Letter to the Saints

Men & Women in the Church

God graciously gave Hannah and I a sweet, rambunctious daughter to raise. Charlotte is just over 1.5 years old, 20 months to be precise. Raising a daughter is quite a learning experience for me, especially as I grew up with an older brother Alan, and no sisters. Charlotte lives in quite a different world than the one I grew up in. When I was a kid the differences between men and women were basically assumed and taken for granted. However, today the question of what it means to be a man or a woman is a hotly debated one. 
As Charlotte grows, how will I explain to her what it means to be a woman? In what ways is it different than if she were a Charles instead? 

How are men and women different? How would you answer that question?
 
There are lots of important things that are the same for boys and girls– both are of incredible worth because they are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Both are called to union with Christ through faith, to grow in godliness and pursue holiness. But in our historical context often it's the differences between men and women that are being questioned and even outright denied. 
 
Kevin DeYoung (Men and Women in the Church) offers the following answer which helps us understand some of the differences between being a boy and a girl... Here are his ABCs of boys and girls differences. (What follows is a summary of DeYoung's article)


Appearance

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering (1 Cor 11:13–15).

DeYoung admits this passage and the principle it presents is tricky, but what is clear is that there are differences between men and women's appearances (hair length) that are aspects of their nature.

"We must be careful not to equate biblical manhood and womanhood with one-dimensional cultural stereotypes," but we must also not ignore the differences and patterns that are aspects of our natures as men and women.

DeYoung concludes, "God made men and women to be different and that when we confuse those differences we're confusing what God designed to bring him glory."

Body

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, or you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)

This is one of the most counter-cultural verses in all of Scripture according to DeYoung. 

"The body isn’t incidental to us as human persons. God created our bodies and called them good. This same God took on human flesh in the incarnation. God is going to resurrect our bodies. Our bodies are therefore not incidental, and how we use our bodies is not a separate matter from who we are and how God made us to be. God created male bodies and female bodies, different bodies that carry moral “oughts” according to God’s good design."

So our biological sex matters and is part of who God designed each one of us to be; male or female. It's not a mistake or incidental, it's part of God's perfect plans. We should embrace this God given aspect of our identity.

Character
 

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-7)



"Peter enjoins women to be respectful, pure, and gentle, while he enjoins men to show honor, understanding, and caring leadership. From this passage, we might suggest that the crowning characteristic of a woman is true beauty and the crowning characteristic of the man is true strength."

So for daughters we should encourage them to be beautiful in the ways God wants them to be beautiful. And for sons, we call them to strive to be strong in all the ways God wants them to be.

Demeanor

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thess. 2:7–8)

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:11–12)

Here Paul likens himself to both a caring mother and an exhorting father. Since he's likening himself to both he's not saying that fathers aren't caring and mothers don't exhort but we do see that there is a sense in which those demeanours reflect the pattern of each. "When Paul thinks of nurture, affection, and gentleness he thinks of a mother. When he thinks of exhortation, discipline, and charge, he thinks of a father."

Fathers and mothers, men and women, boys and girls, tend to have certain demeanors, even while every single individual is unique. It's part of God's design for how maleness and femaleness image him. 

Eager Posture

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18)

From the beginning of creation God had designed for Adam to lead and Eve was created as his helper. 

"In Scripture, a helper is not a demeaning role and does not imply inferiority. In fact, Yahweh is often called a “helper” of his people in the Old Testament. At the same time, Genesis 2 affirms that by God’s design, according to the order of creation, the woman is to help her husband. That is her eager posture."

"This inclination is seen most clearly—in the Bible and in practice—in marriage, but there are reasons to think the Genesis pattern reflects realities that go beyond the marriage relationship. We see for Paul that the Genesis pattern was to be reflected in how women learn and men teach in the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14). Or consider the example of Deborah. She was undoubtedly a strong woman whose influence was important, but she (implicitly) rebuked Barak for not leading the army into battle (Judge 4:6-9). He and his men were to take the lead in Israel (Judge 5:2, 9). This point about posture often has more to do with what men ought to be doing than what women should not be doing. The exhortation is not for women to sit down but for men to stand up."

Conclusion

So as I think about how to raise Charlotte in a manner worthy of the Lord it's important for me to consider not just all that she's called to as a human, and Lord willing someday– a Christian, but also what it means to honor the Lord as a Christian woman. I was helped by much of what DeYoung had to say. I pray it'll serve you all too.

Most importantly I want Charlotte to know that both the similarities and the differences between men and women, boys and girls, are part of God's good design, for their flourishing and his glory.

Grace be with you all, 
Mark Donald 

Posted by Mark Donald with

The Beauty of Baptism

The Team Jersey
 
A week ago the Covenant Hope Church Football Club (CHCFC) played a friendly with Ras Al Khaimah Church Football Club (RAKCFC). Now I wasn’t there in person, as I’ve retired from church football. You are, I’m sure, interested in the score. I would love to tell you, but some things are meant to be private. What I would like to point your attention to is that our brothers from Covenant Hope Church were united; they all even wore the same white jerseys. Imagine that. In wearing white they all symbolized the fact that they were on the same team. If you don’t have a jersey, you’re not on the team and you don’t get to play, that’s how it works.

Getting Baptized
 
How do you say, “I’m with Jesus!” It’s not that you walk an aisle, pray a certain prayer, or sign a card. In the Bible, the way to profess your faith in Jesus is to go down into the waters of baptism. The Apostle Paul portrays the beautiful picture of baptism, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is about death, then life. As we go underwater it symbolizes Christ’s death on the cross, and ours with him. As we’re raised up, so too was Christ raised from death to life. But we’re not baptized into the name of the church–we get a new name, a heavenly one, “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt. 28:19).

We Are Baptizing
 
A few weeks ago, we witnessed the picture of baptism as three new members were added to the church. If you remember, the water was frigid and the wind was chilling. Brian and I walked down the steps into the baptismal and one by one, we baptized Azel, Ekene, and Cynthiya. While you, members of Covenant Hope Church, didn’t get in the baptismal, you were baptizing them with us. Baptism is not only a Christian’s act, it’s a church’s act. Together, we heard their testimonies and immersed them in the water. Brian and I, nor the elders as a whole, don’t have the authority to make official declarations on heaven’s behalf. We can’t give anyone the team jersey on our own. But Christ gave that authority to the church! Though you’re not getting wet, you’re participating and fulfilling the mandate Christ gave us together.

Pray for Baptisms
 
Christians only put on the team jersey once, and we wear it for life. So let’s pray for more baptisms, both in our church and in our city. We want to see co-workers, friends, family, and strangers enter those baptismal waters. We want to rent out the baptismal at DECC every week! So let’s pray. Pray for more people to come to faith in Jesus Christ and follow through with proclaiming his name publicly in the water.

With love,
Michael Abraham
Posted by Michael Abraham with

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