By Any Other Name?

single roseIn a previous post, I mentioned that I would be open to receiving and answering questions from the web ‘community’. The following is a query from my physical and spiritual father:

Is the word ” Reverend”…irreverent? Where did the word come from and why do some use it in churches and some do not…some ministers like it and some don’t? a Pastor recently told me NOT to call him ‘Dominee’ [dutch for Reverend?] because of its implications meaning ‘domineering’ he says.

First, the origin of Reverend is derived from the word Latin reverendus meaning ‘one who is to be respected.’ (source) This meaning certainly accords with the scripture’s command to “obey those who rule over you, and be submissive” (Hebrews 13:17) and “to recognize those who labor among you… and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

However, all words change over time and certainly the term ‘Reverend’ does not mean exactly the same thing today as it did back in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries from where it originated. In my understanding, today it simply indicates one who holds an official, pastoral position and so it functions more as a indicator of the office and calling in the church than it does of the character of the man. So, for example, I often sign my name to church correspondence as “Rev. Daniel Kok” to communicate the fact that I am writing something or ‘approving’ of something in an official capacity. It is, then, simply a useful designation without being a scripturally sanctioned title.

I rarely if ever use this title, though, to introduce or speak of myself because of the connotations it might carry, such as worthy of being revered (see Acts 10:26 & Revelation 22:9), or possibly, as per the Dutch example you gave, a misunderstanding of how much I like to rule the church with an iron fist!

But, as you noted, many ministers and churches do not use this ‘address.’ Some will cite Matthew 23:8-10 to forbid the use of any and all titles in the church. However, Rabbi, Teacher and Father are, clearly, titles given in place of our one Rabbi & Teacher (Christ) and Father who is God, as opposed to simply designating someone with a particular responsibility. For the context that our Lord is speaking of is that of pride (vs. 5,6&11,12) not nomenclature.

In addition, some Christians eschew formal titles because  they think their use exalts the clergy over the laity and thus undermines the “priesthood of all believers” (see 1 Peter 2:9). Wishing to avoid all divisions amongst believers they will call themselves “brother so and so” or simply have others call them by their first name. Personally I don’t have a problem with this as long as it does not descend into false humility (Colossians 2:18).

Yet scripture does show us positive examples where titles or designations may be used. Peter, for example, calls those appointed to oversee the church “elders” (1 Peter 5:1ff.) and Paul tells Timothy to appoint “elders” in every city. (Titus 1:5). Paul signs his letters as an apostle (2 Corinthians 1:1) and calls for the elders and overseers of the church to hear him (Acts 20:17). When Paul was taken captive said “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people” (Acts 23:5). All of these titles are used to identify those whom, as we noted above, are worthy of honor for their work’s or calling’s sake.

Furthermore the titles of  ‘Pastor’ ‘Elder’ ‘Deacon’ etc. are not made/created by man but given to us by God in His Word. Yes, these words indicate the servant ‘posture’ of these offices, yet at the same time identify those who have been chosen to serve in an official capacity and who, by the Spirit, possess real authority as representatives of Christ (Acts 20:28).

Advertisements

77%

77%The advertisement to your left is from the “Pro-Choice Public Education Project.” As you can see, the picture comes with an assertion about those who are anti-abortion (pro-life). I say assertion because it is not backed up with any statistics or research (though I am persuaded, without need of research or statistics, that the latter part of the statement is factually true). Now granted it is an advertisement meant to draw one’s attention rather than an essay intended to argue one point or another based on an unbiased study. Nevertheless it has to be accepted at face value and, as such, it is someone’s opinion and not factual.

But let us, for the sake of argument, take it as a fact. Let us consider, first of all, how many people we are talking about. Since the advertisement is from the United States, we can safely assert that the amount of leaders who are against abortion would be in the thousands who, in turn represent millions of American. Yet even if only 23% of all anti-abortion leaders are women, this is a sizable amount of the female population. And the advertisement does not ask but I posit: what do they have to say about women’s rights and abortion in particular? Are they to be marginalized because they agree with these male anti-abortion leaders (assuming that the men are in charge)? Do they have a choice to be against abortion or must they side with the pro-choice movement because they are women? Do the authors of the advertisement oppose these women (and ironically their choice to be pro-life) since, according to the ad “it’s pro-choice or no choice”? Do they realize that one of the most prominent female leaders of the anti-abortion movement is Norma Leah McCorvey who is better known as Jane Roe, involved in the landmark abortion case of Roe vs. Wade which overturned states laws against abortion? Why is this woman now against abortion when before she supported it?

