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Friday: Further Thought – The Most Convincing Proof — 17 Comments

  1. Within the quote presented in today's lesson is hilighted the need for prayer for discernment.

    When the prayer for discerment is genuine, it indicates something about the person who is praying for discernment - they are teachable by the Holy Spirit because they have an attitude of willing submission to and dependence upon God.

    What does this attitude of willing submission to and dependence upon God look like? See Ps 42:1.

    If unity is to characterise a group of believers, I would propose that this willing submission to and dependence upon God is a vital/necessary prerequisite for each and every person within such a group. It is this willing submission to and dependence upon God that enables the Holy Spirit to then bring about consensus - including consensus about diversity within unity.

    Amen!(6)
  2. It should be quite obvious to even the most casual observer that there is deep-seated disagreement within the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists. It would be great if we could all agree, but that would indeed be a miracle. At the end of this quarter of study on unity, very few of us will have changed our minds on the issues that are dividing us.

    Here are the options:

    1) It is all too hard. Christianity does not provide the answer we are going to seek our direction elsewhere.

    2) We need to split. Those of us on one side of the argument should form one church, while the others form another church.

    3) We should learn to live with the fact that we disagree with one another and rejoice in the things we agree on.

    As I illustrated earlier this week, my wife, Carmel, and I have our disagreements. We fundamentally disagree on how plants ought to be pruned. Carmel wants little bits pruned off while I want to take a whole lot more off than she does. I have a lot of arguments in my mind about why I am right and she is wrong. She tells me quite vigorously that I am dead wrong and I am killing the plants. So how do we resolve the issue? We live with it. When the plants that need a hard prune are due for their pruning, I wait until Carmel is away, then I prune, clean up the mess, and when she comes back home the plants are looking nice and trim. Sometimes she does her own pruning and trims off a leaf and a twig here and there. I have learned not to make any comment about her pruning and not to leave any mess when I prune. I am sure that as long as either of us can wield a pruning secateurs we will disagree with how much should be trimmed off.

    I wish we agreed, but we don't and we have to live in a dynamic relationship where the job gets done without annoying one another.

    You may think that the issues that divide us are deep moral issues and that my illustration is trivial by comparison. That may be the case. However, it would be a very sad reflection on our love for one another if Carmel and I divorced over a disagreement about pruning plants. And it would be a sad reflection of our love for one another if we allowed a disagreement about who should be recognized for preaching the gospel and pastoring church congregations to separate us.

    And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Acts 2:1,2

    Do you think that all the Christians agreed on everything on the day of Pentecost? Or, did they put aside their differences and focus on Him?

    One further thought: The fact that we are still disagreeing but talking to one another may be evidence that the Holy Spirit is working with us still.

    Amen!(23)
    • Maurice, I see one more option needed, as I could not personally accept any you have given:

      "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

      Blessed [are] they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

      They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

      Thou hast commanded [us] to keep thy precepts diligently.

      O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

      Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

      I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

      I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
      Ps 119:1-8

      I don't not see the disagreement over pruning plants as applying to our main issue of disagreement. This matter is about "understanding what the will of the Lord is", and obeying it. This is not a subject of preference or insignificant options. We follow the Word of God or we don't. A simple choice which every member must decide for themselves, as we will each face God in judgment alone.

      However, as we have voted as a world church, then all should agree to the decision and there will be some manner of visible "unity" at least, yet, God wants each to know and follow His will. Can we know it for ourselves? Is this possible?

      I believe only those who do this, will be in one accord with the Lord.

      Amen!(9)
      • Robert, I was requested to research the actual details of the 3 motions of the General Conference of the SDA Church. (See my long comment under the Elephant post.) I discovered that all three motions were essentially the following:

        (1) In the light of the fact that we are not all of one mind
        that
        (2) the LORD approves certain women with appropriate God given Talents and Spiritual Gifts to exercise Spiritual Leadership in His Church
        therefore should the GC in session
        (3) in the meantime authorized the practice of ordaining appropriate women as Pastor for those who believe (2).

        The vote each time was no, not yet.
        Numbers: 2015 – 59% no, 41% yes; 1990 – 76% no, 24% yes; 1985 n/a

        However the GC in session in 1990 did authorize the practice of ordaining women as Elders.
        In addition the GC in council did authorize appointing women to the role of Pastor to carry out the functions of a Pastor and to be Commissioned as a Pastor.

        Amen!(0)
  3. There is a very interesting exchange recorded in Luke 9:49-50 and Mark 9:38-40 between John (as the apparent spokesperson for a group) and Jesus.

