Friday, January 1, 2021

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In this blog, I provide encouragement and biblical teaching on the nature of our Good Shepherd, and how that relates to being a shepherd of His sheep. As the our Lord said:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (Joh 10:7-10)

"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. "He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (Joh 10:11-15)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep." (Joh 10:1-2)

Some of the topics covered include the the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Good Shepherd and our Senior Pastor, the shepherding role of elders, the need for pastors to provide good care for the sheep, the servant-hood of elders, the need for people to hear and recognize the Lord's voice, the significance of the seven angels of the seven churches of Asia in Revelation, church government, the proper way for disciples to treat their leaders, the need for biblical submission to authority, dealing with persecution against leaders, accusations against leaders, the distinction commonly made between clergy and laity, women teaching men, the need for leaders to be accountable, correctable, and teachable, the use of titles, as well as love, mercy, holiness, righteousness, and true success as a minister.

The Lord, Our Shepherd The Shepherding Role of Elders The Servant of the Lord
Our Senior Pastor Accountable, correctable, and teachable Success in God's Eyes
How to Treat Leaders Clergy-Laity Distinction unbiblical No One to Intercede
Jesus Christ the Nazarene The Priesthood of All Believers A Personality Profile of the Apostle Paul
A Tale of Two Kings Leadership Approach Reveals View of God Wisdom for Wealthy Preachers and Prosperity Teachers
Local Church Leadership A Word to the Wise and Learned The Great Shepherd of the Sheep
Women Teaching Men

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB and from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.

Author's note: You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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___________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org. Partner with us online by giving to DMI.

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Women Teaching Men

I originally conducted this study and wrote this White Paper in 2016, but didn't publish it. I knew that it tended to be a controversial topic, and I didn't want to offend anyone unnecessarily. However, I recently received a request from a woman for Scriptural guidance regarding ministry, and I shared this with her privately. Afterward she felt that it was helpful, and that it may also help someone else if I publish it. My adult daughter Faith also agreed that it would be worthwhile to publish this study. 

As you read it, please note that I sought to say only what Scripture says and not go beyond that by getting into my opinions. I wanted to avoid putting any unnecessary restrictions on women, but only that which is imposed by Scripture. In a few instances I gave some clarification, which I hope you will find useful.

Mighty Women of God in History

In the church, God has used many women powerfully over the last two centuries, who were undeniably gifted.  The list includes names like Aimee Semple McPherson, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Alice Belle Garrigus, Marie Burgess, Kathryn Kuhlman, Catherine Booth, Amy Carmichael, Alice Reynolds Flower, and Mae Eleanore Frey.  In fact, I personally attended an outstanding Bible School founded by a woman named Christine Gibson.  She was a woman of faith who walked intimately with the Lord Jesus.  He used her to establish a school of the prophets that later grew to become a Bible school that would send forth men and women to bring the light of the gospel to dark places all over the world.  I sat under some excellent female teachers while I was there in Bible school, and I am thankful for their ministry to me.

So my purpose here is not to question whether God gifts women for ministry or whether God calls women into ministry.  The question is whether women in ministry should have positions of authority over men and whether they should teach men.  

I am approaching this topic prayerfully and sincerely with an open mind.  However, I should first state what is not going to be my primary basis for determining the heart of God on this matter.  It’s not going to be my experience.  While our experiences do color our beliefs and understanding of God, they can be misleading.  My own personal experience does not always represent God’s way.  It is not going to be based on my opinion, since my opinion is subjective and limited to my perspective.  My understanding of God’s heart on the matter is also not going to be based on culture, since cultures vary from one people group to another throughout the world.   While there is room for cultural differences in the church, our distinctive cultural practices must always be based on the Word of God.  The Word of God is the only objective source we can turn to, so while I will take into account my personal experiences, as well as history and various cultural practices, this study attempts to find out what the Bible says about the topic.

Paul’s Instructions for Church Order

One of the first passages that comes to mind is the apostle Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, in which he wrote: “Women should listen and learn quietly and submissively.  I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.  For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve.  And it was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result.  But women will be saved through childbearing and by continuing to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.”  1 Tim 2:11-15.   New Living Translation

First of all, before going any deeper into what these individual verses mean, it’s important to note the wider context.  Immediately following this short section is Paul’s guidance to Timothy on selection of those who would exercise authority as church elders.  He wrote: “It is a true saying that if someone wants to be an elder, he desires an honorable responsibility.  For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach.  He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money. He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”  1 Tim 3:1-5 New Living Translation  

Paul stated that women should listen and learn quietly and submissively.  The words listen, learn, quietly, and submissively connote a receiving of instruction rather than a place of giving it.  This is pretty straightforward and easy to understand.  The question is whether Paul intended this as a matter of church order or for the home.  I think in light of the wider context mentioned earlier, it’s clearly about church order. 

The next verse clarifies further that this was Paul’s intent.  When he stated, “I do not let women teach men or have authority over them,” he was not talking primarily about proper order the home, but about church order.  While Paul exhorted husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands, he was not there in the home with them disallowing anything.  Yet here he states that he does not let women teach men or have authority over them.  It’s evident from this that he was referring to church order, in which the instruction of men was not allowed to come from the women.  And those in authority were not to be women.  There is really no other way to understand this passage plainly than in this manner.

In fact, later in the passage he explicitly states his reason for writing this to Timothy, “I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I can’t come for a while, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim 4:14-15)  New Living Translation.  When Paul states “so that” in verse 15, it is to give a reason for his writing this epistle.  So there can be no doubt that Paul wrote this so that people will know how to conduct themselves in the household of God.  Then for those who would question the wisdom in Paul’s instructions for church order, he explained that Adam was made first and then Eve.  This is just as it appears – a clear and direct reference to the order in which God created man and woman.  Man was created first.  He does not assign a greater value to the man, but simply states the order in which God created man and woman.  

