The Conflicting and Confounding Characterization of a King

By Adam Brown –

Who is David?

In 1 Samuel 16, we are introduced to David for the first time in the Bible. In this chapter, David says nothing at all.

He is beckoned twice. First, Samuel calls him from the sheep field to be anointed the future king of Israel. Then, Saul calls him from this same sheep field to become the king’s music therapist. In both instances, David comes saying nary a word. And yet, in both summonses, David’s character is described.

In 1 Samuel 16:12, the narrator records,

“Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome.”

In 1 Samuel 16:18, one of the king’s servants is recorded as testifying,

“Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.”

Whereas verse 12 is focussed exclusively on external physical descriptions of David, verse 18 captures inner character qualities of David. It might seem, therefore, that we have been given an inside and outside summary of who David is.

And yet, we must inquire of the source of this information. The description in verse 12 is coming from the narrator and should, therefore, be considered trustworthy. The description in verse 18, however, is coming from an anonymous servant in King Saul’s court. We have no idea who this servant is, how he might know David; whether he is reliable, or if he is a scoundrel. Therefore, we cannot be certain that the description of David in verse 18 is trustworthy.

We immediately discover that David does, indeed, possess the musical talent that the servant vouched for. David becomes an able music therapist in the court of the king. We also know from his aforementioned anointing that the LORD is with David. Finally, from verse 12 we can affirm that – what with his ruddy appearance, his beautiful eyes, and his handsome exterior – David is indeed a man of good presence. As for the rest, time will have to tell. Is David these things or not?

Having read all of David’s biography in 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings, I can report that all of these qualities do emerge, at least vestiges of them do appear. Does that mean that Saul’s servant is trustworthy? Perhaps.

However, one cannot help but wonder why the writer chose to characterize David in this introductory chapter through the mouth of a shady secondary character? Let me offer two reasons.

Saul’s Servant Foreshadows the Masses (Both then and Now)

Just as the servant identifies these character qualities in David, so also the masses will identify these same qualities. People are drawn to David as he carefully cultivates a public persona to match the early testimony of this servant.

Likewise, many Bible readers today are drawn to David because they too see these qualities in David. The danger now, as in David’s own day, is the flatness of this characterization. David may be these things, but he is not only these things. His character arch is far more complex, which is why, I believe, the trustworthy narrator remained silent in verse 18.

The Testimony of Saul’s Servant is Put in Tension with the Testimony of David’s Brother

In the next chapter, David’s own brother, Eliab, will offer a second chance at indirect characterization of David. In 1 Samuel 17:28, Eliab rebukes his brother, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” David, the quintessential younger brother retorts, perhaps with a fraternal whine, “What have I done now?”

Whereas we are quick to embrace the testimony of Saul’s unnamed servant, we are equally apt at quickly dismissing the testimony of David’s named brother. It is true, Eliab might have motive for resentment, having been passed over at Samuel’s anointing for his youngest brother. However, we don’t know if Eliab wanted to be king. He might just as easily have been relieved that the burden fell to David instead of him. We simply don’t know.

Whatever the case, of the two witnesses, Eliab is a much stronger witness than the unknown servant. We know his name and we know his relationship to David. Therefore, we cannot easily dismiss his insight, that David is motivated by an evil heart.

Both characterizations are indirect, through the voice of other characters. Neither can be called a direct characterization, which comes from the voice of the narrator. This means that their conflicting testimonies must be taken and weighed with equal scrutiny.

Final Thought

When reading Old Testament narrative, we must be careful in our evaluations. God has recorded this history through the conventions of ancient Hebrew storytelling. For today’s lesson, keep this in mind: Be quick to trust the narrator and God, but slow to trust any of the other characters.

Who is David? If we take the testimony of Saul’s servant and of David’s brother into consideration, it seems David is sure to be complex, conflicted, and difficult to pin down.

Did God Choose David Because He Had a Good Heart?

By Adam Brown –

Why did God choose David?

Did God choose David to be king because he had a good heart?

In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel was sent by God to anoint a son of Jesse to be King Saul’s successor. Jesse’s eldest, Eliab, was an impressive physical specimen, just as Saul had been, causing Samuel to remark to himself, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before me!”

But Samuel was mistaken and God rebuked him: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What are we to make of this statement from God?

It is easy to trip over this verse by concluding that God chose David because, looking on his heart, He saw some goodness. In other words, we can easily conclude that God chose David to be king because he had a good heart.

Man may choose kings by looking for GOODNESS of outward appearance but the LORD chooses kings by looking for GOODNESS of heart.

Here are five problems with this conclusion:

One

The goodness of David’s heart is not affirmed in 1 Samuel 16. In fact, the only description of David comes in verse 12: “Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome.” It seems, David had a good outward appearance. But, notice, nothing is said about his heart.

