Preaching to an effeminate age (IV)...

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For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires... - 2 Timothy 4:3

(Tim: this is fourth in a series, with the first here, second here, and third here.) Today, no issue illustrates the abandonment of the content and method of Apostolic preaching as clearly as sexuality. Few pastors, liberal or conservative, are faithful witnesses to this Biblical doctrine, leaving the pulpit impotent in the face of our effeminate age's direct opposition to God the Father and all good fatherhood pointing to His Image.

Liberal pastors are more obvious about it. Take, for instance, the Apostle Paul’s declaration concerning the connection between sexuality and authority:

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1Timothy 2:12,13)

Seems obvious enough, doesn’t it? The teaching of the Apostles was that the order in which God created Adam and Eve, man and woman, was to be honored in our lives by woman not teaching or exercising authority over man.

But in the past fifty years, a great rebellion has flowed through the church. More liberal pastors have the honesty to say, with Fuller Seminary's Paul Jewett, that the Apostle Paul said it and he was wrong.1 More conservative pastors claiming a high view of Scripture aren’t as brash or honest in their rebellion.

Rather than saying the Apostle Paul was wrong, they say they want to talk about what women can do--not what they can't do--and that the Apostle Paul has been misunderstood...

It’s hard to keep track of the ways they argue, but it all amounts to saying this or that Greek word has been misunderstood, or some finer point of Greek grammar has not been recognized until now. Then comes the reappraisal which leads—what a surprise!—to women being allowed to teach and exercise authority over men.

Thus, in Bible-believing churches across the country, women teach mixed-sex Sunday school classes, they lead mixed-sex small groups, they administer the Lord’s Supper, they lead all-church seminars, they serve as deacons, they serve as Director of the diaconate, they sit on the board of elders as woman-advisors to the elders, they preach--or they simply serve as pastors and elders and to heck with all those petty distinctions from past centuries.

Without batting an eye, Christians who claim to honor the Word of God have removed almost every safeguard erected by two thousand years of church fathers to protect women from doing what Scripture explicitly forbids: woman teaching and exercising authority over man.

The justifications for this sea-change have become so prolific that it’s hard to keep track of them. Finer points of exegesis, nuances of vocabulary, historical context; who knows what the Apostle Paul actually meant there in 1Timothy 2? As one former elder of mine might put it if asked what the Apostle Paul meant, "Beats the heck out of me, Mabel."

The situation has led to a great fog descending upon the church. No one is willing to explain or apply to church life today what the Apostle Paul said and applied to New Testament church life with such simplicity and authority.

There’s some humor in this state of affairs. A friend reported to me that, in one of his seminary classes, a student raised his hand and asked the professor what he thought the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet?”

The professor responded, “You remember what you thought it meant way back in the beginning when you first read it? Well that’s what I think it still means today.”

My friend and I laughed, but let's not miss the point.

Choosing to stand precisely where the battle rages

Find the place where our culture's hatred of Scripture’s doctrine is most intense and test a pastor's commitment right there--to that very doctrine.

As a shepherd of God's flock, am I faithful to God's Word?

One good place to start the answer to this question is to ask whether my church has women elders? Whether women lead mixed-sex home fellowship groups in my congregation? Whether women administer the Lord’s Supper? In my preaching, do I show any zeal to guard the good deposit here where Satan has focused his attack on Biblical faith? Do I speak about God’s Fatherhood being the archetype for man’s fatherhood? Do I explain that God’s plan for authority in this world is not matriarchy or anarchy, but patriarchy—father-rule? Do I call husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her?

But much more to the point, do I call wives to submit to their husbands? Do I preach on the headship of the husband over the wife modeled after Christ’s headship over the church? If I mention submission, do I soft-sell it by paying lip-service to mutual submission: do I try to make it seems as if I agree with the false teaching that husbands are to submit to their wives as wives are to submit to their husbands? Do I hedge and blur and dance around the issue so my flock leaves Sunday morning worship not sure who’s to submit to whom?

When I officiate at wedding ceremonies, do I require the bride to vow to “obey” her husband, or have I joined everyone else in yanking this small word out of the vows handed down across the centuries?2

It’s of no use being zealous to guard doctrines other men died for back at the time of the Reformation and laying garlands at their tombs if I'm studiously avoiding defending those doctrines of Scripture under attack today. Martin Luther is right:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle-fields besides, is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.3

Biblical sexuality is not some “ideal”

As I was writing this, I read what I’d written so far to my wife and, after making a suggestion, she said, “Well, it does create a problem. There aren’t many churches that are good.”

Yes, it does create a problem. Why teach a standard that few pastors and churches reach?

Well, there are two answers to this question.

The first is that what I’ve written above is not some “biblical ideal” that’s nice to think about and strive for. It is only basic Christian faith and practice in the area of sexuality. There is a great attack on biblical sexuality today, not simply in connection with father-rule, but also divorce and remarriage, fruitfulness, age of consent, sodomy, fornication—you name it. In a few years, churches that call sodomites to repentance and conversion will risk loss of their 501c3 tax status, and even arrest. Will we then begin to refer to God’s condemnation of sodomy as another “biblical ideal?”

There’s an old saying: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” But in connection with confessing Christian sexuality in our radically immoral culture, we might rework it to, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a monster.”

Trust me: if you try to speak to a pastor or elder about the questions pertaining to sexuality listed above, he's likely to reduce you to feeling like a monster for your impertinence and utter failure to think contextually, to demonstrate a missional heart.

But don’t be afraid or apologetic. This is simple biblical Christianity practiced universally by Christians and churches since the time of the Apostles. And contrary to the modern's conceit, these disciplines weren't observed by our church fathers  because they hated their mothers, sisters, and daughters, or because they loved to beat their wives.

Past generations of believers loved their mothers, daughters, and wives at least as much as we do. Shouldn’t Christian charity alone cause us to think this highly of them? And their practices were not the result of the oppressive patriarchal culture they lived in. They lived as they did because of their commitment to the authority of the Word of God.

At any other time than our own, if you’d asked a pastor the questions proposed above, he would have looked at you like you were a lunatic. The very idea that anyone would want to know those things about a church would have been beyond comprehension to him. He'd have responded, "Of course!" and "Of course!" and "Of course!"

Regardless of how few churches submit to, and how few of their pastors zealously teach and preach biblical sexuality today, we must not look at or refer to Biblical sexuality as “one of God's ideals." There may be reasons for holding membership in a church despite its unfaithfulness in this area of doctrine, but we must go in with our eyes open knowing precisely where that church and its pastor are unfaithful and meditating on how best we may compensate for this weakness in our own and our loved ones’ lives.

Sexuality is foundational to life--from conception to death. And if it’s gross negligence on the part of a pastor to avoid opposing our culture on sexuality, it’s also gross negligence for a man to choose a church without noting that pastor’s gross negligence and taking concrete steps to protect his little flock from that negligence.

In our effeminate age, preaching must be authoritative in content, authoritative in delivery, and faithful to provide a prophetic witness to all Scripture's doctrine of sexuality. We are called to be heralds of Christ who testify to all His truth, demonstrating in our preaching ministry the same confidence in God’s Word that caused Charles Spurgeon to exclaim, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself!"


  • 1. Paul Jewett, Man as Male and Female.
  • 2. For a copy of the traditional wedding service and vows, send an e-mail to tbbayly at gmail dot com.
  • 3. Martin Luther, attributed.