But who are these men that are against abortion? According to the picture, literally taken at face value, they are all white, older, and well dressed, thus presumably rich or at least fairly wealthy. As we all know older white men with plenty of money are the bane of the existence of women, minorities and differently sexual oriented persons. A convenient scapegoat to be sure. Now perhaps I protest too much but it is hard to see anything other than a blatant stereotype staring me in the face. Yet the fact of the matter is that all kinds of people are for abortion and that it has little to do with race, sex, or any other trait that we tend to divide and subtract people for our own purposes.

Now ads like these assert that, in contradistinction to the anti-abortion movement, that they are all about choice. But that is simplistic because these choices are multifaceted. Some are for abortion simply because they make money off of it. For them it is a business and they will protect their business at all costs. Thus some of them are, like the men in the ad, older white men who are fairly wealthy. Some of them are white women. Others do not fit into either category because all kinds of people are paid or in some way profit from it. Many states pay for the abortions of women who live in poverty or want. Many companies also fund, for example, Planned Parenthood with their profits. Other organizations raise millions of dollars per year for abortion providers.

Even now there is legislation to require the public, in one fashion or another, to subsidize the industry in the near future. And in Canada our tax dollars, both federal and provincial have gone to support abortion for years. So it is publicly funded, or less politely, extorted from us on a daily basis. And yes from one perspective this allows women to be ‘free’ or unburdened with something that they did not want or for which they cannot properly care. However, in the vast majority of cases, such persons were not violated by a man. They chose to live the life they wanted which included having a child with the man they chose to sleep with. No one put a gun to their head; no one took away their right to express themselves sexually. Many married women have abortions as well; no one forced them to marry that man, or take it upon themselves to force them to stop going to work and instead raise a family. All of these choices were theirs. But note that if they were really free, or if they and those who supported them really believed that, according to the advertisement, that “it’s your body” and thus “it’s your decision,” all public funding of such organizations would cease. So it is not only an individual choice but a publicly funded industry (and increasingly so) which allows people to make money on the basis of decisions for which I am not only not directly responsible for but also those to which I am directly opposed. So let us take choice out of the equation.

The other reason that people support abortion is rarely talked about but it is just as responsible for it as the people who support the right for a woman to do what she wants. And yes here I am talking about men. But again, it has little to do with race, age or any other distinction. Simply put, is men who impregnate these women who want nothing to do with the child. Sure, many women may wish to have an abortion, but how many do so because their boyfriend, lover, husband do not want to burdened with the child? I won’t insult your intelligence by quoting a statistic because I do not know what the number is. But I do know, for a fact, that a man is a least 50% responsible in each case of unwanted pregnancy. He was there; he is responsible. Where are the men who are willing to step up and to be held accountable for their actions? But you see they don’t have to if abortion is readily available. It allows them the easy way out. After all, they don’t have to go to the clinic and undergo the procedure. They don’t have to be burdened with the physical, psychological and emotional effects of an abortion. It may be labeled as a ‘choice’ for a women, but truly she is the shackled one. The man is free to go as he pleases and can even do it again if he wants (and not necessarily with the same women). So where are those within the pro-choice movement who are willing to say something about these men? Are they just let off the proverbial hook?

And you know what? To be perfectly honest, as a man, I can say I feel for the women in these situations. Who or what is a man to say what it feels like to be pregnant or to bear a child? What do we know? But just because a man cannot be pregnant does not mean he does not have a right to support the pro life movement anymore than the 23% of those in the anti-abortion movement who are women. Why? Because they are against choice? That is one way to look at it. But on a deeper level they are men who understand it is their calling as men to love the women and the children that are in their life. Men who understand that life is already given at conception and not rob these children of something for which they cannot make a choice. Men who understand their duty and responsibly as men to protect the weak and defenseless. We are not just the 77%; we love women and we love the children God has given us.

These are just a few arguments which undermine the argument made by this advertisement. There are more to made and there is more to be said. But what I wish to end with is this: it is a choice. A choice with life changing significance. It’s just that the choice has farther reaching implications than placing the blame on men who will never have to bear a child. It affects the child, the woman and the man who was involved from the very beginning. In the end, it really doesn’t matter who supports what movement. In the end what matters is: do I have good reason(s) to support the movement to which I belong? And can I see past the rhetoric that is often used to understand that this issue is not about men or women but about the 100% of children (female and male) who are killed every time an abortion takes place. 