Two

The narration of 1 Samuel 17:28 suggests that David might be motivated by a presumptuous and evil heart. Put in the mouth of Eliab, David’s eldest brother, this fraternal rebuke is the sequel to the divine rebuke against Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, which had been occasioned by Samuel’s faulty impression of Eliab. Perhaps Eliab is simply a jealous older brother who was still sulking for having been passed over. Or, perhaps, the narrator is using Eliab in both chapters to reveal twin truths. First, God does not look on the outward appearance. Second, though chosen by God, David is as flawed on the inside as the rest of us.

Three

David’s biography in 1 and 2 Samuel does not paint the portrait of a man with a good heart. By his own admission, David is in desperate need of inner-transformation: “Create in me a clean heart O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Four

The Son of David, Jesus the Messiah, denies us the ability to conclude that David was chosen because he was in possession of a good heart: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked the rich young ruler, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

Five

If David had a good heart, meriting his selection by God to replace Saul, then we have a serious theological problem. We would be saying that some, like David, are chosen by the merits of their good hearts, while the rest of us are chosen by God’s grace in spite of our wicked hearts. Of course, this works-based option must be ruled out, even for David: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

How, then, are we to make sense of 1 Samuel 16:7?

Let me suggest that we solve the riddle of this verse in the same way that we solve the riddles of 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Kings 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 15:3, 11; 2 Kings 14:3; 16:2; Acts 13:22. In all of these verses, David is held up as a perfect example of heart-obedience and covenant keeping righteousness. And yet, even the sloppy reader must acknowledge that David’s life, as painted in 1 and 2 Samuel, falls far short of these affirmations.

What, then, is going on here?

David himself gives us the answer, as quoted by Paul in the book of Romans: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:7–8).

In 1 Samuel 16:7, and all the other verses that portray David as having been perfectly righteous, God is not looking on David’s heart directly, but through the mediation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. David was justified. When God looked at David, then, He didn’t see David as he was. Rather, God saw in David the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Let’s return to our original line of query. Why, then, did God choose David? Did God choose David to be king because he had a good heart?

God chose David because God chose David (Romans 9:14–18). We are never told why. But, this much is clear: It is in the choosing, and in the choosing alone, that David’s heart was declared to be good, and this by the imputation of Jesus Christ, David’s own Son.

So it is with all of us who are in Christ. Wicked hearts are declared to be good by the righteousness of David’s own Son, given for us and imputed to us. Praise be to God!

 

 

Open Letter to My 6-year Old Daughter

By Adam Brown –

Dear Selah,

I can hardly believe that in just a little more than a month, you will be turning seven years old. It seems just like yesterday that Mom and I were bringing your 4-pound-little-self home from the hospital. Adopting you into our family, and being your Dad, is truly one of the great joys of my life.

Over the course of your first seven years, I have introduced you to the world of Disney Movie Classics. From Snow White to Moana, we have watched a virtual pantheon of animated daughters navigating their relationship with their fathers.

I still remember (before we had to shelve it due to the evils of a sea witch and her demon-eels), the joy I felt at your befuddled confusion that Ariel would choose Prince Eric over King Triton. Why, you wondered, would she leave her dad? And, for him! Exactly.

Herein lies the heart of the matter.

Among many other theological problems, these movies seem to have increasingly embraced the role of a strong and rebellious heroine who resists the loving care and authority of her father. Most troubling of all, she often eventually succeeds, leaving her father with no option but to recant.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the worst offenders.

The Little Mermaid

Triton is very clear that Ariel is Not to Go to The Surface. So, what does she do? She goes to the surface, trades her voice for a pair of legs, and tries to get the prince to kiss her within three days. It’s a father’s worst nightmare! Ariel actually fails in her quest, which ignites a chain reaction that concludes with the transformation of the King into a polyp with a lifetime membership in the garden of lost souls.

I would do for you exactly what Triton did for his daughter. But, how about we avoid all that by just not going to the surface in the first place?

Aladdin

Although daughterly defiance is not a major theme in this movie, Jasmine’s father is portrayed as a bumbling fool with no actual ability to shepherd his daughter’s heart. Neither is he equipped in any capacity to protect her from the wiles of Jafar, the Sultan’s own approved and appointed Royal Vizier.

This is not an image of fatherhood I want for you; neither of me, your earthly father, or of God, your heavenly Father. God is a perfect shelter for you and I, though flawed in many ways, will always seek to protect you from the ills and evils of this world.

Pocahontas

What’s so wrong with Kokoum? Pocahontas admitted he would be “a handsome sturdy husband who builds handsome sturdy walls.” What’s more, her dad, the Chief, who knows and loves his daughter, selected him for her. No matter. Pocahontas doesn’t want handsome and sturdy. She wants to see “what’s around the river bend, just around the river bend.” John Smith is just around the river bend, that’s what. And, Selah, do you remember what happened in Pocahontas 2? John chose adventure on the high seas over a life with Pocahontas. The Chief, it seems, was right after all.

