Be The “Anyone”

There are 3,310 pairs of socks in the men’s homeless shelter.

This past weekend, I attended a young adult service and enrichment weekend. After a Friday evening and Saturday of discussion questions, seminars, Shabbat services, and good fellowship we spent Sunday on a service project. Nearly 100 of us descended on a homeless shelter to help tackle some of their needs, including wall painting, deep cleaning, window washing, and sorting the donations room.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what my gifts are and how to use them effectively. That interest in personal growth and development is, in part, why this blog exists. But somewhat surprisingly (to me, at least), this weekend’s focus on filling your role in the body of Christ barely touched on spiritual gifts and individual talents. Rather, the take-away was finding your identity as a servant of Christ and then following His example no matter what.

Photo: “Helping Hands” by Valerie Everett, CC BY-SA via Flickr

While I’m a staunch advocate for finding, developing, and using your gifts (that’s why you have them, after all), it doesn’t really take any particular gift to count socks. Perhaps someone with a gift for math could have worked more quickly, or a person with a gift for organization sorted them more efficiently. But really the only thing absolutely essential was showing up and doing the work.

In focusing on where we fit best, perhaps we sometimes close ourselves off to areas where anyone could serve. Maybe we think, “Anyone could do that, so I’ll focus on what I do best.” But that doesn’t mean “anyone” will actually step-up and do it.

During your quest to find the best way to use your gifts, don’t overlook the importance of being the “anyone” who will step in and fill needs. Move from theory to practice. Whether it’s in your family, your church, or your community, let’s look for opportunities to help and then actually take them.

Walking by Faith (and next e-book announcement)

I just got back yesterday from an incredible  service-themed Young Adult weekend. It didn’t start out all that well for me, though. The day before I left I started feeling nervous (which is normal for me going into social events) but then by the time I left on Friday I had a shaking-crying-hyperventilating panic attack (which is becoming less and less normal/frequent for me).

I was really caught off-guard by this. I knew several people there — not just as acquaintances, but as friends — and I’d been eagerly looking forward to this event for weeks. I chalked it up to my too-active imagination combined with uncertainty about Friday evening’s schedule, breathed deep, prayed, turned Fallout Boy up, and started driving …

… and hit heavy traffic and rain (my two least favorite things to drive in). That left me running 20 late to met the people I was supposed to be car pooling with to the house I didn’t have an address for. Thankfully, one of the people I was meeting is also one of only 2 out of 100+ people at the weekend with my phone number, and he texted me the address. I proceeded to enter said address in my GPS and it took me to a house with no cars in the driveway.

It is either a testament to my stupidity or my faith that I walked up and rang the doorbell. Turns out, my friend accidentally sent me to another church member’s home (whose name I recognized, though I’d never met them) and they fed me cheese, gave me the correct address, and sent me on my way. Oddly, that’s when I felt a sense of peace for the first time all day. I was late, I was temporarily lost and yet God showed me that these worries coming true weren’t anything He couldn’t handle.

Saturday brought a great round of seminars and an excellent sermon on foot washing and Passover. Nothing to worry about, until game night happened. I’m sure I’m in the minority judging by how many people said they had a wonderful time, but any sort of game that involves doing something in front of other people or in a group or on a team makes me intensely uncomfortable, especially if you add competition. The first two games were mixers where you asked someone a question and their name. I literally remember nothing from meeting people this way (does it even count as a “meeting” then?). Next was that game where you tie a balloon to your ankle and try to keep it from getting popped while popping everyone else’s balloon. I could have kissed whoever it was that popped my balloon the moment the game started.

That’s the last game I “played” (I stepped on my own balloon when they started round two) and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my evening talking with two other people who saw no appeal in participating. Give me a deep conversation with someone over competitive and/or rambunctious games any day. Now that’s how to meet new people. (Side-track back to the topic of social anxiety: game night continued throughout my conversations and there was a Bag of Doom from which they were drawing names to participate in a novelty challenge which you had to do while standing in the center of a room surrounded by 80-something people watching you. Can anyone say “introvert’s worst nightmare”?)

I think one of the biggest lessons I learned this weekend was that my fears were either 1) groundless or 2) didn’t have the power to hold me back. The fact that I had a panic attack before leaving turned into a blessing because it gave me the choice between either canceling my plans or praying through it and trusting God. I chose the later, and I kept encountering situations that could make me feel nervous and which reminded me to stay in prayer all weekend. Every single one of the things I was worried about worked out for the best, and the only part of that I can take credit for is that I took the step to go to the weekend and start a few conversations. The rest was all God.