    The disciples had attempted to stop someone who was doing the work of God's Kingdom, but was not doing it the way the disciples thought it should be done. I suspect John expected that Jesus would back them up in their efforts to stop this person.

    But Jesus did the opposite. Jesus replied, "Don't stop him, for he who is not against you is for you".

    It is interesting what is being said here. Jesus is saying that though someone may be doing things differently and may not be part of the supposed 'sanctioned' group, that doesn't automatically mean that they are wrong. Diversity alone does not mean a lack of unity.

    There can be diversity of methods and methodologies, but it is the motives behind these methods and methodologies that determines whether a person is with or against God's Kingdom.

    If you and I each have a genuine submission to and reliance upon God and are therefore motivated to be part of His Kingdom and to join with Him in His will/desire to share that with others, then even though we may have differences of some beliefs and views and even though we may do/see things differently, we will still be united in Christ. Unity in and through diversity.

    Amen!(6)
    • Phil, what led you to conclude that the others were doing things differently in the incident you cited? Just curious.

      One can only do the work of God if in obedience to God's will. Otherwise, how can it be God's work? (e.g. see Numbers 12, 16, 22)

      Amen!(7)
      • Hi Robert.

        Thanks for your question.

        Lk 9:49 says “...we tried to stop him because he does not follow along with us.” The Greek Word translated ‘follow’ is akolouthei and is the same word used in Matt 10:38 regarding “take up his cross and follow me”. Hence, aklolouthei is more broad than literally walking along with - it encompasses being in harmony with. John, as spokesperson for the sentiments of the disciples, was concerned that the other person was not in harmony with the way the disciples believed things should be being done. That word analysis matches with the general tone of the exchange being reported - the disciples weren’t happy that someone wasn’t doing things the way they thought they should be done.

        Yes, I agree that only those who are united with God are able to do God’s work. That is part of the point I was making - as per my final paragraph.

        Amen!(0)
        • If we look at that account, those not "following" the disciples were casting out demons in Jesus' name. So they were doing nothing differently than how the disciples were taught.

          I believe Jesus' reply sets this matter in a correct light.
          God's will was not being disregarded by the others, who were actually "following" Jesus, while the complaining disciples, ironically, by their objections, were not.

          Amen!(5)
  4. SSQ: "The following quote helps reveal how the early church, united in Christ, was able to maintain unity despite differences among them,"

    The account in Acts state that they were in one accord, so what "differences among them" is the lesson author referring to?

    History confirms that this apostolic unity did not remain, and the current condition of the Christian churches today proves that Babylon exists as prophecy foretold. We see this confusion developing in the epistles written during that first century of the church, and today the churches are still seeking that lost unity, which can only be found in those who are wholly Christ's, who will be recognized at last on that day Malachi speaks of(Mal 3:18).

    1. How do we decide? Only when we sever every earthly tie in our heart and live by “every word” God has given us can we “decide on what teachings and practices” are according to God's will. Committees cannot decide and they are not up for voting upon.

    2. Jesus' death and resurrection are facts, but His Example and teachings are to be received through faith. How does one “believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus” while walking contrary to His teachings? Faith results in obedience, not a mere consent to a couple of events that even the leaders of Jerusalem “believed”, while persecuting the servants of the Lord. Babylon “believes”, yet what does prophecy reveal about Babylon? The message/work of God's remnant is to call His people out of Babylon, in answer to the question.

    Amen!(5)
    • Hi Robert,

      I agree and I do live by every word the LORD has given us.
      However I have learnt from my study of the Word and from the studies of other wise people. Not every practice is spelled out in the Bible.

      Examples:

      • Jethro's suggestion to Moses to divide the people in multiples of 10
      • Acts 6 - the idea to have 7 Deacons was not in Scripture
      • Acts 15 - the decision of not requiring circumcision of Gentiles was revolutionary but what did they say? It seem good to us and the Holy Spirit
      • In fact our system of conferences, union and divisions is not spelled out in the Bible
      • James White said: “If it be asked, Where are your plain texts of Scripture for holding church property legally? we reply, The Bible does not furnish any; neither does it say that we should have a weekly paper, a steam printing-press, that we should publish books, build places of worship, and send out tents. Jesus says, ‘Let your light so shine before men,’ etc.; but He does not give all the particulars how this shall be done. The church is left to move forward in the great work, praying for divine guidance, acting upon the most efficient plans for its accomplishment. We believe it safe to be governed by the following RULE: All means which, according to sound judgment, will advance the cause of truth, and are not forbidden by plain Scripture declarations, should be employed” (James White, Review and Herald, April 26, 1860).

