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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul A. F. Castellano

Happy Retirement

INTRODUCTION


If you’ve been following the news lately an almost imperceptible report was released this past week amidst all the Chinese balloons and aerial gunnery.


One of the most prominent and well-known televangelists has retired. Yes, that’s correct, Joyce Meyer has retired from her “ministry” Enjoying Everyday Life. After 30 years on T.V., the soon-to-be 80-year-old televangelist is retiring from active ministry. Her program will continue on under someone else’s oversight.


There is a lot that could be said about Mrs. Meyer as I am not a fan of her work. However, that will be left to another day. The issue on which I want to focus isn’t specifically her (or any other so-called teaching ministry led by a woman; no, the matter on which I would like to focus is an oversight in Christianity that leads to such aberrant ministries, the nature of the Church. Or, to be more specific, what is the Church? How do we define what the essence of the Church is? If we are incapable of defining what the Church is, we are incapable of determining whether something claiming to be a Church is actually a Church and if the person leading it, in fact, has the right to not only lead it but even call it a Church.


The immediate response from the greater evangelical community is, well, WE are the Church. While that is accurate to a certain point, it isn’t the entire picture. But we’ll get to that in a minute.


WHERE TO BEGIN


As you know, my book deals with this very subject. I’m not going to regurgitate my book, but I am going to highlight some of what I’ve written there.


The concept of what the Church is, begins in Heaven. It begins with the Triune Godhead, and it begins in the intra-trinitarian relationship within the Godhead. All of what we claim to be related to the Church must take its definition and its cue from Heaven. Everything we do on earth is derived from Heaven. Therefore, when we begin to answer, “what is the Church?” we start here – in the heavenlies.


In examining what we see in heaven we observe all manner of accouterments, individuals, and activities. Yet there is one specific point I want to emphasize, God, in His divine action, revealed what He wanted His Kingdom/Church to look like on earth in His divine revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai. As we all are familiar, in this revelation, Yahweh specifically commanded a number of things:


He divinely commanded the specific manner in which He was to be approached in worship – what I coined, Divinely Commanded Specificity.

He divinely commanded specific religious items to be set apart and used for worship.

He divinely commanded specific days, feasts and festivals to be observed in His Kingdom/Church.

He divinely commanded specific laws to be obeyed.

He divinely commanded certain specific sacraments to be observed, received, and distributed by His divinely commanded clergy – priests.


Finally, He did all of this (and so much more) in the context of a divinely commanded specific relationship with His people called a covenant. A binding agreement with blessings if followed and penalties if violated.


Note that all of this was via divinely revealed, specifically commanded pronouncements to His people.


This pattern was in nascent form in Eden and developed over time incrementally, until it came to its full fruition as God revealed it to Moses. This pattern was the divinely commanded manner in which EVERYTHING in God’s Kingdom/Church was to be prosecuted by His people.


Based upon His covenant with His people, any violation of this pattern was met with judgment, sometimes resulting in captivity.


When we get to the N.T. was sometimes forget that, even though Jesus came to set up His Church (which was required to include Gentiles), He was a Jew; the Apostles were Jews; the people that followed Him were Jews; later came some Gentiles (Luke to note), but what Jesus did was done within the context of Judaism. He worshipped in the Temple. The Apostles worshipped in the Temple. All of His followers worshipped in the Temple. They prayed and read Scripture in the synagogues. In other words, the foundation of Christianity, that which we have today, is Jewish. Judaism is our heritage.

Even after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, the Jewish nature and pattern of worship continued as priests brought it into the synagogues. This eventually would create tension when the evangelistic successes of others, particularly the Apostle Paul, started bringing Gentiles into the synagogues. A rupture occurred leading to the Gentiles the Apostle evangelized to develop their own places of worship; but even in this, they would’ve developed this new places of worship along the model and pattern taught to them by the Apostles, particularly Paul.


AND NOW


If we truly understand this foundation for the Church today, what becomes abundantly clear is, those leading in worship, were male priests. This is how the Church was formed; this is how the Church functioned. And allow me to sharpen this for just a moment, when I use the term worship in this context I’m referring to that form of worship that occurred in the Tabernacle/Temple and eventually in the synagogue when it replaced the Temple. It was in the Tabernacle that forgiveness of sins was procured and secured by sacrifice. It was in the Temple that forgiveness of sins was procured and secured by sacrifice. And, with the sacrifice of Christ, was in the synagogue (and today the Church) where His sacrifice is applied to us for the forgiveness of our sins.


God’s ordained, divinely commanded ministers were specifically commanded to be men. Women certainly worshipped in their homes, privately, and would participate in worship in the Tabernacle/Temple, synagogues, and eventually the Church, but there is NO indication whatsoever that a woman participated in offering the Temple sacrifice for sin. Nowhere.


