Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Communion Service--An Easter Celebration!


NOTE: The following sermon was delivered on Easter Sunday, 2018, and it is presented here briefly modified.  [Dennis O. Wretlind, Ph.D.] 

“The Communion Service—An Easter Celebration!”
1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Introduction

          “He Is Risen!” He is Risen, Indeed!” So goes the traditional greeting on Easter! Easter represents the most important holiday on the Christian calendar—more important than Christmas. If Christmas had not come the world would not have had a Savior. But he did come to take away the sins of the world by dying on the cross in our place. But if the dead Savior had not risen, writes the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14 and 17, our faith is an empty shell and we are still in our sins, forever lost. Thank God for Easter!


          Today we celebrate the Eucharist or Holy Communion. And although we do not often think of it as an Easter event, when we leave this morning my prayer is that we will never again take communion without connecting it to the resurrected Jesus Christ. Here is the theme of the sermon: The communion service is an ongoing, living celebration of and with the resurrected Jesus Christ. Today we will reflect on the broader Context of this passage, carefully examine the Contents of the verses 23-26, and conclude the message by partaking of the Communion elements. But first, let us bow in prayer.


I. The Context (1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 27-34)

         
          In the context, 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, Paul rebukes the Christians in Corinth. Verse 17 begins with these ominous words, “in the following instructions I do not commend you,” and at the end of the section in verse 22 he writes, “Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.” What was occurring in the church that brought about Paul’s displeasure?


When the church gathered together to eat “The Lord’s Supper,” a phrase equivalent to our “Communion Service,” Paul took note of its divisiveness. “Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk” (verses 20-21). The play on words, “the Lord’s Supper,” and “his own supper” demonstrates that the church had allowed such abuse to turn the Lord’s Supper into an unholy mockery! Paul’s conclusion in verse 22 borders on sarcasm, “What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.” The Lord’s Supper is serious business and, turning our attention to verses 27-34, Communion must never be taken lightly!


Verse 27—Communion must be observed with genuine respect for Jesus Christ, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Verse 28—Communion must be done after individual self-examination, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Verses 28, 30—Communion done in an unworthy manner invites judgment from the head of the “table,” the Lord Jesus Christ, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Holy Communion is serious business! Let us examine the contents of verses 24-26.


II. The Contents (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)


          I suspect that some of you are sitting there wondering how the title of this message, “The Communion Service—An Easter Celebration!” makes sense. Not only does it make sense, it is sensational!


          We all agree that the Communion Service memorializes a past event, the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. We also agree that the Communion Service looks forward to the coming again of Jesus Christ, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (verse 26). What we often overlook, however, is that sandwiched between these two events, the death of Jesus and his future second coming, is the celebration of and with the resurrected Jesus Christ at the Communion table (verses 23-26). I repeat the theme: The communion service is an ongoing, living celebration of and with the resurrected Jesus Christ.


          I know that this may sound strange if not shocking to you. But notice these five particulars.  First, Paul began the Communion passage in verse 23 with these words, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” He could not and did not receive the Lord’s message before his conversion, and after his conversion he could only have received it from the risen Lord. Second, the message Paul received from the risen Lord referred back in time to the Upper Room with Jesus and the twelve disciples, “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying,” ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (verses 24-25). Third, the command to observe Communion, “Do this,” was transferred into the present by Jesus. He inaugurated Communion as a present reenactment of the past event in the Upper Room. Fourth, Jesus is present at every Communion service. The twice-repeated command, “Do this in remembrance of me,” obscures this crucial element. This traditional translation commands the celebrants to only look back in time and recall what happened to Jesus in his passion. But this is not how Jesus told it to Paul or how Paul wrote it down for the Corinthians. The text reads literally, “Do this as my memorial.” Allow me a little latitude in explaining the difference between “in remembrance of me” and “as my memorial.” The pronoun “me” in the phrase “in remembrance of me” is objective. If we were to transpose the noun “remembrance” into a verb, as some translations do, “me” would be the direct object, “remember me.” In the literal terminology, “as my memorial,” the “my” is an adjective modifying the noun “remembrance.” If we transpose the noun into a verb, “my” would be the subject, “I remember.” And the “I” is Jesus who is present at every Communion service. In support of this dramatic concept, let us briefly consider a “memorial.” A memorial causes people to remember someone or something. Without people either thinking about or viewing the memorial, the memorial by itself means nothing. For the celebrants at the Lord’s Supper, the “memorial” evokes memories of Jesus and his passion and death. But what memories does the Communion as Jesus’ “memorial” bring to him who is also present at the Communion? If he were not present, why would he say that this is “my memorial”? What is he remembering? The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote, “[Jesus] who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Verse 12:2), and this same Jesus presides over our Communion reenactment of the Lord’s Supper. He remembers the slaps, the whippings, the thorny crown, the nails in hands and feet—but at the Communion celebration, he feels joy as he looks out over the congregation. It was worth it all. We are worth it all!

