"The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Deut. 33:27 (ESV)
The other day I was on my usual walk and I glanced up into the sky. And streaking across the heavens was a gigantic plane. I do not know what kind of plane it was exactly, though my initial thought is that it was a military plane, perhaps a cargo plane. What impressed me about it the most was the sheer size of it. It was somewhat low in the sky, so it seemed even bigger than it might have if it had been at a higher altitude. It seemed then to be the jumbo jet of all jumbo jets. And as I looked at it I was just struck by the immensity of the thing.
Usually I love watching planes make their course through the sky. I just like to marvel at the things. But something different struck me that day. It happened that there were a lot of fluffy white clouds hanging in the sky that day. And I noticed that the massive plane paled in comparison to the size of the clouds. It was like the plane became like a guppy next to a huge whale. Then in almost the same instant, I realized that the blue sky above the clouds stretched out like an ocean over them both. And then I thought how much bigger the sky was. Then beyond the atmosphere was a whole abyss of space.
Then I thought about how great our God must be. For he not only created all these things, but the Bible says he stretched out the heavens in the palm of his hand. Throughout the rest of my walk I simply stood in awe of God’s sheer greatness.
If there is one thing that we need most as humans, it is a big God. So often we are faced with our frailty and insignificance. But when we lift our eyes to behold how great our God is, we find ourselves wrapped in a blanket of security. When we pause in our daily lives to reflect on the insurmountable being of our God we find ourselves filled with a sense of wonder and awe. And after we have gazed upon God’s greatness we find ourselves possessing increased faith and a heart that burns more passionately with love for him.
That is my hope for you as we study our subject for tonight. The verse before us addresses a specific aspect of God’s nature—that of his eternality. It says, “The eternal God is your dwelling place (or refuge), and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
And I hope to increase your faith in God by thinking about the wonder of God’s eternality and the worth of God’s eternality.
First of all, it is important to consider the wonder of God’s eternality.
I. The Wonder of God’s eternality
Now When we say that God is eternal we mean that God has no beginning, He has no ending and he knows no succession of time.
A. He has no beginning
Now all of you probably know the first verse of the Bible. How does it go? “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Now when you read that, that is supposed to hit the delete button on all other gods. Those first few words of the Bible throw down the gauntlet and proclaim God as it (#1).
And in these few short words the book of Genesis says, “Before anything ever was, there was one thing: And that was God. Before there was squirrels, there was God. Before there was water, there was God.” As a matter of fact, God created time.
It is actually a funny way to think about it. It says, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, God was before the beginning. We can’t really comprehend that because we think in terms of time. How can you have something before the beginning? What the Bible is trying to communicate is that God is eternal: He had no beginning. God always was.
Now at some point your kid is probably going to come to you and ask you, “Where did God come from?” Or “Who created God?” And here is your answer. God had no creator. God didn’t come from anywhere. He had no beginning. He always was. He has existed eternally.
And that is a natural question for us as humans because we are beings that have beginnings. We look around and see that dogs have beginnings, and cars have beginnings. Everything came from something. But not God. God had no beginning. That’s part of what it means that he is eternal.
You could look at it from the other end too. When we say that God is eternal, we say that had no beginning, but we also say that he has no ending.
B. Has no ending
Now, again, everything around us tells us that everything comes to an end. But not so with God. Listen to these words from Psalm 90. “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
I don’t know if any of you took geometry in school. But sometimes in mathematics you have to indicate infinity in a linear way. And you do that by making a line with arrows on both ends of the line. What you are saying is that line stretches in an infinite direction that way and an infinite direction in that way. In other words, it never ends. That is what Psalm 90 is saying about God, “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” God does not have an ending point.
Now catch the significance of that to a Jew of those times. They were surrounded by polytheistic nations—nations that believed in a lot of gods. Those gods were always dying and then coming to life again.
Let’s take Egypt as an example. Egypt had a lot of gods. But their main god was Osiris, and Osiris had to be woken up every morning. Every faithful Egyptian each morning would start his day by singing a hymn to wake up Osiris (How would you like a god who you had to wake up every morning?) And Osiris was supposed to be the god of the vegetation. And they believed that in the Spring Osiris would arise from the dead, and as he would come to life he would bring to life all of the vegetation of the land. Then at the end of the season Osiris would die, and with him all of the vegetation would die too.
In contrast to this, Israel’s God never died. He never ceased to exist and he never will cease to exist. It’s not possible. He alone is the one absolute being. And all of a sudden, Osiris doesn’t look all that attractive, does he?
