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Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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December 8, 2022 12:01 am

In Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 8, 2022 12:01 am

What does it mean that "there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28)? Today, R.C. Sproul speaks on the gracious blessings and privileges that belong to every Christian.

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The Bible is quite clear about how we're to view worship. Welcome to Redoing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb.

R.C. Sproul is leading us through a study of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians. His focus today is the end of chapter 3, where Paul wants us to know that in Christ we are all one. This particular text that I've just read to you includes the portion of it in which Paul tells us that in Christ there is no Jew nor Gentile, no slave nor free, no male nor female, and so on. This text in recent decades has been the center of enormous controversy, and much mischief has been done with respect to this particular text, just as the similar text in Ephesians. And because the focal point of the controversy has to do with the apostles' teaching elsewhere, as well as Peter's teaching elsewhere, that wives are called to be in submission to their husbands.

And we have seen great changes in our day. Just recently I received a letter where somebody was raising the question about Ligonier's involvement in the publication of the Reformation Study Bible, particularly in the English Standard Version. And this person was inquiring about our involvement in the translation of this book because they had just read a critical statement in a book that said that translators of the New Testament were done, or translations of the New Testament were done basically by men who hated women.

That was a new one for me. I had never heard anybody say that the translators were those who hated women. Now, I've heard that said repeatedly about the original teaching of the original Greek from the teaching of Peter and Paul that both apostles of Christ were misogynists because they obviously hated women because they were teaching that wives should be in submission to their husband.

How could you teach that unless you hated women? And so that's the conclusion that some have come to in the past. Of course, that not only creates a slur on the name of Paul and Peter, but also on the one who appointed them and gave them their apostolic authority, namely the Lord. So let me just set the record straight for one point. We may be guilty of a lot of things, but we didn't translate the New Testament for the Reformation Study Bible. We used somebody else's translation, so you can't hold us guilty for the translation. Hold us guilty all you want for the notes that are there as part of the study program, but not for the translation.

So we at least escape the charge of being women haters at that particular point. A few weeks ago, we had dinner with some friends that had been formerly missionaries to Russia, and they were telling us they had gone back to visit the church that they had established, and they brought pictures back. And the thing that struck me when I looked at the pictures of this church was that every woman in the church was wearing a hair covering. I said, they must have missed the Cultural Revolution that we went through here in the United States, but it made me go back and think about the customs that we followed when I was a child in the 40s and in the 50s. First thing I remember is being in the boys' choir, and we had to wear a certain uniform in order to sing in the boys' choir. And the uniform consisted of this, a black cassock adorned by a fluffy white chalice, and then we had this great big giant silky black bow, and around our neck was this stiff white collar. I hated to go outside on the way to church because if any of my friends saw me, they would laugh at me and say, look at little Lord Fauntleroy coming to church.

It was terrible. And also we sang in a choir, and then later on we sang in the junior high choir and the senior high choir and with the adults in the chancel choir. And here was the thing in our church, which was a very large church in that day and a very progressive church, every single girl in the junior and senior high choir had to wear a little beanie attached with hairpins or bobby pins, and every woman in the chancel choir was wearing the same kind of head covering with no exception. Every woman in the congregation that came to church on Sunday morning came with a hat of one sort.

Easter Sunday was spectacular because I hated Easter Sunday because I could never see the preacher because I couldn't see past these frilly hats that people were wearing in church on Sunday morning. And I was thinking about this, about the customs that they were watching in Russia and what my background was. All of this had taken place before the Cultural Revolution of the sixties. And I said a lot of mischief has been attended these principles because since the Cultural Revolution, which was couch and phrases of liberation theology, and at the heart of this liberation theology was liberation that involved gender-neutral behavior, same-sex marriage, freedom of women to have abortions, even the attack on the sacred institution of marriage itself where many, many, many young people now since that revolution are choosing not to be married but rather to live together without the benefit of the sacred vows of marriage. And so the culture has been turned upside down.

