Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Church Messengers"-- Insignificant?

In our discussion on “Junia or Junias,” we have seen that the name of the mysterious apostle with “Andronicus” in Romans 16:7 was a woman named Junia; secondly, she was an apostle, who Paul says was in Christ before he was. In this post, I am gonna add a final note on the “Junia/Junias” discussion by entertaining Dr. Wayne Grudem’s notion of Junia as a “church messenger.”

My last post on the debate showed the context of the label “apostle” in several texts—John 13, Phil. 2:25, 2 Cor. 8, and Romans 16:7. Today, however, I am gonna deal with some passages that address “church messengers” in their contexts—2 Cor. 8 and Acts 15:22-32. I have already addressed Phil. 2 and Romans 16.

I. 2 Corinthians 8
As I’ve mentioned in a former post, 2 Corinthians 8 is about the Corinthian church providing a financial contribution to help the Macedonians, who were in need. In verse 23, Paul mentions “our brethren,” and labels them as “apostles” to the churches. There is significant evidence to show that the brethren referred to in this passage are church messengers. 2 Cor. 8:19 says, “…he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work…” One of the brothers has been “appointed by the churches,” which is how church messengers are selected. However, go back to verse 18 and we read something else: “We have sent along with him[Titus] the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches.” The church representative, then, was not just a Christian in the body of Christ, but someone who labored in the gospel, someone whose spiritual authority was known in the churches. Another brother was sent, according to 2 Cor. 8:22—“We have sent with them [Titus and the famous brother] our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you.” The other representative sent had a record of tried-and-true dedication. He had been tested, tried, examined, and found to be trustworthy and hardworking. The men of 2 Corinthians 8 were men of excellence whose work in the churches spoke volumes for them.

II. Acts 15:22-32
The last passage we will study on this subject is Acts 15:22-32. The text begins by telling us about the traveling mission: “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren…” (Acts 15:22). Judas and Silas were not just ordinary men—they were “leading men” among the brethren, men who stood out among the rest. They were distinguished from the rest of the church body (with the exception of the apostles and elders). In Acts 15:26, we’re told more about Judas and Silas: “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Not only were they leading men, but they even put their lives on the line for Christ. This is similar to the description Paul gave about Epaphroditus to the Philippian church: “Receive him[Epaphroditus] then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me” (Phil. 2:29-30). So the report about Judas and Silas was no flattering language—it was truth, it was the testimony of two godly men who were sent from their church as not only representatives, but living witnesses of godliness to the Gentiles. In addition, with the apostles and elders sending these two men out, it is clear that they selected carefully the kind of character they would have to represent the church.
Last but not least, notice that Judas and Silas were men of spiritual authority as well: “Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message” (Acts 15:32). Notice that both Judas and Silas were prophets, men who stood in the prophetic office. And they were prophets IN ADDITION TO serving as messengers of the church!

Taking all this into account, now look at Romans 16:7 with the apostle Junia. She has been “killed” throughout history and even given a sex change and “recreated” as a man in order to keep women out of ministry positions; but if Junia was only a church messenger, her spiritual authority gets enhanced instead of diminished—for every church messenger sent out by the early churches were those whose hands were constantly being put to the gospel plow.

I wanna end this discussion of Junia (at least for now and the foreseeable future) with a quote from a church father and a quote from a scholar.
The church father John Chrysostom wrote (about Junia):
“Even to be an apostle is great, but also to be prominent among them—consider how wonderful a song of honor that is. For they were prominent because of their works, because of their successes. Glory be! How great the wisdom of this woman that she was even deemed worthy of the apostle’s title” (“Junia—the First Woman Apostle,” by Eldon Jay Epp, pg. 79).

The above research I’ve done, in addition to Chrysostom’s quote, leaves a mass puddle of confusion for Wayne Grudem and complementarians. In the words of Manfred Haucke: “Even assuming that ‘Junia’ could be interpreted as feminine, the function of a ‘lady apostle’ need not lie in the area of public preaching. The strict “ban on teaching” in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 would not be easy to understand given the supposed existence of a female missionary preacher” (Eldon Jay Epp, 81).
Haucke’s response is typical—even when the evidence favors a woman apostle, he (like all other complementarians) still choose to deny women their ordained giftedness in the body of Christ. But, most importantly, if Junia is an apostle, as the evidence shows, what are we to do with 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2? The answer? Maybe both passages are more local in nature and written to specific churches for specific reasons than we’d like to think.

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