Bible Reading Plans (2013)

Being New Year’s Day, it would be a good time for you to review where you are in terms of reading God’s Word. We have noted some Bible reading plans in the past and so I won’t belabor that point here. 

But I will encourage you to read our last post on this subject here.

Second, I would also recommend that you read this post on “How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013″ (emphasis mine). I have included the five points of the article below to encourage you to follow the link and examine the article for yourself. Enjoy!

1. Don’t Overextend
2. Don’t Do It Alone
3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever
4. Don’t Live as if Paul Lied
5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit

‘Judge Not’ but not Judge Nothing

Often our Lord’s command “Judge not” is understood in terms of the saying ‘If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. And though it is true that scripture calls us to listen often and speak rarely (James 1:19), Jesus statement should not be understood to mean that Christians should never criticize or otherwise make judgments about spiritual matters. It is apparent that Jesus did not mean that we must never judge but not to judge in the manner which He went on to explain in detail (Matthew 7:5-7). This is confirmed when see that our Lord Himself, in another context, tells us that there are right principles with which we must judge: “Judge not according to appearance but judge with righteous judgement.” (John 7:24).  

Furthermore the scriptures command us to “discern” (Hebrews 5:14), “test” (1 John 4:1), “reject” (1 Timothy 4:7), “examin[e]” (Acts 17:11), and “not believe” (Mark 13:21). Thus we are not required to be open to every teacher or word that we hear, nor to passively or silently accept their teaching, but to use our spiritual discernment as guided by the scriptures to embrace the truth and reject the lie. 

“The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.” Proverbs 14:15

Sabbath Observance: Saturday or Sunday?

The main issue is whether the Jewish Sabbath, as revealed to us in the Old Covenant, continues in the New Covenant age or whether Christians should meet on Sunday. Christians believe that as the Old Covenant faded away into the glorious revelation of the New, the Old Covenant Sabbath observation discontinued out of necessity.

For if we want to hold to the Jewish Sabbath then we would have to say, if we are consistent, that all the laws of the Old Covenant are still in effect now (including the priesthood, sacrifices, punishments etc.). This is why in Colossians 2:16 Paul can say we are not to judge one another in food or drink, festivals or Sabbaths: the old is passing away.

We have to wrestle with this text to understand its true meaning but it seems obvious that the Sabbath as commonly practiced by the Jews has no hold on Christians now. Note that the context says that Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us.” The meaning of “wiped out” is to destroy, or make clean. And then Paul says “so” in verse 16 to connect it to the meaning of verse 14 and 15. In other words he says (my paraphrase) ‘since Christ in his atonement destroyed the necessity of keeping these laws, you no longer should judge each other in these matters.’

Added to this is the evidence of the meaning of the word ‘Sabbath’ for it does not mean ‘Saturday’ but simply means ‘rest’ or ‘stop.’ Therefore, the fact that the Jews rested or stopped working on Saturday is a particular application of the fourth commandment but not of its essence. “Remember the Sabbath day” is to do our work in six days and rest the seventh (Exodus 20:8-10). It doesn’t specify in the text what day of the week the Sabbath is. For a Christian to work Monday-Saturday and then to rest on Sunday in no way violates the fourth commandment because they are living by it’s basic principle. And indeed the principle is the thing: the controversy is not over the commandment per se, but its application.[1] In other words the moral idea is the same ‘rest and worship’ but the application, the day, has changed. But why?

If we want to get to the meaning or application of the Sabbath in the New Testament we must see it in its fullness; it’s relation to the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).[2] This is evident from 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. In context we are told to abound “in the work of the Lord, knowing that [our] labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) This is why we gather to give offerings on “the first day of every week” (16:2), which are a token of our thankfulness to God in his deliverance of us from death and sin (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Note that this is similar to the Old Testament practice of bringing animals and birds to be sacrificed on the Sabbath. (Numbers 28:9-10) Offerings in the Old Testament were a sign of forgiveness as well as thankfulness, just as they are in the New Testament.