I observe that Paul prefaced his comments about Adam and Eve by using the Greek word “gar”, meaning “for”.  The NIV translates the passage like this: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim 2:13).  From a grammatical perspective, the relationship between that word and the context immediately surrounding it is a “cause” or “reason” relationship.  In other words, in referring to Adam being created first, Paul is giving a reason or cause for his preceding direction about not allowing women to teach or have authority over men.

Then I observe in the text a continuity relationship between these initial comments about Adam being first in order of creation before Eve and the phrase that follows it regarding which of the two was deceived.  He states, “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the women was deceived and became a sinner” (2 Tim 2:14, NIV).  The continuity between this phrase and the preceding one leads me to believe that it is also part of his reason for not allowing women to teach or have authority over men.  

Then I observe within verse 14 a contrast relationship.  In other words, he states who was and was not deceived, setting the two in stark contrast to one another.  The one to be deceived by Satan was the woman, not the man.  Why did the inspired apostle contrast Adam and Eve this way in this context?  In doing so he showed that Eve’s ability to be deceived by Satan led her to become the first sinner, and that Adam did not have this weakness.  

Next I observe a repetition of the terms men and women in this passage.  Paul initially referred to women and men saying he did not allow women to teach men or have authority over them.  Then he repeated these terms when referring to the first man and the first woman.  Why did he use this recurrence of the same terms here?  He did so because the comments about Adam and Eve related to men and women in the church.  He used this historical precedent dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden -- not as a value judgment of one gender being better than the other -- but rather as his reason for not allowing women to teach men.  This inherent weakness of the woman to be deceived and then to lead man into sin was Paul’s premise for not allowing women to teach men or have authority over them.  

In fact, in the broader context, Paul warns of false teachers when he states, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from what we believe; they will follow lying spirits and teachings that come from demons.”  (1 Tim 4:1)  Finally, Paul states “But women will be saved through childbearing and by continuing to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.”  We should observe that Paul is setting up a contrast in the use of the Greek word “de” that we translate “but”.  The lifestyle depicted here by the apostle is in contrast to one of teaching and having authority over men.  The acts of childbearing, walking in faith, love, holiness, and modesty are quite contrary to being in a place of leadership over men.

So for me, a simple reading of these verses leads me to see clearly that Paul’s intent was for men to be the ones teaching women and not the women teaching men.  This is not a difficult passage with symbolism or vagueness. It’s written very plainly and there is no mistaking what was meant by it.  So the only thing one can do is to either accept this as the divine order or to find reasons to reject it as such.

I mentioned earlier that Paul’s larger context dealt with direction for church oversight.  After stating his direction for women in the church, he moved right into stating that it is honorable for any man who desires to be an elder (3:1).  Before we assume that the term “man” here is gender neutral, he makes it clear that an elder must be faithful to his wife.  This literally refers to being a one-wife-man.  Is this qualification one that a woman can meet?  Could it simply be referring to the quality of faithfulness to one’s spouse? I don’t think it is, if we consider that Paul goes on next to state, “He must manage his own family well.”  This makes it very clear that his direction for elders is not gender neutral.  There are plenty of passages in the Word that clearly lay out God’s plan for man to be the head of the household.  Since this qualification for an elder includes managing one’s own household well, it stands to reason that only men can meet it.  Paul himself asks the question, “For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” (3:5). 

Must Women Remain Silent in Church?

As I have already mentioned, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” (1Ti 2:11-13)

He also wrote to the Corinthians, “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.” (1Co 14:34)

So does this mean that women are not allowed to say anything in church?  Paul’s prohibition of women speaking in church and requirement that they remain silent must be interpreted in light of what he wrote to the same Corinthian church with these words: 

“But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.” (1Co 11:5). 

So Paul allowed that as long as a woman is properly attired, she is permitted to pray and prophesy in the church.

The Latter Day Outpouring

In fact the prophecy of Joel foretold that when God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost, both the sons and the daughters, male and female, would prophesy.  “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joe 2:28-29).  And on the day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. He quotes the prophecy saying, “but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel…” (Act 2:16)

On that day, the Lord poured out His Holy Spirit on men and women alike and they all spoke in tongues.  This is one of the distinctive marks of Pentecost.  We know that the evangelist Philip, who lived in Caesarea, had four unmarried daughters prophesying.  (Acts 21:9).   We know that prophecy is one of the many gifts God has given to both men and women in the church.  Prophecy is always a matter of speaking to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.  There is no prohibition from Paul against this, no law against it.  It’s different from teaching doctrine or breaking apart the Word of God in a manner meant to instruct men on the meaning of Scripture.

I don’t think this means that God does not call and gift women as teachers either.  However, the teaching they do should not be to men, if we are to take Paul’s injunction plainly as he states it.  So that leaves every other opportunity open to women to teach that does not involve teaching men or having authority over them.

Preaching

One distinction that should be made is between teaching and preaching.  In our modern culture, these words are used almost interchangeably.  The similarities between these are that they both involve a gift of speaking for God from the Scriptures.  However, they have different meanings and serve different purposes.

One of the Greek words used for teaching is didasko, which means “to give instruction” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim 2:12; 4:11).  Another word is paideuo, which also means “to instruct and train”.  Then there’s katecheo, which means “to teach” (1 Cor. 14:19).  All of these convey the sense of explaining to others the meaning of something or showing them how to do something.  

On the other hand, “preaching” has a different connotation.  One of the Greek words is euangelizo, from which we get our English word, “evangelism”.  This verb is almost always used of “the good news” about Jesus, the Son of God, as proclaimed in the gospel.  It means, “to bring, or declare, good or glad tidings” (Acts 13:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 4:2).  Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words states that in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), the verb euangelizo is used of any message given to cheer the hearers (e.g., 1 Sam. 31:9; 2 Sam. 1:20).

Another Greek word is kerusso, meaning “to be a herald,” or, in general “to proclaim”.  Some examples given by Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words are Matt. 3:1; Mark 1:45; Luke 4:18; 12:3; Acts 10:37; Rom. 2:21; and Rev. 5:2.  Other variations of these words include proeuangelizomai and prokerusso.  

