Women in Ministry

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, emphasis mine).

(This post is mainly for the purpose of providing the links at the bottom.)

When women are banned from speaking in church gatherings (or are bound by some less strict and obvious ways, such as not allowing women to preach), it is merely because some men have interpreted the scriptures to mean that they should be quiet.

Yet, properly understood in their historical context, the scriptures were actually an incredibly empowering document for women, especially at the time when and for the culture in which they were initially written. Whatever “limiting passages” such men like to quote mean, they cannot in any way overturn the New Covenant or contradict the entire thrust of the New Testament. The idea that women are excluded from speaking in church gatherings is a catastrophic breach of the reality that has done away with earthly distinctions and treats both men and women as co-priests in God’s kingdom.

The message communicated by silencing sisters in the church meetings is that men cannot learn anything from or be ministered to by women. (Sounds a bit crazy when it’s put like that, eh?) When women who have a great spiritual contribution to make are restricted from speaking in the gatherings of the church, the body suffers for it.

We need you, ladies. The whole church needs you.

You are significant.

You are important.

You’re contribution is necessary.

*****

Also see:

Reimagining a Woman’s Role in the Church
http://frankviola.org/role.pdf

God’s View of a Woman
http://frankviola.org/2012/01/30/godsviewofawoman/

Rethinking Women in Ministry
http://frankviola.org/2012/04/17/womansroleinchurch/

Women In Ministry
http://www.charismaministries.org/women-in-ministry/

MALE CHAUVINISTIC CHRISTIANITY: A FRONTAL ASSAULT
http://revolutionera.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/male-chauvinist-christianity-a-frontal-assaul/

Women Rising
http://roguetheologian.com/2012/11/28/women-rising/

Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis
http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

God’s Most Amazing Creation (Part 1) by Kris Vallotton
http://www.digitalpodcast.com/items/283095

Advertisements

The Origins and Canonicity of the Scriptures

actually

Were the scriptures really handed to humanity by God on a silver platter as a divine book to help us get our theology straight? Considering the way most christians describe bibles as the “word of God,” infallible, inspired, authoritative, etc., as well as the way they spend enormous amounts of time meticulously studying them, you might have been led to think so, although that may have only been so on a subconscious level.

Yet history seems to tell us otherwise.

In this post I explore the origin and canonization of the scriptures and what they can tell us about what the scriptures are (especially what they are not) for us today.

Disclaimer/Clarification

Let me state at the outset some things I am not saying.

Throw away your bibles.

Don’t read the scriptures.

The scriptures have nothing to teach us.

God doesn’t care about the scriptures.

The scriptures are no different than any other book.

With that said, I may be questioning some commonly-held beliefs about the scriptures. So get ready to be challenged, and perhaps surprised, by the information I present and its implications.

*****

Belief in any doctrine related to sacred texts is not included in any of the earliest creeds

The creeds, such as the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, were summaries of the most fundamental beliefs of the early church. In essence, they communicated what the believers of that time considered to be essential. They included beliefs about the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, their natures and relationships with each other, the life, death, resurrection, descent, and ascension of Jesus, the Church, eternal life, etc.

Interestingly, however, not a single one of the early creeds (or if I am simply unaware of some, certainly not the major creeds) contain any reference to sacred writings, let alone to the collection of writings that are now referred to as the scriptures. What this tells us is that, regardless of whatever significance they may have attached to the scriptures, the early church did not consider a certain view of the scriptures to be indispensable.

Some might say that this is irrelevant because the New Testament canon had not yet been formed. That no mention of sacred writings is made in the early creeds is true, however, of creeds written after the canonization of the scriptures at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) as well (for example, the Nicene Creed (381 A.D.) and the Athanasian Creed (500 A.D.)). Further, the early church did have the Old Testament. If it was as important as it is made out to be today (the so-called “word of God”), why didn’t the early church at least include a statement of the importance of the Old Testament in the creeds? Probably because it really wasn’t that important, at least in the way people nowadays often consider it to be important.

Thus, beliefs about sacred writings, such as inspiration, infallibility, or authority (if they even existed at all) were not essential to the early church.

