Friday, July 25, 2014

DID THEY GET IT RIGHT? THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND'S DECISION TO ORDAIN WOMEN AS BISHOPS

The Church of England (Anglican) set off a firestorm of protests and complaints when earlier this month its General Synod voted to begin ordaining women, not only as priests, but also as bishops. Roman Catholic leaders protested the move calling it an “obstacle” to Christian unity. One Catholic publication suggested that the move rejects the Catholic and Orthodox theology of Apostolic Succession and the nature of the priesthood. Protestant evangelicals, meanwhile, complained that it represents a capitulation to modern, secular culture and a departure from Biblical truth, often citing I Timothy 3:2, which says that a bishop must be the husband of one wife. Who is right?
In my book PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, I show the historic development of the New Testament episcopas (bishop) from a ministry of service into an office of power. I demonstrate that it was when the episcopas became associated with “power” rather than “service” that women began to be excluded, and the “bishopric” became the domain of men only. That the current controversy is still centered in “power” and not “service” only highlights the need for all sides to seriously consider a return to Jesus and the New Testament. (Jesus actually never used the word)
Since Catholics, Evangelicals and Anglicans, with some important qualifications and differences, would agree that what we teach must be based in Scripture I would like to point out, from Scripture, why a woman is not excluded from functioning as a New Testament episcopas. Since Jesus never used the word I will base this discussion on the most oft quoted passage in this regard, which is Paul’s statement in I Timothy 3:1-5 wherein he says that the episcopas must be the husband of own wife. Here are 5 reasons that this passage, and particularly husband of one wife, does not exclude women from serving as a New Testament episcopas.
Reason #1 
The Episcopas is Not an Office but a “Service,” i.e., a Responsibility.

The word “bishop” or “overseer” in this passage is a translation of the Greek word episcopas, which literally means to “watch over.” It is not unique to the New Testament, but was actually a secular word that Paul and other New Testament writers borrowed. It was used in the ancient Greco-Roman world of teachers who had the responsibility to “watch over” the academic progress of their students, of the superintendent of a building project, of watchmen stationed on a city wall, and of army scouts. Paul used it to designate the responsibility of elders to “watch over” the affairs of the congregation.
Paul does not use the word “office” or “position” in this passage (nor anywhere in the New Testament). Such words were added by the translators who thought they were helping clarify the passage. I am convinced, however, that they actually skew the meaning of the passage, which should be left as actually stated by Paul. What Paul is referring to is not an office, but a “work,” i.e., a function, or responsibility. He literally says in 3:1, This is a faithful saying, If anyone aspires to oversight, they desire a good work.
The functional nature of the episocopas is confirmed by Luke in Acts 20:17, 28 where he uses the word interchangeably with presbuteros (elder) and poimen (pastor) in referring to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. At this early date episcopas was still a ministry of service rather than an office of power.
Writing in the 5th century, the famous African church father, Augustine, noted that a mark of the true church is that its leaders are servants. He then went on to explain that the original meaning of episcopas is related to responsibility, not authority. “Therefore,” said Augustine, “He who loves to govern rather than do good is no bishop” (vol. 2 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 413).
Reason # 2
Throughout this discussion Paul uses Gender Inclusive Language.

Nowhere in this passage (I Timothy 3:1-5) does Paul use the Greek word for man, aner, but instead uses the gender inclusive personal pronoun tis, which means “someone” or “anyone.” For example, in 3:1 it is not if a man as the KJV and NKJV have it, but if anyone (NIV) or if someone (NRSV). This is also true of vs. 5 where Paul again uses tis, not aner, to confirm that oversight is not restricted to males. If Paul had wanted to exclude women from this function of oversight, he could have easily done so by using male-specific language. Instead, he uses gender inclusive language throughout the discussion.
Reason #3
Women were known to be heads of households, whichPaul says is a proving ground for serving as an overseer (3:5).

Verse 5 says, If a man anyone does not know how to manage their own household . . .. As mentioned above, Paul purposely uses a gender inclusive personal pronoun, tis, in this verse. As in vs. 2, it is not if a man, as the KJV and NKJV have it, but if someone (NRSV) or if anyone (NIV). Managing a household was not the province of the male in Paul’s world, for in his travels he had encountered women who were heads of households. In Philippi, he and his team were received by Lydia and she and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15) and her estate became the base for Paul’s ministry in that city. In I Corinthians 1:11, Paul mentions those of Chloe’s household who had brought him unfavorable news about the Corinthians. Chloe too is a feminine name and is further proof that women managed households in the ancient world, which qualified them to serve as overseers in the church.
Reason #4
In the pagan, patriarchal culture of the Greco-Roman world, men could carry on multiple, illegitimate sexual relationships, but women could not.

