Since the first installment, several questions have come up, and instead of rewriting the original to cover these issues. The Media Desk is going to do a sequel, raising these questions with Levite and documenting the answers. And yes, before you ask, we'll get to Spiritual Gifts versus gifts of the
Spirit before the fat lady sings. And we do believe there is a fat lady what's going to sing in this section too!
Oh, yeah. By the way. Some of this may be somewhat familiar if you just read One. But that's OK, sometimes stuff needs rehashed sometimes.
The first issue that came up was about the passages in Timothy and Titus being a list of qualifications for elder and deacon. For this, we will look at the passage in Timothy. First Timothy three to be exact. Here is verse one through three of that chapter.
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money.Now. One at a time. Verse one says it is a fine work he desires to do. OK? OK.
Verse two. These are written like they are the qualities of someone already in the job. They could be taken as minimum requirements. But if you look down the list, and attempt to find a living man with every one of these, the guy may very well be dead. Don't believe it? Lets start at the first one in verse two. Above reproach. That should do it.
In the world of criminal justice and the law, there is such a thing as pleading 'no contest' to a charge. It is not actually a guilty plea, nor it is saying you're innocent. The plea means you cannot mount a defense to the charge. This can be done for several reasons. Maybe you can't afford a lawyer and you believe the public defender to be an idiot. Maybe there is no hope of convincing a judge or jury that the charge is baloney and this is the easiest way out under a plea bargain. You saw the 'no contest' plea a lot in the rash of 'recovered memory' child abuse cases earlier in the nineties. Many of the cases were found out later to be garbage and the accused were later absolved after a lot of red faces when it turned out they were on a witch-hunt. Many people, babysitters, priests, step-parents, coaches, were accused by people who felt the need to accuse somebody of something regardless of how ludicrous the charges. Even when the defendant could demonstrate they were no where near the 'victim' when the charge said they were, the charges were filed on the basis of the 'recovered' testimony and they dragged them off to trial.
Of course, child abuse, where it occurs, is hideous. Abusers deserve to be jailed for years and years. And the victims, when they are legitimate victims, may need years of help to get over it. It is precisely because the crime is so terrible, any accusation of it is treated as gospel and the accused is never believed. Who wouldn't deny it? We EXPECT them to deny it. They must deny it and demand a trial to try to clear their name even though their name is NEVER cleared. The charge remains on their record, and in many cases, they have to move out of their town, change their name, and work at a gas station when they were a certified teacher because they cannot get a job teaching. And that's if they suffer a full trial and are found innocent. Many plead the 'no contest' and take their penalty and then move to someplace they can't pronounce and sell used cars for a living.
Now, why did we go all the way around that in the middle of this? Bet you can guess, Levite says.
Anybody can be accused of anything. "I saw Joe Schmoe in the bowling alley smoking and drinking and cheating on his scorecard." That is an accusation. It is a reproach. If having such a thing said about you is instant and permanent disqualification from office, well, nobody would be an elder. One, "He stole a cookie when he was seven," and everybody would be out. It cannot mean somebody against whom no charges can be made during his entire life. That's ludicrous.
It has to be read as a man whose current character, habits, and lifestyle make it clear that, although he is human and maybe he did steal a cookie when he was seven, right now, he is the best he can be. It is the man he is as he steps in to lead the church that counts. Never mind in 1973 he underpaid his taxes or ran a stop sign or whatever, today, he is living as he believes God wants him to live. So that if some busybody says, "I saw him do thus and so." The charge is not instantly believed and he's drummed out of the church. Everybody makes a mistake once in awhile. Maybe he did smash his finger in a car door and say something off color. Does he swear like a sailor constantly and without provocation? Or was it a slip?
Maybe some single occurrences are enough to prohibit assuming or continuing in the office, a murder conviction comes to mind. Maybe proven high treason or rape. But on the smaller scale, it would seem to point to a pattern of behavior, his actions in daily life, which indicates that this man isn't all what he should be.