So preaching is more proclaiming and declaring the good news, while teaching is giving instruction and training.  While I could not find a single example in Scripture of a woman preaching the gospel, Paul’s direction about women teaching men does not refer to women preaching, in other words proclaiming the gospel.  The closest example I can find would be the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.  She went into her town and testified to the people of the man who “told her everything she ever did”.  The Scripture tells us “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39).  

Therefore, while I can find no Biblical references to women preachers, there is no reason to believe that women should not preach the gospel.  Many have in modern times resulting in many coming to Christ.

Legalism

Is this teaching about women not being allowed to teach men or have authority over them a type of legalism? In order for it to be legalism, it would need to be a rule set up that defines the criteria by which one can be saved.  That’s the true meaning of legalism, if we look at Scripture. In the Bible, a legalistic person was always someone who thought there was something a person had to do in order to truly be saved.  In some instances it was circumcision (Gal. 6:12-15).  But Paul made it clear that Jesus plus anything equaled nothing at all.  Those who depend on anything in addition to Jesus for their salvation either have never known the Lord or have fallen from grace and have nothing at all.

No Male or Female

To the Galatians, Paul declares, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).   Does this mean that there is no difference between the male and female gender?  No, there’s still order, or else everything we’ve just studied about Paul’s epistle to Timothy must be thrown out.  

In the context of his epistle to the Galatians, Paul was not talking about church order or the roles of men and women, but rather their equal standing before God in Christ with respect to salvation.  He was emphasizing that it is through faith that we are sons of God, no matter what our race, gender, financial status or occupation (Gal. 2:28).  The key in determining whether one is an heir of Abraham is whether the person belongs to Christ (Gal. 3:29).   So by no means is Paul saying this to mean that there is not a proper order for men and women to function in their God-given roles.

The Godly Women in Timothy’s Life 

We find in Paul’s second epistle to Timothy that godly women played a key role in Timothy’s life.  Paul wrote to him, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim 1:5).  Do you see the repetition here?  A sincere faith first lived in Timothy’s grandmother.  That same sincere faith also lived in his mother and also in Timothy himself.  Why did Paul use this repetition here?  I believe he was showing the spiritual imprint these women left on this young man of God.  

There can be no doubt that these women influenced Timothy from his days of childhood through their own personal faith in Jesus.  This is important to point out, because Timothy became who he was in Christ as a direct result of the ministry of these women.  It shows the great value of child bearing and godly parenting.  The faith of his mother and grandmother was reproduced in him.  Timothy went on to be an elder and to pastor the flock of Christ.  In fact, he was eventually martyred for his faith, as so many faithful ministers have been throughout the centuries.  Women had a very profound impact on his life, and indirectly through him they had an impact on those to whom he ministered as an elder.

New Testament Women in Service to Our Lord

There are many examples in the New Testament of women in ministry.  First of all there is Mary Magdalene and the other women whom the Lord appeared to after His resurrection, telling them to bring word to the apostles that He was risen. Likewise, the Samaritan woman made public proclamation of Christ as a witness (Jn 4:29).

Another example is when Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more accurately to Apollos.

“Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Act 18:24-26)

And in Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus…” (Rom 16:3).  He referred to Priscilla as a fellow worker in the same sense as Aquila was.  In fact he mentioned her name first.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul also wrote: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Rom 16:7).  Junias, who was a woman, was an apostle.

There were also two women named Euodia and Syntyche, who shared in the gospel cause with Paul. In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul wrote: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Php 4:2-3)

To sum it up, I would like to share an excerpt from John Bunyan’s book, The Pilgrim’s Progress: 

“For as death and the curse came into the world by a woman, so also did life and health: 'God sent forth His Son, born of a woman.' I will say again, that when the Saviour was come, women rejoiced in Him before either man or angel. I read not that man ever gave unto Christ so much as one penny; but the women followed Him, and ministered to Him of their substance. 'Twas a woman that washed His feet with tears, and a woman that anointed His body to the burial. They were women that wept when He was going to the cross, and women that followed Him from the cross; and that sat over against the sepulchre when He was buried. They were women that were first with Him at His resurrection-morn, and women that brought tidings first to His disciples that He was risen from the dead. Women, therefore, are highly favored, and show by these things that they are sharers with us in the grace of life."

Old Testament Women of Faith

We would not do this study justice if we did not note the mighty women of God in the Old Testament.  Among them were Deborah and Esther.  If we read these passages, there can be no doubt that God used these women in prominent positions of influence.  To be the judge of all Israel or the queen is obviously a place of great influence.  Does this somehow mean that God’s order for the church is for women to be in leadership over men after all?  I don’t think so.  All Old Testament Scripture must be read in the light of the New Testament revelation with Paul’s inspired direction to Timothy being the greatest specific revelation we have to date on the matter.  Therefore, I view the Old Testament examples of women in leadership not as normative, but rather as extraordinary circumstances that required an unusual approach by God.  

The days of the judges were among such times.  The nation at that time was caught in a relentless cycle of sin, oppression, repentance and deliverance and the judges God raised up were part of His plan to deliver His people.  Deborah’s function was one of prophetess (Judges 4:1).  She was primarily holding court under a palm tree, deciding disputes, when an extraordinary situation required an unusual approach.  She had a prophetic word from the Lord for Barak to go and conquer Israel’s enemy, Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.  It was only when Barak refused to go on this mission without her that she agreed to do so (Judges 4:8,9).  However, she was quick to point out to him that the honor would go to her, not him, in that God would hand over Sisera to a woman.  If this were normative, there would be no need for her to mention it.

If we look at the situation with Esther, once again the nation of Israel was facing annihilation from their enemies.  Evil Haman had a plot to rid the earth of the Jews and God had raised up Esther for such as time as this.  She was chosen as King Xerxes' wife and it was through that intimate relationship that she rescued her people from peril.  

But neither of these was by any means a model for New Testament church leadership.  They need to be seen for what they are – remarkable, true stories of faith and victory where women were used in quite unusual ways by the Lord in central roles of great importance.  

