Summary: These difficult passages deal with the controversial subjects of women being silent in church, women wearing head coverings, and male headship. This message looks at both sides of each Biblical argument.
- It’s Christmas Eve and the kids are off to bed. You pull out the box with one of their big gifts for Christmas morning. Before you’re off to bed, you just need to spend a few minutes assembling the toy. You open the box and pull out piece after piece after piece, along with several bags of nuts and bolts. As you look at all of that laying on the living room floor in front of you, you get this sinking feeling in the bottom of your stomach. And you think: “This is going to be a lot harder than I thought. This is going to take a lot longer than I thought.”
- A feeling not unlike that awaits the person digging into this passage. As I scoured around earlier this week in these verses, everywhere I looked were more “pieces” - more issues raised and questions to be addressed. Everywhere were more “nuts and bolts” - little verses that didn’t initially seem to fit well with other verses. And I thought: “This is going to be a lot harder than I thought. This is going to take a lot longer than I thought.”
- For better or worse, I kept digging and kept digging and eventually came up with some semblance of an opinion coming out of all these issues and verses.
- One thing that made it harder is that the commentators that I normally turn to were all over the map. With most passages I can pretty accurately tell you the direction each commentator is going to be heading. Not so here. I was surprised that John MacArthur argued that the head coverings were cultural. (I was surprised he thought anything in the Bible could be treated that way.) I was surprised that Robert Deffinbaugh went so far in arguing that head coverings were for today. I was surprised that that old warhorse J. Vernon McGhee actually said that he didn’t have a problem with women teachers. It was like some kind of weird Twilight Zone episode where nothing is at it should be.
- I should probably note that these issues are particularly close to Karen and I right now, as one of the couples in our family has recently started into a new church and, as a result, the woman in that couple has begun wearing long skirts all the time (a practice that some particularly conservative churches believe in). I’ve been surprised at how strong the negative reactions have been to this change in behavior, especially among other Christians. These are issues that can raise a lot of heat. Let’s hope this evening we can shed a little light.
Three Opening Truths:
1. For most of us, our opinions on these issues are based on our thoughts, not on the careful study of Scripture.
- Very few of us have taken time to make a detailed study of these issues to see what the Word says. We may say, “I just think. . .” or “I was raised that women should. . .” or “I’ve always believed that. . .”, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is not what we think, but what God says.
2. So much of our battle as Christians is finding the line where we can engage our culture without accommodating to it.
- This is especially true with the issues we’re going to discuss this evening, but it is generally true in our Christian lives. We don’t want to be hermits, but we don’t want to lose our distinctiveness.
- For instance, technology is, of course, not intrinsically evil. Television can be used to show a Billy Graham Crusade (and see thousands saved) or show pornographic movies. There is no reason to reject TV as a whole, but sometimes it’s difficult to discern what’s appropriate and what isn’t for a Christian to watch. Many Christians I know like “Law & Order,” but does it have voyeuristic violence that makes it inappropriate? Some condemned “Schindler’s List” when it was shown by ABC, but did the movie (unedited in its violence and nudity) serve to educate about the horrors of World War II?
- As I write this, the “The Da Vinci Code” movie is soon to be released. Many Christians (myself included) view this movie as an excellent chance to engage unbelievers on who Jesus really is. Is using this movie in that way engaging the culture or accommodating to it?
- Throughout the Bible, we see people walking this line. Joseph shaved his beard as a concession to Egyptian culture, yet adamantly refused to give into Potiphar’s wife. Daniel and his three friends were willing to serve a foreign king, but would not bow down to his golden image.
- This is important on the issue of this sermon because the assertions made can be seen as so far out of line with cultural norms. If, however, cultural norms require us to forsake Biblical teaching, then something is deeply wrong.