A Monument to Man’s Futility

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:1-9 ESV

With the opening verses of chapter 11, Moses provides an explanation of an earlier comment he made regarding Peleg, a descendant of Shem.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided – Genesis 10:25 ESV

The genealogy of Shem found in chapter 10 contains no lineage for Peleg. It simply mentions his name, then moves on to his brother Joktan. But Moses had a good reason for leaving out Peleg. He wanted to emphasize another major turning point in mankind’s story of expansion and moral degeneration. The sons of Noah were filling the earth, just as God had commanded. But as the genealogy of Ham revealed, the spread of mankind was accompanied by a rising number of people groups who would later be characterized as idolatrous, licentious, and evil. The existence of nations like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon was the direct result of Noah’s sons fulfilling God’s mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Their efforts had been successful.

the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. – Genesis 10:32 ESV

And Moses opens chapter 11 with a stunning revelation. There had been a time when all the nations of the earth shared a common language. This never-disclosed-before insight would have come as a shock to Moses’ Jewish audience. They were already having to deal with the fact that all mankind shared the same lineage. Their enemies, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Canaanites, and Babylonians, were actually their long-lost brothers. And now, they were learning for the first time, that there had been a point in time when all these disparate people groups had shared the same language.

One of the underlying and often overlooked themes in the book of Genesis is mankind’s reticence to obey God’s command to fill the earth. After the fall, the two sons of Adam and Eve chose domestication over migration and expansion.

Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. – Genesis 4:2 ESV

There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these professions. But it is apparent from the context that the two sons had both chosen to remain close to home. They had settled down not far from their mother and father. And their close proximity proved to be deadly. It was not long before “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8 ESV). And, as a result, God cursed Cain.

“When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:12 ESV

As part of his divine punishment, Cain was cast out of the comfort of his familial surroundings. He was forced to leave home. And his ban from his homeland is reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24 ESV

Adam and Eve had been cast out of Eden, but the divine mandate remained intact. They were to fill the earth. Ever since the fall, the trajectory of mankind was always intended to be away from Eden and into the world. But it seems that Adam and Eve didn’t wander far from the border of Eden. And their two sons chose to remain nearby as well. But after his sin, Cain was cursed to live the life of a wanderer – a nomad.

Yet, Cain ignored God’s edict and “settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16 ESV). He blatantly refused to live under God’s curse, choosing instead to settle down.

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. – Genesis 4:17 ESV

Rather than wander, Cain settled down once again. And this same predisposition to ignore God’s mandate can be seen in Noah. When the floodwaters had receded and Noah was able to exit the ark, he and his three sons were assigned the task of fulfilling the divine mandate to fill the earth. But Noah decided to settle down instead.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. – Genesis 9:20 ESV

And Noah’s seemingly innocuous decision had devasting consequences. It resulted in the cursing of his own grandson and a growing division among all his progeny.

As each new generation came into existence, they continued the slow but steady movement away from Eden. Moses indicates that “as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there” (Genesis 11:2 ESV). Whether they realized it or now, they were filling the earth. But, once again, mankind’s inherent desire for autonomy and self-determination raised its ugly head.

During Peleg’s lifetime, some of his relatives made the same fateful decision that Cain and Noah had made. They chose to settle down.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11: 4 ESV

These industrious individuals decided to make bricks and build a tower to the sky – intended as a monument to their own ingenuity and industry. Their ambitious building project was motivated by a desire to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). They wanted to be the determiners of their own fate and to control their collective destiny. Nowhere in this passage does Moses relate a command issued from God that they should construct a city. This had been their decision and it was purely self-centered and aimed at self-glorification. They wanted to make a name for themselves. Rather than choosing to glorify God, they attempted to glorify themselves. That same attitude is reflected in the words of one of their descendants, a powerful man who would build a great city and then one day proclaim:

“Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.” – Daniel 4:30 NLT

Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, would attempt to rob glory from God and suffer the consequences. He gloried in his greatness as a self-made man. But God would give this egotistical king a painful lesson in humility and divine sovereignty.  Nebuchadnezzar would have to learn “that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses” (Daniel 4:32 NLT).

And the overly ambitious and egotistical builders of the tower would learn a similar lesson about God’s sovereignty. When the Almighty saw what they were doing, He reacted immediately.

“Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.” – Genesis 11:6-7 NLT

There are some who believe that these people were attempting to build a tower that would allow them to access God. But up until this point in the story, mankind had always considered Eden to be the home of God. It’s interesting to note that Adam and Eve had been banned from the garden, the place where they had enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God. And when their son, Cain, had been cursed by God, he “went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16 ESV).

