Saturday, April 11, 2015

Gospel centered view of gender, marriage and the church

1 Timothy 2:3-4 "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and tocome to the knowledge of the truth."

When we consider the significance of the Gospel, we not only understand it's importance in regards to how sinners are brought to Christ in saving faith, but also how it informs our understanding of everything in life. To put it another way, some of the most basic truths behind what it means to be human, the meaning of marriage and the purpose of the church would not make sense apart from the Gospel. Today's post aims to demonstrate a Gospel-centered view of gender, marriage and the church from 1 Timothy 2:1-4:10.

What is the Gospel?
When we consider the Gospel or the "Good News", 1 Timothy 2:1-4:10 contains key verses that enable us to define the Excellent Savior, The Event of Salvation and Experience of salvation proclaimed in the Gospel. First, the Excellent Savior, 1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." The good news about "The Good News" is that we are brought into contact with this Excellent Savior, Jesus Christ, Who is man for us before God and God to us who are undeserving men and women. 1 Timothy 3:16b gives further detail - "He who was revealed in the flesh,Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory." This Excellent Savior, God in human flesh, came down to earth to become a sinless human being for men, to minister among men, to die for men and to raise from the dead to be believed upon by men. Then, this same Jesus ascended up into heaven to demonstrate He being worthy to be worshipped by men. 

The Gospel tells of an Excellent Savior Who achieved the event of salvation, as recorded in 1 Timothy 2:6 "who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time." This event entailed a transaction, a payment for sin by the Son to the Father. This event occurred on the cross wherein the Son became the curse of sin (Galatians 3:13) and became the very embodiment of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) while of course remaining the sinless Savior. All that we are and did became credited to Jesus so that all He did and is would be credited (or imputed) to us at saving faith. 

The Excellent Savior achieved the event of salvation, so that their could be a definite experience of salvation to all who are drawn by the Spirit to freely believe on Him. 1 Timothy 4:10 states - "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men in a historical and general sense, in that He died to delay the wrath of God and to give men the opportunity to hear the Gospel, repent and believe, as well as to show forth His goodness to them in common grace. (see Matthew 5:45; 2 Peter 3:9) In a second eternal and specific sense, Jesus Christ died specifically for believers, His church, who individually drawn by the Father and called by the Spirit make up the church. (see John 6:44; 16:8-12 and Acts 20:28) Hence the Gospel promises a genuine, definite experience of salvation at the moment of saving faith. This is the Gospel.

A Gospel-centered view of gender
As we noted earlier, issues such as gender cannot be grasped apart from the Gospel, nor for that matter, would the Gospel be understood apart from gender! The Bible is very clear when it comes to God's central focus on gender in Genesis 1:27 "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." God purposefully made man and woman because He intended for them to express distinctive equality within the bounds of their marriage relationship. God Himself expresses distinction and equality within Himself. The Bible reveals God to be One God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:37-39) that exists as three co-equal yet distinct Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14) 

Biblical manhood is defined as men being spiritual leaders in their homes, churches and communities without hesitation. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8) Biblical womanhood portrays women as co-equal sharers in the Person and work of Jesus Christ while distinctively finding covering under the loving leadership of their husbands. (1 Corinthians 11:1-3) For women who may not be married, the concept of Jesus Christ being their covering, as well as their inherent value as human beings before God is underscored time and again. (Galatians 3:28) 

When Jesus came to this world, among the benefits He achieved on the cross, restoration of manhood and womanhood in the context of saving faith was among such achievements. (Colossians 3:12-21; 1 Timothy 2:9-15). Galatians 4:4 reminds us that in the very act of the incarnation, the Son chose to use the womb of the virgin to enter from eternity into time. Womanhood's purposes and dignity are restored in Christ. Luke 8 portrays various women serving Jesus and participating in the work He was doing. Undoubtedly the distinction of men and women are preserved insomuch as Jesus called the twelve disciples to be Apostles. Nonetheless, the equal value that women had in Jesus' sight is proven in the fact that they were the first eyewitnesses and proclaimers of His resurrection from the dead. (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). 

Jesus also came to restore true manhood by becoming a true man, as recorded in passages such as Philippians 2:7. The place of gender functions so centrally in all that Jesus came to accomplish. The distinctive equality of men and women that was lost in the fall and warped by sin is restored in a redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ by grace through faith. 

Whenever an attempt is made to erase the distinctions of gender, the Biblical Gospel is abandoned in favor of a man-made idea. The vision of the true and living God is blurred in favor of a deity that is neither real nor saving. Having then looked at the Gospel and a Gospel centered view of gender, we thirdly turn to....

A Gospel-centered view of marriage
What is marriage in the Biblical sense? How specifically defined is marriage? Genesis 1:26 and 2:24-25 specifically define marriage as one man, one woman and covenant with God for life. The Baptist faith and Message 2000 aptly notes about marriage: "God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race."

The Baptist Faith and Message (BFM 2000) goes on: "The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation."

This summary of the Biblical material demonstrates that marriage proclaims the truth of the Gospel (Jesus and His church). Whenever we see Jesus reiterating this specific, sacred and standard definition of marriage in Matthew 19:3-5 and Paul clearly connecting marriage to what Jesus achieved on the cross for the sake of His bride, the church, the connection between marriage and the Gospel cannot be avoided. To advocate any other sort of arrangement: co-habitation, pornography, adultery, pre-marital sex or same-sex marriage is lose sight of what marriage was designed to be. None of these other arrangements convey anything about the Gospel and demonstrate themselves to be portrayals of men and women having relationships apart from God's sanction and will. 

A Gospel-centered view of the church
The last point on marriage leads naturally into considering a Gospel-centered view of the church. In 1 Timothy 3:1-13 we see two ordained offices being mention: namely the Pastor (3:1-7) and the Deacon (3:8-13). The qualifications for each of these is over-whelmingly predicated upon sound marriage and family life. Why emphasize marriage and family in the qualifications for leadership and servanthood in the local church? Marriage is an enormous deal to God and it functions intimately with the Gospel. The church is the church of the living God, the "pillar and foundation of truth". (1 Timothy 3:15-16)

As one comes in 1 Timothy 4, warning is given about the error that will be circulating in the times leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Pastors have the responsibility to proclaim the truths just mentioned. (1 Timothy 4:6) If a pastor fails to proclaim the Gospel, a gospel-centered view of gender, marriage, the church and really the whole counsel of God, he is forgetting the fact he will stand before the Lord to give an account. (Hebrews 13:17)

In like manner, the congregation is charged in upholding and living out Gospel-centered manhood and womanhood, marriages and church life. (see Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:15-21; 1 Timothy 4:10). If churches and pastors give ground in any of the above areas, they have weakened their ability to be faithful stewards of the Gospel and end-up aiming to please men more than God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ must ever be at the center of any discussion we have about gender, marriage or the church. Why? Because the Gospel reminds us that apart from Jesus Christ, we would be lost in our sins and without hope. Such truths will ensure that we approach all people with truth in love and love in truth, since Gospel-centered living is what God is calling all Christ-followers to articulate and model in this 21st century world.