Lesson Two • Part II
By Les Feldick
Order in the Local Church
We started in Genesis ten years ago on the television program and we are not anywhere near finished. I always like to remind folks that we are just an informal Bible Study. We are taking it verse by verse. I don’t expect you to always agree with me. There is a lot of room for disagreement without missing eternity. All I try to do is to get folks to see what the Bible says. Not what I say.
Alright now, we are walking into some pretty touchy territory. I have been meditating on this next series of verses for a long time and we want to stay true to the Word, and yet we don’t want to be so dogmatic that people feel that they do not have a role to play.
Paul was never against women, just for the sake of being against women – and anybody that thinks that, I send them into Romans chapter 16. In that chapter he commends more women than men who had helped him in the ministry. So there is a place for women in the Body of Christ. But, there are some stipulations, so it behooves us to look at what the Word of God says. Let’s get right back to where we left off, I Timothy chapter 2 verse 11.
I Timothy 2:11
“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection.” Now don’t take that to the extreme. That doesn’t mean that women are to be walked on and are to be treated as second class citizens, but it all goes back to Eve. In fact let’s chase it back right now before we go any further. Let’s go to Genesis chapter 3. God in His mercy did not lay the blame of the curse upon Eve. You all know that. That was placed on Adam, but you also know who ate first! Eve did. She didn’t come through that scot-free just because Adam was given the fault for the fall and all of that.
Eve also came under one of the judgements of God because of what she had done. Never forget, even though women are on the same level ground with men in the Body of Christ, yet in the overall umbrella of God’s Sovereignty we have to always remember what took place in the beginning. Verse 16 of chapter 3 of Genesis.
“Unto the woman (Eve) he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and they conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; (all the pain and so forth of children and birthing is because of this right here) and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
That is the order of the sexes as God laid it down at the very beginning. Man was to be the head of the woman. Not that she was his slave or somebody to be walked on, as most cultures have made it. I have always said as long as I have been teaching, that if there was anything that set the women free it was Christianity. Until the advent of Paul’s Gospel of Grace, the women of the world had no rights. They were never educated. They couldn’t read. They were just chattel for the men. And, Christianity has never permitted that.
So, as women live in this Age of Grace, count your blessings that you are in a period of God’s timing that, under Grace, you do have these privileges. But God’s Sovereignty has demanded women play the role of being subjected to the men in that order of the sexes.
Come back to I Timothy chapter 2 then, with that in mind. Keep that in mind that this isn’t just Paul. It isn’t just Les Feldick. This is the Sovereign working of God. So now, He causes Paul to write:
I Timothy 2:12
“But I suffer (permit) not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence.” That is the secret in that verse. That they were not to be in a place of putting the men under their authority. The man was to maintain the place of authority but that didn’t mean that women couldn’t function in other roles in the Body of Christ. Now in verse 13 Paul comes up with a reason, which I have just shown you in Genesis, why it is this way.
I Timothy 2:13
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.”
Adam was on the scene a good while before He took Eve out of Adam. Because remember, Adam even named all the creatures of creation before Eve appeared. So, I don’t know how long it was, but Adam was alone for a certain period of time. And Paul is using this as one of the Sovereign reasons for men to be in the place of authority. Because man was made first and then Eve and then the next one is in verse 14. Adam was not deceived! Eve was. Which points up again, I think, an inherent weakness in the feminine makeup that they probably don’t have the aggressive stability of the man and all of these enter in to God’s instructions to the Christian Church, the Body of Christ and the function of the man and the women in that environment.
I Timothy 2:14
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” In other words, she ate without realizing what she was doing. We have covered all that in previous lessons. Then verse 15.
I Timothy 2:15a
“Notwithstanding…” Just because Eve was in the transgression, she certainly didn’t lose the opportunity for salvation and as we well know, women are saved just as well as men. I think I can clarify verse 15 just a little bit.
I Timothy 2:15b
“…she shall be saved in childbearing,…”
Not by having children. That was never the idea, even in the Greek, but rather she too, like man, is saved by that tremendous act of Grace and that was what? THE childbearing! The coming of Christ in the flesh. So it is by that act of God whereby God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ became flesh so that He could go the way of the cross. That becomes the way of salvation for women as well as for the men. Then:
I Timothy 2:15c
“…if they continue in faith and charity (love) and holiness with (an attitude of sobriety) sobriety.” Sobriety, which is not as good a word as I think self restraint. A shyness of sorts, that they are not abrasive.
Again, I always like to come back to the historical setting of these letters of Paul, way back in probably 63-64 AD. All these believers, with the exception of the Jewish element, had come from what kind of a background? Pagan mythological idolatry. That was the influence that had to be subjected.
Now in that pagan culture, never forget that immorality ran rampant. A good portion of the young women actually plied the trade of prostitution. If fact, I have read, and you all know I love history, when the Roman armies marched as they went on their campaigns all through the then known world, there were just about as many prostitutes following the army as there were soldiers.
You have to realize this was an impact that Paul had to confront. This is why he is constantly warning these women who had come out of that culture and were now in the Body of Christ that they should totally separate themselves from that kind of an impression.