The story of mankind is characterized by a constant movement away from God. Made in His image and designed to reflect His glory, humanity has made a habit out of distancing itself from God. And the apostle Paul paints a rather bleak portrait of the fallen state of mankind.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. – Romans 1:28-32 NLT

In order to disrupt the self-aggrandizing efforts of the tower builders, God created an instant source of confusion by confounding their ability to communicate. In an instant, God turned their call to make a name for themselves into a cacophony of disparate languages. They could no longer understand one another. And with no common language, their ability to conspire against God evaporated.

Moses indicates that “the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city” (Genesis 11:8 NLT). This was a divine punishment that had sovereign consequences. God knew what He was doing. He was forcing humanity to obey His kingdom mandate and fill the earth. It was only in the fulfillment of that command that humanity could act as His image-bearers and bring glory to His name. His will would be done, whether they wanted to participate or not. And Moses states that “in this way, he scattered them all over the world” (Genesis 11:9 NLT).

But while the people dispersed, the tower and the city remained. The site became known as Babel. There is a powerful sense of irony in this story because the name Babel would become synonymous with the future nation of Babylon. In their language, Babel came to mean “the gate of God.” But in Hebrew, the word meant “confusion.” The site of Babel would become the future home of the mighty city of Babylon, the resplendent capital of Nebuchadnezzar’s vast domain. The very city over which he gazed and pridefully proclaimed, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.”

Man’s incessant pride is nothing more than misplaced glory that always results in confusion and conflict. Man’s consistent attempts to dethrone God have always produced nothing but chaos. The psalmist provides a sobering assessment of humanity’s ill-fated and futile attempts to replace God.

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury. – Psalm 2:1-5 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

God of Peace.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. – 1 Corinthians 14:26-33a ESV

The very fact that Paul is going into this great amount of detail regarding the gifts reveals that this was a real problem for the church in Corinth. This was not a case of the gifts being in short supply. They seemed to have them in abundance. But they were confused as to their purpose and were neglecting to practice them in a spirit of love. So now, Paul gives more specific comments regarding their use in corporate worship. “When you come together,” Paul says, “each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.” The gifts were designed primarily for use within the community and Paul makes clear their intended purpose: “Let all things be done for building up.” They were not designed to get attention or to make the one with the gift look good. And they most certainly were not to be used in a competitive or chaotic way. It seems that the Corinthians were in the habit of practicing their gifts almost like it was a competition. There was no order to their services. Everyone was prophesying, singing, teaching, and speaking in tongues at the same time. Which is what let Paul to say, “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.”

The gift of tongues was not to dominate the corporate gathering. As Paul made clear earlier, tongues were intended for the lost, not believers. But if someone was going to practice the gift of tongues within the worship service, there must be someone there to interpret what was said. Otherwise, they were to remain silent. And Paul restricted the use of tongues to no more than three individuals per worship service. He did the same thing with the gift of prophecy. “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29 ESV). The worship service was not to be a circus or free-for-all, with everyone speaking at the same time or saying whatever they felt led to say. Even those with a prophetic word were to be evaluated by others with the same gift. There had to be a confirmation of what was being said. Just because someone prophesied did not mean that what they said was true. There was a need for the congregation and others with the gift of prophecy to ascertain whether what was being said was of God. This is an important distinction. Not all tongues is of God. Not all prophecy is of God. Not all revelation is of God. The gifts can be easily replicated and done apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. There are many who claim to prophesy in the name of God, but their words are not from God. There are those who claim to have the gift of tongues, but they do not practice them according to Scripture. There is no interpretation. There is no message. And no one, except the one speaking in tongues, is built up. To Paul, this was all unacceptable. It was more evident of the former pagan background of the Corinthians than than it was of God’s intended form of worship for the church.  

The theological point is crucial: the character of one’s deity is reflected in the character of one’s worship. The Corinthians must therefore cease worship that reflects the pagan deities more than the God whom they have come to know through the Lord Jesus Christ. God is neither characterized by disorder nor the cause of it in the assembly. – Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians

Order. Edification. Peace. Godliness. Love. All of these things were to characterize the corporate worship of the body of Christ. God had given the gifts to assist in the building up of the saints. When the Spirit of God was at work within the congregation, it would be evident. There would be a spirit of love present. Orderliness, not confusion, would characterize the assembly. The gifts would be complimentary, not competitive. The use of the gifts would be dictated by the Spirit of God, not the selfish desires of men. And the result would be the edification of all, not the elevation of one.

