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Wordwise Insight, Issue #039
March 08, 2008

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of


BIBLE INSIGHTS. Broken but Not Pierced; Encouragement in Service, and more

READER Q & A. About calling someone a fool; about homosexuality, and women in authority in the church, and more

MEDIATIONS ON OUR HYMNS. Crown Him with Many Crowns


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BRAND NEW LAST MONTH! DISCUSSION BIBLE STUDIES ON THE BOOK OF JOB! There are 12 lessons in this unique series on an oft-neglected book. These will challenge your thinking in many ways. There is nothing else quite like this currently available on the book. Take a look at Job Studies.

NEW THIS MONTH! An analysis of the novel In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon, showing points at which it is not true to Scripture. In view of the fact that the book is still popular, it is important to consider what it is saying. In His Steps--A Critique of the Novel

One thing did not happen at the cross, and another did happen. Both of these, John says, are a fulfilment of Scripture (Jn. 19:31-37). They relate to two particular aspects of the life and ministry of Christ.

I. His Righteous Person
1) The soldiers found it unnecessary to break the legs of the Lord Jesus, as He was already dead when they checked on Him. He was dead not because of human weakness, but because the Lord Himself chose the time to die (Jn. 19:30). He had power to give up His life, and power to take it again (Jn. 10:17-18).

2) The fact that Christ’s legs were not broken on the cross, points to His identity as the fulfilment of an important Old Testament picture, that of the unblemished Passover Lamb (Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12; cf. Jn. 1:29; I Cor. 5:7).

3) Legs are for walking, and in spiritual terms the walk represents daily life and experience (Eph. 4:1). Perhaps the unbroken legs of the Lamb suggest the wholeness and unsullied holiness of His life (Exod. 12:5; I Pet. 1:19).

II. His Redemptive Provision
1) It was not enough for Jesus to die. His life’s blood had to be shed. Christ’s body was pierced, as prophesied, since this was a key aspect of His redemptive work (Ps. 22:16; Zech. 12:10; 13:1; Rev. 1:7).

2) The shedding of His blood was necessary to provide for our cleansing from sin. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission [no forgiveness of sin]” (Heb. 9:22; cf. Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14, 20)

3) “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7) Blood flowed from His pierced feet, picturing His provision for the cleansing of our walk; blood flowed from His pierced hands, picturing His provision for the cleansing of our work; blood flowed from His pierced side, picturing His provision for the cleansing of our hearts.

Galatians 6:9 provides words of encouragement for the servant of Christ, and a significant promise. It says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” The first and last parts of the verse give us the negative, the interior of the verse reflects the positive. “Do not become weary (discouraged, disheartened); do not lose heart (give up, quit). Instead, keep on doing good, serving the Lord, because there will be a time of harvest in due season (at the proper time).”

There is weariness and discouragement in Christian service. Sometimes it is because we seem to see little fruit. But it may also be for less noble reasons. That we grow impatient with people who show less spiritual insight than we imagine we do. Or because our efforts and gifts are not appreciated as we think they should be.

First, we would do well to examine our hearts for unrealistic expectations or selfish motivations. But if our hearts are in tune with God’s heart, there is still possible weariness and discouragement. It is to be expected in the service of weak creatures as we are. But we must see that we do not give up and quit. Faithful service will have its reward in the end. The harvest comes at the proper time (cf. I Cor. 15:58; II Thess. 3:13; Jas. 5:7). As there is a natural progression from sowing to reaping, there is a natural tendency to slip from discouragement to despair. But if we are doing God’s work, we can continue to count on Him.

I. The Peril of Today
1) That we will grow weary (serving faithfully is hard work)
2) That we will lose heart and become discouraged
3) (Implied) that we will cease doing what is good and right

II. The Promise of Tomorrow
1) That there is a due season of harvest (cf. vs. 7)
2) That we shall reap (spiritual fruit and eternal rewards)
3) (Implied) that we can finish well, by God’s grace (vs. 10; cf. I Cor. 15:58)

THE LEARNER-SERVANT PRINCIPLES. On the website there is an article about discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles. Extensively referenced to Scripture, and with many diagrams, this material will give you a unique perspective on the subject. The seven basic principles are interconnected. They show the essence of discipleship as it is revealed in God’s Word, four key things God expects of us, and how sin contrasts with the four. As well, you will gain a helpful understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. The framework described can also be used to analyze passage after passage in the Bible. Please study the material, put it to use, and pass it on!