      ECCLESIASTICAL FREEDOM

      This is what some Adventist scholars mean when they tell us that women’s ordination is a matter of ecclesiology rather than theology. In other words, since the Bible expresses no definitive command either for or against women’s ordination, the church is free to do what it deems best in the matter for the advancement of the gospel.

      THE CHURCH IS FREE TO ACT, AND GOD IS HAPPY WITH OUR FREEDOM AND THE CREATIVE SOLUTIONS WE COME UP WITH TO THE REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS WE FACE.

      Take ordination itself, for example. Nowhere in Scripture can we find explicit justification for our particular method of or criterion for pastoral ordination. By “ordain” we basically mean something like, “This person has met certain educational and professional standards.” Now let’s be clear: that is not what was being said or done when elders or deacons were ordained in the apostolic church.
      What, then, was going on when the apostolic church ordained someone? Something like this: “We, as the church, see the fruit and anointing of the Spirit in this person. We believe and pray that God will prosper them in their mission to take the gospel to the world.”
      But there’s more. And don’t miss this part, because nobody seems to be talking about it: in order to be ordained as a globally-recognized pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, you have to be an employee. Let that register. Our particular method and mode of ordination, when it comes to a globally-recognized pastor, is basically an educational, professional, and career-based attainment within an employing organization called the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Again, this is only tangentially related to what was happening in the apostolic church.
      And yet we do it.

      Do you see the point? What we call “ordination” in our modern ecclesiastical context means one sort of thing, but it certainly doesn’t look much like what was happening in the apostolic church. Does that make our modern system bad? No, not necessarily. It just makes it what it is: our particular system. The fact that we have used a quasi-biblical word—“ordination”—to describe a modern mode of operation, creates an unusual situation in which many well-meaning, modern Seventh-day Adventists assume they’re standing up for a biblical model of “ordination” when, in reality, very little about our version of “ordination” is biblical at all!

      But, it’s working, for the most part, and that’s a good thing. Praise God!

      So, this is the question I’m posing: is the church free to do as it deems best for the advancement of the gospel as long as it operates within the principles of righteousness?

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

      Our inclination is for God to give us rigid parameters and dictates, while God’s inclination is to give us freedom to assess our situation and act out intelligent plans. The church is free to act, and God is happy with our freedom and the creative solutions we come up with to the real-world problems we face. Extract from "Women's Ordination: Is the Church Free to Act," by Ty Gibson

      Thus Robert, when you imply that ordaining women is going against God's word you need to prove it and show the difference between women having Spiritual Leadership and being a Pastor.

      In fact in 1985 the GC approved that women could be commissioned Pastors and in 1990 that women could be ordained Elders of the Church.

      I believe that the Holy Spirit gives the Spiritual Gift of being a Pastor with Spiritual Leadership to some women and I am not the only one, I understand that you do not but I ask you not to judge me as going contrary to the Word of the LORD.

      Amen!(1)
  5. As I see it women's ordination is our modern day version of circumcision. There were all kinds of texts that said it was forever and those for it could come up with a good argument. Today those against W.O. can come up with all kinds of texts that say it should never happen. But in the end the apostles dropped the circumcision requirement for the advancement of the gospel. Maybe we should do the same with W.O. Just saying.

    Amen!(1)
    • The Holy Spirit led the church leaders to see that circumcision was a "type" and like all other types, it expired at the death of the Messiah. The headship God has established was never a type of anything, only a reminder of the fall and the solemn nature of sin. This is still a sinful world.

      Amen!(0)
      • Robert, I understand Calvin to be saying that ..
        The issue of circumcision was resolved by observing that the Holy Spirit blessed the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised, in spite of there being no "biblical precedent" or direct command against circumcision.
        Calvin is suggesting that the same principle applies to female pastors: The Holy Spirit has blessed the ministry of female pastors as much as He has blessed the ministry of male pastors. Thus, in spite of there being no "biblical precedent" or direct command to ordain female pastors (as there is none to ordain male pastors), the issue may be considered resolved by the Holy Spirit "for the advancement of the gospel.

        If I have misinterpreted Calvin, I invite him to set the record straight.

        Beyond that, you appear to suggest that God has established a "headship" of men over women. This is a doctrine introduced to the Seventh-day Adventist Church only decades ago by students and disciples of the evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem. The doctrine is closely related to the doctrine of the eternal subjugation of the Father to the Son - which most Seventh-day Adventists have not believed either but some are now promoting in opposition to the equal treatment of female pastors.

        Our pioneers spent considerable time and effort speaking and writing against this understanding of "headship" which was brought up against Ellen White in the infancy of our church. Today, the onlooking Christian world cannot quite understand how members of a denomination co-founded by a woman can possibly hold such views.