The author of Hebrews reflects on this fulfillment aspect of the Sabbath as well when he says that “a rest for the people of God” remains (Hebrews 4:9) The rest in this passage reflects the rest which we receive from God by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. The place of rest is heaven because the readers are warned in verse 6 of chapter 4 that some did not enter into it. For there we “have a great High Priest,” Jesus Christ. (4:14). He has entered “into heaven itself” because he has offered Himself to God for our sins (Hebrews 9:24-26) The Sabbath day in the New Testament, therefore, must specifically reference Christ’s atoning work. The Messiah was resurrected; He is now seated in heaven. He then imparts life through His atonement as the resurrected Lord because His work is finished. This life is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit and results in our regeneration unto eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).[3] And the day of resurrection, the day of life, was on the first day of the week or Sunday, as we call it (Luke 24:1,6) In other words, the New Testament is relating to us the observance of the Sabbath through the lens of the new redemptive situation.

As one scholar has noted, Peter speaks in a similar vein in Acts 4:10-11. He is speaking about the risen Lord. (vs. 10) Verse 11 is a quotation from Psalm 118:22 to prove that He still lives or reigns in power insofar as the cripple is healed in His name. In the context of the quote from Psalm 118 we read “this is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Again, the resurrection brings forth a new perspective; one wherein a man who could not walk now can (the power of the resurrection). This is related to the day of resurrection so as to make us rejoice and be glad! Thus in the worship of the saints we commemorate the resurrection of Christ as the new Sabbath day which was made. 

We should also note that in Acts 20:7 Paul gathered with the disciples (“on the first day of the week”), which should be understood to be as Sunday. (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2). Why? Because verse six mentions “for seven days” which is an indicator that the week has passed since in Jewish practice Friday-Saturday was a week, so the Saturday functions as the seventh day. The next day, “the first day” is a day where the disciples gather, break bread and hear Paul preach. Thus Sunday is the acceptable day of worship for the New Covenant people.

We must remember this is the pattern in the Old Testament: a continual cycle of seven days. The eighth day (the day after the Sabbath) has a rich meaning behind it as (see Leviticus 23:36,39; Numbers 29:35) reflected in the New Testament fulfillment in Christ. On the eighth day, in certain circumstances, there was to be no work but there was atonement offered. So Christ rested on the resurrection day from His works in relation to His atonement (cf. discussion above on Hebrews 4).

Furthermore, Christ is called the “first-fruits” of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:20&23 which is a reference back to the Old Testament practice of offering the first part of the harvest unto God. This was given on the day after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:10-11), that is, the eighth day. Thus our Sunday worship is a commemoration of the New Testament first-fruit, Jesus Christ, whose resurrection is now a sure promise of our resurrection.

By now it should be clear by what I have said that Sunday observance is not a matter of finding a text that says, “worship on Sunday.” It is by inference that we establish this truth. As Reformed Christians we do believe in a type of Sabbath observance. For the fourth commandment is not based on theocratic law (laws that pertained only to the Jews in the state of Israel) but creation law. After all, God reminds even the Jews of their obligation to keep the Sabbath for the very reason that God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation. (Exodus 20:8-11) There are differences in the way the Sabbath is upheld between the Old and the New Testament but the essence of the commandment remains.

In conclusion we cannot just ignore the fourth commandment; it is applicable today as ever. But it does not command us now to keep the Jewish ceremonies. Indeed all of the Ten Commandments are relevant for us today but not in the exactly the same way that they were in the Old Testament. The ceremonies of the Old Covenant are done away in Christ, but the essence of the Law remains. If we obey the fourth commandment we must observe it unto the Lord Jesus Christ but we cannot be bound to Saturday but to Sunday: the new Sabbath day that He has made.

___________

[1] Just as Christians believe in the seventh commandment  and yet have ‘tightened’ the restrictions in accordance with Jesus’ design and teaching (for example, with particular application to the issue of divorce – see Matthew 19:3-9).
[2] This statement is, of course, consistent with our Lord’s teaching concerning Himself: namely that He is Lord of heaven and earth. Thus the Sabbath is his jurisdiction as ‘Lord’ and determined by Him alone. The Pharisees accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath, but only He knew how to truly live and practice it (cf. Matthew 12:1-12; Luke 4:16,31; 13:10-16; John 5:9-18)
[3] Note how often the New Testament refers to this as being an act of recreation or something new: Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:22-25; Colossians 3:9-10; 1 Peter 1:3; Titus 3:5. Since the Sabbath is reflective of creation (Genesis 2:2,3; Exodus 20:8-11) this new creation demands a new day.