TRUTH IN OUR TRIALS. Check out the extensive outline study on the subject of suffering at Truth About Suffering.

BIBLE STUDY SERIES ON PROPHECY! The subject of Bible prophecy is a fascinating one. This series of 12 discussion studies covering the major themes of prophecy will give you an opportunity to examine what God has planned for the future. To check it out, click on Prophecy Studies.


QUESTION: Why does calling someone a “fool” put a person in danger of going to hell?

ANSWER: Well, it does, and it doesn’t. There is a marked difference in how we use the word today contrasted with what Jesus meant. Today, we likely think a person is a fool if he does something dumb. But in Bible times it meant far more than that. The statement is found in Matthew 5:22, and it is part of what is commonly known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. There, He says, “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ [an Aramaic word referring to an empty-headed person] shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” To grasp the meaning of this warning, we need to understand the context.

In that day, some had reduced Judiasm to a matter of externals. Act the right way, and perform the right rituals, and you were a good Jew. Matters of the heart were being ignored. But using several commandments of the Old Testament Law, Jesus demonstrates to His hearers that God’s standard involves not only outward acts (as the Pharisees taught) but inward attitudes (cf. vs. 27-28). In vs. 21-22, the discussion concerns the act of murder and the underlying attitude that can lead to it, malicious anger. In vs. 22, three levels of severity are described, each falling short of physical murder, but each sinful and destructive.

1) If a person nurses a hateful and malicious attitude toward a fellow Jew (“his brother”), he could well be brought up before the local magistrate (“the judgment”).

2) If his hatred is expressed in words of angry contempt (such as “Raca!”–the equivalent of “You stupid idiot!”) it could be a matter for the Jewish supreme court, called the Sanhedrin (“the council”).

3) Worse still, the one who calls his brother a “fool” thereby suggests his own unsaved condition, which therefore means he is in peril of eternal damnation.

In our own culture, there would seem to be little difference between the last two of these. But the latter term is given a much stronger meaning in the Old Testament. The fool is a godless, and immoral person (cf. Ps. 14:1; Prov. 9:13-18; 14:9). He is a wicked reprobate, destitute of spirituality. Further, and most significantly, many of the translators see the epithet, “You fool!” as implying a curse. Rotherham’s New Testament has, “You cursed fool” [i.e. ‘You damned fool!’].” And the Twentieth Century New Testament paraphrases, “Whoever calls down curses upon him.” The Living Bible paraphrase has, “And if you curse him...”

Out of hateful and malicious anger, one individual is sitting in judgment on another (in effect, taking the place of God) and calling down eternal destruction on the object of his hateful wrath. This bears little relation to our current use of the word, referring to someone lacking in common sense who does something silly. In the Jewish culture, branding someone a fool was close to murder. It reflected an arrogant and hateful attitude calling for immediate correction (vs. 23-24).

QUESTION: Richard asks, “So, what does the Bible really say about women teachers, deacons, and pastors? Same question on homosexuality? And if the Bible really says it, why such division on each of these subjects?”

ANSWER: You ask some excellent questions Richard. I will give you what I believe to be the Bible’s teaching on these issues. As to the matter of homosexuality, the Scriptures make it abundantly clear: homosexual behaviour is a sin. I refer you to my article on the website at the address given below. About two dozen Bible words are used to describe homosexual conduct, all of them bad. For example, God calls it an abomination (that which is disgusting and detestable) in Leviticus 18:22–where it is sandwiched between the Lord’s condemnation of child sacrifice (vs. 21), and bestiality (vs. 23). For more detail, see: Homosexuality in the Bible.

