We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Monday, May 31, 2010

Old Song Needs to Go

Yesterday in church we sang a song that was popular in the 1960s and 1970s among the “Jesus People,” and one I learned when I was studying with the Navigators during my Army days. It is titled, We Are One In the Spirit.

Over the years as I have matured in my faith, I get more and more annoyed by this little ditty. It’s a “feel-good” song, for sure, but the apologetic eye sees a serious biblical error in this song. Let me show you the third verse and see if you can spot the problem:

We will work with each other,
We will work side by side.
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side.
And we'll guard each man's dignity
And save each man's pride.

Do you see it? How many times do Christians sing this song without thinking about all the lyrics? Where is the discernment?

“And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.” Where is this taught in the Bible? Isn’t pride something that we have to guard against? Do we find anything in Scripture at all about saving each other’s pride? Some may argue that showing respect for someone is “guarding” their dignity; perhaps we can even say the dignity of man is the image of God. So I won’t quibble on this part because it can really get nuanced. But “saving” each other’s pride is something I just can’t validate at all.

Isn’t it time we threw this old “feel-good” song out?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2 Chronicles 7:14 is NOT for the Christian

I have re-written this article to include better explanations which were needed in the comment section. Perhaps these clarifications will answer many of my critics.

This morning I received another one of those e-mails misusing 2 Chronicles 7:14, with the claim that if we all humble ourselves, pray, repent and turn God, He will heal our nation. Well, it sounds good and makes everyone feel good to pass this on, but is it true? Let’s look at the actual passage in the New King James Version:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves , and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Okay, let’s examine this passage and see if there is any application at all to the USA and our current national problems.

Chapter 7 is about the dedication of the new temple Solomon had built in Jerusalem. But, it follows chapter 6, which includes a lengthy prayer by Solomon beseeching God to hear the nation when they sin if they turn back to God and repent. After all the ceremony, which took place over several days, God appeared to Solomon at night (7:12) and responded to his prayer. Now, let’s look again at our passage in context, starting at verse 13:

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

First and foremost, verse 14 is predicated on verse 13 (which itself is a response to Solomon’s prayer). WHEN God brings a curse/discipline on Israel, IF Israel repents, etc, THEN God will bring back the blessings. This is a promise to fulfill the prayer request of Solomon.

So, the promise of vs. 14 will be God’s action when Israel properly responds to God’s discipline. Now, an important thing to remember is that, from the beginning of the Mosaic covenant with Israel, there was a condition of obedience in order to be blessed. We can see this condition in passages such as Leviticus 26:3-46 where God gives an “if, then” promise: IF Israel is careful to obey God’s commands, THEN God will give them physical blessings. In Deuteronomy chapters 28-30 we find that if Israel obeys God, their blessings will include children, crops, increased livestock, peace in the land, prosperity, and establishment as God’s holy people. In those same chapters we learn that if Israel disobeyed God’s commands, then God would bring discipline - curses - upon them, which would result in a lack of children, poor crops, enemies triumphing over them, poverty, and they would be scattered.

So let’s look at vs 14 with a couple annotations by me: If My people [Israel] who are called by My name will humble themselves , and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land [in accordance with My covenant promises].

We know that the Old Testament is indeed for our instruction (Romans 15:4), but not every promise in it applies to the Christian; many were directed to specific individuals and incidents. Yes, Christians are now God’s people (and Israel also still is), and as a general rule, we know that God blesses those who obey him and disciplines those who disobey. But the promise of 2 Chronicles was a specific promise to a specific nation based on a specific covenant and in response to a specific prayer. Christians can not claim any part of this promise.

The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is based on the covenant between God and Israel; it is not based on God and any other nation or people. When the passage talks about God’s people, it is not about anyone but Israel. The USA has never been God’s people; only the nation of Israel has borne that title. Christians are indeed God’s people, but not as a nation. The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is NOT for Christians.

Christian men and women, please use discernment and quit using this passage for political purposes. This passage is not about America and God has given no such promises to us no matter how much Christians would like to think so.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

I thought about this post because I have fairly recently been engaged in this discussion with a Seventh-day Adventist, then later with my brother, and then this past week I saw a comment posted on another blog, charging Christians with not keeping the Sabbath. So this is my analysis of the issue.