It is said in some circles that if a man is divorced he is prohibited from office. Period. Here we go again. Putting words in there that aren't. It says, a husband of one wife. What if he is a widower? A widower that remarries? He has had two wives. What if his wife run off and divorced him and he is an innocent bystander left holding a dirty diaper? Is he forever passed over for office even if in all other areas of his life he is a lighthouse to the community?
Again, Levite would say that it is the here and now that counts. If he got divorced and remarried last year, maybe not. But if it was a generation ago, why not? He knows a man who has had two wives that would be an excellent elder in any church in the land. But he was remarried. Yes indeed, divorced and remarried, to a woman who was also previously hitched. That was fifty, yes, 50, years ago. Their marriage has lasted more than half a century now. Is he to not be considered because he goofed when he was a kid and married the wrong person? His current track record is exemplary.
Is being temperate to not have an opinion and goes whichever way the wind blows to avoid any and all conflict? Is the prudent man one who never does anything on the spur of the moment and carefully weighs all the pros and cons carefully and with prayer and consulting the Scripture before he orders lunch? To be hospitable do you have to turn your house into a homeless shelter? Does he loose his respectability if he ever wears a T-shirt or burps in public? To be apt to teach should he be in front of every class the church has with boundless insight and wisdom and answer every question on every subject from apostasy to Zoroastrianism?
No. Those are obviously taking things to the extreme. Yet that's where the majority of churches take the first qualification in verse three. They say 'not addicted to wine' means to be a teetotaler. One sip and you're done, forever and ever, amen. But they don't do that with the second part of that phrase, pugnacious. Which means basically aggressive, somebody that wants to have an argument about everything, they walk around looking for a fistfight. To take that to the same extreme they do with the 'not an alcoholic' phrase, they would disallow every man that ever lost his temper. Same with the last phrase, 'not loving money'. Is just wanting to get paid loving money? Maybe all elders should do their outside jobs for free so they aren't tempted by money, they should take a vow of poverty? That's outrageous.
When Levite thinks of a man who is gentle, when listed with these other requirements, he thinks of Teddy Roosevelt's comment, "Walk softly, but carry a big stick." The Elder of these verses in Timothy is the very classic embodiment of the term 'gentleman'. Yes he is all things good, but if it comes down to bare knuckles time, he can rumble with the best of them. He is uncontentious, he does not want conflict, he even goes to some lengths to avoid it. But if it comes, he is ready for it.
The Boy Scout motto is, 'Be Prepared'. It does not say for what, or for how long, or anything else. It is simply a statement. It can be taken mentally, physically, emotionally, or all ways.
Same for the leaders of the church. They must be prepared. For anything and everything within their ability to do so. From doctrinal challenges within the church to all manner of emergencies outside.
Take for example the most common expression used in answer to the Y2K problem heard within the walls of the church during the fall of 1999.
Levite gave those people headaches by asking them if they really trusted in God. Of course they answered yes. Then he asked them if they brush their teeth.
It's not nice, but it gets them to think. Some of the denser people would ask what one has to do with the other. Instead of citing the old Islamic proverb, 'trust in Allah, but tie up your camel', he would sometimes point out that if God was going to take care of them no matter what, why did they bother to brush their teeth? If they were going to walk by faith alone, they should at least be consistent. If they do not prepare for the future on one thing, why not go that way with everything?
If GOD will PROVIDE, why bother trying on shoes before you buy them, why shop? God knows your hungry, he'll send the pizza man to your house without your picking up the phone.
To reduce these arguments to the level of the absurd is an old debate trick, but it is effective. Isn't it? It also points out where the church can go wrong. And go very wrong very quickly.
No, we're going there. Baptism.
The Bible does not say in so many words that if you are NOT baptized you will roast in white man's hell through all eternity. It doesn't actually say that unless you're still dripping wet you can't get into heaven, period. Go ahead a look, it is not that cut and dry.
There can be an argument raised based on Scripture that FAITH alone saves. We'll come back here, hang on.
A lot of churches, many of them flying the Baptist flag, say that baptism doesn't save.