Since I desire what is best for you in every way, I want to play a key role in helping you to find your future husband. Aside from choosing Christ, choosing a husband is the biggest decision you will ever make because it comes with lifelong consequences. I will not abandon you in this decision.

Mulan

Conscripted by the Emperor to protect China from the Huns, Fa Zhou may have been aging and in poor health, but it is a father’s joy to lay down his life for his family if need be. Especially in Chinese culture, but equally so in Canada, it is not right for a daughter to rob her father of his honour in this sacred duty.

You are not to risk yourself for me. I lay down my life for you.

Zootopia

Maybe bunnies shouldn’t be cops. That’s not a crazy conclusion, is it? And yet, Judy never even stopped for a second to seek or to listen to any of Stu Hopps’ counsel. She just bounced into Police Academy as if her father’s opinion didn’t matter.

Selah, my opinion does matter. God has entrusted me to keep watch over your soul until the day you are married, at which time your husband becomes accountable before God. Please seek and listen to my counsel.

Moana

Similar to King Triton, Chief Tui is very clear: No One Goes Beyond the Reef! So, what does Moana do? She goes beyond the reef. Twice. Even though she successfully returns the heart to Te Fiti, her defiance could have ended very badly. The Chief had his reasons for trying to protect his daughter and his tribe.

I know that my rules will not always make sense to you. There will be times when you feel prevented from doing something daring. Please know in these moments that my rules are never meant to hold you back. They are always in place to keep you safe and to help you to flourish.

A Disney Princess to Emulate

I know that I am the one who introduced you to these movies. Just know that, in spite of all the fun we’ve had watching them together, the characters and worldviews of these movies are not always worth imitating or embracing.

There is, however, one Disney Princess, that I encourage you to emulate. Her name is Belle. She loves to read and she loves her father. Indeed, her loyalty to her dad is a wonder to behold. And, though I never want you to trade places with me if I am ever captured by a Beast, real or metaphorical (remember what I said about Mulan), you are permitted to admire the strength of her character and the beauty of her devotion.

The thing about Belle is this. Although she, like you, was beautiful on the outside, her true beauty was on the inside (1 Timothy 2:9–10). That’s what I want for you.

I love you, my little girl. Don’t grow up too fast.

Love, Daddy

Vintage Billy Graham: How To Live the Christian Life

By Adam Brown –

I have recently been reading a biography on Billy Graham called A Prophet with Honor (Updated Edition), by William C. Martin. I am currently walking with Graham through the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson, just shortly after the assassination of J.F.K.

A few chapters and a couple of weeks ago, however, I was entranced by Graham’s New York Crusade in Madison Square Gardens that lasted from May until August, 1957. Every night for the duration of these four months, Billy Graham preached the Gospel and called on people to make a decision for Christ. It struck me that, at 39 years of age, I am a little older than the 38-year old Graham had been during this miraculous ministry.

Curious to get beyond the statistics and the print on the page, I dug up this sermon from that crusade. I commend it to you and suggest that it is worth your time to watch it.

I pray that in Canada today, we might see a movement of the Holy Spirit that will awaken both the sleepy church and the unsaved people in our land, with excitement and zeal for the Gospel once again.

I suggest that many of us, who go by the Name of Christ, ought to be the first to receive the blessing, by repentance, of this 61 year old sermon.

Jon Bloom: “10 Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible”

By Adam Brown –

One of the most frustrating realities for me in my own life, and in my role as a pastor over like-plagued men and women, is the shrinking attention-span of our society. We are inundated with micro-information as screen after screen buries us in a virtual avalanche of data. Although we are processing more information than any previous generation, we are losing our ability to ponder, to think, and to deeply engage significant content.

For this reason, I was captivated by an article that recently landed in my inbox from desiringGod. In this article, Jon Bloom gives “10 reasons to memorize big chunks of the Bible.” His primary goal was not to combat the above identified problem of shrinking attention-spans. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this ancient spiritual discipline of large-scale memorization might be exactly the balm that our shrinking attention-spans need.

I am convinced that the devil gleefully celebrates our shrinking capacity to read, ponder, and memorize Scripture. It plays favourably into his hand that we balk at sustained theological reflection. It is a Big Win for him when we are challenged to make it to the end of a 50 minute sermon.

I am equally convinced that local churches that are filled with people memorizing entire sections or books of the Bible will begin to enjoy a supernatural immunity from this cultural mind-plague. Our attention spans will begin to grow again, and we just might find that we want MORE food for thought, instead of less.

Let’s get busy memorizing big chunks of the Bible. Our spiritual health depends on it.

Check out Bloom’s article here.