I once had a eureka moment while meditating on this verse that highlighted and underlined for me the fact that Paul was not excluding women from oversight when he said the overseer must be the husband of one wife. Interestingly, because there is not a separate word for “husband” in Greek, this passage literally reads that the overseer must be “a man of one woman.” Again, this particular criterion would not relate to a woman for women did not have the legal right or the cultural freedom to divorce and remarry and carry on illegitimate relationships as did the men. Women would be considered sluts and whores if they carried on in this way, but for men it was acceptable in that culture. It was necessary, therefore, for this condition, that relates particularly to men, to be included in this list of criteria for tis (anyone) who would serve as an overseer.
Reason #5
Women too Can Serve and Do Good.

I suggest to you that Paul had no problem with women serving and doing good, which is what New Testament leadership is about. We have been so brainwashed in an official, institutionalized, hierarchical form of Christianity, that we have a hard time grasping the open, free-flowing nature of New Testament Christianity.

But if we can catch the vision of what the Spirit is saying in this regard and move from gender-determined roles based in “power” to Spirit-guided functions rooted in “service,” who knows what exploits may be wrought for God in the days ahead!


Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, theologian and Bible teacher. This article was drawn, in part, from his latest book, PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, available from Amazon and his website, http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Testimony by the Late Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger

by Dr. Susan C. Hyatt

While unpacking boxes during our current move, I came across a handwritten testimony by Cathie to me for publication in a magazine I was publishing at the time called "CHANGE YOUR WORLD." Cathie, a dear friend, certainly did her part in that regard! Here is what she wrote.

My task is to bring women to full liberty in Christ, both in their lives and in their labors for Christ. At the age of 49, I trudged back to graduate school to gain the skills necessary to evaluate St. Paul's controversial teachings on women. I was convinced that this servant of God who penned Galatians 3:28 and I Corinthians 11:11.12 was no woman hater. Long before, Catherine Bushnell had pointed out that over 100 passages of Scripture affirm God's blessing upon the activities and ministry of women. 

Upon the fingers of one hand, one might count those texts that appear to be restrictive, largely in the writings of the Apostle Paul. So it was that I determined to study those passages diligently: to examine text and context, language, and cultural background, the circumstances and challenges discussed.

The more I studied the cults of ancient pagan women, the more I understood that Paul was seeking to guide them to new patterns of worship and conduct. While women well taught in Jewish tradition were given a significant role in ministry, recent gentile converts needed more instruction. Instead of noisy shouting, they were to worship quietly, modestly clothed, respecting the sensitivities of others. 

Jewish women or those whose behavior was appropriate became emissaries of the Gospel: Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Euodias, Syntyche, and the women at the empty tomb. These faithful ones were instructed to proclaim their risen Lord to the frightened and disbelieving apostles. In my writing, I seek to challenge women to emulate these early evangelists and to make Christ known in every dimension of life to every part of the world. 

But the Bible speaks out against violence, stalking, lying in wait, twisting the words of another, against insults and name calling, against humiliating another or degrading them, against sexual abuse. Women need to understand that this pattern is not God's pattern for either the victim or the perpetrator. The Bible offers guidance for many ways in which believers can intervene and protect in troubled situations.

In cooperation with a Canadian sociologist who studies abuse in Christian homes, we authored a book for World Evangelical Fellowship, No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Address Violence in Christian Homes. I have as well co-edited, Women, Abuse and the Bible and Healing the Hurting: Help and Hope for the Abused Christian Woman.

My wider writings include an analysis of I Timothy 2:11-15, the passage most often used restrictively against women (Title: I Suffer Not a Woman). A study New Testament (A Study Bible for Women) provides study notes for the inclusive NRSV of the New Testament, while the InterVarsity Press Women's Bible Commentary offers a commentary on the entire Bible from a woman's perspective. I continue to teach at Gordon Conwell Seminary, the Center for Urban Ministerial Education, and occasionally at the Evangelical Seminary of Croatia."