 

Immaturity and Spirituality.

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. – 1 Corinthians 14:20-25 ESV

The Corinthians had revealed their spiritual immaturity to Paul by elevating the gift of tongues to a primary position. They saw speaking in tongues as a sign of spirituality and were pursuing and practicing that gift to the detriment of the body of Christ. So Paul calls them out and encourages them to “grow up” in their thinking. It is one thing to be innocent when it comes to evil, but they were acting like children when it came to the gifts God had given to the church. They were enamored by the more showy, flamboyant gifts and were allowing jealousy, pride and envy to characterize their use of the gifts, rather than the mutual edification of one another.

One of the most important distinctions Paul makes about the gift of tongues is regarding its purpose or objective. He quotes a passage from Isaiah 28 to show that tongues “are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers” (1 Corinthians 14:22 ESV). The context of the Isaiah passage is that God had sent Isaiah to warn the people of Israel of the coming invasion of the Assyrians. He has been calling them to repent and return to Him as their God, but they have stubbornly refused the calls of the prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah had been speaking to them in their own language, but they had refused to listen. So Isaiah warns them that God was going to send the Assyrians, and “by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11 ESV). Their unbelief and stubbornness was going to force God to punish them by sending them into captivity, but even then they would not repent.

Paul is trying to get them to think logically and maturely about their view of tongues. He even uses a real-life scenario to make his point. “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?” (1 Corinthians 14:23 ESV). In other words, if tongues is the superior gift they seem to think it is and everyone in the church practiced it at the same time, what would unbelievers think when they walked in the door and experienced the chaos and confusion firsthand? They would most likely conclude that Christians were crazy. Rather than see Christians living and worshiping together in unity, they would experience a spirit of competition. Instead of hearing a clearly articulated and understandable delivery of the gospel, they would walk away confused and convinced that Christianity was no different than the pagan religions with which they were already familiar. It is important to note that Paul is describing a time of corporate worship. This is supposed to be a time when the body of Christ gathers for worship and mutual edification.

If we look back at Acts 2 and see the first evidence of the gift of tongues being used, we see that it was not during a time of corporate worship. They had been waiting together in a room, just as Jesus had instructed them to do. And then something happened.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4 ESV

And there was a purpose behind this one-of-a-kind event. Luke goes on to record:

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? – Acts 2:5-8 ESV

In this case, they all spoke in tongues at the same time. A scenario much like Paul described in his example. But the reason was simple. There were thousands of people present who were from other countries and who spoke other languages. And each was able to hear what was being said in their own language. And the result of this amazing event was that 3,000 people came to faith in Christ. The gift of tongues had a purpose. It was God-ordained and Holy Spirit-directed. But this was not intended to be the norm. It was not a prescribed method or form of worship for the early church. And yet the Corinthians had childishly elevated tongues to a superior position, misunderstanding its purpose and missing the point behind what God was trying to do in their midst.

Ultimately, Paul was interested in heart change. He compares tongues with the gift of  prophecy, describing another scenario in which a lost person visits the corporate worship service. This time, rather than confusion and chaos, they hear the truth being proclaimed through the gift of prophecy. Paul says, “they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, ‘God is truly here among you’” (1 Corinthians 14:24;25 NLT). Understandable truth results in undeniable heart change. Revelation brings about redemption. Edification and evangelism were the primary purpose behind the gifts when the church gathered. There would be a proper place and time for the gift of tongues, but it had to be Spirit-determined and directed. Choosing to use gifts because of their seeming spirituality revealed an immature perspective. It was childish and short-sighted. A more mature outlook would view the gifts as given by God and up to Him to use as He sees fit, with the ultimate purpose being the building up the body of Christ.

 

Titus 1

Character Counts.

Titus 1

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. – Titus 1:9 NLT

Like Timothy, Titus was one of Paul’s protégés. He was a Greek Gentile whom Paul had evidently led to Christ. This young man had actually accompanied Paul on several of his missionary journeys and had gained the great apostle’s trust, so that Paul was confident in sending him out on his own on numerous occasions as his representative. In fact, Paul had sent him to the island of Crete in order to help establish some sense of order within the churches there, including appointing elders to help him lead. “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5 NLT). As in the case of Timothy, Paul had to instruct Titus how to deal with false teachers who had become a real problem within the fledgling churches on Crete.

