Looking to Jesus, Chapter 5

By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR

In the summer of 2012 I grew tired of only hearing about my children’s adventures and decided to join our youngest daughter, Erin, and Venture Crew 241, for a four-day hike on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. I was training for my second half-marathon at the time and reasonably fit, after all; how hard could it be? After months of planning, preparation, and practice hikes, we arrived at the trailhead, made a final check of our gear, strapped on our packs (mine weighed approximately a thousand pounds), and walked into the beautiful woods and mountains of the Maine wilderness.

The trail was scenic and shaded. I quickly learned to watch for roots and rocks to avoid tripping, and to keep an eye out for the white blazes painted on trees every so often to help us keep to the trail. The three teenagers, Jocelyn, Charles, and Erin, hiked ahead of the three adults: Kim, myself, and Tim, who brought up the rear. As we climbed in elevation the trail grew steeper, the trees grew thinner, and suddenly the teens and the trail disappeared and all we could see ahead of us was a giant rock, which was literally on the edge of the mountain. Before I had time to process what this meant, Erin’s face appeared at the top of the rock and she called down to us, “Don’t worry, there are some good finger-holds here!”

Kim whipped around to me and exclaimed, “What did she say?!”

As we carefully ooched around the base of the rock, I saw that we were at the edge of the mountain, near the peak, at a point where the trees no longer concealed the sky—indeed, the open air—which was all that lay between us and the valley below. The way forward required climbing by toe-holds and finger-holds up and over the face of this rock while wearing a pack which by now weighed approximately two thousand pounds. Going back was not an option. Kim scrambled up ahead of me to join the kids waiting at the top. Tim assured me that he would not let me fall, as he had promised my husband that he’d bring me home alive.

Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights?

Erin called down encouragement and guided me from one hold to the next as I plastered myself to that rock, grasping with the utmost care each finger-hold and pulling myself upward. Once I came over the top edge of the rock I still couldn’t stand up, as my three-thousand-pound pack was pushing against my head, so I crawled until I felt safe before attempting to stand. After I was back on my feet and Tim had joined us, we found a spot to sit and drink some water while we recovered from the first big exertion of our hike.

From where we sat, the view across the valley was breathtaking. Mountains marched away to the horizon with valleys, rivers, and lakes in between. The clouds and sky, which had been hidden from view while we were under the trees below, were glorious to see. There were still several days of hiking, climbing, and descending ahead of us. Each peak would yield another marvelous view of the landscape. Each view would be earned only by hard effort and teamwork, and would be well worth every bit of it.

Keep to the trail

This week in our book study we read through chapter 5 of Women’s Ministry in the Local Church,[1] which deals with submission. Susan Hunt walks us through this chapter as we looked at submission in male/ female relationships, ecclesiastically, and submission to the text of scripture. In this post, I want to consider our submission to Holy Scripture, particularly when we get to those points in the Bible where the trail disappears and there is suddenly a rock in our path which must be dealt with if we are to move forward.

The rock in our path was the text of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which reads:

…likewise also that 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—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

I realize that it is difficult to read this passage in the year 2017 without having one’s head explode, but this is precisely why we must proceed carefully. Others have gone before us and blazed the trees so that we don’t wander off into the woods. In our chapter, Susan explains the cultural context behind Paul’s concern for how women were dressing (not far off from today’s concerns with flashy, attention-grabbing, and status-flaunting styles), as well as the fact that women being allowed to learn at all was not demeaning but empowering. As with every believer, the inward work of the Holy Spirit ought to shine outwardly from the heart, adorning the gospel of grace with humility, setting us apart from the world by the way that we dress and behave. This, and the discussion of ecclesiastical submission, were roots and rocks which we easily navigated without tripping.

The final idea in the passage from Timothy, however, required more careful climbing. When Paul writes, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing,” we are faced with mere finger-holds. It seems to read—in isolation from the rest of scripture—as if bearing children is a means of salvation for women. Hold tight.