Are you starting to see the wonder of God’s eternality? We certainly are not looking at all the passages in the Bible that speak of God’s eternality. There are a lot more. I just want to give you an idea of what it means that God is eternal. And I want you to remember that those passages in the Bible are there to simply make you step back and say, “Whoa.”
But let me give you one aspect of God’s eternality. And this one should really blow your mind. We’ve said that God had no beginning and that he has no ending. But when we speak of God’s eternality we also need to keep in mind that God sees no succession of time too.
C. God sees no succession of time
What do I mean by that? When I say that God sees no succession of time I mean that he sees all time at once. We see history as it happens. We see things consecutively. That is the way we know things. Our knowledge is limited to time and the succession of time. But that’s not how God knows history. He is not watching history unravel like we would watch a TV show. He sees all of history all at once.
Most of you probably know the verse in 2 Peter that goes like this, “A thousand years in your sight are but a day.” That’s just the Bible’s way of saying that God knows no succession of time. A thousand years? That’s nothing to God. It’s but a day.
Now this might be a bit hard to grasp. The best way I can describe it is this way and this is still a little crude (Remember that all analogies break down somewhere): Let’s just say that you have read a novel. You finished it and you know that the butler did it and how he did it. Well, when you finish that book you know everything that happened in that book.
That’s kind of like how God knows history. All of history, even the stuff that hasn’t happened yet, is right now known to God. It doesn’t matter if it is the creation of the world or the second coming of Christ, all of it is alike known to God. He is the eternal “I Am” and therefore he is Lord of time.
Maybe that makes your head spin a bit. Well, good! It is supposed to. This is supposed to make you say, “Wow, my God is so great!”
Hopefully you now understand something of the wonder of God’s eternality. But let us also consider the worth of God’s eternality.
II. The worth of God’s eternality
Perhaps you have been sitting there and you have been thinking, “What’s the big deal? Of what benefit is this to me?” You want to know the worth of God’s eternality.
A. A dangerous question to ask
Be careful though. That can be a dangerous question. It can come from an attitude of selfishness. Just asking, “what is in it for me?” can reveal that you have no real regard for God. It can show that you only love him because of what you can get out of him.
I admit that I might not have presented it in the most palatable way, but don’t think that this should just be all about you. If you really are a Christian, just thinking about the wonder of God’s eternality should be enough for you.
I knew a boy once who simply loved cars. That was all he thought about. He had pictures of cars in his room and he had stacks of car magazines too. The funny thing was, he wasn’t even old enough to drive. He was only 10 years old. Asking “What worth is a car to me?” would have never entered his mind. It probably would have been a profane thing to him even to think of such a thing. He simply loved his cars, and he adored them.
That is the way the Christian should see God. Just as that boy doted over his cars, meditating on God’s glorious greatness is to be our pleasure. It should be enough for us to rejoice in God’s being eternal.
One of the things that we have lost in the church today is the ability to adore God. Do you know what it means to adore God? It is praising God for who he is. It is acknowledging his greatness and standing in awe of him. We’ve lost that in the church today. That’s mainly because we don’t know anything about him.
At the beginning of our service I always try to have a hymn that adores God—a hymn that simply dwells on the magnificence of who God is. And I try to do that in our opening prayer too. That’s why I call that prayer the prayer of adoration and invocation. We adore God for who he is and call upon him to bless our time of worship.
Let me ask you, do you spend time adoring God? Do you in your time of prayer simply gawk at who he is? Well, now you have every reason to. You can consider in your time of prayer and meditation the wonder of God’s eternality: he has no beginning, he has no ending, and he sees no succession of time.
But, having said that, let’s remember that asking “What benefit is this to me?” can be a good question too. As a matter of fact, God reveals this aspect of his divine character to us for our benefit.
B. A good question to ask
Our passage says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Here is a promise of your protection and care, even for all eternity.
Remember where the Israelites were at this point in their history. The people that Moses addressed were at this time wandering in the desert. They had no dwelling place or refuge in any physical sense to speak of. They lived in tents and were subject to the elements and the wild. But God was their canopy. He defended them. He provided for them. He was what supplied their safety and sustenance.
The same is true for us today. We might live in a technologically superior age, but we are really not in any better situation than the Israelites. What keeps the roof from caving in upon us today? What keeps us from being ravaged by man or beast? What keeps us from going mad? It is only the everlasting arms of God.
