Ask Steve: Can Salvation Be Lost?

September 28, 2014 10:11 pm

Lost

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, can a believer lose his salvation? Can people know that a believer is truly saved?

Answer: The issue of the certainty or uncertainty of a believer’s salvation is a topic of immense debate. The Calvinist tradition teaches that the Christian cannot lose his salvation and will persevere until the end, while the Arminianist tradition believes that true Christians can certainly lose their salvation by not persevering in it.

Although outward observances of apostasy experience can certainly be informative , the best place to find answers to this issue is the Bible. Scripture clearly teaches the doctrine of perseverance of the saints – believers will endure in their faith until the end. In essence, they will never lose their salvation. It is not because the reborn believer does not have the will to apostasize (abandon the faith), but that he perseveres in faith (and in the fruits of the Spirit) because of God the Spirit who works in the believer to accomplish His salvific goals. This is not to say that there aren’t verses that hint at the idea of believer’s losing their salvation, but these verses should be rightly understood in the bigger picture of the work of salvation that God begins and ends, as well as our responsibility as Christians to believe, which means that we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).

Before we look at the issue of belief, we must understand what is the role of God in the salvation process. According to the famous passage of Romans 8:28-30, God is the author and perfector of human salvation. The passage reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son; so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called, and these whom He called, He also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

This passage is saying that God is powerful and sovereign enough to work out all things in the world (both good and evil) to His purposed end. And one of these goods certainly includes the salvation of sinners. In fact, verse 29 goes on to teach that God predestined/elected certain people before the world was created to be saved and eventually glorified. That means that salvation is entirely a work of God, not the work of fallen mankind. Whomever God wills to be elected are those who will be brought to eternal life when it is all said and done. If you look at verse 29, the phrase “He also” appears four times. Why is this important? Because the chain is unbreakable; once the process is begun with a certain person, it will come to completion, without anyone falling through the cracks. Those whom God has called to salvation will respond and they will be glorified with Him in heaven. This passage teaches the security of believers who have repented and trusted in Christ for salvation.

Another interesting note to see in this verse is the tense, which is all in the past (ex. He called, He justified, He gloried). This shows that the salvation of a believer is written in eternity past with God, and is not merely a future possibility. It is a certainty from a God who lives outside of time and space, seeing events before it happens and even authoring it to His desired end so that all goes according to His plan. The final observation we want to see is that God is the one who carries out these four actions and not man. All man needs to do is respond in faith to the calling of God, and even our faith is a gift from God, according to verses like 2 Peter 1:1.

John 10:27-29 teaches about the blessed hope of not just election, but preservation of believers until the day they go to be with the Lord. The passage reads, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” God is the one who grants eternal life to the believer, and believers will never fall out of the Father’s grasp because He preserves and empowers their faith until the end. That is why the Bible can confidently declare that those who have been justified will never be at war with God again (Roman 5:1), but that they will have peace, and will even bear fruit in keeping with His repentance (Matt 3:8) because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin (Jn 16:8-9), grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25), justifies the believer (Phil 1:29), washes and regenerates (Tit 3:5), and promises to glorify (Rom 8:20; Phil 3:20-21).

This study of the security of salvation (aka perseverance of the saints) is also vital in showing us about the marks of a true Christian. How can we know a professing believer is truly a believer in that he is saved? Is there a way to find out? Scripture definitely presents many things to say about this topic.

A believer is one who has repented and believed in Christ as Lord and Savior (Jn 3:16; Rom 10:9). However, people who have seemingly “repented” have fallen away from the faith at times. How can this be? The only answer is that they never truly repented and submitted their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Their conversion was not real. It was never a work of the Holy Spirit. We know this because Scripture talks about what the life of a Christian looks like after they get saved. Those who don’t have these marks are most likely false converts who will either fall away from Christianity later on or they will die in their unregenerate state and end up in eternal hell.

