|Volume 18 Number 5 May 2016||
This fresh year lies before us. What will it hold for you? Frankly, you don’t know, and nor do I.
However, freedom of choice was granted to humanity at the beginning, and it continues. What choices will you make? Joshua’s challenge echoes down through the ages. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve!” He concluded with this declaration: “…as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah” (Joshua 24:15).
Today, I am issuing a challenge. Look not only at this year, but beyond. What do you envision for your after-death existence? Atheists smugly deny the existence of God. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1; cf., Romans 1:20). The Jewish sect of the Sadducees denied the resurrection (Acts 23:8). However, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our assurance of our future resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:14; John 5:28-29). There is life after death. Many today ignorantly imagine that being “good” is sufficient to secure them a heavenly home. However, there is a response to heaven’s gift that is required to enjoy its benefit (Hebrews 5:9).
The apostle Peter wrote to Christians concerning their future inheritance. By choosing to obey the Lord, a place is “reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). Some exclusive restaurants only admit those who have made reservations ahead of time. Heaven is similar. Only those who have a reservation will enter heaven. Heaven is a prepared place (John 14:2) for a prepared people.
Have you reserved your place in heaven? Read Matthew 22:1-14. Without proper preparation, we cannot enjoy the blessings God has in store for us. There will be no “tickets” available at heaven’s gate.
If we will look beyond this life it should influence how we choose to live now. We don’t know what time we have remaining on this side of eternity. What will you do with “the rest of your time” (1 Peter 4:2)?
In recent years, there has been a great push by some to enlarge and expand the role of women in the church. With this push, some are now asking whether women should be able to preach and to teach to a mixed group gathered for worship or even if it is acceptable for women to be appointed as “elders.” How are we to answer these kinds of questions? Certainly, there has been much ink spilled on this topic along with numerous debates. It is not my intention to engage every aspect of the debate, but to simply present some basic things to keep in mind regarding this issue.
First, it is important to recognize and state clearly that women are a vitally important part of the body of Christ. They should never be made to feel like second class citizens or unimportant to the work of the body.
Equality in Nature
Women are seen in God’s eyes as equal in nature. God created both Adam and Eve in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). Men and women are both fully and completely human; neither is more nor less so. We also see an interconnectedness and interdependence in Genesis because the man is not complete without the woman, nor is the woman complete without the man. That’s what Genesis 2 is all about. God himself said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (ESV). This is not the time or the place to discuss issues of celibacy, suffice it to say that the general and normative experience is for men and women to be married. So, men and women are equal in God’s eyes, having been created in His image.
Equality in Salvation
Even beyond the fact of equality in nature, men and women are also equal in God’s eyes when it comes to salvation. God through Paul made this abundantly clear. We are told that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There are no second class citizens in Jesus’ church; all are equal respecting salvation. Men are no more saved, sanctified or righteous than women are. We are equal when it comes to salvation in Christ, and that is wonderful news!
Different Roles to Play
Now since that’s true, some people want to ask, “Then why can’t women be preachers, teacher or elders?” Equality of nature and equality in salvation does not mean that everyone will have the same roles or functions. Consider for a moment the Godhead. We know that there is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. All three are fully God; all three are equal in nature, but they each have different roles. It was not the Father who took on flesh and died for humanity; that was the Son (John 1:1-18, 3:16). It is not the role of the Son to convict the world of sin and righteousness; that is the role of the Spirit (John 16:8). Three coequal, coeternal persons make up and share the one essence or nature that is God, but they have different roles.
Now consider the fact that although men and women are equal in nature and salvation, they have different roles. Think simply on the biological level for a moment; we know and understand that men do not bear children; women have that privilege. No amount of wishful thinking will ever change that. We simply have different roles by nature no matter what the world tells us.
The same is true when we get to the roles in the church. All are equal partakers of salvation through Christ, but we are given different roles. God has commanded that men are to lead; they are to be the preachers. Someone may ask, “Can women teach as well?” Of course, older women are given the role of teaching younger women (Titus 2:2-5), but they are not given the role of teaching or having authority over men (1 Timothy 2:8, 11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35). There is nothing improper or sexist about this. Remember that God, in his wisdom, gave the church a pattern to follow when it comes to roles in the church.
God Has Given Each Christian a Role
Every Christian, man or woman, has the God-given responsibility to encourage and to build up the church. Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 12 is that we are all part of the one body, though we have different gifts and different roles in that body (1 Corinthians 12:4–31). Every member of Christ’s body has an important role to play, but let us not think we know better than God. Let us be satisfied with what God has laid out respecting the roles of men and women in the church (and in the home).
Women are special and important to God, including in the church, no question. Women should be encouraged to use their gifts for God’s glory, and all of us should desire to honor God and serve each other within the bounds of the roles He has designed. Rejoice in the role that God has given you!