I think that would help us. Because you see, the prostitutes were brazen. They had no shyness. They had no self restraint. They were only concerned as to what they could do to manage their own welfare. So keep all of these things in mind when you look at some of the things that Paul wrote.
Same thing when you go into chapter 3, this was still a paramount reason for Paul writing by the unction of the Holy Spirit, what he writes. Verse 1:
I Timothy 3:1a
“This is a true saying,…” Remember, the whole idea here is how to have that local Church function in the midst of all this pagan idolatry, on the one hand and Judaism on the other. So:
I Timothy 3:1b
“… If a man desire the office of a bishop, (or a Pastor is the word we would use today) he desireth a good work.”
I guess the first thing that I should do is to qualify the three words that Paul uses in Ephesians and here in Timothy and again in Titus, and that is the word “bishop” and “elder” and “deacon.”
Now, an elder and a bishop were basically the same thing, but the bishop was the “office” – the position. The “elder” was the “man.” Then the deacon was the other segment of church officers who were to be just like they were back in Act chapter 6. The deacons in the early church were servants. They were more or less the men in the church who would take care of the needs of the people. Not so much the spiritual as the physical and the material.
So you have two offices, even though we are using three terms. Don’t confuse that. A bishop and an elder were basically the same thing and then you have the deacon. Now, let’s move on. We are going to deal first with the office of the bishop or the elders.
It is interesting to note that they are never used in a singular term. There was never a single elder or pastor in the early Apostolic church. That’s why some denominations even today will not have just a single pastor. They use their elders which are men in the congregation. They are not that far afield because they have broken with tradition.
I Timothy 3:2
“A bishop (or a pastor) then must be blameless, (that is understandable. This is all just plain common sense. It certainly wouldn’t do to have a pastor who had a shady reputation. Why the world would just scoff at that and to often does.) the husband of one wife,…”
Now, I have to stop, don’t I? If I were kind to myself, I would keep going because there is a lot of controversy on this statement right here. What does this mean, the husband of one wife? Some denominations take the strict interpretation that a man who has been married and divorced and remarried has now been “two” wives and consequently he is no longer a valid candidate for the pastorate.
On the other hand, like I have already said, in Paul’s time the people around the Church were in abject paganism and their marriage vows meant almost nothing. So, a lot of these people at the time of Paul may have had four or five or six or seven different wives. Divorce and take another one – divorce, etc. Others may have had three or four at once. They practiced polygamy. We have talked to missionary friends who have gone under those same circumstances in some of the more primitive tribes.
Well, here you have a gentleman who has four or five wives and he gets saved. He comes in and wants to be a part of the local Church. What is he going to do with all the extra wives when we realize now, according to the Christian premises, he should only have one? I’ll tell you what, it is not an easy thing to settle.
In those kind of cultures, if all of a sudden this man just simply drops three of those four wives and keeps the one, what are those three going to do to make a living? There is nothing out there for them. They are uneducated. There is no job market. Well, again, where do they end up? Prostitution.
So there is always this thing to be dealt with that you have to use a lot of common sense. Now, we have come almost full circle. Our society is rapidly becoming just as immoral and just as prone to marry and divorce and remarry and divorce as the pagans were.
But you take all these things into perspective and when I look at it, I just say this. A husband of one wife, yes, that means he cannot be a polygamist. He cannot be a man, I do not think, who has divorced and remarried four or five times. I think that would just automatically put a man out of the capability of being a pastor. Because if he can’t get along with four or five different women, he won’t be able to get along with a congregation. That’s understandable.
On the other hand, I have seen, and I will agree that if a man has been divorced and he has been saved and then he and his wife as believers get married, I have seen them, they become choice servants for the Lord and I see nothing wrong with that. I am just simply going to leave it at this, that every situation has to be judged on it’s own merit. I am in no position to say “This is this and this is that!” But, always remember the circumstances that Paul wrote on the one hand are beset with paganism and immorality and on the other hand realizing that the Church is just getting its start. It is in the embryonic stage. So all these things were set in place predominately for those early days.
The other thing I like to point out when I read what we call the Pastoral Letters; there is nothing, not one word in any of Paul’s instructions that permitted the hierarchies that we see today. You don’t find fifteen, twenty or a hundred denominations in Paul’s writing. Do you? You don’t find a great Church hierarchy in Paul’s instructions. So all of this has come by virtue of men’s idea and not from the instruction of Scripture.
But, as I was getting ready for all of this during the last month, I ran across a verse that I had never really noticed before. That is in II Timothy 2, verse 1. We will be hitting this again when we get to II Timothy, but this is something that just all of a sudden struck me. All through I Timothy and Titus and those are the two that were written pretty much synonymously or contemporaneously. They were written about the same time. Then II Timothy is written a year or two later when Paul is back in prison and will then be martyred.
But here in I Timothy and Titus he is writing all these instructions about how to behave in the local church. How to set up pastors and deacons and so forth, but now in this last pastoral letter, he makes a shocking statement. Maybe it isn’t as shocking to you as it was to me. In chapter 2 verse 2 but I am going to read verse 1 as well.