All Christians will bear fruit. This means that the Holy Spirit will work in the Christian’s life to cause him to love God and obey His Scriptural commands. Although some Christians will bear more fruit than others, the point is that they will not have a fruitless faith, otherwise they possess a faith dead. That is the principle behind James 2:14-26. All Christians will have a changed transformed life (in contrast to their former unbelieving state) which manifests in different ways. Christians will love God (Lk 10:27), continually be mourning over and fighting sin (Ps 32:5; Rom 7:14), display humility (Ps 51:17; Mt 5:1-12), be devoted to God’s glory (Ps 105:3; Jer 9:23-24), hunger for God’s Word (Mt 7:21; Jn 15:14), be separated from the philosophies of the world (1 Cor 2:12; Jas 4:4), and have an eternal perspective over worldly things (2 Cor 5:11; 2 Tim 4:8).

That is why passages like John 14:23 reads, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words…” Those who have been reborn of God are given a new nature to love God and practice righteousness. Those who live like pagans, but claim to be Christians, are most likely not true believers and have never been saved and reborn to begin with. Some will even fall away from the faith and be hostile to Christ. That is why the Apostle John states in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

The best barometer of a believer’s profession of faith is not merely the time of decision or the fact that he participated in an altar call or signed a card. Rather, the best test is the fruits of faith that can be observed in the brief period of time after conversion. If it looks like God has been working in that believer’s life to conform him to Christlikeness, then an assurance of salvation can truly be given to a believer. However, if the “believer” does not manifest any desire for the things of God or what displeases Him, then he may be a false convert, and needs evangelization.

Recommended Resource: Saved without a Doubt by John MacArthur

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Sermon

September 27, 2014 12:56 am

Discipline

 

Currently Reading:

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

by Tim Callies

Category: Christian Living

2007, Crossway

 

 

 

 

I recently preached a message titled The Ultimate Deliverance, which is an exposition of Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is a message about the New Covenant:

 

 

Book Review: Walls Fall Down by Dudley Rutherford

September 24, 2014 6:03 am

Dudley

Dudley Rutherford’s second book, Walls Fall Down, is an inspiration and biblical account on what lessons we can learn from the incident of the Walls of Jericho (Joshua 6), and how that applies to our lives. He goes into a historical study of the biblical account, then makes it extremely practical for Christian living by describing what this says about God’s faithfulness and our ability to overcome trials and obstacles in our lives through trust in God and guidance by His Spirit.

This is a book that is practical and will help you in your Christian walk, especially if you have walls (ex. obstacles, challenges, pains, trials) that need to be broken down, especially if they are hindering your walk with the Lord. The book is broken down into 7 insightful chapters that you can use for personal studies, reflection, and ultimately, action.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary review copy from Booklookbloggers.com. I was not obligated to give a good review, but only my honest opinion.

 

Book reviewed by author Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible:

Ask Steve: Millennial Position

September 23, 2014 12:27 am

Premillenn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what is your view of the millennium and why do you hold it? 

Answer: Although my millennial position is not such that it eclipses my focus on the gospel and the mission of the church, I still see it as a significant issue and a determining factor to my pastoring at a church. The millennial issue is important to me because it represents how I interpret Scripture, how I approach missiology, and how I view the relationship between the church and Israel. I am a firm believer in premillennialism, which means that I believe God will return before the start of the millennium to physically rule over the earth in Jerusalem for 1,000 years before the Great White Throne Judgment and the establishment of the New Earth.

 I firmly believe that Scripture teaches premillennalism over the proposed options of amillennialism and postmillennialism for three reasons: 1). The grammatical-historical method of interpreting Scripture testifies to the reality of a 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, 2). It makes sense when examining the simple chronological context of Revelation 20, 3). It does justice to the many Old Testament prophetic references of a future earthly kingdom that is definitely better than the current world order, but not quite as perfect as the eternal state, which speaks of an intermediate period that can only find fulfillment during the 1,000 years depicted in Revelation 20:4-10.