And I looked at it and I said, how much have we been influenced by that Cultural Revolution? You read Paul in chapter 11 of 1 Corinthians, and that's where he gives the instructions that women are supposed to cover their head in worship and so on. And it's a difficult passage to study, and you read commentaries on it, and there are all kinds of different views of it. And some people say that the only reason the Apostle called women to cover their head because they had the glory invested in their hair so that they ought to cover that glory when they come in to church in the presence of God and of the angels and so on is that many commentators look at that passage and they say, well, this is obviously based upon a contemporary custom in the cultural situation there in Corinth. And so Paul is just simply repeating that customary practice back then from the first century.

I've always been disturbed by that because when the Apostle, if you read the text, he never appeals to local customs. He appeals to creation, and he appeals that this was the order that God established in creation. And one of the most difficult portions of the text is that he speaks about the hair covering as a symbol, and he says it's a symbol that is for the sake of the angels.

What's that all about? When you come to church on Sunday morning, do you think about whether you wear a hat or not wear a hat because there may be angels there? What does he mean for the angels?

There have been all kinds of interpretations of that, some of them really wacky, I have to say. But when we see so many similarities between the author of the epistle to the Hebrews and Paul's letter to the Galatians, we see that there were common issues involved in both of those. And one of the main concerns that the author of Hebrews tells us is what happens in corporate worship. Where are we?

Why are we here? And the author of Hebrews, I'm not going to tell you right now who I think was the author of Hebrews, but I think it's the same guy that wrote Galatians. But in any case, there are so many similarities, but in any case, what Hebrews tells us when it tells us not to forsake the assembling together of the saints, our corporate worship, is that when we come into our worship, we come into the presence of God. We come into the presence of Christ. We come into the presence of angels and archangels and the fellowship of all of those who were the just men made perfect, the commonwealth of heaven, that our worship experience involves the communion of saints. And we're not in isolation from other Christians around the world. We are bound by our spiritual unity in Christ with the whole church, the whole church now and the whole church in the past and the church that exists in heaven.

And so when the Apostle talks about how we are to behave ourselves in church and so on, he's aware of the heavenly aspect, the sacred aspect of worship, that we're coming here, not for a church picnic. We're coming here in submission to our Lord, and the symbols are there. And I'll tell you what, I am not on a crusade for getting all the women back wearing hats again because I think if I would have asked those girls in our choir in the 40s and in the 50s, how come you're wearing those little beanies? I don't think one in a hundred would say, well, because it's a symbol for the angel's sake and because we're trying to follow the order of creation that the Apostle set forth in the first century in the letter to the Corinthians. I doubt for a second that a single one of those women would have said, we're doing it to be obedient to the apostolic mandate. You know why I think they were wearing their hats? Because it was the cultural custom at that time.

And probably the same thing is true of the ladies in Russia, that they haven't gone through the Cultural Revolution that we have, and so they wear their hats because it's the tradition, the babushkas and all their… Tell me if I'm wrong. Say, nyet. Okay.

Alright. But obviously, the church has to relate to whatever culture in which they find themselves. One of the things that we had to learn in seminary when we heard the higher critics teaching us that the original documents of Scripture were culturally bound, that everything that was written in the Bible was written reflecting the culture of the times in which the Bible was written. And so if you wanted to get anything out of the Scriptures that would have any application for today, you had to cut through all of that which was binding people in the ancient world. And so when we were doing our studies of the Bible, we had to learn a lot of Hebrew and the Greek and study the words and the grammar and all of that in order to interpret the Bible. But the other thing we had to do was to study what we called the zitzenleben, which is from the German, which means the life situation in which the Bible was written and ask ourselves what principles or what ideas do we find in Scripture that carry over to future generations? How much of the Scripture was written because of the prevailing culture of the time?

For example, some of these issues are pretty simple. When Jesus gave His instructions for the disciples, the Seventy, when He sent out the Seventy to proclaim the kingdom of God, He told them not to wear shoes. Now can we extrapolate from that that there's a divine principle saying that the only legitimate form of evangelism that ever takes place is when you're doing evangelism in your bare feet. Obviously, clothes, when we pay our tithes we don't pay with denarii and drachmas or anything like that.

