Reposted with permission from The Cripplegate.
by Eric Davis
Let’s face it. Church is not always as exciting as we would like. Sometimes it’s boring and disappointing. It’s possible that there are good reasons for that. But it’s possible that there are not.
Being bored is not the worst thing that can happen to us in our churches. In fact, it may be the best thing since it can present opportunity for personal change. Though not always, our personal boredom can often be symptomatic of a needed soul adjustment.
Consider a few shifts before submitting to disappointment’s demands:
There are many books on Christian worship: some helpful and some not-so-helpful. Nicolas Alford’s Doxology: How Worship Works clearly belongs in the former category. Though affirming the broader sense of worship (as a way of life), the book intentionally focuses on congregational worship. Alford is preeminently concerned that God’s people worship by the Book. Drawing from the Reformed tradition, he concisely expounds and carefully applies the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), which, in essence, is the doctrine of sola Scriptura applied to church life and ministry.
But Alford does more—which is what makes this book superior to many others. First, he prefaces the the major principles that should govern our worship with a chapter that distinguishes between authority and influences. The Bible is the ultimate authority for worship. Nevertheless, there are other considerations that may and, in some cases, should affect the way we understand and apply the Bible. Alford defines and explains these influences in the following order of priority: Confessional/Convictional, Traditional/Cultural, and Preference/Deference.
Second, Alford identifies seven prefatory principles that we must employ as we seek to order our worship aright: the Biblical, Trinitarian, Covenantal, Ecclesiastical, Sabbatic, Governing, and Commissioned principles. These are Scriptural vantage points or perspectives from which we can ascertain the biblical contours of worship more clearly.
Does this passage have any contemporary significance? It has direct significance on the matter of caring for widows today. But it has additional significance in offering principles for broader issues for the church’s social responsibilities.
Since Paul’s teaching does not seem linked solely to local culture and since it parallels the practice of the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 6), churches should take seriously the responsibility to care for true widows as described in this passage. Caring for widows will most likely be an increasing issue for churches.
εἴ τις πιστὴ ἔχει χήρας, ἐπαρκείτω αὐταῖς καὶ µὴ βαρείσθω ἡ ἐκκλησία, ἵνα ταῖς ὄντως χήραις ἐπαρκέσῃ.
If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows.
Paul concludes this passage with a final exhortation to believing women to care for widows in their family so that the church’s limited resources could be used to care for the true widows who had no family. There is some confusion about Paul’s use of πιστὴ. Though some manuscripts have πιστὸς ἢ πιστή or simply πιστὸς, πιστὴ is supported by both external and internal considerations.58 Paul could be referring to either young widows or wealthy widows (Acts 9:36–42). However, it is probably best to see this as any believing woman who has a relative who is a widow. The reason he addresses women instead of men is “because the woman in a household would bear the main burden of caring for a widow.”59 Since χήρας is plural, it may refer to not only a widowed mother, but perhaps grandmother or mother-in-law as well.
νεωτέρας δὲ χήρας παραιτοῦ ὅταν γὰρ καταστρηνιάσωσιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, γαμεῖν θέλουσιν ἔχουσαι κρίμα ὅτι τὴν πρώτην πίστιν ἠθέτησαν ἅμα δὲ καὶ ἀργαὶ μανθάνουσιν περιερχόμεναι τὰς οἰκίας, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀργαὶ ἀλλὰ καὶ φλύαροι καὶ περίεργοι, λαλοῦσαι τὰ μὴ δέοντα. βούλομαι οὖν νεωτέρας γαμεῖν, τεκνογονεῖν, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν, μηδεμίαν ἀφορμὴν διδόναι τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ λοιδορίας χάριν ἤδη γάρ τινες ἐξετράπησαν ὀπίσω τοῦ Σατανᾶ.
But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan.