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 Vol. 4, No. 1 


January, 2002

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~


typewriter The Weaker Vessel

By Louis Rushmore

I Peter 3:7 ... the part of the verse that is puzzling to me, is that I am a weaker vessel. How am I weaker? Is this physical, emotional or spiritual. I have been married for 24 years, have 3 grown children that are all presently faithful members (ages 23, 22, 20). I am faithful a Bible class teacher, and still I feel like I don't measure up to a good mark. Am I really just a second class citizen because I am a woman. Does God think less of women than men, and is it society today that drums it into women that they are something that matters in this world? ~ Cynthia Davis, Sandyville, WV

First Peter 3:7 reads, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." There are several observations I would like to make about this verse as we endeavor to answer the question posed above.

The first seven verses of First Peter Three address marriage partners, with the first six verses dedicated to the wife. Verse seven instructs the husband to conduct himself charitably toward his wife. In this sense, 1 Peter 3:1-7 compares to passages elsewhere that regulate the spousal relationship (Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19). In each of these three passages, the husband is cited as the head of the wife, meaning as much as anything else that he is the one responsible to God for the well being of the family. Therefore, the respective, God-given roles of men and women are included in these spousal references.

"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God ... For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man" (1 Corinthians 11:3 8-9).

Nothing uncomplimentary is included or intended in 1 Peter 3:7. Contrariwise, the intent was to protect and cherish the woman or wife.

The word "weaker" literally means "strengthless" and is used in 1 Peter 3:7 for comparative purposes to the male counterpart. That is, men are usually (not always) physically stronger than women. Then, comparatively, women ordinarily are physically weaker than men.

WEAK, WEAKENED, WEAKER, WEAKNESS 1 Peter 3:7 ... (comparative degree ... (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers) [emphasis added, ler]

... not for intellectual or moral weakness, but purely for physical reasons, which the husband must recognize with due consideration for marital happiness ... (Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft & Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright (c) 1985 by Broadman Press)

The word "vessel" can mean a "tool" or a "helper." This usage conforms to the purpose for which God created woman. "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18). [emphasis added, ler]

... in the Greek classics was that of an instrument; a helper; one who was employed by another to accomplish anything, or to aid him (Passow), and it seems probable that this was the reason why the term was given to the wife. Compare Gen 2:18. The reason here assigned for the honor that was to be shown to the wife is, that she is "the weaker vessel." By this it is not necessarily meant that she is of feebler capacity, or inferior mental endowments, but that she is more tender and delicate; more subject to infirmities and weaknesses; less capable of enduring fatigue and toil ...  As such, she should be regarded and treated with special kindness and attention. (Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

In a transferred sense some people are the tools of others ... (Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1985)

The usual physiological differences between men and women are typically acknowledged throughout various aspects of life without the fact of those physiological differences adversely affecting the worth of women. Frankly, every distinction between the sexes and subsequent attention to that distinction (e.g., different public accommodations, women's sports, bearing children, domestic duties, etc.) speaks to the distinctions in design by God and variation of male and female roles.

Modern women resent such a view as this; but the unanimous opinion of all mankind for centuries confirms it as a fact. Plato said, "Lighter tasks are to be given to women than to men because of the weakness of their sex"; and as long as golf courses have one set of rules for men and another for women, every country club on earth bears continual witness to it. In those lands where women do not enjoy the chivalrous preference and honor which Christianity has brought to them, their status is invariably one of progressive reduction and oppression. In turning away from Christianity and staking all of their hopes upon a newly won legal status, the great mass of womankind will eventually find that they have been woefully short-changed and cheated. (James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library, New Testament, CD-ROM, n.d.)

Jesus is subject to the Godhead and respective roles incur. Man is subject to Christ and each enjoys distinctive roles. Woman is subject to man (i.e., in the home and in the church) with a distinction in roles or responsibilities. Our roles that include subjection ought to be no more disagreeable than the subjection of Jesus Christ in his role to the Godhead. Among humans, though, there is the potential for abuse and men are cautioned in that regard and urged to graciously treat the opposite sex. Both men and women have their respective roles and everyone is subject to someone.

...  as the weaker vessel (note, 1 Thess 4:4. Both husband and wife are vessels in God's hand, of God's making, to fulfill His gracious purposes. Both weak, the woman the weaker. Sense of his own weakness, and that she, like himself, is God's vessel, ought lead him to act with tender and wise consideration toward her, the weaker fabric) (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Men and women differ physiologically, but they are of equal worth respecting salvation (Galatians 3:27-29). Nevertheless, God gave differing but complementary roles to men and women. Mindful of those differing roles, while the woman is to submit to the man, the man has added responsibilities toward the woman. The God-authored physiological differences between the sexes also correspond to the respective roles that God assigned each sex; the man generally enjoys greater strength while the woman in her supportive role is usually not quite as strong physically.

Women demonstrate equal academic capabilities with men. Emotionally, women typically differ from men and between the two sexes, their combined emotional characteristics furnish the home. Both sexes have the same capacity to excel morally, though often women outshine many of their male counterparts. There are many women who are spiritual giants and who make the home and the church more of what God wants them to be. However, neither men nor women are spiritual giants when they disdain God's respective roles for men and women.

Image The Evangelist
 as a Leader

By Louis Rushmore

Is the evangelist a leader in the local congregation? Please supply Bible support with answer. Thanks for your great work and edification powers. ~  Robert Johnson, Evangelist

The Bible often employs synonyms to provide different perspectives of the same object it defines. For instance, the spiritual institution that Jesus came to establish, over which he presides and for which we will return one day, is known in Scripture by several different designations: church (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 1:2), kingdom (Matthew 16:19; Colossians 1:13), body (Ephesians 1:22-23), house (1 Timothy 3:15), temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), etc. Likewise, the God-approved rulers of independent congregations are designated in Scripture (in our English Bibles) as: elders (Titus 1:5-9), bishops (1 Timothy 3:1-7), pastors (Ephesians 4:11), shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4), overseers (Acts 20:17, 28) and the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14). There are also three different designations in Scripture for the man we may refer to as an evangelist: evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5), preacher (Romans 10:14) and minister (Acts 26:16; Romans 15:16; Colossians 1:23). Combined, these three English appellations plus, more importantly, the Greek words behind them, provide a fuller picture of this particular function in the church Jesus built.

The word "evangelist" is transliterated from the Greek euangelistes and means literally, "a messenger of good." Religiously, the evangelist is the messenger of the good news of the Gospel of Christ. That an evangelist is also a preacher is evident from the way the two words are used synonymously in 2 Timothy 4:2, 5 (i.e., Timothy was charged to do what a preacher does, namely preach, in verse 2 while Paul also instructed him to be an evangelist in verse 5).

The word "preacher" is translated from the Greek kerux and means "a herald or one who makes a proclamation." The word "preacher" from kerux appears in 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11. The related Greek word kerusso appears in Romans 10:14.

The word "minister" is translated from several Greek words. One of these is diakonos, which means "a servant, attendant, minister, deacon." The context in which it appears determines how it is being used and whether it refers to a minister of the Gospel, someone who ministers (serves) in some capacity or the office of a deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13). Some passages in which it refers to a minister of the Gospel include 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Timothy 4:6. Another Greek word for "minister" is leitourgos, which means "a public servant, minister." Some passages in which it is used for a minister of the Gospel include Romans 15:16. Still another Greek word for minister is huperetes which means "an under rower" and appears in Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 4:1.

Vine notes some distinction between these words for minister as follows: "Speaking broadly, diakonos views a servant in relation to his work; ... huperetes, in relation to his superior; leitourgos, in relation to public service." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

We have briefly viewed English nouns associated with the concept of the one we might refer to either as an evangelist, preacher or minister. Though each word has a slightly different connotation, each also pertains in the New Testament to dissemination of God's Word to humanity. In addition to the definition of these words, how they are used in the New Testament context also indicates what the office of responsibility of an evangelist, preacher or minister includes.

As to whether an evangelist (or preacher or minister) is a leader in the church depends largely on what one means by leader. The English dictionary definition of "leader" includes 'a person who leads, as a guide or a conductor or a person who exercises authority or influence.' The public nature of the work of an evangelist (or preacher or minister) anticipates that he will guide others, perhaps conducting them through this life to the eternal and joyful shores of heaven. An evangelist or preacher or minister speaks with authority, not his own but divine authority that resonates from the pages of inspiration. He also ought to be expected to have a predictable influence over those he addresses regularly, particularly in the church.

However, if by a leader one imagines something like evangelistic oversight, having authority on par with or above elders, then the answer would be different. Elders are the ones who must meet stringent divine qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) rather than evangelists. Further, elders (plural) rather than an elder or an evangelist are charged with the responsibility for a congregation's well being. It is the eldership that is burdened with overseeing a congregation (Acts 20:28) and ruling it and for which members of the congregation they must account to God (Hebrews 13:17).

Through his mission as a bearer of God's Word and the subsequent edification that follows, the evangelist can be largely responsible for guiding a congregation indirectly. In addition, he will not only teach the men and their families who will one day serve as elders and the wives of elders, but in conjunction with the divine qualifications elders must meet, in his public opportunities help a congregation to officiate the congregational selection of elders (Titus 1:5). If Titus 1:5 were thought to somehow elevate evangelists above elders and the rest of the church, it would be a singular doctrine dependent on that one passage alone, and largely out of step with the ministry of the evangelist, preacher or minister, both by definition and description of his duties from the New Testament context.

typewriter typewriter Forgive the Impenitent?

By Louis Rushmore

Thanks for taking the time to read this. We were discussing in class the other day about forgiveness and the teacher said that we should forgive a person even if he hasn't asked for it. I had a hard time with that and wonder if you could help me understand that. I read that God forgives only on condition that we repent. If that being so, does God want me to forgive without repentance? I know that as Christians we not only should but must be in the spirit of forgiveness whenever it presents itself. That I believe, but the other I can't get resolved. Can you help? Thanks Al Lawson

Your understanding of the relationship of forgiveness to repentance accurately represents what the New Testament reveals. We cannot be more forgiving than is God, and we cannot forgive others on a basis other than what God is willing to extend forgiveness. Yet, we must maintain the attitude of a willingness to forgive those who repent.

The Apostle Peter thought he was being more than generous to those who might sin against him when he suggested perhaps forgiving one on seven occasions. However, Jesus indicated that there is no limit to how many times we ought to forgive those who sin against us. Essentially, then, we are supposed to always possess the spirit of forgiveness.

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22).

However, Jesus as clearly taught that the condition on which we can actually forgive someone who has sinned against us is his or her repentance. To do otherwise is not in harmony with the concept of forgiveness and is a standard foreign to the Gospel of Christ under which we live and by which we will be held accountable at the last, great day in Judgment.

"Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).

Image Image What About an
Elder's Adult Children?

By Louis Rushmore

Hello bro. Rushmore; I'm having to restudy the subject of elders who have children who have left home and live elsewhere and are now unfaithful to the Lord. The elder and his family have conducted themselves properly. Thanks, Dave Dugan, Gospel Preacher, Lawton, Ok.

Scripture records the qualifications necessary for men to possess before they can be considered for appointment as elders in any congregation (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The latter has this to say about an elder's children. "... having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6). Yet, the context in which those children, among the qualifications of elders, is addressed is revealed in the former passage.

"One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

It is obvious from these Scriptures that in order for men to qualify for selection as elders (as far as biblical references to their children), they must have kept their families under control, having Christian children who, incidentally, acted like Christians ought to conduct themselves. Those comprising his family were obedient Christians, demonstrating their Christianity generally and with respect to the home over which their father was head.

The question before us presently is whether an elder's adult children who no longer live in his home must continue to be faithful Christians in order for an elder to remain an elder. The Scriptures say nothing that directly touches on this question. Mothers and fathers have much less control over their grown children. One's adult children have freewill and may opt to do as they please, irrespective of their upbringing. It is often the case that children will adhere to the training of their earlier years (Proverbs 22:6), or if they depart from it, they will eventually return. However, whatever courses our adult children pursue are ultimately their responsibility and doing.

The only passage of which I am aware that involves challenging an elder pertains to accusations regarding sins in his life.

"Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1 Timothy 5:19-20).

As far as Scripture is concerned, that one or more of an elder's adult children become unfaithful does not necessarily disqualify him from being an elder. Sin in the life of an elder is a different matter. However, especially if all of an elder's children became unfaithful, one might suspect that something was amiss while the children were yet in the home under the elder's control and responsibility. Under these circumstances, then, either an elder or the congregation that he serves might deem it best that he no longer serve as an elder.

The question before us is not specifically addressed in Scripture. Any decisions resulting from such a scenario, by an elder or the congregation he serves, then, would be a matter of human judgment.

Copyright 2002 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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