Even today there are such instances all over the world where God still chooses to do things this way.  Women are among the vessels he uses mightily to bring salvation and deliverance to people throughout the earth.  As we know, in certain closed countries, there are women pastors who at great risk to their lives are leading underground church movements that are growing astronomically.  Is this God’s norm that we should seek to model our churches after when there are qualified men who desire to be elders?  I don’t believe so.  I believe that once a group of believers has been established through the proclamation of the gospel, as long as there are such qualified men, they should be the first choice to manage the household of God.  If qualified men do not exist in a particular area, then it would seem appropriate that one of the primary prayer and ministry goals of any woman stepping into that void should be to raise up such male leadership to do so.

Divine Order

The fact is that many women are quite capable and in some cases may actually be able to do a better job of teaching or leading than some men.  Does that mean that because they can do so that they should do so?  I don’t believe it does.  God’s ways are higher than our ways.  We may be capable of gossiping, but this doesn’t mean we should.  The same could be said for anything outside the boundaries of our loving Heavenly Father.  

It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, as discussed earlier.  Adam and Eve were capable of eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but God had placed that off limits by telling them not to eat of it.  From the earthly human perspective, the fruit of that tree “was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6).  There was not a single reason to believe that this should be off limits, except that the Lord God had said so.  Ultimately, it was Eve who ate of it first and gave some to her husband, and sin was the result (1 Tim 2:14).  We are told that this happened because of deception.  

There are many things that we as men and women can do but must not do, because the Lord has revealed His higher way.  “My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord.  “My ways are higher than your ways.”  And in one of the proverbs it says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  

Conclusion

There are some conclusions we can draw from all this.  When we take into account history, all of our personal experiences, and the various cultural practices of women in the Church, we ultimately need to subject them all to the Word of God.  In this study, we learned that first, God anoints, calls, and gifts women to serve in His house in many wonderful ways.  These include bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble, prophesying, proclaiming the gospel, healing, miracles, and exhortation.  None of these should be prohibited.  In fact, there should be great freedom in the church for women to function in the gifts God has given them.  

Second, the Lord does gift women in the area of teaching.  Some of the ways they can exercise their gift without teaching men is to instruct and train other women and their own children.  Third, the latter day outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for men and women, children and adults.  Fourth, the basis for the believer’s salvation is irrespective of gender.  Fifth, Paul’s restriction of women teaching men or exercising authority over them was not a basis for salvation, so it cannot be considered legalism.  Sixth, there are examples of Old Testament women with unusual leadership roles, as well as modern day examples in the 19th and 20th centuries.  But these are not meant to be a model for New Testament church leadership or a reason for women to teach men. 

Finally, but most importantly, it’s not God’s plan for women to be in authority over men or to teach men.  While this may not be the way that seems right to man, it’s God’s higher, divine order that leads to life.  Those who follow it, no matter what their personal opinion about it, will be blessed if they do. 

Attribution Notice: Image of Deborah may be subject to copyright, used courtesy of Zack Donaldson at zackdonaldson.org per Fair Use Act for educational and copyright purposes only. Scriptures mostly taken from New American Standard Bible copyright Lockman Foundation, used by permission. Other Scriptures may be taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan, used by permission.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page, such as The Priesthood of All BelieversA Tale of Two KingsThe Servant of the LordThe Shepherding Role of EldersSuccess in God's EyesAccountable, correctable, and teachableA Personality Profile of the Apostle Paul, and Persecuted or Popular?, You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Great Shepherd of the Sheep

The Lord Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd, saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (Joh 10:11, NIV). The apostle called him that great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb 13:20). He is the one that King David wrote about in Psalm 23, when he said:

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." (Psa 23:1-6)

Let's unpack this psalm together.

The Lord is my Shepherd
The Hebrew says, "Yehova Rohi" meaning Yehova (or the Lord) is my Shepherd. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, then He is the Shepherd that you follow, and you realize that He is the One who laid down His life for you on the cross and paid the price for sin. You believe that He rose from the dead and that He lives in your heart. He is the Lord of your life, which means He makes the decisions. You enjoy all the blessings that brings, which the psalmist goes on to enumerate.

I Shall Not Want
This is another way of saying I shall lack nothing. When the Lord is your Shepherd, He provides for all your needs, so that there is no lack.

Green Pastures (Rest)
David said, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." Lying down speaks of rest, and green pastures for us as sheep speaks of having plenty to eat as we graze at His feet. The Lord wants us to operate from a place of rest, and He makes us lie down in beautiful, fertile green places where life abounds, which are a lovely place to be. He is so wonderful to take care of us the way He does.

Still Waters (Refreshment and Restoration)
David said, "He leadeth me beside the still waters." When I read this I think of waters that are flowing gently and quietly, not turbulently. Or I think of the kind of waters where the surface is clear and placid, still and tranquil, reflecting the sky, the trees, and the mountains around it. When the waters are still like that and you come up alongside them, you can drink and find refreshment. It's a beautiful place to be, and you can drink of the living waters to your heart's content.

That's a place where the Lord restores your soul. David said, "He restoreth my soul." We all need these times of restoration, because we go through things in life that wear us down, test us, try us, and can leave us feeling anxious, frustrated, or weary. I'm glad that the Lord leads me beside still waters and restores my soul there.

Paths of Righteousness
David said, "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." As I follow Him, He leads me in paths of righteousness, which result in me experiencing His righteousness in my life by faith. It also means that I am led to practice my righteousness according to His Word (Mat 6:1). The path of righteousness is the path of life that leads to heaven. It grows brighter and brighter like the light of dawn until it reaches the full day (Prov 4:18). That means my life will reflect His righteousness more and more the longer I walk with Him. He leads me that way for the sake of His name, so that He might receive the glory, by enabling me to walk in righteousness, holiness, and truth.

Thou Art With Me
David said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." At times we all have to go through valleys in life, some of which can be rather dark or even cast shadows over us, and eventually we all have to go through the valley of the shadow of death. There are low points in life and sad times, too. There may even be sickness or close scrapes with death for us or our loved ones. In fact, sometimes we experience the loss of our loved ones. Certainly there is that appointed time for each of us when we too must die and then face the judgment (Heb 9:27).