Eddie & I are forever grateful for the time and friendship God gave us with Dick & Cathie. Her FB Page remains: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.c.kroeger?fref=ts
The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Clark_Kroeger

Catherine Clark Kroeger (December 12, 1925 – February 14, 2011) was an American author, professor, New Testament scholar, and a leading figure within the biblical egalitarian movement. Born Catherine Clark, daughter of Homer and Elizabeth Clark, in St. Paul, Minnesota, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1947. Then she earned an MA and a PhD in Classical Studies from the University of Minnesota. She was married to her husband of 60 years, Richard Clark Kroeger Jr., a Presbyterian pastor. They served together in ten pastorates in five states. In their latter years they resided on Cape Cod in Brewster, Massachusetts. Richard Clark Kroeger Jr. died 9 November 2010,[3] Catherine Clark Kroeger on 14 February 2011.[4]

Friday, July 11, 2014

THE PROPHETHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS

Finding Confidence in Your Own Ability to Hear the Voice of God

Oh, that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the
LORD would put His Spirit upon them
.
(Moses in Numbers 11:29).

My phone rang and the voice on the other end of the line, in a very emphatic tone, said, “I was lying by the pool meditating and God spoke to me and said, ‘call Eddie Hyatt and tell him to start a church and call it The Gateway to Heaven.’” This person also told me that he had seen a vision of the church building and described it in some detail as a white building situated in a large field.
Some things in life are as obvious as the nose on your face. Some things are so obvious you do not even have to pray about them. This was one of those situations and I said to this “prophet,” “I appreciate you telling me this but just know that I would never undertake something of this magnitude unless God Himself told me that He wanted me to do it.”
Don't be Afraid to Test the Spirits

Some weeks later this brother, who was sincere (but misguided) in his zeal to be a prophet, was still attending our weekly Bible study. In these gatherings we allowed, and encouraged, people to flow freely in the gifts of the Spirit, but also made it clear that we would follow the Biblical injunction to test the spirits and judge prophecies.
On this particular evening, this same individual announced that during a time of prayer that week God told him to tell me that I was not to put down roots in that city because I would be travelling. Deciding to use this as a teaching moment, I stopped him. “Wait a minute Larry,” I said! “What happened to that white church you saw a few weeks ago?” He replied, “Oh, that might be 10 years down the road.” I then asked, “Do you know what they did to people in the Old Testament who gave false prophecies?” With a note of irritation in his voice, he replied, “I know! I know! They stoned them!”
At this point everyone, including Larry, began to laugh. It was a healing moment. Larry suddenly realized that he needed to relax and stop trying to curry favor and impress others with his super spirituality. He realized that I would continue to accept him and be his friend, but I would not accept everything he said just because he prefaced it with a “thus saith the Lord” or a “God told me.” He continued to grow in God and our friendship continued for many years until the time of his death a few months ago.

A Big Difference Between
Old Testament & New Testament Prophecy
I was not susceptible to Larry’s “soulish” prophecies and visions because, even then, I had more confidence in hearing God for myself than I did in someone else hearing God for me. In the Old Testament people did seek out prophets to hear God’s word and will, but there was a big difference between them and us. They did not have the Holy Spirit nor did they have the written New Testament revelation that we have.
In the Old Testament, only certain prophets, judges and kings were given the Spirit of God. The masses did not have the Spirit. But in this new and better Covenant, the Spirit is made available to all of God’s people. This is why, in the New Testament, there is not a single example of anyone ever seeking out a prophet for guidance or direction. In all of Paul’s 13 letters to churches, not once does he exhort them to seek out a prophet in their midst to hear from God. He assumes that they all have the ability to hear God through the Scriptures and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
There is one example in Acts of personal prophecy being given to Paul when he is on his way to Jerusalem. These “disciples” admonished Paul through prophecy not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4). What does Paul do? He goes on to Jerusalem. Paul had more confidence in hearing God for himself than he did in someone else hearing God for him.
Don't Base Your Life on Personal Prophecy

Can God encourage and confirm through prophecy? Absolutely! God often uses Sue and me to encourage others by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I was launched into ministry when, as a very shy young man, a dear saint of God, Aquilla Nash, spoke to me by the Spirit concerning the call of God on my life, which call I had kept a secret and not shared with others.
But many people today are in bondage to personal prophecies. They order their lives, not by the Scriptures, common sense and the leading of the Holy Spirit, but by personal prophecies that they seek out here and there. There are people who have collected reams of personal prophecies that they adhere to more than they adhere to the promises of God’s word. They have more confidence in someone else hearing God for them than they have in hearing God for themselves, and this makes them vulnerable to prophetic charlatans and religious hucksters. How sad!
This reminds me of something I heard Freda Lindsay say when she was around 90 years of age. Having co-founded, with her husband, The Voice of Healing and Christ for the Nations, she was no stranger to miracles and gifts of the Spirit. But on this day she stood before the student body at Christ for the Nations and said, “If I had followed all the prophecies that were given to me in my life, I would have been going in circles all these years.” She had more confidence in hearing God for herself than she did in someone else hearing God for her.