And what a wonderful privilege this is! Those who are not the children of God have no such fortification. Without the Lord they are subject to the miseries and storms of life. And they are left exposed to them without any protection. Moreover they have an eternity of misery to expect. For even the slightest sin against an eternal God requires eternal punishment.
But not so for those of us who are the children of God. We are like chicks nestled against their mother. We dwell under the shelter of the God who “has proved himself to be God since the beginning of the world (K&D commentary).”
Yesterday you saw how the wind thrashed about outside. The trees were whipped and bent. Anything that was not fastened down was tossed all over creation. Yet you were safe and secure in your house. That is how valuable the Eternality of God is. If you are a child of Christ, you shall always be in such a blessed position.
And we have the assurance that we shall be safe for all eternity. We know this because Jesus’ number 1 message was that he who believes in him would have eternal life.
If I might boil it down to one sentence, I would do it like this: The Lord reveals this attribute to us so that we might be rid of our worry. If he is eternal, it means he governs and supersedes time. Therefore we may trust that all our days are in his care.
In 1714, the people of England were anxious. Queen Anne lay dying, and she had no son or daughter to succeed her. The people worried about who would be the next monarch? They wondered what kind of changes he or she would make. Issac Watts was one of the people who had reason to worry. His father had been imprisoned under the previous regime because his views did not please the ruling family. As a young child, Watts had been carried by his mother to visit his father in jail. But Queen Anne had brought new tolerance, and freedom for Watt’s father. Now that she was dying, what would happen?
Watts turned to Psalm 90 and read the words, “from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” And on this occasion and penned what may be the greatest of his more than 600 hymns. In essence, it is a poem about time. It tells us that God stands above human time, and in Him all our anxieties can be laid to rest. I would like us to end by singing "O God, Our Help in Ages Past."
O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!
Under the shadow of thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling streame,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come;
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
(Listen to Audio)
Last time we were together we studied a subject with which many people find hard, the subject of women in office. A number of you even commented to me after the message that this is a hard teaching in our day.
Someone who might disagree with the Bible’s stance might then retort, “Well, I guess God is a chauvinist then, isn’t he?” That might be how a person might respond. But God continues in chapter three to talk about the office of overseer. And he does so in order that everyone might see that even among men, not every one qualifies for this special office.
God doesn’t want just anyone taking charge over his people. He has high standards. But at the same time, God doesn’t send an angel from heaven to tell us who he wants governing us. He commits us with the solemn responsibility of choosing our leaders.
That ought to make us consider carefully who we would have ruling over us. Worthy candidates for the office of overseer meet God’s criteria. In this passage we find God’s criteria for overseers.
So what are the criteria? What should we be looking for in a church leader? Our passage tells us that a candidate for the office of overseer must possess a personal ambition for it, understand the nature of it, and meet the qualifications for it. So a candidate desires it, understands it, and qualifies for it.
First of all we see that candidates for this office must possess a personal ambition for this office.
I. Possess a personal ambition
Verse 1 says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
Those would be leaders should be people who desire the office they are going to fill.
There have been some who have said otherwise. They think that desiring to be an officer in the church is an act of pomp. They say that one is called to the office, and that people should not seek the office.
As with all error, there is a hint of truth to this: one must be called to the office. But that does not mean one should surpress any desires he has for it.
People can err on the opposite extreme too. Perhaps you’ve seen people become elders in a church against their will. They don’t really want to be a part of the session, but the congregation pressures them into it. They finally say, “OK, I guess I’ll do it.”
In theology we affirm that there is an internal call for the ministry. The external call is the call that the church gives to the one coming to office. The church is God’s instrument in electing and ordaining church leaders. The one God wants to minister in the church will be approved by His people. As a congregation we witness one’s giftedness and character. And then together we testify that they should be a leader. The external call, the call by the congregation, is essential for ordination. One cannot subvert the church’s will and become a dictator in it.
But we also affirm the legitimacy of the inward call. The inward call is the personal desire that one has for the ministry. If someone is to undertake the duties of overseers, then the Lord will place in his heart the internal motivation to do so.
In their book “On Being a Pastor” Alister Beg and Derek Prime relate a story about an Englishman named Alan Stibbs. When in school Stibbs was part of a well attended group called the Scripture Union. While it was a well attended group, there was no one who would undertake the leadership of the group. So for two years, between the ages of 16 and 18, Stibbs carried the responsibility alone. Three times a week he had to stand before his school contemporaries and expound the scriptures to them.