          The fourth particular point was lengthy and crucial, but there is yet a fifth particular in the passage. The bread and the cup of which we are about to partake are symbols of Jesus’ passion and death and also of the New Covenant (verse 25).  This Covenant includes the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life. At Communion Jesus offers both to us. His arms are outstretched. He lovingly appeals for our acceptance of these blessings.


III. The Communion Service


          It is time to reenact the Lord’s Supper. The communion service is an ongoing, living celebration of and with the resurrected Jesus Christ.  Jesus is in our midst.  He invites us to his Supper. But before we partake of the elements let us respond to Jesus’ outstretched arms and His offers of forgiveness and eternal life. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. We just need to ask Him for it in silent prayer, and he lovingly grants it! Also, if we look back in our minds eye to the Upper Room with Jesus and the twelve disciples, one disciple was there who partook of the elements but who did not really believe in Jesus. His name was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. But Jesus offered him the promise of forgiveness and eternal life as well. He does so today. If you are here today but have never personally accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf, he stands here with outstretched arms and pleading eyes for you to accept his free offer of forgiveness and eternal life. In the quiet of your own mind and heart, talk to him, acknowledge your need for forgiveness, believe in his sacrifice, and receive him and his gifts today. Let us all spend a quiet moment in prayer communing with the Christ of Easter, and then partake of the Communion elements.

         

Saturday, March 3, 2018

How Childbearing Saves Women

Preface: I would be a fool if I thought that this article would put to rest the emotion-packed topic of women’s roles. On the other hand, I would be unfaithful to my calling as a biblical exegete if I did not set forth another viable option for this passage. I fully expect that forthcoming comments will seek to overturn my conclusions in this all-too-brief article, and maybe I have overlooked something. However, in discussions with scholars and in reading commentaries my conclusions stem directly from the conviction that much has indeed been overlooked and need to be developed. May intellectual openness and Spirit-led kindness accompany all who read and choose to make comments.
Dennis O. Wretlind, Ph.D
An Exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:15
 
            The 21st century dawns as an unprecedented era of human history. Today what was “science fiction” just a few years ago is now real; what was once labeled immorality is today an alternative lifestyle.  Being a homemaker used to be a respectable role for women. Now it has subtly become a disparaging term. In short, we live in a day of social upheaval.  For the Church of Jesus Christ, this social restructuring can lead to unprecedented opportunities for outreach as people search for identity and meaning in life. It must also, however, become a time to diligently clarify the teachings of the Bible that impinge upon the social changes all about us.

            In the religious context a major social adjustment has been the ordination of women and their newly-acceptable role as pastors and senior pastors in many denominations. Traditionalists and many conservatives reject such a role for women based in part on the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Without serious debate, this passage represents a politically and theologically charged text around which revolve philosophical and exegetical arguments pro and con. This article will not silence the debate, but it will attempt to bring clarity to an often neglected clause in the text that has significant if not fundamental bearing on the issue, namely, she shall be saved through childbearing.
 