No Elite Company of Prophets in the New Testament Church
There is no evidence in the New Testament that there is an elite group of “prophets” today who hear from God more accurately than the rest of us; and to whom we must resort to hear what God is saying. The noted New Testament exegete, Dr. Gordon Fee, makes the convincing argument from the Greek that when Paul says in I Corinthians 14:29, Let two or three prophets speak . . ., he is not referring to a separate, distinct group in the church community.
Fee says that the language is functional and means “the one who is prophesying.” This is confirmed by vs. 31 where, in the same context, Paul says, For you can all prophesy one by one. They all have the Spirit. They all hear from God. They are all prophets. 
Because of this evidence, Fee says that those who are referred to as “prophets” in the New Testament are merely those who prophesy more than the other members of the community. This makes sense in light of the fact that the word “Prophet” is never used as a title in front of someone’s name to set them apart from other believers. 

In this New Covenant the desire of Moses' heart is finally realized. When a young Joshua wanted to stop two individuals from prophesying and confine that privilege to Moses alone, Moses cried out, Oh, that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them (Numbers 11:29). That time has arrived! What a wonderful time to be alive!


Conclusion

In summation, be teachable and open to the counsel of others, but never put another person between you and God. Never allow yourself to come into bondage to personal prophecies. You have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. You have the word of God. Be more confident in your own ability to hear God than in the ability of someone else to hear God for you.

by Eddie L. Hyatt
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, teacher, revivalist and ordained minister. He is also an advocate for women and a vice-president of God's Word to Women. His latest book is PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, is available from Amazon and from his online bookstore at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.

