Women in ministry part 2. Pheobe the Deacon.

I posted a blog article the other day about “Women leaders in the church.”  In that article I looked at the issue of Apostles and how there were more apostles then the 12 who Jesus picked out. I wrote about Junia whom Paul calls an outstanding Apostle.  It’s amazing the kick back that many have about this and truly twist and turn scripture to make it say something its not clearly saying.

Today I want to look at the issue of Deacons in the church. Again many will teach that only men can be deacons, drawing this from 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And they must also be tested first; if they prove blameless, then they can serve as deacons. 11 Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything. 12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently. 13 For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves, and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

From the first glance it appears that Paul is saying only men are to be deacons in the church. BUT, this worldview can only be come by a simplistic proof texting of Scripture without weighing with the whole counsel of Scripture.

In Romans 16: 1-2 Paul says

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Many versions will translate Deacon here as being a servant. The problem is, that the Greek word used for Deacon in the Timothy passage is the same Greek word used in to describe Phoebe’s position in the church. And so we have to note that Paul is clearly  calling her a “Deacon,” of the church in Cenchreae. Paul notes that she is a deacon worthy of respect and has proved herself blameless which is in keeping with the expected Deacon qualities mentioned to Timothy.

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Conversations that make me go Hmmmmmmmm

I have been having a conversation with some guys who go to churches where women have to be silent in the church. In the church service, they are not allowed to pray, read scripture, read out notices, and by no means preach a sermon or give a testimony.

They are very conscientious they tell me about applying the commands of Paul which are found in the letters of 1 and 2 Timothy.

Instructions to Men and Women

Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument. Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God. 11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues[b] in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.

BUT – when I then asked them if they stood up, with hands lifted when they pray. I am told, no they don’t as that doesn’t apply to them. Hmmmmmmm

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Women leaders in the church!

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone about women and leadership within the church. I stated my firm conviction that an essential ethos of the New Testament is that there is no nationality, gender or social class distinction in the gospels – rather that all are equal in Christ. It’s a position I hold firmly to. And so I find it complexing that those who hold a complementarian view force a social class distinction within the church in one gender being above another.

It’s my experience that any conversation about women leadership turns to the subject of Junias, whom the Apostle Paul says is outstanding among the Apostles. It’s claimed that he isn’t calling her an Apostle as such, but rather she is noted as working with them. However, that is stretching the Greek text a little further than it allows.

My friend made the argument that Jesus only appointed 12 Apostles. And that the Apostle Paul considered himself one abnormally born. But, a clearer examination of the text shows that the 11 Apostles (Judas had taken his life after betraying Jesus.) held a little gambling session to appoint another Apostle in his place.

There are other accounts in the Scriptures where the terminology of Apostle is used. When Barnabus and Paul are sent out to take a message to the church, they too are called Apostles. In Galatians, James, Jesus brother is also mentioned as an Apostle – though there is no account previously that he was even one of Jesus disciples. Epaphroditus is mentioned as being a local churches Apostle. And as previously mentioned Mathias was instated as a replacement for Judas.

The final crunch though which dismisses the idea that there were only 12 Apostles is found in 1 Cor 15:3-9. Paul outlines a number of groups of people who saw the risen Lord.

  1. Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter)
  2. Then he appeared to the 12.
  3. Then he appeared to over 500 brothers and sisters.
  4. Then he appeared to James.
  5. Then he appeared to all the Apostles.
  6. Then he appeared to himself.

 

I find it interesting that Paul significantly defines the 12 Apostles as *the* 12 and not as *the* Apostles in this passage. It also raises the questions as to who were all the other Apostles. One thing that is clear is that the terminology of Apostle is not withheld just for the 12 plus Paul.