The pattern or structure of worship for the 1st century Jewish Christians would’ve been exactly the same as the O.T. Jewish believer with one profound and transcendent difference, the CONTENT would no longer be covenantal Mosaic theological, it would be covenantal Christologic theology which would inform their worship. As Moses gave the content to their practice in the Old Covenant, Christ gives the content to our practice in the New Covenant. All the while maintaining the Biblical, covenantal connection between Old and New; between 1st century (Jewish) Christian and 21st century Christians.


So, yes, the Church is “us” as we are a “priesthood” of believers, but so were the Jews

Exodus 19:6 `And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”


One cannot make the case that because the Jews were a “kingdom of priests,” instructed to bring Yahweh to the world, this would mean women would be involved in offering sacrifices in the Tabernacle/Temple. That would be absurd on its face.


Since the N.T. follows that same pattern, the Apostles Peter’s repetition of this verse, follows the same intent. God’s divinely commanded representatives, the specifically designated male ministers would lead His people in worship; in the glorious privilege of offering the sacrament of God’s grace, the person of Jesus Christ, to His sheep through the bread and wine in Holy Communion.


Women would have a vital and important role in the Church, just ask Ruth, or Rahab, or Deborah, or Priscillia. They would teach, lead, and judge, but NOT be priests or lead in “formal” worship that would involve the distribution of the sacrament.

EPILOGUE


Some would immediately chirp up and say, “Wait, wait, wait, yeah, I might have a problem with the Joyce Meyer’s of the world, woman ministers, but Matt 5 says Jesus fulfilled all the Law, so your connection fails.”


While it is true that that is what Matt 5 states, the Greek word for “fulfilled” doesn’t mean destroy, or eradicate, or abrogate. The actual meaning of the term is as follows:[1]


Frieberg Lexicon:[2]

Literally, with an idea of totality make full, fill (up) completely


Louw and Nida:[3]

πληρόω (plhrowo): to cause something to become full - 'to fill.' (the net) was full' Matthew 13.48.


Liddell – Scott:[4]

πληρόω, (plhrowo): -to make full: I. to fill full of, Pass. to be filled full of. 2. to fill full of food, to gorge, satiate, II. to fill with, 2. to make full or complete, or in the Passive: to be completed. 3. to fill it. 4. to fulfil, pay in full, make up; Passive, having poured wine into the vessel till it was full, Passive, to crowd into a place.


Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich:[5]

πληρόω, (plhrowo): —1. fill, make full Matthew 13:48; Luke 3:5; John 12:3; 16:6; Acts 2:2, 28; 5:28; Romans 1:29; Ephesians 5:18; Philippians 4:18; 2 Timothy 1:4.—2. of time fill up, complete, reach its end passive. Mark 1:15; John 7:8; Acts 7:23, 30; 9:23; 24:27.


Note carefully what noted theologian Colin Brown says in his, “The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.”[6]


πληρόω Full or fullness. Also, To fill a vessel, so that the result can be described as, (plhrwma.) plhrwma . “full.” It is also significant in that it is used in regards to those fulfillment-quotations which have their origin in the Church’s understanding of its faith or, episodes in the life of Jesus which were seen as the fulfillment of the divine plan of salvation revealed in the O.T.


Therefore, when you consider the definition of “fulfill” as given, it becomes clear fulfill does not mean, “end” or “abrogate” or “finish with a view to erase what has gone before.” You can see how “end of the ceremonial law” and Christ “fulfilling” the law, is to be understood; it has more to do with content than pattern. Imagine you have a child’s coloring book in front of you. You see the outline of the various figures but there is no content. You “fill in” the content by using the various colors in your box of crayons. This is essentially what it means when the Bible tells us, Jesus “fulfilled” the Old Testament. He “filled in” or “completed with new content” the sketch of the Old Testament.


If this is how the Church is to be understood, then shouldn’t we be more conscientious in applying this understanding to Christianity today? Shouldn’t we be more conscientious in being obedient to God’s divinely commanded specific pattern revealed to us in Holy Scripture? Shouldn’t we be faithful to God and call out those who refuse to take a stand against something that is “obviously” so unbiblical?


Enjoy your retirement Joyce, can you take some of your colleagues with you?


Soli Deo Gloria


[1] This is taken from chapter 8 of my book, “As it is in Heaven…” [2] Bible Works 10 Software program. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid. [5] Ibid. [6] Colin Brown, “The New International Theological Dictionary of New Testament Theology.” Vol.1. Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1967. Entry on πληρόω. Pgs. 733-744.

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