Monday, May 5, 2014

LOVE vs POWER

Love, Sex & the Misguided Pursuit of Power
During the first year of our marriage Sue and I had a disagreement and neither of us was willing to yield any ground. Being young and assuming that I, as the man, held the reins of “power” in the relationship, I went to prayer asking God to help this woman understand her responsibility to submit to my leadership, i.e., to do it my way.
As I prayed in this manner, Paul’s exhortation for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church suddenly stood before me with the words and gave Himself up for her seemingly highlighted in bold letters (Eph. 5:25). As I pondered this, I heard the Holy Spirit speak in my heart, “The problem is, that you are not willing to let go of yourself.”
That was devastating for I suddenly realized that it was my “I” or ego that was standing in the way of resolution and peace. I knew that I would have to die to the selfish desire to have it my way and be in control. That was the day that I began to learn that love and power, like oil and water, do not mix.
Love & Power Do Not Mix
The well-known sociologist, Willard Waller, discovered that there seems to be an inverse relationship between love and power. He noted that in interpersonal relationships as love increases, power decreases; and as power decreases, love increases. Waller coined the term “principle of least interest” to describe this phenomenon, revealed by his studies, that power lies in the hands of the person who cares the least about the relationship. Love and power, it seems, are incompatible, at least in this world.
In counselling, therefore, it is easy to see who is the guilty one, or the fearful one, by noting the one who seeks to exercise the power. The one who wants to control and dictate the terms of the relationship is the one who loves the least.
Take, for example, a husband and wife who seek counsel for their marriage that is on the rocks. He makes demands and seeks to dictate the terms of the marriage. She, on the other hand, is willing to make any sacrifice for the relationship to succeed. Which one is walking in love? The answer is obvious when we realize that love and power do not mix.
This ungodly pursuit of power is known as "abuse," and the guilty party can be the woman as well as the man. It's just that the church has given theological justification for the man to pursue such power, but not the woman. That is why it was important that in the first year of my marriage (it will be 39 years this month), I learned that it is impossible to love someone and at the same time seek power and control over them.
Sex, Love & Power
Sigmund Freud believed that all human behavior is sexually motivated and he interpreted all of life within that context. Friedrich Nietzche saw it differently and argued that the basic driving force in human beings is what he called “the will to power.” He thought that most of what goes on in the world, even sexually, is about people seeking to exercise power and control over others.
I think Nietzche had a point. I have heard ungodly men boast about their sexual exploits; like basketball Hall of Famer, Wilt Chamberlain, who boasted that he had slept with over 20,000 women. Don’t tell me that is about love, or even sex! It is about conquest and ego. It is about exercising power and control.
The feminists are thus right when they argue that rape is more about power than about sex. It is about the psychological gratification that comes from being in a position of power and forcing someone into the ultimate submission. It is a pursuit of power; and there can never be love where there is power and control.
Jesus Let Go of Power
This helps explain why, in the Incarnation, Jesus let go of the power He had eternally known with the Father (Philippians 2:7). In the Old Testament He had shown His power, thundering fire and brimstone from heaven, parting seas and wiping out entire armies. But when it came time to reveal His love to humanity, He laid aside His power.
Instead of being born in a place of power–a castle, palace or cathedral--He was born in a lowly stable to a poor family who offered up two doves or two young pigeons in the temple, an alternative offering allowed by Scripture for poor families who could not afford a lamb (Lev. 12:8; Luke 2:22-24).
He grew up in in Nazareth, an insignificant and despised village, well away from the power centers of Jerusalem, Caesarea and Rome. When He began His ministry at the age of thirty, He did not seek either power or approval from the civil and religious institutions of His day.
He ended his life in a place of ultimate weakness, suffering a slow and agonizing death nailed to a Roman cross. This point of human weakness and vulnerability was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for humanity. It is also the place where God chose to release His mighty saving power, making His free offer of salvation available for every person.
That love and power are incompatible also explains why, again and again, Jesus directed his disciples away from visions of “power” to thoughts of “service” in regards to His kingdom. When James and John, for example, requested the two most prominent seats in His kingdom, Jesus rebuked them for their preoccupation with “power” and told them they were thinking like Gentiles, i.e., like people who did not know God.
He then presented to them a new and radical model of leadership that would be characterized, He said, not by power, but by humble service (Mark 10:35-45). They must have been shocked when He told them they were to function as diakonoi, a Greek word meaning “servant,” with no connotations of status, importance or power. In other words, he forbade them to pursue power.
Pursuits of Power in the Church
In spite of the example and words of Jesus, pursuits of power continued in the church right down to the present time. I recall sitting on the platform with other faculty members and leaders of the Institute where I taught courses in Bible and Theology. It was a Day of Prayer and as I quietly prayed I was drawn to observe the height of the platform on which we sat and how high we were above those seated in the auditorium. As I sat there with this strange awareness of how high we were seated, I heard the Holy Spirit speak in my heart, “You need to come down off your thrones.”
Unbeknownst to me there were, at that very moment, individuals on that platform who were secretly plotting to oust the leadership that had founded that ministry and led it, at great sacrifice, for more than fifty years. The ouster failed but caused much hurt and painful separation. I now realize that “Come down off your thrones” was a timely word, not only for that situation, but for the church and its leaders everywhere. It was a word that pursuits of power must stop in His church.
America’s Founders Rejected “Power”
America’s Founding Fathers, who held a Christian worldview about fallen humanity, distrusted power, even in the hands of Christians. That is why they divided the powers of government into three branches; the executive, the legislative (with two branches) and the judiciary. They wanted to make it difficult for any one person or group of persons to gain too much power in the nation they were forming. They would agree with Sir John Dalberg-Acton who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
They were so intent on keeping power out of the hands of any one person that they not only divided the powers of government, but in Section 9 of the Constitution, they forbade the American government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress. (the church could take a lesson here)
The Founders envisioned a nation in which people governed themselves from within according to Christian principles of morality, particularly the teachings of Jesus. This is what Thomas Jefferson, the chief architect of the Declaration of Independence, had in mind when he said, Of all the systems of morality that have come under my observations, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution, put it like this;
We have staked the whole future of the American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future . . . upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves.
Conclusion
How things have changed! Governmental power and control is now seen by many as the answer for everything. Pursuits of power are ripping our nation apart. Politicians are grasping for power; but so are Christian leaders who see power as the answer.
The Bible, however, is clear. If we humble ourselves God will lift us up (I Peter 5:6). If we humble ourselves He will heal our land (II Chrn. 7:14). We will change America, not by gaining political power in the next election, but by boldly confronting our generation with truth spoken and lived out in the love of Christ.

