************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 30B ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 6, 2020
Belgic Confession Article 30(B)
1 Timothy 2:11-14; 3:1-2,8,11-12;
1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35; Galatians 3:28
"The Rule that Paul Gave to Timothy"
Last week we learned about the nature and the exercise of Reformed church government. This evening I want to continue our study of Reformed church government by looking at the rule that Paul gave to Timothy. It is a rule about the men who serve in church office.
I A Trustworthy Saying
A Now remember, last week I mentioned the first principle of Reformed church government. I said our system of church government is founded on the Word of God. We did not invent or make up our method of church government. Rather, it is from the Scriptures; it is from God.
With this in mind, listen to the opening phrase of what Paul writes to Timothy about those in church office. He writes, "Here is a trustworthy saying."
Five times in the pastoral epistles we find the phrase "trustworthy saying" (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8). The Greek language allows us to translate this phrase as a "faithful saying." It is to be found nowhere else in Scripture. This formula or phrase always introduces a statement about salvation or faith that was popular in the early Church. Probably it introduces a formula or statement taken from early creeds and confessions of the Church. So, what Paul says about those in church office is obviously important.
B What does it mean to be a faithful or trustworthy saying? It is a saying one can depend on. You know it is true, reliable, and inerrant. It is Paul's way of saying, "I do solemnly swear that what I say is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God."
In front of us this evening is a trustworthy or a faithful saying. In other words, there can be no doubt, it is Gospel truth, it is absolutely reliable, what Paul says about those in church office.
Of course, in the final analysis this saying is trustworthy and faithful not because Paul can swear it is but only because it comes from our God Who is faithful and trustworthy. Because we can depend on Him we know we can depend on what He says to us in His Word.
C Two times, Paul adds another phrase to "a trustworthy saying." Two times Paul mentions that the trustworthy saying "deserves full acceptance" (1 Tim 1:15; 4:9). In other words, we must believe and accept a trustworthy saying with all our heart. We must never doubt its truth or question its validity. A trustworthy saying is a saying that deserves full acceptance. It is part of what the church confesses. It is part of what the church believes. With this in mind, the opening phrase of Article 30 is "We believe." "We believe that the true church ought to be governed according to this spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in His Word."
II Character Counts
A The trustworthy saying of Paul to Timothy tells us who can serve in church office. What stands out? Throughout his letters, Paul is more concerned about who an elder or deacon is than with what he does. We are not given a list of duties in 1 Timothy 3; rather, we are given a list of qualifications. When we look over Paul's list we see that character counts. When it comes to who is in church office, character counts. The criteria for church office concerns character. And, we are told to look at the behavior that reveals character. Leaders in the church are to be men of character.
B What kind of character do we look for? The rule of Paul to Timothy says leaders in the church are to demonstrate self-discipline through such character traits as temperance, self-control, respectability, moderation, and gentleness. Or, to express this negatively, they cannot be drunkards, violent, and quarrelsome.
Church leaders are to be above reproach -- that is, above accusation (1 Tim 3:2). They are to be ones about whom it is said, "They would never do that." Not that they are perfect. Not that they aren't tempted.
Church leaders are to be faithful in marriage and they are to manage their households well.
Church leaders must have a good reputation with outsiders.
Who or what do we look for in church office? The trustworthy saying of Paul to Timothy says we are to look for men of character. A man is to be ordained only when he is recognized as a man of character.
III Women Cannot Serve in Church Office
A The rule that Paul gave to Timothy, the trustworthy saying of Scripture, has something to say about WICO. My friend Rod said, "WICO?" "Do you mean Winco or wacko or Waco and crazy David Koresh?" "No," I said, "WICO." Those of us who have been in the fight long enough know it stands for "Women In Church Office."
True churches elect office bearers according to the rule of Paul to Timothy. What does Paul say? He says only men can serve in church office. This is something "we believe" is based upon the Bible. Now remember, we are talking about a trustworthy saying that is worthy of full acceptance. I want new members, long-time members, and visitors to realize this about us. We only ordain men into church office. In spite of the culture, we are opposed to women in church office. Paul lays out three kinds of texts that lead us to this conclusion.
