Rev. Koole is pastor of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
Rev. Kenneth Koole’s final duty as president of Synod 2008 was to preach the pre-synodical sermon for Synod 2009. As it happened, the service was canceled because of inclement weather conditions. The sermon was therefore unpreached. But it appears nevertheless in Meditation-form in this issue of the SB and the next. In view of the fact that Synod recessed on June 16, and will reconvene in August to deal with the ‘school issue’ that dominated this year’s agenda, Rev. Koole’s exposition of can still serve as an edifying word setting the tone for the rest of Synod 2009. What is printed here is the first point of the sermon. The second and third points will be published in the August issue.
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.”
I Corinthians 16:13, 14Men and brethren, beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, the church of Corinth was a troubled church. Any number of evils were loose in that congregation. Specialinterest groups had their own agenda, challenging apostolic authority; sexual immoralities were winked at; drunkenness was found at the Lord’s table. As a result, the Corinthian church was making an extremely poor witness to the world as to any real difference between the Christian faith and ungodly society itself. Unbelievers said, “This is Christian behavior? We can take you to our marketplace, where people behave and speak no worse than you Christians, and they may be even more trustworthy. If this is what belonging to the Christian church means, all this evil speech and slander and the absence of peace and unity, we want no part of it. We have enough division and bitterness towards each other in our own ungodly families without adding that of your church to ours!”
All this largely because officebearers were shirking their duty and failing to take the apostolic Word and apply it with vigor to the life and doctrine of the congregation.
And if you were to worship in the Corinthian church, you would have found chaos and confusion. Any number were trying to out-shout each other, claiming that their gifts and authority of the Spirit outweighed all the others.
Decency and good order were not the order of the day.
As the apostle points out in chapter 14, if outsiders were to visit and observe what was happening in their assemblies, they would think the Christians mad.
“Let’s get some order in this church of yours, officebearers!”
Adding to the disorder were women who refused to keep silence in the church, women who insisted on an equal right to govern the affairs of the church. This the apostle sharply opposed. “Let your women keep silence in the church” (v. 34).
But who was going to see to that, insisting that these loud, assertive women submit, directing them back to their place in the church?
Who had enough manhood for that! Who if not the officebearers of the church?
Men and brethren, quit you, behave yourselves, like men. Take the lead; address the weaknesses and sins of God’s people; refute the doctrinal errors. Show the church and the world what true manhood, sanctified and redeemed manhood, is all about.
What the apostle speaks of here is the need of the hour in the church of Christ. She needs those who will ‘play the man.’ Not playing at being a man, while behaving like an irresponsible child, but playing the man, filling the part, doing what God made the male of the race to accomplish to begin with.
Understand, I did not select these verses because I think our churches lack such men, or that our churches are in trouble like that of the church of Corinth. Not at all. True, from our agenda it is apparent that we have an issue to deal with that is unsettling our churches at the time, but nothing of the magnitude of the issues troubling the church of Corinth.
Rather, I selected this passage because we as delegated officebearers who represent all of our churches must “quit ourselves like men” if we are to prevent the great issues and evils of our apostate ecclesiastical age from entering our beloved congregations and our broader assemblies as well. We are to take the apostle’s exhortation to heart for the sake of true unity and peace, for maintaining a distinctive witness, and for the purity of the gospel of truth.
It is where the church of Christ has men who function as men that she provides a good environment, one in which to grow spiritually and raise a family, one where spiritual maturity and peace prevail. So, men and brethren:
1. What the Apostle Means by This
2. Why This Is the Need of the Hour
3. What Great Incentive Is Given
There is a dearth in this land of ours.
There is a dearth in the church of our day and age.
It is a dearth of men, of those who will ‘play the man.’
There are plenty of women willing to ‘play the man’; women who thrust themselves forward; women who have much to say about running affairs in home and church. But where are the men?
One could almost wish that some men would study these forward women and take a lesson or two on how to assert themselves and act like men.
And yet that’s not the remedy either, is it. Such women, for all their manly traits, are out of place. They are the source of endless confusion. Men step aside and the church becomes emasculated. The very presence of these women in places of authority in the House of God means that already the Word of our Lord and the authority of our King has been shoved aside. Where they are seated in assemblies you can be sure that vital concessions concerning the apostolic word have already been made, and every concession will be sure to follow.