Finger-holds

Susan gave us a lengthy quote from a theologian who details one of two views of what this scripture text means. Some see this as referring to the fact that the Messiah was born of a woman so we can be saved spiritually, and this is the view given the most ink in the chapter. The other view is something about childbirth in general, which we do not see expounded. While not discounting either of these, we spent time in class exploring the text from Timothy and the passage in Genesis to which it refers.

First, we note that Paul is referencing Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden, when Eve was deceived by Satan and ate the forbidden fruit, giving some to Adam, who also ate. Thus, they both committed a crime against their Creator which they realized was punishable by death. When the Lord arrives on the scene, they have hidden from him, having attempted to cover with fig leaves the nakedness of which they are newly, and shamefully aware. Instead of smiting them all with instantaneous death, however, the Lord calls out the guilty parties and pronounces curses upon them.

The Lord curses the serpent to go on its belly, as the lowest of the low, eating dust all its days, and then, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, / and between your offspring and her offspring; / he shall bruise your head, / and you shall bruise his heel.”[2]

Then he turns to the woman and declares, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; / in pain you shall bring forth children. / Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, / but he shall rule over you.”[3]

Whoa! Rather than the expected death, the Lord is telling them that they will in fact live, they will be parents, and their offspring will one day be victorious over their enemy! Yes, the curse of the serpent is the protoevangelium, the first promise in Holy Scripture of the coming Messiah. But the next passage was also, on a human level for Adam and Eve, astonishing news! They would not die, but live! Life will be hard, but they will live! Adam is so moved by this that when the Lord has finished pronouncing the curse (with the ‘hidden’ blessing) he turns to his wife and, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”[4]

Now, let’s remember our purpose here. We are not crafting a new doctrine out of these two passages of scripture or seeking a new interpretation which makes us ‘feel better’ about what we are reading; we are attempting to understand what Paul is and is not saying in the Timothy passage. Paul is discussing the role of women in the church, as they differ from the roles of men in the church, and why the Lord has ordained male headship and female submission. Our status is equal, our functions differ, and God has his reasons.

In the home and in the church, women are to submit to the male leadership which the Lord has established. This submission is right and good, and the point of our chapter is that a women’s ministry is uniquely equipped to help address these issues among the members of a local church.

Paul is not giving women an alternate method of justification before a Holy God. When it comes to salvation in Christ, men and women are equal before God. As Paul has elsewhere made clear, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[5] The testimony throughout Scripture declares that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone.

Sisters, let’s not get hung up on a single passage which seems to say something contrary to the rest of the Bible. Be willing to climb finger-hold by finger-hold over rocky passages of scripture, seeking guidance from those ahead on the trail. Then join me at the summit and breathe deeply the clear air, looking to Jesus, as we drink in the breathtaking view across the vast mountain range of Holy Scripture which testifies to Salvation in Christ alone:

“Surely he has borne our griefs / and carried our sorrows; / yet we esteemed him stricken, / smitten by God, and / afflicted. / But he was pierced for our transgressions; / he was crushed for our iniquities; / upon him was the /chastisement that brought us peace, / and with his wounds we are healed.”[6]

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith (not childbearing), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith (not childbearing) into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” [7]

“…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law (or childbearing) but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law (or childbearing), because by works of the law (or childbearing) no one will be justified.”[8]

“For by grace you have been saved through faith (not childbearing). And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works (or childbearing), so that no one may boast.”[9]

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”[10]

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Actual view from that hard-earned summit of North Crocker Mountain, Maine, 4168 ft. elevation.

 

 

[1]   J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006)

[2] Genesis 3:15

[3] Genesis 3:16

[4] Genesis 3:20

[5] Galatians 3:28

[6] Isaiah 53:4, 5

[7] Romans 5:1, 2 (parenthetical emphasis mine)

[8] Galatians 2:16 (parenthetical emphasis mine)

[9] Ephesians 2:8, 9 (parenthetical emphasis mine)

[10] 1 Peter 1:3