It is interesting to note that premillennialism is the oldest millennial view of all the millennial options, beginning from the time of the apostolic church age. This does not necessarily prove that the premillennialist doctrine is true, but it is a good indicator of its reliability since it is the position that is closest to the time of the apostles. This greatly increases the chance of a more accurate and reliable interpretation of such prophetic issues since the church fathers lived closer to the time of the apostles and had access to their teachings. Such views were prevalent amongst church fathers such as Iranaeus, Martyr, and Barnabas. It remained so until the 4th century, when amillennialism was made popular by Origen because of the popular secular trend of allegorical and Gnostic influences that were pervasive throughout the regions, as well as a growing Christianization of the Roman Empire that led to the realization that a millennial period for Israel was unnecessarily.

As I have stated, one of the reasons why I belief in premillennialism is that it is the product of faithful exegesis of the text according to a trustworthy system of hermeneutics. The grammatical-historical method (literal) of Scripture reading has been characteristic of evangelicalism since the time of the Protestant Reformation, and was one of the major characteristics of the movement. A literal understanding of Scripture and the belief that it spoke clearly is one of the defining marks of evangelicism, and what separates true Christianity from other branches or denominations that may take too much of a figurative, allegorical, or mystical approach to interpreting especially key doctrinal issues in Scripture. A big portion of evangelicalism mysteriously departs from the grammatical-historical method when it comes to “apocalyptic literature,” but the same hermeneutics should apply here as well if one believes that God communicated clearly to the original audiences in the original setting. This integrity and consistency in hermeneutical approach leads to the realization that the book of Revelation not only promotes a futuristic eschatology, but also one that demonstrates premillennialism.

The normal sense of the language in Revelation 19-21, as well as the context and chronology, also demonstrate that premillennialism makes sense. Revelation 19 speaks about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His casting of the Beast and False Prophet into the lake of fire. Chronologically, Revelation 20 follows suit, as some information within the text shows that it is meant to be chronological and not a shifting back in time, as preterists would propose in their pliable interpretation of the text. After Christ’s second coming, an angel takes a hold of Satan and locks him in an abyss for 1,000 years (20:3). Amillennialists and postmillennialists would say that this binding of Satan has already happened when Christ conquered sin and death on the cross. In other words, the millennium is currently underway with Satan bound in the abyss, as the church is living in the millennial period in a mystical way.

However, the context of Revelation 20, as well as various Bible passages that speak about Satan’s influence in the world now, shows the amillennialist’s theory to be a far fetched proposal. The text clearly says that it was an angel who bound Satan in the abyss, not Christ Himself. The passage implies that Satan’s influence over the nations would cease, but many NT passages, as well as common day experiences, testify to the fact that Satan is still working and influencing both nations and individuals in mighty ways (2 Cor 4:4; John 12:31; 1 Pet 5:8). Therefore the text has to be speaking of something that is yet future, not only because Satan is not bound, but because Christ hasn’t returned yet to order such an angel to bind Satan.

Another reason why I believe in premillennialism is that it fulfills the OT prophecies concerning the reign of the Messiah on earth and a utopia that is clearly not speaking of eternity. Some skeptics will say that this practice is merely reading OT prophecies into Revelation 20 and thus twisting its meaning. However, one cannot jump to this conclusion so fast, since it is not an unbiblical practice to use one passage to get a better understanding of another (ex. the issue of faith and works, repentance and belief, etc). The fact is that the OT prophecies concerning the future of Israel, the judgment of the nations, and the rule of the final Davidic King have not been fulfilled to this day. One would seriously need to spiritualize or allegorize the OT prophetic passages to believe that it has already been fulfilled in some way in Jesus Christ’s first coming or in the church. However, this approach is far fetched, and it produces a new meaning for the passages, which God had a clear original meaning for the original Israelite audiences of the OT. If one is faithful to the grammatical-historical method, then he sees that the OT prophecies are still binding, are future, and that God will fulfill His covenant promises with Israel because His reputation depends on it. It is only sensible that the appropriate time for these prophecies to be fulfilled is during the time of the 7-Year Tribulation and the Millennium, which is why I believe that the millennium is still to come.