Author Interview: Susan Hunt

Susan Hunt

By Angie Brown – Susan Hunt is the former director of women’s ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America and holds a degree in Christian Education from Columbia Theological Seminary. She is the author of numerous books including Titus 2 ToolsThe True Woman, and By Design, and the co-author of The Legacy of Biblical WomanhoodLeadership for Women in the Church, and Women’s Ministry in the Local Church. Hunt is a mother, grandmother, and pastor’s wife who has been involved with women’s discipleship for decades.

Spiritual Mothering

Angie: Who is the primary audience of your book, Spiritual Mothering, and what are you hoping they will take away?

Susan: The primary audience is the male leadership and the women in the local church. The Titus 2 mandate for older women to disciple younger women is given to Titus, the pastor of the church. Women discipling women is one way the church obeys the Great Commission, so my prayer is that pastors and elders will see this book as a resource to help them encourage and equip women for this mission.

My prayer is that any woman, regardless of age or life-situation, will be inspired by the gospel to seek out women she can nurture in the faith, and women who will help her grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

Angie: How have you benefited personally from applying the principles of the Titus 2 mandate?

Susan: I was in my forties when I was captivated by the possibilities of the Titus mandate. Shortly after I began wondering what it would look like if this concept were practiced in a church, my husband went on staff at a church with many godly older women. Their love for the younger women and their eagerness to encourage us continues to have a profound impact on my life thirty years later. I learned from their words and from their steady faith and faithfulness. This motivated me to begin investing in younger women. The gospel relationships are a sweet blessing, but even beyond that is the joy of knowing my Savior better.

Angie: What is the role of pastors / elders in implementing the principles presented in Spiritual Mothering?

Susan: The gospel imperative for women to disciple women does not stand alone. It is one part of Paul’s Pastoral Letters—1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—written to teach how to have strong, healthy churches. The ministry of women to women is one aspect of covenant community life. It is the responsibility of pastors/elders and is to take place under their oversight and in the context of sound doctrine.

Angie: What is the role of older women in implementing the principles presented in Spiritual Mothering?

Susan: Older women are called to teach what is good and to train young women. Teaching what is good means sharing the gospel. Training means to show, or to demonstrate. Older women are to share the gospel and their lives with young women—to show and tell them the truth and the power of the gospel.

Angie: What is the role of younger women in implementing the principles presented in Spiritual Mothering?

Susan: Younger women should acknowledge their need for older women and should approach the relationship with teachable hearts that are eager to learn how to apply gospel truth to every aspect of their lives.

Angie: Thank you for being a spiritual mother to so many and for taking the time to offer your wisdom!

Was Eve the First Deacon?

By Adam Brown –

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” (1 Timothy 2:12-15).

All complementarian churches agree that male headship in the church and in the home is biblical and important. There remains much disagreement, however, when it comes to deciding whether or not women can serve as deacons. In some complementarian churches, women do serve as deacons. In others, women do not. Which option is right? That depends, I suppose, on how we define the position of deacon.

There is surprisingly little written about the office of deacon in the Bible. Although the word, “deacon,” occurs 29 times in 27 verses of the Greek New Testament,[1] only 7 of these have any possible reference to the office of deacon in the governance of the local church.[2]

The relative scarcity of information about deacons is often supplemented by Acts 6:1-7, even though the word, “deacon,” is never employed in this chapter. This makes good sense because the Twelve (apostles) were clearly the overseers of the fledgling church and the Seven were selected to relieve them of certain responsibilities. Thus, it seems accurate to say that Stephen-and-company represent the church’s first deaconate.

While I am not opposed to the association of the Seven with the deaconate, I am persuaded that it is Eve, not Stephen, who is the worthier candidate for the title, Paradigmatic Deacon.

Reference to Eve, in 1 Timothy 2:13-15, is separated from 1 Timothy 3:8-13, the quintessential passage on deacons, by a mere 7 verses. Compare this to the 98 chapters that stand between Stephen in Acts 6 and the qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3.

Indeed, Eve is part of Paul’s operating theological grid at precisely the moment he offers the clearest outline of church structure in all the Bible. By contrast, there is no evidence that Stephen ever crossed Paul’s mind when it came time to write about elders and deacons.

I wonder if many complementarians fail to identify Eve as Paul’s prototypical deacon simply because she was a woman. By contrast, Stephen fits our traditional bill effortlessly, simply because we can employ masculine pronouns in place of his name.

However, the case should be made that Eve, not Stephen, is Scripture’s definitive deacon.

To begin, it is helpful to note that Paul’s discussion about deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 is located within a broader passage about church structure that stretches from 1 Timothy 2:11-3:16.

