From Dating, To Engagement, To Marriage: A Man’s Meditation on Proverbs 31

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[The following is a biblical meditation for young men considering engagement and marriage. You can find a PDF of the questions here.]

In Proverbs 31, we find a beautiful, twenty-two verse acrostic poem describing an excellent wife. While these verses focus on the character of a godly wife, they are written for a young man to discern and desire these characteristics in a future wife. For men seeking marriage, these verses can provide a fruitful place to prayerfully consider the kind of woman he should marry. With that in mind I’ve drawn a few questions from each verse, attempting to make contemporary wisdom that addressed an agrarian world.

For practical purposes, these questions do not all need to be answered in the affirmative to proceed towards marriage. No one marries a perfect spouse, but these questions can be asked to clarify the enigmatic question: Is this the one? More specifically, when answers arrive as weaknesses or negatives, godly men should ask: Can I embrace that weakness? Or better, is God calling me to lead, love, and lay down my life to bolster this woman and to cultivate weaknesses towards greater strength.

These questions should be asked with significant soul-searching and self-examination; they should not be used to judge another or to point out faults. They are for clarity, not condemnation. That said, many marriages stumble because biblical wisdom has not been applied from the start. These questions, therefore, are meant to stir up wisdom and to press young men to consider from Scripture the kind of characteristics that should be present in a godly wife. In so doing, the man should also grow in wisdom.

10An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

An excellent wife is from the Lord (Prov. 19:14), not from man. So in what ways can you see that God has brought the two of you together?

Does this marriage have the mark of God’s handiwork, or yours?

Do you treasure her? Why? What would you lose without her? Continue reading

A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best 

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A Beautiful Household (pt. 2): Brothers Who Lead, Sisters Who Labor, and a Heavenly Father Who Knows Best (Sermon Audio)

Who do you say you are? And what importance does your family play in defining your answer?

On Sunday we completed part 2 of a message looking at the household of God in 1 Timothy 2:8–15. We also considered just how much our culture’s individualism works against our understanding of the Bible, especially this passage.

Throughout Scripture, God’s work of salvation is always aimed at creating a people, not just saving individuals. Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword and to separate people from their families in order to make them part of his family. His words in Matthew 10:34–39 are unsettling, but they are also saving. He concludes, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If we take Jesus seriously, he calls us to radically redefine our lives by his words and his family. In this sermon, I applied this concept of being adopted into Christ’s family to understand the challenging words of 1 Timothy 2:11–15. You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

A Beautiful Household (pt. 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves (1 Timothy 2:8–10)

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A Beautiful Household (Part 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves

Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” On Sunday we had a good chance to apply that passage, as we saw how 1 Timothy 2:9–15 is profitable for all God’s people.

Unfortunately, Paul’s words about men and women have often been misunderstood, misused, and even denied. Some have used this passage as a proof text to keep women quiet in church. Others have rejected Paul’s words because it smacks of male patriarchy. All in all, this passage IS a difficult one. Yet, we can make sense of it by paying attention to the context of 1 Timothy.

In the flow of Paul’s letter, these verses play an important role of showing how gospel-centered men and women worship God together. In this way, 1 Timothy 2 is not meant to give a place for men to exclude women from learning, speaking, or filling key roles in the church.  It is meant to affirm the goodness of men and women and the complementary ways they serve God together.

On you can listen to this sermon online. You can also read a couple important blogposts about these verses. And below you can find a few response questions with additional resources. Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six *More* Things That 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

stain glass 2Yesterday, I listed six things that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 does not mean. Today, I list six more. That post and this one complement Sunday’s message on 1 Timothy 2:8–10 and anticipate the coming message on 1 Timothy 2:11–15.

While any of these posts/sermons can be read or heard on their own, they are intended to be considered together. For if we are to understand what Paul means in these verses, it will take a fair bit of work in the text of Scripture and the history surrounding the church in Ephesus. For that background, I recommend the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15.

For now, here are the next six things that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 does not mean. Yesterday, the list focused on 1 Timothy 2:8–10. Today, it focuses on the next four verses (vv. 11–15). If you know the passage, you know these are the more difficult ones ;-) Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six Things 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

glass8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

[This is the first of two posts on 1 Timothy 2:8–15. These posts are meant to complement the two sermons I am preaching on this passage at our church.]

