(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 22 Mar 2015)
Men and women – Sons of God
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Scripture says that we are all sons of God. We celebrate this month as ‘women’s month’. Hence, let us remember that irrespective of our gender, we are all the sons of God. Our Indian Constitution provides that we are all equal. In reality, though, it is not true. There are a lot of differences between male and female, between man and woman.
Men vs. Women
12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
1 Timothy 2:12-15
These verses often create confusion. Often, we take Scripture and state that women shouldn’t speak, or teach. We think that they are meant to be under subjection to men. However lets us understand the meaning and context of these verses.
In Greek, the word for woman is ‘gune’. ‘Gune’ means woman and wife. The word for man in this passage is ‘aner’ which means man and husband. This passage also talks about Adam and Eve who were husband and wife. These two words, ‘Gune’ and ‘Aner’, appear together in the Bible and refer to husband and wife.
Churches were being birthed and formed. Paul was writing to the church leaders, giving them principles to follow and function. Timothy was a young man and leading a church. Paul wrote letters like Titus and Timothy to give him guidance in leading the churches under his care.
Some people say that women are barred from preaching to men. Some others say that wives must not teach their husbands. We must understand the context when we read and apply the Scriptures today. On a deeper study of the Scripture with the aid of commentaries, we can understand what Paul is saying. He says, ‘Do not correct your husband in public’. Today’s woman might say ‘I do not correct my husband in public but I don’t like being corrected in public either. Why did Paul say that to women? Was he being unfair?
Understanding the context
We need to move from the known to the unknown, text to the context, where we are to where we ought to be. We need to understand the context of the particular situation to which Paul was writing. Many people were being saved and added to the Church. There were pagans and Jews. This was radical. For instance, the pagan men would worship in a temple called the ‘Temple of Zeus’ and their women would worship in a separate temple called the ‘Temple of Era’. However, Jewish families would worship together in the same synagogue though they were seated separately. The Jewish men would talk while their women remained quiet. In those days, a Jewish man wouldn’t even speak to his wife in public. The setting was very unlike our present day. Nobody had ever before seen a former slave, people of Jewish and pagan origins, male and female interacting in the same place. Hence, Paul writes to them that ‘for those who were baptized into Jesus, there was no Jew, Greek, slave, free, male or female’.
In this background, churches were being formed with all kinds of people. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, Paul writes saying that, ‘Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.’ Each of us, men and women might have something to share. But it must be done in order.
Today, people of different ages, gender, ethnicity and religious backgrounds participate in and worship together. But it was a new thing during those times. Husbands and wives sat together to worship God. Wives were now worshipping along with husbands. They now had a platform to stand up and disagree publicly. It was becoming unruly and chaotic. Nowadays, if a wife speaks or disagrees with her husband publicly, we will just call it bad manners. But in those days, it was like a commotion, unheard of and unseen.
Paul is not trying to uphold male domination or bar women from church participation. He writes to calm them down and to save the reputation of the Church in the wide world. In a church and in a home, there must be order. The man is the head of the house and the woman works alongside him. The church of Philippi was led by two strong women. Paul is writing to bring order. He says that both men and women are as sons of God.
Jesus, our elder brother
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,[b]
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
The Psalmist asks God why He would be mindful of men and want them to have dominion over everything. He asks why it is that God has made man almost equal to God but little lower than Him.
Further in Romans, Paul says that Jesus is the first born among the many brethren which refer to us. Jesus is our elder brother. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, he tells her to go and tell his brothers that He as to go to His Father first. He is the first born Son of God who revealed the very image of the Father to us. He showed us what it meant to be a Son and an elder brother. The Bible says that we are predestined to be confirmed in the image of the Son of God.
Sons of God
Men and women together are called sons of God. What a privilege is that! God calls Himself as our Father and Friend. But, do we really understand what it means to be the son of God?
Every son gets an inheritance from the father. He receives everything that God has promised Him. Whatever belongs to the father rightfully belongs to the son. Now imagine this. If the son relates with the father only because he wants the property and power, would we appreciate such a relationship? He refuses to talk to his father but only wants his money. We wouldn’t think much of it.
Everyone seated here probably needs many breakthroughs and miracles. But is that the only reason for our relationship with our Heavenly Father? If we understand what it means to be a father, then our relationships, attitudes and even behaviors with each other could change.
Greg Simmons’ story
Ravi Zacharias once shared this story in his preaching. Mr. Zacharias and his team were staying in a house with an elderly couple during one of his speaking engagements. He sensed heaviness in that beautiful house. There seemed to be loneliness in the splendor of the home. The man of the house narrated a tragic incident that had happened in his son’s life.
