The Cook Brothers Quartet sang on the TV broadcast “Let the Bible Speak” originating from Springfield, MO for several years in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. These recordings were done at KYTV-TV on July 20, 1973. The quartet at that time was composed of Clovis Cook (Tenor); Greg Gay (Lead); Travis Cook (Baritone); and Homer A. “Sonny” Gay, Jr. (Bass).
Lately, we’ve been talking about man’s departures from the Bible pattern in the doctrine, work, and worship of the church. God has always had a pattern for man to worship Him by and His pattern for the church today is revealed in the New Testament scriptures. Today, I want to talk about another important part of our worship and that is the Lord’s Supper. Like many other teachings and practices of the apostles and the early church, change has taken place in this divinely instituted ordinance as well. I would remind us of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:2 that we are to “keep the ordinances” delivered by the apostles in the very way they were given–not changing them to suit our own desires. Later in that same chapter, Paul writes this:
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
Paul’s account of the supper instituted by Christ can be easily compared and is very much in harmony with the records given to us in the synoptic gospels. All four records of that night when Jesus gathered with His disciples when He instituted this perpetual memorial set forth a pattern for us to follow today, for Jesus Himself said, This do (or Do this) in remembrance of Me. As we continue our series, I want us to look closely at God’s pattern for the Lord’s Supper because I don’t believe that most people are following the Bible pattern very closely.
Using His last Passover meal as a backdrop, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples. He established a perpetual feast to be observed by the church on a regular basis until He comes again. The church upon its Pentecostal establishment soon began to observe the feast that Jesus had established on the eve of His crucifixion.
Acts 2:42 “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
The Bible later tells us that the apostle Paul delayed his departure from the city of Troas so that he could meet with the church there and commune with them.
Acts 20:7 “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow…”
The historical literature of the post-apostolic age indicates that during the years following the establishment of the church, the church observed the Lord’s Supper each and every Sunday. It was certainly intended by the Lord to be a regular part of their worship and a perpetual memorial service. Even though the Corinthian church was not observing it correctly, or in the right frame of mind and the right spirit, they were coming together to observe their flawed version of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11), and the apostle Paul takes them back to the original pattern. He corrects their abuses and shows them how Jesus instituted the supper and the meaning and intent behind it when He did.
The questions before us today are, is that pattern still binding on us? How did Jesus institute the supper? How did the early church observe it? Can we find a pattern in the scriptures for the observance of the communion and, if so, what is that pattern? And finally, are you following that pattern today?
First, let me emphasize that all that we know about the scriptural observance of the Lord’s Supper is based upon five passages of scripture in the New Testament. There are three gospel accounts given in the synoptic gospels. There is one account given by Paul later by inspiration since he was not a follower of Jesus when Jesus actually established the supper. Rather, Paul later had it revealed to him by the Spirit. And then there is another reference by Paul to the design of the Lord’s Supper given in his letter to the church at Corinth. All the accounts that are given of the institution of the feast are parallel accounts of the very same event and they are recorded by inspiration under the oversight of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew records the events of that night (Matthew 26:26-30). Mark tells us what Jesus did in Mark 14:22-25. Luke records another account in Luke 22:17-20 and Paul later said that he received his account from the Lord, according to 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Paul also speaks of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. I challenge you to take the time to look up and read all those passages and very carefully compare them. They all very concisely show how Jesus used three simple things to represent three great components of the gospel. All four accounts say that Jesus took a loaf of bread and said that it was to represent to them His body which would be sacrificed upon the cross.
Matthew 26:26 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it (that is, He took a piece for Himself), and gave it (the remainder of the loaf) to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”
All four writers then say, without exception, that Jesus took a cup. That cup, according to Matthew and Mark, contained grape juice or fruit of the vine. Jesus shared that cup with those assembled with Him and in so doing, He was symbolizing the new covenant that was about to be established between them and God and His blood, which sealed that covenant.