Only by dismissing the Bible as an error-filled man-made book, and not the inspired and trustworthy Word of God, can anyone come to the conclusion that homosexuality is acceptable as “an alternate lifestyle.” The first part of your question deals with church leadership, and I am not sure whether you intend a connection–that is, whether you are asking if it is appropriate to ordain those who claim to be “gay” to Christian ministry. The answer, of course, is no. Since they cannot “inherit the kingdom of God” in their sinful state (I Cor. 6:9), how can we put them in a place of leadership and influence in the body of Christ?

The other part of your question will require a little more space, since the issue is not so clear-cut as the one just discussed. There are obviously various legitimate ministry roles for women in the local church. However, we need to set some biblical boundaries for their participation. And we men cannot claim superiority or innocence for ourselves. It is unquestionable that in time past the role of men in the church sometimes has been unscriptural. That they have tried to be “lords over those entrusted to [them]” (I Pet. 5:2-3), not serving in humility, following Jesus’ example. But it seems to me the present trend is to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. Christian women are certainly fully equal to men as to their spiritual standing before God (Gal. 3:26-28). But in the church and in the home, the Lord gives the primary leadership role to men.

And in the New Testament, local church leadership is given to a group of men (never a single individual). These men are given three interchangeable titles (cf. Acts 20:17, 28; Tit. 1:5, 7; I Pet. 5:1-3). They are “elders” referring to their maturity. (Not necessarily that they are elderly, but certainly that they are mature in spiritual character.) They are also called “pastors” (meaning shepherds), indicating their responsibility to nourish and protect the flock. And called “bishops” (meaning overseers or superintendents), describing their governance of the affairs and the program of the church. Again, this office is always given to men, and always in plurality. Though a church may have one person called “the pastor,” who is financially supported so he can give his full time to the work, as to his office he has no more authority than the other men who serve with him on what is sometimes called a “board of elders,” or a “pastoral committee.”

The office of deacon (and deaconess, Rom. 16:1) is different. The word itself means servant, and these are in a subordinate and supportive position under the elders. Though the actual term “deacon” is not used until later (cf. I Tim. 3:8-13), Acts 6:1-6 refers to those who were appointed to “serve [literally deacon] tables” (vs. 2), distinguishing this work from the ministry of the apostles who concentrated on “prayer and the ministry of the Word” (vs. 4).

The Bible declares, “In like manner also [I desire that] the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (I Timothy 2:9-14). Consider some comments made by others concerning this passage.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume 2 [commenting on the NIV]: “[Women] in the congregation should receive instruction from the male leadership with quietness and full submission. They should not attempt to turn the tables by clamouring for the office of congregational teacher, or by grasping for authority over men....Silent in vs. 12 does not mean complete silence or no talking. It is clearly used elsewhere (Acts 22:2; II Thess. 3:12) to mean “settled down, undisturbed, not unruly....Paul here based his view of male/female relationships in the church on the account of creation recorded in Genesis 2....Thus the roles Paul spelled out here are a product of God’s fundamental design.”

Lawrence Richards (The Bible Reader’s Companion, p. 834; and The Teacher’s Commentary, p. 980-981): “Teach or have authority (2:12). The two should be linked: to teach with authority. Many believe authoritative teaching is a role reserved for church elders, an office which no N.T. reference indicates was held by women....In the whole context of is clear that Paul is not suggesting a woman may not open her mouth when men are present. Church leadership is the topic of the pastorals, and since leaders oversee the purity of the Christian community’s doctrine and lifestyle, it is clear that the particular “teaching” Paul refers to is the “teaching with authority” that Paul urges on Timothy and Titus as their ministry. It was Timothy’s role to “command and teach” (I Tim. 4:11) the things of God as an apostolic representative. Apparently Paul did not permit a woman to be ordained to such an office of responsibility.”

Henry Morris and Martin Clark (The Bible Has the Answer, p. 241-242): “Unfortunately, some local churches do not have enough men who are serious students of the Word, or who are exemplary in Christian conduct and maturity. Yet, the twentieth century church cannot use this as an excuse to set aside biblical standards of church form, any more than it can set aside biblical doctrine....The Bible does not prohibit women from enjoying equal opportunities legally, socially, or economically. Nor does the Bible require Christian women to be submissive to all men. This would mean that godly women should feel perfect liberty to take positions of authority over men in professional, business, or social contexts. But the Bible does prescribe the form which should accompany freedom for the Christian woman in her home and in her church.”