This article is derived from Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, PURSUING POWER: How the Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, which can be purchased from Amazon or from his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html


Thursday, April 17, 2014

WOMEN, APOSTLES & POWER

Confronting the Ungodly Marriage of the Apostolic
with Maleness & Power



“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” declared Sir John Dalberg-Acton who made this remark after extensive studies of both secular and religious history. When James and John went to Jesus and requested the two most prominent seats in His kingdom, Jesus rebuked them for their preoccupation with “power” and told them they were thinking like Gentiles, i.e., like people who did not know God. He then presented to them a new and radical model of leadership that would be characterized, He said, not by power, but by humble service (Mark 10:35-45). They must have been shocked when He told them they were to function as diakonoi, a Greek word that referred to a lowly “servant” who waited on tables and with no connotations of status, importance or power.  
During the first century while apostolic ministry was characterized by “service,” women freely functioned in leadership, including apostolic ministry. It was only after the church institutionalized and began to think of the apostolic in terms of “office" and “power” that women began to be excluded from leadership by men who believed their gender gave them the sole right to lead and rule. This ungodly association of the "apostolic" with "maleness" and "power" is still used today as a justification for excluding women from leadership in the church. The popular Spirit Filled Life Bible, for example, without a shred of evidence, explains the prohibition toward women in I Timothy 2:11-12 as referring to “the authoritative office of apostolic teacher in the church.” The truth is that I Timothy 2:11-12 was written to address a particular situation concerning Timothy and the church in Ephesus and was never meant to be a universal rule for all churches everywhere.
The Choosing of Twelve Was Never Meant
to be a Pattern for Leadership in the Church
Nonetheless, the fact that Jesus chose twelve men as apostles has, throughout history, been used as the basis for excluding women from authoritative roles of leadership in the Church. This line of reasoning, however, ends in absurdity if followed to its logical conclusion. Consider the fact that the twelve whom Jesus chose were not only men, they were Jewish men. Should only Jewish men be leaders in the churches? Furthermore, these twelve Jewish men were instructed by Jesus to preach only to Jews. He instructed them, Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). If we follow this line of reasoning, we must conclude that all Church leaders must be Jewish men and they can preach only to Jewish people.
The truth is that the calling of the Twelve was never meant to be a pattern for the calling and recognition of church leaders. In His approximate three years of earthly ministry, as outlined in the Gospels, the ministry of Jesus was clearly directed to the Jewish people. His purpose was to call God’s covenant people back into a relationship with Himself. To a Gentile woman who came seeking healing for her daughter, Jesus replied, I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Even though the woman’s persistent faith resulted in the healing of her daughter, Jesus’ reply to her clearly reveals the limited scope of his earthy ministry.
This all changes, however, with the death and resurrection of Jesus. When He comes out of the tomb, the restrictions are no longer there. His disciples are now told to take the good news of what He has done to Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). A new era has obviously dawned. His first action after His resurrection sends a clear message that any limitations concerning His female disciples have also been removed by His redemptive work.
Mary Magdalene Receives the First
Apostolic Commission from the Risen Lord
During the forty days between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared to His disciples at various times and on one occasion appeared to over five hundred of His followers. The gospel writers, however, are very explicit in noting that it was Mary Magdalene to whom He appeared first after His resurrection. The importance which the evangelists attach to this fact indicates that it was no accidental occurrence, but that Jesus purposely appeared first to Mary Magdalene in order to make an important statement to His followers.
When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene He gave her certain, specific instructions. Matthew 28:10 records His words to Mary to, Go and tell my brethren . . .. In other words, He sent her on a specific mission defined by the words, Go and tell. The Greek word apostolos, from which we get the English word "apostle" simply means "one who is sent" or "one sent on assignment." It has nothing to do with "office," "government" or "power." Mary was a "sent one" and as such received the first apostolic commission from the Risen Lord.  Because the male disciples were required to hear the initial news of the resurrection from a woman, Mary has, throughout history, often been referred to as “the apostle to the apostles.”[1]
This commissioning of Mary by Jesus was revolutionary since the Jewish male of this time normally began his day with a prayer that included thanks to God that he was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Women were barred from studying Scripture and a rabbi considered it beneath his dignity to speak to a woman in public. Neither Jewish nor Roman courts of law would allow the testimony of women.[2] Jesus challenged this deeply ingrained religious and cultural bias by appearing first to Mary and sending her forth as the first apostolic witness of His resurrection.
By appearing first to Mary, Jesus was cutting through all the disdain and prejudice of His male disciples toward His female disciples. He thereby declared His equal acceptance of women and affirmed the value of their ministry in His name. By appearing first to Mary and giving her the first apostolic commission after His resurrection, Jesus made a clear statement that women would be included in apostolic ministry in His Church. This was revolutionary in the first century and is still so today for there are many who still see the apostolic as being associated with maleness and power.
Paul Recognizes a Female Apostle Named Junia
Paul continues this revolution begun by Jesus. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul sends personal greetings to 24 people in the latter part of the letter, i.e., chapter 16. These individuals are friends and co-workers who are dear to his heart. Of the twenty-four mentioned by name, ten are women. Many of these obviously functioned in roles of leadership in the churches. One woman named Junia is specifically referred to as an apostle. In Rom. 16:7 Paul says, Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles who also were in Christ before me. Junia is a feminine name and was universally recognized as a female apostle for the first several centuries of the Church’s existence. The famous church father of the 5th century, John Chrysostom, exclaimed, "Oh how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle."[3]
Concerned by the presence of a female apostle, some have attempted to argue that the name should be translated Junias, which is male. There are insurmountable facts, however, that militate against this argument. First of all, without exception, all ancient Greek manuscripts have the feminine form of Junia, not Junias. Secondly, the female name Junia was quite common in the first century whereas the male name, Junias, is unknown. Junias, therefore, is a hypothetical name. Thirdly, as mentioned above, Junia was universally recognized as a female apostle for the first several centuries of the Church’s existence.
Why then have some modern translations, such as the NIV, rendered the name Junias instead of Junia? Dr. N. Clayton Croy, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, says, “It is hard to see any reason other than the translators’ bias against the possibility that a woman could be an apostle.” [4] Well-known New Testament scholar, James G. D. Dunn, says, “The assumption that the name must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity.” [5]
The idea of a female apostle is obviously too revolutionary for some modern exegetes. Nonetheless, the evidence is conclusive that Junia was a female apostle and recognized as such by Paul himself. Her example clearly demonstrates that women exercised apostolic leadership in the New Testament churches. But she is not alone, for a careful perusal of Scripture reveals other women who functioned in leadership roles in the New Testament.
Paul Included Women in the Leadership Gifts of Ephesians 4:11
That women can serve as apostles is also made clear from Paul’s discussion of the leadership gifts (obviously not an exhaustive list) in Eph. 4:7-12. [6] The apostle heads this list of gifts followed by the prophet, the evangelist and the pastor and teacher (Eph. 4:11). Paul begins the discussion of these gifts by pointing to the risen Christ as the One who bestows these gifts. In vs. 8 he says, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. The Greek word translated “men” in this passage is the plural of anthropos which is gender inclusive and refers to both men and women. If Paul had wanted to restrict these leadership gifts to men only he could have used the gender specific andras, which is the plural Greek word for man as male. He purposely uses language that makes it clear that the risen Christ bestows these gifts on both men and women.