In his own words Stibbs wrote, "I began as a schoolboy of 17 to pray for the gift of prophesying. On each occasion when I expounded the word I prayed for the grace worthily to exercise the gift to the glory of God and blessing of men.”
Here is a young man who demonstrates a healthy desire for the ministry. His circumstances might be a little different, being he was virtually thrust into the ministry. But his desires were nonetheless real.
But let’s remember those desires must be set upon the appropriate thing. It’s possible that someone would desire the office of overseer, but his desires are misguided because his understanding of the office is wrong. He might desire the position because it is a place of high status and respect. Of course, if that is the case, his desires are no different from that of the Pharisees Jesus rebuked. You remember Jesus said of the Pharisees they loved being greeted in the marketplace and the seats of prominence at feasts and social gatherings. That’s why candidates for the office of overseer must understand the nature of the office.
II. understand the nature of the office
In this passage Paul uses the Greek word episkopos. We translate it into English as either “bishop” or “overseer.”
When we think of bishops we might think of Roman Catholicism or the Episcopal church where they have high ranking officials called bishops. But in the early church they did not have such a hierarchy. A bishop was, for the most part, synonymous with elder. It just emphasizes a different aspect of the ministry.
The word elder has to do with ruling and governing the people of God. Elder, then, has to do with authority. But episkopos deals with responsibility. Paul uses the word bishop (or overseer) he wants to emphasize that the church leader is charged with the task of oversight of God’s people. In other words, the spiritual well-being of those in the church is his responsibility.
In using the word overseer, we find that the church leader is much like a nurse. When you are in the hospital a nurse comes to check on you regularly. He or she checks your vitals on a regular basis and tend to your needs in order that you may become healthy again.
That is what an overseer does. An elder in the church must tend to all his parishioners like patients. He checks their spiritual vitals signs by regular visitations to their home. He tends to their needs as he comes before the Lord in prayer. He does many things in order that they might maintain a healthy spiritual life.
But not only does Paul emphasize the responsibility of a church leader, he also emphasizes the strain.
He does not say “the one who desires the office of an overseer desires a good office.” He says “he desires a good work.” Calvin makes much of this point in his commentary on this passage. He goes to great lengths to communicate the fact that the one who holds this office will face a great ordeal. Leadership in the church is a difficult task. It can be a strain upon one’s person because it requires a great amount of time and energy.
There are meetings to go attend. There are visitations that will take you away from your home and family. It is required that you spend time in prayer for each of those put under your care, their children, and for their personal problems and joys.
I was once talking with a fellow at work whose son is a wrestler at Ashland High School. He had some pictures at his work station, and I was looking at them. He pointed out which one was his son. And like a proud father he said that his son qualified for state competition this past year. He also mentioned that his son was a senior. I then asked if he was going to go on and play in college. He responded that he wasn’t sure that he was. College wrestling is a lot different than High School. It takes up a lot of one’s time. You have to really invest yourself as an athlete if you are going to play on that level.
While his son loved the sport, and desired to participate in it, there is the possibility that the work load (the mere time investment) would keep him away from it.
The same holds true for those who would be ministers in the church. If you desire the office of overseer, then you must also desire the work that comes with it. If you don’t much care for people, then that might be a good indicator that you are not made out for such a work. If you don’t like being bothered much with people’s problems, then most likely, church work is not for you.
But, on the other hand, if these things in some way attract you, then you might be God’s man for the job.
A candidate for the gospel ministry then, must possess ambition for the ministry and knowledge of the ministry. But we must not think that these alone make one eligible for the office. Even among those who desire the office and its rigors, there are some who still do not qualify. Candidates must must also meet the right criteria.
III. meet the spiritual qualifications
In all there are 15 qualifications that one must meet in order to be a candidate for the office. Now if we spent time examining each one we would be here all night. As a matter of fact, when I was in seminary, the president of the school would give a sermon on one of the qualifications each time he was to speak. Certainly I am not going to do that!
If you like homework for personal study, you can meditate on these qualifications more than we will here. You could do what William Hendrickson did and match each attribute with someone in the Bible.
For the sake of time I will abbreviate and condense. If we look at verses 2&3 we find that the overseer must be…
A. an overall moral man [2-3]
I think it is summed up in the very first virtue spoken of in the list. He must be “above reproach.”
As a leader an elder must set an example for the people of God. If the leadership lacks good moral character, then where will the congregation stand in comparison? Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” He set himself as a standard for the people. They were to follow his example of godliness.