Elisabeth Elliot (quoted by Gleason Archer, in The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 414-415): “Supreme authority in both church and home has been divinely vested in the male as the representative of Christ, who is the Head of the church. It is in willing and glad submission rather than grudging capitulation that the woman in the church (whether married or single) and the wife in the home find their fulfilment....The modern cult of personality makes submission a degrading thing. We are told we cannot be ‘whole persons’ if we submit. Obedience is thought of as restrictive and therefore bad. ‘Freedom’ is defined as the absence of restraint, quite the opposite from the scriptural principle....To attempt to apply democratic ideals to the kingdom of God, which is clearly hierarchical, can result only in a loss of power and ultimately in destruction. Christ Himself, the Servant and Son, accepted limitations and restrictions. He learned obedience.”

Ray Stedman (from the World Wide Study Bible): “The key to this passage is the word translated, "to have authority over." It governs both the teaching and the attitude of the woman. This Greek word, authentein, means "to domineer, to usurp authority, to take what is not rightfully yours," and to do so (is the implication) by the process of teaching. In other words, women are not to take over in a church and become the final, authoritative teachers....This interpretation of women as being excluded from eldership is confirmed by one incontrovertible fact: There were, in the New Testament, no women apostles and no women elders! Jesus could have settled this controversy at the very beginning by appointing Mary Magdalene as an apostle, but He did not do so. Neither Paul, nor any of the apostles, ever chose a woman to be an elder of the churches they founded, though they could easily have done so if it were right. There were many godly and capable women available, but none was ever put in the office of elder...Women are not given the role of final decision on doctrinal issues. They are not to be the authoritative teachers of the church.”

Robert Saucy (The Church in God’s Program, p. 160-161): “There is a difference of opinion as to whether the New Testament church had an office of deaconess. The Scriptures in question are Romans 16:1, where Paul refers to Phoebe as ‘a servant [diakonos] of the church which is at Cenchrea,” and I Timothy 3:11, where in the context of the qualifications for deacons, women are mentioned....There is much evidence to support the interpretation that these women are deaconesses, rather than deacons’ wives....The deaconess of the early church was concerned with those areas of service that could best be served by a woman. Indicative of their functions is the summary given in the Syrian Didascalia from the late third century. They were to assist at the baptism of women, especially in the art of anointing, and ‘to go into the houses of the heathen where there are believing women, to visit those who are sick, and to minister to them in that of which they have need, and to bathe those who have begun to recover from sickness.’ Deaconesses undoubtedly also served the poor and the orphans, and provided hospitality for strangers. Thus while the New Testament prohibits women from assuming the role of leadership in the church...they do appear as having a significant ministry in the church along with men in the subordinate auxiliary role of the diaconate.”

[Saucy continues] “First Timothy 2:9-15 refers twice to the needed ‘silence’ of women in the church. There, in the context (vs. 13-14), the designed headship of the man, and the vulnerability of women to temptation when the God-given order is reversed--demonstrated back in Eden-- is cited as the reason. First Corinthians 14:34-35 speaks in a similar vein. “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.”

The reference in Corinthians is particularly to married women (with Christian husbands). The husband is to be the head of the home. And in public, wives should defer to their husbands, as a public testimony to their submission. Nothing is said of single women here. It may simply be that Paul has not attempted to cover every possibility. Single women could defer to the authority of fathers or brothers--or the elders of the church.

The Scripture is saying that women should not speak authoritatively or challenge (question) the authority of church leaders. Elsewhere (11:5) Paul seems to permit a woman to pray and prophesy, provided her head is covered. That covering was a sign of submission to authority. So her participation, though permitted, was always to be done in recognition of the overruling authority of the (male) leadership. The point here is that issues of doing and saying the things that are right in the church (vs. 33, 40) should not be publically questioned and argued by the women in the church. Responsibility for that rests with the men called to leadership (Tit. 1:9).