That the canonization of the scriptures was a God-inspired event has to be assumed

Neither God nor the scriptures ever claimed that the Council of Nicaea would be THE council to decide the authoritative writings. Thus it is not necessarily true that God superintend the council or its decisions.

If you would like to assume that God did indeed superintend the councils and its decisions, that’s fine. But recognize that it is also fine to reject such an assumption. Indeed, everyone chooses which councils and which decisions of which councils to accept as authoritative for themselves, and, concerning this topic, there is great variety among believers. I have written about this in detail here.

Some might object that the matters concerning the scriptures were a collective decision, not the opinions of individuals. But since when has majority vote been a reliable guide for the church? Never, really. There are plenty of points in history where the majority of believers believed doctrines that are now commonly considered to be heretical.

Some might also appeal to the biblical canon being a long-held tradition. But acceptance by many over a long period of time doesn’t validate anything; there are plenty of mistaken doctrines and beliefs that were and still are like that. It’s merely an appeal to the majority opinion and the duration of that opinion across history. If people had always faithfully adhered to such ways of thinking, slavery would still be a worldwide reality.

The canonization of the scriptures is a tradition of man, and to take it to be anything more than that is a personal choice. If you believe God intended the councils, their decisions, and the whole event of canonization to take place, that’s fine. But please be intellectually honest enough to say that that is an assumption that you hold to, and it makes sense and is okay for other people to not hold that same assumption.

There have always been different groups of believers with different canons

At the most basic level, there is variation as to which books are considered to be a part of the biblical canon. You can check out a number of different canons among different christian traditions here and here.

Yet that is not all.

It is also uncertain whether certain parts of books should be included. For example, Mark 16:9-20 is believed by some to be a later addition to the original gospel written by Mark and thus believe it should be excluded from the canon, while others believe it was part of the original and should thus be included.

There is also the question of which manuscripts should be translated. For example, the Eastern church (the Greek and Russian Orthodox) believes that the Septuagint is the inspired version of the Old Testament, unlike Protestants who consider the Hebrew version to be inspired.

There has always been diversity, even in Judaism before and during Jesus’ time on earth, as to how the scriptures were inspired, what constituted the canon, what was considered authoritative, and methods of interpretation. Should we really think that it should be any different now?

The canon was created not to determine what writings people should exegete truth from but to combat heresy

Contrary to what is commonly stated in ignorance, the Council of Nicaea did not focus on the New Testament canon.

Creating a canon was the idea of the heretic Marcion. He was the first christian in recorded history to propose and delineate a uniquely christian canon (c. 140 A.D.). Other christians created different canons to combat heresies that Marcion was promoting. But the battle against Marcionism within christianity ended long ago. This calls into question the necessity and purposefulness of the current biblical canon.

The purpose demonstrated by the early church for canonization was to choose writings that promoted what they considered to be good theology and, in addition, to counter what they considered to be heresy. Yet the canon is nowadays used in the opposite way; instead of deriving a canon from good theology, theology is derived from a canon.

This is a chicken and egg problem – which comes first, a canon or theology? I won’t attempt to answer this question here.

I will mention, however, that theology has undergone significant developments since the times of the early church. Is it too much of stretch, then, to suggest that we, following in their footsteps, can choose a canon that suits our own theological paradigms?

The people who chose what writings would be canonized did not necessarily choose them with the intention of giving them the status that is nowadays commonly attributed to the scriptures

The early church fathers did choose and accept books, but as what? As writings that are infallible, inspired, and authoritative? Hardly.

As was mentioned in the previous section, the purpose of selecting certain writings was first and foremost to promote good doctrine and combat heresy. This can be done without ascribing lofty characteristics such as infallibility, inspiration, and authority to them.

Further, there’s a difference between “authoritatively truthful” and “not heretical.” Was the canonization a divinization of a few writings for all subsequent times, or a rejection of the others that were promoting heresy at that particular time in history? Perhaps it was neither. It could have only meant, “these are the books we will use for public reading in our gatherings.” It could have only meant, “these are the books that are not blatantly heretical.”

It certainly wasn’t, however, to choose writings from which everybody from that point on would look to to exegete truth and figure out what to believe.

I don’t know enough to say be able to confidently say exactly what the early church fathers were declaring in choosing the texts that they did, but it does seem clear what they were not claiming, which, ironically, is what indeed is claimed in our time.

