Monday, October 31, 2016


(Presentation given at Abundant Life Christian Church, Mountain View, CA – Oct. 2016)

My speaking assignment for this morning is to relate my personal method of Bible study. Before decribing this to you, I would like to establish several Biblical principles that have influenced my approach.

Have you ever heard of the doctrine “Sola Scriptura”? This is a Latin phrase that is literally translated, “scripture alone” or “only scripture.” This doctrine holds that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and that the Bible is the sole reliable repository of revelation about God Himself and the means of our salvation. I personally believe in this doctrine because it accurately reflects the Bible’s own attitude toward itself.

One small example of this can be found in Psalm 19:7, which says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” “Perfect” is a translation of a common Hebrew word meaning “whole” or “complete,” so this verse is telling us that the God's Word is sufficient, the only source needed, for our souls.

With the principle of Sola Scriptura established, I would also like to provide you with a very short mental picture of what a Christian’s relationship with God looks like on this side of the cross, and how the Bible fits into that relationship.

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God every day in the Garden of Eden. After their rebellion (sin) against the Lord, mankind no longer had that privilege until Christ’s effective payment for sin on the cross. Now, those who place their faith in Him are clothed in His righteousness and have been restored to that same status of close fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed. Our world has not been redeemed yet, so we cannot see the presence of the Lord physically, but the intimate fellowship is the same. Prayer is the way we speak with God - - and the Word, the Bible, is God speaking to us.

The Lord tells us that scripture is “breathed out” - inspired - by Himself, so it really, literally is God speaking to us. Not to undermine the importance of prayer, which the Lord clearly desires, but in our daily conversations with Him, which voice, ours or His, is the most important one for us to attend?

On a side note, we should never forget how enormously blessed we are to have Bibles so readily available to us. This was not possible for the average person for many millennia. For example, if this were 1560 and we wanted to read His words for ourselves in our own language, we would likely have to travel miles to our local church to read a copy of the Bible that was literally chained to the pulpit! So again, since His “conversation” with us is so readily available, why wouldn’t we ardently desire to hear His voice directly from from the words He inspired?

Another truth I fervently believe, is that the Holy Spirit alone is sufficient to give us all understanding as we read the Bible. I base this belief on many verses, but several main ones (1 Cor. 2 and the apostle John) are below.
Because of this promise, for most of my Christian life I have avoided commentators, Christian books, footnotes, etc., and just rely on the Holy Spirit for understanding. The Spirit was specifically given to us as our Helper and will certainly fulfill Jesus' promise in John 14. (See below.)

It is my opinion, based on the scriptures describing the nature of man, that once you introduce a fallen human mind as your interpreter, even the mind of a redeemed person, you will get a certain amount of dross mixed into the pure gold of the Word. I say this because, though a Christian’s born-again spirit is aligned with the heart of God, their mind is still an organ in a fallen body. The mind is still undergoing a process of sanctification until it is perfected when meeting Christ on the other side of physical death. 

For these reasons, when I do my Bible study, I generally use only the Word and the Holy Spirit as my resources. In many ways, the Bible is its own interpreter. Within itself, many verses will shed light on the meaning of other verses found somewhere else in the scripture. This is where I’ve found the Spirit to be most obviously helpful as He brings these verses to mind and uses them to illuminate His words.

So here’s my process:

1. Before I begin reading the Word, I pray several specific things:
a) I thank the Lord for speaking to me and for protecting His message all these centuries. I do this to worship His goodness and power.
b) Next, I confess that I know that my mind is weak and dark, and that I realize I won’t have any genuine understanding of spiritual matters apart from what the He reveals to me.
c) Finally, I ask Him to help me understand and to impress it on my heart.

2. After praying, I read the passages.

Throughout the process of reading the Bible, I accept what God has said to me for that day, and I am content. Occasionally, it might seem as though He didn’t teach me anything (such as after reading a long list of “begats”), but I’m mindful that I’m not even a good judge of that.

If He reveals nothing new, fine. I thank Him for the good time together. If He convicts me, I confess and ask forgiveness right then. If He amazes me with some insight, I thank Him.

If I have unanswered questions, I put a little question mark in the margin in pencil. Over the years, one of the great pleasures of my life has been erasing these marks, but it’s almost just as exciting to find myself adding new ones because it means He’s leading me deeper. I also underline verses I want to remember in pencil.

