by Pastor Mike Fortune
July 11, 2015
- Prayer (Luke 6:12; Exodus 19:1,3)
- All to be disciples; some to be apostles (Luke 6:13; Mark 3:14 KJV; Joel 2:29; Ephesians 4:11)
- Those who betray Him (Luke 6:14-16)
12 One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
Jesus started His ministry by wandering into the wilderness to pray (Luke 4:1). And how long did He do so? Forty days (Luke 4:2) which was not exactly two months but pretty close.
1 Exactly two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. 3 Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain.
Mountains were often places for communion with God (Exodus 19:24; 24:1-2; 31:1-2; Numbers 27:15-23). Elijah hung out in mountains too (1 Kings 19:11).
So when it came time for the new Moses to pick representation of Israel, He went up a mountain to pray. Not for Himself but for the ones chosen to be disciples. And those chosen as apostles. Maybe we should pray too. For those chosen to be ordained pastors. And those commissioned to do the same things for the same salary without the same blessing of the world church.
13 At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles [ἀπόστολος apostolos].
Which means sent ones. Initially, Jesus chose 12 men representing, as the New Moses, the twelve tribes of Israel. Mark 3:14 in KJV even uses the English word ordained for them.
Mark 3:14 (KJV)
And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.
So yes, Jesus initially chose men as apostles. But Scripture doesn't say why. Perhaps its because after coming down from the mountain, that's what Moses did first (cf. Exodus 19:24; 24:1-2; 31:1-2). Jesus picked successors just like Moses named his (cf. Numbers 27:15-23). Or perhaps, as Ellen White suggests, Jesus chose men because men in that time represented all of Israel (The Desire of Ages p.291). These representatives would be Jesus' successors in the church. Another reason He may have chosen men is because the prejudiced first century wasn't ready to recognize the contributions of women. Which is why the death of Lazarus was such a calamity for Mary and Martha above and beyond their loss. Because they didn't own or inherit the house! But Jesus included woman everywhere he went. Even giving them the same jobs. And access to the inner circle like Mary.
Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
So without even going into Greek and the hundreds of pages the Theology of Ordination Study Committee generated most recently the last few years, it remains my scriptural conviction that God through the Holy Spirit in the twenty-first century, chooses men and woman to be apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors.
Why? Because at the first "General Conference" in Acts 15, the church courageously tackled circumcision and the Gospel crushing superiority complex between Jew / Gentile. Jesus and Paul knew the first century world couldn't handle the church leading a conversation on slavery and gender too (cf.John 16:12). So 1,800 years elapsed until God saw fit for abolitionists like the Seventh-day Adventist Church to oppose the Slave / Free category as well.
To do so, the first President of the General Conference, John Byington, previously operated stops on the Underground Railroad. And Ellen White encouraged civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 even if that meant going to prison saying, "We must abide the consequences of violating this law" (Testimonies to the Church Vol 1, pp.201-202).
But they weren't done praying or doing. Next, the Adventist pioneers set their sights on breaking down the fear and prejudice surrounding the third unaddressed category of Christlike calling and representation found in Galatians 3:28. The one we’re still struggling with today. That of Male / Female. The following recommendation was brought before the General Conference in 1881: "Resolved, That females possessing the necessary qualifications to fill that position, may, with perfect propriety, be set apart by ordination to the work of the Christian ministry” (Review and Herald, Dec. 20, 1881).
But similar to 1881, 1990, 1995, and just this week in 2015, the appeal failed. Not because our pioneers lacked scriptural "propriety" but because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Comparing the 134 year patient process of gently but kindly seeking the world church’s blessing on a non-fundamental belief based on scriptural and the spirit of prophecy is not at all the same thing as the impulsive wicked selfish Balaam’s willingness to curse Israel. Conveniently poor comparisons like that that people are making online make me angry. And frustrated. And more than anything else, tired. Why must we continue to demonize one another this way? Assuming the worst about one another is not God ordained. Arguing that one side is scriptural and the other is not is not God ordained. The pioneers then and those today studied women’s ordination from Scripture with “propriety” for years.
I posted the live stream link on our church facebook page and watched the entire thing on Wednesday. And afterward, one Adventist from another part of the world actually asked me in response to my pro-women’s ordination tweets, “@mike4tune, Do you want to be a woman like Bruce Jenner?” I did not reply. No, their sin in 1881 and ours in 1990, 1995, and 2015 is not in opposing the inequities of our time, but acquiescing to them.
But what I think offends me the most is the audacity of some to cope with this decision by claiming Christ’s mission in Luke 4 need not be followed because we have another one in Revelation 14. As if the two are mutually exclusive. As if you can pick one or the other. As if the world Jesus died to save won’t notice that we care more about Jew / Gentile and Slave / Free than Male / Female? Respectfully, I disagree.