The canon of scripture was never universally set in stone

I have commonly heard an argument in favor of the canonization of the scriptures that goes something like the following:

“The church councils did not choose a canon. Church leaders simply acknowledged what the church had already come to accept.”

In that case, if the general church populace ever comes to think differently, leaders should acknowledge that. In other words, the canonization status of scriptures is not, and indeed never is, set in stone.

The canon of scripture was decided by majority vote, a method which has historically been demonstrated to be unreliable

The majority vote of the early church councils acts as christianity’s “democratic pope.”

But the opinion of the majority is not and never has been a reliable guide to truth. Jesus and the early christians held minority opinions during their times, and there are plenty of examples throughout history in which the “majority of the church” believed heretical doctrines.

Some will be quick to say that what was expressed was not the majority opinion but a consensus. I debunk this idea here.

Even if it was consensus, the consensus of the church is always changing. Thus, we could have a different consensus than what they had back in the day. Why should we think that their consensus is more reliable?

Full dogmatic articulations of the canons of christian traditions were not made until the 1500s or later

It was not always believed that defining a canon was necessary. Some early church fathers were practically unconcerned about canonicity and made use of open canons. The eastern churches in particular generally had weaker feelings compared to those in the west about the necessity of making sharp delineations regarding a canon.

This is even more significant than that different believers had and still have different canons, as mentioned above, because it calls into question whether the idea of even creating a canon is necessary or even something God wills.

Until the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church had never officially drawn the boundaries of the biblical canon. Doing so had not been considered necessary because the authority of the scriptures was not considered to be much higher than that of tradition, papal bulls, and ecumenical councils.

It was not until the Protestant Reformers began to insist upon the supreme authority of scripture alone (the doctrine of sola scriptura) that it became necessary to establish a definitive canon. So was the establishment of such a definitive canon really necessary? Only if one holds to the doctrine of sola scriptura, a man-made doctrine of the 16th century.

There are books included in the biblical canon that, based on modern scholarship and information that the early church did not possess, would not be included in the canon of scripture according to the criteria set forth by the early church fathers. On the other hand, there exist writings that, although are not included in the biblical canon, would be included according to the criteria

Many point to the following four “criteria for canonicity” to justify the selection of the books that have been included in the New Testament.

  1. Apostolic origin – attributed to and based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).
  2. Universal acceptance – acknowledged by all major christian communities in the ancient world (by the end of the 4th century) as well as accepted canon by Jewish authorities (for the Old Testament).
  3. Liturgical use – read publicly when early christian communities gathered for their weekly worship services.
  4. Consistent message – contains a theological outlook similar to or complementary to other accepted christian writings.

Yet it is sometimes difficult to apply these criteria to all of the books in the accepted canon, and one can point to writings that are outside current canons that would fulfill these requirements.

For example, Hebrews was only accepted after Paul was adopted as the author (in order to fulfill the criteria for “apostolic origin”). Modern scholarship, however, largely agrees that Paul is not the author of Hebrews. Thus, its apostolic origin is put into question and thus does not necessarily fulfill the criteria for canonicity. Should we therefore remove Hebrews from the canon?

On the other hand, if we found another authentic letter written by Paul, could we in our right minds exclude it from the canon? It cannot pass all the tests of canonicity (because it would have had to be known by the early church fathers to fulfill the criteria for “universal acceptance” and “liturgical use”), but that is only because it wasn’t known about when the canon was formed. Is the ignorance of the early church really a good enough reason to reject such a letter?

In fact, such a letter (although there is disagreement as to its authenticity) actually exists: the epistle to the Laodiceans. It bears striking similarities to the epistle to the Philippians, and it is mentioned in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians: “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). You can read it here. (There may be other writings we have now that are of apostolic origin that I am not aware of.)

Putting the issue of fulfilling these criteria aside, how do we even know that these are the “right” criteria? They are, after all, criteria chosen by human beings, not divinely pointed out by God.

Further, how do we know that these criteria weren’t chosen after the books were chosen? Through such a scheme, people could effectively choose which books they wanted to stay in, and make enough criteria to keep any other book out. This would have probably seemed like an acceptable thing to do to the early church fathers since their motivation for canonization was the promotion of what they considered to be good doctrine anyways.