The millennium gives us hope that God is faithful to do what He says, not only for the church and His promise of salvation to them, but also His promises to ethnic Israel, though it be a long time in coming. This should cause us to rightly see a distinction between God’s plan for the church and Israel, and to even pray for the nation of Israel, that God would bring salvation to it and carry out His Old Testament promises.

Recommended Resource: Christ’s Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue

Ask Steve: Lord’s Supper

September 16, 2014 10:49 pm

Supper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: What is the Lord’s Supper and how should the church view it? 

Answer: The Lord’s Supper is one of two ordinances that is one of the church practices and is an integral part of Christian worship. This ordinance is even observed in Roman Catholicism, although it has a different meaning and function in the believer’s life than in Protestant theology. The term is used interchangeably with communion and sacrament, and involves the consumption of bread and wine (which represent the broken body and shed blood of Christ on Calvary for the remission of sins) as an act of remembrance, celebration onto Christ, and anticipation of His second coming. It is an act that was instituted by Christ on the night of Passover before His death (Matt 26:26-29), which replaced the Passover meal, marking a transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. This significant fellowship meal is supposed to teach us to remember the Lord’s death and resurrection, the salvation that we have in Him, and to look for His glorious return in the future to set up the kingdom of God.

The Lord’s Supper is suppose to unite all Christians in remembrance, celebration, and anticipation of the Lord. Tragically, it has been a source of division in the evangelical world, since churches and individual Christians view communion in different ways based on their theological traditions, denominations, or Christian upbringing. One of the contested issues is whether or not the actual presence of Christ is in the bread and wine. The question is: Is the bread literally the body of Christ being consumed and the wine literally the blood being consumed? This seems to be a view consistent with Roman Catholic teaching.

This is not a harmless difference of opinion, but has major soteriological implications. Because Catholics believe in the literal presence of Christ in the Eucharist, they believe that Christians participate in the ongoing sacrifice of Christ every time they partake in communion, and are thus receiving constant grace to cover their sins. In other words, Catholics believe that the Lord’s Supper is efficacious is some way towards maintenance of salvation, in which believers work for their grace. This form of communion represents a false view of the gospel, because the biblical gospel states that Christ’s sacrifice is complete and efficacious (Jn 19:30; Heb 10:10), whereas the Catholic theology implies that a person does not necessarily have to be a believer in order to participate in communion, which goes against the teaching of Scripture (1 Cor 11:27-29).

The church should view communion in several defined ways. They must see it as an ordinance that can only be partaken of by born again believers and affirmed by the local assembly. Believers should be saved and, if possible, affirmed by the local church by water testimony (as the first step of obedience to Christ and testimony of his salvation, according to Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 2:38). Allowing unbelievers to partake in the Lord’s Supper (in order to merit salvation or for any other reason) or believers who come to the table in unrepentant sin constitute a defiance of what the Apostle Paul taught in 1 Cor 11:27-29 regarding the meaning of communion and how one should approach it. One must not only be saved, but approach with a repentant heart, not harboring any sin. The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice, a celebration of one’s inclusion in the family of God, and an anticipation of Jesus’ second coming to establish His kingdom on earth. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper does not apply to the unbeliever any more than water baptism does.

Another way the church should view the Lord’s Supper is that it does not contain the literal presence of Christ in the bread and wine. The Lord’s Supper is not transubstantiation or consubstantiation. Rather, it a commemorative act, a memorial in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross, in which Christ is also spiritually present amongst the worshipping group. The issue here is not just about whether or not the literal presence of Christ in the bread and wine confers grace or merit onto the believer, but whether it actually captures what the Scripture teaches about the elements of communion and what it signifies. If Christ is literally present in the bread and in the wine, then this hints at the ideology of cannibalism (Lev 26:29; Deut 28:53-57). Moreover, it also implies that the ordinance can actually be a “means of grace” onto the individual, which is not fully supported in Scripture. Grace is given as a gift by the Lord through faith in the Son (Eph 2:8-9), and not by the sacraments or any works.

