Imagine this: Your best friend breaks their arm. What do they do? They go to the doctor, have it set, and have a cast put on it to hold the bones in place and allow it to heal. Now, after seeing your best friend in a cast, would you feel it necessary to go to the doctor and have a cast put on your arm also? Heavens, no! Your arm isn’t broken. Why in the world would you need to? And, you would never expect your friend to be in the cast for the rest of their life, either. You know that once the bones are healed the cast will be coming off.
Also, after seeing your friend in their cast would you feel it necessary to go around telling others that they need to go get a cast put on their arm? Again, no! You would never tell someone with a perfectly good arm to have a cast put on it. Not only would it not do them any good, it would actually hinder them from fully functioning.
A majority of the books of the New Testament were written because churches were in crisis. Something, whether external or internal, had caused things to be misaligned within the church and some outside help was sought. As was the communication of the day, a letter was sent with counsel concerning the situation/s and ideas on how to go about realigning things.
These letters were written because a church had broken her arm and this was the Great Physician’s way of setting the bone and holding things in place for a time while it healed. But the church was never meant to wear the cast for the rest of her life. The cast was a tool to allow healing, but once healing was achieved, the cast was no longer needed.
Is it possible that over the centuries we have seen the cast used in scripture for a specific church and then have assumed that we must wear that cast also and so must everyone else? Is it possible that the outcome has been that the Body of Christ is now in a full body cast and barely able to function?
Consider this example:
Paul plants a church in Lystra during A.D. 47-48 and Timothy is a convert. Timothy joins Paul on his second missionary journey from A.D. 50-53 to Philipi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth, and helps Paul plant churches in these cities. Timothy joins Paul again in Ephesus from A.D. 54-57 to be trained to be a worker. Timothy is in Ephesus in A.D. 63 strengthening the church when Paul hears of some of the issues the Ephesian believers are having and writes to Timothy to encourage him and to help with these issues. Timothy has now known Paul for 15 years.
When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, he encouraged Timothy to not let women speak in the meetings. This encouragement has been used for generations to silence half of the Body of Christ. The church in Ephesus is 9 years old at this point. If not allowing the women to speak was the way Paul was planting all his churches, why wouldn’t Ephesus already be practicing it and why would Timothy need to be instructed in this after seeing so many of the churches Paul had planted? If this was not something new and specific to this situation it would be unnecessary for Paul to mention it in this letter.
Things were out of line in the church in Ephesus, and much of the misalignment was coming through certain sisters. The setting and cast that the Lord used through Paul was to silence those women for a time, to realign and heal the church.
Many of the persecuted believers from Jerusalem move to Antioch of Syria. Barnabas is sent there to help them. Saul arrives in A.D. 42 by the invitation of Barnabas to help strengthen the church there. Luke and his younger brother, Titus, are a part of the Antioch church.
In A.D. 54 Titus joins Paul in Ephesus to be trained to be a worker and spends the next three years with Paul and then continues to travel and plant with him on and off. In A.D. 61 Titus travels to Crete and plants churches there. Paul writes a letter to Titus in A.D. 65 after hearing from Titus concerning the issues of the churches in Crete. Titus has known and worked with Paul for over 20 years now.
So, In Paul’s letter to Titus we have the “elder qualifications”. It is hard to believe that after knowing and working with Paul for 20 years, Titus would need to be told the qualifications of an elder. Personally, I do not think that this was what Paul was hoping to convey. I have heard that some think that Paul was choosing specific qualifications to single out certain men in the Cretian church. The church was being heavily influenced by the Cretian lifestyle and some in the church were promoting this. To help combat this, Paul basically hand picked the “elders” without calling them by name.
I grew up in a church where my father couldn’t be a deacon because he had previously been divorced, but my uncle, who was a closet alcoholic and very concerned with financial gain could be one simply because of our concern for following the “letter of the law”. And here we are again applying this cast to all believers and churches, despite the fact that their arm isn’t broken.
I know some of you will disagree with me, and that is fine. I must say that I believe all scripture to be inspired by the Spirit. What I no longer believe, however, is that the Bible is a blue print for how to do church. The Bible is the testimony of God, Himself. It is given to us to know Him, not to know how to live the christian life or how to be the christian church. It is in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ, the one He sent, that we will know Life. It has become painstakingly obvious that you can know scripture and not know Life. And without Life, we filter scripture through our human lens, and that’s when things really get out of alignment.