Titus found himself ministering in a place where the reputation of the inhabitants was far from stellar. Paul even quoted Epimenides, a 6th Century BC philosopher and religious prophet who happened to be a Cretan himself. He said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12 NLT). Paul went out of his way to paint a less-than-flattering picture of the people of Crete. He described them as  “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (Titus 1:10 NLT). Evidently, not only were the false teachers men of poor repute, so were some of the members of the local churches in Crete. So Paul spent a great deal of time in his letter talking about good works. He wanted Titus to understand just how important good character and moral behavior should be to the life of every believer. Paul commanded Titus to deal harshly and firmly with those whose lives were marked by laziness and lying. He didn’t want his young disciple to tolerate the disorder and chaos these kinds of people were bringing into the church. He told Titus to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13 NLT). Rebuking and restoration were both to be a part of Titus’ ministry on Crete.

One of the first things Titus was to concentrate on was the appointment of elders for the local churches on Crete. Part of the problem of disorder was based on a lack of qualified leadership. So Paul told Titus what to look for in the kind of men needed to help lead the churches there. Notice that Paul’s description has much to do with character and says little about Scripture knowledge, academic requirements, business success, or even leadership skills. Instead, Paul mentions qualities and characteristics that would have been visible to all those who knew these men. Titus was to look for the outward evidence of an inward transformation that had taken place in the lives of these men due to their relationship with Christ and their knowledge of the Word of God. Each of them were to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9 NLT). In other words, they had to know the truth of the Gospel and the realities regarding God and His redemptive plan for man if they were going to be able to refute falsehood and defend the Good News from attack.

But the real point Paul seems to be making is the contrast of character between these future leaders and those who were doing harm to the church. Those who would lead the church had to be men who were above reproach or blameless. This didn’t mean that they had to be perfect or sinless. The Greek word Paul used referred to the fact that these men were to have no glaring character flaws and they didn’t live their lives in such a way that it would cause people to point their fingers in criticism, resulting in harm to the reputation of the church. They were to be loving husbands who didn’t have reputations for unfaithfulness. They were to be fathers who had proven themselves capable leaders at home, having seen their children come to faith in Christ and who were modeling lives of moral integrity and obedience. Paul went on to say that an elder candidate “must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7 NLT). Instead, he was to be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8 NLT).

Titus was going to need help in dealing with the disorder and negative moral influences within the churches on Crete. He couldn’t handle it on his own. So Paul emphasized the need for him to find the right kind of men to lovingly lead the flock of God, providing much-needed discipline and modeling the character of Christ to all those around them.

Father, the church needs men of character today. We desperately need those whose lives are marked by moral integrity and faithfulness to help lead and protect Your flock. We are surrounded by those who would love to destroy and distract Your people, and far too often those within the church lack the spiritual maturity to care for themselves. So we ask that You would raise up men and women who are filled with Your Spirit and firmly founded on Your Word to lead Your church. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Order in the House.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

 But be sure that everything is done properly and in order. – 1 Corinthians 14:40 NLT

Our God is not a god of confusion or chaos. He prefers order and unity. Even in the public assemblies of His people. A study of His design for the Tabernacle in the wilderness gives a clear indication of just how orderly our God is. And yet, when Paul received news regarding the state of affairs with the people of God in Corinth, he was not pleased. Their worship meetings had become disorderly and confusing affairs, marked by competition and pride. Even the use of their spiritual gifts were accomplishing the exact opposite of what they were intended to do. Rather than edify and build up the body, they were causing dissension and disorder. Those who had the gift of prophesy were refusing to take turns, trying to outdo each other. If someone had a revelation from God, they would just begin to speak, rather than wait for the other person to finish. Those with the gift of tongues were all talking at once, without the aid of an interpreter. So the end result was that no one was able to understand a word that was being said. Even the women had gotten into the act. It is obvious from earlier in Paul’s letter, that he did not forbid women from participating in praying or prophesying in public worship. His only requirement, which appears to be a contextual and cultural one, was that they do so with their heads covered (1 Corinthians 11:5). But in this section, it seems that the issue is one regarding their questioning of or spoken response to words of prophesy uttered by others in the congregation. Paul had said, “Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29 NLT). It appears that there was a protocol that allows others to examine or even oppose what was said. They could pose questions or raise concerns regarding the individual’s statements. And it seems that some of the women were taking part in this activity, which is what Paul was forbidding when he said, “Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says” (1 Corinthians 14:34 NLT). Again, this appears to be a cultural issue. If a man uttered a word of prophesy, and a woman questioned him in public, it would have been unacceptable and inappropriate. It was common practice in both the Gentile and Jewish cultures for men to question public lectures, but not women. This was in keeping with the cultural mores concerning subordination and headship. So Paul was not forbidding women from using their spiritual gifts, but to refrain from ignoring matters of headship by publicly questioning the words of another man during corporate worship. If they had questions, they were to raise them at home with their husband or father. Again, this all has to do with order, decorum and the overall integrity of the worship service. Which is why Paul ends this section with the words, “But be sure that everything is done properly and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NLT).