Apostolic Christianity Includes Women

Many other women in both the Old and New Testaments functioned in leadership roles. The list includes Deborah, Huldah and Miriam in the Old Testament. The list in the New Testament includes, not only Mary Magdalene and Junia, but Phoebe, Priscilla and the women of Philippi who labored with Paul in the gospel (Phil. 4:3). Many commentators believe that Priscilla was actually the one with the leadership gift because Paul mentions her first although it was customary to mention her husband, Aquila, first (Rom. 16:3-5).
It should be noted that all of these women are presented in Scripture in a positive light. Nowhere is there the slightest hint that they were somehow functioning outside their proper roles. The Assemblies of God is, therefore, correct when, in its official position paper on women, it says;
The instances of women filling leadership roles in the Bible should be taken as divinely approved pattern, not as exceptions to divine decrees. Even a limited number of women with Scripturally commended leadership roles affirms that God does indeed call women to spiritual leadership.[7]
The evidence is overwhelming that women functioned in leadership roles including apostolic ministry in the New Testament era. Since the New Testament Church is the model, any church that limits the leadership gifts and callings of its female members, cannot call itself apostolic or New Testament. It has veered from the norm of the New Testament. “But,” some will ask, “what about Paul’s call for female silence and submission in 1 Tim. 2:11-12 and 1 Cor. 14:34-35?”

What About 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35?

First of all, these passages should never be used, as they commonly are, as a canon within the canon concerning the status of women in the Church. The many passages that show women functioning in leadership should be given equal status with these two passages. Secondly, the evidence is overwhelming that, in these two passages, Paul is addressing local, cultural situations that existed in Corinth and Ephesus. They are on the level of Paul’s admonition for believers to greet one another with a holy kiss and for women to wear a head covering when praying and prophesying. These passages were never meant to be guidelines for establishing a church order and excluding women from leadership roles in the Church.[8]
Concluding Thoughts
There is no question in my mind that this unholy marriage of the apostolic with maleness and power has weakened the church and damaged her influence in the modern world. This can be remedied and we can recover our voice and influence if we will do two things. Number one, we must give up the prideful pursuits of power and return to the model of "service" that Jesus so clearly presented to His followers. Secondly, we must fully and equally embrace the gifts and callings of the female members of Christ's body. Only then will the church be a fully functioning body through which the Spirit of the Lord will freely flow.