But we never have to go through any of these experiences alone, because the Lord is right there with us always. We can say to the Lord as David did, "Thou art with me," because Jesus promised us, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Heb 13:5). He also said, "And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Mat 28:20).

That's also why we fear no evil, even though there are times that may seem scary, because the devil is trying to frighten, threaten, and intimidate us. But if the omnipotent Lord whose name is above all names is with us, we have nothing to fear, because He is watching over us and defending us. He carries both His rod and His staff in His strong hands to protect us from those ferocious wild beasts. For that reason it's comforting to me to know that He carries His rod and His staff, but there are even more reasons why they are a comfort to me as well.

Every sheep that passes under the rod is counted and watched over with great care. The rod that comforts me also represents the Lord's discipline in my life. The shepherd uses the rod and so does the Lord to bring discipline, so that He may lovingly bring me back into line when I go astray. It's called the rod of correction (Prov 13:24; 29:15). He reminds us,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
  because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Heb 12:5-6, NIV)

The staff or "shepherd's crook" comforts me, because He uses the staff to direct me where I should go and to redirect me when I wander or stray. It's a comfort to know He is taking the lead to keep me on the path of righteousness. And He always brings comfort to me whenever I need it, especially when I go through the valleys. I can say with the apostle:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." (2 Cor 1:3-5, NIV)

A Table Prepared Before Me
David, said, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The picture here is one of the Shepherd preparing a meal for the sheep while there are lions, tigers, wolves, and serpents all around. Even in the presence of my enemies, the Lord prepares a table. They look on as I eat to my heart's content. While they would like to eat me for lunch, they stand back and watch me enjoy what the Lord my Shepherd has provided for me.

Eating can put animals, especially sheep, into a vulnerable position, because while they are looking down at their food, a predator could sneak up and pounce on them. But I don't have to fear what man may do to me or fear the devil, because I know the Lord my Shepherd, who laid down His life for me on the cross, prepares a table for me right in front of my enemies, so that I may feast on His abundance without a single care or worry. He will show the wicked that He loves me and is with me all the time, taking good care of me. He's got my back at all times. This is a sign of His goodness to me that my enemies may see it and be put to shame.

Anointed with Oil
David said, "Thou anointest my head with oil." The picture here is the Shepherd pouring oil on the sheep's head to bring healing to a wound, such as a scratch from a close scrape with the enemy that happened during an attack, or perhaps sustained from getting tangled up in briers through its own waywardness. When David said the Lord anointed his head with oil, this speaks to me of the anointing of the Holy Spirit that He pours out upon me and in my life. The Holy Spirit is so precious and His ministry in my life is indispensable, because He brings healing, comfort, guidance, wonder-working power, and guides me into all truth.

Overflowing Cup
David said, "My cup runneth over." This speaks to me of how the Lord gives me such an abundance that it overflows in my life like a cup that is filled to the brim and then He keeps adding more. This speaks to me of the abundant life that Jesus promised when He said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (Joh 10:10). There's not only enough for me, but for everyone around me who comes into contact with the overflow. By the way, I think that we should minister to others from the overflow in our lives, not from a place of lack. The Lord gives us so much that there is plenty to go around for everyone to enjoy. If you are not experiencing His overflow today, then let me encourage you to connect with Him and receive a fresh infilling with the Holy Spirit. If you have never been baptized with the Holy Spirit, then you have never known what it's like to receive the anointing with oil or to have your cup overflow quite like this. Take the time to seek the Baptism with the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised (Lk 24:49; Ac 1:4,8; 2:4), and you will never regret that you did.

Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me
David said, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Since the Lord is my Shepherd, His goodness and mercy always follow me. Even when I sometimes fail, I am reassured of His loving goodness and mercy to me, so that I can get up and keep on going. His mercy follows me, because "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 Joh 1:9, NIV). His goodness follows me, because "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28, NIV).

A wonderful illustration of this is the true account of how my friend Michael Thomas Sambo miraculously escaped from terrorist assassins that kidnapped him, and was taken care of by two angels called goodness and mercy. Perhaps you have never thought before of goodness and mercy as two angels, but that is what their names were. You can read about that in my article Angelic Escape from Terrorist Assassins.

Eternal Life in the Shepherd's House
David said, "I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." This is what I am able to look forward to all because of Jesus' finished work on the cross. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, because He promised to give eternal life to those who believe in Him. He said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand." (Joh 10:27-29, NIV). He also said, "“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and he who lives by believing in me will never die." (Joh 11:25-26, NIV).

A Special Blessing for All Sheep
I hope this has encouraged you in your walk with the Lord today. In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, Jesus has overcome the world! Now I pray this blessing upon all the Shepherd's true sheep who have read this post:

"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Heb 13:20-21, NIV)

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version. Other quotes from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page, such as FullnessBaptism with the Holy SpiritA Tale of Two Kings, The Servant of the Lord, The Shepherding Role of Elders, Success in God's Eyes, Accountable, correctable, and teachable, A Personality Profile of the Apostle Paul, Persecuted or Popular?, and Having a Servant's Heart. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Word to the Wise and Learned

Some people are impressed by learned theologians and give them a lot of respect and credence because of their educational degrees. But since when does being a well-learned theologian have any great importance in the sight of God? Where in Scripture does it teach that such men are favored by God or usually chosen by Him for special purposes?

It was the well-learned, highly respected doctors of the law, scribes, and other theologians like the Pharisees and Sadducees that opposed the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry. These hypocrites failed to recognize that God was walking among them, speaking to them face to face. They did not recognize the time of God's coming to them (Lk 19:44).

However, the Lord did not have any kind of formal, theological education. When the Jews asked in amazement how He got such learning without having studied, Jesus told them His teaching came from the Father and not from within Himself.  "The Jews then were astonished, saying, 'How has this man become learned, having never been educated?' So Jesus answered them and said, 'My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.'" (Joh 7:15-16)

He also said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do." (Mt 11:25-26, NIV). It is the Father's good pleasure to hide His mysteries from the wise and learned and reveal them instead to simple little children, as well as child-like people.