This brings us in a very round-about way back to the topic of the weekend — service. Specifically, “Unlocking Your Desire To Serve.” As many of you know, I consider this blog a sort of ministry and it’s been growing in ways that amaze me and make me want to do more. One of the big things that holds me back is my own fears, including my fear of panicking when it’s important that I talk with people about my faith. So for me, blending this weekend’s focus on service with a need to rely on God for help working through my anxiety was a powerful experience.

  • If you gave up reading that long rambling post and started scrolling, here’s the e-book announcement:

Something I haven’t shared with many people is that in my local Messianic congregation I’ve been receiving words, prayers, and hints from brethren for the last several months along the lines of “God’s going to do something big in/with your life soon.” I even finally have a hint as to what that might involve after I came back from services a few weeks ago with a title for an e-book in my head which I promptly sat down and outlined. I’ve barely worked on it since, but this weekend was exactly what I needed to reconfirm that God wants me to be sharing my gifts through writing and that He’s more than capable of overcoming deficiencies on my part.

My first step is officially announcing the project here on this blog. The working title is “Rise Up, My Love” and the focus will be on reigniting the church’s passion for God (so, basically this blog in book form). I’m not committing to a release-date quite yet (it would be lovely to have it out by Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles this fall, but I think a full year might be more realistic judging by how long it took to write The INFJ Handbook). I’ll keep you posted on details.


Lies That Isolate Us

Lies That Isolate Us | We know how important a relationship with God is to our Christian walk, and last week we talked about how important it is for us to also have relationships with other believers. For some of you, that comes fairly easily — you have a church home where you feel welcome, and good friends who share your faith. Many of you feel much more isolated, through. Maybe there aren’t any options for fellowship in your area, but if you’re online reading this blog post you have at least one way to connect with fellow believers, if we’re willing to take advantage of it. Peter describes our “adversary the devil” as a “roaring lion” who walks about “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). When predators like lions hunt herd animals (like the sheep we’re so often compared to in scripture), they try to isolate one before going in for the kill. One of the tools our adversary uses to do this to us if the lies we tell ourselves that keep us from seeking out fellowship — things like “I’m not good enough,” or “I have nothing to offer,” or “No one values me.”

Let Them Love You

No matter how true these thoughts feel, they are not an accurate reflection of how God sees us. You say, “I have no value,” God says you’re so valuable that Jesus traded His own life to save you.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

Jesus Christ’s was the most valuable human life ever, and that’s the price He and His Father paid for you. They didn’t do this because they “had to.” They did it because they thought you were worth it. Paul tells us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” and He came to save you as well (1 Tim. 1:15).

 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13-14)

Jesus said this to His disciples, but He meant it for us as well. He died for you because He cares about you, and if you’re following His commandments you have the right to claim friendship with Him as well.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11)

Because of the love of God for us, we as His followers should have love for each other. This applies to us having and showing love, but also to us receiving love. You should be able to walk into a group of people who are following God and find love and companionship there. Sure there’ll be a few bad apples in most groups, but don’t focus on them — there’s usually more good people there who will love and befriend you if you give them the chance.

Accept Your Gifts

God loves, values and wants you, and He expects people following Him to love you as well. And that’s not where it ends. You might think you have nothing to offer God or a church group, but God tells us we’re each necessary to His family. God sees value in every life, and it is His desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). He doesn’t give up on people, and He can work with anyone who seeks Him, including you. In fact, if you turn your back on Him, you’re depriving His family of someone He thought was important enough to call into relationship with Him. You’re not doing anyone a favor by “getting out of the way” or thinking they don’t need you.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 cor. 12:7)

You might think it seems like everyone except for you has a spiritual gift, but God doesn’t say He makes exceptions in this. You do have gifts (click here to start discovering them), and He did have a reason for inviting you into His church.

For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. (1 Cor. 12:14-18)

This is one reason that comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise (2 Cor. 10:12). There is a wide range of available gifts, and you will fit much more comfortably into the body if you recognize your value and discover your gifts rather than trying to mimic other people. You are needed in your own unique way. If God wanted everyone to be the same, He wouldn’t have created so much variety.

