It’s common to hear that people think highly of Jesus but they have little love for “the Church” or for “organized religion,” as it’s so often called. In some ways that’s hardly surprising since sincere believers don’t think JESUS ever hurt them. Even non-believers know the difference between Jesus and His worshipers—like the famous agnostic John Stuart Mill who heaped high praise on the Lord Jesus. Robert Ingersoll, the flamboyant atheist made it clear to everyone that while he criticized God and many of His servants he never ever criticized Jesus. We’ve heard plenty about “hypocrites” in the Church and haven’t I hurt plenty of people down the years and wondered about myself as one of those who earned the title?
I don’t find it hard to understand the criticism leveled against us Church People. We know of or hear of horror stories where leaders in their arrogance mistreat the very people who came to them for shepherding. Read some history and see how “the Church” (headed up by its leaders) in its ignorance promoted injustice or in its heartlessness stood by and watched it when it could have done something about it. Poor souls badly mistreated in a congregation will often enough feel they want nothing to do with any congregation and with only a little help from teachers whose views, like old-time photo negatives are under-developed and over-exposed, they’ll join the number of the Church’s opponents. Many truly hurt people know, if they’re gently pressed, that not everyone in that assembly or the other assemblies is cruel and unjust and unlike the Lord Jesus; but still, they’ve been badly hurt and that needs to be taken into account.
But there are those (are there not?) who enjoy being on the outside where sneering and jeering is easier (that way you can’t be called “hypocrites” don’t you see). They see the obvious flaws in the Church but rather than throw their lot in with the strugglers against Sin inside to enrich and make better they watch and curl their lips.
There’s nothing like Paul in them; nothing in them like the Paul who wrote 1Timothy 2:8-15; nothing like the Paul who is forced by a childish and at times cruel Corinthian congregation to speak well about himself in God’s service and add this to the list of his pains (2 Corinthians 11:28-29, NJB): “And besides all the external things, there is, day in day out, the pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. If anyone weakens, I am weakened as well; and when anyone is made to fall, I burn in agony myself.” There’s no love for the Church in the people I’m speaking of—there’s nothing in them like the Paul who wrote 1Timothy 2 or 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 and then 4-16!
There’s an individualism in humans that is God-given and we’re to rejoice in it but like any good gift from God it can be, has been and is being corrupted and our debt to one another is pushed far into the background. Our need of one another is only thought of when we need unity to gain what we as individuals want. (What I’m saying here needs balanced. I’m aware of that; help me please by balancing it without denying the truth of it that you know is true.) Humans are forced at times to settle for less than they want and in their millions they learn to live happily with that and (God bless them) if their deprivation is very severe they gut it out and make the best of it when they realize their protests will make no difference. And astonishingly, a host of them live gallantly and learn to be content. (God sees and takes note of this! There‘s a judgment coming that will be in Christ’s hands and all wrongs will be righted—Acts 17:31.) In the meantime, in a Fallen humanity where the “haves” insist on even more and the “have nots” insist on being given everything that everyone else has—that is “absolute equality.” But in the pursuit of “all my rights” the thing destroyed and left in scattered ruins is community without which there can be no equality or peace or just contentment.
For those in severe and obvious deprivation we can at least understand anger and protest and resentment. At those who have good reason to be content but want more and more “rights” in a world where millions can barely breathe, at them we can only look and wonder. And especially if they are followers of the Lord Jesus of whom Paul wrote saying He emptied Himself (Philippians 2:6-8). There’s something almost obscene in people with enough to be comfortable and enjoying a million freedoms engaging in the Lord’s Supper and praising God while they demand more and more and more “rights.” And to get them, they’ll happily demote and dismiss Paul who brought salvation in Jesus Christ to their world.
So what has this to do with how we are to read 1 Timothy 2:8-15? It has a lot to do with it!
The Church may not mean much to us but it means a LOT to God, to the Lord Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit!
The Church is “the church of God” (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5; 3:15)
The Church is the Body of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18; 18:17, 18; Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, and see Romans 16:16 for a plural)
The Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit and through Him the Father and the Son dwell in the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; Ephesians 2:12, 18 & 19-22).
It is the Church, peculiarly, that with its Gospel Story that is the place where God’s righteousness/faithfulness is exhibited (2 Corinthians 5:21b, and the entire context).
The NT is clear about this, God came in Jesus of Nazareth who is now the glorified and exalted Lord of All not only to save people from their sins but to create a People, a covenanted Nation that is the expression of His glorious intention. And by its very existence it is a visible witness to that divine purpose in operation (1 Peter 2:9-10 and entire chapter).
That created People, that covenanted Nation is one Body, one Church, one Temple of people from the two classes in the world (Jews & non-Jews—mutual haters, one of another). They proclaim in their unity (despite the difficulties involved) God’s hunger to reconcile the world to Himself and in Him to one another. (Ephesians 2:1-22, written by Paul to the Church to which he wrote 1 Timothy 2:8-15.)
God meant there to be a visible Church! It was no ad hoc creation God came up with when He “failed” to set Jesus on the throne! Ephesians 1:3-22 teaches us that the Church was in the eternal purpose of God! (The word itself—singular & plural—occurs 114 times in the New Testament (twice in reference to the OT church). The Church was meant to be!
And it was meant to be made visible in congregations! Christ Himself by His Spirit makes Himself present in the world in congregational form (Romans 16:16).
And congregations need to have leaders in various places of service! The question isn’t “will we have leaders?” We will have them! The question is “Who will we have to lead us as congregations?”
When we read Paul’s letter to Timothy we’re listening to an apostle of the exalted Lord Jesus who empowered Paul by His Holy Spirit to establish congregational manifestations of the living Lord Jesus. Paul is a profound lover of the Church and makes that abundantly clear in his living and in his speaking (Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:10; 2 Corinthians 7:4-12). And it is congregational business he is dealing with in 1 Timothy 2 (see 1:3 and 3:5, 16).
I purpose to look at the 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 and 4-16 sections soon. The truth is there’s nothing difficult about the Timothy section that’s why it makes many angry. They know exactly what he’s saying and don’t like it. Other than “But, she shall be saved in childbearing…” there’s not a lot to debate about. And even that isn’t particularly difficult if we don’t insist that Paul was an insensitive clod who thought women should stick to being baby-factories. He was not an insensitive clod and he didn’t believe women were supposed to be “baby-factories.”
But it’s now increasingly clear (the word getting around via college professors and church-teachers) that “Paul is wrong—wrong!” then the thing to do is just dismiss him if he says something that doesn’t suit our social mood. But when you do it with a text like 1 Timothy 2:8-15 it’s easier to do it with 1 Timothy 1:9-11, with 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-28 and others like them and that’s what’s happening. (Understand, I’m not quarreling with strugglers against what they know is wrong–if we can be forgiven they certainly can. My quarrel is with those teachers and leaders who would encourage the strugglers to believe that their sin is their right! and there’s nothing sinful about it no matter what Paul or Moses or Jesus says.)
But the same Paul, speaking of the Church of God warned that there would be leaders/teachers/scholars who would draw away people after them (Acts 20:28-32). There’s that awful passage: Luke 12:13-21
(To be continued, God enabling)
CHURCH HOMOSEXUALITY INGERSOLL