A lot has been said, could be said, and needs to be said about 1 Timothy 2:8–15, but many of things said have either been misleading or just plain wrong. This is true for feminists who deny the apostolic witness of Paul, evangelical feminists (egalitarians) who affirm his apostleship but restrict his words to Ephesus, and traditional Christians who have demeaned women by so vociferously proving the point that women cannot teach men in the church, they have effectively denied the vital place of women—and women teaching, see Titus 2:3–5—in the church.

In scholarship, the most thorough explanation of this passage has been the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, edited by Thomas Schreiner and Andreas Köstenberger. If you are studying this passage, this is a must-read. I have found much help in it and highly recommend it.

What follows cannot replace a thorough multi-discipline study of the passage. What I do want to do is outline a number of ways we must not read this passage. Without claiming to have a full grasp of everything in 1 Timothy 2:8–15, therefore, here are six things the passage does not mean or imply. Tomorrow, I’ll add another six. Continue reading

Kephalē and Context: Toward a Biblical Understanding of Headship

mwFor more thirty years, an exegetical debate has raged between complementarians and egalitarians over a single word: Kephalē, the Greek word for ‘head.’

The former argue that this word means “authority over,” while the latter argues the word means “source.” In the New Testament, this word can be found to have both connotations, even in the same book. For instance, Colossians identifies Christ as the preeminent head of the church and the nourishing head from which the church derives its life and growth.

Colossians 1:18. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent

Colossians 2:19. . . . the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Still, debate remains. Without getting into all the exegetical evidence—of which there is plenty; Wayne Grudem tracks down 2336 uses of kephalē in one article—I want to show how the claim that “authority over” is exegetically unsubstantiated is actually unfounded. Far better to see kephalē as a word that wonderfully displays the original design of Genesis 1–2, men and women equal in value, distinct in roles. Continue reading

What is Evangelical Feminism? And Where Did It Come From?

rolesEach week, I write a bulletin insert for our church. The topics have ranged from the structure of Genesis 1–11 to assisted suicide to discerning types in the Bible. They usually relate to the sermon or a hot topic in the culture. And though they do not exhaust the biblical, theological, or ethical considerations of any subject, they do help our church members “think Christianly” about many matters of faith.

This blog post is no different. It broaches a subject that requires far more historical, cultural, and ecclesial attention than I am able to give here. But it is a start. Addressing the matter of evangelical feminism is meant to remind us that none of live in a cultural vacuum, and that even most stalwart “bliblicist” inhabits a world where feminism is the norm.

As Robert Samuelson noted this week in the Washington Post, birth control pills, radical feminism as advocated by Betty Friedan (The Feminist Mystique, 1963), and no-fault divorce have changed the way Americans think about marriage. Family life has been radically altered by these three phenomena, and in many ways they have each contributed to the other. Therefore, witnesses for Christ must be aware of how their thinking has been (explicitly and/or implicitly) shaped by feminism and from where those presuppositions originate.

What is evangelical feminism? And where did it come from?

Feminism can be defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Evangelical feminism is the related belief that men and women can and should exercise the same offices in the church (e.g., pastor, preaching) and that husbands and wives should mutually submit to one another in the home. Such a view is common among Christians today, but it wasn’t always that way. (This view has been defended in the book Discovering Biblical Equality; it is has been opposed by Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth). Continue reading

A Man’s Spiritual Toolbox

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking to the men of Terrace Lake Community Church, a sister SBC church, in our association.  We had a great time considering what Scripture teaches about manhood, and I wanted to lay out a few books, resources, and websites that would help them (and anyone else) continue to grow in masculine godliness.  Consider it a Man’s Spiritual Toolbox.

MANHOOD

# 1 : Manly Dominion (book)

Don’t be a passive, purple 4-ball!  In a world of chaos and disorder, Pastor Mark Chanski challenges men from Scripture (specifically, Genesis 1:26-28) to live with the God-given mandate to take dominion in their spheres of influence.  He addresses a variety of subjects, ranging from decision-making, to vocation, to the pursuit of romance.  We are using this book in our monthly men’s breakfast our church (Calvary BC in Seymour, IN).  If 1 Corinthians 16:13grips you– “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”– than this is a great book to motivate you to forsake passivity and pursue manly dominion under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

# 2 : Masculine Mandate (book)

Richard Phillips is a gifted exegete and author who continues to write books for the edification of the church.  This book, however, did not come from his pulpit ministry, but from a passion to reach men.  He takes his “masculine mandate” from Genesis 2:15, which instructs Adam to cultivate and guard the garden.  By extension, he argues from Scripture that men are to embrace this work of cultivation in everything they do, especially in the home, in the workplace, and in the church.  This book is similar to Manly Dominion, but has enough biblical exposition and different material that it is worth reading, as well.