What is instructive for us is the word that the apostle uses here and which the A.V. translates by the phrase “Quit you like men.” It is one composite Greek word. It is not derived from the common Greek word that is translated as ‘man’ or ‘mankind’—the word anthropos. Rather, the apostle uses a gender-specific word that refers specifically to the male in distinction from the female. It is a word that could be translated as “be the male,” or “be men,” or “behave as men should.” Or, to use King James language, “Quit (that is, Acquit) you like men,” instead of behaving as if you are neutered and do not dare to confront a mouse.
Significantly joined to this gender-specific word is the Greek word for courage. This sets the direction that the apostle has in mind and tells us why, in large part, God created men as males. True manhood has to do with courage.
Courage to do what?
What else but to face danger and that which threatens life, family, and kingdom, and not to be easily intimidated or collapse in fear. That is all part of true male headship.
Scripture itself exalts our Lord Christ as a warrior-king and lion with this connotation.
As you know, in ancient times, both in pagan society and in the nation of Israel herself, the strong desire of parents, wives as well as husbands, was to have sons, and not a few.
For the sake of the inheritance, you say. That’s true. Having a son had everything to do with keeping one’s property in the family and continuing one’s name. Ask any royal house or patriarch.
But there was more to it than that. In those days of warfare by hand-to-hand combat it was in those sons—an abundance of stalwart, manly sons—that resided the very safety of one’s nation and home, safety from the invading foe or marauding bands.
Without those sons, sons of courage schooled in the skills of weaponry, no one was safe—not one’s wife, not one’s daughters, not one’s way of life itself. One would simply have been swept from the land, lives ending in death or slavery. Fathers and sons in sufficient number had everything to do with a people’s protection and security.
That is how it was in biblical times for the nations. So it is for the church of Christ herself in the New Testament age. The apostle’s point is that true manhood has everything to do with courage to withstand evils and errors and to take a stand for what is right for the preservation of the church. Therein lies the keeping of our inheritance as churches.
The apostle is talking here, or course, not s imply of natural manhood. That, for all its displays of natural courage, is yet prone to be self-centered and self-serving. Rather, he is referring to redeemed and sanctified manhood. Fallen manhood is prone to display itself either in domineering, dictatorial ways—”I run the show!”—or in irresponsible fashion, never growing up. Not so, redeemed manhood. Redeemed manhood uses its strength of character and resolution of will not for self, but with others in mind, for loved ones, for their protection and well-being.
I have it on good record that in the Netherlands on many tombstones of young soldiers of the Reformed faith who died in WW II are written the words, “For Country, Family, and Church.” They put their life on the line with the church itself in mind, for her continued freedom to worship in accordance with the apostolic word, which Nazism would never have allowed. How many young men in the Netherlands, so deep in apostasy, would you find with that perspective today one wonders.
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets!”
Courage, then, brethren. The willingness to behave as men is the need of the hour for the name and well-being of Christ’s church.
And let it begin over against the spirit of feminism so prevalent today. Let us not be ashamed to be one of the increasingly rare ecclesiastical assemblies where women are excluded as delegates, an assembly just of men, and one, mind you, that represents a denomination that not only does not allow women to hold office, but not even to vote in church affairs! Can such a species of Christians still exist? A hew and cry goes up. How long civil law will permit such remains to be seen. Many roundly castigate us.
“What! You think women are inferior to you men? You male chauvinists, you!”
No, good brethren, not inferior at all. In fact, in certain areas of life they are much our superiors, as any married man with children knows. It is not a matter of their not being our equals, it is a matter of their beingdifferent, God be thanked! God be thanked that the church of Christ is not composed simply of males or of those who want to think as a man or react to everything like a man. Where would the counter-balance be? Such would be an impoverished and diminishing church (yes, in numbers too!), I will tell you that.
If you don’t believe it, check the condition of any number of churches where the feminist spirit dominates today.
Why will we not allow women as delegates? Because when it comes to authority in the church and home this same apostle made plain elsewhere, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (I Tim. 2:12). This means women of Christ’s church must not think to govern affairs in the church. And the apostle’s point is, where believing men function as men and do not abdicate their calling and place, women will not need to ‘run the show.’ They will not want to. They will have men to answer to their needs. And where such men are found, we find happy wives and women, satisfied and secure!