Different forms of currency move in different countries, clothing patterns and all the rest. Those are all kinds of things that we know are accretions of particular culture and customs. But is the Bible simply a matter of culture? Now just this week I had an interesting conversation with an attorney, and the thing began with his telling me that the whole Old Testament was an allegory. And I said, well, you know, I said, there are certainly allegories found in the Old Testament, but if you do the study and the science of genre analysis and you examine the framework of Old Testament passages, you have all different kinds of literary forms. You have historical narrative, you have poetic structures and so on. And I said, so we have to differentiate if we're going to understand the Bible what the different literary forms we encounter there.

I said, but in the Bible a verb is a verb and a noun is a noun, and there's no such thing as Holy Ghost Hebrew or Holy Ghost Greek that changes all the rules of grammarian and historical interpretation. And then we got quickly to the discussion of law, where we had this discussion about the recent Supreme Court justice who Gursick was confirmed as now serving on the court. And we saw again this strong contest between those who favor kind of a dynamic interpretation of the law and those who argue for sticking to the articles as they were written, at the time they were written, according to our ethereal intent, and that the… like Scalise and so on did not believe that the justices had the liberty to just make new laws by free interpretation of the Constitution. We had dinner a few years ago with Robert Bork, and I was asking him at the dining room table, I said, are you still practicing constitutional law? And he looked at me, and he didn't speak in anger. I didn't detect a single note of bitterness, but he said to me very sadly, he said, no, I don't teach constitutional law anymore.

And I said, why not? He said, because we don't have a constitution anymore, because we have this theory since Oliver Wendell Holmes that law is not based upon something transcendent on metaphysics or theology or even nature, but that all of law merely reflects the contemporary values of a given culture. And so this attorney was saying to me that the law is fluid, it's systemic, it changes according to the culture. And I said, oh, so you believe that Dred Scott was a good decision rendered by the Supreme Court, which is one of the most embarrassing and shameful judicial decisions ever in American history.

But it reflected the contemporary culture in the day, a culture that considered African Americans less than human beings, having no souls, not real persons. But now that we're on the other side of the civil rights movement, we have different decisions, same constitution, same principles of the Bill of Rights. This is what Scalia was trying to say before he died. We have a Bill of Rights that transcends local customs and is to be applied in every generation for every citizen of this country without prejudice, so that you can't have a majority movement in the society where it's the majority will, and that reflects the contemporary conditions of a culture, and therefore it's majority rule.

It's no longer a republic, where if a person is standing alone, a hundred and one against them, the whole purpose of the Constitution is to defend the rights of that individual. But we've lost that, and this attorney was making it clear to me. Now here's the thing. The business about women's hats, please, I don't want to die on this hill. I do not think that the question of head coverings is the article upon which the church stands or falls. Believe me, I don't think it's significant. We're supposed to be faithful in little as well as in much.

We have no reason to boast like peacocks if we had the grandest hat in all the world. But get up to the individual conscience, study the Bible, read 1 Corinthians 11, see where you come down on that passage. But here's what I am concerned about, greatly concerned. What dictates your behavior?

What dictates my behavior? The whole business of culture has two sides to the coin. We look back and we are removed two thousand years from the New Testament and then four thousand from the Old Testament. We're removed from all of these teachings, and we're trying to understand the Word of God, which rules forever. But we know that we aren't living in the first century.

We're living in the twenty-first century. So we're not familiar with every custom that was found in the first century or previous to the first century. And so we're always busy trying to figure out what the life situation was when the Bible was written.

And that's important. But even more important is not how much did the culture influence the writing of the Bible, but how much does our culture now influence us in our understanding of the Bible? I suspect that the influence of our contemporary culture in trying to understand the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, gender neutrality, same-sex bathrooms, all that stuff has to do with our contemporary culture. And we are not to be conformed to the contemporary standards of this world. We're marching to a different drummer. The Apostle tells us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed, rising above the standards and the customs of our own day in order to seek the mind of Christ and ask ourselves not what's the latest fashion or what is the latest custom that we're involved with in our culture.