 

Macro-Structure of 1 Timothy 2.11-3.16

 

On both ends of this passage, Paul employs “household” imagery. In 1 Timothy 2:13-15, Paul justifies the role of men and women in the church by appealing to Adam and Eve, humanity’s original household. In these verses, Paul argues that the church ought to be structured along the same theological lines that established the first family unit. Likewise, at the end of this passage, Paul explains that he is writing these things so that Timothy might know how one ought to behave in the church, “the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Between these flanking references to the household, Paul outlines a simple two-part structure for the church (1 Timothy 3:1-13). This structure assigns leadership and teaching to overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and acts of service to deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13).

Since 1 Timothy 3:1-13 is bookended by appeals to the household, it follows logically that Paul is establishing a governing structure for the church that runs parallel to the family household unit. With the pre-Fall household of Adam and Eve serving as Paul’s reference point, it follows naturally that overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-7) will reflect the mandate given to Adam and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13) will align with the mandate given to Eve.

This is, in fact, exactly what we see. Whereas overseers are to teach and exercise authority, there is nothing in the qualifications for deacons that would compel an active deacon, male or female, to violate the prohibitions given to women in 1 Timothy 2:12.

When we have eyes to see it, a job description that emanates from a careful study of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 is exactly the kind of job description that we might give to a “helpmate” (Genesis 2:18). Deacons are to be believers, not teachers (1 Timothy 3:9); helpers, not leaders (1 Timothy 3:10); managers, not governors (1 Timothy 3:12).

All things considered, we should not be shocked that women are eligible to serve as deacons but that men are. It is not a concession – or a transgression – to appoint women as deacons, for, according to Genesis 2:18, women were created to be deacons (helpmates). Perhaps, any complementarian objections with regard to women deacons, stem from a failure to implement 1 Timothy 3:8-13 at all, or to conflate these verses with 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

With a wide-angle lens, many of our inhibitions about appointing women to serve as deacons begin to fade. A strong case can be made that Adam was the first overseer and that Eve was the first deacon. Though their household succumbed to sin, Christ is building the household of God on the very same pattern He established at Creation. Are we?

I am writing you these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

[1] Matt 20:26, 22:13, 23:11; Mark 9:35, 10:43; John 2:5, 2:9, 12:26; Rom 13:4 (twice), 15:8, 16:1; 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6, 6:4, 11:15 (twice), 11:23; ; Gal 2:17; Eph 3:7, 6:21; Phil 1:1; Col 1:7, 1:23, 1:25, 4:7; 1 Tim 3:8, 3:12, 4:6

[2] Rom 16:1; Eph 6:21; Phil 1:1; Col 1:7, 4:7; 1 Tim 3:8, 3:12

On Being a Wife: 4 Things I Have Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

By Angie Brown –
The article was originally posted on the TGC Canada website here.

If there was a romantic comedy about my life leading up to marriage it would be called “Christmas by Candlelight.” It would begin when I see a handsome stranger, and we lock eyes across the room of an Old Testament seminary class. It feels like love at first sight, and a friendship develops. But confusion ensues over six months until he finally makes his intentions known.This is followed by him cooking me an incredible meal as we clear up all of the miscommunication and laugh into the evening! We then fall in love surrounded by Christmas lights, and he later proposes in the budding spring gardens of a castle courtyard. The montage of our exquisite December wedding is set to the music of the live Motown band from our candlelit reception.

The final scenes of our wedding day set up the sequel of our “picture perfect” future: we would launch both of our successful careers, buy our forever family home, fill it with beautiful, compliant children, and make memories travelling the world together.

Just as it is rare to find a sequel as good as the original, the scenes after our wedding day have yet to play out in the “picture perfect” way I had imagined.

Neither one of us found ourselves on our original career paths—my husband became a pastor and I became a stay-at-home mom. We found that life in a double-income world is expensive, and that circumstances have required us to move homes more than once. We found that infertility can be devastating, adoption is complicated, and parenting requires complete dependence on God. We found that memories are made through both joy and suffering, and that the expenses of life leave little room for Mediterranean cruises.

“Marriage is Hard.” Not exactly a catchy title for the next Hollywood blockbuster. Nevertheless, God has taught me many lessons on being a Christian wife. Here are 4 things I have learned in 10 years of marriage.

My Identity Is in Christ

Early in marriage, it was unsettling to experience the feeling of “losing myself” as I navigated how to be a wife. I had similar struggles when I became a pastor’s wife, a barren woman, and an adoptive mother.

As a wife, my primary identity is to be an image bearer of God and to bring him glory through all of the roles and responsibilities He entrusts to me (Gen. 1:27). Second, my identity is to be in loving relationship with my husband and to be his helper (Gen. 2:18). A third aspect of my identity is to love my children and to care for our home (Titus 2:3-5).

No matter how life circumstances change, my true identity is to reflect the enduring glory of Christ through the roles He has called me to.

Submission Is a High Calling

As a newlywed, I had very little understanding of the purpose of marriage, let alone a biblical understanding of submission. Scripture teaches that marriage is intended to reflect the profound mystery of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:32). Just as the church is to submit to Christ, I am to submit to my husband (Eph 5:24).