B First, Paul lays out those texts -- like our first two passages for this evening -- that talk about the qualifications for church office.
(1Tim 3:2) Now the overseer (that's another word for "elder" or "bishop") must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife ...Overseers and deacons must be "the husband of but one wife." When I mentioned this to a friend, he said, "But Paul didn't say, 'The overseer must be a man.'" Oh yes he did! The Greek word for "husband" is a word that always and clearly refers to men and to men alone; it excludes women. Paul could have used other words here, but he didn't. Don't forget what we say about Scripture: we say every single word is Spirit-inspired; therefore, the word Paul uses is not accidental.
(1 Tim 3:12) A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.
C Paul also lays out a second group of texts -- the ones that talk about male headship. Listen, for instance, to what he writes to the church at Corinth:
(1 Cor 11:3) Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Some try to limit these words to the husband-wife relationship that Paul mentions in Ephesians 5 (vs 22ff). However, the word used for "man" here is the same word Paul uses in Timothy. It means a male; it excludes females. And the word for woman means a female of any age. The man is the head of the woman. This means he has a spiritual direction-setting authority over her. It is the man, not the woman, who is to set the spiritual direction of the home and the church. This rule of male headship means women cannot possibly serve in church office.
D Paul also lays out a third group of texts -- the ones that we know as the "women be silent" texts. Paul says:
(1 Tim 2:12) I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.What is Paul saying here? That women may not be authoritative teachers, ministers, preachers, in the church. No matter how much one works with the Greek and various nuances of translation, this conclusion can not be avoided.
(1 Cor 14:33-35) As in all the congregations of the saints, (34) women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
E "Hold it!" some of you might be saying. "Why, then, do some Reformed churches open church office to women?" This is where the text from Galatians comes in and is misused:
(Gal 3:28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. What does this text tell us? It tells us that before God, men and women both enjoy all the benefits of salvation. Before God, men and women are equally endowed with the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit. Before God, men and women are both called to be caretakers and rulers of the Creation.
Galatians 3:28 is a beautiful text. How wondrous it is that we are one in Christ when it comes to salvation. The churches in favor of WICO are wrong, however, in jumping from salvation to church office. Galatians 3 talks about equality of salvation NOT equality of function. Galatians 3 and its context remain silent about church office.
I was visiting my parents-in-law shortly after our church made the decision to join the URCNA. My mom-in-law handed me a paper. Oh, oh, I thought. It was a paper I had written for sociology class in college. It was written for a professor that us dumb, foolish students kind of idolized. He was modern, he was hip, he was liberal. I wrote a paper he liked. I wrote a paper on how wrong it is that women are not considered for church office. I had all sorts of arguments about fairness, justice, liberty, equality, gifts, and so on. Much to my shame, I didn't have a single argument from the trustworthy sayings of Scripture. It hurt -- boy did it hurt -- to read that paper 34 years later.
Another confession (they say confession is good for the soul). I was at Synod in 1995. I wrote the minority position arguing against women in church office. I used the same texts I used tonight. But, thinking back, I again have something to be ashamed about. I foolishly said that women in church office is not a salvation issue.
Consider the trustworthy saying in front of this evening in the light of the other trustworthy sayings of Scripture. Paul says it is a trustworthy saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). It is a trustworthy saying that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe (1Tim 4:10). It is a trustworthy saying that if we died with him, we will also live with him (2 Tim 2:11). It is a trustworthy saying that those justified by God's grace have the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7). Four trustworthy sayings about salvation and grace and eternal life. And now a trustworthy saying about church office.
Do you realize what Paul is saying? Paul is saying qualification for church office is right up there with salvation and grace and eternal life. I can go still further and say qualification for church office is central to salvation and grace and eternal life.
When it comes down to it, all of Scripture is a trustworthy saying. What we need to ask is this: Do we follow Scripture or do we go the way of the world? If we don't believe and accept what Scripture says here, why believe what it says about salvation and grace and eternal life?
At stake, my brothers and sisters, at stake is Scripture. At stake is what "we believe."
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