Most people who support the legitimate canonicity of the scriptures have never even read any apocryphal books – they simply believe what they do because that’s what they’ve always been told. If you are one of those people, I would encourage you to expand your reading horizon.

Specifying a canon places an artificial limit on what (we believe) God can and will do

Declaring a canon is basically saying, “God no longer divinely inspires christian writers” (it at least puts a limit on the degree to which God can inspire people). God never said that, not even in the scriptures. Saying that the “canon is closed” is primarily not a claim about sacred writings but a claim about God himself – what he can and can’t do. It is putting him in a box that says “he can’t give authoritative revelation to anyone anymore like he used to.”

It also places a limit on church authority. If another council of church leaders was formed from all around the world and chose a different canon, why shouldn’t that become authoritative? Why is it assumed that the older and the closer to the time of Christ (for writings as well as people), the better? The 12 apostles didn’t have great theology as we know of at least one case where Paul had to correct them on a basic yet significant issue (the inclusion of Gentiles in salvation), and Paul got his revelation directly from Jesus. Are we “less led” by Holy Spirit than the people back then? I don’t think so. They did not have anything that we do not, and our relationship with God is in no way inferior.

Objection: You just need to have more faith in the workings of God in bringing about the scriptures in history

I bring up this objection because someone actually said it to me.

It’s not that I don’t have faith that God could do that; it’s just that I don’t have any compelling reason to believe that he indeed did. On the contrary, I have reasons to believe that the bible isn’t God-ordained. For example, it and its interpretations are the greatest source of division in the body of Christ today and throughout history.

Here’s another one I hear a lot.

But the Bible is the book that has had the hugest impact on the world throughout history.

That’s like saying, “I drove this car and it went 100km/hr; therefore it must be the fastest car on the planet!” This is silly because every car in the world needs to be tested before anyone can make that kind of claim.

Sure, perhaps the scriptures have had the greatest impact out of all known books. But that doesn’t prove that it is God-ordained. What about a canon that includes all the books of the Bible minus the book of Hebrews plus the letter to the Laodiceans? What if that canon has a greater impact? Well, we don’t know, and we can’t know. We would have to test that out over 1000+ years.

In fact, the argument is circular. If the largest religious group at some point in history claims that a certain book is divinely chosen and perpetuates that idea as correct doctrine (which is exactly what happened), of course that book is going to have the greatest impact! But the argument was that because the scriptures had a great impact, surely they must be divinely chosen (while the truth is that the church chose them).

Conclusion

I hope to have made it clear that the canonicity of the scriptures is not a simple matter that is easily settled by merely referencing the Council of Nicaea, as is commonly done today.

I encourage you to think about these things, talk about it with Jesus, and decide for yourself what you believe.

Who Are the Elect?

In A Simple Solution to the Predestination vs. Free Will Debate/”Paradox” I wrote about how every bible verse that speaks of predestination does not mean God is individually choosing who is going to heaven or hell but rather that God corporately chose the church.

In this post I want write about a related concept, that of election. The question is, who are God’s elect (chosen ones)?

One answer given is that God elects some individuals to heaven and damns the rest to hell. This is the same concept that I refuted in the post that I linked to above. Here I want to dismantle this false picture of an unfair God who arbitrarily favors certain people over others.

To answer the question, let’s first look at the concept of election in the Old Testament.

electMany individuals were chosen in the OT as types and shadows of the true elect. The most pertinent example is Abraham, who was chosen from among all the people in the earth. What is important to notice is why God chooses an individual out of everyone else in the first place? The scriptures say that Abraham was chosen so that “all nations would be blessed through [him]” (Galatians 3:16). Thus, as the OT conceives it, election is God selecting an individual (or a group; Israel in the OT) for the benefit of all others.

The reason that the non-elect can have hope for the future is precisely because of God’s election of Israel…Divine election is, strange as it may seem, a message of hope for the whole world. – Robin Parry

We can see this theme continued in the New Testament. In the gospel narratives, Jesus chooses disciples who will later take the Good News around the world; Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). In Acts, God says that Paul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (9:15, emphasis mine).