And that’s how I study the Bible. Pray, then read.

Nevertheless, there are a few other things I do with my Bible that you might enjoy too.

1. I keep a scripture journal of verses that I particularly want to remember, and store an old volume or two in my car to read when I have to wait around for the children’s soccer practice to end, wait at the doctor’s office, etc.

2. Over the years, I’ve found that it is very helpful to insert my own name and circumstances into various verses to give them greater impact on my life.
Following are a couple of examples of this method that I teach in my marriage classes where I substitute my husband’s name and my own to personalize a verse.

Eph. 4:31-5:2 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Eph. 4:31-5:2 (personalized)
Carolyn, get rid of all your bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of resentment you might hold, particularly against Steve. The Lord wants you to be kind and tenderhearted to him, forgiving Steve for any and everything, just as the Lord forgave you.

Hebrews 12:15  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrews 12:15  I must see to it that I don’t miss the grace of God by allowing any bitterness to grow within me toward Steve, and thereby causing trouble between us and defiling our whole family.

3. In selecting a Bible version to read, I try to avoid red letter editions. I do this because the red letters highlighting only Jesus' words have a subtle way of undermining the fact that all scripture is spoken by God, whether spoken through the Son and the Holy Spirit – so no part is less of God than another.

4. Finally – and this is taking years - something else I am doing now is copying the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) by hand. This was suggested to me by Deuteronomy 17:18, where it says, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, your king is to write for himself a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.”

I’m praying that all who read this will go forward walking with their Lord daily, and that they will truly enjoy, grow, and be blessed by listening to Him.

Supporting scripture

Psalm 19:7  The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.”

2 Timothy 3:16  “All scripture is inspired by God.”

Psalm 119:89  “Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven.”

2 Peter 1:20-21  “Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God"

1 Corinthians 2:6-16  However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 
1 John 2:27  As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

John 14:25-26  “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Ephesians 4:22-24You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Sunday, May 17, 2015


(Transcribed teaching presentation given at Abundant Life Christian Church, Mt. View, California, May 2015)

Some months ago, I was asked to speak on the fruit of self-control, so naturally, I’ve spent those months pondering, praying and generally cramming for the test. As always, I truly want to bring you words from the Lord that are both practical and encouraging; yet, as usual, I feel terribly inadequate for the task. Nonetheless, I’m enthusiastic about tackling the subject because over the years, I’ve observed how terribly important self-control is to a happy, successful, and God-honoring life.

As we explore the fruit of self-control this morning, please understand that I am not above anyone in this matter. I just want to be with you on the journey toward understanding the importance of self-control and how we can get more of it.

Since the time allotted for speaking is quite limited, I also had to decide on whether to focus on the personal issues of self-control or, since this is a mothers’ group, how to train it into your children. I decided to go with the former because a mother’s behavior is such a major influence on her child’s life. Like it or not moms, your conduct is the first building block in the developing character of your children.

It has always been apparent to me that self-control is the most undervalued and least sought of the spiritual fruits. I believe this is true because we all like to be thought of as that “gentle, or patient, or kind woman” - - but as that very “self-controlled” woman? Not so much. This is probably because self-control is perceived as being “inhibited” and projects a certain “uptight” image. But we would be terribly wrong not to view self-control as the most necessary, if not the very most important of the spiritual fruits.

Simply stated, self-control is the ability to control the expression of your emotions or desires, particularly in trying or tempting situations. Yet spiritually, we will find there is another dimension to self-control that involves dying to your self. This means accepting that “you have been bought with a price,” and that you are not your own. In other words, “you must die to your own will.” This is the Biblical the definition of the fruit of self-control.
As a Christian woman, you are a bondservant to the Lord God Most High, and His interests are to be your foremost interests. When a woman is living a life that’s submitted to Christ and dead to herself, other people will most likely view her as a self-controlled woman. Yet, I think you understand that “self-control” is a bit of a misnomer, because to be a self-controlled woman, you can’t really be the one in control. The Holy Spirit of God has to be the One at the wheel.
Over these past two years at Mom’s Timeout, our scripture themes have taught us this point. Spiritual growth and spiritual fruit come only from being connected to the True Vine. It’s a fact that we need the Holy Spirit to be spiritually alive, so He might well be compared to the coursing of blood that sustains the body or the sap that flows through a living tree.

