When we read the Bible we must remember that the early church had only the Old Testament until the letters and gospels were written near the middle of the first century. The first Christians were a part of Judaism until they were forced out of the synagogues because of their belief that Yashua (Jesus) was the Messiah. Even then the influences of Judaism were hard to separate from the Christian theology. In the book of Acts there is recorded the story of a group of people known as Judaizers who followed Paul around insisting that to be Christian one must also obey the Law of Moses. This was dealt with in Acts 15. The leadership of the church took a stand against the view but it was still there for a long time, and strangely enough it is still with us today in lots of people's lives.
The Council in Jerusalem recognized that there is a difference between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus. This was further elaborated on in Paul's letters to the churches.. How could this come about? How could Paul write such things? There is a pivotal event in the New Testament that separates Judaism from Christianity. That event was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The meaning comes out in the last Supper event in which Jesus took bread and wine and said those great words, "This cup is God's new covenant with my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20) The first covenant was established with Abraham and the blood of animals was used. Their life was taken to establish the covenant. Now, God in the flesh pours our his life's blood to establish a New Covenant. This covenant was prophesied by Jeremiah and others. Jeremiah proclaimed:
"The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and let them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep the covenant. The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. None of them will have to teach his fellow countryman to know the Lord, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I the Lord have spoken." (31:31-34)
This event of the resurrection made it possible to move from the concepts of Law to Grace, from Legalism to freedom, from pessimism to hope, from masculine elitism to equality of all in Christ. One can see the difference in a single question asked by two different people. In the first event, a rich young man asked Jesus, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?" The answer of Jesus was "Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.' (Mt. 19:16-17) What else could Jesus have said at this point? Jesus answered as a good Jew because at this point there was no Gospel, no Good News, only the Law. The Law requires complete obedience, not failures. But "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) The Good News is that, "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners." ... while we were disobedient failures. The other person was the Phillipi jailer who asked: What must I do to be saved?" The answer was altogether different from Jesus' answer.. Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" The difference is based on the new covenant of mercy and grace because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We don't preach to people to keep the Law as a way of salvation. We preach Jesus, the Savior, Crucified, Risen and coming again.
Let's look at some of the implications .
We are Free from the OT Law.
Take another look at these verses: ( Rom.6:14-15) " For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!" ( Rom. 7:4-6 " So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."
( Rom. 8:1-2) " Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. " (Rom 10:4) " Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." (Galatians 2:16,) "...know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."
Keep in mind that the early church was slowly learning the implications of the resurrection of Jesus and the New Covenant. We have the example in Galatians where Paul criticizes Peter for caving in to the Jewish influence. Peter accepted non-Jewish believers and ate with them until a group of Jewish believers came from Jerusalem, and he withdrew from the Gentiles. Paul criticized him. But then Paul himself is struggling with all the implications of the Gospel.
Again, the advice given to Timothy (1 Tim 2:9-15) is that women should learn in silence. They are not to teach or have authority over men; it was the woman who was deceived and broke God's law. Some of the controversy today in the churches relates to the lack of understanding that we are free from the Law. What are we to make of such a comment? Do we model our lives on Adam and Eve or the New Adam? If we are going to allow the OT model to dictate our views about women in the church, we are doing the Judaizing heresy. It is not consistent with the theology of Galatians 3:28 which says, It is through faith that all of you are God's sons, in union with Christ Jesus. You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, Rom. 5:12 declares that sin came into the world through one man, not one woman. In that extremely important passage there is not one reference to Eve, only Adam. If the Timothy passage is to be used to put women to silence, it puts God in the unusual situation of holding a grudge against women, and being unforgiving toward her, but not toward man. Such a conclusion would negate all the important statements of grace reflected in the New Covenant.
The reasons given for the submission position of women in the New Testament are reasons drawn from the Old Testament. In opposition to this, Eph 2:15 says that "He (Christ) abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace." If we connect this sense of union here, with Gal. 3:28 and the sense of union with Christ there, we can conclude with Paul that there is no difference between male and female. Actually, the real scandal was not the position of women but the union of Jews and Gentiles. That is a revolution.
If we are going to have equality in union with Christ, we have to re-think some of the implications of this. There is to be mutual submission, mutual love, mutual service to one another. If we think in terms of economics, a woman deserves equal pay for the same type of work.
The first Adam brought sin in the life of mankind, the Second Adam gives mankind a new beginning. This new beginning starts fresh for both man and woman, and if Paul is right, then there is equality in Christ.
The doctrinal passages giving the meaning of the Christian faith must be primary over the pastoral situations that developed in the churches. If we look at the epistles of Paul to the churches, he recognizes many women who are prominent as helpers, deaconesses, and teachers. In Acts 18:26 in the case of Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila taught him more about Christ than he understood to that point. To the Philippians he wrote, "help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."(Phil. 2:3)
The theology of equality of women was slow to be put into practice, just as slavery was slow in being rejected. Philemon was to accept Onesimus back as a brother, not as a slave. Yet some Christians defended slavery in the US clear up to the Emancipation Proclamation and beyond. But both the theology of equality of women and freedom from slavery have been in the Christian faith from the beginning.
If there is a new beginning for all people in Christ, there cannot be a return to the Jewish Law regarding women. Women have the right as men do in fulfilling their calling in life. Should this be the ministry, God forbid that any legalistic statement be used against them. If you return to Judaizing, then as Paul says, Christ died for nothing.
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