Monday, January 23, 2017

Spirit-Powered Men and Women

"I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works." 1Timothy 2:8-10

As we often do, when we are rebelling, recent reference to this passage has focused upon attempts to reject that which is forbidden. vv11-12 receive the bulk of the attention.

What is missed is that the lead-in from the beginning of the chapter is the astoundingly gracious plan of God, the only Savior, to redeem people from all walks of life through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator.

And although God is the alone Savior through Christ the alone Mediator, we learn here what will be those means, humanly speaking, through which He does this. Do we wish to see the nations saved? Do we wish to see our nation come to the knowledge of the truth? Do we wish to see our community transformed by Christ? Let us pay attention to the role that God has assigned to us in this.

Men of Prayer. This isn't optional. It's not a program that one church might have and another not. Everywhere there are Christians, the men should be praying. The men should be leaders in prayer. Wives should have the familiar experience of being led in prayer by their husbands. Children should also, by their fathers. The church should be accustomed to seasons of hearing the deeper voices of the congregation calling upon the Lord for the government, for the nations, for the church, for the second-coming.

Men of Holy Hands. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He who wishes to be great must be a servant of all. Holy hands is much more than "be careful little hands what you do." It is the identifying of hands as sacrifices--no longer possessed by him at the end of whose arms the hands reside, but now having been handed over unto God.

Work done with diligence as an act of worship. Devotion to service rather than leisure or entertainment. Recreation that is an enjoyment of God, and a refreshment for the purpose of more worship and service. The hands of a husband, of a father, of the men in the congregation should be hands that have been offered once and for all, and continuously, as living sacrifices.

Not only will such hands refuse to be wasted in self-service, but they will not be found idle. Idle? Hands that have been devoted to the Lord and His service? May it never be!

If we desire to see another generation of the church follow in this--and we do!--then let us first see the men of this generation with holy hands.

Men Without Wrath. Wrath is not strength, and the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. The fruit of the Spirit is... joy, peace, patience... gentleness, and self-control. Too often, passivity and self-service have gone hand-in-hand with fury at being inconvenienced by others.

There is little real interaction until the issue is forced by some crisis or unpleasantness, and then comes an explosion, followed by the fearful scurrying of those around, and then a return to the "peace" of non-action and non-interaction.

This is not strength. This is an over-sized, over-aged temper tantrum. And, in the church, it often masquerades as self-righteousness. But there is nothing further from true righteousness than a man who is given to wrath.

Joyful, peaceful, gentle, self-controlled men are an appointed means by which God our Savior brings men to the knowledge of the truth through the only Mediator, the Man, Christ Jesus.

Men Without Doubting. This, of course, goes hand in hand with being a gentle-man: unshakeable certainty that God, who is full of saving mercy, is working all things according to the counsel of His will. That God is working all things together for the good of His people. That God, who did not spare His own Son, is also together with Him, giving us all things.

How it would change the face of our homes if they are led with a perpetually cheerful, sure confidence in the love, wisdom, and power of God our Savior! How it would change the face of our churches. Of our communities.

It would undoubtedly diminish the revenue of news channels and conspiracy theory websites, but there is really only one conspiracy that ultimately matters: the conspiracy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the salvation of the elect, and the bending of literally everything that occurs, everywhere, at every moment, to that end.

Beautiful Women. What about the women? Their primary command is to be adorned. How odd that the negative "not with..." gets so much attention, when the command is primarily positive.

Adorned with modest apparel.

Adorned with good works.

The modest apparel here indicates a condition of the heart: propriety and moderation. These are women who (like the hands of their men) know what they are about: they have been devoted to the Lord. They are living sacrifices. They are not scurrying after attention or admiration. They have been loved with everlasting love, bought at infinite price, and appointed to work of infinite value. There is no reason for the pleading, panicked dress or drama of worldly women.

No, these are women who profess godliness. They have declared with their mouths that Christ is Savior, that Jesus is Master. And now they are declaring it with their actions, with good works. They are not making gaudy displays of themselves, but rather they are always ready for another one of those good works that their Redeemer has prepared beforehand for them to walk in.

Such a woman is beautiful beyond comparison. A thousand seductively (un)dressed, glaringly painted, attention-seeking starlets of the world don't begin to have the beauty of a single woman whose heart has rested in Christ, and whose hands therefore are full of diligence in His service.

Yes, there is more in the passage about what are "not" the good works of a godly woman, just as there was some about what are "not" the adornments of a godly woman. And there is a particular commendation for the good work of persevering motherhood. But here remains the main point: a life of service to others for the sake of Christ makes a lady stunningly beautiful.

And this beauty is appointed of God as a characteristic of His plan to save all kinds of people through the only Mediator, the Man, Christ Jesus.

Again, this comes only by the work of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is... love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

We must see this: that a godly woman is made truly lovely (just as a godly man is made truly manly) only by the life of Jesus Christ in her, worked out by the Holy Spirit, until in due season the fruit appears and demonstrates that she is abiding in the Vine.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And the work of the Spirit, who produces this fruit in godly men and women, is to bring the salvation of God through the only Mediator, Jesus Christ.

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