Therefore, He chose common fishermen to be His disciples, whom the learned members of the Sanhedrin could plainly recognize as unschooled, ordinary men (Ac 4:12). Although they were unschooled, they had spent three and a half years walking with the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. They may not have had a Th.D, a Ph.D, a D.Div, a D.Min, or an MDiv, but they had been with Jesus and received their BWJ. They had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire and received power from on high to be witnesses for Jesus. Thus Peter could later warn others about ignorant and unstable men who distort Paul's letters and the other Scriptures (2 Pe 3:16).

The apostle Paul had great learning, but the gospel he preached was something he received by revelation directly from the Lord. He considered his pedigree and all his great theological learning as a loss. He considered it as dung (Phil 3:7-8). He did not come with eloquent words or superior wisdom (1 Co 2:1). His preaching was not with wise and persuasive words (1 Cor 2:4), because the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom (1 Cor 1:25). God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Co 1:27). He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are (1 Co 1:28).  You see, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." (1 Co 8:1b-2).

Although Apollos was a learned man with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, who had been instructed in the way of the Lord accurately, he still needed common tentmakers like Priscilla and Aquilla to explain the way of God to him more accurately (Ac 18:24-26). He was humble enough to receive their gracious assistance.

Head knowledge is not what is important. In fact, head knowledge will get you killed! That's why many of the seminaries around the world have become cemeteries where the life of God is snuffed out of their students that are there studying for ministry. Rather than making disciples, who have been taught to obey everything Jesus commanded us -- disciples who are Spirit-filled, Spirit-baptized, on fire for God, who know how to move in the power of God, these seminaries are turning out mere theologians who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (2 Tim 3:5). We are to have nothing to do with them. They are always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth (2 Tim 3:7). They are not preaching explicitly against sins that will keep people from heaven, but are following deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Ti 4:1).

They are experts in greed -- an accursed brood (2 Pe 2:14). They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness (2 Pe 2:15). They have rushed for profit into Balaam's error (Jude 1:11). They change the grace of our God into a license for immorality (Jude 1:4). They are autumn trees, without fruit, and uprooted -- twice dead (Jude 1:12). It is such men as these who have slipped in secretly among us. We do not exalt them or promote them or endorse them or pay them special respect. We do not even listen to them. It is because of men such as these that we must contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints.

The True Bible Scholar
The Lord has taught me that the true Bible scholar is the doer of the Word. As James said:

"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." (Jas 1:22-25)

If you are not doing what you have learned, you have no right to be taught anymore. Think about that. As John Wimber once said, “Knowledge without application is incomplete.” 

Personal Experience
For those who think I am against all theological training, they are badly mistaken. As John Wimber once said, “I am not one of those who despises education. I think that’s like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” I write these things as one who has graduated from Bible school and received a Master's degree from a graduate school of divinity. I thank God for the privilege of those two valuable experiences, and the anointed servants who taught me in those institutions, which the Lord led me to attend. I also provide theological training myself to those who attend the three-year Doulos Training School (DTS) that I founded. But the focus is not on head knowledge. The focus is on the Word of God, on the power of the Holy Spirit, on becoming a disciple who multiplies disciples, and on service to the Master.

He commanded us to go and make disciples, not to go and pursue theological degrees, or to go and make theologians. Before His ascension He commissioned the apostles saying, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20, NIV). The command in part is to make disciples and teach them to obey everything the Lord commanded the apostles. Since one of those commands was this one to go and make disciples, then the apostles were commissioned to teach their disciples to go and make disciples. And those disciples were in turn to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything the Lord commanded, including to go and make disciples. This is so simple and yet it is grossly neglected by most Christians. And how many theological educational institutions are emphasizing this?

When I was in seminary in the early 1990's, there were different Master's degree programs offered. Some of them such as the Master's of Divinity (MDiv) program provided the student with the necessary coursework to go on for a Doctoral degree in theology. They also offered the Master's in Theological studies, as well as the Master's in Practical Theology -- Church and Ministry, which is more focused on the practical side of things. Although I enjoyed studying Greek and learning the original language of the Bible, I had to make a decision, based on what the Lord had called me to do. After prayerful consideration, I decided to pursue a Master's in Missiology, with a concentration in the area of Church Planting, since I was called to help fulfill the Great Commission by bringing the gospel to the nations.

When I made that decision to pursue that degree during the first year of my seminary studies, I knew that by doing so, I would not be well-positioned to pursue a doctoral degree in theology, due to the fact that I would not be completing all the necessary prerequisites for the doctoral program. This was at a time when some of my colleagues had chosen pre-doctoral programs that would enable them to later pursue their doctoral degrees. There was a strong lure to go in that same direction, because of the great value in society that is placed on holding a doctoral degree. I knew that the title of Doctor and the degree could help earn respect and credibility with many people, and that it could open doors. But I made my decision based on my calling, as well as the leading of the Holy Spirit, and I don't regret it one bit.

There were many valuable aspects of my degree program that I enjoyed, and plenty of sound wisdom from my professors that I benefited from. I know they took their roles seriously and I am grateful for the way they poured themselves out for me. Still much of what I studied theologically was a repeat of what I had already learned in Bible school. And if I may be candid, I would say that what I learned about Church Planting was mostly men's ideas that often seemed to be patterned more after Madison Avenue than the Bible. However, about eleven years after graduating from seminary, I attended a three-day seminar called Beyond Church Planting, which was offered in my home town by a couple pastors with many years experience. Their names were Tom Johnston and Mike Chong Perkinson of the Praxis Center. I found that the teaching presented in that short seminar was more powerful, meaningful, and valuable to me than all the books I had read about Church Planting in graduate school. It was based simply upon the life of Jesus and His approach to making disciples that make disciples.