The elect in the NT refers to the believing community. God chose the church as the means by which to bless the whole world. It’s not about who’s in and who’s out. Whenever election is mentioned in the scriptures it is completely unrelated to all of our modern notions of the afterlife. God did not make choices for each individual but rather he made a single corporate choice for the benefit of all.

Ultimately, however, we must think Christocentrically. The true elect one, who preceded the birth of the church, is Christ. Just as Israel was elected so that all nations would be blessed, so Christ was elected so that in him all humanity would be blessed.

Jesus represents Israel in himself, hence he embodied Israel’s election in himself (e.g. read Matthew, which portrays the life of Christ as parallel to the history of Israel). In a similar fashion, the church is representative of Jesus (read how closely Jesus identifies himself with the church in Who is the Light of the World?). This is why the church is called the body of Christ.

Jesus is God’s elect, and since all are included in the work of Christ, all are included in the benefits of his election (just as all nations were to be blessed by the election of Abraham).

Israel (Jacob) himself was chosen (over Esau; Gen. 25:23) but individual Israelites are not chosen to be in the nation of Israel. Rather, as descendants of Israel they share in God’s election of him. They are elect in Israel, not elect to be in Israel…our election is actually a participation in Christ’s election. Notice how Paul puts it in Eph. 1:4: “evan as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Not “chose to be in him” but “chose us in him.” Similarly in Rom 16:13: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord…” Chosen “in the Lord” not “chosen to be in the Lord.” Christ is the Elect One and those who are united to Christ share in his election. – Robin Parry

So how has humanity benefited by Christ’s election on its behalf? By Jesus becoming its substitute. This will be the topic of my next post.

*****

Also see:

Sola Scriptura or Sola Jesus?

Ring on Bible

You may have never heard of the term “sola scriptura,” but I bet you are familiar with the concept.

It’s the idea that the scriptures contain all knowledge necessary for salvation and is the only final authority in matters of faith and practice. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only  doctrines that are found directly within the scriptures or indirectly by using valid deductive reasoning from them are to be admitted or confessed. Sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it demands that all other authorities are subordinate to and are to be corrected by the scriptures (paraphrased from Wikipedia).

This doctrine first made its appearance during the 16th century in the Reformation, in which Martin Luther initiated a reaction against the ignorance of the Catholic Church regarding some significant issues relating to the scriptures. One such issue was the Catholic doctrine of ex cathedra. This is the doctrine that states that the Pope can choose to “define a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church” (First Vatican Council). In other words, if the Pope says something is true, then it must be accepted as true. A similar idea was probably at work on a practical level as well; only those who were “qualified” could interpret the scriptures. Thus, the declaration of ultimate truth rested within their power of those who were ordained by the ecclesiastical authorities such as bishops.

Seeing the corruption within the religious institutions of their time, the Protestants (those who protested against the practices of the Catholic Church) swung to the other side of the pendulum and decided to place absolute authority within the scriptures and the scriptures alone. The key implication of this move was that interpretations of the scriptures were not given the same authority as the scriptures themselves, no matter who the interpreter was. Hence, the ecclesiastical authority came to be viewed as subject to correction by the scriptures.

This idea was taken further when people began to hold that not only is the bible the Word of God but every part of it too in and of itself, irrespective of context, setting the stage for the idea that individual verses lifted out of the scriptures are true in their own right and can be used to prove a doctrine or practice (“proof texting”). This practice was started around 1600 by Protestant scholastics who took the teachings of the Reformers and systematized them according to the rules of Aristotelian logic (i.e. they relied on Greek philosophy).

Although claiming, as the Catholic church had done, that an “ecclesiastical authority” could declare truth for everyone was silly, claiming that a book could do the same was just as ridiculous. Think about it. A book cannot tell you what is true because it cannot interpret itself for you. Regardless of whether interpretation is done for one’s self or for others, the reader themselves must necessarily do the interpreting. Further, bibles cannot exercise authority over people; they are lifeless books (by the way, if my calling bibles “lifeless” made you think of Hebrews 4:12, it might benefit you to know that it’s talking about Jesus, not bibles).

