Who Can Serve?

women at crucifixion 1

Some Christians think that to be effective in ministry, you need to be a “somebody”, someone who is known, an expert in their specialty. Otherwise they will be just wasting time, putting in the effort but not having much results to show for it. The world works that way, but not with God’s Kingdom, which is upside-down compared to the world. Let’s take a look at the women at the cross:

* Mt 27:55-56 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
* Mk 15:40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
* Jn 19:25 But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Six are named, including:
1. Mary Magdalene,
2. Mary the mother of James and Joseph,
3. Mary the mother of James the Less (James Alphaeus) and Joses,
4. Salome,
5. Mary the Lord’s mother,
6. Mary the wife of Clopas,
Two are identified but not named:
7. Mother of the sons of Zebedee (# 3?),
8. The Lord’s mother’s sister.

Since Matthew, Mark and John may call the same person by different names, some of the above may in fact be the same person. However, all of them were women, who did not enjoy equal status to men in Jesus’ days. Except for John, none of the apostles were at the Lord’s crucifixion. They were hiding for fear of the Jews and the Roman soldiers. There were no VIPs at the cross.

And besides Mary the Lord’s mother, what we know about some of them are unflattering. For example, Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2). She had a checkered past. The wife of Zebedee requested Jesus to let her two sons sit on His right and left (Mt 20:20-21). She had selfish ambition. The others are unknowns, nobodies in this world. None is perfect or a big shot.

For that matter, there were many women who weren’t even identified, except that they all followed Jesus and ministered to Him. As a matter of fact, the qualification for ministering to Him was that they followed Him. Nothing more, nothing less. You do not need to be a “somebody”, just a humble heart willing to learn, and to serve in whatever way you can.

nothing is wasted 6

You may think you have no skills to offer, but in our Lord’s hands nothing is wasted. He will take our spiritual gifts, our heart desires, abilities, personality and experiences and custom fit a ministry where we can serve Him, provided we are willing and make ourselves available. So put yourself in His hands, and see what God has in wait for you. You’ll be glad you did.

Sharing Rewards

1 Sam 30 24 b

When we share our mission trips with brothers and sisters, sometimes the seniors would tell us, “We love to go too, but we are old and can’t do anything now.” Others say “We like to join you, but we have a full-time job and just can’t get away.” Besides asking them to pray, which is a most vital part of short-term missions, often our response is “If you can’t go yourself, send someone who can. Support them as your representatives. The LORD rewards GOERS and SENDERS alike.”

There is a principle in the OT. While David and his men were away, the Amalekites attacked Ziglag and took their families captive. David pursued until some of his men were too exhausted and remained behind. The others pressed on, rescued their wives and children, and recovered everything, in addition to taking spoils from the enemy. When they distributed the loot, those who fought did not want to share with those who stayed with the baggage. But David said:
1 Sam 30:24 For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.

This principle is repeated in the NT. The Lord Himself taught:
Mt 10:41-42 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Matthew 10 42 c

Usually we focus only on the ones who go, but not the Lord. He rewards GOERS and RECEIVERS alike. By extension we believe He rewards SENDERS as well as GOERS. So if you can’t go this time, support others who can. Next time they may support you. All will share in the joy and the reward in serving Kingdom ministry.

Wanted: Team Players

team player 3

We are always on the lookout for good coworkers, whether full-time, part-time, or volunteers. Besides loving God and people, both fellow Christians and non-believers, one of the criteria we use is that they be team-players. What does that mean? While people have different definitions, to us it means at least 5 things:

1. He must be honest and trustworthy. Of course being able or smart is good, but what good is his ability if you can’t trust him. In fact, the smarter an untrustworthy person is, the more cautious you need to become.

2. He must appreciate others work styles, and not insists his way is the only way. Some people consider his way is the best and all others are not good. That may be true sometimes, but it puts down all his colleagues and won’t enhance relationships.

3. He avoids politics. Some promote only themselves, self-aggrandizement at others’ expense. Others put their own interest ahead of the well-being of the community. That’s a no-no. They need to put others ahead of themselves.

4. He adapts quickly. Some are stubborn but label themselves as having strong convictions. But names don’t fool those who are discerning. We need people strong on principles but flexible in methods. Rigidity does not help anyone.

5. He meets deadline. Team members depend on each other doing their part on time. We don’t want people who are always the bottleneck and hold everybody up. Good team players do that.

Others believe a team player must be a Teachable, Energetic, Achiever and Mission-focused. These are good leadership qualities but the above should be minimum requirements.