Matthew 26:27-28 “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Luke 22:20 “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
You see here that on one occasion, Jesus says this, referring to the fruit of the vine, is my blood of the new testament. And then Luke tells us that He took the cup and said, This cup is the new testament in my blood. So, there are three things in all: the body of Jesus (represented by a loaf of bread), the New Testament or new covenant/agreement (represented by the cup which we share), and the blood of Jesus which ratified the new covenant (represented by the fruit of the vine). All three are mentioned by Jesus and Paul and are to be remembered and commemorated by us when we observe the Lord’s Supper.
Later, Paul referred to the same representative elements by inspiration of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”
Friends, all these accounts leave no doubt as to what Jesus did when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. It is a simple and easy example to understand and follow. Don’t read those passages through the lens of what is commonly practiced today; read it through the lens of the first-century disciples and what they did as the Bible reveals it. It is a very simple pattern. There is no complication. There is nothing that is cloudy about what Jesus did.
You see, when the water becomes muddy is when we decide to do it a different way and try to justify our innovation by the Bible. That is the case with any other departure from what the Bible says. Instead of trying to make the Bible fit our practice–which leads us to performing all kinds of mental gymnastics and stretching, twisting, and changing the word of God, what we need to do is make our practice fit the Bible. Just simply follow the pattern as it’s given in the scriptures.
Let’s look very carefully at what Jesus did. The Bible says, first of all, that He took bread. The Greek word used there is artos, which literally means a loaf of bread. Jesus took a loaf of bread. He broke a piece of it for Himself, then gave the loaf to His disciples instructing them to eat of it in remembrance of His body. For the most part, people understand that Jesus used unleavened bread (bread without yeast) in the institution of the supper. That is necessarily implied within the scriptures because the apostles were gathered to observe the Passover when Jesus instituted the supper and, according to the original design of the Passover, the Jews were not to even have leaven in their houses during that week (Exodus 12:19). Throughout the Bible, leaven is a representation of sin and evil.
So, we know beyond a shadow of any doubt that Jesus used bread that was unleavened. As a result, I would assume that most of us recognize the need and appropriateness of using unleavened bread in the observance of the Lord’s Supper today. Have you ever wondered where men get the authority to change the communion to use multiple loaves or individual wafers to remember Christ’s body? That is the common practice today, but is that what Jesus and His disciples did? Some will say, does it really matter as long as we’re using bread? I believe that it DOES matter, for at least two reasons.
Jesus and His disciples shared a loaf. He took a loaf, and that is significant. Not only was Jesus giving a pattern that He told them to follow, but Jesus attached symbolic significance to that loaf, saying that it represents His body. More than one loaf destroys the symbolism of the supper as Jesus intended it. Friend, communion is not an individual thing. It is not just about ingesting elements for some mystical benefit. Rather, by the very essence of the word, communion is a common union or sharing in these elements. The loaf that we share represents the body of our Lord and His body was one, it was undivided.
1 Corinthians 10:17 “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”
We, the church, are His spiritual body and that is symbolized as well by the fact that we share a loaf: we are one body, the body of Christ. So, one loaf of bread aptly represents to us the body of Jesus, and the Lord intends for us to remember His body with a loaf of bread when we commune. If we are following the pattern, that is how we will do it. Multiple or individual loaves of bread set aside and destroy that very significant symbolism that Jesus attached here.
The Bible says that after Jesus gave them the bread to eat, He took the cup. Every Bible account of the Lord’s Supper words it that way. In fact, the American Standard translation says that Jesus took a cup. The word cup is translated from the Greek word poterion. The lexicographers and scholars are very consistent in their definition of that word. A.T. Robertson says it means that He took “a drinking vessel or a cup.” Young says that it was “a drinking vessel; a cup.” Bullinger says that it was “a drinking cup.” Liddell and Scott say that Jesus took “a drinking cup or a wine cup.” And the list goes on and on.