An elder must possess that same quality. This is not to say that they are perfect, of course. But this person does express an exceptional level of morality. One that people cannot easily criticize.
Let me just touch on a few others in this list. It says that the elder should be the “husband of one wife.” When we read that we think that it excludes people who were divorced or who had a wife who died and then the man remarried. But that is imputing our day upon the text. You must remember that back then it was common to have multiple wives. Polygamy was a norm in that day. He is saying that an elder must have one wife at a time. So let’s not assume that divorce automatically excludes one from the office of overseer.
He also says that an elder must be “hospitable.” Some virtues are emphasized more than others, and I would say that this one is considered a throw away. But God’s word says that an elder must be one who is ready to bring others into his home. He must be one who is filled with compassion. So much so that he is willing to do sacrificial acts of charity. We read in Romans 12 that all Christians are commanded to be hospitable, but, as with all duties incumbent upon Christians, an elder must demonstrate it in a greater degree. We cannot disregard hospitality because it is part of one’s general morality.
We will let the other qualities in those two verses be for your personal study. We have seen enough to say that the elder should be an overall moral man. If we look at the next two verses we can summarize them by saying the elder must be…
B. a good patriarch [4-5]
These verses have to do with his home. Let’s read them together. “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,  for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?”
Some have asserted that the elder must be a married man. They would point to these verses as well as the phrase “the husband of but one wife.” But marriage is not a requisite for an elder. Single or widowed men may certainly qualify.
These verses only pertain to those who have families. And what it means is that the home is the testing ground for the ministry. Within the walls of you home you have a little congregation. God has entrusted us fathers and husbands with the care of his people. And if we cannot rule them well, then how is it that we can think we would do well with other people and other people’s families?
Now note that it does not say that the children are all saints. It says that his management of them is exceptional. Dr. Donald McNair, a long time professor at Covenant Seminary, almost quite the ministry because he had a child who was quite rebellious. In his teenage years he caused a great amount of problems within the community. Because he thought his son’s rebellion disqualified him for the ministry, Dr. McNair came to his Session and submitted his resignation.
The session in turn refused his resignation, saying that he did manage his house well. Dr. McNair did everything he could to help his child lead an orderly life. It was just that the son was obstinate, and would not heed his father’s words.
The Bible’s instruction is that the overseer must manage his house well, it does not mean that he will have a perfect house.
ØVerse 6 gives us another characteristic. The elder must be…
C. a mature Christian 
“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
In the original language this is put quite poeticly. It literally says, “He must not be newly planted.” The idea is of one who has had enough time to grow roots in the faith, so he is fragile.
When Elizabeth and I lived in Indiana one of my yearly tasks was an attempt at getting grass to grow. The first year’s crop was so pitiful. But no matter the bounty of grass, there were a few that crept up. And that is the most critical time for the grass. They can’t take any pressure, and you must wait until the grass matures in order to cut it.
That’s how it must be with our leaders. We must not adgitate them by putting them in a position where they might be damaged. And that’s exactly what Paul points out. The new convert becomes conceited and falls under judgement.
You might remember a while back that Deon Sanders made an evangelical profession of faith. What immediately happened? People put him in a place of prominence, and made him go around preaching. Rather than helping the kingdom, they were exposing this young one in the faith to much harm.
And if you think about it, why would you want a new convert leading a congregation. Most people don’t go to doctors who haven’t even had any experience.
But sometimes people don’t think about these things when they elect their officers. They see someone who is a successful businessman and they think, “let’s make him a leader,” despite his immaturity.
If you look though, our list is not a list of skills. The only real skill mentioned is his being apt to teach. We scrutinize one’s character.
And so far we have seen that that elder must be a moral man, a good patriarch, a mature Christian, and finally, he must be…
D. a reputable person 
Verse 7 says, “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Funny how one of a leader’s references for church office must be from the unbelievers.
If you were to ask any High School coach what he would rather have, an all star athlete without any discipline or an average player with excellent discipline, most often they would take the average player. That’s because they know that they can do more with that average player. The average player will be a team player and team leader because he is disciplined.
And that’s exactly the same with who God wants to hold office in his church. He does not necessarily want someone who is famous or popular, he wants men who are disciplined and godly.
As you can see from tonight’s study, God does not open the doors for anyone to fill the office of overseer. He is quite choosy. And as we choose our leaders we must be just as selective. Candidates for church office must posses the desire, know their duty, and meet his standards.