The Bible explains that marriage is to intentionally demonstrate both the self-sacrificial loving headship of Christ and the self-giving respectful conduct of the church. The church is not to follow Scripture begrudgingly, but with all her heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:27). Likewise, I am to serve my husband enthusiastically, passionately, and intelligently.

Regardless of whether my husband consistently exhibits the perfect headship of Jesus, I am still called to display the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). To be clear, since our primary act of submission is to the Lord, we are exempt from following our husbands into sin or subjecting ourselves to abuse.

There Is Grace in the Gospel

Some of my most difficult days in marriage have direct correlation to me thinking more highly of myself than I ought. The sin nature of fallen humanity makes every relationship a challenge, since our default demeanor is one of selfishness and pride.

Specifically, two consequences of the Fall are unique to women: difficulty in mothering, and a desire to control our husbands (Gen. 3:16). It did not take long in marriage to realize that building and raising a family is not easy, and that I have an inherent inclination to control.

Submission is far more than a biblical principle to affirm in theory. It is the daily application of it that really matters. This is impossible to do apart from the Gospel. Jesus humbled himself and became a servant to fulfill the will of God in His death and resurrection. He is my example, but I require His strength to follow in His footsteps.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, I must continually develop self-awareness of my shortcomings and temptations, so I can daily claim the truth that Jesus has crucified the desires of my flesh (Gal. 5:24-25). Christ is the ultimate example of submission and I am so thankful for His grace when I fall short.

Godly Older Women Are a Treasure

I continue to glean invaluable wisdom from godly older women. In Titus 2, the elders are to oversee older women in the training of younger women according to sound doctrine. There are seven key areas: To love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be working at home and kind, and to be submissive to their own husbands (Titus 2:4-5).

I am always looking for qualified older women to learn from. These women are clothed in humility,  are continually growing in holiness, and demonstrate a biblical understanding of each of these seven areas.

I seek their wisdom. I ask questions. I have learned to listen.

Here are some of best pieces of marriage wisdom I have tried to implement: Pray daily as a couple. Enjoy the Bible together. Respect your husband in word and action, especially when he is present. Never stop dating. Keep children and pets out of your bed!

Finally, I recognize that I am an “older woman in training,” responsible to teach the next generation to be image-bearers, wives, and mothers who adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.

Living out the sequel to our wedding day has been nothing like a predictable romantic comedy, though there has been much romance and comedy. As we have sought to center our marriage on Christ, we have enjoyed far more action, adventure, drama, and suspense than I ever could have expected. This sequel has it all. My prayer is that we will be faithful to fulfil the roles God has called us to for the glory of Christ for many decades to come.

Who is Shepherding Your Women’s Ministry?

By Angie Brown –

This post originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition Canada.

In many churches, the women’s ministry can seem to run like a well-managed resort. Special events feature a warm welcome, excellent cuisine, choice of activities, and even a small gift to take home!

There are very capable and creative women in leadership hosting Bible studies, mom’s groups, and retreats. Yet there is a troubling trend that has emerged in many local churches. Very often women’s ministries exist on their own islands, detached from the involvement of the shepherds of the church.

While taking an island vacation with your women’s ministry may sound fun at first, a commitment to living on that island can eventually be problematic.

Decisions are made in isolation for the island while not considering implications to the mainland. The people with the most charisma, not necessarily the most qualifications, rise to positions of influence. Existing as an independent island community can limit the available resources, skills, and protection from predators.

Is your women’s ministry operating like an independent island community?

In the evangelical church today, there seems to be an unfortunate disconnect between pastor / elder teams and the intentional discipleship of women. How did women’s ministry become its own entity?

Could it be that women’s ministries have become comfortable operating independently from church leadership?

Could it be that the shepherds of the church have rarely been invited to offer oversight, share wisdom, or provide theological knowledge?

By practically operating outside of pastor/elder involvement, women’s ministries may be limiting themselves and missing out on the richness of Christ’s plan for His church.

One way to begin building bridges is to prayerfully invite church leadership to invest in the older women in the congregation. Here are four benefits of inviting shepherds to oversee the discipleship of women by identifying and equipping older women.

Benefit #1: Scripture is Applied

The book of Titus is written to the leadership of the church to oversee the discipleship of its members. Titus was left in Crete to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Women’s ministries can be encouraged that the pastors and elders of a local church are ultimately responsible for the discipleship of their entire congregation.

One of the clearest explanations in Scripture on ministry to women is for the older to disciple the younger. Paul exhorts Titus to oversee that older women are “teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women” (Titus 2:3b-4a).

The first benefit of shepherds investing in older women is that Scripture would be faithfully applied. It is a biblical mandate for pastors and elders to identify and equip older women for the crucial task of teaching younger women. Women’s ministries can prayerfully seek ways to invite their shepherds to fulfill this mandate together.