Mission Trips

mission trips 3

One of the things we encourage Christians to do to widen their horizon and learn about God’s work worldwide is to take a mission trip and experience it for themselves. For some, it’s an eye-opening and heart-opening experience that they will not learn even if they have been Christians for years, had they stayed within the confines of their own church. For others, it changed the direction of their life mission such that they become outward instead of inward focused. At the very least, many become more supportive of missions, both in terms of prayer and finances.

Yet some remain hesitant, feeling that they are not gifted evangelistically, nor are they bible teachers, so what could they offer? This is a common misunderstanding about the nature of mission trips, about what they can give as opposed to what they can learn from such an experience. True, if you know how to share the gospel and can nurture young believers, that would be a great contribution toward a mission team. However, what the participant receive from the trip is just as important. We expect team members to be learners, not experts who are there to solve all the problems their hosts are facing. Expertise is good, but not essential to the success of the endeavor.

Mark 4 26-27 a

In the Parable of the seed:
* Mk 4:26-29 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

All the man did was to cast seeds and put in the sickle, presumably watering in between. But how the crop grows, he did not know. It grew by itself. Similarly our job is to sow and harvest, we don’t need to know everything. God grows the harvest naturally.

1 Corinthians 3 7-9

Within the Church:
* 1 Co 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Some sow, some nurture, but God causes the growth. What each individual member does is not the most important thing. What’s important is that we are God’s fellow workers, and God will cause the growth. So don’t get too hung up about your particular ministry. As all of us do our part, the work will get done collectively.

ability availability 4

Let me conclude by quoting Neil Maxwell, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” Are you available? If you are, He is able. Prove yourself dependable. He will make you capable.

Satan’s Schemes

As we visited mission fields in three continents, we noticed that while the missionaries worked very hard to advance God’s kingdom, Satan worked just as hard to tear their work down.

* 2 Co 2:11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
* Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

divide conquer 6

One of the schemes he used very effectively is to spread strife, to divide and conquer:
* Prov 6:14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife.
* Prov 6:19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
* Prov 16:28 A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.

There is a Chinese proverb (鹬蚌相争,渔翁得利) which tells a story about a clam sunning himself on the beach. A sandpiper comes along, sees the open clam and a big meal waiting, tries to pick her fleshy dinner. The clam quickly closes his shell to protect himself, with the sandpiper’s beak caught in between. Neither side wants to give in, until a fisherman comes along, sees them engaged in a bitter tussle, and easily captures both of them. The moral of the parable? When two parties fight, a third-party benefits.

third party benefits 1

The devil utters lies to sow discord among brothers, separating even intimate friends. When brothers and sisters fight among themselves, Satan can just fold his arms and watch the church fall apart. She will waste her time and energy arguing over trivial issues, while important matters like evangelism, making disciples and loving one another get ignored.

house divided 7

The Lord Himself taught:
* Mk 3:25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mt 12:25, Lk 11:17)

Yet Christians everywhere fall into Satan’s trap. Be warned. Watch and pray:
* Jn 13:35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Should Women Preach? (2 of 2)

women preacher 3

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at the context and observed the text of 1 Tim 2:12, today we continue with its interpretation. The traditional view held by the Church for nearly 2,000 years is that women should not be elders or pastors, and by extension preachers. This is based on a literal interpretation of passages like 1 Tim 2:11-14 and 1 Co 11:3-10, and the fact that there are no women elders in the Bible.

Looking at the W5 observations, we can interpret 1 Tim 2:12 as follows: Paul does not allow a woman to teach formally/publicly in church, or exercise authority over a man. Furthermore, his restriction applies to all churches across time and culture, since the rationale goes beyond culture.

Some try to soften Paul’s prohibition by claiming that he was only addressing a local problem in Ephesus in his days, since Timothy was pastoring in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) at that time. But this does not fit the context and is not valid.

Now, since preaching involves teaching God’s truth and exhorting God’s people to apply it, not permitting women to teach implies that Paul does not allow women preachers either.

Let me elaborate. There are only two offices in the Church – elders (overseers or bishops or pastors) and deacons. Elders, overseers, bishops, pastors all point to the same people. “Elder” speaks to their mature spiritual experiences and understanding; “overseer” or “bishop” speaks to the character of the work undertaken, that of overseeing, or ruling, or leading. Pastors are shepherds who address the caring aspect of the overseers’ work. These are equivalent terms for the same people. Their qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Deacons, on the other hand, are servants who assist the work of elders. Their qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3:8-13.

If you compare the qualifications and work of elders versus deacons, the big difference is that elders:
teach (1 Tim 3:2 able to teach; Titus 1: 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.) and
rule (1 Tim 3:5 take care of the church of God; 1 Tim 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.)
Deacons are not required to teach, and they do not rule.