It is the Holy Spirit that enables our connection with God, and it’s in this connection that the fruit of self-control is most needful. To have an intimate connectedness with the Lord requires that we submit our tongues, our hands, our whole body to His will.

I might also note that, without self-control, a person will be adding to the trouble that Jesus said would naturally come our way because we live on Earth, the Fallen Planet. To illustrate this point, I would refer to one of our recent speakers who stated that the fruit of gentleness is expressed when we say we’re “sorry for verbally lashing out at our family.”

Now, mind you, an angry outburst is very hurtful to the recipients and not at all constructive in creating a happy home, so these events truly contribute to the trouble in our life. Saying you are sorry is completely appropriate after doing something so offensive - - but don’t think the Holy Spirit is going to drop it there. Instead, He tells us that we express true gentleness by controlling our tongues in the first place, and not lashing out at all.

You see, that’s the thing about the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t accept emotional ugliness or a lack of control as acceptable or normal. He agrees with the conscience that He has placed in us - - and calling anger a sin, the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self control will try mightily to head it off so that the fruits of love and peace can remain.

It is because of this sort of inter-play with the other spiritual fruits that I prefer to think of self-control as less like a fruit and more like the sturdy little stem that bears the weight of the other fruits, holding them fast onto the True Vine. Plainly said, when we don’t control ourselves, there will be precious little joy, limited, if any goodness, certainly no patience, rarely gentleness, and woe little peace. None of these delicate fruits can thrive when the Self is allowed free-reign. Self is like a spoiling worm inside the fruit.

Now, as some of you know, my son, Zane, is a marriage and family counselor in Mt. View. And even though I personally take psychology with a large grain of salt, I like his therapeutic perspective because it is based upon personal responsibility, which we both view as Biblical. Because of my son’s background in psychology, I decided to investigate the field’s current recommendations for increasing self-control, and I have to say, my findings really gave me a chuckle.

After decades of research, study, and who knows how much money, psychology is pretty much echoing Biblical principles right down the line. And that’s just as we would expect, right? Since the Lord made us, He, above all, will know what is right for us.

To illustrate my point, I’d like to briefly share the tools of self-control currently being advocated by modern psychology and compare them to the Word of God.

The first tool: Distraction

The Bible recommends focusing our attention away from temptation; that is, mental distraction through moving our thoughts onto other things. There is a certain reformation of our thinking patterns involved in this process. Phil. 4:8  says “whatever is kindly spoken, whatever is lofty, and whatever is praiseworthy – put your mind on these.”

Psychology makes a parallel suggestion to mentally distract yourself, but it suggests busy work (clean a drawer, etc.) or brain games. Do anything to not think about the “bad” thing your flesh wants to do.

Concerning “distraction,” I find it quite telling that only the Bible deals with the root cause for the lack of self control. The Word recognizes that this lack is a product of a sinful thought life, while psychology settles for a temporary distraction that is not unlike a Cesar Milan side kick to a straying dog.

Second tool: Avoidance:

There are many recommendations and examples of wise avoidance in the Bible.  Here are just two: 1) Exodus 23:7 warns to “Keep thee far from a false matter;” and 2) Joseph’s notable flight from Potipher’s wife when she tries to seduce him.

The world of psychology also recommends avoidance through keeping temptations out of sight, and therefore, out of mind, e.g., if sugar is your downfall, keep sweets out of the house, etc. Just try not to see or be in the presence of a temptation. 

Clearly pure Bible.

The third tool: Make a Plan

God tells us to plan for contingencies in all areas of life. For example, Luke 14:28: “If one of you should desire to build a tower (or go on a diet, or not spend too much money, or refrain from speaking that snarky remark), then will you not first sit down and count the cost to do it?”  The point is to plan ahead for the outcomes you desire, which in keeping our topic, would be the ability to maintain self-control.

Following God’s lead once again, psychology also encourages us to plan ahead with an if/then plan. For example, if someone (perhaps a family member) does something to irritate you, you will plan to count to 10 before you speak back, take a walk, etc.

Making a plan is basically planning how you are going to implement the tactics of distraction and avoidance.

The final tool: Support Group:

I’ll bet you have never considered that the Lord invented the concept of a support group. His Word advises us to not neglect meeting with other like-minded Believers who share our values and will encourage us. This not only offers occasions to strengthen our faith, but also offers a place for personal accountability.