Complementarians will strongly use Paul’s own 4 fold requirement for the claim for Apostleship: (1) Someone who had seen the resurrected Lord; (2) someone who had brought a church into existence;] (3) someone who proclaimed the true gospel; and (4) someone who has suffered in the service of Christ. And they add a 5th stating that they had to be appointed by Jesus. I would like to nuance their 5th point by saying their appointment has to be by God – Father, Son, or Spirit and not just through the person of Jesus. We find a clear example of this, when the church is praying and they sense the Holy Spirit telling them to set Barnabus and Paul aside to be the Apostles to where they were being sent to.

Certainly Junia could easily fit the criteria of the first 4 points. And the 5th point leads into the area of Holy Spirit gifting and calling. The Holy Spirit knows what he is doing when he anoints someone for service. It’s clear through Scripture that women were called into prophetic roles. Anna was a well-known and respected prophetess who took the baby Jesus into her arms and prophesied over him.  And again we find clear cut instructions about allowing prophecy in the church and that both males and females could do so.

Within the framework of Scripture we find that God has no favourites. All are equal in Jesus. The Holy Spirit distributes gifts and callings to all, and to whomever *He* wills. There is no social distinctions in the gospel. There is no nationality distinction in the gospel. And there is no gender distinction in the Gospel.

So my question is…why do we continue to force one?

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Psalms, Peterson, and Bono.

Praying is not being nice before God. It’s about being honest with God. And honesty is not always nice.

Have you got a spare 20 minutes? It worth investing that time to watch this video about Eugene Peterson and Bono getting to know each other, and discuss the psalms.

https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/bono-eugene-peterson-psalms

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In my fathers house are many mansions.

Over the years I have heard a number of sermons about Jesus saying in his fathers house are many mansions and he goes to prepare a room for us there John 14:2. Sadly though, everyone of those sermons has touched on our lust for more, our lust for greed, our lust for riches and extravagant belongings and possessions – and in doing so, has missed the point of what Jesus is actually saying.

Dr. Wave Nunnally has written an excellent article about archaeological findings which brings a clearer picture of what Jesus was actually saying, and what he wasn’t saying.

It was home! It represented the close-knit, supportive, loving, extended families that ate, worked, played, and worshiped together. In this respect, it served as the ideal picture of heaven that Jesus sought to convey–an ongoing (eternal) “Walton’s Mountain” or your-favorite-family-reunion-ever kind of feel. It recalled the times when mom, dad, all the grandparents, brothers and sisters, all their husbands and wives and children, uncles, aunts, and cousins were all together and everything was right in the world.

 

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Are your prayers big enough?

I am fascinated and awed by the prayer life of the Apostle Paul. One prayer that has grabbed my attention recently is his prayer in Ephesians that they would be filled with the fullness of God.

To our finite and limited imagination of thinking its illogical that we, mere human beings, could be filled with God’s fullness. And yet Paul tells the Ephesians that God is able to do immeasurably more than we think, or imagine he can do. What does being filled with God’s fullness mean? It probably means more than we are able to think it means. What does a church congregation look like, that is filled with the fullness of God?

Being filled with God’s fullness must be possible. If the Apostle Paul thought it was possible, and if he prayed for it to be so; then its not just a rhetorical request. Will you join me in prayer: That I. That you. That we. That our church congregations – will be filled with the fullness of God.

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I have a friend who asked me the following question. I know his story of heart ache and pain. And so his question comes out of his personal experience of being abused by a female perpetrator. My comment to him is underneath.

 Craig bennett i understand you are man of the cloth. Could you write an article on “evil women from bible”? And maybe another even more important on “unpardonable sins”?

Great question. I can write an article about bad women from the Bible. The Bible doesn’t hold back on the evilness of all humanity. It acknowledges it all.

The good news is that there are no unpardonable sins. Well nearly none. The only one is when a person refuses to accept Jesus and their own need for forgiveness.

While its true that some sins appear to be greater and more evil than others – and some peeps more evil then others – all of us have fallen short of God’s standards in thought, word, or deed.

More importantly the biblical response I see is if God grants mercy to all sinners, and helps all who are victims of sin, and that there is no social class, gender, or nationality distinction in our standing with God .. society should reflect this also, and help all victims and perps and not ignore any.

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