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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Too Far Gone

Does your church need an ... er ... equalizer?
“You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
— Korah’s Rebellion, Numbers 16

Christian women are priests just as Christian men are priests; therefore Christian women should be able to do everything in the churches that Christian men have traditionally done.

So goes the modern argument, and it’s dead wrong.

A Little Review

In yesterday’s post I pointed out two things: Firstly, the emphasis throughout scripture is not on individual priestly service but on the fact that, corporately, Christians are a royal priesthood and a holy nation. Secondly, though Israel was called a “kingdom of priests”, the type of priestly service engaged in varied from individual to individual, from family to family, and from tribe to tribe.

In short, demonstrating that Christian women are members of a royal priesthood along with Christian men tells us nothing whatsoever about HOW each is to serve. For that, we need to look not to the Old Testament or to the etymology of the word “priest”, but rather at what the New Testament tells us about the types of priestly service in which Christians are to engage for the glory of God.

When we do that we find, as I mentioned yesterday, that: (i) just as in Israel, types of priestly service vary from individual to individual; and (ii) just as in Israel, there are certain very clear limitations on priestly service, some of which apply to men and others to women.

Three further facts are notable about Christian priestly service:

 Priestly Service May Be Verbal or Non-Verbal

Our priestly service is not limited to public leading of the gathered people of God:
We have no indication in scripture that audible, public service is more valuable to God than silent service. In fact, along with audible ministry comes the temptation to pride and the danger of loss of eternal reward.

 Most Christian Priestly Service is NOT Verbal

The following are New Testament ways in which all Christians can give individual expression to the priesthood of all believers:
There are significantly more ways to engage in priestly service quietly and privately than publicly and audibly.

 Most Priestly Service Does NOT Take Place in Church Meetings

This truth is not well understood, but is very important to grasp:

First, no Christian, male or female, is exempted from the priestly service of sharing the gospel. But sharing the gospel is not primarily a function of gathering as a church. Rather, we are individually responsible to take the good news into “all the world”. Most Christian testimony of any eternal consequence takes place during the week and radiates from the lives of ordinary believers, not from the pulpit.

Second, most of the non-verbal types of priestly service listed under (2) above are best performed outside of the formal gatherings of the saints. In fact, some cannot be effectively performed there.

Third, we have this familiar statement from the apostle Paul:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
Unless we massively dilute the word worship, it is not something in which we are engaged every moment of our lives. But all of life may be priestly service of one sort or another, depending on how we live it. And most of this work takes place outside church meetings.

So-called Christian feminists determined to see more women on the pulpits of Christendom at any cost need to come to grips with the fact that leading the church audibly actually makes up a trivial percentage of priestly service. When we are living biblically, our priesthood expresses itself in all areas of Christian living.

But let’s be honest: feminism is not really all that concerned with expressing priesthood.

Expressing Your Priesthood

Keeping all this wealth of opportunity for priestly service in view, it’s possible that some folks advocating for women to audibly participate in the meetings of the church are unaware of the historical diversity of responsibilities within priesthoods old and new. Or perhaps they have never thought deeply about the many different ways in which it is possible for Christian women to express their priesthood in all areas of life. I hope and trust that is the case for most who feel women are being shortchanged by large numbers of evangelical churches.

Those who insist on ignoring the scriptural evidence in front of them, however, would be well advised to search their hearts for the spirit of Korah.

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