Well. It don't. GOD saves. Well, more precisely, the blood of Jesus saves. Which is why the Bible does say that we are baptized into His death. Look at Romans five and six. Read it. No he means it. Stop right here and go find your Bible, dust it off, and read Romans Five and Six! pppsst, Romans is in the NEW TESTAMENT, right after Acts. No, turn back a few pages, it's before Hebrews.
OK. 5 : 8 & 9, we are justified from sin by Christ's blood. His blood was shed at his death. 6 : 3 & 4, we are baptized into his death. If you want to ignore First Peter 3 : 21 that's your business. It's one little verse in one little book.
Maybe you can explain away why the Ethiopian in Acts 8 was so eager to get wet.
But the majority of what we know about Justification is in Romans. Not to mention Regeneration and all those big words they throw around in Bible College. That one is hard to get around.
And besides. If it is an option, why did Jesus at his Ascension TELL the Apostles to go do it?
If it was, and is, optional, why was it part of Peter's answer at Pentecost?
No, it is required. And here we will say it point blank, the Baptists are WRONG. Clearly and verifiably by Scripture, they are WRONG.
"Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins and the gift..."If you want to argue, argue with the man that spoke those words nineteen hundred years ago.
The comeback by the pastor of a local Baptist church was that it is done 'In Obedience' to the Word.
OK, wonderful. Do you tell your people that unless they 'obey' they stand at the very brink of Hell? No. Do you preach from the pulpit that this act of obedience is where you are, in the eyes of God, covered by the Blood of the Sin Offering for the World? No. Has every one of the members of your church been dunked? No.
Well then. Baptists are real big on saying they are 'saved'. Are they?
Turn off the fire hose, we'll move on. Besides, spraying, sprinkling, pouring, getting caught in the rain, none of those work for baptism anyway. See 'Dancing' part one for that.
Now, about that Faith Only business. Stating that you must have faith and THEN be baptized sounds an awful like the Bible don't it? We just read Peter's call to be saved didn't we? Standing up and saying that you have to say a 'Sinner's Prayer' and you're in sounds an awful like, like... the words of men. Levite is still looking for that prayer in the Book of Books. He ain't found it yet.
And didn't James have something to say about faith without works being, what was that? Dead?
Several weeks after the first 'Dancing in the Sight of the Lord' came out, Levite got deep into a discussion with a man who knows the scripture a lot better than he does, which he always welcomes. This man believes, and could hold forth a meaningful discussion based in the Word, not on what his preacher says or what he read in some magazine, that Paul does not want women teaching men. At all. Under any circumstances. This was based on First Timothy 2.
The first question raised by Levite in this discussion was, what does Paul mean by 'teach'. The second was, who is being referred to as the men and the women in this section.
Let's go with the teach part first.
From the context, it would appear Paul is addressing both the organized formal services of the church, and life in general. But does it all apply to everything? Of course it does. But, there's always a but, if a woman is to remain totally quiet (I Tim 2 : 11), how then can she instruct the younger women as required in Titus?
The woman's place is to instruct other women and children, the man Levite talked to said. It is not proper for her to instruct adult men.
Well, OK. We may not like it in this day of equality and 'gender correctness and tolerance'. But the Apostle Paul saw things that way and went as far as to incorporate it into his letters as the Spirit moved him to write them. So we have to live with it.
And perhaps Paul was right, even today.
So where does Levite shake out on this?
Well. OK. He's come around part way and admits that women probably shouldn't be a regular in front of a mixed Bible study group. But again. Is it an ABSOLUTE prohibition? No. Once in awhile does not put a person in a position of holding authority as stated by the Apostle. So tonight, a wise old lady can give the lesson without fearing the Fire from Above.
It's the INTENT. She is not Holding the Authority. The authority to teach is wielded by another, she is simply acting on their behalf for tonight. Hopefully the one with the authority is an Elder and not some tin plated demigod with delusions of his own self worth, but we heard that in the first tirade.
Now about the church begging for money.
"!!!WHOA!!!" Somebody shrieked, "Churches don't beg."