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Cor. 12:21-25)

God doesn’t want you to feel like you don’t fit in the body, and He doesn’t want anyone else to tell you that you don’t fit. His goal is unity, mutual respect, and genuine concern between members of His church. That’s what He wants for you, whether or not you think you deserve it. The truth is, none of us are “good enough” for God. That’s why Jesus had to die for us. Once we accept that sacrifice and repent, though, God does not intend for us to wallow in inferiority. He wants us to take the amazing gifts and opportunities He gives us and use them boldly. He wants us to take our place in His church and stop sabotaging ourselves with lies that keep us away from Him and from our brethren.

Finding Your Gifts

Do you know what your gifts are?

Sometimes when I ask people this, their first response is to ask “What gifts?” or to stall and say something flippant like “I can fry an egg.” I think that’s one of the most heart-wrenching things I hear on a fairly regular basis. So many of us believe that there really isn’t anything unique about us, that there’s nothing special we can offer the world, that we don’t have an aptitude for something useful or interesting. We think we’re boring, normal, or mundane, and even if we do recognize some good qualities in ourselves, we think they are too small to do any good. Gifts? me? I don’t think so.

But everyone really does have gifts. Some of this is part of our personalities, and if you’re a Christian you probably believe in Spiritual gifts as well. I guarantee that there’s at least one thing (and probably several) gifts that you have. Even if you can’t see it yet there really is something that you are ridiculously good at, or a core part of yourself that offers something good to you and the world, or a talent just waiting to be used.

Hidden Gifts

Finding Your Gifts | marissabaker.wordpress.comI recently read an article titled How Your Greatest Insecurities Reveal Your Deepest Gifts by Ken Page (a psychotherapist, lecturer, and author who studies intimacy). He argues that the core parts of ourselves that we try to hide because we think we’re “too much” or “too little” are where our gifts dwell.

Over the years, I realized that the characteristics of my clients which I found most inspiring, most essentially them, were the ones which frequently caused them the most suffering.

Some clients would complain of feeling like they were “too much”; too intense, too angry, or too demanding. From my therapist’s chair, I would see a passion so powerful that it frightened people away.

Other clients said they felt that they felt like they were “not enough”; too weak, too quiet, too ineffective. I would find a quality of humility and grace in them which would not let them assert themselves as others did.

In his definition, your gifts are essential qualities that make you who you are. Most of us distance ourselves from our gifts and create “safe” versions of ourselves that don’t show the world who we really are. Ken Page’s focus is on expression our core gifts in intimate relationships, but if we discover who we are and what we have to offer it will impact other aspects of our lives as well.

His tips for discovering your core gifts are to look at the things that cause you the most joy, as well as the things that cause you the most pain. You will be most moved and inspired by positive experiences related to your core gift, and most hurt by negative experiences that touch on those sensitivities. For example, if one of your core gifts is honesty you will be drawn to other people who are honest and hurt deeply when someone you’re close to violates your trust. Here’s a link to one of Page’s more in-depth articles exploring this topic.

Personal Strengths

We spend quite a bit of time on this blog talking about personality types. Since I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, I’ll use my personality type as an example yet again. We can’t all be equally good at everything, and different personality types have different strengths. Some gifts that would be consistent with an INFJ personality type are a talent for reading other people, easily practicing empathy, and generating an inspiring vision for the future. On the other hand, most INFJs will not have a strong gift for impersonal evaluation of pros and cons in a situation, or for interacting with huge groups of people. For those tasks, you’ll need to track down a thinking type with a gift of logic or an extrovert with a gift for interacting with people.

Learning the strengths and weaknesses of your individual type is a good way to start tracking down your own unique gifts. The profiles on 16 Personality Types have a list of typical strengths and weaknesses associated with each type, and there’s also a free test you can take if you don’t know your type yet.

Often, the strengths of our personality types come to us so easily that we don’t think of them as a gift. It’s so easy for INFJs to pick up on other peoples emotions that it can seem like a slightly annoying thing we do automatically, rather than a unique gift we can use to relate to other people. ETSJs take charge of situations almost without thinking about it, and might not list leadership as a gift because it seems so normal to them.