You might be thinking, why is he bothering to define the word cup? Doesn’t everybody know what a cup is? You would think it would be that way, but there is a lot of confusion over that word today. The confusion comes from an attempt to justify the use of more than one drinking vessel in an assembly of the saints who have gathered to observe the Lord’s Supper. The practice of using more than one cup in the Lord’s Supper is not as old as the supper itself. It is an innovation or change later brought in by man. So, in order to try to justify the innovation of multiple or individual cups, those who yet try to insist on Bible authority for their practices must somehow make the word cup be symbolic or figurative. As a result, they muddy the water when it comes to what Jesus did and what He said.
The word cup can be used literally, and it can be used figuratively, and consequently, in the communion text, it is used both ways. The New Testament uses the word cup in a figurative way when Paul said this to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
Obviously, we can’t drink a vessel. But we can drink the contents of a drinking vessel. In this case, the word cup is merely being used as a figure of speech that we’re all accustomed to using in our everyday language. It’s called metonymy. But even when you use the word figuratively, it does not separate it from its use literally. Again, let’s turn to Greek scholars on this. A.T. Robertson says that poterion means a literal cup. Edgar J. Goodspeed, professor of Greek and author of The Goodspeed Translations says that “in the clause He took the cup, it is used literally.” F.R. Gay, professor of Greek at Bethany College, says that “in every place where it is said that He took the cup, the meaning is that He took a definite, literal, material cup.” Listen to Mr. Lenski in his renowned commentary on the gospel of Matthew, in particular, his discussion on Matthew 26:27: “The point is that Jesus instituted the sacrament with the use of one cup and that He bade all the disciples to drink out of this one cup. Any change in what Jesus did here, which has back of it the idea that He would not for sanitary or similar reasons do the same today, casts a rather serious reflection upon Jesus.”
Friend, every scholar that we can consult seems to agree that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper using one cup that He drank from and gave to His disciples to share with Him. In fact, not only did Jesus take a cup and bless it or give thanks for it and give it to them, telling them all to drink of it, but Mark tells us that they obeyed Jesus’s command.
Mark 14:23 “And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.”
The word of is the Greek word ek, which means out of. They all drank out of what Jesus gave to them. Again, someone might say, what difference does that make? The difference first and foremost is that the Lord instituted it that way, and it is His Supper and not ours. He gave the pattern; we didn’t establish it. He took a cup, drank from it, gave what He took and drank from unto them, and told them all to drink from it, and Mark’s account tells us that they all drank of (or out of) it. Then He commanded them, “This do in remembrance of Me.” In other words, Do what I have just done in remembrance of Me. Do you observe the Lord’s Supper just exactly as Jesus instituted it? Or has the church where you attend changed it?
Let me speak for just a moment about figurative language. We have clearly shown that when the scriptures say that Jesus took the cup, it is referring to a literal drinking vessel–not just a drink element, but a drinking vessel containing a drink element. Paul referred to this as the cup of blessing. Obviously, when Paul instructs the church at Corinth to drink the cup (1 Corinthians 11:26), the Bible is using that figure of speech called metonymy, where you name one thing to suggest another. Some say that erases the need to use one cup since the word is there used symbolically and that the cup is therefore immaterial because it is used figuratively in that instance. First, the word is not used symbolically every time it’s used. But, secondly, even when it IS used metonymically or figuratively, there is still a literal cup involved, else the symbolism or figure wouldn’t make sense.
I’ll give you an example: If I was to say, “Your radiator is boiling,” anyone would understand that I mean the water INSIDE the radiator is boiling, and not the actual radiator itself. We use that kind of figurative language all the time, and so is the Bible when it says to drink this cup. But what if your radiator was boiling and I said, “Hey, your kettle is boiling” or “Your thermos is boiling” or “You’d better look over there! Your glass is boiling!” That wouldn’t make sense because even though I’m referring to the water, it’s associated with the thing that contains it. So, even when Paul says to drink this cup, he wasn’t saying that a cup was not present or that a drinking vessel is immaterial; he is merely using a figure of speech that’s pretty clear when we use it in everyday language. Somehow, though, man has tried to make it complicated when it comes to the Bible and to the Lord’s Supper.