Yes they do. And have since Jesus sent the disciples out without so much as a spare jacket to sponge off the people that wanted to hear what they had to say.
It's part of the faith.
The Jew's under the LAW were commanded to surrender ten percent to God. We are never commanded to give. There is no 'Temple Tax' imposed.
Christ told the Jews, and us by extension, to render unto the IRS the things that are Uncle Sam's, or something along that way, and to give unto God the things that are His. Pay your taxes, everything else is God's. Sure, you punch the clock for your forty hours a week, but you and all you have and all that you don't have, is God's.
We, the Church, give out of love, not obligation. Which is where Levite is rubbed wrong by churches that want you to sign a pledge and attach a copy of last year's 1040 and turn it in. That is a legal contract. How much love does it take five months down the road to say, 'I've got to give them a check for twenty bucks because it's in my contract'. If you default, they can hold you to it just like the car loan folks can. If you don't pay, maybe the church will repossess your soul.
It's also wrong for an Elder to get up every week before the offering and yap about how the roof leaks and the parking lot needs paved and the preacher needs a new pair of shoes. If you need a special building fund offering, schedule it, have the kids hold a car wash, mail out flyers to the congregation and the Easter and Christmas crowd, hold your fifth Sunday offering. But don't stand up there week in and week out and whine about it.
Paul said to the church at Corinth (I Cor 16 : 1) that he was sending the money they had taken up for him to the Christians at Jerusalem. He didn't threaten them, and send Rico and Joey over to shake them down. He asked them to put aside and save for him when he came, and he'd deliver it.
A love offering.
If the budget is as dry as a labor department report, maybe there is something wrong in the church that money is not going to fix.
Should Christian's tithe? Yes. And. No.
Levite says he's going to have it both ways and here's how.
Tithing is a symbol. Like we owe it to God. No it's not a requirement. Certainly not on the order of the Lord's Supper and Baptism. But it is something that we ought to do just to remind us who's on first.
Your OFFERING is what you give over and above the tithe. Let's say you make a thousand dollars a month. Ten percent is Gods off the top. And twenty percent is the Governments, also off the top. Anything you willingly give to either of them over and above that is an offering. Nobody want's to give the government any more than they have to, who loves the IRS that much anyway. But you do love God. At least you say you do, so give it to Him. And the Bible does say it will be returned to you, out of Love.
How is it returned?
Well, one way is gifts.
This is one of the touchiest subjects there is. Otherwise rational people will scream and rant and wax poetic about how there are no Apostles to lay on hands now. How you can't go to heaven unless you speak in tongues. That healing is a sign of faith. How doing the 'Cossack' is a sure sign of conversion.
Once again. Forget everything everybody has said in the last thousand years about Spiritual Gifts.
Let's look at the BOOK!
We're already in First Corinthians, it'll do nicely. Chapter 12.
It plainly says that there is a multitude of gifts from the Spirit. So those of you who are saying you have to speak in gibberish to be saved can go sit in the corner. See verse four if you have any doubts.
Verse eleven tells you who they come from and who controls them. Let's read that one.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
It does not say, just as some church governing board wills, its as the Spirit wills. As GOD wills.
How do you get them? Well. With the gifts most people talk about, the only sure way was to shake hands with an Apostle.
No. Literally. Romans 1 : 11. Paul had to see them face to face to impart the gifts on them to establish the Church in Rome.
The Media Desk is sorry to report we are about 1910 years too late for that.
Does the Spirit still give gifts to people?
Well, yeah, sure. And if God wanted you to speak in Mandarin Chinese, guess what? But other gifts were also given that are not as showy. As noticeable. As profitable.
Teaching. That's a gift. You put Levite up in front of a room full of high school kids, sure, he makes an impression, and makes them think. This week. But as an every Sunday Bible School Teacher. No... no way. Singing. He sounds like a Harley that needs oil and a new muffler. Meeting new people, take it from the Media Desk, he hates people. Giving, he gives, as he can, but he can't endow a Chair of Religious Studies at Eastern Christian College. But there is a Gift he believes the Spirit gave him. You're reading it now.