Spiritual Gifts

God doesn’t make useless people. You are a child of God, and no matter how weak and helpless and even useless you feel God can work with you and make you strong (2 Cor. 12:10). If God is calling you and working with you through His Holy Spirit, then you’ve also been given one or more spiritual gifts. Paul tells us that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:7) and trust me, you’re not the exception to that rule.Finding Your Gifts |

Finding out what your particular spiritual gift is can be quite a challenge. Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck has a chapter devoted to a spiritual gifts questionnaire. It’s more of a guideline than a definitive answer, though. When I took the evaluation, it told me I had and potentially used somewhere between 2 and 8 spiritual gifts. Didn’t really narrow it down much.

Other tests, like Spiritual Gifts Test, can also give you an idea of what your spiritual gift might be. It ranks your top three gifts, and gives a description of each. Ultimately, though, I think to discover what your spiritual gift really is requires prayer and action. Thinking about your spiritual gifts only gets you so far — you have to start using them and serving and seeing if you have a gift for that particular way of serving.

Learning about your particular gifts can give you more confidence in yourself, improve your relationships, and give you an idea of how you can serve others more effectively. I’m still discovering my gifts, but they’re already bearing fruit, including this blog. I wish you a similarly exciting journey!

Spared No Expense

When I hear the phrase “spared no expense,” the first thing that comes to mind is John Hammond advertizing his Jurassic Park. But recently I heard it twice in a completely different context — in two different sermons just a couple Sabbaths ago. In one message, the speaker was talking about showing hospitality, and in the other the subject was David’s generous offering when he welcomed the Ark in to Jerusalem (1 Chr. 16:1-18).

But anything humans can come up with when we “spare no expense” can’t begin to compare with what God can accomplish when He “spares no expense.”

With One Sacrifice

We all know John 3:16 — probably have it memorized. But please take the time to read it again with me.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Talk about sparing no expense! God delivered up His only Son to die in our places. Let’s think about this for a moment. We believe that God and the Word are Eternal and didn’t have a beginning point — They’ve always been there. It follows, then, that God the Father had never been alone before. Imagine how long those three days that Jesus spent dead in the grave must have seemed!

And now think of it from Christ’s perspective. He was the Word who “was with God, and the Word was God. … All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1, 3). He had equality with God and the power needed to make all things. And what did He do with that power?

made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

Christ gave up all this power, and risked His eternal life (for if He had failed there was no one else to sacrifice for sin), all to save us. That sacrifice was so valuable that “by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). His life was so precious — so “expensive,” if you will — that it could cancel out forever the debts of the whole world. Christ and the Father truly “spared no expense” in freeing us from captivity.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:31-32)

Given All Things

What does “all things” in Romans 8:32 include? Well, having given the most valuable thing they could — Jesus Christ Himself — the Father and Son continue to “spare no expense” in blessing us. We touched on this last week when talking about god rewarding prayer, and promising “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11). Eternal life is one of these gifts, and a direct result of Christ’s sacrifice.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

Another extremely important gift that God gives through Jesus is His Holly Spirit. Peter calls it “the gift of God” in Acts 8:20, and John 7:39 notes that the Holy Spirit was only given after Christ was glorified, tying it directly to the greatest gift.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:13)

You can finds lists of some spiritual gifts which God gives in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Romans 12:6-8. Jesus told His disciples, “it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” so all His teaching to us are also a gift (Matt. 13:11). James says we can ask God for anything we lack, like wisdom, with faith because God “gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5). We don’t have to worry about God thinking our requests are silly or not worth His time. He wants to give us things.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  (James 1:17)

God is happy to pour good things our on us. Having already given us the most valuable gift ever — eternal life through Christ’s sacrifice for sin — He just keeps giving us more and more of the good things we want and need.

Present Yourselves

Our response to God’s generosity should involve following His example of giving. With this context, the following verse takes on some additional significance, I think.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7)

This is typically read in the context of monetary giving. But God is not focused on giving us physical prosperity (though that does happen sometimes), so why should we only focus on giving God physical things?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)

Paul describes sacrificing ourselves as “reasonable.” Knowing God has freely given us “all things,” it does seem reasonable that we should freely give Him all that we are and have, particularly since He promises to increase His generosity to us as our generosity increases toward others.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

We see a perfect example of this in Matthew 25, where Christ tells us how He will divide the sheep from the goats. The people who gave food to those who were hungry, water to the thirsty, and clothing to those who needed it, who took in strangers and gave up their time to visit prisoners — those are the people Christ will have in His kingdom. Giving sacrificially of our time and resources to any of Christ’s brethren counts as giving it directly to Him.


