Sanctuary and Parish

I have written before on the ideal relationship of church and kingdom, comparing it to the church at the center of town, and life in the kingdom fanning out into the parish from that center. Word and sacrament are at the center, and they shape and form the lives of believers outside the sanctuary, but without ruling and dictating what goes on out there. I am using the words sanctuary and parish in a figure. The elders of the church do not rule over auto mechanics, or garbage collection, or interior design. First, it is none of their business, and secondly, they would do a bad job.

Family government and civil government and church government are the three governments ordained and established directly by God. Our task is therefore to make sure they are in a right relationship with each other, and to take care that one of them doesn’t try to swallow up the others. In our day, it is the state that is swollen with this particular conceit, but other eras have seen the other two governments try it.

After the Great Commission is fulfilled it would be appropriate, in a figure of speech, to say that “the Church” has filled the earth, as the waters cover the sea, but this is not talking about the church in the strict sense — gathered worship, the preached Word, the bread and wine, etc. A great deal of what will have been done by that point will have been done by nations and by families. These nations and families will have been baptized, and they will return to the sanctuary every Lord’s Day to be instructed and strengthened, but they will do what they do as Christians — not as officers of the sanctuary.

So that’s the background. Let’s take a test case. I used the phrase “shape and form” to talk about the kind of influence the sanctuary has on the parish, and a good example of this kind of thing from the New Testament would be the case of role relationships between men and women. It is good for two reasons — the first is that there is abundant material in the Scripture about it. Secondly, the issue has that peculiar kind of clarity that will cause the enemies of the truth to get whipped up into a bubbly froth, and the trimmers of the truth to hem, cough, a dig a little divot in the carpet with their shoe.

The apostle Paul says some pretty direct things to say about what women can say in the course of a worship service. He limits them to prayer or prophecy, and then only if they have their heads suitably covered to show respect for their husbands (1 Cor. 11:5). He says that women may not participate in the rule of the church (1 Tim. 2:12), and says that women may not teach men (1 Tim. 2:12). He says also that women are to keep silent (1 Cor. 14:34). This is all inside the sanctuary.

Does this dictate behavior outside the sanctuary? No, it clearly does not. Priscilla and Aquila together took Apollos aside and straightened out his theology (Acts 18:26). Together they expounded the way more adequately. Phoebe delivered the book of Romans (Rom. 16:1), for which we have not thanked her enough. A wise son remembers and obeys the law of his mother (Prov. 1:8; 6:20). The Scriptures are our rule for life. Some of it provides us with a rule for the sanctuary.

Now some just want the rules of the sanctuary to just apply straight across. They want it to govern life in the parish, just like the feminists want their disobedient arrangements in the parish to set the rule for the sanctuary. Let’s just take it straight across, they say, and keep life simple. But this would result in a Muslim-like oppression of women in one instance, and with the feminist bedlam in the other. It wouldn’t keep life simple at all.

What I want to argue is that the rule of the sanctuary is authoritative in how it shapes us, but it does this in organic ways. It is not done by rules made out of two by fours. That shaping authority is applied out in the world by men and women with brains.

A strict standard is set for the sanctuary. But there are any number of ways that the apostle expects women to govern their speech and behavior outside the sanctuary. Godly women are called to do this precisely because they are are wanting to maintain a good testimony for those who worship in the sanctuary. For example, Paul wants younger women to marry and have children (1 Tim. 5:14). He wants them to govern their homes (1 Tim. 5:14), and in a way that will not bring reproach on the faith. Young wives should shun, along with everyone else, old wives’ fables (1 Tim. 4:7, KJV), which would probably include being a little less enthusiastic about the wonders of magnesium on Facebook. Older women are to teach the younger women, among other things, to be domestic (Tit. 2:5), and to be obedient to their husbands (Tit. 2:5). Now all of this is shaped by the order of worship in the sanctuary, but almost none of it occurs in the sanctuary. The end result of this, by the way, is dangerous and godly women, the kind who can get feminists to start muttering about uppity women.

To jump back to my illustration of auto mechanics. A preacher has no business telling a mechanic how to repair a blown head gasket. He can tell him that he must charge in accordance with the bid he made, and that he may not take financial advantage of a little old lady who knows nothing about cars. The sanctuary influences the auto shop without becoming the owner or proprietor of it.