So as for Spiritual Gifts in the sense of the First Century Church. Healing, getting snake bit and living, visions, other languages (which is what tongues as used in the King James meant, not gibberish), and so on. No. But. Today we may have the same gifts on a smaller scale.
We have wonderful teachers today. Singers that can bring tears to your eyes, well, Levite can do that, but for a different reason. If you think getting up and delivering a dynamic sermon isn't a gift, try it some time.
The ability to lead the local church is a gift. Not everyone that meets the qualifications for Elder is a Leader. But a Leader that meets those qualifications is going to be somebody special. Somebody you want to lead the Church.
There is dissent in the room. Hhhhmmm....
OK. Back to the Gifts.
Do people prophesy today? In the sense of St. John in Revelation or maybe like Nostradamus?
Why do you think Peter and John and the others told the faithful to test the spirits? Peter points out that vanity will be their downfall. 'I did thus and so'. II Peter 2 : 18.
Sure people do things, great wonders yes, and claim they have the Spirit. But is God getting the glory for what they do? Look at it, think about it. When they are doing the healing on TV, turn off the sound, is it God that is being praised by their actions, or is the guy in the fancy white suit raising his arms in victory like he just scored a touchdown?
First John 4 : 1. Test the Spirits. They may be mouthing the words, but as it says in James, the demons believe, and tremble. James 2 : 19. So if they claim they believe, fine, but; So what?
There was a piece floating around the Internet some time ago about how Jesus was a Vegan.
No, that's not a little green man from Venus or Vegas. That's a strict vegetarian.
That's also a lot of hooey. Oh, for those of you that don't know, 'hooey' is Scholar Talk for baloney with a side of fries.
Jesus not only ate meat, He was forced to by the Law for the Passover Meal if nothing else, He also gave it to the people to eat at the feedings of the thousands and on the Sea of Galilee AFTER His resurrection when he cooked the Apostles dinner. John 21 : 9.
The only stand on the issue in the New Testament is from Paul in Romans. If eating meat offends your brother... oh, yeah, we covered that in Dancing One didn't we. See Romans 14 : 17, and get over it.
Isn't that essentially what God told Peter when he had the vision of the great sheet? Acts 10 : 9 and following.
Lastly, a question that wasn't even thought about in the first edition.
Isn't the Internet a tool of Satan?
Oh, yeah. No question about it. Just as the car, the TV, the steam engine, the wineskin, and ... what was that other tool of the Devil, one of his oldest ones....
The Human Mind and Body.
Satan doesn't need Microsoft. He was doing quite well without it, thank you very much. He doesn't need TV to get his message out. In fact, evil has spawned its own kind for several thousand years without any help from the outside world at all. Idle hands are the Devil's playground... That wisdom wasn't written on the Net last week.
There is a lot of bad out there on the Net. There's a lot of good out there too.
Entire study Bibles on the web. Thomas Jefferson's own translation into his English is out there. Doctoral thesis on Biblical subjects. The lyrics to hymns, pictures of the Holy Land, a good site devoted to the Shroud of Turin, the Vatican's treasures as well. Ever want to read 'Sinner's in the Hands of an Angry God'? It's right here... SINNERS... Alexander Campbell, Luther, and both of the Wesleys are on the Net too.
OK OK... there is also the Adolph Hitler home page, satanism of every stripe, and an occult search engine if you can't find what you want on your own.
But it's like everything else.
A gun can defend your country or put food on your table, or it can hold up a gas station, but it is the CHOICE of the person what to do with it. It's a tool.
Would you give a circular saw to a seven-year-old and send them out to play with it?
They MIGHT build you a picnic table, but it is far more likely you'll get to check out the magazine selection in the emergency room tonight.
It is the same for the Web, or a bottle of wine, or a printing press. The same token that the Psalmist said is proof God wants us to be happy can turn reasonable people into murderous drunks. The same technology that prints the Bible itself can turn out porn or hate or tonight's newspaper. The Internet is just a tool. But we are repeating ourselves redundantly here.
It's like the human mind.
How does its owner want to use it?