Benefit #2: Sound Doctrine is Upheld

A second benefit of elders equipping older women to make disciples is that sound doctrine would be upheld. According to Titus 2:1, it is the responsibility of elders to oversee that the Bible is the standard for all that is accomplished in ministry to women.

Women must learn and embrace sound theology so that it permeates everything they do. It is imperative that women’s ministries continually invite pastors and elders to help older women understand the Bible and sound doctrine, so they will be better equipped to teach the next generation.

Benefit #3: Ministry is Multiplied

A third benefit of shepherds equipping older women is that the effectiveness of the entire church body would be multiplied. Ministry and discipleship efforts could be greatly enhanced if elders equipped older women to train and encourage younger women.

In addition, many women have personal and delicate situations that could best be addressed by a spiritually mature woman with more life experience. There are numerous scenarios of younger women in various degrees of crisis in which a trained older woman could support and assist.

Benefit #4: Christ is Glorified

The fourth and most important benefit of implementing principles of women’s discipleship from Titus 2 is that Jesus Christ would be exalted. Ultimately, Titus 2 is given so that the church would know how to grow in godliness to bring Christ glory and display His gospel to the world.

The instructions for discipleship in Titus are given, “that the word of God may not be reviled” and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:5b10b). When the Bible is embraced and applied, it can be a powerful witness to the world.

Is your women’s ministry operating outside of the involvement of the church leadership God has appointed? It is never too late to start building bridges that will connect the island of women’s discipleship to the main land of the local church.

Please prayerfully consider the rich benefits of embracing Christ’s design for His church and invite your pastors and elders to invest in the older women. In doing so, Scripture will be applied, sound doctrine will be upheld, ministry will be multiplied, and Christ will be glorified.

Instruction 20: Exercise Church Discipline

By Adam Brown –

Sometimes chapter breaks are unfortunate disruptions to the flow of the text. Today’s passage (2 Timothy 2:22-3:9) is one such example. Neither 2 Timothy 2:22-26 nor 2 Timothy 3:1-9 should be read without conscious awareness of the other. Together, 2 Timothy 2:22-26 and 2 Timothy 3:1-9 give a balanced approach to church discipline.

Church Discipline Has a “Positive” Side

Like discipline in the home, church discipline include both reward and correction. Sometimes, church discipline is exhortative and not corrective. For example, the pure in heart simply need regular reminders to flee youthful passions and to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Timothy 2:22).

A second positive aspect to church discipline is that it is done in order to protect the weak and the vulnerable from the sin of others. It can feel un-Canadian to exercise church discipline against problem people. However, a failure to do so necessarily leaves large swaths of our membership vulnerable to the wicked influence of others (see 2 Timothy 2:3:6-9).

Church Discipline Has a “Negative” Side

Unfortunately, sometimes the elders of a local church need to exercise what might be considered “negative” church discipline. This does not mean that it is bad. It is, however, discipline that addresses wrong belief and wrong behaviour in the church.

Elders are called upon to correct opponents with gentleness with the hope that God may grant them repentance (2 Timothy 2:25-26). However, chapter 3 begins, “BUT understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. . .” Paul then proceeds to list 19 qualities that cannot be easily resolved by being “kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, and correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Rather, Paul commands Timothy to “avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:5). By “avoid,” Paul does not mean, “ignore.” Rather, Paul is encouraging Timothy to break fellowship.

Church Discipline is Progressive

The above point necessitates some clarification. Breaking fellowship is not the beginning of church discipline. It is the absolute last step, to be avoided if at all possible.

As chapter 2 makes clear, church discipline begins with teaching and correction that is not quarrelsome, but is kind, patient, and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25). If required, however, it progresses to confrontation and, ultimately, to the breaking of fellowship.

It requires collective wisdom among elders to decide when discipline has progressed from the end of chapter 2 to the beginning of chapter 3. When does patience run out and the path toward the breaking of fellowship begin? Titus 3:10-11 may be helpful on this point:

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Such thinking is almost totally alien to our churches today. And yet it remains the Word of God.

Church Discipline Hopes for Restoration

The goal of all church discipline is “repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). The hope is that the offending members “will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

Unfortunately, however, some people are never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Rather, they entrench themselves in sin and prey on the weak (2 Timothy 3:1-7). These members must be appropriately corrected and, if needs be, condemned.

And yet, church discipline must never be done from glad authority. The burden of headship should be obvious in the approach and demeanor of elders charged with such a weighty task. Nevertheless, the good of the church must outweigh the any proclivity to endure indefinitely with the sin and disruption of members that can be categorized by the list found in 2 Timothy 3:2-5.

Church Discipline Will Triumph If Done Biblically

When the elders engage in church discipline it is not always clear to onlookers – who do not have all of the information or the big picture in view – that what the elders are doing is right and good. The closing verses in this passage offer a note of hope for battle weary elders who wonder at the fruitfulness of church discipline.