Before the Law of Moses there was no Sabbath. When God made the seventh day holy in Genesis, that's all we know about it - He made it holy. God doesn't say what the day was going to be for, just that it was made holy, meaning "set apart." Set apart for what? We aren't told. The very first time the word Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:23-30 when God gives it to Israel as a day of rest - not as a day of worship, since they were to worship God daily.

Okay, now with that prelude, let me digress to the connection between the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath.

Let me first point out that the Law of Moses (hereafter referred to as the “Law”) was only for Israel and no other nation. The Gentiles did not have the Law, nor were they ever to be given it or mandated to follow it. (For biblical references see: Deut. 4:7-8; Lev. 27:34; Ps.147:19-20; Neh. 9:14; Mal. 4:4; Acts 15: 5, 24; Rom. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:7-8, 11, 14; Gal. 3:25; Heb. 7:12, 18.)

So then, does that mean the Gentiles had no moral law? Of course not. Romans 2:14-15 says the moral law is written on the hearts of all people.

Now, as to the Ten Commandments, which are part of the Law and not given to anyone but Israel - notice how they do indeed sum up the moral law which is on everyone's heart, with the exception of the command about the Sabbath, because there is no moral issue there. Using the Ten Commandment list, here is what the moral law sums up as, and why:

1. No other God: Implicit because God is the only true God and He is the creator. To worship any other is fraudulent worship. Adam & Eve would have known this.

2. Do not misuse the name of God. Again, implicit - if He is your creator, you don't abuse Him in any way. Again, Adam & Eve would have known this.

3. Sabbath day. Did not come into play until God gave it to Israel under Moses as a sign of a covenant between God and Israel.  It is not a moral law.

4. Honor your father & mother: This is implied because they are the ones who brought you into the world, who nourished you until you were able to function on your own, and provided you with training to go into the world. You are also the result of God's command to the parents to be fruitful and multiply.

5. Do not murder. Originally implicit because Cain knew he did wrong by killing Abel. When Noah stepped off the Ark he was told capital punishment would be the consequences for murder (Genesis 9:6). Noah was the federal head of all civilization to follow.

6. Do not commit adultery. Implicit in the institution of marriage where God said the TWO shall be one, which means anyone coming between them violates that oneness.

7. Do not steal. This is certainly a moral code that God would plant in everyone. In no other way could there be peace and love between people.

8. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. If Adam and Eve didn't have this one planted in them, they quickly learned the consequences when the serpent (Satan) was punished for bearing false witness against God.

9 and 10 are disputed as to how they split, but they both deal with coveting something that is not yours to have. Again, if this was not implanted in Adam's and Eve's hearts, then they immediately recognized the penalty for coveting when they coveted and ate of the fruit which was not theirs to have.

Notice how all but one of these commands were either implicit, or given before Abraham, meaning they were given to the entire world, which is why these are the ones continually mentioned in the New Testament as being in force for all mankind. But the Sabbath wasn't before Moses and was not for anyone but Israel, which is why Paul, in Col. 2:16-17, said to let no one judge you in regards to a Sabbath. It may also tell us why Jesus made a point to say that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man (Mark. 2:27). Notice also how commands 1 & 2 are about our relationship with God, while 4-10 are about our relationship with each other. Number 3, the Sabbath, is not about either one; it is about a sign of a covenant between Israel and God.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the Sabbath. As pointed out above, the very first time the word Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:23-30 when God gives it to Israel as a day of rest. The next time Sabbath is mentioned is in the Ten Commandments; it is here that God explains why He chose the 7th day as a Sabbath for Israel; because God rested from His creative work on the 7th day. (This use of the 7th day of creation is given as the reason for the choice of that day, not to say that a Sabbath day existed prior to the Mosaic Law.)