1 Timothy 2:8-14
A number of years ago I began re-reading a book on the history of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America. It is a book that tracks how our denomination came to be formed. In that book it records some of the outrageous things that were going on in the PCUS, the denomination the PCA split from in 1973.
As I read that book I was shocked to find some of what was happening in worship services of all things. One story recounted how the minister opened by saying “Let us Worship God.” And then proceeded to lead the congregation in singing Simon and Garfunkel’s hit song, “Mrs. Robinson.” Other innovations included Communion services conducted with masks, sermons given by way of interpretive dance, and fast flashing videos that mocked the government’s involvement in Vietnam.
Even in Evangelical churches today we can see people experimenting with alternate forms of worship. People are breaking out of the “traditional” services to contemporize them or make them more attractive to the unbelieving.
But we very seldom hear it asked, “What in worship pleases God?” It’s ironic, that which we do in worship is supposed to be for God, but it is never composed with him in mind.
It’s almost as if we were to want our child to have the best birthday celebration he has ever had, but as we plan the event we do so with only the things we like. We have our favorite cake, our favorite games, our favorite music. But when it comes time for the birthday, we are the only ones enjoying it. The birthday boy sits on the step outside the house because he hates the music, the games, and even the cake.
Our chief and highest aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Our worship must reflect this. So our worship must implement the things that God finds pleasing. That’s why our worship must be governed by God’s Word. In the scriptures we find the principles for God honoring worship.
Of course we can’t usually open up to a certain page and find what God wants us to do in worship. It usually takes some searching of the Scriptures. But if you are going to search the scriptures, one place to begin is the pastoral epistles, the letters Paul wrote to Timothy. Tonight we come to just one such teaching having to do with worship. Here Paul gives directives on how to conduct God honoring, public worship. As a matter of fact we find three directives for worship. He tells us we must possess the appropriate attitudes, wear the appropriate attire, and fulfill the appropriate roles.
The first thing we find is that God honoring worship requires that we…
I. Possess the appropriate attitudes
Verse 8 points out two attitudes we should possess when we come to worship, one with respect to God and one with respect to man. The attitude that we should have towards God is represented in the posture of lifting up holy hands in prayer.
In Judaism, people would raise their hands for a variety of reasons, some of which are still replicated. The priests would bless the people with their hands uplifted, just like ministers today. As well, raised hands was the posture of praise. And may I say, the carismatics and non-denominational churches do not have the corner on raising your hands in praise. Presbyterians can do that too. Of course it is a little harder to do it with hymnals, and perhaps that is a good argument for memorizing the hymns or have them projected on a screen. But let me just say in passing that we should not be ashamed to express the praise of our hearts in with this type of physical gesture. It is a very Biblical, and natural thing.
But there was a third reason people raised their hands in Judaism. And this one is not so much replicated today. In Judaism people would raise their hands to bless and to praise, but they would also do when they would pray. When they would come to God to make requests they would extend their hands heavenward with their palms facing up. It was a sign of their right standing with God and of their dependence.
We seem to be stuck in a rut today. We only have one posture that we use in prayer, and that is one of contrition. Whenever we pray we bow our heads and close our eyes. But this is the posture of repentance and sorrow. It says that we are not worthy to come to God.
In Judaism they recognized that the blood of atonement made them right with God. They knew they could come to God confidently when they sought him in supplication. But they did not come rashly, they knew they were dependent upon him. So they lifted up their hands to symbolically acknowledge that whatever they would ask for, and whatever they would receive would finally and ultimately come from Him.
This is how God wants us to come to worship. Whether or not we express it physically (the form does not really matter), God wants us to come into worship acknowledging our dependence upon Him. Our attitude in worship should be that of a weak and feeble child who must look to one who is greater to provide anything and everything they need for life.
And may I add, you cannot worship unless you have this spirit. Worship by its very nature is an expression of dependence. Our greatest pitfall in worship is not arriving late, its arriving unprepared. We can come to worship and go through the motions, yet never offer up a single ounce of true worship. That’s because we view ourselves as self-sufficient. We got up on our own, got dressed on our own, and drove ourselves to the church. But were it not for our God we would never have had the clothes we are wearing, or the gas in our cars. And neither would we have even gotten up. He could have made us pass away in the night. Every point in our life relies upon God. Even every breath we take is a token of His benevolence. And we must come to worship acknowledging that very fact.
ØBut not only should we have an attitude of dependence, we should come with an attitude of peace.
That’s the attitude we should express toward man. Verse 8 says that our prayers should be offered without anger or disputing.