So, when Paul does not allow a woman to teach and exercise authority (rule) over a man, he is specifically forbidding women to be elders and pastors. That is not to say sisters are not competent. Competency has nothing to do with it. Many sisters are more competent than many brothers. It is simply God’s sovereign choice to appoint male leadership in both the home and the church. Just as He chose the Levites to serve Him as priests in the OT, no other tribe can claim the priesthood even though they may be just as competent.

Women can teach:
• Other women or children Titus 2:3-4 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
• Privately Acts 18:26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
but not men in public assemblies.

But doesn’t the Bible teach that men and women are equal:
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Yes, but in what sense? In the sense that we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26), heirs according to promise (Gal 3:29). That’s our position in Christ. The egalitarian view tries to apply this equality in our standing before Christ to our roles in Church, which is a misapplication as the Bible clearly distinguishes between the role of men versus women. All are Abraham’s descendants, but not all are priests, for example.

What about the mediating view? Wasn’t Barak not up to the task and Deborah stepped in:
Judg 4:8-9 Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Yes, but Deborah was a judge, not an elder. She did not teach, and ruled in the sense of settling disputes, not managing a congregation. Besides, that was the exception, not the rule. God’s purpose will be accomplished one way or another. If men are unwilling or unavailable for the task, God can and have used women to achieve His will. But that doesn’t change His choice of male headship. We may not like it, but it’s His choice, not ours.

In short I subscribe to the traditional view. Situations happen in which women step into men’s roles, but that’s not God’s design.

Should Women Preach? (1 of 2)

women preacher 1

Q. Our cell group was studying the issue of women preachers in 1 Tim. There is much disagreement as there are different opinions which is very confusing. Some say sisters shouldn’t preach and submit to the plain teaching of the Bible, which is also given in 1 Co. Scripture’s demands are not subject to cultural background, except the issue of head covering which was mentioned only in the church at Corinth. Others say the only situation where sisters can preach is when the brothers of the church are not up to the task. What is your view on this?

A. The passages you referred to are 1 Tim 2:11-14 and 1 Co 11:3-10. There is much debate on whether women should preach and be ordained as pastors, with three main positions:
1. Traditional view: Women should not be elders or pastors;
2. Egalitarian view: God calls women as well as men to be elders and pastors; women should serve alongside men in all positions as equals;
3. Mediating view: Women serve under male leadership as their extension; they step in as replacement in the absence of men candidates.
Your cell group seemed to be split along views 1 and 3. There are books and dissertations written in support of all three views. All I can give you is my opinion in this brief article.

Actually I wrote on 1 Tim 2:12 before:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/i-do-not-permit-a-woman-to-teach-1-of-2/
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/i-do-not-permit-a-woman-to-teach-2-of-2/
But I will approach it from another angle to answer your question specifically.

Let’s look at 1 Tim 2:11-14 below:
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
• But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
• For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
• And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

First, the context is 1 Tim 2, which can be divided into two segments:
• 1-8 A call to Prayer, which ends with Paul calling the men in every place to pray (v 8);
• 9-15 Women Instructed
So the context is that of a contrast between the role of men and women.

Second, observation. I will use “W5” to summarize the key findings:
Who. The word “woman” translates the Greek word “gyne“, as in gynaecology. It can mean either:
• a woman (129 X in the KJV) of any age, whether a virgin, married, a widow; or
• a wife (92 X in the KJV), or a betrothed woman.
Some choose the latter meaning for v 12, and interpret the verse to mean Paul disallowing a wife to teach or exercise authority over her husband. This does not fit the context and the former meaning is the proper one.

What. The word “teach” translates the Greek word “didasko“, and in v 12 is used in the absolute sense, to give instruction. It is formal teaching. Paul is not forbidding a woman to teach informally, but formally.

Where. The chapter did not specify the setting explicitly, but it is quite obvious that a church environment is assumed, as Paul was not regulating situations inside the home.

When. Time was not specified, but given a church setting, the timing would be during public gatherings whenever the congregation get together, and not private meetings.

Why. Paul gave two reasons for not allowing a woman to teach:
• Adam was first created, and then Eve;
• Adam was not deceived, but the woman was.
The reasons go all the way back to:
• The order of creation, which specified man’s priority, and
• The Fall. Eve was deceived and Adam went along. She stepped out from man’s headship (leadership) and fell into transgression first.
Since the reasons involved our first parents, they apply to all their descendants and are trans-cultural. They do not apply just to a particular time in history or cultural background, but to all humanity.

(To be continued)