So then, just what is the Sabbath? It is called a sign of the covenant between God and Israel in Exod. 31:12-17 You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy....The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever. In Deut. 5:15 we are given the reason for this covenant: Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.  No one else was brought out of Egypt so this cannot refer to anyone but Israel. Nehemiah 9:14 says, You made known to them [Israel] your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. Who did Nehemiah say God gave the Sabbath and laws to? ISRAEL!  Ezekiel 20:12 says, Also I gave them [Israel] my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. Go 8 verses farther and He says, Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us.

Scripture makes it very clear that the Sabbath is a sign of a covenant between God and Israel. No one else has that covenant that God has with Israel, His chosen people whose job it was to tell the world about the one true God (Exod. 15; Is.42:6; Acts 13:47; Rom. 2:17-20, 3:2).

What about the Sabbath for the Christian? Since it was not known before the Law, and since it is part of the Law, and since the Law was given only to Israel, this would mean the Christian, or any Gentile, was never under command to keep the Sabbath. And since it is a sign between God and the nation of Israel, and Christians are not Israel, Christians are not part of the covenant which the Sabbath signifies. (An analogy would be my wedding ring being a sign of a covenant between me and my wife - no other woman could wear my wife’s ring because another woman would not be a part of our covenant.)

Is Sunday the Christian “Sabbath”? Absolutely not. The Christian has no Sabbath except the Sabbath rest in Jesus (Heb. 4). Sunday was set aside by the first Church as a day of worship and remembering Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week (which began sundown Saturday, which is most likely when Jesus rose - Saturday evening, not Sunday morning, since He was already gone when the disciples arrived at the tomb that morning). The Bible never said this day of fellowship, breaking the bread and worship, was a Christian “Sabbath.”

The meeting on the 1st day of the week was also Saturday evening originally as shown by Acts 20:7-12. Tradition led to meetings on Sunday morning (most likely during the early 4th century under Constantine), but Scripture does not designate any specific day to meet. Heb. 10:24-25 just says not to forsake the meeting, it never says how often to meet or what days to meet. Although tradition has set Sunday for the most part, any day of the week is fine by Scripture. It is a Romans 14 issue.

Jesus came to perfectly fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic Law and, by doing so, He made them inoperative/not in effect (Rom. 7:1-6). In fact, Romans and Galatians both go into discussions about the Mosaic Law being null and void. Being part of the Law, this voids the Ten Commandments, per se, which would include the command to remember the Sabbath. This does not render the law written on our hearts (what could be called a moral law) ineffective because all the moral laws - not the Sabbath law - outlined in the Decalogue are reiterated in the New Testament teachings. (And remember, Paul specifically states that no one is to be judged in regards to a Sabbath Day.)

The Sabbath was to be kept as a day of remembrance by doing no work on it. It was not a day of worship, which is where so many Sabbath-followers make their biggest mistake. There has never been any command by God to choose any day for worship because we are to worship him every day. God said to ISRAEL to remember the Sabbath because it was a sign of the covenant which showed they were set apart for His service - made holy - because He brought them out of Egypt.

One final note for those who claim we must keep the Sabbath: if you demand this, then keep it from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and obey all the laws laid down for the Jew in relation to the Sabbath. If you claim Sunday is the new Sabbath, then you still need to obey the laws of the Sabbath. Since there are no denominations who do all the requirements of the Sabbath, then anyone demanding Sabbath-keeping who doesn’t keep the letter of the Law, is being hypocritical from the “git-go.”

Christians have their Sabbath in Christ (as do the Jews, but they don’t know it).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Let Her Be Veiled?

This is a subject I decided to tackle because Thursday night I again saw a family in which the females all wore what they considered to be a “head covering” (a small piece of fabric pinned just in front of a bun of hair). We were involved with a family several years ago who wore head coverings a bit larger on flowing hair, and we live in an area teaming with Amish and Mennonites who wear anything from a doily to a stiff bun-cover to a huge bonnet. From my experience, those who practice the wearing of head coverings for the women are always involved in some sort of legalistic group, and many legalistic home-schoolers have taken to this practice. For these reasons I did a thorough study of the issue several years ago, and it is that study I have modified and shortened for this post.

Before I go farther, let me state that I reviewed 26 English translations of the Bible and 20 commentaries from many viewpoints, including the small book, “…let her be veiled,” which was given to me as a proof of the correctness of women wearing a head covering all the time.