You can imagine what it would have been like to have two to three people all speaking in foreign tongues at the same time, only to be interrupted by someone else trying to utter a word of prophesy, while another person tried to speak over them with a word of revelation. It would have been total chaos and confusion. And this was not something Paul was willing to tolerate. It went against the whole purpose for them having come together as the body. It contradicted the very purpose of the gifts. God had equipped His people so that they might build one another up. Their times together were to be well-ordered and for the mutual benefit of the body, not the individual. It was not to be a competition to see who was the most gifted or who had the latest word from the Lord. All was to be done in love and submission. Paul would write later in his letter to the Ephesian believers: “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NLT). Worship should never be a show. Musicians should never perform in order to get noticed. Pastors should never preach to get recognized. Prayers should not be prayed to impress others. All should be done to glorify God and to build up the body of Christ. Otherwise, we miss the point altogether.

Father, may all that we do be done in order and with a heart to build up the body of Christ. Never let us make it all about us. Forgive us for our affinity for showmanship and personal recognition. Give us a selfless attitude that desires the well-being of the body over our own personal good. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Order Amidst the Chaos.

1 Corinthians 11:2-16

But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God. – 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 NLT

I would by lying or delusional if I said this was not a difficult passage. There has been much debate and confusion regarding the words of Paul found in these verses and, I for one, am not sure I am the one to bring clear insight into their meaning or application for 21st-Century Christians. These verses are controversial and, while some use them to justify their particular denomination’s modern-day practices, others simply write them off as admonitions from Paul that had a limited-time, cultural significance that does not apply today. And yet, God chose to include these verses as a part of His inerrant, infallible Scriptures. So what are we to do with them.

I think we have to consider the cultural context, as you do when you read any of the books of the Bible. You have to remember who Paul was talking to and what was going on in their particular community and context. Paul’s letters are specific and general in their content and application. Some of the things he wrote were meant to address very specific issues that were unique to that particular fellowship. While there may be principles that can be applied to today’s modern context, the specifics do not. For instance, we do not struggle with the problem of eating meat sacrificed to idols. That was unique to the believers living in Corinth. But there are underlying principles that apply to us today. In the verses for today, we must look carefully for what it is that God would have us take away and apply to our current cultural context.

He deals with everything from headship and authority to women’s head coverings. What is his main point? What is the real problem going on in Corinth? What are we to take away as the lesson or spiritual insight for the modern church? There is no doubt that Paul is addressing an underlying problem of the lack of order within the church. If you recall, there were those among the Corinthian believers who were embracing the idea that, because of their new found freedom in Christ, they were free to do things as they wished. Their attitude had become, “I am allowed to do anything!” Under the context of personal rights and freedoms, they were beginning to determine their own rules of behavior within the body of Christ. This included eating meat sacrificed to idols and, according to these verses, it seems that some of the women began to question the whole idea of authority. This was symbolized culturally by the use of the head covering. Evidently, some of the women were choosing to NOT cover their heads, as was the custom of their society. Even among the Greeks of their day, a woman usually covered her hair and head when out in public. It would seem that some of the women in the Corinthian fellowship had decided that they didn’t have to adhere to this cultural mandate any more. But Paul raised a much more basic and fundamental issue: The biblical concept of authority and headship. He reminded them, “But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3 NLT). Even within the Godhead, the Trinity, submission and headship was practiced. This was God’s divine plan and His order for mankind. The real problem, as far as Paul was concerned, was the danger of rejecting God’s divine order. The removal of the head covering was a cultural symptom of a much greater issue. Eating meat sacrificed to idols was not the primary problem. It was that individuals in the church were using their so-called rights to cause their brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. Think of what it would have been like if the believers in the church in Corinth had begun to throw off all the accepted cultural norms within their society. Those outside the church would have looked in and questioned the validity and value of the church and its practices. For Paul, everything always revolved around making sure that he did nothing to prevent the spread of the gospel. So if the women in the church suddenly decided to stop wearing their head coverings, it would have been a turn-off to those outside the church and been viewed as too radical and revolutionary; thus preventing them from ever entering into a relationship with the Corinthian believers and thereby hearing the gospel message.