Should God’s Daughters Prophesy?

As a jumping-off point for today’s post, I want to tell you a bit about a booklet my mother recently dredged up from an old filing cabinet. It was “The Christian Woman” by Ronald L. Dart (published 2000 by Christian Education Ministries). The first part was about the history of women’s (mis)treatment in the church over the years, contrasting that with the high value Jesus placed on women. After that he moved into more controversial waters of women’s role in the church, which is what I want to dive into today as well.

One of the things I appreciated about this booklet was the distinction Dart drew between personal and public ministries to explain why our churches have traditionally assigned preaching and teaching roles to men. He does not believe that women were not meant to have an active role in the church, but rather that their role should look different than men. It’s basically an extension of the different-but-equal mentality we’ve adapted toward the roles of godly men and women.

Prophetic Gifts

Near the end of this booklet, Dart addresses the idea of spiritual gifts in the church. He argues that because “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” that no one should be exulted or demeaned based on the gift they do or do not have, i.e. women should not be looked down on because they do have a gift/calling to preach. Quoting page 38, “there are many other gifts that are vital to the church — faith, healing, prophecy, discernment, and especially the greatest gift of all, love.”

Should God's Daughters Prophesy? marissabaker.wordpress.comThis surprised me a bit, because I know of people who wouldn’t include “prophecy” in a list of gifts that women might have. If you go with “inspired speaking” as the meaning of “prophecy” in this context, that’s too close to preaching and teaching for them to be comfortable with the idea of women being involved.

Yet God would not give someone a gift He did not intend them to use, and we can see quite clearly in Acts 21:9 that Philip the Evangelist “had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” This word translated “prophesied” is the Greek propheuo (G4395) and it can either mean “to foretell things to come” or “to tell forth God’s message.” A prophet in this sense is “one who speaks out the counsel of God with the clearness, energy, and authority which springs from the consciousness of speaking in God’s name and having received a direct message from Him to deliver” (Zodhiates). Women may not have been giving sermons in church, but they were not keeping silent about God’s message.

Another example in the New Testament of women prophesying is found on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The opening verses say “they were all with one accord in one place” and that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1, 4). We know from Acts 1:14 that this “all” included women, which is also mentioned when Peter explains what is going on.

But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:16-18)

My Gift?

I first became interested in exactly what the word “prophecy” refers to several years ago. There was a Bible study in our local church group about discovering your spiritual gifts. A quiz was passed out to help point you in the right direction, and my result was tied between the “cognitive” gift of prophecy and the “emotional” gift of mercy/compassion. I’m starting to see the mercy/compassion side more now as I become more aware of strengths in my personality type. The prophecy part, though, has been terribly confusing for me.

The word translated “prophecy” in the spiritual gifts passage in 1 Corinthians 12 is propheteia (G4394), and it is derived from the word used in Acts. The 5th, 6th, and 7th definitions in Zodhiates’ Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the New Testament help shed some light on what someone is supposed to do with a gift of prophecy.

(V) A prophecy is something that any believer may exercise as telling forth God’s word. …

(VI) Prophecy was a distinctive charisma (5486), gift, distinguishable from that of the apostle and the teacher. While the apostle was  a traveling missionary, the prophets and teachers were in general attached to a specific church. … Neither the prophet nor teacher was appointed by the apostles, as were bishops and elders; the gifts were an endowment of the spirit and both fulfilled the function of speaking in the Spirit.

(VII) That which is revealed constitutes a prophecy. The reception of such revelation and its communication did not entail states of rapture or ecstasy accompanied by unintelligible utterances. … Prophecy was a gift exercised with a consciousness of the subject, and it issued in something logically intelligible.

For years I had absolutely no idea what to do with this if it was indeed my gift. This blog has now given me an outlet, but I still wonder if there is something more I ought to be doing. Paul says, “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1 Cor. 14:3). By this definition, the role of someone with a gift of prophecy is to build up others, encourage them towards virtue, and to console them. This can certainly be done in writing, and I pray my posts here could be described as words that edify, exhort, and comfort. But that doesn’t quite seem like enough.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. … Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith (Rom. 12:1, 6)

Any one have thoughts on this? What should one do if one has the gift of prophecy? As we grow in the faith, our use of the gifts given by God should become more noticeable and effective, right? How should that look in “women professing godliness” (1 Tim. 2:10)?