They emphasized the Great Commandments and the Great Commission, which they called the "irreducible core" of the Church. You can remove a lot of other things from the Church, such as the programs, the paid staff, the sound system, the parking lot, the educational degrees, the PowerPoint presentations, the building, the drama team, and the choir robes, but you cannot eliminate any part of the irreducible core, or else it would no longer be the true Church. Jesus never commanded us to go and plant churches, but to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and as we go, to make disciples. We are supposed to be planting the seeds of the gospel in men's hearts and multiplying, and we don't need advanced theological degrees to do so. In fact, one of the problems of education is that it prepares you to go to another school. Each time you go on for an advanced degree, it prepares you for another advanced degree, more so than truly preparing you to obey the Great Commandments and fulfill the Great Commission given by our Lord.

Ten Factors to Consider 
If you are considering the idea of pursuing an advanced theological degree, such as a doctorate, here are some factors to consider:

1. The time that you will spend in academic institutions doing so. Once you have earned your Bachelor's degree, it could take up to three years to obtain a Master's, and up to another five to six years to obtain your doctorate.
2. The time that this will take away from your prayer life, seeking the Lord, communion with God, your time in the Bible, your wife and children (if you are married), and from your ministry. You will be under a tremendous workload. Something will probably have to suffer for it, so be aware of that as you make your decision, and be on your guard against that. "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Mt 16:26, NIV)
3. The cost of the education. Higher education is expensive, but if God is calling you to it, then He will provide for it, just as He has done for me and so many others.
4. Unless you go into debt by taking out a large student loan or receive a scholarship, you may also need to be working at a job to pay for your degree, all the while still studying and perhaps doing ministry as well. Sustaining that can take a toll on your health, spiritual well-being, and your finances (Rom 13:8).
5. The enormous number of books you will need to read, many of which were written by authors that are not necessarily speaking for God, or who deny the truth of the Bible, or who may be adding to the Word of God. Many of them are natural men without the Spirit who do not accept the things of the Spirit and deny the power of God (1 Cor 2:14; 2 Tim 3:5). These will plant seeds in you and could pollute the well spring of life, which is your heart, if you are not careful. "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." (Pr 4:23) "Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body." (Ecc 12:12b, NIV).
6. Knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1), so you cannot continue to acquire more knowledge without consequences (2 Chr 26:16; Prov 16:18). Remember to walk humbly before your God. There are certainly men and women who have obtained advanced degrees and yet remained humble, so it is possible with God. But there are others who have become prideful and fallen.
7. You are accountable to God for what you know and do. To whom much is given much is required (Lk 12:48). Those who teach will come under stricter judgment (Jam 3:1). If you are not already practicing what you know from the Word of God, then how will you escape God's judgment? (Mt 7:21-27; Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10).
8. Whatever is not of faith is sin, and he who doubts is condemned (Rom 14:23). Whichever path you choose, you will need to have a deep-seated faith that this is what God wants you to do. What is your motive for wanting that degree?
9. There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Prov 14:12). You must be led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:25). What is He leading you to do? What is the will of God?
10. The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom (1 Cor 1:25). God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Co 1:27). He hides things from the wise and learned and reveals them to little children (Mt 11:25-26).

Trustworthy Sayings
Over the years, while I was obtaining my theological training, I captured some quotes from people about the pursuit of knowledge that spoke to me, and I didn't want to forget them. Here are some of them.

“The pursuit of knowledge has become a national pastime.” – John Wimber

“Multitudes are bowing down and burning incense to a doctrine rather than Christ.” – Frank Bartleman

“Philosophical reasonings, intellectual speculations, ect., are… actuated by demon forces to sweep us from…child-like faith in God.” – Frank Bartleman

“You can spend your life accumulating degrees and doctorates, and then hobble across the stage of life trying to balance them.” – Charles Zeirle

“You don’t need theology, you need knee-ology.” – Dr. Ben Fraser

“You need power. You don’t need head knowledge. Head knowledge will get you killed.” – Jason Alvarez. He is the pastor of The Love of Jesus Family Church in Orange, New Jersey, who prayed and fasted two days a week for months.

Putting it All Together
So I hope this article has helped to put things into perspective for you. If you don't have a theological degree, don't worry about it. The Lord can still use you to fulfill His purposes. If you have been esteeming highly the well-learned theologians and teachers, then you should stop doing that. They are ordinary men just like the rest of us, and they do not necessarily have a corner on the truth or an immunity to error. They can make mistakes, too, and teach incorrectly. Just because they have doctoral degrees doesn't mean they are always right or that you should always believe whatever they say. You still need to test their fruit, because by their fruit you will recognize them. And you need to search the Scriptures to see if these things they teach are really so (Ac 17:11).

And if you are either considering an advanced theological degree or already pursuing one, I hope this has given you something to consider. Perhaps you will reevaluate what the Lord wants you to be doing, and whether or not He really told you to get that degree. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of obtaining academic degrees. Nevertheless, we should not dismiss the possibility that the Lord may call someone – for reasons known only to God – to pursue advanced degrees. For those of you who already have advanced degrees, please know that I still love you and do not pass judgment on you. If you are humble and honest, hopefully you will find some merit in what I have said. If you take offense to it, then ask the Lord to show you why, because I don't have anything against you personally.

Regardless of who you are or whether you find yourself in one of these categories that I have just described, your emphasis should be on the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. Focus on loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself. Spend your time studying the Bible, being a doer of the Word, being filled with the Holy Spirit, being led by the Spirit, receiving and maintaining the fire of God, spending time in prayer, abiding in Christ, practicing His presence, becoming a disciple, and making disciples of Jesus Christ. Keep it simple, follow Jesus, obey His commands, keep yourself from being corrupted by the world, and pursue holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where those taken from the Holy Bible NIV are noted.

Author's note: Please prayerfully consider enrolling in our Doulos Traning School for discipleship.