When the Church is healthy, and doing what it ought to be doing, it is establishing, promoting, and edifying entities which are distinct from itself. The Church imitates the Lord in this — this is the same thing God did in creating us. All the families of the earth are to be discipled by the Church (Gen. 12:3). All the nations of the earth are to be discipled by the Church (Matt. 28:18-20). And when the process is done, these families and nations have not been absorbed into the Borg. Rather, they have become more like themselves than they ever could have done on their own.

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Brad Jones
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Brad Jones

Pastor Wilson, this is helpful. Thank you. Praise God.

mikebull1
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This is all great, but there would be less to explain if people’s understanding was grounded in the architecture established in Genesis 1-3, Garden, Land and World. Then instead of being a lot of disjointed facts to remember we have a coherent vision. / / / /
And (I can’t help myself), discipleship is not hearing the Gospel. Discipleship is preaching the Gospel and suffering for it. There’s a big difference, and your baptism confuses them.

Seth B.
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Seth B.

Mike: Is there any issue that you don’t relate back to “paedo baptism is wrong”?

Matt
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Matt

Mike credoism is like Doug’s postmillennialism.  Difficult to see around; better in their minds to see through (like a lens).
 

Don Smith
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Don Smith

I am a “premil reformed dispensational (Israel is not the church)  credo baptist” and I agree with every word Doug has written in this piece.

Kip' Chelashaw
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Kip' Chelashaw

Pastor Doug,
I agree that Scripture clearly dictates what life in the sanctuary looks vis a vis males and females. But are you sure that Scripture says nothing more about female participation in community life than the NT passages you cite (focussed on the home)? What are we to do with passages like Isaiah 3 where God’s curse on Israel includes her women ruling over the people (v12) with the implication that women ruling in society is not a positive thing?
Kip’

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

Some of this teaching is alien to my Catholic experience, and I could use some help fleshing out how it is supposed to work.  My church draws a distinction between the sacerdotal and teaching functions.  Because the Old Testament saw masculinity as a requirement for priesthood and because Jesus did not include women among the twelve, we do not have women on the altar during Mass.  But women can and do teach catechetical classes for adult men, and certainly nuns may function as men’s spiritual directors and advisors.  Am I right that Pastor Wilson’s tradition would agree with the first… Read more »

Robert
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Robert

Jill, you asked some good questions. The New Testament does not tell women to be deferential towards men. The Bible tells women to be deferential to their husbands, fathers and when appropriate, church leaders and government officials. Nowhere else. Lydia is not condemned for being a successful businesswoman who is the head of her own household and who provided accommodations for church to meet in her home.meetings. Most lawyers are not trial lawyers. Most law is administrative in nature which women are quite good at.It is not a sin for a woman to be a trial lawyer. The big issue… Read more »

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

Thanks, Robert, that does help.  I don’t think the Catholic church has any problem with women soldiers, cops, etc., but at the risk of outraging my feminist friends (who don’t read this board anyway), some parts of that have always creeped me out a little.  I remember that when Victoria became queen of England, the law was changed to remove from her the power to affirm or reject death sentences because it was simply understood that a gentle and feminine woman might have trouble sending even the most hardened criminal to his death.  The first time I ever watched a… Read more »

Katie
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Katie

Perhaps when the apostle said that women should not teach men, he was at least partly motivated by wanting to provide an opportunity for men in the church to step up and lead, a la the vision of purgatory where the men have to do the dirty dishes and the women have to leave them alone.  If my high school Bible study groups were any indication, the girls have no problem taking charge in mixed gender groups, and if Paul hadn’t specifically limited the women from teaching men, the women might have ALL the teaching positions :).

Emily
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Emily

Saw Jill’s first set of questions and wanted to respond. I am graduating from law school in two months and will be working in a civil litigation firm where half of the lawyers are women.  I am 25 years old, I love Jesus, and I’ve been happily married for almost two years.  To your point about women lawyers: I assure you that it is possible to be a zealous advocate for one’s client and still retain one’s grace under pressure, professional demeanor, and personal integrity.  As Robert said above, there’s simply no need to expect that women be deferential, gracious,… Read more »

mekt75
Member

Emily, what state do you intend to practice? 

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

Pastor Doug — you might consider further refinement of your expression that Paul’s restriction on women participating in the rule of the church is limited to “inside the sanctuary.”  Related indirectly: your own church restricts rule of the church to your artificial “members.”