Your version might say doubting and that is a valid translation. In older English the word doubting meant the same as disputing. The idea is that of creating tension with another person through arguing. In other words, we should refrain from any contention in the worship service. We should have a spirit of peace so that we might direct our full and unbroken attention upon God.
Think about how easily we loose our focus on God. We have our employments and recreations. We have our sins and our miseries. We have to fight hard enough to keep our attention from being drawn away from God to thinking about the sunshine coming in the windows. Do we need any other distractions? And will not contention between brothers be even more problematic. Not only will it draw us away from worshipping God, but it will frustrate the harmony of the church. It quickly becomes contagious. I’m sure you know of churches that look like congress. People will not cross the isle because of issues that they have been arguing about.
God desires us to reconcile whatever differences we may have before we come to worship. He wants us to focus all of our attention on him and worship Him. That’s why we must come to church with the appropriate attitudes: the attitude of dependence and the attitude of peace.
ØBut God honoring worship does not stop there. God is not only concerned that we possess the right attitudes, he is also concerned that we ...
II. Wear the appropriate clothes
The Lord says in verse 9, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness.”
Now Paul is not in any way setting a strict dress code. He is addressing the fact that people’s attire had become the central focus rather than God. In the Roman world people were infatuated with extravagance. So when people gathered for church, it could look more like a fashion show than a worship service. The women would arrive at church having adorned themselves ornately in order to make a display.
And that can be the same today. We can be more concerned with what other people think about us rather than concerned for the worship of God. A church can be a place where people dress to impress. In vanity we can push to show off how rich we are. Or it could be that a woman wants to accentuate her body in order to get the attention of a man or even make another woman jealous. Either way, dress can have the potential to become a distraction in the church.
Let me point out that Paul has nothing against jewelry, braided hair, or any other adornments as such. Those of you who are ladies may feel free to dress up or take that extra time to put your hair in braids. We should not err on the opposite extreme either. Ugliness can be just as distracting! Paul is merely concerned that we not rob God of the glory he is due. Simply put, his point is this: The way we dress or the way we comb our hair should not get in the way of the worship of God.
I was once speaking with a fellow from Canada about how different America is from his homeland. He said that we Americans have that “Cowboy mentality.” Where he comes from community and family are very important. But in America we tend to be very individualistic. He went on to talk about how it comes to expression in what we wear. He said that when he first walked into American churches he was simply stunned at how the women dressed. Some of the things that they wore were so sensual that he had a hard time focusing on the worship service.
We must make sure that what we put on our bodies, albeit on Sunday or any other day of the week, is tempered for the glory of God.
And, to speak to you younger ladies among us, I recognize that this is becoming a very hard thing to do. Most fashion designers don’t embrace our value system. And a lot of times what is sold in the marketplace, while it might be fashionable, it might not honorable.
So we must take care in choosing our clothes. A Christian reveals what he or she believes in the choice of their clothing. And that is just what John Calvin says on this verse, “Without doubt the dress of an honorable and godly woman ought to be different from that of a harlot.”
In speaking of such an issue, I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about pressing it among you. From what I have witnessed all of you demonstrate good judgment in your choice of apparel. As a pastor I am most pleased that the ladies in our congregation have a sense of propriety and modesty, and I don’t have to worry about people being distracted in worship. I commend you for this, and want to tell you that your discretion only enhances what we do here each week.
If you have that guideline in mind, you will be doing the “good works” spoken of in verse 10. For what better work can you do than allow for the best possible worship of God?
The worship of God requires that we possess the right attitudes and wear the appropriate clothes. But it also requires that we…
III. Fulfill the appropriate roles
After addressing what women should wear in church, Paul goes on in verses 11 and following to talk about how they must conduct themselves.
He first says that “a woman should learn in quietness and full submission.” When we read these words we must keep in mind that Paul does not forbid all vocal participation. 1 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about wives praying in the service. One commentator says that Paul is requiring a silence of a particular sort. A woman’s silence is one that respects the teaching of the Word and submits to the church’s leadership.
If I might rephrase it, a woman must fulfill the role of a disciple. She is to be a listener and learner. And Paul makes this more explicit in verse 12. Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
Now to our modern ears this might sound quite offensive. We are not used to people saying that there are things that are off limits to women. In our day people say, “If a man can do it, so can a woman.”
Now I want to affirm that women are of equal status to men. God made man male and female. Both were created in his image, and therefore both are thus precious in his eyes, and enjoy equal status. God even created Eve from the side of Adam, showing that she is in no way a downgrade.