His son, Greg Simmons, was a highly successful business man. He wanted to make a lot of money and retire early so that he could serve God. He brought himself a farmland in the highlands of North Carolina. He had five children. The youngest was an infant and the oldest 12. One day, his oldest son asked him to take him and his siblings to see a waterfall nearby. So Greg and his four older children along with another friend and his son set off. As they were climbing the slippery terrain of the hill, Greg who was in front put his foot forward to test the soil. The soil was soft and he fell down the terrain and died a violent death.
Here is a letter that his 12 year old son wrote to his friend, Ms. Wheeland, who lived in Atlanta.
Dear Ms. Wheeland,
You don’t know how much your family helped produce my father. He admired your husband and you a lot. He would talk about how good your faith was with God. He tried to be as generous as you all are to the church and to many other good things. Since his death, his true friends have been revealed. Your family was at the top of the list. You are a great source of energy for my mother and I. My father loved you very much and was always trying to be like you. My father was like one of the three men in the Bible who were given the talents by Jesus. One went out and invested them and multiplied them. One took some and came back with nothing. The last one buried them and did nothing with them. All three returned within a few days and the Lord was pleased with the two who had multiplied. But the third one had come back with same amount. The Lord was disappointed with him because he didn’t try. My father multiplied and lost and gained many things but he was always trying to please the Lord. He got a lot, Ms. Wheeland from your family.
My dad was a risk taker. That’s just the way he was. Genesis 1:1 says, ‘In the beginning God..’ That was what mattered to my dad. No one will understand how or why my father fell into the waterfall. Do yourself a favor. Don’t try to figure it out, please. My dad died for his children. He was making sure it was safe for us to come up. You may hear different things but only six people saw it. Only three understood what really happened. Ms. Wheeland, I am one of those. My mum lost her treasure chest, her husband. Most of the others lost Greg. You lost a best friend. My grandparents lost their son. John and Baraba lost their brother. But Ms. Wheeland, it is different for me. Totally different for me. He was my best friend, my model, my idol. When I got my last glimpse of Him falling down the waterfall, I lost my most prized man on earth. He was my father, my one and only dad. I had a dream three nights ago, but it wasn’t a dream. My father is alright. He told me himself. Thank you, Ms. Wheeland for being a true friend. I love u a lot.
This little 12 year old boy says that he lost his friend. Many people lost many things but for him, he lost his father. His father was a rich successful businessman. He must have inherited all the wealth, but he lost his father.
The Father heart of God
Do we understand the privilege of being the son of God? Christianity is the only sect where God is called as Father. In order for us to understand what it means to be a son, Jesus left everything and came in the image of us so that we can know the father.
One day, a few of us went to some place. John was with us too. When we reached our destination which had a temple, John refused to come out of the van. Everyone asked him why he didn’t want to come out. John said that it would hurt his mother. So he didn’t want to come out. When our children grow up, they would like to or not do certain things because it would hurt us.
When we know that our Heavenly father will be hurt, we wouldn’t do or speak anything and everything. Our behavior will not be the same when we understand what it means to be a son. Do we understand what it means to honor the father? Jesus’ mission on earth was to glorify the Father. John 17 is a wonderful description of that. He said that He came to glorify and please His Father. Our purpose in life is just to glorify God the Father. It doesn’t matter whether we are a pastor, or an evangelist or social worker or corporate leader.
Learn from little children
Jesus said that we must learn from the little children.
A few days ago, I was standing in the balcony of our house. My two sons, Shawn -11 years old and Judy – 4 years old were playing cricket with some of their friends downstairs. Shawn was batting. He’d hit a shot and very quietly, he would turn to see if I was watching or not. He just needed to know that I was watching him. That made him happy.
After a while, Judy started crying. He wanted to bat. Since, he kept crying, I called out to the boys to let him play. He also would hit a shot and looks at me to see if I was watching. It was all about pleasing the father.
How many of us hit shots and look at our father? Inheritance, blessings and riches will come. But do we understand that we are the sons of God?
The quest of life should be pleasing our father by being a good son. The Bible says in Philippians that we should do everything out of humility because it pleases God. It is not about the property. It is about being his son and daughter. Can we be prepared to live as a good son? What are the areas where we are selfish?
Let us be a church which understands the Scripture from cover to cover. When India talks India’s Daughter, how does the church react? Do we say that women can’t do a particular thing or speak in church? When it comes to leadership in church, we may have to make changes. Let’s build, bless and edify each other. If we feel that our wives are called for something, as a church we should encourage them.
Let this be a challenge for us. Are we good sons? What does it take to be a good son of God? Father God sent his only son Jesus for us. He died on the Cross so that we who were not even called as His people are now called as a holy nation and a royal priesthood. We have Son-ship when we deserve to be in dirt and filth. Wow! The bible says He has not left us as orphans. Let us know that every move of our life pleases our Father God or hurts Him. Let the words of our mouth and our relationships be based on whether it blesses our Father or hurts Him.