If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading my articles The Kingdom of God is Like ThisMultiplication, Multiplication Illustrations, Here I Am, Send MeThe Cost of Discipleship, Compelled by Love, and Life Transformation Groups.You may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Home page, such as The Servant of the Lord, Success in God's Eyes, Accountable, correctable, and teachable, A Personality Profile of the Apostle Paul, Persecuted or Popular?, The Popularity of the Gospel, Wisdom for Wealthy Preachers and Prosperity Teachers, and Having a Servant's Heart. For an great example of how the Lord spoke to a dear friend of mine to pursue a doctoral degree in medicine, please see The Voice That Changed Everything -- Testimony of Dr. Stenhouse. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wisdom for Wealthy Preachers and Prosperity Teachers

I want to discuss two types of people for whom it is very hard to enter the kingdom of heaven. However, in order to set the context properly, I would first like to discuss the difficulty level for most others besides these two types of people.

The General Populace
First of all, it is already difficult for anyone to enter the kingdom, contrary to popular opinion. This is what Jesus taught. He said:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (Joh 14:6)

People want to believe that there are many ways to God, but Jesus taught that there is only one way and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Christianity is very exclusive. There can be no other gods beside Jesus. He alone is Lord. No idols are allowed. It matters not how nice of a person you are or how many good works you do, if you don’t come through faith in Jesus Christ, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have to repent and believe in Him. “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’" (Mat 4:17). Yet the message of repentance is seldom heard today.

Jesus also said to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God…Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.’” (Joh 3:3,5,7)

You might be raised as a Christian and attend Church all your life, but you must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Without being born again, born of water and of the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.

You must be converted and become like children, or else you will not enter. Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3)

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luk 9:23)

Much of what is being preached these days is a cross-less gospel. People want to have all the positive benefits of following Jesus without the cross. If you don’t accept the crucified Christ you cannot get to heaven. If you don’t take up your own cross daily and follow Him, you cannot be His disciple.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luk 9:24)

As I wrote in my article, The Cost of Discipleship, following Jesus will cost you everything.

Jesus said that many people follow the wide road that leads to destruction, and few people follow the narrow way that leads to life. "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mat 7:13-14)

This is why entering through this door requires striving. "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luk 13:24)

There are four types of soil and only one of the four produces a crop when the seed is planted on it. The hard-packed soil along the path, the rocky soil, and the soil that has thorns are the three types that do not produce any lasting fruit. Only the good soil that hears the word and accepts it is the one that produces a crop, thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold what was sown (Mk 4:14-20).

The Righteous
Now that I have set the stage by showing how difficult it is in general for anyone to be saved, let’s look at how it is for the righteous to be saved. Peter wrote, “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1Pe 4:18). This clearly teaches us that it is with difficulty that the righteous person is saved.

Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:20)

He also said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mt 7:21)

The apostle Paul also taught that we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’” (Act 14:21-22)

As I wrote in my article, Remember Lot’s Wife, once you have decided to follow Jesus, don’t look back. “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”(Luk 9:62). As that song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus. The cross before me; the world behind me. No turning back! No turning back.”

The Rich
Yet of all the people in the world, it is perhaps hardest for the rich to enter the kingdom. Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mat 19:23-24).

Jesus told the rich young man that, in order to enter life he must obey the commandments. While the man was confident that he had kept these since he was a boy, Jesus told him that to be perfect, he should go sell his possessions and give to the poor. But he went away sad, because he was wealthy. The deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this world are like thorns that choke the life out of the seed of the Word that is planted in our hearts. So beware of riches.

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Mat 6:24).

He also said, "Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." (Luk 6:24, NIV).

Paul wrote to Timothy, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Ti 6:9-10).

Despite all these warnings in Scripture, the prosperity gospel is one of the most popular teachings in the Church today. I’m warning you, flee from the love of money.

The Teachers
The last type of person for whom it is most difficult to enter the kingdom of heaven is the teacher. In this same group we have all those who preach the Word, and any minister of the gospel. James wrote, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (Jas 3:1). This means that those who teach the Word will be judged with greater strictness and the punishment will be more severe.

Jesus said, "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luk 12:47-48)

Those who teach are the ones who know the Master’s will. If they do not get ready or act according to His will, they will be beaten with many blows. They have been given much. Therefore, much will be required of them.

Paul knew this very well. That is why he said, “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1Co 9:27).

Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'” (Mat 7:21-23)

Notice that these people who call Jesus their Lord even prophesied, cast out demons, and performed miracles. Yet the Lord said He never knew them, and told them to depart from Him, because they did not do the Father’s will, but practiced lawlessness.

Don’t assume that because you are a preacher or teacher that you will go to heaven. In fact, it is quite the contrary, since it is even more difficult for ministers of the gospel to be saved.

Putting it All Together
We must come through Jesus alone, repent, be converted through the experience of being born again, born of water and of the Spirit, and become as children. We must deny self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We must do the will of the Father in heaven. We must put Jesus words into practice.

Scripture teaches us that it is a straight and narrow way to get to heaven and few are those who find it. Fewer still are those who after finding it remain on it until they reach the holy city.

We must enter the kingdom through many hardships. It’s hard for the righteous to be saved. But it is even harder for the rich, as well as the preachers and teachers. I’m sure that plenty of people in both those categories have lost their souls, despite confessing Jesus as Lord. Indeed, the ones for whom it will be hardest of all are those who are rich teachers or rich preachers. They have the least chance of ever entering the kingdom of heaven, because they have two major challenges, either of which would difficult enough on its own.

Therefore, let me encourage you today to fight the good fight, beat your body and make it your slave, throw off every sin that so easily entangles us, run the race with perseverance, compete according to the rules, enter through the narrow gate, walk the straight and narrow path, deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Jesus, get ready, and do the Father’s will. Don’t be deceived by the riches of this world. And let not many of you become teachers, much less wealthy preachers or prosperity teachers.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading my articles What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?, A Biblical View of the Poor, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, The Cost of Discipleship, The Straight and Narrow Path, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Ibrahim's Experience in Hell, Exposing Heresy, The Top Ten Things Jesus Taught, Better a Little, All Things Handed Over to Jesus Christ, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, Holy Fire Baptism, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Is Obedience Optional?, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, and Costly Grace. I also recommend Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning by J. Lee Grady.  You may access more of my articles on the Main Directory of this blog, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org