But what honors Christ? That should be the question. And you may study diligently the question about hats, and you can say, I've read this. I've studied this. I don't know whether this is custom. I don't know whether this is principle. I have an old chapter in my book Knowing Scripture on that whole dilemma of trying to discern the difference between a custom and a principle. And I use that particular text as the illustration of the problem.

Is it a custom, or is it a principle? Well, suppose you don't know, and you can't figure it out. Then what? Well, the Bible gives us some direction about then what? If it's not in faith, it's sin. So if I don't know what the text requires, and maybe it's custom or maybe it's principle, and if I treat it as a principle and it really was only intended to be a custom, I'm going to be guilty of being overly scrupulous and maybe even legalistic. But if it's a principle and I dismiss it as a custom, now I'm in defiance of God. So what I'm going to say is if you don't know, head your bets. Walk on the safe side. Don't bring upon yourself the displeasure of your Savior.

It's a little thing, but there's an old song, Kitty Callan, little things mean a lot. So I leave it to you, to your conscience, and to the Word of God. And I ask that in all these things we may glorify Him. Finally, what is the point of the passage, basically? When the Apostle says there's no Jew or Gentile, he's not denying that there's ever any difference between an ethnic Jew and the Greek. He goes into great lengths, for example, in Romans chapter 11 to talk about the distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. And all through the New Testament, that distinction still remains. He gives specific instructions for how to deal with slaves in the book of Philemon. So Paul didn't say that there's no difference between masters and slaves. There was a serious and significant difference. He didn't say there was no difference between males and females in which he said he was an apostle of the unisex movement. That's crazy.

That's crazy talk. What he is saying is simple. Being a Jew, being a Gentile, being a woman, being a man, whether you're free, whether you're a slave, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Nobody has any advantage in the kingdom of God because they're a man or because they're a woman. Nobody has an advantage in the kingdom of God because they're a Gentile or because they're a Jew.

Nobody has anything at the boast if they are a master or they are a slave. In Christ, we are united with the same dignity and the same sweetness of our situation and our status in the kingdom of God. That's what Paul is saying. And he's rebuking the Galatians for wanting to make the difference permanent between Gentile and Jew so that the Gentiles would be considered second-class Christians. But in the kingdom of God, there's no such thing as a second-class Christian. Again, it doesn't mean that the distinctions between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, are obliterated. Of course, that's not what Paul is talking about. But he's talking about at the foot of the cross.

That's where everything is level. And that's a glorious thing for us to understand. It is indeed good news.

I'm Lee Webb. We're glad you've joined us for this Thursday edition of Renewing Your Mind. In today's message, R.C. Sproul mentioned the phrase communion of saints. The bride of Christ, the Church, is made up of believers from every generation, from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

And as we heard R.C. say today, God's Word brings unity to that diverse body. Galatians is such a valuable study for us as believers, and that's why I'd like to recommend Dr. Sproul's commentary on Paul's letter.

Simply contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we'll send you this hardbound volume. In a minute, Dr. Sproul shows us that the early Church needed to safeguard the one true gospel, and we too must defend the good news that we are justified by grace alone. You can give your gift online and request this commentary at, or you can call us at 800-435-4343. Another valuable resource that we offer here at Ligonier Ministries is Table Talk magazine. It encourages Christians to dig deeper into God's Word with the goal of being transformed by the renewal of our minds. This month's edition deals with last things. Dr. Keith Matheson has an article on developing a whole Bible concept of eschatology, and Dr. Robert Godfrey writes on the imagery found in the book of Revelation. People all over the world read Table Talk daily to help them live biblically informed lives. I encourage you to find out more and subscribe when you go to The book of Galatians gives us insight into how the Apostle Paul dealt with heresy in the early Church. I hope you'll join us tomorrow as R.C. talks about how Paul reinforces the basics of the faith for the Church in Galatia. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-08 03:21:31 / 2022-12-08 03:30:27 / 9

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