It would see to me that much of what Paul was addressing had to do with accepted cultural norms. It would have been shocking for a woman to go out in public with her hair uncovered. It would have been even more disturbing for a woman to pray in a public worship service with her head uncovered. The real issue for Paul seems to be the confusion and chaos these acts would cause both inside and outside of the church. To not wear a head covering would have been as shocking in that day as a woman shaving her head – unthinkable and unacceptable. But what Paul really seems to be addressing is the need for order within the local body. Anything that would detract from the unity of the body or the spread of the gospel was to be avoided at all costs. Anything that gave the impression that there was no accepted order or need for authority or submission was to be rejected. Rather than seek our rights and demand our way, we need to always keep in mind that we exist for God’s glory. It is not about us. It is about the overall health of the body of Christ, the spread of the Gospel and the cause of the Kingdom of God. We are to do things God’s way, not ours. We are to be willing to die to our rights if it will benefit the body of Christ. We are to give up our freedoms if it will help others come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Father, this is a difficult passage, but it is even more difficult to live out our lives with a sense of otherness rather than selfishness. It would be so much easier to make these verses all about head coverings and hair cuts. But it seems you are calling us to live in unity and humble submission to one another. Our pride is to take a back seat to the well being of the body of Christ. Open our eyes and help us see the lessons You have for us in these verses. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 30b

Things That Rock Our World.

“There are three things that make the earth tremble – no, four it cannot endure: a slave who becomes a king, an overbearing fool who prospers, a bitter woman who finally gets a husband, a servant girl who supplants her mistress.” – Proverbs 30:21-23 NLT

There is a created order to God’s world. There is a way in which things can and should work so that we experience peace and not chaos, calm instead of confusion. And when God’s way is either ignored or rejected, the result can be catastrophic and earth-shaking. It may seem simple and innocent enough, but when we fail to do life according to God’s terms, it never turns out well. When God’s natural order or path of wisdom is departed from, it creates a hole in the fabric of the universe.
in this Proverb, Agur gives us a series of “three-four” sayings that act as warnings against life lived outside of God’s prescribed plan. At first glance they appear somewhat humorous, but upon closer examination, we realize that these sayings are real and sobering. In verses 21-23 we find a list of four seemingly innocent and innocuous individuals who find themselves in improved situations. You have a slave who winds up a king, a fool who has an endless supply food, an unloved woman who lands herself a husband, and a servant girl who ends up taking the place of her master’s wife. Each of these individuals represent an unexpected, elevated status that is not accompanied by a change in nature. These are simply examples of events that are not in keeping with God’s natural order of things. A slave is not meant to become king. If he does, he will tend to take advantage of his new-found power and authority and lord it over those under his control. A fool who refuses to work and is inherently lazy, but finds himself with an endless supply of food and stuffs himself on it, will never learn that blessing is the result of diligence. A bitter, unloved and unhappy woman who finds herself a husband will not automatically become happy and content. She will continue to struggle with the same issues, driving her husband insane and, ultimately, away. A servant girl who becomes the focus of her master’s affections, taking the place of even his wife, will fail to honor the one for whom she works. Each of these people are pictured as getting what they long for: power, prosperity, affection and position, yet they are not truly satisfied. They have attained what they have unfairly or even unnaturally. Their circumstances have changed apart from God’s natural order of things. It is like a poor couple winning the lottery and suddenly finding themselves rich beyond their wildest imaginations. The likelihood of that situation turning out well is not good. Their new-found wealth will result in unwanted, but NOT unexpected consequences.

It’s interesting that these examples of unhealthy life changes are stuck between Agur’s statements regarding the blood-sucking leech who is never satisfied and a series of four other creatures that reflect diligence, hard work, and a reliance upon God’s creative order for all things. Get-rich-quick-schemes are warned against all throughout the Proverbs. Laziness is villainized. The expectation of reward without work is discouraged. Achieving the apparent blessings of God without living according to the expectations of God can be dangerous and is to be discouraged. We must do things God’s way. No short cuts. No compromises. It has to be His way if you want to experience His blessing.

Father, thank You for giving this world order. Thanks for providing some method in the midst of all the madness. May we learn to do things Your way rather than try and shake things up by operating outside your perfectly prescribed plan. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org