Thursday, December 13, 2012

Head Coverings: Bonnets or Not?

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ESV

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Is this some strange tradition that requires church women to wear bonnets or big hats? Is this setting a biblical precedent for the length of a person’s hair? I would say the answer to both of these questions is no. It is easy to get so bogged down in the details that we miss the point. And the point is greatly clarified by understanding the context. 

1 Corinthians is written to the church in Corinth and, by extension, believers today. Corinth was the center of pagan worship in the ancient world and, by any honest reading of the letter, the church was facing some serious problems that needed to be handled. From divisive false teachers, to a sexually immoral layman, to drunkards at the Lord’s Table, this church had issues. Chapter 11 transitions from points of correction and encouragement toward church polity, how the church is to function in its structure and government (Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you). Chapters 11-14 of 1 Corinthians are going to deal with how the church is to be structured in its authoritative positions (chapter 11:2-16), polity in the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11:17-34), how spiritual gifts are to function (chapters 12 and 14), and how love is to be foundational in the function of the church (chapter 13).

In light of where this is in the book, we can glean some fundamental truths. God the Father is the Head of God the Son. God the Son is the head of man. Husbands are the heads of their wives.

Now my take on the hard part: If Christ were to live and minister with His head covered (i.e. ashamed of and away from the authority of the Father) that would be dishonorable. If a man were to minister in prayer and preaching with his head covered (i.e. ashamed of and away from the authority of Christ) that is dishonorable. If a woman were to engage in the governing, authoritative activities of the church with her head uncovered (i.e. outside of the authority of her husband) that is dishonorable. 

Now that seems like an oversimplification and an overspiritualization, but I do not believe it is. 

From the beginning, we have been trying to cover ourselves. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and realized their nakedness. They covered themselves. Covering has to do with a fear of exposure. Men tend to be tempted toward pride and self-promotion, therefore, they might try to cover up Christ out of fear. Women tend to be tempted toward liberality and feminism, therefore, they might leave their covering behind. 

Paul then uses hair as a practical, physical illustration to point us to a greater spiritual reality. Hair is explained as a mark of authority. Men have short hair, demonstrating his authority as covenant-head. Women have long hair, demonstrating their role as being under the authority of her covenant-head. For a woman to shave her head or to have short hair is to signify her leaving of her position and usurping the man’s role. This need not lead to condemnation for women who now have short hair; it is a symbol of a greater reality.

Nature itself teaches us that society most flourishes when men are exercising authority, and women are best cared for in the bonds of a biblical marriage covenant. Their position is their glory. It is a good thing. But a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God. It would be a disgrace for a man to abdicate his role as spiritual head of his wife, for him to sit back and apathetically let his wife call all the shots. Likewise for the church, it is sinful for men to lethargically wallow around and leave the governing of the church to the women.  

...because of the angels... is likely a reference to the angels that long to look into the ways in which the gospel works in the lives of men and the Church. For the angel’s sake, let us not blow it because of convenience. We are not independent, we cannot do church however we please. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses; let us not be fooled by some maverick idea of the Christian life.

If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. Paul is saying, “If you want to argue this point, look around, no one else is arguing this. The church at Philippi doesn’t have a woman pastor, nor do the churches at Ephesus and Thessalonica. This is the way everyone has always understood how church business works.”

I know there is more to say...but I won’t right now. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Gospel of the Word of God

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said…

God spoke and things came to be. God spoke words, namely a Word. It was by this Word of God that all things came into being and by this Word of God that all things hold together. Here is this Divine Word proceeding from the mouth of God Himself, this Divine Word carrying the full authority of God’s Person, this Divine Word imposing ownership over everything that it creates. 

And it is by this very same Word that we were created. And because we were created by this Word, we are subject to this Word. We are bound to this Word. We are owned by this Word. We receive instruction from this Word as to how we are to live and move and have our being. 

But we rebelled. Recall the Eden story. Eve’s deception came by the serpent causing her to doubt the Word of God. “Did God really say?” We blew it. Humans in rebellion. Creation in chaos. History in tumult. Our relationship to the Word-speaking God shattered. Welcome to the Fall of Man.

