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.