Naturally, psychology has also come to recognize the value of groups in gaining and maintaining self-control. Groups such as Weight Watchers and AA thrive because changes are most powerful when you have others for support.

Interestingly, the world of psychology also considers self-control to be like a mental “muscle” that can be developed through exercises in self-denial. Yet, the Bible emphasizes a divine dimension to the process when it introduces the concept of spiritual fruit. So, we find there are actually two sources of self-control.

The self-control of psychology is a skill that anyone can develop because it’s an exercise in the management of the flesh, including the brain. The military has developed an excellent program for this sort of thing called “basic training.” This is the kind of self-discipline mothers are trying to train into their children. It is rather mechanical in it’s nature.

We moms try to teach this basic self-control through direction of our children’s situations and choices, through our personal mentoring, and perhaps most particularly, through our measures of discipline. This kind of control can be learned by any motivated person at almost age.

In contrast, spiritual self-control, the kind that involves the inner woman, is available only to Christians because it is based on the teaching and promptings of the Holy Spirit.

When you are born again, you’ve miraculously been give a new heart that is in agreement with God, but you are also given the Holy Spirit dwelling within your heart to guide and prompt you. So, back to our earlier plant analogy, just as a tree grows and produces fruit as it obeys the urging of the sap, so you grow and you produce fruit by responding to the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

Picture those promptings sent by the Holy Spirit as little buds on the tree of your life. They give you hope of some delicious fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness and self-control. The Lord sends these fruits for you and others to savor; but just like the spiritual gifts, the spiritual fruits are intended primarily to glorify of God.

It is to this end that all of the spiritual fruits are given and powered by the Holy Spirit because, as the song says, “Jesus did it all.” The truth is, we can’t do the things that he has called us to do unless we actively and consciously listen to the Spirit and move as He leads us.
Nonetheless, the Word tells us we can grieve the Spirit by our actions and attitudes. The Bible refers to this as quenching the Spirit,” which just means causing Him to go quiet because He has been saddened over our conduct.
Any lack of self control resulting in sin grieves the Holy Spirit; and therefore, it impedes our connection with God because sin by its nature is “self” serving, not God-serving. When the Holy Spirt gets quiet in us, that’s when our fruit begins to develop blight. Even the stem – our self-control - begins to wither, and our fruit falls away from us, becoming like the fallen grumpy fruit we might find under a tree. So when we consider the issue of gaining and maintaining more self-control, the question really is about gaining and maintaining an intimacy and responsiveness to the Spirit of God.
The good news is that there are several ways to ensure a bumper crop of spiritual fruit, particularly, the fruit of self-control.

The first means is to grow your love for the Lord. I Cor. 14 tells us to “make love your great quest.” Specifically, these words mean you should make love for the Lord your greatest quest. You can do this only through reading the thoughts of His heart in the Bible.

When you read your Bible, you are standing face-to-face with the Lord, just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. You will hear His voice in the text, you will be able to know that He is beautiful - - most desirable - - and you will want to love Him.

As you spend time listening to God speaking to you through His Word, it will strengthen your understanding of the grace the Lord has shown to us at such an immense cost. Our resolve to act and speak righteously through the control of our flesh is strengthened by this understanding of Him. And when you grow in your knowledge of God and your understanding of His grace, you will find that the spiritual fruit of self-control will also begin to wisely govern the freedom you have in Christ because we are not under a law of works.

This is what the apostle Paul described when he wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything,” (I Cor. 6:12). That’s the Holy Spirit at work through the fruit of self-control in Paul’s life. The Spirit informs him about what is good or bad and prevents him from being taken captive by any created thing. That’s how He works in our lives, too. When we know the Lord’s mind, we’re just better able sift what is really important to the Him in all the circumstances of our life and to act on that information.

The second thing you can do to gain greater self-control, is to ask God for a favor.
Since self-control relies upon trusting God instead of ourselves, requesting more faith is the perfect solution. Seriously, ask the Lord for more faith. You can’t get more any Holy Spirit. He’s a person, not a loaf of bread wherein you can get more slices. You either have Him or you don’t. But faith is a gift, a thing. It pleases our Lord when you ask for more faith because He is a generous God Who loves to give good gifts.
I would also add here that in the same way our obedience to the commands of the Lord is our true worship, manifesting the fruits He sends through His Holy Spirit are also a very real part of our worship offering. He likes the songs okay, but this is the worship He most desires from us.