I want you to think about this very carefully. What if the scriptures said that Jesus took the cups and gave them to the disciples saying drink these all of you? The Bible could’ve said that if that’s what had happened. What if it did say that? Would you then say that that was just figurative language? Would not anyone challenged to give Bible for their practice of individual cups immediately cite that passage? Well, of course they would. But, you see, the Bible doesn’t say that. It says Jesus took the cup and gave it to them. To whom? To those assembled with Him.
Someone will reply, wouldn’t that mean that all Christians around the world would have to share the same cup? Or even more than that, use the same cup that Jesus did? No, because Jesus is establishing a pattern and it’s a pattern for Christians who come together in one assembly to observe communion. Communion is not observed on the universal church level. Communion is observed by each congregation that comes together to follow the Lord’s instructions. His pattern is to do so with one loaf representing His body, one cup containing fruit of the vine to represent the New Testament as ratified by His blood. That’s the pattern. May God give us the courage and the faith to follow it today.
This brings our series on Innovations and the Divine Pattern to a close. These teachings are certainly not popular; I am aware of that. Change IS popular. But I am not interested in being popular; I’m interested in following what the Bible says and I hope that you are, too. I hope you won’t be careless with divine matters, so as to take all of the things that we have referred to for granted, but that you’ll seriously take a look at what the Bible has to say about them and not what it doesn’t say. I remind you, along with the weeping prophet Jeremiah of long ago:
Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…”
Our plea is to restore the church of the first century, to do Bible things in Bible ways, to call Bible things by Bible names, to be what the first-century disciples were—nothing more and nothing less.
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Our series on Innovations concludes with a look at departures that have taken place from the original design of the Lord’s Supper as instituted by Christ. The elements that Christ chose to commemorate His suffering and its result are profound in their simplicity. They reflect the unity and joint participation the church is to enjoy in the benefits of Christ’s death and the new covenant that was thereby established. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, a look at how the later practice of multiple loaves and cups distorts the beautiful picture Christ originally portrayed in the divine feast.
With the rise of the women’s liberation movement, women preachers are becoming more accepted in today’s world. As society continues to change, the subject becomes that much more controversial. A few generations ago, female preachers were rare, and it was almost shocking to hear of one. Today, they are increasingly common. Some denominations are rapidly ordaining women to the ministry. Some of these women have risen to international fame and prominence as televangelists and religious authors. A woman’s role in society at large has changed until now, there is little distinction made between men and women in either the home or the public square.
There are some good things that have resulted from this new awareness. First, women are equal to men in the eyes of God and they should be considered so in our eyes as well. Paul wrote, concerning our justification by faith in Christ:
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Simply meaning that men and women enjoy the same access to and relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. God values the woman as His creation just as much as He does the man. Furthermore, women are not inferior to men in any respect—not intellectually, spiritually, or otherwise. And all women are, of course, to be treated with human respect and dignity. If a woman does a job, she has every right to be paid as much as a man for that same job. No man has the right to mistreat, disrespect, or look down upon a woman. But does this mean that God did not assign different roles to men and women in the home, and, as we shall study today, in the church? Does this mean that there is no chain of headship and authority that is yet to be respected in the kingdom of God?
In 1 Corinthians 14, as we studied last week, we noted that Paul is regulating the assemblies of the church. When the church was called together, there were rules given as to how the assembly was to be conducted. The Corinthians were guilty of allowing their assemblies to devolve into a disorderly and unbiblical affair and Paul was correcting these abuses and it should be noted that he is doing so by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
It would be difficult to find a more controversial passage in the New Testament, but it would also be difficult to find a more plainly worded commandment in the New Testament. Should this passage be respected and honored by the church today? Does God approve of the innovation of women becoming preachers in the church?