The final manner in which the church should view the Lord’s Supper is that it is not the means to further one’s hope of salvation, but an affirmation and celebration of it. The Roman Catholic Church sees the sacrifice of Christ as ongoing in the Eucharist, therefore a believer needs to constantly seek the forgiveness of sin and have grace merited to them to attain or retain their salvation, which is one of the works that a Catholic is expected to go through in his journey to find ultimate salvation. However, the biblical teaching is that Christ’s sacrifice was finished and can never be completed again. Justification is by faith alone (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:8-9), and until one reaches that point, there can be no participation in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not part of the salvific process, but entirely within the sanctification process. It is a reminder of one’s salvation in Christ, which has been accomplished by Christ and applied by the believer through repentant faith.

In terms of how the church should view the actual process and practice of it varies from church to church. There is no biblical indication of how often the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated or during which occasions. The Bible generally shows that it is to be an ordinance for the universal body of believers at any available time. As I have stated, it must only be partaken by those who have been included in the body of Christ by saving faith. The Apostle Paul also gives instructions about its process, stating that one needs to come with a heart of repentance, making sure that there is no blatant sin that would be blocking such worship and fellowship with the holy God (1 Cor 11:28-29). A ritualistic, indifferent, or unrepentant heart, is an ungodly attitude that is spoken against by the Apostle Paul. 

The Lord’s Supper is to be observed where believers are present for fellowship or church gathering. A Christian does not have to observe the Lord’s Supper through only his own church, but is available to partake in it amongst any group of believers who honor the Lord, since the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the unity of the body of Christ everywhere in the world.

Recommended Resource: The Lord’s Supper by Thomas R. Schreiner and Matthew R. Crawford

Psalm 14 Sermon

September 13, 2014 5:43 am

Here is me preaching a 30 minute sermon on Psalm 14:

Ask Steve: Baptism

September 10, 2014 6:22 am

Baptism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, what is the biblical view of baptism?

Answer: Christian baptism is the outward testimony of what has occurred inwardly in a believer’s life. It is meant to show the congregation that the believer has experienced the salvation of Christ, has committed to following Him throughout his life as Lord and Savior, and has submitted himself to be accountable to the fellowship of the church. Christian baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, the merits of Christ are imputed to the believer, who when united with Christ, receive all the benefits of His life, death, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-4). That reality is publicly illustrated in water baptism, in which the participant is immersed into real water and taken out momentarily afterwards.

The action of being immersed symbolizes dying and being buried with Christ. It symbolizes cleansing from sin as part of the New Covenant. The rising out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection, symbolizing the believer’s new spiritual life and the hope of the new life that will inevitably come. As a whole, the baptism ceremony represents a believer’s escape from eternal judgment and incorporation in to the universal church, the bride of Christ. Because of the one time nature of justification and inclusion into God’s family, baptism happens only once, not to be repeated again. The only exception is if the first baptism was done by the person when he was an unbeliever, whether the confession came from a Protestant or non-Protestant background.

There are a few things that need to be noted about Christian baptism, the first being its soteriological implication. The person being baptized must be a Christian, one affirmed by the body of Christ. Baptism cannot be the means to which a person is saved, otherwise baptism would be a work that is added onto salvation, which is characteristic of Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, and even various sects of Protestant denominations including the Church of God and Latter Day Saints. Basically, water baptism must be the demonstrable proof of salvation and the celebration of a person’s justification before God, and not the means of it.

Another thing to remember about baptism is that it is not just an act of affirming one’s inclusion in the body of Christ, but also the first major step of obedience in a Christian’s life. That major step is the believer’s desire to publicly proclaim his faith through the act of baptism, which shows that he desires to follow Christ and be part of the church. This fruit of obedience is clearly in line with what Scripture teaches, as Jesus states in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Therefore, water baptism is the first major sign that a Christian has been saved and is bearing fruits of obedience to God. This should ideally be the first major step of obedience before the Christian can partake of the Lord’s Supper and other major ministry responsibilities. 

The administering of baptism is different depending on one’s tradition, but there is a biblically supported view to this as well. Scripture shows water baptism as the believer being totally immersed in a mass of water, but some evangelicals do not believe that this is the necessary mode of baptism. In other words, they believe that there are other methods of water baptism that are as valid and efficacious. For example, Roman Catholicism and Presbyterianism believe that baptism can be ministered through water sprinkling, where the elder/minister sprinkles or pours water on the believer’s head instead of placing his full body under water.