My own conclusion is that the uppermost governing body of the local church should be composed only of men. Or, if women need to be present to report to them “ex officio” (by virtue of their office as Children’s Church director, etc), they should not have a vote on this body. However, virtually any role in the church is open to women under the authority of this ruling pastoral council or board of elders. Though there is disagreement, some would even say that teaching a mixed adult Bible class would not be off limits, as long as it is understood that the woman teacher serves in submission to the elders. Further, there are many opportunities for service as “deaconesses” which could be explored.

Once the overall authority of the elders in the local church is established, almost any ministry is available to women under them. However, let me add one more thought. In a larger multi-staff church, where there are several "pastors," let us say, for purposes of illustration, that a woman named Joan Smith is appointed to engage in a ministry to women. It might be tempting to call her Pastor Smith, since she does have pastoral (nurturing, shepherding) work to do. But my own conviction is that this title should be avoided, simply because it will imply to some an equality of standing with the men who are in leadership. As to her ministry, Joan may be doing pastoral-type work, but that title is more than a definition of ministry. It is also seen by the congregation as a recognition of position--a position which she cannot biblically hold. She should more accurately be thought of as a deaconess.

Next Month: Were our hymn tunes originally the melodies of bar room songs?

SEEKING A NEW PASTOR for your church? Check out the Pastoral Questionnaire.

BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on The Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.



We seem to be guilty of two common distortions of the cross of Christ--both of which miss the mark. One is to turn it into a sterile symbol, a mere decoration to adorn our houses of worship and other things. But in the very familiarity of that polished ornament we sometimes lose the awareness that Calvary was a place of terrible suffering. Many today wear crosses as articles of jewelry, while seeming to have no concern for what happened there.

The other error is to see all the pain and gory horror of the cross, but miss the joy and eternal blessing of it. (The much analyzed film, The Passion of the Christ, has this weakness, among others.) Yes, Calvary was a scene of ugly cruelty. To some, that is so repulsive they even edit from their hymn books any songs about “the blood.” All this talk of a bloody sacrifice appals them. But there is an awesome beauty in the cross which they have missed. What Christ accomplished in His death is glorious beyond compare. That is where the Word of God places the emphasis, and so should we.

There is a relatively brief reporting of what happened at Calvary. John says simply, “They crucified Him” (Jn. 19:18). In contrast there is passage after passage, in the epistles, explaining the spiritual and eternal meaning of the cross. In effect, the cross planted on Golgotha’s hill towers upward to the very throne of God. The death of Christ is so significant God has planned for us to have eternal reminders of it. We know the resurrection body of Christ, a glorified body, still bore the wounds of Calvary (Jn. 20:26-28). And apparently those identifying marks will be visible in heaven. In Revelation, John sees a vision of Christ in the midst of God’s throne appearing as “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6).

Matthew Bridges (1800-1894) was an English poet who spent the latter years of his life in Canada. In 1851, he wrote the hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” Twenty-three years later, an Anglican clergyman named Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) added some verses of his own. In our current hymn books, stanzas one, two and four are usually Bridges’, and the third verse Thring’s. The song is based on the words of Revelation 19:12, “On His head were many crowns.” It pictures our worship of the Saviour around the heavenly throne. Verse four says, “Crown Him the Lord of love! Behold His hands and side, / Rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified: / All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou hast died for me: / Thy praise shall never, never fail, throughout eternity.”

That is striking imagery. Our attention is drawn to Christ’s “rich wounds, yet visible above.” In that realm of infinite perfection, when all the saints have been clothed in glorified, resurrection bodies, do you expect your body to retain the scars and imperfections of earth? I don’t! Yet apparently there will be one jarring exception to that, the scars in the hands and feet and side of Jesus. But far from being distracting and repellent, those wounds will be, for us, heaven’s most beautiful sight. Why? Because of the richness of their meaning. Because they are the evidence of God’s matchless love.

The emblems of Christ’s passion will forever remind us of how we came to be there. That He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (I Pet. 2:24). That He “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5) That “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). To us the marks of Calvary will be “rich wounds” indeed, radiant with the beauty of grace. In the words of an ancient love song we will say, “He is altogether lovely, this is [our] Beloved, and this is [our] Friend” (Song 5:16).

THE BEST BIBLE STUDY TOOL EVER. At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

Check out EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY, a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.

If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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