Survey of the Solutions

            Commentators offer four primary solutions to the meaning of this clause.[1]
 
q  Physical salvation—A woman who continues in faith, love, holiness and sound thinking would experience physical salvation in childbearing; that is, when she gave birth she would not die.
q  Spiritual salvation—By birthing children the soul of the mother would be saved if she died in the process.
q  Spiritual salvation in the home—A woman is saved by taking care of domestic affairs. This view tends to equate τεκνογονία with the education of children.
q  Spiritual salvation through the incarnation—The term τῆς τεκνογονίας refers to the birth of the Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15 in the Garden of Eden. Although Eve sinned and is worthy of eternal death, because of the promise and the childbirth of Christ, women may find salvation if they put their trust in Jesus.
 
Issues Impinging Upon A Solution
 
            Contextual issues—The overriding concept in 1 Timothy 2-3 is decorum in the church (3:14-15). When the men of the church gather for prayer, they are not to be harboring criticisms and grudges (2:9). When women come into the assembly they are to dress moderately (2:9-10) and must behave according to prescribed patterns (2:11-12).  This concept of women’s behavior is the catalyst from which the troublesome phrase, “she shall be saved through childbearing,” stems.
 
            In 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul states that he does not allow a woman to domineer (αὐθεντειν)[2] over a man in the assembly. He explains (γάρ) this in verse 13 with the illustration of the Garden of Eden experience recorded in Genesis 3. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” That is, God established a divine order of authority in the Garden. Man was to be the leader, and the woman was to be subject to him. A second reason given for this restriction follows the continuative καί in verse 14. “And Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being utterly deceived, has entered a state of transgression.”[3]  Therefore, states Paul, a woman does not dominate the man in the church.
 
            An important movement in this passage must be noted. Paul uses the names Adam and Eve in the first part of his explanation, but in the second part he only uses the name of Adam while ἡ γυνή replaces the name of Eve. Then in verse 15 Paul moves from the singular γυνή to the plural form of the verb. This is indicative of Paul’s thrust. “St. Paul says ἡ γυνή rather than Εὕα , emphasizing the sex rather than the individual, because he desires to give the incident its general application, especially in view of what follows.”[4]  Womankind, then, has entered a state of transgression as a result of Eve’s transgression and this application is applied to the plural subjects of the verb μείνωσιν.   
 
Another contextual consideration important to this passage is an understanding of the historical event that Paul used to illustrate his argument. Most commentators agree that the historical basis underlying verses 13 and 14 is Genesis 3.  This being so, the phrase ἐν παραβάσει grows out of that garden deception. What was this transgression?
 
            The event that took place in the Garden of Eden is commonly understood. Eve was “utterly deceived”[5] by the serpent, and she ate of the forbidden fruit. Later Adam also ate of the fruit as a result of Eve’s suggestion. Climaxing this situation the Lord delivered judgments to each of the offending individuals.
 
            First, to Satan God said, “Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (ASV 1901).
 
            Second, to Eve God said, “I will greatly multiply thy, pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
 
            Third, to Adam God said, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, ‘Thou shalt not eat of it:’ cursed is the ground for thy sake. . . .”
 
            There is a significant difference in God’s statements to these three individuals. To the serpent and to man God predicates punishment based on a specific cause. To the woman, however, God does not say anything as to the reason for the punishment. Does this mean that Eve did not sin? Theologians rarely interact with this question. The reason is obvious. If the Scripture expressly states that sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12), then it would be precarious to make too much out of Eve’s transgression. But the fact is that Paul did place some emphasis on this matter in 1 Timothy 2:14.  The issue Paul alludes to here cannot be in contradiction with his pointed discussion of sin in Romans 5:12ff.  Paul is not talking about the entrance of sin into the world in 1 Timothy 2:14. He is talking about the usurpation of the divine order that took place in the Garden of Eden when Eve took on a dominant role.
 
            God said to Adam that he was being punished in part because he listened to the voice of Eve. He should not have listened, but then also Eve should not have solicited submission from Adam either. A divine order of authority was established by God, and Eve, by her αὐθεντοῦσα over Adam, was found to be ἐν παραβάσει.
 