Alright, now fast forward in this redemptive-historical narrative.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

What? This Word is a He? Yes. This Word of God was in the beginning with the Word already was before there was a beginning. That’s difficult, I know. The Word is eternal. The Word existed before time. (Digression: Perhaps it is inappropriate to say that something existed before time. Before is a time word. This Word exists in a way that is not bound to time or space. Where was the Word before creation? Trick question. There is no before and there is no where. The Word is outside of space and time, yet imposes his influence into our space-time reality...breathe.)

The Word was with God. As we said, this Word proceeds from God and is in this sense distinct from God. And the Word was God. This Word is distinct from God but is, as to its nature, Divine. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Incredible! The Word that has always been and is the greatest imposer of authority over all things conceivable PUT ON HUMAN SKIN! And lived among us. The gospel writer says that this Word of God is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, the one born out of wedlock, the one that was less-than-average looking and not all that popular amongst the people that seemed to matter in His day. How’s that for an anticlimax. Cue the chirping crickets. The Word of God became a whisper.

But nonetheless, HE CAME! Still awesome, right? He exists in a Son-to-Father relationship to the One from whom He was spoken. Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. This is the most brilliant story to be held in the minds of men. That the greatest became the least in order to make the least great. What more beautiful kind of love can there be, that the Word would leave the Mouth from whom He was spoken to be made like us so that we could be made like Him. 

So Jesus lived on our little planet and went about with a crowd of men who really had no clue as to the magnitude of what was going on. But Jesus lived a perfect life, which has to make sense because He authored the rules (see the Old Testament, He breathed all of that before the incarnation). He is the only Man who could keep the standards He set. 

And that made humans very angry. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. He came for us, and we writhed away. He did nothing that would merit any punishment or disfavor from men, but we hated Him anyway. So much so that we murdered Him. And not just murdered Him, we NAILED HIM TO A CROSS. We wanted to let him know just what we thought about Him, for “cursed is anyone who is nailed on a tree.” 

Little did we know that was exactly the plan. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. This was God’s plan to redeem His creation. He would come and die for them. And die He did. Drowning in his own blood, flesh hanging from his body like ribbons. (Are you a little disgusted? That’s the point.) We may try to imagine a loincloth on the crucified Jesus, but He was naked and exposed before the whole world, because He was bearing every aspect of the curse for us. The shame of nakedness included. That was the first consequence of sin after all, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” He was up there, hanging in the expanse between heaven and earth for all to see, in all the shame that he willingly bore for his people. 

And there on the cross, He drank the full cup of the wrath of God. He stood under the full fury of the wrath of God. He bore in His body the shame and punishment that our sins deserve. And He died there. The Word of God was silenced. 

But God. 

But God, being rich in mercy, brought Jesus back. A man got up out of a grave! If this is true, then this is the most important thing that has ever happened. A man was resurrected! Because Jesus told about his resurrection in advance, this event means that God recognizes Jesus‘s statements as true. God accepts Jesus’s sacrifice.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. When we hear the Word, the Name of Jesus, we bow in gratitude and praise. The Word of God is bellowing forth with great power and is calling sinners to find their sins paid for in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners who once had soiled and filthy rags for clothing now stand in robes as white as snow because of the blood of Jesus. If sinners would turn away from themselves and recognize Jesus’s as the Word of God that speaks peace into the human heart, they will be saved. If rebels would, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, lay down their hammer and nails and set aside their hatred for the Messiah and live lives that are consistent with this good news, they will be saved. 

But for those who remain deaf to the Word of God, there is wrath to come. There remains a penalty for crimes committed for those who reject a gracious God’s offer of pardon. Why would you remained burdened by sin and guilt? The Word said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Come and exchange burdens with a willing Savior. His is rich and free and altogether good.

The Word of God is calling.

“Repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Before the Throne of God Above...

The One on the throne sits with a scroll in His right hand. It has writing on it, on the front and back. It is perfectly sealed, seven times to be exact, so that no one may open it until the time appointed by the enthroned One. A mighty angel was near and he proclaimed with a booming, intimidating voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And there was no one with the audacity and confidence to reply. No one. No one in all of heaven or earth. No immortal angel, no innocent dove. No patriarch, none of David’s mighty men. No apostle or early-church martyr. No one. 
Overwhelmed, John could not help but weep...loudly. This is not the weeping of a wimpy child. This is the deep sobbing of a disciple of Jesus Himself, in fact, the beloved disciple. A pillar of the Church, a man who knew real heartache: John had a front row seat to the crucifixion, he endured Nero’s persecution, he saw his fellow apostles martyred at young ages, he knew real heart-pain. He is a veteran, now a man well-advanced in age. But at this he wept and he wept. Uncontrollable weeping.
As John stood weeping because no one was found worthy to open the scroll, an elder came to him and said, “Weep. No. More. BEHOLD! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered!” There is Hope. 
And John turns, with the anticipation of a vision of regal glory and majestic beauty, of a burst of purple and gold radiating like the Sun, of the Mighty rescue of God. But there stood a lamb, and not just a lamb, a lamb standing as though it had been slain. The meekest of all God’s creation, standing there, bloody and unthreatening. A vision of blood-dried red and dingy-gray wool, the humble sacrifice with nothing signifying even the smallest shred of authority.
But this was the Lamb. This Lamb confidently marches up to the throne and snatches up the scroll and opens its seals, each and every one. And as he opens the scroll, a wondrous sense of power sweeps the scene, a force none could resist. Everyone falls down in awe. This was no ordinary lamb, this was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world and He walks boldly before the throne of God because sin and death have no claim on Him, the powers of darkness cannot accuse Him. This is Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. He stands as a fierce and roaring Lamb and a meek and lowly Lion. He is the inaugurator of the Kingdom of God, where the lion and the lamb are at peace, they lie down together, because the full fury of the wrath of God has been absorbed and satisfied by the embodied presence of the love of God, namely Jesus of Nazareth. 
And as this Lamb opens the scroll, all of redemptive history is revealed. The wisdom and knowledge of God is manifest. All of creation ceases its groaning, it is loosed from its bondage to corruption, it has entered into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. The sons of God are revealed. Creation is no longer in the pains of childbirth, the child has come and she is beautiful, a radiant Bride for the King. 
“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
And there appears around the throne a host of angels, innumerable millions and they yell, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And everyone agrees and cries out in doxological praise, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.” Let it be. Amen. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Feasting on Jesus

John 6 contains some statements from Jesus that send the unspiritual mind reeling. He makes several references to those who would desire to follow Him as being required to eat Him. Unfortunately, this has been dubbed one of “the hard sayings of Jesus,” when in fact, for believers, this is fundamental in our understanding of how Jesus Christ is uniquely able to satisfy our most basic needs. This “hard saying” is one that believers should look to for comforting delight rather than disheartening confusion. 

To begin, verses 32- 33, “ Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Here, Jesus clearly lays out that He is that true bread, he clearly describes His incarnation as well as the mission He would accomplish, to give life to the world. But the crowd did not understand. 

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” I would speculate that Jesus was grinning on the inside. He probably was thinking to Himself, “...just wait till they see what I’m going to do….” The people asked Him to give them the bread so that they could consume it ALWAYS. Little did they know that this is exactly what Jesus had in mind. He would give Himself over to the crowd to be mistreated and eventually murdered. Surely Jesus was looking forward to His resurrection and the promise He would give; “And behold, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Furthermore, He was likely looking forward to His session by the Father, for Hebrews 7:25 says that “...he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since HE ALWAYS LIVES TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM.”

Jesus goes on to lay out more clearly, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst...I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of this world is my flesh.”

There it is. This whole time they thought He was talking about bread…

The murmuring heightens, accusations of cannibalism run through their minds. Jesus drives this discussion home by saying, “...unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no eternal life in you….”

The gospel indicative here is verse 33, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The gospel imperative is verse 54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” Jesus bids us, “Come and eat. Partake. Consume. I alone can satisfy.” When we become partakers in the flesh of Christ, we partake in His death and resurrection. When we drink in the blood of Christ, we become members of His covenant. His blood is applied to us, it runs in us, it covers us. (Confer with 1 Corinthians 11)

Just as our most basic physical need is sustenance, food and water. Jesus teaches that His life and death, would fulfill our most basic spiritual need. Jesus is the sustenance for which our souls hunger and thirst. This news is objectively true and existentially satisfying. It is a rest for our minds and a delight to our hearts.  

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus is the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21). Come and Dine.