The world we live in today will not understand our mission until we include Christ’s mission. In these last days, the church must embrace Luke 4 and Revelation 14 and Joel 2. Which states:
29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.
And when the Spirit does, according to Ephesians 4:11, the Holy Spirit gives men and women to be apostles, prophets, and evangelists. We’ve got female apostles like Junia in Romans 16:7 and Mary Magdalene who Jesus literally sent to preach the good news of the resurrection to the other apostles.
We’ve got Biblical examples of female prophets like Miriam (Exodus 15:20). Deborah (Judges 4:4). Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20). Noahdia (Nehemiah 6:14). Isaiah's wife (Isaiah 8:3). Anna (Luke 2:36). And the daughters of Phillip (Acts 21:8-9). And in our day Ellen White.
We’ve got Biblical examples of female evangelists like Priscilla in Romans 16:3. And countless female evangelists today who planted many of the churches in Ohio. And are on TV like Elizabeth Talbot.
And we’ve got over 3,200 commissioned female pastors ordained by God, just not by church. But if God is pouring out His spirit on men and women in the 21st century on male and female apostles, prophets, and evangelists, why would God stop there? Why would He also not pour out His spirit on female pastors as well like He's doing on Rebekah Liu in China? What other spiritual office or gift is excluded by gender? It makes no sense. Jesus chose to pray. And we should too. Perhaps, we should begin by asking forgiveness for the hardness of our hearts. Jesus chooses prayer. Point number one. Jesus chooses all to be disciples. And some to be apostles male and female apostles. Point number two.
But best of all, most humbling of all, Jesus even chooses those who betray Him. These are the names:
14 Simon (whom he named Peter), Andrew (Peter's brother), James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), 16 Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).
“The apostles differed widely in habits and disposition. There were the publican, Levi-Matthew, and the fiery zealot Simon, the uncompromising hater of the authority of Rome; the generous, impulsive Peter, and the mean-spirited Judas; Thomas, the true-hearted, yet timid and fearful, Philip, slow of heart, and inclined to doubt, and the ambitious, outspoken sons of Zebedee, with their brethren. These were brought together (as representatives of the Gospel church as the twelve patriarchs were representatives of Israel), with all their different faults, with all inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil but in and through Christ they were to dwell in the family of God, learning to become one faith, in doctrine, and in spirit” (The Desire of Ages pp. 295-296).
But that learning wasn’t accomplished in the upper room. Luke 22:24 says even after communion they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. And that learning wasn’t accomplished by praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:56 says at that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled. Judas wasn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus. And that learning didn’t occur at the cross either because most of men weren’t there. Only John according to John 20:26. Matthew 27:55 adds, “55 And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance.”
But even though He was hurting, Jesus stayed on the cross. To save us from our sinful condition of hardened hearts. By faith, He stared stared into the evil of this world and took the world’s evil upon himself. So that we might some day dwell in the family of God and eventually learn to become one in faith in doctrine and in spirit. Mike Tucker shares the following story. “At a funeral service in 1742, two giants of the Christian faith stood beside their mother's grave. John Wesley conducted the services; his brother Charles wrote the epitaph for the tombstone. In part, it read:
A Christian here her flesh laid down;
The cross exchanging for a crown.
True daughter of affliction, she,
Inured to pain and misery…
The Father then revealed his Son;
Him in the broken bread made known.
She knew and felt her sins forgiven,
And found the earnest of her heaven.
Susanna Wesley was a woman her husband called "the best of mothers." She reserved a specific day and time each week to sit with each child to discuss matters of God and things on their hearts. The time spent together was cherished by all; so much so that many continued the discussions with their mother well into adulthood through letter writing. Though her life was marked by a determined pursuit of God, it was also marked with hardship. Nine of the 19 children born to Samuel and Susanna Wesley died in infancy. Two different times their home was destroyed by fire, one time nearly taking John's life. They also lived in severe poverty. Despite all, her determined faith was one she insisted on sharing, and perhaps for this reason there was not a greater force upon eighteenth-century England than her children.
Shortly before she died, Susanna had a long talk with John in which she described her greatest struggle in faith. For years, she admitted, she labored with doubt and confusion in regard to her salvation. She had scarcely heard, and dared not believe, that forgiveness of sins was something actually offered to her in the present. Then she described a moment when she had been suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of peace. It happened as she took communion that her son John administered, the broken bread and the wine spoke to her of God’s love and her salvation.
Charles alludes to his mother's experience with Christ in the last lines of the epitaph marking her grave. Susanna “knew and felt her sins forgiven, and found the earnest of her heaven.” In the cup of faith, the love of God was unobscured. The same body and blood was given for you” (Mike Tucker, Faith Moment, March 28, 2011, “A Faith Unobscured”).
May this broken bread and the cup we are about share speak to you about God’s love. Wherever you are. However you feel. And somehow, by God’s grace, may we dwell in the family of God and eventually learn to become one faith in doctrine and in spirit.