Ways to Teach

I just quoted part of 1 Timothy 2 where Paul speaks about the conduct of women in the church. Reading on, we come to one of the (in)famous verses about women keeping silent in church.

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.(1 Tim. 2:11-13)

The focus of these verses seem to be about not upsetting God’s ordained order, much like in 1 Corinthians 14. Because husband and wife relationships model the relationship between Christ and the church, husbands are the head in a marriage (Eph. 5:22-32). It would be indecent for the church to try and take over Christ’s roles, and it would be similarly unseemly for women to “usurp authority over a man” (as the KJV reads). While the conduct of unmarried women is not mentioned directly, I think we can infer that they should also behave in a respectful manner toward men in authority in the church, though no specific man has the authority of a husband over them.

This does not mean women could never teach under any circumstances. The word “teach” here in 1 Timothy 2:12 is didaskalia (G1319). Like prophecy, it is a spiritual gift (Rom. 12:7). Zodhiates says that “Prophecy was a specialized form of teaching,” and has the following to say about differences between the two.

The differences between the two apparently lay in the fact that while prophecy was the utterance of a revelation received directly from God, teaching was the utterance of what one had gained by thought and reflection. The teacher must be led and guided by the Spirit to be a true teacher and have genuine spiritual teaching, but what he said was in a real sense his own. Some prophets were able also to teach, but not all teachers were able to prophesy.

I’m not exactly sure which scriptures he uses to arrive at this distinction, so I quote it as “food for thought” and to segue into connecting teaching and prophecy as what I’ll call “gifts of meaningful instruction.”

We can find several examples of godly women in instructive roles. Both Priscilla and her husband were involved in teaching Apollo (Acts 18:26) and Paul calls them his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 18:3). There’s the aforementioned daughters of Philip who prophesied (Acts 21:9). We can assume Timothy’s mother and grandmother both taught him (2 Tim. 1:5). Paul instructs older women to be “teachers of good things” and in particular to “admonish the young women” (Tit. 2:3-4). Women are described as praying and prophesying (1 Cor. 11:5). Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah the judge of Israel (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Isaiah’s wife (Is. 8:3), and Anna (Luke 2:36-37) are all called prophetesses.

Decently and In Order

The important thing to remember if we want to teach as women in the church is that we must still hold to the instructions for godly femininity. If we are not adorned with a “a gentle and quiet spirit” while teaching, then we’re doing something wrong (1 Pet. 3:4). If our teaching challenges proper godly authority or is inconsistent with instruction that believers submit “to one another in the fear of God,” then something’s wrong (Eph. 5:21). We must not contribute to confusion in the church, but “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Cor. 14:26)

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. (1 Cor. 14:29-35)

Both the booklet I referenced at the beginning of this post and Zodhiates’ commentary in my study Bible agree that this instruction of silence for women is specific rather than general. The church at Corinth apparently had a problem with maintaining order in church gatherings. The phrase “keep silent” is also used in verse 28 to instruct a man who speaks in an unknown tongue to stay silent if no interpreter is present.

Should God's Daughters Prophesy? marissabaker.wordpress.comThe word “to speak” used in this chapter is laleo (G2980) which, depending on the context, can simply mean to utter words or “to talk at random.” In the context of verse 34, Zodhiates says it should be interpreted as “uttering sounds that are incoherent and not understood by others.”  It is less an instruction for women to never speak, than it is a warning not to babble meaninglessly just for the sake of being heard.

I also find the emphasis on asking their husbands “if they want to learn something” interesting. That seems to indicate some women were interrupting the church meeting to ask clarifying questions or to debate something they really didn’t understand. That would conflict with Paul’s wrap up for this chapter: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40)

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. (1 Cor. 11:3-5)

I’m not going to get into the head coverings discussion. I just want to point out here that Paul was discussing “God’s ordained order” (as my study Bible titles this section) and the fact of women praying and prophesying was mentioned rather casually. It is not the subject of this passage — it’s simply accepted as one of the things both men and women were doing in the church. There is a right way and a wrong way to pray or prophesy, but both men and women were speaking about God’s message. As far as  I can tell, we should be doing this still.

I don’t know for sure what this should look like in the churches today. I’m not ready to advocate women giving formal sermons, but women are studying their Bibles and many of us are learning things we feel like we should be sharing. There have to be more ways for us to serve than by supervising the snack table.