We are ambassadors for the True God, and therefore, we are to be a people of grace, positively laden with spiritual fruit to give to others. So be fruitful and entirely generous with your fruit. Shower it on everyone you meet!

With all that said, I want to close with one parting observation on our spiritual fruit, particularly self-control, because the world has its “fruits” too.

The fruits of God are sweet and taste like life. This is because they spring from the Author of Life, our Savior, Jesus. The fruits of the World – i.e., malice, greed, jealousy, pride, and so forth – are the fruits of death. They carry the bitter taste of death in them, so it’s quite easy to distinguish between the two. Most anyone will be able to tell if you have godly fruit or worldly fruit, but this morning I’m going to ask you to take a hard look at your own fruit in the secret parts of your own heart.

We’re not supposed to judge other people, but the Bible encourages us to “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith.” This is an open directive to be a "fruit inspector" your own life. As long as you live on earth, you’re not going find perfection in yourself; but if you are not producing some fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life and experiencing an increasing growth in holiness, it’s a strong indicator that you may not actually be born again.

If, as you examine yourself, you don’t like what you find, run to the Lord, seek Him in repentance, and seek after Him in His Word. If you want Him, I promise that He wants you! If you draw close to Him, He will draw close to you.

Let’s pause for a minute because I’d like to pray for us about this.

Prayer closing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

WOMEN IN THE PULPIT? What does the Bible really say?

My husband, Steve, wrote the following letter to the elders of the church we were attending in the 1990’s. (We both signed, but the letter is primarily his scholarship.) It is a thorough examination of the recent trend to permit women to preach to the general congregation as announced in a letter to our church body.
While a bit longer than my usual posts, I promise it is well worth the read -

RE:  Women's Role in the Church

Dear Elders:

Grace and peace to you.
In the 2000 years since Christ’s appearance among us, the past 20 years have seen the most profound changes in the role of women, both inside and outside the church.  The world's attitude is clearly reflected by the bumper sticker that states, "The best man for the job is a woman." In Scripture, we find that men and women have perfect equality in Christ as heirs to the promise of salvation (Galatians 3:26-29). However, we also learn that men and women are different and have distinct, God-given functions in the church and home.

The pressures of the current worldview on gender roles have forced us all to examine our beliefs to assure that we are not clinging to an inaccurate theology.  The content of the September 1993 letter from the elders, the roles assigned to women at church, as well as our general observations, have caused us to re-examine Scripture to discern God's will in this difficult area.

First, we will present our understanding of Scripture on this matter, and then suggest how this might apply to our particular church body. Within this context, we will first address the elder's letter. We generally concur with the portion addressing women in marriage, but feel we must comment on the final paragraph which addresses women in church.

We offer these comments as ones who love Christ's church, as you do, and want to see its members strengthened and blessed.

From our personal experience and through the revelation of the Word, we know that women and men may have pastoral and teaching gifts. Gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit without regard for gender (I Corinthians 12:4-6), and we are all compelled to use our gifts to build up the body (I Corinthians 12:7).

Pray and Prophesy
I Corinthians 11:4-5 tells us that both men and women pray and prophesy.  This observation is part of a larger discourse (I Corinthians 11:2-16) on headship. We are told that the head of Christ is God (v.3), the head of man is Christ (v.2), and further, the head of a woman is her husband (v.2). The text further advises that there are proper ways for a woman to pray and prophesy to recognize the headship of her husband (v. 5-15).

The prophesying referred to in I Corinthians 11:5 is for edifying, up-building, encouragement, and consolation (I Corinthians 14:3,4). Our church’s founding pastor, Ray Stedman, stated that prophesying is "basically preaching," ("Should a Woman Teach in Church", Nov. 21, 1976).  If I Corinthians 11:5 is interpreted to include prophesying in church pursuant to I Corinthians 14:4, it would follow that women can teach and preach in church.

"A Word from the Elders . . ." states, "Women should not be restricted from teaching men if they submit to evaluation by the elders.  We do well to note the practice of the New Testament church being led in worship (prayer and prophesy) by women (I Corinthians 11:5)."