Women wearing head coverings is mentioned only once in Scripture. The context begins at 1 Corinthians 7:1, where Paul begins addressing questions that were written to him. He does not address their worship meetings until 1 Cor. 11:17 - the verse which follows this section, which immediately refutes the idea that a woman should wear a head covering for worship.

My commentary will attempt to answer the following questions from my layman‘s understanding:
1. Is the head covering the woman's hair?
2. Is the head covering cultural or for all time?
3. Is the head covering for all women or just those who are married?
4. When should the head covering be worn?
5. Why should the head covering be worn?
6. What form should the head covering take?

Let’s first look at the text, and I’ll use the NIV. 1 Cor. 11:3-16:
(3) Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (4) Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. (5) And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. (6) If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. (7) A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (8) For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; (9) neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (10) For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head. (11) In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. (12) For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. (13) Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? (14) Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, (15) but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. (16) If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice - nor do the churches of God.

Verses 4-7 and 10 are the actual instructions, while the remainder of the text gives the reasons.

Is the head covering the woman's hair?
Because v. 15 says the woman's long hair was given to her for a covering, does this mean that the hair is the covering discussed as some claim? If that is the case, then, in context of the man having no covering, the man would have to be shaved! Logic dictates that this is wrong, so hair could not be the context of vv.4-10. V.6 says if her head isn't covered, she should be shorn; this implies that she has hair already and that the covering is something separate. Even v.5 seems to imply that she has hair. So, what is the purpose of vv.14-15? I think it is to demonstrate that as in the natural realm God has given the woman long hair for a covering, so in the realm of relationships between men and women there should also be a separate covering - it is an analogy. So, the answer to the this question is that the hair is not the covering spoken of.

Was the head covering just cultural as most claim today?
Paul's argument is about the relationships established between God and Christ, Christ and man, and man and woman. This argument transcends culture, so that would make this argument for all time and all cultures. Additionally, chapter 1:2 says, "To the church at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours..." This says the instructions in this letter are for "all those everywhere" who are Christians, and that it was not confined to any culture.

Is the head covering for all women or just those who are married?
Most Bible translations have the context of husbands and wives. Since the argument appears to be in relation to a woman and her husband, single women are not included, let alone young girls. Even the requirement of verse 10 is in light of the husband/wife relationship in most of the translations I read. But then, what about single women - should they not be covered? If we translate all verses to just "man" and "woman," which I understand the Greek permits, the text looks just like that of NIV. In this case, ALL women are included, and this actually makes sense in light of Paul's overall argument of the relation of men to women. Verse 10 just says it is a sign of authority; it doesn't say whose authority. In the passage, the reason given (that woman is the glory of man, that she came from man, and was created for man) is not relegated to married women. But then, whose authority are single women then under? I would say their father or an elder maybe? It doesn’t say, so we can only speculate.

An interesting consideration is Paul's appeal to nature in relation to hair length. He says the long hair is given a woman for her covering. This would be a covering for all women, including those unmarried. I think a possible understanding of this passage is this: Woman was given long hair as a natural covering. As long as she is a single woman this is all she needs before God but, once she is married, her husband is her head and so she should cover her own glory to show she is now under his authority.

For the sake of being conservative, let's assume all women, married or single, should be covered. Then the question becomes, at what age would it be appropriate for a girl to begin wearing a head covering, if it is desired as a sign of being under her father's (or other man's) authority? I would suggest it would necessarily be when she is old enough to have a scriptural foundation and understand the purpose. This may very well be around the time of puberty, as Tertullian and other early church leaders suggested, or at least when of marriageable age.

When should the woman have her head covered?
Here is the sticky point. The context is NOT just at worship. As previously pointed out, instructions in relation to worship meetings begin after this discussion - at v.17. Paul’s instructions are for "praying" or "prophesying." Alexander Strauch points out that, by the Greek construction, this must be audible and public, so that the symbolism is meaningful; if a woman is praying silently, how would anyone know she is doing so, and how would a symbol then mean anything? So then, I think that the covering should be worn whenever the woman is participating in a prayer meeting where she would join in audible prayer. As for prophesying, I believe direct revelation from God has ceased, so this would not be a consideration.