# 3 : The Council For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (website)

This ministry promotes the biblical view that men and women are made equally in the image of God, but with different roles.  This “complementarian” view of men and women is expressed most fully in the Danvers Statement, drafted in 1988 to counter the rise of evangelical feminism permeating North American churches.  CBMW’s website has countless biblical resources and practical guides for cultivating a complementarian view of men and women in the church and Christian homes.

MARRIAGE, WORK, CHILDREN

# 4 : Married For God (book)

A few years ago, in a research project, I read through about 20 different books on marriage.  There are many good books out there on marriage (John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage, Geoffrey Bromiley’s God and Marriage, and Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say I Do are at the top of the list), but Christopher Ash’s was, in my opinion, the best.  It takes many of the Edenic principles laid out in Genesis 1-2 and shows how marriage is not an end in itself.  It is not simply designed to ameliorate loneliness or quench the burn or youthful desires–though it does both of these–rather it is designed by God to radiate his glory and to catalyze his gospel.  Be fruitful and multiply undergirds the Great Commission mandate to “Go and disciples” and Ash’s books shows from Scripture how husbands and wives can live for something bigger than their own marriage–namely the glory of God–and thus in the process their are more united and satisfied in their own nuptial union.

# 5 : A Biblical Theology of Work (blog post)

Justin Taylor, as always, provides a bevy of resources to motivate men to work hard for the glory of God.  Piper’s chapter from Don’t Waste Your Life is the place I would begin, and then to look at all the other resources to show how a man’s work is not disconnected from the work of God in the world.  Another resource for Christian businessmen is Wayne Grudem’s Business for the Glory of God. For anyone who devotes minimally 40 hours a week to a job, and more likely the number is like 50-60 hours, it is vitally important to understand how to pursue your vocation in a way that please God and pushes you towards Christ, not away.

# 6 : Shepherding A Child’s Heart & Instructing a Child’s Heart (books)

In these two books, Tedd Tripp outlines a number of biblical strategies for raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  They contain both biblical truths which will renew your mind and practical tips to help implement things like discipline.  They have age graded sections as well to help shepherd children in all phases of life.  Stuart Scott and Martha Peace’s book The Faithful Parent is another excellent resource.  See my review of that book at TGCReviews.

WARRIOR-SHEPHERDS WHO WIELD THE SWORD WELL

Finally, in our weekend retreat, we talked about the need to think biblically and intelligently about events that are occurring all around us.  For instance, how should one think about the recent slew of homosexual teenagers who killed themselves because of harassment and bullying?.  Parents, particularly fathers, must be able to help lead their families to think “Christianly” about such things.  Pastors have the burden of helping their congregations interpret the world, but so do fathers.  Every father is the pastor in his own home.  Too many men have abdicated this role, but men who take seriously their masculine mandate will not just be strong providers or able defenders, they will also be warrior who ably wield the sword to defend their families from Satanic error, and gentle shepherds who know how to feed their families the promises of God’s word.

It is with this image of a warrior-shepherd that I include the 4 final tools for the toolbox.

# 7 : ESV Study Bible (book)

More than any other single resource today, the ESV Study Bible is a wonderful tool and study guide to help you understand the Bible better.  It has excellent study notes on every chapter of the Bible, compiled by many of today’s best evangelical scholars.  It has an online feature that is second-to-none.  You can adjust the settings to how you like them, you can store your personal study notes online, you do advanced searches in each book of the Bible or across the whole Bible, and all of its articles on doctrine, archaeology, ethics, and dozens more are available online.  It is a must-have for every serious churchman (and pastor).

# 8 : New Bible Commentary (book)

Going one step beyond the Study Bible, this single-volume commentary is a resource worth owning.  It provides solid exegetical commentary from an evangelical position.  The comments are not lengthy, but are illuminating.  It would be a worthwhile addition to your personal library–something every Christian man should develop over time for the sake of his family.  Listen to Rick Warren as he talks about building a Christian library in his Desiring God National Conference talk, “The Battle For The Mind” (less than 3 minutes from -37:30 to -35:00).

# 9 : Systematic Theology or Bible Doctrine (books)

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is a modern classic in theological and devotional literature, but despite its daunting size, it is not beyond the reach of any maturing Christian.  Rather, it is simply phase 2 spiritual training.  It is for those mature men (and women) who already possess an established pattern of Bible Reading.  If that describes you, than this book is for you!