Selecting a group of individuals or a collection of writings to tell us what is true can never be made an absolutely objective endeavor. We cannot escape subjectivity.

To put it plainly, sola scriptura is a man-made doctrine of the 16th century that was created in reaction to bad church politics. This doesn’t conclusively demonstrate that it’s wrong. But that this idea wasn’t believed for the first 1500 years after Jesus’ time on earth should cause you to seriously question its validity.

Further, although many people claim sola scriptura as a foundational doctrine, it is certainly not universally held among believers and is even rejected by entire believing institutions (for example, the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches equally uphold the value of the tradition that was started by the apostles).

So I would like to propose another option: sola Jesus. (I don’t mean the solus Christus of the Reformation.)

What I basically mean by that is that everything that people have claimed that the ecclesiastical authorities or the scriptures are (as they pertain to truth and authority), Jesus and Jesus alone is.

Such a concept is unpopular because, unlike physical people and books we can feel, hear, and see, Jesus is not always objectively tangible. If we say Jesus gets the final word on everything, the application of authority necessarily works subjectively because people hear and interpret what Jesus communicates to us differently.

That’s fine by me.

The Catholic Church has its pope with his ex cathedra, and Protestants have their bibles with its sola scriptura. Both systems ultimately replace the person of Jesus with something else as the final authority. I accept the man Jesus as the subjective basis for truth, and indeed as Truth itself.

Some might say that this is all fine in theory but that it cannot work practically. What could having Jesus as the ultimate authority possibly look like?

In response I would first point out that lacking experience and a conception of how it could work doesn’t invalidate it. Second, sola scriptura (or having ecclesiastical authorities for that matter) is just as “impractical” because it is just as subjective as having a person as the ultimate standard.

I understand that there is for many a significant fear of deception when it comes to being “led by the Spirit.” There are plenty of cults out there that began because somebody “got a revelation.” Yet I can say with honesty that I have no fear of the like because I trust Jesus’ ability to correct me more than I fear my potential to be led astray. Cults are obvious as such because they cease to be centered on Jesus and accordingly cease to look like Jesus.

Please notice that I did not say and understand that I have no intention of saying, “let’s throw out the scriptures!” There may be other things that people think I am saying that I did not explicitly assert. Please refrain from jumping to conclusions about what I believe about the scriptures based on this blog post because that is something that I have not expounded on here. If that’s something you would like to know, I’d love to talk with you about it. Just let me know 🙂

How Many Wives Does Jesus Have?

In an earlier post I wrote about how we are married to God. Looking back I feel it would be good for me to make a related point. So here goes.

God is not a polygamist. 

Jesus didn’t marry you and me and everyone else individually. He has only one wife and it is us. He married the Church. Singular.

If you look at the Greek forms of words used in the bible you will find that writers like Paul continually stressed the group above the individual. There is a reason for this.

The group is more important than any number of individuals in it, because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

We were created to depend on each other. That’s how humans function. Dependency is not negative. We can even see it in the Trinity. God is love because there is love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their loving is dependent on the others. Without the others, there wouldn’t be anyone to love. Without the triune personhood of the Godhead, it would be impossible for God to be love. God would be self-focused rather than other-focused.

bodyofchristThe “Christian culture” most of us grew up in would have us think otherwise. While the early Church primarily read scriptures corporately, nowadays most bible reading is done alone (because people are told to do so). Paul calls Jesus the savior of all men and John calls him the savior of the whole world, but it is now popular for people to call him their “personal” savior. Worship was originally done with everyone facing each other (i.e. there was no worship leader), but these days the lights are dimmed and people don’t look at each other during worship services (because those times are all about you, Jesus, and no one else, right?).

Too often the focus is on the individual instead of on the body.

There’s an idea among believers that “it’s all about God.” It sounds pretty pious, but it falls short of the truth. It’s not all about God; It’s all about us, God and humanity, together. Because that’s what God has made it about through the incarnation. Jesus identified with humanity; now humanity identifies with God.

On a related note and contrary to popular opinion, God is not enough. Adam was in the garden with all his animal buddies and even God himself, but seeing this, God said it was not good that Adam was alone (which was the first time God said something was not good).