This article is derived from Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, available from Amazon, Kobo and at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.





[1] On several occasions throughout the history of the Church, Mary Magdalene has been called the “apostle to the apostles” because she was commissioned by Jesus to take the first news of His resurrection to the apostles. See Hans Kung, Christianity: Essence, History and Future (New York: Continuum, 1996), 123. See also Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans, The IVP Women’s Study Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 600.
[2] Susan Hyatt, In the Spirit We’re Equal (Dallas: Hyatt Press, 1998).
[3] John Chrysostom, “The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, 11:555; William B. Eerdmans, 1956). 35.
[4] N. Clayton Croy, “A Case Study in Translators’ Bias,” Priscilla Papers (Spring 2001): 9.
[5] James G. D. Dunn, vol. 38B of Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books), 894.
[6] This is certainly meant to be a sampling of gifts rather than an exhaustive list. Paul does not have a settled list of gifts, but lists different gifts in different letters. For example, in 1 Cor. 12:28 he presents a list of eight leadership gifts in which he includes the apostle, prophet and teacher but leaves out the pastor and evangelist. He then adds five gifts not listed in Eph. 5:11 to bring the total to eight.
[7] “The Role of Women in Ministry As Described in Holy Scripture: A Position Paper Adopted By the General Presbytery, August 1990,” Pentecostal Evangel (Oct. 28, 1990): 12-15.
[8] For a thorough treatment of this issue see Susan Hyatt, In the Spirit We’re Equal (Dallas: Hyatt Press, 1998).






Monday, February 3, 2014

Don't Lose Your Focus

Do you know why a lion tamer uses a chair? Because the 4 legs in the face of the lion causes him to lose his focus and renders him powerless. The lion keeps going around and back and forth from one leg to the other; and because he is unable to focus, he is tamed by a much less powerful creature. Satan, a much weaker creature, wants to tame you and render you ineffective by  bringing countless distractions before your mind and robbing you of focus.

Jesus was very focused on His purpose and reason for being, and He dealt severely with that which would distract Him from that purpose. When Jesus explained to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and there suffer and die, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, telling Him this would not happen. Refusing to lose His focus, Jesus turned to Peter and said, Get behind me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men (Matthew 16:21-22). Jesus would not lose His focus!

Losing one's focus can be costly. I recall watching the 100 meter dash in the 1984 Summer Olympics and saw a stunning example of how costly it can be to lose focus. The number 1 and number 2 ranked sprinters in the world were in the race and all eyes were on them, for they were very evenly matched. The gun sounded and they raced towards the finish line. The number 1 sprinter was slightly ahead as they approached the finish line; but as they crossed the finish line the number 2 runner edged in front and won the race by the tiniest fraction of a second. I will never forget the announcer saying that just before runner number 1 crossed the finish line he looked to his side to see where his competitor was positioned; but in doing so it took something off his stride and allowed runner number 2 to edge in front. He lost his focus and it cost him the race.

Jesus exhorts Peter to not lose his focus. The above story reminds me of how Jesus, in John 20:22, exhorted Peter not to lose his focus by being concerned with what John would do. In this post-resurrection appearance, Jesus exhorts Peter to, feed My lambs! He also tells Peter about how he will die and concludes the exhortation with a focused command, Follow Me!  At this point Peter is distracted by John and says to Jesus, But Lord, what about this man? Jesus replied, If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me In other words, it is none of your business, Peter, what John does. You keep your focus on following me and doing what I have called you to do.

The business world has discovered the power of focus and in his excellent book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says that what separates great companies from good companies is that the great ones have found a focus, i.e., a purpose toward which they channel all their energies to be the very best they can be. Find your focus and don't lose it!

Paul succeeded because he refused to lose his focus. In spite of beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, weariness and persecutions, he never lost his focus. May our attitude for 2014 be like his as expressed in Philippians 3:13-14. In this passage Paul admits that he has not arrived, but then says, But one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul refused to lose his focus.

There will be distractions in 2014 that will come into your life to take you away from your purpose and reason for being. I exhort you and encourage you; don't lose your focus in 2014.