Reading a volume of systematic theology is like preparing for a marathon or losing 75 pounds.  It takes planning and a Spirit-empowered determination to conquer the opposing challenge–if this is a problem (see # 1-2 above).  To be honest, Grudem’s book is a massive undertaking.  Still, its biblically-saturated contents are worth the investment.  They will take you through every major doctrine in the Bible and present you with a systematic presentation of the Bible that will help you navigate circumstances in life with a more thorough grasp of God’s word.

The facts:  Systematic Theology is 57 chapters in length, broken into 7 sections, which include sections on the Word of God, God (Theology Proper), Humanity and Sin, Christ and the Holy Spirit, Salvation, the Church, and the Future.  A simple reading plan could be 1 chapter a week for 57 weeks.  In 13 months, you could finish this book that would open your eyes to behold the wisdom and beauty of God stored in his word.  Don’t read it alone; recruit 3 or 4 or 30 likeminded brothers and challenge each other to read it together.  Just like working out with football team in high school, this biblical workout will strengthen your faith and trim the fat of your theological error– Yes!  Right now, you and I have theological error crouching in our hearts and minds that need biblical excision.  If the 1100+ page Systematic Theology is too much, check out Grudem’s slimmer version, Bible Doctrine (34 chapters and less than 500 pages).

# 10 : Albert Mohler and his Daily Briefing (podcast / website)

Albert Mohler is the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and to interpreting the world in light of the Bible.  Among all the things that he does, sometime in wee hours of the morning, he records a 10-15 podcast that provides cultural commentary from a Christian perspective.  I try to make this a regular stop each day, to listen to his reflections on the political, cultural, educational, legal, and other social fronts that are regularly endanger the church and Christian families.  Mohler’s “Daily Briefing,” along with other resources on his webpage, AlbertMohler.com, would be a weekly stop  to help you think biblically about issues that you and your family will face.

There are so many other resources available and things that could be on this list (maybe, that should be on this list), but this is a start.  If someone takes seriously their “masculine mandate,” they will sacrifice to get such resource.  Acquiring these resources means intentionality and investment (time and money), but ask yourself: “What is more important?”

I would posit that there is nothing more important.  Some day, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:1-5; 2 Cor 5:10), and every word we ever spoke will be examined by our great King (Matthew 12:36).  In that moment, what will matter is the time we spent getting to know Jesus and the time we spent learning to walk in a manner worthy of his calling and sharing his good news with others.

For men, devoting yourself to a lifetime of growth in godliness as a husband, father, grandfather, employee, employer, company president… whatever, requires that you pursue it by the renewing of your mind.  God calls us to excellence and he provides us with everything we need for life and godliness.  Too many men, make up their masculinity as they go, instead of learning from the wisdom (and mistakes) of others– others who have learned from the Scriptures and will help us better apply God’s truth to our lives.

These resources will serve you well as men, husbands, fathers, and laborers for Christ. I pray God will make you strong and fruitful men, who do everything in the love of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Intimate Allies (pt. 5): A Message I Don’t Approve

In the season of platform messages and political adds, I feel that it is important to assert that I approved of the first four messages that Tremper Longman and Dan Allender present in their book Intimate AlliesTheir emphasis on spiritual warfare and the kingdom of God, evangelism and discipleship, as well as biblical theology to undergird our understanding of marriage is very helpful.  However, there is a message in their book with which I do not agree, and which is, I believe, fundamentally opposed to biblical marriages, biblical discipleship, and spiritual warfare.  It is the culturally accepted notion of feminism and the ecclesial/anthropological matter of egalitarianism as it pertains to the roles of men and women.  (For an outline of the issues see The Danvers Statement).

Without so much as a definition, an argument, or an admission of an egalitarian agenda, Longman and Allender presuppose and assume that an egalitarian reading of the Bible is normative for the evangelical Christian.  (For an opposing view, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe, see The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).  Concerning the Genesis command to fill the earth and subdue it, they write:

In marriage, we are both kings and queens who rule by ordering creation to enhance the glory and pleasure of each other.  We are to rule through sacrificing on behalf of one another (86).

At this point, I am in total agreement.  However, in there next supporting paragraph they deny any kind of intended order in the creation of man and woman.  They continue:

Further, we must recognize that the job description is given equally to men and women.  At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what.  Women are not the slaves or servants of men; men are not the slaves of servants of women.  Men and women together fill, subdue, and rule over all of creation (86).