Many within the Reformed tradition even believe in a two-stage baptism process, involving infant baptism and adult baptism. Infant baptism is when the baby is “baptized” with sprinkled or poured water over his head. However, this stage has a much different meaning than the biblical portrait of baptism. Infant baptism supposedly signifies the baby’s inclusion into the covenant community of the church, in which the parents vow to raise the child faithfully according to the teachings of Scripture until the Lord brings that child to true regeneration and salvation. In many ways, this process resembles what physical circumcision was to the community of Israel in the OT, which is why this teaching is held by many within the covenant theology/continuity camp. When the baby grows up (and hopefully) comes to saving faith, the believer would then be baptized (or confirmed as fulfilling his destiny) a second time (even through water sprinkling again, if that is the ecclesiastical view of the church). The Catholic tradition follows a similar methodology, only the soteriological implication is different: they believe that infant baptism washes away original sin and is a work efficacious to bring the believer closer to justification before God.

Although water baptism does not save any individual, it is an issue that is still worth defending because of its soteriological implication and its influence on ecclesiology. The NT does not present a link between the OT practice of circumcision and the NT practice of baptism, therefore one cannot equate it to imply the same principle. Infant baptism is nowhere mentioned or supported in Scripture. It is unbiblical because baptism is for those who voluntarily come forth to proclaim the baptism that has happened in their heart (regeneration). Infants cannot do this, therefore they are still unregenerate, and may even grow up to be lifelong unbelievers, or even God haters for that matter.

In terms of the mode of baptism, Scripture is silent on whether or not sprinkling and pouring of water is a valid alternative option for adult baptism. Though sprinkling and pouring is certainly not heretical, it is also not the most biblically transparent. The best remedy to this situation is to simply follow the model presented in Scripture, which is full immersion baptism. Whenever John the Baptist or the Apostles baptized believers, they did so by dunking them in a pool of water, symbolizing the complete nature of the cleansing, the death, and the resurrection of the believer onto life. In contrast, sprinkling does not have this same effect. Baptism by immersion is the only mode that fully illustrates the radical change of nature that has taken place in the believer’s life, that he is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

In conclusion, the proper and safe view of baptism, as supported by Scripture, is that is must be post-salvific, with regenerate adults only, happen only once, and involving full immersion into a body of water. This is the form of baptism that does the most justice to the Bible’s teaching on the subject matter.

Genesis 15:1-6 Sermon

September 5, 2014 5:53 pm

What to

 

Currently Reading:

What to Look for in a Pastor: A Guide for Pastoral Search Committees

by Brian Biedebach

Category: Christian Ministry

2011, Day One Publications

 

 

 

Here is a YouTube video of me preaching an expository sermon on Genesis 15:1-6 called A Good Hope:

Ask Steve: Complementarian vs. Egalitarian

September 1, 2014 2:25 am

Comple

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I go to a church that has pretty liberal views on women’s role. They believe that women can be lead pastors and elders in the church. They even believe in that men and women have no distinction in function in marriage. Can you explain to me what the biblical position is on this issue? 

Answer: One of the most hotly debated issues today is whether or not women have the same roles and responsibilities in church as do men. In other words, can women serve as elders, pastors, and head teachers in a church? Is it unfair, unjust, and unethical for women to be excluded from serving as elders in the church? The orthodox position on this issue is called the complimentarian view. This is defined as the God ordained distinctions between men and women in the church, not in being and essence but in role and responsibility, which is permanent and normative for all ages. It is reflective in the way God has designed men and women in their roles in church as well as in the family institution. The function of shepherding and teaching a congregation are divinely appointed to men alone, while women are to use their gifts to serve the church in other capacities in the body of Christ.