Do not get me wrong, the apostle does not mean women have no input into the affairs of the church, no voice. They do, but it is in the biblically approved way, namely, through their husbands and men of the church. The wise husband listens carefully to his spouse. But when it comes to governing affairs of the church, it is the role of the man.
Brethren, do we have the courage to oppose the feminist agenda on every front? I trust we do. We must take the same stand Paul took when it came to some insisting Titus be circumcised. “[T]o whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour” (Gal. 2:5).
From the apostle’s exhortations it is plain that functioning as a man in the church means that one is doing some assessing on his own and making independent judgments, in the sense of not letting someone else do his thinking for him. As the apostle says, “Watch!”—that is, “Be on the alert!” and like a sentry on a city wall make your assessment and respond accordingly.
At the same time, let us not mistake the apostle here as though he is advocating that we all come to our own conclusions about matters, and then, regardless of what others think, go our own independent way. Nothing of the sort.
Let us remember that true, sanctified manhood comes to expression within the oneness of the body of Christ. It has everything to do with a recognition of the Spirit of Christ in others, an interest in listening to the others, and even deferring in various matters.
In this connection, I draw your attention to the verse preceding our own, verse 12.
As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.
That’s quite a verse. Unable to free himself from Ephesus to go to Corinth at the time, Paul urges Apollos, a fellow preacher, to get himself to Corinth as soon as possible. Apollos considers it and decides not to. He disagrees with the apostle on this matter.
What is going on? If an apostle had told you to secure passage on the next ship leaving Ephesus’ port city, would you have refused? Would I? Apollos did.
Let us understand well that the power of the passage is not that Apollos held his own counsel. The power of the passage is that the apostle allowed it.
Because, in the first place, Paul was not dealing here with a principle matter, a matter of biblical doctrine. When it came to such matters, the apostle suffered no one to disagree with him in a misbegotten spirit of brotherhood. He had no tolerance for the attitude of modern churchmen, “You view the authority of the apostolic doctrines as you want to view them. I’ll view them as I want to. We will just agree to disagree and in brotherly fashion allow these various views in the church.”
This was the same apostle, remember, who withstood a fellow apostle to the face, Simon Peter by name. He did so when Peter caved in to Judaism and withdrew himself from the Gentile Christians and would not eat with them, leaving the impression that they were unclean and their spirituality suspect, not measuring up to the Jewish brothers’ standards. As Paul declares, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11).
And the apostle Peter deferred to Paul, acknowledging he had erred.
But, with Apollos, when it came to a practical matter, dealing with what was in the best interest of the churches at that time, the apostle did not pull rank, so to speak, but recognized that Apollos was a fellow officebearer, one who also had the Holy Spirit, and was able to make judgments and assessments.
But let us be clear. The power of the reference is not that it promotes the right of officebearers in Christ’s church to disagree with the apostles when their spirit moves them, for officebearers to say “Apollos was an independent thinker, so am I. He disagreed with the apostles, so I may too. I am free to reexamine everything they taught. All the apostolic teachings are up for grabs.”
For such men one word is appropriate. It is found towards the conclusion of our chapter, in verse 24. It is the word “Anathema,” which means, condemned and dismissed from the church of Christ.
No, the power of verse 12 as it has bearing on our text is not that it sponsors autonomy of thinking in the church, “because, after all, I am a man.” Rather, verse 12 indicates that the apostles themselves were keenly aware of the presence of Christ’s Spirit in fellow officebearers as they labored to bring God’s Word to bear on the practical life of the church. It indicates that Paul himself was willing to listen to other officers when it came to practical matters, deciding what was best for the churches that were committed not simply to his, but to their mutual care. And plainly, he was willing to defer in such matters when the others did not see it his way.
So the apostle would have viewed us were he to have been delegated to our assembly, and so he would have labored as well. Not a man without his own strong opinions and perspective. But also not one who obstinately refused to hear what others had to say.
Brethren, let us take heart and deliberate as men. Let us labor in mutual esteem for each other, to be sure, but above all with the well-being of Christ’s precious church foremost in mind.
That, after all, is what it means to labor in love, as love is apostolically defined—not for myself and my own reputation, but with those others bought by The Blood in mind.
… to be concluded— just like the 2009 Synod.