Thursday, January 24, 2008

Where Is the Joy? Part Four

In part three, I looked at the first aspect of the teachings of Jesus: that part that relates to sin and the solution for it. In this post I want to look at another aspect of Jesus teaching: that which relates to the restoration of all things. It is evident from Jesus teaching, and from the rest of the New Testament, that in his death and resurrection Jesus earned the right to pour out his Holy Spirit upon those who trust in him. And it is by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we being renewed day by day.

Though it is not readily apparent, I believe that Paul’s teaching in Ephesians on the church in general and on the roles of men and women specifically corresponds directly with this passage from John’s gospel. I don’t have time right now to make all the connections, but I want both texts to be up and available for quick browsing as I work through what I believe is going on.

I Am the True Vine – John 15:1-17
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Observe:

1) God is looking for and is glorified by our fruitfulness
2) We are cleansed by the words Jesus speaks
3) Abiding/obeying/loving Jesus is essential for fruitfulness
4) Full joy is the result of being fruitful
5) The Command: Love one another as I have loved
6) Jesus loved by laying down his life

Be Imitators of God – Ephesians 5
5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Observe:

1) Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us
2) Fruit is found in all that is good and right and true
3) Be filled with the Spirit corresponds with “Abide in me”
4) We are cleansed by the word of Christ
5) The Fruit of the Spirit here is:
a) singing psalms, hymns, spirituals to each other
b) sing to the Lord with our hearts
c) making melody to the Lord with our hearts
d) giving thanks always for everything
e) submitting to one another

This will be near impossible to work out in a few small blog posts, but I believe that both Peter and Paul work out the only faithful interpretation of gospel and teachings of Jesus when they speak of the right relations that every member in the congregation is to have to each other. God is looking for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and both Peter and Paul claim that that fruit is partly to be found in the sacrificial leadership of a husband and the freely offered obedience of a wife.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find some time this weekend to begin outlining why I believe this to be so from these texts (and others).

5 comments:

maryannie said...

I really like these texts and what they tell us about how to live and how to serve the Lord. But I still don't see how Paul gets from Jesus' teaching on bearing fruit to his statement that men should be the head of their wives.

Since we haven't found any clear calls to patriarchy yet from the OT or from Jesus' teachings, I'm still unclear how Paul gets there. Paul's teachings on this have such profound implications for society and for women that I just need to know EXACTLY where he came up with it all before I'll accept it as something we need to follow today (as opposed to something specific to the culture/church for which he was writing). Is his only basis creation order? I imagine you're planning to discuss that, but I find it to be a very weak logical conclusion that just because one thing came before the other, it then has authority over the other.

Anyway, I'm sure you're already planning to address this stuff...

Christopher said...

Hey Marianne,

I’m still hoping to get to what Paul is doing and why he is doing it, but I suppose I’ll never be able to show ‘exactly’ how his teaching is an outworking of the teaching of Jesus. I do think it is important to keep a couple things in mind about Paul though. First, he is Jesus’ chosen spokesman and therefore needs to be reckoned with. If we reject Paul, we necessarily reject Jesus. I know you understand this and that you are really just trying to make sure that Paul isn’t just speaking contextually at times, but since I hold Paul’s statements to be just as authoritative as Jesus’, I want to hit upon this real quick.

First, Jesus makes it very clear that those whom he sends out to be his ambassadors must be obeyed even as Jesus is obeyed.

Matthew 10:40 "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

Luke 10:16 "The one who hears (Greek: the word hear or listen here means ‘obey’ as the context of ‘rejecting’ requires) you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me."

John 13:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

Secondly, Jesus also makes it very clear that Paul is one of his chosen ambassadors. Therefore, to reject Paul is to reject Jesus.

Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him [concerning Paul], "Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."

Thirdly, Paul’s own testimony about himself indicates that he sees his words to be the very words of God.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Thessalonians 4:8 Therefore whoever disregards this [Paul’s teaching], disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.


Fourthly, the Apostle Peter recognizes Paul as an apostle who writes authoritatively.

2 Peter 3:15-16 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

And finally, even the evil spirits recognize the authority given to Paul by Jesus.

Acts 19:15 But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?"

Again, I know you recognize the authority of Paul as well and that you are really only just trying to make sure that Paul isn’t just speaking contextually, but since I won’t likely be able to show ‘exactly’ how Paul actually moves from Jesus’ teachings to patriarchy, I need this concept to be floating around behind the scenes as I write.

I do hope to get back to this series, but I’ve been so very much busy lately.

CT

maryannie said...

Hi Chris,

I definitely agree with you about Paul's authority, and that we can't reject him. And that was really great scriptural evidence you provided.

I guess my main question then is about how Christians have decided which of Paul's teachings are contextual and which are not. Why do we see his instructions to slaveowners as different from his instructions to women? If we accept all of Paul, we would be accepting that it is ok to own slaves as long as we treat them with decency. Why do we now reject that but not his teachings about the suppression of women?

The encouragement that Jesus gave to Mary when she sat at his feet to hear him teach was radical, because in those times sitting at a teacher's feet meant that you wanted to be his student and eventually a teacher yourself. It was NOT acceptable for a woman to do that, and Jesus' encouragement of that was highly unconventional. That's why I just can't reconcile Jesus' inclusion of women with Paul's strict suppression of them (can't teach, can't have any authority over men, are to blame for the Fall, and can only be saved through childbearing). Jesus included and encouraged women in a way that was very shocking at the time, and that's why I wonder if Paul's very conventional instructions were in fact contextual.

Julie said...

A quote from Dorothy Sayers(from her booklet Are Women Human?) concerning Jesus' attitude toward Mary & Martha (Luke 10:38-41) "For Martha was doing a really feminine job, whereas Mary was just behaving like any other disciple, male or female: and that is a hard pill to swallow...Mary's, of course, was the better part - the Lord said so, and we must not precisely contradict Him."
I would also like to mention how many times Paul praises women workers in the church... He mentions "Priscilla and Aquila" not Aquila and his wife (Acts 18:18-19,26) Rom.16 starts out with "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in C. I ask you to receive her in the the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. Greet Priscilla & Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus...Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias (a feminine name)... they are outstanding among the apostles...greet Tryphena and Tryphosa those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus...and his mother, who has been a mother to me too... Julia and Nereus and his sister...
He begins his list with a woman and it seems like there are more women here that he is grateful for than men!! Incredible from a man "who hates women" as he is viewed by some in our day. Other ref. by Paul: Timothy's mother and grandmother Lois and Eunice(2Tim.1:5) and there's Lydia(Acts16:14)1Cor.11:5"...Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered..." Remarkable for that culture! Just think of the way women are treated in Arab countries still today!!

Julie said...

A comment about "Joy"...I heard a Christian speaker say this week-end that they were completely surprised and overwhelmed with a deep feeling of joy and relief once they finally obeyed and submitted to something they felt God was telling them to do that they had been fighting for some time. We think we know that our way is best and will make us happy but when we give that up and submit to God that is when we find joy.