Some feel that it should be worn at all times because one may be at prayer at any given moment; this seems to be the teachings of the Amish and others who have adopted the tradition. As Strauch points out, the logic would then need to be applied to men, that they could never wear anything on their heads. And yet every one I have seen practice the head covering tradition have no problem with men wearing hats, and Amish and Mennonite men wear hats often! So they pick part of the passage to force women to be covered, yet ignore the other part that says they are NOT to be covered.

Interesting considerations here would be to look at 1 Tim. 2:9 and 1 Pet. 3:3. To Timothy, Paul talks about dressing modestly, describing the hair but not saying that modest dress should include covering that hair or even just the head; if the head was to be covered always, would he not have so stated here? Peter also address a woman's hair by saying not to let the braided hair be her beauty; if her head was to be covered always, no one would see her hair to begin with!

What if a woman is somewhere without her head covering, or has never been taught the practice - does God honor her prayer? As with other signs, I believe the whole thing boils down to a heart attitude. If the woman forgets her covering and wants to participate in a prayer meeting, I believe God honors her because of her attitude; she has a submissive attitude that correlates with the sign.

Another argument for continuous wear is that it would be a constant reminder to the wife (single woman) that she is under her husband's (father's) authority. This is adding to the text something not there.

I think the only thing we can determine from the text is that the woman should wear a covering if she is praying or prophesying, regardless of location or setting. And since prophecy is no longer being revealed, current practice would only be for prayer.

Why is it worn? What about the angels; what do they have to do with it?
Commentaries making modesty a reason for the veiling are eisegesis; modesty is not mentioned in our subject text. Paul says the reason the covering is worn is that woman is the glory of man, that she came from man, and was created for man AND, because of the angels she should have a sign of authority on her head. The head covering is obviously considered a sign of authority to those who see it, including angels. But why do the angels need to see a sign of authority on a woman's head? A review of the commentaries gave me some insight:

I learned that the good angels watch over us, minister to us, and are interested in the gospel message. They should see proper attitudes towards God when observing us. Since the angels are veiled as a sign of their subordination to God, their head, they would expect a woman to be veiled as a sign of her subordination to her husband (or father?), who is her head.

But the bad angels have a different problem. They see the beautiful hair, and are enticed by the woman. However, if she has a sign of being under someone's authority, this says to the bad angels that she is protected from them.

Could not single women also wear the covering as a sign here? There is no proscription as I see it, and if the angels are indeed attracted to the beauty of the hair, then it wouldn't matter if the woman was married or single.

What form should the head-covering take?
Since the Greek word for veil means "something that covers completely and hangs down," I would say the covering should be something the woman can drape over her head at the time of prayer, such as a scarf or shawl. The idea is obviously to drape over the head an item that covers it. I do think it is enlightening that the art from early Christian times shows various forms. The attitude of the heart has to be in line with the sign. If the attitude is to just wear a tiny doily so no one would even notice the sign, or to fulfill a legal requirement, then the purpose is defeated. And a small doily certainly doesn’t cover completely and hang down!

Okay, so what is the ultimate lesson to learn here?

Firstly, I think the idea of a woman wearing a head covering was intended to be a forever sort of thing, but it is not a salvation issue, and I think for that main reason our culture has left the teaching behind. (It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Church began teaching the wearing of a covering for audible prayer.)

Secondly, those who claim a woman should wear a covering at all times are adding to Scripture, and ignore the fact that a man could then never wear a hat. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander; if you are going to make your women wear a head covering all the time, then you’d better not ever have a hat on your head! You can’t just take part of the verse as being applicable and throw the other part out.

Thirdly, those who wear little fabric patches or doilies are not in compliance with the teaching of the text. Those things do not “cover completely” or “hang down.”

So, to sum the whole thing up, IF you choose in your tradition to wear a head covering, then do it when and how the Bible says: just during audible, public prayer - and have a real covering. Otherwise all you are doing is forcing on the women your own legalistic ideas. Let’s free Christian women from this legalistic bondage!