            The basic idea of παράβασις used in 1 Timothy 2:14 is that of overstepping, of deviating from an established boundary or norm.[6]   The thrust is not the same as that found in ἁμαρτία[7] used in Romans 5:12. In the 1 Timothy 2:14 context not Eve’s original ἁμαρτία (if it existed) is under discussion, but her later παράβασις of approaching Adam and instructing him as to her new-found “delight.” The word παραβασις corresponds quite readily with the dominance idea in αὐθεντεῖν used in verse 12, the fulcrum of Paul’s whole discussion. Eve, by her αὐθεντοῦσα was found to be ἐν παραβάσει by overstepping the divinely-ordained boundary of authority.
 
This problem of submission to the divinely-ordained pattern of authority persists. Thus in verse 14 Paul uses the extensive perfect of γίνομαι[8] and the generic article with γυνή which becomes simply “she” imbedded in the following future verb at verse 15. Obviously the future verb eliminates Eve as the subject and the logical development of the argument has moved from the very specific woman Eve to the female of the human species.
 
            Critical issues—1 Timothy 2:15 contains three matters that must be dealt with:  (1) the meaning of σωθήσεται, (2) the meaning of διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας, and (3) the implications of the ἐάν clause.
 
            The verb σωθήσεται is interpreted by many scholars to refer to spiritual salvation in its initial stage. The word, however, does not always refer to this initial experience, it also refers to deliverance from the present sinful activities of saved Christians, continuing salvation. This is the meaning of σωθήσεται in 1 Timothy 2:15. The woman shall be delivered from the tendency of overstepping the divinely ordained order of authority providing certain conditions are met. Nothing in this passage presupposes that Paul had unsaved women in mind. The women who would be in the church services would be the Christian wives of the saved husbands. Paul applies this passage to female Christian worshippers.
 
            The most crucial term in this passage is the phrase διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας. Although the force of the preposition διά has been a source of difficulty as evidenced by the commentaries,  the normal force of διά and the genitive, means, should be retained. In support, the same construction occurs just previously in verse 10 where the clear idea of the preposition is that of means.
 
            Another difficulty in this phrase is the use of the article τῆς. Why does Paul make τεκνογονίας definite? Kent would say that it refers to the very definite incarnation of Christ.[9] Others claim that it is used generically. The answer to this question can be found within the  Genesis 3 historical framework of this passage.
 
            Kent finds the support for his incarnation view in Genesis 3:15.[10] The “seed of the woman” refers to the Messiah who would bring salvation.  Few evangelicals disagree with  Kent’s interpretation of Genesis 3:15. However, how does this relate to the womanly problem of usurping male authority? A better view ties the historical reference to Genesis 3:16, a passage which relates directly to the woman’s παράβασις.
 
            In Genesis 3:16 God punishes Eve with a two-pronged judgment. She would bring forth children with much pain and her longing would be to her husband who would dominate over her.
 
The second line of Genesis 3:16 begins with the Hebrew waw. This conjunction can introduce a hypotactic clause (contrary to most translations).[11] Viewed dependently it says that the woman would bring forth children with pain because her longing would be towards her husband. It includes motherly aspirations—she wants children—[12] coupled to the natural attraction of and the biological necessity to have sex, a relationship where she by nature is the subordinate partner. Thus enters preventative medicine. To insure that the woman would not forget her subordinate position, her emotional and physical make-up subordinates her to her husband.  In 1 Timothy 2:15 Paul alludes to God’s primary plan for countering the problem of domineering women by the definite term τῆς τεκνογονίας. The act from which childbearing stems is definite, so the definite article is used.
 
            The third aspect of 1 Timothy 2:15 which must be given special attention is the ἐάν sentence and its implications. The sentence protasis, with its verb μείνωσιν and plural subjects (“they,” the antecedents being saved, Christian women who attend the church services), is placed last in the text, effectively emphasizing the “fronted” apodosis and its troublesome clause, she shall be saved through childbearing. The subjunctive μείνωσιν does not imply an entrance into a state, that is, becoming believers. The word’s meaning denies this as does the entire context. Rather, the subjunctive implies volition.[13] “If they determine to abide” would be a good translation. Thus, the apodosis beginning with σωθήσεται is conditioned by willful abiding in faith, love, holiness, and sound thinking (σωφροσύνης).
 
