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Discipleship and a Christian Worldview

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Andy Stanley meme

“Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible—that is just cheating. It’s cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn’t how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modelled that. There’s not one example of that.” Andy Stanley, Christianity Today, Interview by Ed Stetzer, March 5, 2009

First of all, Stanley is dead wrong. Check out this next slide.

Nehemiah 8:3 While [Ezra] was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of [the law] from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.

7 Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah, who were Levites, explained the law to the people as they stood in their places. 8 They read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.

There is nothing easy about verse-by-verse preaching. It’s hard because it requires the preacher and the congregation to deal with everything God has to say to His people, the parts they don’t like, as well as the parts they do.

Let me tell you now that today brings us to one of those passages that no preacher would willingly choose because he knows that no matter how eloquent he may be, a significant portion of his hearers won’t like it. Don’t forget, chapter 15 is coming up soon, and there we get to focus on the glorious good news of the resurrection. It isn’t difficult to preach the gospel as good news in chapter 15.

But to get to chapter 15 you have to go through chapter 14. That’s hard enough because people are often polarized over the subject of tongues. But what makes this chapter even more difficult are Paul’s remarks at the end on the role of women in corporate worship, remarks that are remarkably difficult to understand, let alone believe, in these days of radical feminism.

Text

I Cor. 14:33 As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, they should ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church meeting. 36 Did the word of God originate from you, or did it come to you only?

37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, he will be ignored. 39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other languages. 40 But everything must be done decently and in order.

Point 1 The challenge of a Biblical Worldview

VS. 33b “As in all the churches” What Paul says in this passage was not easily accepted—even in his day. But He is anxious to make the point that what he’s saying applies to all the churches, whoever planted them. This is not Paul’s personal prejudice speaking. What he says is reality-based because he is expressing God’s view of humanity. This epistle is the Word of God! What it says, God says. Moreover, what he says about women and men applies to all churches everywhere and throughout time because God’s Word is eternal and universal.

Throughout this chapter Paul has been dealing with the particular problem of God-honouring worship from the perspective of a Biblical (Godly) worldview. But do you know what a worldview is? A worldview is the framework from which we view reality and make sense of life and the world. A Christian worldview is a biblical worldview because it is based on the infallible Word of God. It ought to be the goal of every Christian to diligently study God’s Word, specifically for the purpose of applying God’s truth to every aspect of life.

A Biblical worldview is above culture because the Bible is above culture. “All the churches” already included Jewish churches (converted synagogues), Syrian churches, Armenian churches, Phrygian, Bithynian, Lydian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Gallic, Berber, Egyptian, Ethiopian, etc. Many cultures were involved, each with its distinctive dress, distinctive marriage and family customs, distinctive music, and so on. But one worldview prevailed in all the churches, which means certain things were done in all the churches and certain other things were forbidden—in all the churches. So to repeat, a Biblical worldview must be maintained above cultural preferences or practices.

Worldview and the gospel

Brothers and sisters, the demands of a Biblical worldview force us to answer the question, “Why am I a Christian?” Here’s the right answer, given by Christian Apologist J. Warner Wallace, and may God grant that it be your answer. “I am a Christian because Christianity is true”—true in the sense that gravity is true, or true in the sense that the periodic table of the elements truly describes the fundamental materials that make up our physical universe. In the same way a Biblical worldview truly describes human reality; it tells us what the world is, what man is, Who God is, and how obedience to His commands is the only pathway to a truly blessed life.

Now, to continue with J. Warner Wallace, and may God grant that what follows could just as easily be your words: “I didn’t become a believer to solve a problem, to make a better life, or guarantee a place in heaven. I’m not a Christian because it ‘works’ for me. I still struggle to submit my prideful will to what God calls me to do. Christianity is not easy. There are times when I think it would be easier to do it the old way; easier to cut a corner or take a short cut. There are many times when doing the right thing means doing the most difficult thing possible. Nevertheless, I became a Christian because I became convinced that the Bible is true, and for that reason I eventually knew I had to make a decision about Jesus, I had to receive him as Lord and Saviour.”

Here’s the big advantage of a Biblical worldview: When we live according to the Word of God we understand life as God meant it to be understood; thus in every aspect of life we know what to do, and we know how to succeed in the eyes of the only Judge Who really matters. That’s why back in chapter 2 of I Corinthians, Paul could say: “14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit (Biblical truth), because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For . … we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:14-16).

Here’s the problem most Christians face when it comes to approaching life from a biblical worldview. Most of the time our worldview is not as biblical as we would like to think. You see, non-biblical worldview ideas don’t just sit in a book somewhere waiting for people to examine them. They bombard us constantly from television, film, music, newspapers, magazines, books, school curricula, and the internet. Because we live in a selfish, fallen world, these ideas seductively appeal to our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview without even realizing it. Thus entire generations of Christians are unwittingly  moved by the spirit of the age to embrace ungodly approaches to life.

