The Apostolic Example

By Stephen Terry


Commentary for the August 4, 2012 Sabbath School Lesson


“…we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed —God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else…” 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6, NIV

As we have traveled into the twenty-first century, over two thousand years after the birth of Christ, we see a Christian church struggling with winds of change blowing through the pews. We struggle over issues related to music and worship styles, who has the right to lead congregations, how to parse meaning from scripture, and who has the right to determine orthodoxy. For instance, while some Christian congregations oppose the use of any musical instruments, many others divide over the type of music to be allowed. While the rock-and-roll movement brought us musicals like “Godspell,” and Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” which led many into seeking to know more about Jesus, some feel that these musical trends undermine everything that Christianity represents. For individuals on both sides of this debate, bringing someone to Jesus comes with a caveat. The new convert must agree to accept the musical tastes of the one who brings them to Jesus. Those who do not adjust their musical taste accordingly risk being socially ostracized by their new church. However, this is not the only minefield the new Christian must navigate.

Some Christians would have us believe that Jesus had political preferences and would have been a true-blue Republican or Democrat. While holding themselves out as belonging to a higher, spiritual understanding of these things, they hurl invective after invective at the candidate and his supporters in the opposing party. Never mind what Jesus said about calling someone a “fool,” (see Matthew 5:22) there is a whole range of much worse things that Christians feel comfortable attaching to their political enemies. Hiding behind the Prophet Isaiah’s skirts, they boast they are only “crying aloud and sparing not.” (See Isaiah 58:1)  But they ignore those passages of the Bible that refer to respect and submission to duly constituted civil authorities. (i.e. Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17, and 1 Peter 3:7, 15)  One cannot help but wonder if they expect that after being vilified, these public officials and their supporters will miraculously find Jesus in the words that are condemning them? Why would any political figure or public person want to have any part with a group of individuals who act in such an unloving manner? Recently many Christians were quick to disassociate themselves from the pastor of a small Baptist congregation in Florida who purposely chose to offend Muslims around the world by burning a copy of the Quran. Yet, some of those appalled by this offensive act, feel free to openly offend others who do not share their political opinions and feel they are doing Gods’ will when they do so. Perhaps that Quran-burning pastor can identify with their motivations.

When we consider in addition to these things, our record as Christians in the area of civil discrimination, we find the cup of offenses getting overfull. Far too many women and minorities are very familiar with the Christian framework of oppression they have had to struggle with. Whether it was the “Black Robes” who accompanied the Conquistadors to the New World and pacified the natives into humble servitude to their new overlords, or the plantation owners who used Christian terminology to construct a religious basis for the enslavement of another race for purely economic reasons, we can see that some of that trend continues to the present. Citing that “Women should keep silent” (See 1 Corinthians 14:34-35) men who wish to exercise control over the aspirations of women have opposed everything from women’s suffrage to women’s ordination. Women have often not been allowed to own property or have careers,  with Christians supporting such things on a questionable foundation of pseudo-Christianity. But this is only the public face of such oppression. This same attitude has too often been the justification for hidden abuse and degradation of women in countless, private, ostensibly Christian homes.

What is incredible when one considers the history of Christianity is that in spite of the abuse, often those who were formerly slaves adopted and improved on the Christian faith of their masters. Their influence is heavily felt in the many “African” denominations that themselves gave birth to several other fellowships.  Imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, true Christianity has a way of shining through even such a muddy, dirty window as oppression and discrimination. As in the great spiritual, “Go Down, Moses,” many of those whom God calls find deliverance in the very Bible that their oppressors are twisting to evil purposes. While Christians may do much to distort the Bible’s message of liberty and freedom, the Bible reveals itself as more trustworthy than Christians may sometimes be if we will go direct to its chapters to meet the Christ who speaks from every page. God still has the power to elevate those who are enslaved and oppressed from the darkest pit to rule over entire nations, just as He did with Joseph and Moses. (See Genesis 37-50, and Exodus 2-14) God continues to do this, today. He has not changed. Much as some would like to nail the lid on the coffin of those they oppress and use the Bible as their hammer to do so, God continues to set free and elevate His chosen ones to the frustration of those who would seek to control God by controlling His body, the church.

Much as we saw with the slaves on the cotton plantations of the Southern United States, women also have responded admirably to their oppression. While some have certainly and understandably turned their backs on the Christianity which has placed such heavy exactions on the conditions under which they are allowed to practice their faith, many still desire to be a part of that faith and bring their own Spirit-filled gifts as their offering to a Savior they do not see as justifying the oppression of anyone. Even though they are often forced to accept male overlords for their worship, most Christian fellowships are predominately female. It goes without saying that consequently a sizable portion of the financial support is contributed by women as well. But it is often the men who have the votes, power and control to determine what is to be done with the finances, who will hold important office, and what issues will be allowed to come before the church administrative committees.  Faced with all of that, women still step forward to fill the positions they are allowed to fill, but also in an expression of faith in the mission and purpose of the church, ask to be given the opportunity to serve as ordained clergy and be fully a part of that mission.

Some who are opposed to this claim that these women are greedy for income, or want to control men, or have power in the church. However, these very same traits have sadly appeared time and again in men who have been ordained to the Christian ministry. Perhaps this is why they know the potential for these things so well. This is not a function of gender, however, but of ascertaining who is and who is not truly called to ministry. I have no doubt that some who are not suited to the ministry will try to enter in, but the same process that seeks to cull those who are not truly called to ministry from the male clergy may certainly be used to cull those women who are unsuited as well. It is not an excuse to not ordain any women.

Perhaps our nature wants to reject everything based on the example of a few. It might be less work to simply avoid entirely one automobile manufacturer if one has had a bad experience with vehicles from that company, but one might miss many wonderful auto ownership experiences as a result. In the same way, rejecting all women from ministry might reject the very person whom God has called to speak His will into your life. Worse, the Bible also says that in doing so, we could be rejecting God. (See Luke 10:16) This is what many of the Jews ended up doing in Jesus’ day. But some had more wisdom than others. The Apostles had been filled with the Holy Spirit and were proclaiming Jesus in the Temple every day. When some of them were brought before the Sanhedrin and told not to continue preaching about Jesus to the people, they refused. The church leaders wanted to punish them because they refused to remain silent, but Gamaliel interceded with these words: ““Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:35-39, NIV

In these last days, the Prophet Joel told us, “"Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days." Joel 2:29, NIV Perhaps we should follow the Apostolic example of Peter when he visited the Centurion Cornelius. He said of that experience, “…if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17, NIV We might ask ourselves if it is harder to believe that God might call a woman to be ordained than it was for a Jew to believe that an unclean Gentile could receive the Holy Spirit? How we answer that question could reveal how successful we may expect to be in presenting an example to others of an inclusive, loving apostolic faith where God can reach every heart with the liberating message of salvation.



This Commentary is a Service of Still Waters Ministry


If you wish to receive these weekly commentaries direct to your e-mail inbox for free, simply send an e-mail to:



Scripture marked (NIV) taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc.




If you want a paperback copy of the current Sabbath School Bible Study Quarterly, you may purchase one by clicking here and typing the word "quarterly" into the search box.