This doesn’t mean we are incomplete as individuals or are in lack, but that we can’t be separated from the Church. Just like when I am talking about Jesus I am also talking about God, when I talk about myself I talk about the Church, and vice versa. I am one of many persons within a single entity. This is also true of the Church and Jesus. Because we are united to him, we can’t talk about Jesus without talking of ourselves, and vice versa. This is not to say that the two are the same thing. Yet our oneness is a mystical reality.

My thoughts were a bit scattered in this post, but I plan to elaborate on related topics soon. Thanks for reading :]

Engaged or Married?

 

wedding_wallpaper_09d95

 

How would you like to be married?

I could tell you a bit about being married.

I know what it’s like.

Actually, I don’t have a wife. Yet :]

But I mean it when I say I know what it’s like to be married. It’s great. I’ll be honest – it’s the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s full of love, bliss, satisfaction, and intimacy. It’s all I longed for when I was still unaware of my marriage.

Huh? Unaware of your own marriage? 

Yup. Sucks, I know.

So let me ask you.

Are you sure you’re not married?

I think we all know whether we have an earthly spouse or not. What I’m referring to is our marriage with Christ.

Are you saying we’re already married with Christ?

That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Don’t believe me? Judging from the number of people out there who preach that marriage with Jesus is a future event yet to come, I’m not surprised.

Let me ask you another question.

Which is better – marriage with Christ being a future event or a present reality?

I think most of us can agree that if we are already married with Jesus, that is good news. Just some incentive for you to continue to explore this possibility with me and keep reading 😉

What is marriage anyways? Let’s take a look at the first marriage to ever take place.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:21-24

Here we see that marriage is about being joined with another, becoming one with them.

Now before we go any further, let me point out that when the bible talks about the marriage between Jesus and his Church, it is a metaphor. It’s not talking about earthly marriage like we know between two human beings. Rather, it points to something greater.

Marriage is the imagery, but union is the reality.

The language of union is all over the bible. He is the vine, we are the branches. He is the head, we are the body. He is in us, and we are in him. Co-crucified, co-buried, and co-resurrected. We are one.

And of course, he is the groom, and we are his bride.

The Greek word most often translated “bride” (nymphē) that is used in reference to the Church can refer to either a betrothed woman or a recently married woman, so it’s difficult to draw a conclusion just from the word as to whether we are engaged to Jesus or married to him.

Bride

But here’s my question. If it is clear from the rest of the bible that we are already united with Christ, and marriage is a direct reference to union, then isn’t marriage an misleading metaphor to describe our relationship with Jesus?

In other words, why would the metaphor of not-yet-being-married be used when being married is what points to union and we know we are already united? It would point to a false reality.

Pretty confusing if you ask me.

Thankfully, that is not the case. Revelation 21:9 tells us what exactly the bride is: “…I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb.” You can’t be a wife without already having been married.

Paul also spells it out nice and clear for us in Ephesians 5:28-32

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

A mystery indeed. We and Jesus are one flesh. Whoa!

What we see here is Paul taking the metaphor of marital union (not engagement) and directly applying it to Jesus and the Church.

As a members of the Church we are already perfectly united with Jesus.

The stunning announcement of the good news is that our marriage – the consummation of our union – took place at the cross. Jesus dying on the cross was like his proposal to us. Accepting salvation is us saying yes.

There’s plenty of people out there talking about how we are progressively becoming one with Christ and how we will one day be married to him. They cry out for Jesus and sing about how much they need and miss him.

But Jesus is not our long-time boyfriend, waiting to get married. The Church hasn’t been dating him for 2000+ years.

Jesus is returning for his bride, not his fiancée. You are already married to him. Your union with Christ is not a future event but a present reality that began the moment you first said “Yes” to Jesus. – Paul Ellis

Jesus is in us and we are in him. He is closer than the air we breathe, and we can enjoy fellowship with him right now. There is no hindrance to our communion.

What about the wedding feast in Revelation 19?

Revelation is a fulfilled prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (that’s another story, but if you are interested you can get a free book about it that I highly recommend at http://www.raptureless.com/). That means we are currently celebrating the wedding feast!

In Jewish weddings the feast came after the consummation between a couple.

Our union with Christ was consummated at the cross.

You know what that means.

It’s party time!