Point 2 Womankind and a Biblical Worldview

V.34 “the women should be silent in the churches” This is not the first time Paul has spoken about silence. Language speakers (tongues speakers) were to remain silent when no interpreter was present (14:28), prophets were to allow others to prophesy, and they were to maintain silence while the others were prophesying (14:30), and now women are to remain silent as well, at least in the context of evaluating prophecy (v. 29). The first two silences are clearly about what is appropriate behaviour in corporate worship, and it can be assumed the third is as well.

More than prejudice at work

Typically, a person will skim through a passage like this and then jump to the conclusion, “Paul was a misogynist. He obviously hated women.” Of course if you believe the Bible is the Word of God you can’t really say this passage is misogynistic because that would make God a misogynist. I think that would be a difficult argument to sustain, although some people have said things just that wrong-headed. They never stop to consider that just maybe Paul has something deeper in mind than a personal prejudice against half the human race. (Remember how many women Paul worked with as recorded in the last chapters of his epistles.)

What if Paul is attempting to preserve God’s view of how the two halves of the human race are supposed to relate to one another? To understand what I mean by that, just take a look at what comes next in today’s text.

I Cor. 14:34b “for [women] are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, they should ask their own husbands at home.”

The big question here is, “What law?” There is no Old Testament statement that women are to keep silent in public assemblies, so what law could Paul have in mind? Many commentators jump to the conclusion that Paul has in mind Genesis 3:16, where the woman receives a curse because of the role she played in offering Adam the forbidden fruit. The argument runs that women have to be silent forever because Eve committed a great sin. But I think that’s a horrible error of interpretation, and I’ll tell you why.

Submission is not about the fall

First, that’s an unfair burden to lay on redeemed, born again women. The whole purpose of salvation is to free us from the effects of the fall. In actual fact, apart from describing the generalized effect of Adam’s sin upon lost mankind, the Bible spends almost no time berating believers of either sex about the awful effects of Adam’s sin. One thing is certain, God is not in the business of beating down men or women for their past sins, either their recent sins or that original sin committed by our foreparents.

Instead, we are constantly encouraged to be all we are reborn to be in Christ Jesus! Consider II Peter 1:3-4. “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.” Do you hear that? We’re enabled to escape worldly corruption in Christ. Salvation is for the purpose of restoring the relationship that was broken by the fall!

And isn’t it interesting that in dealing with male-female relationships in I Cor. 11:8-9 Paul refers, not to the fall, but to the order of Creation (man made before woman), which, of course, happened before the fall, before sin entered the world. And interestingly enough, Paul does that again in I Tim. 2:12ff, where he says that women are not to be in authority over men. Just when you think he might jab women for eating the forbidden fruit, he goes, instead, to the order of creation.

Submission is about God’s Creation purpose

So let me be as plain as possible, Paul’s commands to women, first to be silent, then to be submissive, “as the law also says,” (v.34) are about preserving the original purity of God’s creation order. Here’s the text at the heart of what Paul is getting at. “The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found as his complement” (Gen. 2:20).

It is no exaggeration to suggest that everything Paul is saying in today’s text is for the purpose of preserving in the church the original, pre-fall creation order in which the man is responsible for the spiritual well-being of his household, and the woman is to serve as his complement; that is, by her committed companionship she adds value and completes for that family what God had in mind when He created the human race.

Two last points

  1. Unbelieving women may be offended by the complementary role God assigned them from creation, but it’s just as true that unbelieving men shrink from the leadership role they’ve been assigned. Men, are you ready to answer your wife’s searching spiritual questions? (V. 35) Or your children’s? From I Cor. 11:3 it is indisputable that the husband is the priest of his home. If you are a husband you relate to your wife and family exactly as Christ relates to you. Just as Christ intercedes for the church, it is your prayers that protect your children and draw them to faith. It is your teaching, and your example of a life of faith, that is to inspire faith and holiness in your offspring.

When the church was powerful; when it was taking over kingdoms for the kingdom of God it was led at all levels by manly men. God help us, but I suspect there cannot be another nation-shaking revival without first God’s people allowing God to restore His view of male-female relationships.

  1. We’ll close with v. 37. There aren’t many places where Paul self-consciously exerts his spiritual authority. But this is one of them. Notice what he says, “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord’s command.” I haven’t said much about how this passage is to be applied in today’s setting. But for now I think it is enough to simply beg you not to dismiss Paul as a crank or a woman hater. It seems to me that in the way I mentioned a few moments ago, the spiritual life of Christ’s church in some way hinges on all of us rejecting the world’s view of the sexes and embracing everything we are taught by our creator.