While God gave them equal status, he gave them different roles. And because there are different roles, there are limitations for both men and women.
One of those limitations is described here. God has ordained that men fulfill the role of minister and elder. That is what is spoken of here when it says that women may not teach or have authority over a man.
Let’s not confuse this by saying a woman may not teach at all. Paul is only speaking of the office of elder and the teaching within the context of corporate worship. And women are allowed to teach in certain contexts. One of the primary duties of a mother is that of instructing her children. And Paul makes it clear elsewhere that women are to be teaching other women. And, in some cases, they can even teach men. If you know of Priscilla and Aquilla, they were a husband and wife tag team. In Acts 18 it says that they discipled a man by the name of Appolos. That was a wonderful example of when it is appropriate for women to teach.
While we recognize that women can be involved to some degree in the ministry of the gospel, we recognize that it is limited. God here shows us that women are restricted from the office of teaching and ruling. Women are not allowed to fulfill the authoritative role of elder and minister within the church.
Having put forth that rule, let me address some objections that are commonly made against this doctrine. A lot of people object by saying, “That’s just a cultural thing.” You may say “Women back then did not enjoy the same status as they do today. So that doesn’t apply anymore. In our day women are more respected and have a greater role in society.”
But this command cannot be loosed by arguing that it was a culturally bound. Paul shows us explicitly that it is not simply a cultural thing. The basis for this restriction is found in the order of creation and the fall. Read with me verses 13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Paul’s argument is based on God’s design and the woman’s having been deceived. God originally created man first. As such, he was designed to be the leader. God’s intent was that man was to be the decision maker and caretaker.
So we cannot simply say that this was “a cultural thing” which is no longer binding. It is rooted in the creation, and as such it is rooted in the very structure of our nature.
Another objection that comes up typically is, “Well, you just have a very low view of women!” To which I respond, Absolutely not! That’s not the case at all. When you understand what the bible says about women, you know this is not the case at all. Women are to be cherished and honored in a very special way. And if you would get to know me, you will see that simply is not true. I do not have a low view of women. It is my belief that women are to be treated like crystal glasswear. Now you know you don’t just toss around crystal glasses. You give them a respect and admiration that is incomparable with other everyday dishware. You handle them with a particular gentleness and treat them with far greater dignity than your old plastic cups.
That’s how I view women. And that’s how the Bible says we are to respect and honor them. To say that we degrade women and have a low view of them is simply wrongheaded.
Again, women just have a different role to play. And Paul points this out in verse 15. He says, “Women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”
Now this does not mean that women who have children are going to heaven. That would counter the Biblical doctrine that Salvation comes through faith. The church has traditionally interpreted this verse to mean that women find fulfillment when she understands her role as wife and mother.
One final objection to this teaching might be, “What’s the big deal? Does it really matter that much.” And I respond by saying, “Yes it is.” As a matter of fact, many other churches have split over this issue. And that includes my own denomination. It is important for this reason: If you forfeit this teaching, you forfeit the authority of the Bible.
The question at hand is: Hath God said. And if you compromise here, you compromise the whole of Scripture. I might add this: If you relax on this issue you really open the door to all sorts of things, particularly that of ordaining homosexuals as we have come to see in so many mainline churches.
God’s word must have the final say. He is the one who created us and his Word should be the guiding principle in our lives. Only when we fulfill the roles that he wants us to fulfill will life be rewarding. Moreover, it is only then that our lives and our worship will please him.
A Christian lady was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done.” One day she confided in a friend about her consternation. After she had stated her problem the friend replied. “Suppose your little boy came to you and said, ‘Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your way with me. Whatever you ask of me, I will do it.’ How would you respond? Would you say, ‘Ah, here’s my chance to make him miserable. I will take away al his pleasures, and fill his life with ever sort of disagreeable things. I will compel him to do that which is the most difficult and brutal.’”
The woman responded to her friend, “Of course I wouldn’t. I would hug my child and cover him with kisses. I would never tell him to do such things. I would hasten to fill his life with all that is sweet and best.”
The friend drove home her point by saying, “Are you more tender than God?”
When it comes to worship, we might want to do things our way. We might not want to possess an attitude of dependence and peace. We might not want to change the way we dress. We might not want to submit to the word of God when it spells out our roles. But we must keep in mind that God’s directives, for our lives, and for his worship, are there because he loves us and cares for us. He wishes to bring himself glory, and he knows that his ways will fill our lives with sweetness. The only appropriate response is to obey his directives.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.