II Timothy 2:1-2
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2. And the things that thou hast heard of me (that is, Paul’s doctrines of Grace) among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, (not a word about pastors and deacons here. This is to be committed to faithful men. Regardless of their station in the local church, evidently, and these men) who shall be able to teach others also.”
Kind of shocking isn’t it? There is not a word in II Timothy about pastors and deacons and such an organization, but now the truth of Paul is to be committed to faithful “men.” Well, that is just something for you to chew on and to think about. We will come to it again when we get to II Timothy.
Now come back to I Timothy again in chapter 3 dealing with the men who are to head up these little congregations of believers fresh out of paganism. Never lose sight of that. I know I have repeated it and repeated it since we have been in Paul’s letters that all of these believers were idolaters. They were immoral practitioners of the temples of the gods and goddesses. So they had to make a stark distinction between now living under the Christian environment as over what they came out of, and consequently then, it stands to reason, verse 2 again:
I Timothy 3:2
“A bishop then must be blameless, (so these pagans couldn’t say they are no different than we are. They had to show that they were now different. So, consequently he was to be) the husband of one wife, (he was not to be a polygamist nor someone who had married and divorced umpteen times. He was a man who was) vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” Able to teach the Word. Of course, that was his role. In his every day life he was:
I Timothy 3:3
“Not given to wine, (not a wine bibber) no striker, (someone who would involve himself in a physical brawl) not greedy of filthy lucre; (the term here is filthy lucre. I’m not sure that all of the manuscripts have that term but nevertheless he was not to be greedy for money or material things. But, on the other side of the coin he was to be) but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;”
He was not to be wrapped up in the things of this world wanting first this and then that. Quite a condemnation, isn’t it? Then verse 4, right along with what I have always taught as the Jewish prerequisite for being a member of the Sanhedrin, how can you have any control or how can you give good advice to those around you that have family and kids and wives, if you have never been there yourself?
How many times don’t we hear of someone who has lost a child or a spouse and we are so prone to say, “Oh, I know how you feel.” Well unless you have been there, you don’t. And I prefer to use the word, I have empathy for those people but I can’t have true sympathy because I haven’t been there.
We just heard of the loss of the husband of one of the families in one of my classes. Well, I can’t call that wife and say I know how it must feel. No, I can’t! I haven’t been there. I still have my spouse. It is the same way with losing a child, so often we glibly say that we can image what it is like. No, you can’t. You can’t image what it is like until you have actually been there yourself.
So, this is what Paul is a saying here. How can you be a pastor if you have never had the anxiety of raising teenagers or in the husband and wife relationship which is different for someone who has never entered in. This is why he is laying down these prerequisites for a leader in the local church.
I Timothy 3:4
“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection (obedient children. Getting along well with his wife.) with all gravity;” Then the reason is in verse 5.
I Timothy 3:5
“(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”
Which is the same kind of thing. You have families. You have children. You have teenagers. You have young married couples. How can you deal with all those problems if you have never been there yourself. So it is logical. It is just plain common sense. Alright, verse 6, another good one!
I Timothy 3:6a
“Not a novice,…”
I had a young lad that called from Georgia and he thought he had been called to preach. I said “Forget it. God doesn’t use ten year olds to preach and to be a pastor. Because that is being a novice.” You have to have the experience You have to have the knowledge before God will use someone like that. So here it is again in verse 6 that even the bishop or pastor was not to be a novice. Not a beginner.
I Timothy 3:6b
“…lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” In other words, to be a pastor took maturity. Then verse 7.
I Timothy 3:7
“Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without;…”
That’s common sense, isn’t it? How far can a pastor get in his community if he doesn’t have character. How much good can he do in a community if no one speaks well of him. It’s just plain common sense. Now verse 8,
I Timothy 3:8
Even though they are in a little different role than the pastor, the deacons are in that same place of responsibility and they are to be that same kind of a testimony as the bishops were. Because the outside world is looking in and if the world looks and sees these church officers living no different than the world, then there is no testimony. They might as well put a lock on the church door. They are using it absolutely for no good whatsoever. Then verse 9.
I Timothy 3:9a
“Holding the mystery of the faith…”
That’s the word that Paul likes to use with that whole body of revealed truth. The revelation of the mysteries and they were to be held:
I Timothy 3:9b-10
“…in a pure conscience. 10. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of deacon, being found blameless.”
In other words, without reproach. And then here again is where the wife comes into the picture. She is just as important in God’s sight as the deacon himself, because she is his helpmeet.
So wives of deacons and pastors are to be the same type of a person. Above reproach. And they are to show that love and that faith that comes with the true child of God. Verse 11 describes the role of the woman who is the wife of a deacon.
I Timothy 3:11a
“Even so must their wives be grave,…” That doesn’t mean that they can’t ever smile or to laugh at a good joke, but they are not to be flippant. They are not to be that which does not demand respect. They are:
I Timothy 3:11b
“…not slanderers, (not gossipers) sober, faithful in all things.”
So all these are just simply common sense requirements for Church leadership. Again remember, that this was back in the midst of a pagan idolatrous culture. And those pagans were watching every move they made.