From this excerpt, it appears your position is that women may lead the church worship and teach and edify men in spiritual matters.  It follows that it would be acceptable to do so from the pulpit in a preaching capacity, or in any other setting, if it is done under the authority of the elders.  Our understanding of your stance seems verified by the fact that our church now has a female pastor and several female ministers, and that they have previously taught from the pulpit during our Sunday night service.

To adopt this position, we must accept that (1) the Corinthian prophetess is an example of a later day female pastor or teacher, (2) prophesying is teaching, and (3) Scripture declaring that women should not teach men should for some reason be disregarded.

Is prophesying equivalent to teaching or preaching?  Prophesying is defined in I Corinthians 14:3, "But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort."  This is true because the hearers are receiving a message from God. A. A. MacRae, in his discussion of prophesy (Zonderan Encyclopedia of the Bible), states the following:

            "No human individual or organization could enable a man to become a true
            prophet.  The NT speaks of prophets as one of God's gifts to His Church,
            along with evangelists and pastors (Ephesians 4:11). A church can ordain and
            install an evangelist or a pastor, but no one becomes a prophet in the full
            meaning of the word unless God chooses to give him a message with orders
            to pass it on."

Dan Thompson, a teacher at Valley Church, has observed, "that almost anyone could have the gift of tongues or prophesy and exercise those gifts with (it seems) little maturity.  But teaching (guiding the flock of God) demands rigorous examination (I Timothy 3:1ff; Titus 1:6ff)." Also, prophecy and teaching are mentioned as separate gifts in the same lists (I Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:6-7).”

It seems that the case for women leading and teaching men is being built on a single verse in a discourse about headship and veiling and NT references to prophetesses.  This appears to disregard that teaching and prophesying are different gifts bestowed for different purposes, and that there may very well be no post-NT prophesying in the sense of new revelation from God. In addition, as discussed below, to accept the premise of women teaching men, we must disregard admonitions to the contrary.  The case being put forth is weak and is not consistent with the overall fabric of Scripture concerning woman's submissive role.  The only examples of actual NT prophetic utterance from women are those of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42-45) and Mary (Luke 1:46-55), occurring between themselves in an intimate home setting, and Anna, a prophetess, responding to Simeon's specific prophesy in the outer court of the temple, thanking God and speaking to all about the child.

Silence in Church
There are two key references that command women to be silent in church.  In
I Corinthians, Paul addresses speaking out in church, and in I Timothy, he deals with teaching.
At the end of the discussion in I Corinthians 14 concerning rules for men prophesying and speaking in tongues, Paul states three times that women are not to speak in church.  "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches.  For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says," (v. 33, 34).  He also states that "it is shameful for a woman to speak in church," (v.35).  Paul interjects that if there is anything that a woman wants to know, she should ask her husband at home (v.35).

The point of interpretation is whether Paul is solely addressing orderly behavior, particularly the asking of questions in a gathering, or whether the directive for silence has wider application.  Given the content and nature of the problems in the Corinthian church, it is probable that these passages address orderliness as well as a submissive attitude.

The clearest view of these issues is offered in I Timothy 2:9-15, which, unlike the previous references, addresses the position and behavior of women directly, and not as part of a discussion of other topics.  Paul states, "Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.  I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent," (v. 12, 13).

Theologians have and undoubtedly will continue to argue whether this is a cultural admonition or whether it was meant for all ages.  There are two factors that persuade us that the latter view should prevail.

This admonition is not likely the result of disorderliness, as may have been the case in the church at Corinth, because the problem in the Ephesian church was unsound doctrine (I Tim. 1:3-11), not disorder.

Secondly, Paul follows this apparent restriction with an explanation of why women are not to teach or have authority over men.  "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor," (I Timothy 2:13, 14).  The order of creation demonstrates man's priority.  Eve was created to be his helper (Genesis 2:18-25) and his glory (I Corinthians 11:7-9).  It was Eve that was deceived by Satan and who usurped the role of leadership as she chose to accept the forbidden fruit and lead her husband to join her. Adam, of course, yielded that leadership and thus, sinned knowingly.  He was not deceived; that is why it is called Adam's sin.  This shows us the weaknesses of men and women and the results of reversing the divinely established order.  These are eternal, not temporal, explanations of why women are not to teach or have authority.

The Roles of Women in the New Testament Church

If women are not to teach or have authority over men, why did God give them the gifts of teaching, discernment, and so forth?  How are these gifts to be used to the benefit of the body and the glory of God? Scripture provides us with many examples from which we can draw a practical paradigm for our church.