The more liberal and progressive view is called egalitarianism, the idea that women are to be treated as no different from men, not just in their essence as human beings but also in their functions and roles within the church and the family. In other words, there should be no distinction between men and women. Women can have just as much right to pastor/elder and teach in a church as can men, which implies that the whole elder board can even be entirely female if that is the case. Egalitarians believe that the teachings of the Apostle Paul are not timeless and binding, but were historically conditioned. This means that the texts spoke only to the rebellious women in particular churches and were the opinion of the male-dominated culture of the time. Therefore, it cannot be reflective of the culture and needs of today. As long as women have the education, discipline, and God-given talents, they can serve as elders in the church.

The aim of this specific response is to make a brief case for the complimentarian position and to shed light on the unbiblical teaching of egalitarianism. I don’t do this in a spirit of chauvinism or because I believe women are inferior or less gifted than men. I believe in the complimentarian position because I see it as the most obvious, consistent, and supported position of the two. The other view, though popular in the democratic, liberal, and postmodernist sense, does not square with what the Bible (both OT and NT) teaches about how women related to men in ministry, nor does it adequately explain the basis or reason behind the love and submission principle taught in other instances of the New Testament (ex. parent/child, government/subject, master/slave).

In order to make this case, we must first begin by examining the account of Adam and Eve. 1 Timothy 2:8-14 sheds light on the responsibility of women within the ministry. Paul states that “women must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over man, but to remain quiet” (v. 11-12). Paul makes an absolute imperative here that does not use a definite article (“the”) or name a particular group of men, but speaks about women’s role in general. What is the reasoning behind Paul’s command? Paul goes on to say that “it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (v. 13-14). Paul is teaching the principle that since God created Adam first, he made Eve to be a helper for Adam, thus Adam assumes the responsibility of head of the relationship. And when Satan deceived the couple to fall into sin, he did so by stealthily going to the woman first, who never had the primary position of responsibility, since that belonged to Adam. Paul says that the submissive attitude of women within the church has its foundation in how they were created for marriage, since that is how God created women.

This does not imply that women are ontologically inferior to men in any manner. Both men are women are equal in essence, yet their roles and functions are different. There is economic subordination of women to men, but in this does not mean that there is a subordination in being. This truth is even apparent within the Godhead, where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three separate Persons, yet one God) are equal in essence, yet the Son and the Holy Spirit faithfully submit to the Father. This does not make Jesus or the Holy Spirit any less God or any less worthy than the Father. It just marks different responsibilities and roles within the Trinity. It is because of the Fall and sin that such an economic order has become misused and abused, causing misguided people to believe that female submission is acquiescence to male tyranny. This is surely not the case, since the sinless relationship between the Father and the Son proves that there can be such thing as submission and economic subordination without the exercise of abuse from the Father over the Son and the Spirit (although there are some people who wrongly believe that the Son and Spirit are inferior to the Father).

Verses like 1 Tim 2:8-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 affirm the commands from the Apostle Paul that women are not to lord it over men or usurp their position of authority, but to serve faithfully in the church under their guidance. They are not forbidden to pray or prophesy in the public assembly of saints (1 Cor 11:5), but they must not insist on being the head over the male (whether in the family unit or in the church) any more than the church should insist to be the head over Christ. This complementarian truth is not just revealed in the New Testament, but its presence can even be seen in the Old Testament: Was Eve depicted to have equal authority over her husband Adam? Why were not some or all the Levitical priests female? Why were all the OT and NT writers male? Why were none of the early church fathers, whether pastors or theologians, female? The most likely reason, according to the normal and obvious sense of the language in Paul’s writing, is that God has given such authority to lead churches to male eldership.

Women have practical spiritual gifts as much as males do, such as mercy, administration, evangelism. They are invited to contribute to the local church in many ways. However, one of those gifts cannot be, according to Scripture, the role of teaching over men (especially when there are qualified men for the eldership positions). Woman can teach other women and children (Titus 2:3-5), and pray and prophesy in the church, as long as it is under the faithful control of the church. This logically concludes that women are not divinely appointed to be pastors over churches. This does not make them any less important than men, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His design for them.

Recommended Resource: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper & Wayne Grudem