The trend of women preachers has caused a great deal of upheaval in the religious world in recent years. Many denominations have struggled with this controversy and have seen some of their churches divide over the question. Even churches of Christ have been affected over the past couple of generations. A people once known for our conservative view of the scriptures, we have seen division over women in the pulpit and in leadership positions in the local church. When the innovation of Sunday School arose and was contested in churches of Christ many years ago, some warned that bible classes with their women teachers would soon open the door for women in the pulpit. It took some time, but that prediction has started coming to pass. Many of our brethren are now in a very precarious position today, trying to defend the expanded role of women in the public teaching of the church, while at the same time trying to keep women out of the pulpit. As society, and more specifically the religious world, becomes more liberal and accepting regarding these issues, they’re going to find it more and more difficult to stem the swelling tide of change in this regard.
Our appeal today is not based on what the majority of society thinks or what the supreme court might rule. It is not even based on what prominent preachers or theologians of our time might believe. Our appeal is the Bible: what saith the scriptures? Whatever culture changes and how the dictates of society may evolve over time, God’s laws and principles do not change in the process.
1 Peter 1:24-25 “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
Emotional arguments also make this a more explosive issue in today’s world. Many assume that men in the church hold the position that women may not preach because there is chauvinism and misogyny. While there very well may be men whose views are clouded by chauvinistic attitudes, the fact is that there are men and women on both sides of the issue with honest convictions, and therefore perceived bias against women is not the underlying cause of this divide. This issue must be decided by what the Bible teaches and not by societal dictates or by ad homonym attacks. The Bible does clearly address the subject. There are two primary passages that deal directly with women and teaching. They are found in 1 Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2.
1 Corinthians 14:34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
1 Timothy 2:11-14 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
In these passages, Paul gives two separate but related prohibitions. First, he tells the Corinthians that women are to keep silent in the church. Obviously, due to the context of the entire chapter, Paul is using the word church or assembly to refer to the time when the church gathers together for worship and edification. Any public assembly called by the church for these purposes would fall under Paul’s rules given in this chapter. When he said that she is to keep silent, he is referring to a woman addressing the assembly. She may sing, for example, because all Christians are commanded by Paul to sing, but she may not address the assembly. She may not teach the assembly. Not only does that mean that she is not to teach or preach in the assembly, but she is also to hold any questions that she may have until a later time when she may ask those questions outside of the assembly. Paul says that she should ask her husband at home.
Then, in 1 Timothy 2, Paul says that first of all, the woman is to learn–that, of course, being the opposite of teaching—in silence, because Paul did not allow a woman to teach or to usurp authority over the man, meaning to exercise dominion over man. The word that Paul uses that is translated teach is the word didasko, which refers to a discourse, such as a preacher gives before a congregation, or as a teacher would deliver to a group of people. The woman is plainly forbidden by Paul from doing such. Then he adds nor to usurp authority over the man. Many try to interpret Paul’s statement as not allowing a woman to teach a man or to teach over a man. But that is not the case. The two prohibitions against her teaching and usurping authority over the man are separated by the disjunctive conjunction “nor.” She is not permitted by the apostle to teach (again, that is to deliver public discourse) nor is she allowed to exercise authority over men in the church. The prohibitions may be related, but they are not the same.
Then, Paul gives the reasons why by first appealing to the order of creation, stating that Adam was first created, then Eve (verse 13), and that the prohibition was a consequence of Eve being the first to fall prey to deception in the garden of Eden (verse 14). Friends, note that Paul’s reasons had nothing to do with cultural concerns at Ephesus or at Corinth. Rather, to a precedent that God had decreed from the beginning of time itself.
We can see that these restrictions apply to teaching in a public sphere because in other passages we read that women can and should be teachers of others. We are not contending that women are not allowed to teach under any and all circumstances. The Bible not only allows but instructs her to be a teacher of good things. But where she is instructed to teach is to be done in private, in an individual setting, apart from the public setting. That is the distinction that the Bible makes. Remember from last week’s study that Paul said there are two categories of teaching: that that is done publicly and that that is done privately or from house to house.