        Historically, Seventh-day Adventists have understood that men are to be "heads" of the family, without being assigned wholesale "headship" over all women. That is probably why the majority members of three biblical study committees have seen no obstacle to women's ordination in Scripture. (Of course, there is also considerable debate over what "kephale" [head, source] actually means in context.

        Since we, as Seventh-day Adventists, do not have a creed but believe in the progressive revelation of truth, there is room for diversity of beliefs, including yours. Unity is not destroyed by such diversity if we focus on the fundamental teachings of Christ and the Apostles and work towards preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ.

        However, unity is most certainly destroyed by insisting on uniformity of belief because each person is naturally convinced that his/her view of truth is the accurate one and in such a context will feel constrained to persuade/force others to believe the same "truth." This results in many factions, with each insisting that their understanding of truth is the actual truth of God. It should be easy to deduct that such a position regarding uniformity of belief leads to divisiveness and factionalism. And when highly-place leaders promote such a belief it could conceivably lead to the appearance that the church is about to "fall."

        Amen!(1)
  6. Thank you Inge.We are on the same page. You are much better with words than I. All I was trying to say is that those that were for circumcision had Gen 17:13 as a proof text to fall back on. It said it was an everlasting covenant. If that could change for the advancement of the gospel,which not all agreed on, maybe we could be a little more flexible if we are truly looking to advance the gospel. All are given gifts.

    Amen!(1)
  7. Extract from CHAPTER 13 of Women in Ministry, Special Committee, SDA Theological Seminary,
    Nancy Vyhmeister, Editor
    "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture"
    Richard M. Davidson

    Headship/Submission/Equality of Men and Women in the Christian Church

    A headship/submission principle is at work in the apostolic church. But it
    does not consist of male leaders in the headship role and women submitting to the male headship. Rather, according to the New Testament witness there is only one Head--Jesus Christ. He is the "husband" to the church, and all the church--both men and women, as His bride--are to submit to His headship. This is the clear teaching of Ephesians 5.

    Neither is there any earthly priestly leader in the early church, no clergy functioning as a mediator between God and the people. The New Testament clearly presents the "priesthood of all believers" (1 Pet 2:5, 9; cf. Rom 12:1; Heb 13:15; Rev 1:6), in which all Christians are priests ministering for and representing God to the world. Within this priesthood of all believers, there are various spiritual gifts involving leadership functions (Rom 12:3-8; Eph 4:11-15; 1 Cor 12:1-11) that are distributed by the Spirit "to each individually as He will" (1 Cor 12:11), with no mention of any restrictions based upon gender.

    In the New Testament, the Magna Charta of true biblical equality is contained in Paul's emphatic declaration: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). This is not merely a statement on equal access to salvation (cf. Gal 2:11-15; Eph 2:14-15). Rather, it specifically singles out those three relationships in which God's original plan in Eden had been perverted by making one group unequal to another: (1) Jew-Gentile, (2) slave-free, and (3) male-female. By using the rare terms "male-female" (arsenthely) instead of "husband-wife" (aner-gyne), Paul establishes a link with Gen 1:27 and thus shows how the Gospel calls us back to the divine ideal, which has no place for general subordination of females to males. At the same time, Paul's choice of terminology upholds the equality of men and women in the church, without changing the position of the husband as head of the family Within the social restraints of his day, Paul and the early church (like Jesus did not act precipitously. The inequality of Gentiles was difficult to root out, even in Peter (Gal 2:11-14). Slavery was not immediately abolished in the church (Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22; 1 Tim 6:1), and yet the principles of the gospel were set forth to begin to lead back to the Edenic ideal (as evidenced in Paul's revolutionary counsel to Philemon). While women may not have immediately received full and equal partnership with men in the ministry of the church, the evidence of women in leadership roles in the early church is sufficient to demonstrate that they were not barred from positions of influence, leadership, and even headship over men.

    Examples of women in church leadership/headship roles have been ably presented in Robert Johnston's and Jo Ann Davidson's chapters (chaps. 3 and 9). Deacons included the woman Phoebe (Rom 16:1) and probably the women referred to in 1 Tim 3:11.(112) The evidence points toward Junia as a female apostle.(113) The women at Phillippi, including Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2, 3), are described as the leaders of the local congregation.(114) The "elect lady" (2 John 1) may have been an ecclesiastical title; and the one bearing this title, to whom John addresses his second epistle, may have been a prominent woman church leader with a congregation under her care.(115) The woman Priscilla assumed an authoritative teaching role over men (Acts 18),(116) and women prophetesses carried out authoritative teaching roles in the early church.(117) Paul also mentions other women that ministered together with him as coworkers (synergos),(118) and his readers are instructed to "submit" (hypotasso) to such workers (see 1 Cor 16:16).