A prominent example is that of Priscilla, who with her husband, Aquilla, "took him [Apollos] and expounded to him the way of God more accurately," (Acts 18:26).  We know from Acts that Pricilla and Aquilla were involved in Paul's ministry, and that they must have been spiritually learned to have taught Apollos, who is described as "an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures," (Acts 18:24).  We learn from this incident that the teaching was private, "they took him in" (presumably not before the gathering), and that the teaching was done by both Pricilla and Aquilla, with Priscilla presumably under the authority of her husband, who was present.

In the only passage that directs women to teach, the subject matter of the teaching and the people to be taught are restricted.  We are told that the older (presumably more spiritually mature) women "are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God my not be discredited," (Titus 2:3-5).

The Bible contains several references to women who served in Paul's ministry and the church.  Women also served in the role of deaconess (a "helps" office described in Romans16:1), and served the church in temporal matters.


Based upon 1) the Scriptural admonition against women teaching or having authority over men, 2) the absence of examples where women exercised such roles in the New Testament church, 3) scriptural directives that limit what women should teach and who they should teach, and 4) the godly order of command set forth in Genesis, I Corinthians 11, and so forth, we must conclude that it is not God's intent that women have authority over men and that some teaching roles are not appropriate for women.

How should this apply to our church?  We believe that women should not be given titles and positions of authority in spiritual matters over men.  We also believe that the Word does not sanction women to teach from our pulpit.

Should women teach mixed Sunday school classes, or host and lead prayer in worship services?  We feel these areas are very questionable in light of I Timothy 2:11-12 and Titus 2:3-5.  However, if you feel that women do have liberty in this area, please consider the reasons cited below why it may be prudent to limit the role of women in these activities.

We have observed that there are many women at our church who consider submission to be the ugly "S" word.  We have heard the young women assert that if a woman can be a CEO of a company, she should be able to be an elder.  We have heard the girls in the high school class boo-and-hiss when the term "leadership" was associated with males (and we did not hear the teacher correct their thinking).  We have heard a recent women's meeting opened with five anti-male "one liners".  We have heard the speaker from last year's women's retreat admit that her husband did not want her there, but she came regardless of his wishes.  There is clearly a widespread lack of understanding of the godly role for women and the true meaning of submission to the heart of God.

In this environment, it becomes even more important to teach men and women about 1) their unique and complementary roles and to provide a true understanding of being subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21); 2) submission; and 3) all the other attributes described under Christian marriage in the elder's letter (Sept. '93).  It is equally important that these principles be modeled within the church, particularly as they pertain to teaching and authority.

Even if you hold that women may teach outside the pulpit, in the atmosphere of today’s church, you should consider this a "meat before idols" issue.  For the sake of the weaker brothers and sisters, we should emphasize God's order for men and women.  If a woman is allowed, for example, to teach in a mixed-gender adult Sunday school, her mate should be co-teaching with her.

Final Thoughts
As the church is called to submit to Christ, so a woman is to submit to her husband to display the relationship between Christ and His church to the world.  In this way, women model the submissive, obedient love the church is to express to her Lord.  The headship of the male is God-ordained in both the home and the church, and in turn, it models Christ's leadership of His bride.

Restricting godly and gifted women from particular teaching and leadership roles is not suppression, it is obeying God's order.  We should encourage the use of the gifts in appropriate settings and ministries. We should also be more aggressive in raising-up godly men who will be spiritual leaders at home and in church.

The absence of male leaders and teachers is a curse to our children as well as to the babes in Christ who need to see the model of God's order.  Should our young men be taught and led by women?  When men do not lead, women will fill the vacuum.  We do not want to become the object of Isaiah's lament, "My people ...women rule over them," (Isaiah 3:12).        

Because of these truths, we respectfully request that you:

(1) Revise the last two sentences of the September 1993 elder's letter to accurately reflect Scripture.

(2) Not permit women to teach from the pulpit.

(3) Not permit women to hold positions of authority over men in church.

(4) Identify specific activities in the church as they are appropriate to men and women.

(5) Seek to teach women the true meaning of submission in their roles within marriage and church, and model those in church.

(6) Seek to equip men to fulfill their God given duty to teach and lead.

Sincerely in the shared bonds of His love,
Steven & Carolyn