This topic is a big one, Controversial with a capital 'C' barely even covers it and it is also a topic that can stir up strong emotions because it is at heart an issue of identity. There are many Christians today who identify themselves as 'charismatic' and therefore take any critique of charismatic theology very personally. This is to be expected and I too react with great fervour against those who claim that reformed theology isn't correct. Therefore, it is my prayer for the grace to write with love and that this message be received with love. For love, as I will go onto to explain, is the greatest of all spiritual gifts!
I believe that writing this series of posts on the subject of charismatic gifts is both necessary and desirable because for many Christians no opposing viewpoint is ever presented to them. In modern Christian circles then it is often an accepted fact that charismatic gifts of the spirit are both biblical in essence and are directly connected with the New Testament church. This is not a viewpoint I accept.
But let's start simple: this first post is just to define the charismatic gifts of the Spirit and to outline their importance (or lack thereof) in Christian living
The problem with discussing whether or not woman are allowed to be ministers is that it is a very sensitive issue and people are quick to press the 'sexism' button and ignore the discussion entirely. So I venture into this area with several caveats: first, please do read my previous blog post on the biblical roles of men and women (equal in worth, different in role), it provides a necessary backdrop to this discussion. Second, the discussion that will follow runs against the culture we live in; this makes it challenging for everyone comes to the table with a lot of reactions engrained in them. Thirdly, while some might levy the charge of sexism against me I hold that the biblical view of gender is not only true but beautiful.
So without further ado, I'll begin the discussion with the relevant bible passage:
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."
1 Timothy 4 v 11 - 14
Missing the Obvious
It is easy to miss the huge controversy here, Paul wrote this in the 1st century and the idea that women could learn would have been very challenging to his male readers. For in Paul's time then women and education were rarely introduced to each other. Thus do we immediately see the biblical view of men and women working itself out in an extremely positive manner with Paul not just suggesting but commanding women to learn.
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_Over the next two weeks I thought I’d do a series of posts on the Ten Commandments because these stand as the moral law of God, his law on what is right and what is wrong. Currently, a lot of people think that morals are to some extent relative so it seems good to go through the absolute moral law of God and apply it to our lives today.
“And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Exodus 20 v 1 – 2
The most important thing to notice about the short introduction to the Ten Commandments is that God spoke them. As such this is the moral law we need to abide, what God says is right is right and what he says is wrong is wrong because as God he is the only being with the qualifications to make this judgement. Also, as God is eternal so is his moral law eternal and still as binding today as it was thousands of years ago. There are examples in the Bible before these Ten Commandments were given of all the Ten Commandments being broken showing that these Commandments were in force before they were explicitly verbalised here. And they are still in force today. The Ten Commandments is the basic standard by which we must judge ourselves if we are to see ourselves as God sees us.
The first commandment is this:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
Exodus 20 v 3
Right, first of I’m going to apologise in advance for the following sentence: a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Urgh, talk about a cheesy definition but I mention it because I can’t really come up with a better one. When Jesus was around he often spoke in parables so I figured it would be worthwhile to go through a few of them and see what heavenly meaning can be drawn out.
I decided to start with the Parable of the Rich Fool told in Luke 12 to a large crowd of people gathered to listen to Jesus teach. So without further ado here it is:
“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12 v 13 – 21
Right, let’s get this out the way first: a virgin birth is impossible. Biology 101 states that there must be both a man and a woman in the reproduction process. I’m sorry if you’ve never heard this before but storks are not the way babies appear. Being born of a virgin is scientifically impossible.
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?”
Luke 1 v 26 - 34
Let’s face it, we ask the above question with Mary – considering how completely impossible it sounds how could a virgin birth happen?
In some respects the question is easy to answer. Jesus was a real historical figure who was born some time in the years 7 – 2 BC and died around the 26 – 36 AD mark. He was considered a teacher and healer and he was crucified on the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate on the charge of encouraging insurrection. These facts are accepted by historians as being true.
But that’s not the half of it. For this one man, Jesus, had a greater effect on human history than any other person, war, army or leader. His one short solitary life had an influence far beyond what could be considered normal. For in most cases when a man dies his followers fade away but with Jesus his death was just the start of it.
For Jesus never wrote a book, never composed a song, never owned a home, never got married, never held any official position, never went to university and never travelled more than about 200 miles from his place of birth.
It’s that time of year again: three and a half months of Summer Holiday alternatively both a joy and a trail. A joy because, hey, it may actually be sunny this year and a trail because three and a half months is a long time and a lot of it appears to be covered with the mindless drudgery of minimum wage jobs. And possibly, just possibly, a trip to Russia.
Anyway, I’m not here to bore you with my holiday plans instead I’m going to recommend some reading to you. I think a wise use of our holiday time is to read solid spiritual books that challenge us and help us to grow as Christians. But such books can be difficult to find; just because a book is ‘Christian’ does not make it worth reading.
So here are some good Christian books I whole heartedly recommend to you. I can’t claim any credit for finding them as in every case they were recommended to me by another Christian. (Bonus points awarded if you can find them for a cheaper price)
So far we have seen that all of mankind are totally depraved and as such have a total inability to come to God. Yet before the creation of the world God chose an elect who would be saved. Jesus died on the cross to pay the punishment for the sins of the elect and the Holy Spirit works inside the elect to bring them to the full experience of salvation
There are different types of grace that God extends to the human race. The grace in question is saving grace – that is the work of God in bringing a sinner to repentance and a full knowledge of him.
“[God] who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,”
2 Timothy 1 v 9