    In short, there is ample New Testament evidence that nothing barred women in the earliest Christian churches from holding the highest offices
    of leadership, including authoritative teaching roles that constituted "headship" over men.


    Conclusion and Implications

    The studies of man-woman relationships in the Old Testament and in the earliest churches are showing that throughout Scripture the headship/submission
    principle remains in effect in husband-wife relationships At the same time, this headship/submission principle does not extend into the man-woman relationships in the covenant community, to bar women from positions of influence, leadership, and even headship over men

    CHAPTER 13 of Women in Ministry, Special Committee, SDA Theological Seminary,
    Nancy Vyhmeister, editor
    Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture
    Richard M. Davidson

    Amen!(1)
  8. Extract from document by Angel Manuel Rodríguez "Co-worker of the Lord":

    There are a number of important passages in which Paul mentions different co-workers serving the Lord in the churches. Often these individuals are considered to be persons who worked under Paul or who were his helpers, but this is not the case. They were like Paul workers of the Lord. Talking about Apollos and himself he says, “We are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor 3:9). Apollos was a well-educated man who knew the Scriptures and taught others about Jesus (Acts 18:24-25). Prisca and Aquila instructed him in the gospel of Jesus, he accepted it, and went on to proclaim it (Acts 18:26-27).

    Other fellow workers mentioned by Paul are Urbanus and Stachys (Rom 16:9), Timothy (v. 21; 1 Thess 3:2), Titus (2 8 Cor 8:23), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), Clement (4:3), Aristarchus, Barnabas, Jesus/Justus (Col 9 4:10-11), Philemon (Philm 1:1), Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke (v. 24). They are all, like Paul, proclaiming the gospel of salvation and strengthening up the churches. Among the fellow workers Paul mentions several women. He includes Prisca and her husband (Rom 12 16:3) and Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3). The important role of these fellow workers is evident in the way Paul refers to them and their responsibility. He speaks highly about them and when in need of reprimanding some of them he is tactful and considerate. This is the case with Euodia and Syntyche, who apparently were having personal problems that could have damaged the unity of the church. Paul appeals to them to resolve the problem and asks another fellow worker to help them (Phil 4:3). What we have here is fellow workers helping each other to resolve a problem that could have divided the church. These ladies occupied an important leadership position in the church. What were the responsibilities of the fellow workers? They are primarily servants (diakonoi) of the church: “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed” (1 Cor 3:5). In 22 3:9, Paul adds, “We [Appollos and Paul] are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Since they are servants, they are not to lord over church members (2 Cor 1:24). They proclaim the message of salvation with missionary fervour and strengthen the faith of believers in their communities (Acts 18:27). Like Epaphroditus, they could be located in one particular church from which they would go out to serve (Phil 2:25). This is also the case with Euodia and Syntyche. The function of the fellow workers of God was so important that Paul urged the members of the church at Corinth, to be “in subjection to [hupotassō] such men [the household of Stephanas] and to everyone who helps in the work [Greek, “to every fellow worker”] and labours [labourer]” (1 Cor 16:16).140 It would be difficult to argue that the submission to fellow workers is to be limited to males when Paul explicitly calls some women co-workers. We find here ladies functioning in important leadership roles to whom church members are to be in subjection.

    Ellen White supports the idea of placing women in high administrative positions. After a discussion of the enthronement of David and the instructions God gave him, she applies the narrative to church leaders:

    Those placed in positions of responsibility should be men and women who fear God, who realize that they are humans only, not God. They should be people who will rule under God and for Him. Will they give expression to the will of God for His people?141

    The statement is important in that it makes clear that a woman can be placed in positions of responsibility that would require from them to “rule under God and with him” and to teach God’s will to the people. In another statement, encouraging the education of young men and women and the need for this, she states, “When women are wanted with well-balanced minds, with not a cheap style of education, but with an education fitting them for any position of trust, they are not easily found.”142 Well-trained women can occupy any position of trust as did Deborah.

    This counsel is based on the biblical concept of true leadership. Leadership positions are cosmically based on the law of love expressed in service and not on male headship. It was this same important principle that, grounded in the nature of God, Jesus instituted in His church: “The kings of the Gentiles lord over them . . . But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 9 22:25-26). This is not based on gender but in a spirit of service.

    You may read the full article at https://www.adventistarchives.org/evaluation-of-the-arguments-used-by-those-opposing-the-ordination-of-women-to-the-ministry.pdf

    Amen!(0)

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