Acts 20:20 “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly (that is, in common or in view of all), and from house to house (as opposed to publicly),”
We’ve already read two passages where Paul says that a woman is not allowed to teach in a public setting, but does the Bible give examples of where she may teach in a private situation? Indeed, it does.
Acts 18:24-26 “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
Note that this husband and wife took Apollos aside, unto them, into their own home and corrected his misguided teaching. The woman had a part in that. So, notice that not only was a woman permitted to teach in her own home or in private, but that she had a part in teaching a man. Therefore, it would be wrong to say that a woman can never teach a man or that Paul was simply forbidding that in 1 Timothy 2. Here, a woman did have a part in teaching a man. You see, the point is where a woman is allowed to teach. In private, she may teach anyone. There is no restriction on who she may teach. If she can teach in private, she can teach a man, woman, or child. But where she is forbidden from teaching, in public, she may teach no one. She can teach anyone in private, but she may teach no one in public. Therefore, she may teach in the home. She may not teach in the public square, according to scripture, including when the church comes together. She is to learn in silence at that time, Paul instructed.
Some of my brethren say that she may teach in a public gathering, like maybe a class or conference or seminar, but not in the “worship assembly.” But why would that be? Why would God permit her to teach in any other public gathering but not on Sunday morning at 11:00am? You see, it’s much more logical and consistent that Paul is saying that the woman’s sphere of teaching is in the private and individual domain and not in public. That would fit the spirit of Paul’s command and the background behind it. Older women are to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5), but she can do that in private. That doesn’t necessitate public teaching. She may teach an erring man, as we’ve noticed in the case of Apollos, but she can do so in private just as Priscilla and Aquila did. That doesn’t necessitate public teaching. A woman may teach an unbeliever the gospel, whether it be an unbelieving husband, a neighbor, or a friend. There is nothing wrong with that, but her teaching is done is a private setting and not in public. Also, isn’t it significant that the qualifications given for elders (that is, pastors or shepherds within the church of the New Testament) all refer to a man, who is for example the husband of one wife (Titus 1:6, 1 Timothy 3:2). Nowhere do the qualifications for such leaders–whether elders, deacons, or evangelists–indicate that women may scripturally serve in those offices.
Now then, I know that that is very unpopular with the thinking of our day, and some dismiss these passages offhand as the opinion of an unmarried, chauvinistic man who possessed authority in the church. Yet, Paul possessed and was inspired by the Spirit of God as he wrote. In fact, only two verses down, he wrote this:
1 Corinthians 14:37 “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”
That is, if a man really thinks that he has divine knowledge, then he will admit that the apostle Paul was an apostle of Christ and was writing by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Paul was not issuing an opinion; rather, he was speaking by revelation of Christ and inspiration of the Spirit of God, which gives his words on the matter divine weight.
Others say that Paul was merely addressing a problem strictly at Corinth and that he was straightening out disorder in their assemblies and therefore his words have no relevance to the church in other places or times. Some will say that his writing to Timothy was when Timothy was living in Ephesus where they had the problems of the pagan practices of the temple of Diana which were spilling over into the church and women were imitating those pagan practices in the assembly of the church. And based on these assumptions, people will try to dismiss the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2 just as they try to dismiss 1 Corinthians 14. But nowhere in Paul’s epistle to Timothy does he cite such a connection. Not only that, but he said this to the Corinthians and some who were skeptical of Paul and his apostolic authority:
1 Corinthians 4:17 “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”
You see, Paul’s instructions for worship and for everyday Christian living applied in every church in every place. In fact, when he addressed the abuses in the assembly in Corinth, he made a rather sarcastic statement.
1 Corinthians 14:36 “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?”
What is Paul asking in that question? He is saying, who gave you the authority to do differently than other churches? Why do you have the right to be different from the practices of the other churches who abide by apostolic authority? That is a good question for many churches to ask of themselves in this day and time as well. Paul answers that sarcastic question in the very next verse.