            The third class ἐάν implies that the women will probably, but not positively, abide in the faith resulting in deliverance from παράβασις. There is the possibility that some of these Christian women will not so abide; consequently, as expressed in the apodosis they will not be delivered from the contextually defined transgression of αὐθεντεῖν. It can readily be seen what contextual and theological problems result from viewing eternal salvation at stake in the apodosis. Thusly interpreted, this ἐάν clause coordinates well with the context beginning at verse 11.
 
            Cross reference issues—The stated interpretation of τῆς τεκνογονίας is based upon the meaning of the word, the context, and the Old Testament allusion. One reason for the difficulty of interpretation stems from the fact that the noun τεκνογονίας is a hapax legomenon in the New Testament, in the Septuagint, and in classical literature. One verb form with this root, however, occurs in the New Testament (τεκνογονεῖν, 1 Timothy 5:14) and this has definite bearing on the meaning of the noun in 2:15. First, the contexts are similar—the behavior of women. Second, Paul focuses on marriage and family living. Third, mention is made of some women who like Eve have already turned aside after Satan (5:15). The primary differences in these two passages revolve around different circumstances. In 2:15 the circumstances center around church conduct; in 5:14, general conduct. The closeness of ideas in these two chapters appears to be mutually interpretive.
 
            Titus 2:3-5 provides a second cross reference. Since 1 Timothy was written before Titus but not by more than a few months, it would not be too bold to expect similar ideas within them that can shed light on each other.
 
            The subject under discussion in Titus 2:3-5 is the duty of the older women who are to teach the younger women how to live decently (σωφροσύνη). The causative σωφρονίζωσιν relates closely to the emphasis in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 on decent living as a product of sound thinking. The younger women are instructed to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, and to be in submission to their own husbands. Many of the ideas here are also found in 1 Timothy 2 and 5. The main difference, again, is one of application.
 
A Conclusion and Application
 
            The overall interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is this: as Christian women come to the worship service, if they are thinking soundly, they will realize that their place is one of submission to male authority. The tendency to usurp the authority belonging to the man is a problem that God dealt with in the Garden of Eden when He stated that through the childbearing process the woman must by nature submit to the man.  Such submission becomes a continual, gentle reminder.
 
            For the 21st century Christian woman the meaning of this passage is two-fold. First, she must not seek to rearrange the divine order of authority in the church.[14] Second, women who have a hard time in this regard, and who desire to do something about this παράβασις, must reflect on the fact that her subordinate role is divinely-ordered and biologically infused into her very being.  Living obediently to this God-given role reflects faithfulness, love, and holiness, all as an outgrowth of sound, biblically-centered thinking.
 


[1] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Pastoral Epistles (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1958), pp. 115-21.
[2] A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd 3ed. (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 150.  Hereafter noted as BDAG.  " . . . to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to."
[3] A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1934), p. 893.  Hereafter designated by ATR.
[4] Newport J. D. White, The First and Second Epistles to Timothy (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Erdmans Pub. Co., Vol. IV, [n.d.]), p. 109.
[5] Paul clearly differentiates between the simplex ἀπατάω and the complex ἐξαπατάω in this passage.  ATR, p. 596.
[6] BDAG, P. 758.
[7] BDAG, P. 50-51.
[8] ATR, pp. 893-94.
[9] Kent, Epistles, p. 119.
[10] Ibid.
[11] E. Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley (eds.), Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1910), p. 492.  Since this is crucial to the interpretation of Genesis 3:16, another passage must be set forth that parallels the grammatical construction. Genesis 4:7 reads, “If you do well, is it not exaltation?  But if you do not do well, sin crouches at the entrance, for its longing is for you, and you are obligated to rule over it” (author’s translation).  This identical construction accepts the same syntax; indeed, the waw used as a hypotactic conjunction here is even more pronounced.  Sin crouches at the entrance because of its longing for Cain.  Similarly, the woman will bring forth children with pain because of her longing and her husbands rule.
[12] H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1942), p. 172.
[13] ATR, P. 933.
[14] This applies to the home as well, but it is not the focus of 1 Timothy 2.