Paul reminds Timothy of the conspicuous folly of Jannes and Jambres (names given to the two Egyptian priests who opposed Moses in Pharaoh’s court). Just as these two men were eventually seen for the counterfeits they were, so also troublemakers in the church will eventually be seen for who they really are (2 Timothy 3:8–9).

The goal of elders must not be to defend their actions, but to do what is in the best interest of the church. Like grown children who remember the discipline of their parents, those with eyes to see will eventually understand the love and responsibility that compelled the elders to discipline the church.

Instruction 20: Exercise Church Discipline

One of the most difficult responsibilities entrusted to elders is the exercise of church discipline. Second Timothy 2:22-3:9 gives helpful guidance in this important aspect of life in the church.

Instruction 19: Address All Church Conflict by the Word of God

By Adam Brown –

Second Timothy 2:15-21 begins the second half of the book. The first half (2 Timothy 1:3-2:14) focussed on enduring conflict in the local church. The second half (2 Timothy 2:15-4:21) focusses on addressing conflict in the local church.

The most important thing to know when addressing conflict in the local church is that it must be done by the Word of God. Today’s text, 2 Timothy 2:15-21, makes this point abundantly clear.

Like an Able Tradesman Skillfully Uses His Tools, So Skillfully Use the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15)

The first of three metaphorical images in this passage is that of a tradesman. Just as a carpenter “cuts straight” his wood, so Timothy is encouraged to “cut straight” (ESV: “rightly handle”) the Word of God. If he is able to cut straight, then he will be approved by God and have no need to be ashamed.

When conflict arises in the local church, a very real temptation arises to take the path of least resistance. Compromise here. Compromise there. Unity for unity’s sake. Cut crooked if need be, but for heaven’s sake, keep the peace. The short term gain of this approach is eclipsed by God’s disapproval and the subsequent shame for having dodged the Word of God. And, this is not to mention the very real possibility that five years hence a new group will challenge the decisions made for the sake of peace, but for which the leadership has forfeited any biblical basis. Thus, a future storm brews on the horizon of unbiblical resolution.

All church conflict must be addressed by careful and prayerful reflection on the Word of God. When necessary it is best to pay the cost up front in order to bring a church in line with God’s revealed will.

Like a Compassionate Doctor, Amputate Gangrened Limbs (2 Timothy 2:16-19)

The imagery of gangrene in the passage necessarily introduces the related imagery of amputation. The problem with gangrene is that it spreads. The sooner it is treated, the less long-term violence there will be against the body. Sadly, a prolonged refusal to deal with the diseased limbs will take the life of the patient.

Likewise, left alone, “irreverent babblers” in the church will spread their malcontent throughout the church until a faction has developed and threatens the life of the Body. As Paul wrote, these people “upset the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18). The punch of Paul’s warning is not that some people will be discouraged, but rather that their faith will capsize like a ship out at sea (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19-20).

Thus, like a compassionate doctor who cares for his patients, so also the leadership of the church must “cut off” (ESV: “avoid”) the infectious members. The scalpel for this surgery must be the Word of God. Indeed, all church politics, financial dependencies, emotional investments, personal partiality, cowardice, hubris, and the like, are akin to dull and rusty knives that do more damage than good.

To encourage timid Timothy, Paul reminds him of Moses and Aaron with a double allusion to the Greek translation of Numbers 16 (2 Timothy 2:19). Just as God “cut off” Korah and his rebellion, so too Timothy must protect the church from malignant members.

Like Fine China, Cleanse Yourself so that You Can Be Useful to the Master of the House (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

Having described Timothy’s responsibility to address church conflict by the Word of God, Paul concludes this section with a practical exhortation. Just as the master of a house possesses vessels for honourable use (think fine china) and vessels for dishonourable use (think toilet bowl), so also members of the local church can be used by God for honourable and dishonourable use.

Paul exhorts Timothy to cleanse himself by the Word of God so that he will be useful for honourable use. In other words, unless Timothy applies the Scriptures to himself, he will be unable to use them to address sin and deficiencies in others.

Cutting straight and amputating gangrene is of no use if the one doing the cutting and the amputating is not daily cleansed by the Word of God personally himself.

Instruction 19: Address all Church Conflict by the Word of God

Every church will have to endure conflict. At such times there is a very real pressure to back away from the Bible. However, it is in these times especially that the way forward can only be found in the pages of Scripture. Pay the cost up front if necessary, but align the church to the trustworthy words of Scripture and everything else will run its course.

Sometimes it hurts to live this out. No one wants to lose an arm or a leg to amputation. Fewer still are they who desire to hold the knife to perform the needed surgery. However, the life of the Body depends upon the courage and compassion of the leadership of the church to do just that.