1 Corinthians 14:37 “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”
What Paul taught in Corinth, he taught at other churches as well. So, his teaching on this and other doctrinal matters was universal in its scope and its authority.
But perhaps Paul was merely regulating the use of miraculous gifts in the assembly, and since the church does not possess those gifts today, then maybe his teaching in 1 Corinthians 14 doesn’t apply at all. Is that the case? Let’s think about that. If that were the case, leaving spiritual gifts aside, could two uninspired men stand up and preach at the same time and cause confusion in the assembly? If not, what passage besides 1 Corinthians 14:31 would you cite to forbid it? Or could a person speak non-miraculously in a foreign language that no one could understand and do so without an interpreter, leaving the assembly to guess what he was saying in a state of confusion? If that’s not right, what passage besides 1 Corinthians 14:28 would forbid it? No, Paul’s instructions apply with or without the presence of spiritual gifts. What he writes are rules of order and decorum in ANY assembly of the church, then and now.
Then, some allege that Paul only gave these injunctions because women at that time were not educated as they are today and therefore, they were disqualified from teaching at that time. But Paul’s instruction has nothing to do with education, for that would’ve disqualified many of Christ’s own apostles from teaching.
Finally, some point to the fact that there are women named in the Bible who served the Lord in tremendous ways that contradict a universal application of 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. For example, women like Deborah served as judges over Israel, and women such as Miriam and Huldah in the Old Testament are often cited as parallels to the woman preacher. But, ultimately, those women don’t pertain to the issue at hand, as they lived under the Old Testament law and they were part of physical Israel, whereas Paul is addressing the leadership of spiritual Israel, the New Testament church. In the New Testament, we’re told of women such as Phebe, who is described as a servant of the Lord (Romans 16:1). Who knows what the church would’ve been in Philippi if not for the faith and devotion of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15)? Euodia and Syntyche were apparently women of influence in the Philippian church as well, according to Philippians 4:2-3. But none of those women were ever identified as preachers, evangelists, elders, or shepherds over the flock.
This is a very important point: the work and influence of women in the church is just as important as that of a man. But the scope and sphere of the woman’s work is distinct from that of the man. Remember, she may teach but that doesn’t mean that the Bible allows her to preach or to exercise her ability in public. According to Acts 21:9, Philip had four daughters who prophesied; that is, they spoke the things given by divine revelation. That doesn’t mean they did so publicly. They could just as well have exercised this privilege in private, and in so doing, obeyed the will of God.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:5 that a woman may pray or prophesy just as the man may do so, but she is to do so with her long hair as a covering and a sign of subjection, according to verses 5 and 15. Again, she can do both of those things in private. She can pray in private and she can prophesy or teach in private. But, you see, what Paul allowed her to do would also not put her at odds with what he forbade, which would be teaching in public.
Finally, friends, this is not a matter of equality or worth. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul shows in great detail that the woman enjoys the same relationship to God through Christ that the man does. But she must at the same time be in subjection unto man. After all, Christ is subject unto God (1 Corinthians 11:3). Does that make Jesus inferior to God the Father? No, the very mystery of the trinity is that the three are one, that God the Son is eternally coexistent and coequal with God the Father. The woman is of great and equal value in the sight of God, but her role in the church is distinct from that of the man. That is true today just as it was true yesterday. And it will be true tomorrow. Though our modern world has sought in this and a thousand different ways to erase those lines of distinction and demarcation, let us follow the teaching of Christ given through His apostles, for it is His church and not ours. May we ever seek His approval and not that of the world.
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Women have made an indelible mark on the modern world in business, politics, art, and religion. They have well-proven their intellect and talent to be equal to and in many cases, surpassing their male counterparts. Consequently, the rise of women’s liberation and the women’s rights movement has opened the pulpits of many churches to females to serve as pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. Is this according to God’s will or is it a change to the divine pattern for the work and worship of the church? In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we continue our series on Innovations and the Divine Pattern by focusing on women preachers and teachers in the church.