By failing to cite a biblical reference, include a footnote, or make an argument for the assertion, “At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what,” they disregard biblical testimony to the contrary (cf. 1 Tim. 2; 1 Cor. 11, see Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for biblical corpus of articles that examine and exegete the relevant passage in Scripture ) and contemporary scholarship that argues for gender complementarity.  Instead, they casually assert their culturally sympathetic appeal and assume it will not cause any problems  This is not an isolated incident either.  In a later chapter, once again discussing the account in Genesis 2, they argue:

Once again, this passage [Gen. 2] is misread if either Adam’s statement of Eve’s derivative creation is understood to mean that the woman is subordinate to the man.  The man is not in any way better, superior, or closer to God than the woman is.  Indeed, the passage could not be clearer: the man needs the woman as much as the woman needs the man (216).

Though I disagree with their conclusion, in this instance Longman and Allender make an argument for egalitarianism, instead of propounding an assumption.  Their argument is feminist reasoning that supposes that worth in the eyes of God is dependent on hierarchy or perceived status.  For instance, a CEO is more valuable than his secretary.  In other words, if men and women cannot assume all the same functions within the home and the church, then they clearly cannot be equal.  They fail to take into consideration that God himself is equal in the Godhead and yet with distinctive roles (see Bruce Ware’s book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance). 

Moreover, their argument makes a semantic range fallacy.  They speak of authority (i.e. “subordination) and then proceed to define it in terms of worth or significance (i.e. “better, superior, or closer to God”), when in fact the ordered world illustrates all the time that hierarchy and worth are distinctive spheres of meaning.  A sergeant in the army and a luitenant in the army have different degrees of authority, but the same ontological value; parents and children, in the eyes of God, have distinctive roles of authority and accountability, but both are equally loved by their Father in Heaven; and employers and employees have unique roles, but the same intrinsic value.  To disregard or expunge these roles is to move towards anarchy. 

Longman and Allender disregard these cosmic structures, just as they reinterpret biblical passages that clearly teach that men and women are equal, yet different (see Alexander Strauch’s helpful book by that same title, Men and Women: Equal Yet Different).  After explaining their understandings of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, Longman and Allender summarize on page 191:

We have already pointed out that this commmand [“wives submit to your husband as unto the Lord,” Eph. 5:22] must be understood in the light of the mutual submission commanded by Paul in Ephesians 5:21.  We have also seen that Peter urged men to a submissive attitude toward their wives when he told them to “be considerate” toward them (1 Pet. 3:7). 

Here again, Longman and Allender are twisting meaning and common sense.  When you go to the doctor, you want him to be “considerate” but you don’t want your visitation to be a collaborative effort!  If in consideration for your feelings, he asked you to take the lead on your colonoscopy, you wouldn’t stay with his practice long.  You expect, and for good reason, that he or she be an authority in medicine.  Your responsibility is to submit, even if it is a woman!  (This hierarchy structure is different than that of the home or church). 

Or, to give another example, this time from Scripture, Jesus is the kind and compassionate head of the body, but this does not undermine his absolute authority.  The analogy of head and body only works because the healthy human body is controlled by the head.  When limbs, under their own initiative begin to lead, something is wrong.  Therefore, consideration and submission are not synonymous, as Longman and Allender suppose.

Throughout their otherwise faithful book these explicit egalitarian appeals arise.  They are exegetically reinforced in Chapter 11, “Submitting to One Another in Love,” and they are seen at work in at least two personal testimonies that portray their wives as spiritual co-leaders in the home (38, 52).  In short, while helpfully setting marriage in its discipling and warfare locus in the kingdom of God, they weaken their kingdom-worldview by denying God’s gender roles.

So overall, I commend the four aspects of the book I previously considered (Warfare, Evangelism, Discipleship, and Biblical Theology), but I do not commend their egalitarian agenda.  Intimate Allies is a book I would recommend to well-read Christians who want to see how their marriage fits into God’s eternal strategy of the Great Commission and spiritual warfare, but it is not a book I would ever use for (pre)marital counseling or that I would commend carte blanche.  There are too many other good books out there that are more faithful to God’s Word.  Finally, I am tremendously appreciative of Tremper Longman’s work, I look to him as an expert in OT and Biblical Theology, but in this instance, I cannot universally commend Intimate Allies.

My name is David Schrock, and I approved this message.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss