BUT, IT IS NOT IN THE BIBLE
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
FEBRUARY 27, 2010
“In Christ we have been given an inheritance, since we were destined for this, by the One who works out all his purposes according to the design of his own will.” (Eph. 1:11, Phillips)
Growing up, I cut my teeth on this verse: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (I Tim. 2:15, KJV) We were encouraged, admonished and commanded to study the Bible. For many years, I read the Bible through every year, Old Testament in the morning and New Testament at night. Sometimes, I would drift off while reading, but I could still say, “Yes, I read it.” Somewhere along in there, I fell in love with the thrilling accounts of God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of men and women. For those, like me, who hold the Bible in high regard, I add the scriptural references in these writings.
Because of this wonderful Christian foundation, I take seriously the concerns of readers and others who question anything I say which they believe differs from what they read in the Bible. Here’s the question asked by a man who had read my blog post last week, “Women in Ministry.” He wrote: “Hello Jan, I am sure you get this all the time, but what about those verses that say that a woman should not teach a man….? “I never saw women pastors in the bible, nor women priests, etc…. Don’t you think that maybe God ordained an order, and some roles are filled by men, and some women…?” End Quote.
He is correct that Paul said women are not permitted to teach or have authority over men (I Tim. 2:12), and that women should keep silence in churches (I Cor. 14:34). However, Paul also said that “there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ.” (Gal. 3:28) Was Paul confused, or are we, trying to bind First Century customs and traditions on Twenty-First century readers?
The scriptures have been the most important influence in my life for as long as I can remember. Let there be NO DOUBT that I believe the Bible to be inspired, the writers anointed by the Holy Spirit to convey what they were hearing from the Lord. However, it was written to people in a specific time period, going through events and trials unique to their situation. Therefore, we cannot bind every passage on all people in every time period. Perhaps that’s what Paul meant when he said we need to rightly divide the word of truth.
In the early days of my Christian walk, my only authority was the Bible and the church men who preached and taught it. After Jesus baptized me with the Holy Spirit, HE was the guide who led me into all truth. It wasn’t long before what I was getting from the Spirit of God led me into conflict with the church leaders of my youth. They said the Holy Spirit had gone back to heaven when the last Apostle died, and we didn’t need Him now that we had the Bible. I believed that until I met Jesus personally, when I realized there is a great gulf fixed between what men say ABOUT God and the reality of WHO He really is!
It is similar to the difference between seeing pictures of the Grand Canyon, and actually standing on the rim, looking down and across at the vast expanse of magnificent beauty. Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible is two dimensional, whereas God is multidimensional. You can read the Bible diligently, and know all it says ABOUT God, but it pales in comparison to knowing Him personally, feeling His presence, His love, and His power in your life.
Lenny said once that the Bible is for some, like the Tower of Babel, a stairway to heaven. Others have elevated it into the godhead. Perhaps the many different translations and denominations were put there by God to cause confusion, so we’d have to go to Him for our answers, rather than to men who can’t agree on what it means.
Paul was very clear about the difference between the words on the page and the Holy Spirit: “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Cor. 3:6, RSV)
Paul, more than most, understood the difference between law and grace, for God had called him out of the finest religious system the world had ever seen. The Law, the Psalmist declared, was “perfect” (Ps. 19:7), but here’s the kicker spelled out by the Hebrew writer: “the law made nothing perfect.” (Heb. 7:19) So, if reading the letter does not make us perfect, what does?
Paul spells it out clearly in Eph. 5, where he is talking about Christ, the bridegroom, caring for his bride, the church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Vs. 25-27) It is CHRIST who has the responsibility for “presenting the church (all of us) to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle….that she might be holy and without blemish.” That verse makes it clear that only Christ can make us holy.
Reading the Bible won’t do it; what we consider our good works may not make it through the flames Paul said was the test of their value “because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” (I Cor. 3:13-15) It is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said will lead us into all truth (John 16:13); further, the Apostle John said if we have the anointing, we have no need of any man to teach us because the Holy Spirit is our guide (I John 3:27).
Many refer to the Bible as “the WORD.” Yet, John was not talking about a book when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) The FIRST word and the LAST word of God is Christ Jesus our Lord! He is God’s beloved son, “Hear ye him!”
In Paul’s day, Women were merely chattel, possessions who belonged either to their fathers or to their husbands. Unless their father were rich, and could offer a big dowry, the woman had little monetary value. There was a caste system in place, where females were at the bottom of the heap and males at the top.
We have moved past that as a society, except in religious circles, where the caste system is still firmly in place in many denominations. Is it right? Many of us do not think so. Just because Paul didn’t include women in leadership positions in his day, does not mean they are forbidden to serve there today. He also did not mention computers, cell phones, the Internet, TV sets, or refrigerators. It doesn’t mean they are forbidden, but only that he was speaking to his time, his culture, and his place in history. We no longer live in that historical time frame anymore.
When I was in grad school, my first landlady was elderly and a fervent Bible believer. We didn’t have a television set, so I would often go to her house and enjoy a cup of tea with this dear woman while we watched the evening news. Something came on one night about the proposal to send a man to the moon. She said in a firm voice, “I don’t believe that’s possible. They are lying about that.” When I asked her why she thought that, she said definitively, “If men were supposed to be on the moon, it would be in the Bible, and it isn’t.” Her mind was made up even though the Apostle Paul had not expressly forbidden walking on the moon, that I could find.
The Lord has sovereignly called me and countless other women to minister the Good News of the Gospel in today’s world. Women are on the mission fields all over the globe; they are speaking from the pulpit, on television, radio, and the Internet. This takes nothing away from men, for God does what He does and speaks through whom He calls. His will prevails and He alone gets the glory, whether the word is spoken by male or female. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are ALL things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”