Authority and Necessity: A Hermeneutic According to Grace
Grace is light in the darkness. Jesus Christ is the light. He reveals both the depth of our darkness and the redemptive light of God. Christ Himself is the redemption of God. There is only one Christ, one light in the darkness: the Christ of the Bible. If we lose the Bible we lose the gospel. Without the Christ of the Bible, we don’t even know that we are in darkness. We don’t even know ourselves until we let the Bible tell us who we really are. We cannot be trusted.
We make every effort to magnify the light of the Christ of the Bible. We strive to teach and confess what is taught in the Bible. We add nothing; we dilute nothing; we shy away from nothing; we neglect nothing; we cherish every word of the Bible. The Word of God is life and light in the darkness.
In the Bible we learn that Jesus Himself promises to be with his church to the end of the age. We learn that He is with us in His Spirit, which permeates and unifies the whole body. Whoever believes in Him receives Him—His death and His resurrection and the inheritance of all things. This great salvation is available to anyone who will believe in Him.
Church Order by Christ’s Instruction
Throughout biblical history the people of God were instructed by the Holy Spirit to submit to the guidance and discipline of men who were set apart to care for them according to the Word of God. And these men were supposed to be held to a high standard by the people and by God for the sake of the people and for His own glory. Adam is the first. Abraham also. Then Moses and the elders and priests of Israel. Then elders in the New Testament church.
According to the Bible, the church—the body of Christ, indwelt by the Spirit—should place in ordained pastoral office men who meet the high standards detailed by the apostle Paul in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. There are clear commands to do this. There are no commands to elect women to ordained office. And I rather think we should not add to the teaching of Scripture or mix our own ideas with Lord’s instructions.
- The first and therefore paradigmatic (1 Tim 2:13) keeper of the Word of God for the people of God—Adam—was male.
- All the elders of Israel were male.
- All the priests of Israel were male.
- All of the writing prophets and all of the known miracle-performing prophets were male. There were female prophets in Israel, but prophecy is subordinate to the law and not a regular teaching office. Regular teaching authority belonged to the priests and the elders.
- The twelve disciples were male.
- All known apostles were male.
- In public church gatherings, Paul allows women to prophesy but not to teach or test prophecy.
- Scripture records no examples of women preaching.
Buy the Truth, and Sell it Not
The church is built with grace, not bricks (1 Cor 3). The fount of grace is the Word of God. Deviation from the Word is deviation from grace and from the Lord’s instruction. Sound exegesis is mining for life and light, and it is the primary duty of the church to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Cultural relevance is a ruse. The gospel is the most relevant thing, always and everywhere.
Jesus fiercely defended the purity of the Word of God. He refused to allow the traditions of men to dilute the truth of God or to burden the consciences of His people. He ignored unbiblical custom and often opposed it directly. Paul did the same. God called Abraham to be separate from his people and culture. In every age, unbiblical fascinations of the spirit of the times have threatened to mix with the Word of God and dilute it and diminish the voice of Scripture. This happened even in the apostolic age (Gal 2:4). Paul reproved Peter publicly, and helped to purify Peter’s teaching and witness according to Scripture. The church is the salt of the earth, and its savor is faithfulness to the Word of God.
I treasure correction according to Scripture (Prov 12:1). And I am grateful for relationships with many Christian brothers and sisters in which love and respect thrive alongside theological difference. But to go out of my way here to prove personal humility and respect for others would distract from the point. Rather, the point is that the purity of the church isn’t about what any one person thinks or hopes or feels, but about what Scripture teaches. The first humility is humility before Scripture. So I say all this in celebration of good fellowship and communion in the Spirit of Christ.