Thursday, April 17, 2014

WOMEN, APOSTLES & POWER

Confronting the Ungodly Marriage of the Apostolic
with Maleness & Power



“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” declared Sir John Dalberg-Acton who made this remark after extensive studies of both secular and religious history. When James and John went to Jesus and requested the two most prominent seats in His kingdom, Jesus rebuked them for their preoccupation with “power” and told them they were thinking like Gentiles, i.e., like people who did not know God. He then presented to them a new and radical model of leadership that would be characterized, He said, not by power, but by humble service (Mark 10:35-45). They must have been shocked when He told them they were to function as diakonoi, a Greek word that referred to a lowly “servant” who waited on tables and with no connotations of status, importance or power.  
During the first century while apostolic ministry was characterized by “service,” women freely functioned in leadership, including apostolic ministry. It was only after the church institutionalized and began to think of the apostolic in terms of “office" and “power” that women began to be excluded from leadership by men who believed their gender gave them the sole right to lead and rule. This ungodly association of the "apostolic" with "maleness" and "power" is still used today as a justification for excluding women from leadership in the church. The popular Spirit Filled Life Bible, for example, without a shred of evidence, explains the prohibition toward women in I Timothy 2:11-12 as referring to “the authoritative office of apostolic teacher in the church.” The truth is that I Timothy 2:11-12 was written to address a particular situation concerning Timothy and the church in Ephesus and was never meant to be a universal rule for all churches everywhere.
The Choosing of Twelve Was Never Meant
to be a Pattern for Leadership in the Church
Nonetheless, the fact that Jesus chose twelve men as apostles has, throughout history, been used as the basis for excluding women from authoritative roles of leadership in the Church. This line of reasoning, however, ends in absurdity if followed to its logical conclusion. Consider the fact that the twelve whom Jesus chose were not only men, they were Jewish men. Should only Jewish men be leaders in the churches? Furthermore, these twelve Jewish men were instructed by Jesus to preach only to Jews. He instructed them, Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). If we follow this line of reasoning, we must conclude that all Church leaders must be Jewish men and they can preach only to Jewish people.
The truth is that the calling of the Twelve was never meant to be a pattern for the calling and recognition of church leaders. In His approximate three years of earthly ministry, as outlined in the Gospels, the ministry of Jesus was clearly directed to the Jewish people. His purpose was to call God’s covenant people back into a relationship with Himself. To a Gentile woman who came seeking healing for her daughter, Jesus replied, I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Even though the woman’s persistent faith resulted in the healing of her daughter, Jesus’ reply to her clearly reveals the limited scope of his earthy ministry.
This all changes, however, with the death and resurrection of Jesus. When He comes out of the tomb, the restrictions are no longer there. His disciples are now told to take the good news of what He has done to Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). A new era has obviously dawned. His first action after His resurrection sends a clear message that any limitations concerning His female disciples have also been removed by His redemptive work.
Mary Magdalene Receives the First
Apostolic Commission from the Risen Lord
During the forty days between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared to His disciples at various times and on one occasion appeared to over five hundred of His followers. The gospel writers, however, are very explicit in noting that it was Mary Magdalene to whom He appeared first after His resurrection. The importance which the evangelists attach to this fact indicates that it was no accidental occurrence, but that Jesus purposely appeared first to Mary Magdalene in order to make an important statement to His followers.
When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene He gave her certain, specific instructions. Matthew 28:10 records His words to Mary to, Go and tell my brethren . . .. In other words, He sent her on a specific mission defined by the words, Go and tell. The Greek word apostolos, from which we get the English word "apostle" simply means "one who is sent" or "one sent on assignment." It has nothing to do with "office," "government" or "power." Mary was a "sent one" and as such received the first apostolic commission from the Risen Lord.  Because the male disciples were required to hear the initial news of the resurrection from a woman, Mary has, throughout history, often been referred to as “the apostle to the apostles.”[1]
This commissioning of Mary by Jesus was revolutionary since the Jewish male of this time normally began his day with a prayer that included thanks to God that he was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Women were barred from studying Scripture and a rabbi considered it beneath his dignity to speak to a woman in public. Neither Jewish nor Roman courts of law would allow the testimony of women.[2] Jesus challenged this deeply ingrained religious and cultural bias by appearing first to Mary and sending her forth as the first apostolic witness of His resurrection.
By appearing first to Mary, Jesus was cutting through all the disdain and prejudice of His male disciples toward His female disciples. He thereby declared His equal acceptance of women and affirmed the value of their ministry in His name. By appearing first to Mary and giving her the first apostolic commission after His resurrection, Jesus made a clear statement that women would be included in apostolic ministry in His Church. This was revolutionary in the first century and is still so today for there are many who still see the apostolic as being associated with maleness and power.
Paul Recognizes a Female Apostle Named Junia
Paul continues this revolution begun by Jesus. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul sends personal greetings to 24 people in the latter part of the letter, i.e., chapter 16. These individuals are friends and co-workers who are dear to his heart. Of the twenty-four mentioned by name, ten are women. Many of these obviously functioned in roles of leadership in the churches. One woman named Junia is specifically referred to as an apostle. In Rom. 16:7 Paul says, Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles who also were in Christ before me. Junia is a feminine name and was universally recognized as a female apostle for the first several centuries of the Church’s existence. The famous church father of the 5th century, John Chrysostom, exclaimed, "Oh how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle."[3]
Concerned by the presence of a female apostle, some have attempted to argue that the name should be translated Junias, which is male. There are insurmountable facts, however, that militate against this argument. First of all, without exception, all ancient Greek manuscripts have the feminine form of Junia, not Junias. Secondly, the female name Junia was quite common in the first century whereas the male name, Junias, is unknown. Junias, therefore, is a hypothetical name. Thirdly, as mentioned above, Junia was universally recognized as a female apostle for the first several centuries of the Church’s existence.
Why then have some modern translations, such as the NIV, rendered the name Junias instead of Junia? Dr. N. Clayton Croy, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, says, “It is hard to see any reason other than the translators’ bias against the possibility that a woman could be an apostle.” [4] Well-known New Testament scholar, James G. D. Dunn, says, “The assumption that the name must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity.” [5]
The idea of a female apostle is obviously too revolutionary for some modern exegetes. Nonetheless, the evidence is conclusive that Junia was a female apostle and recognized as such by Paul himself. Her example clearly demonstrates that women exercised apostolic leadership in the New Testament churches. But she is not alone, for a careful perusal of Scripture reveals other women who functioned in leadership roles in the New Testament.
Paul Included Women in the Leadership Gifts of Ephesians 4:11
That women can serve as apostles is also made clear from Paul’s discussion of the leadership gifts (obviously not an exhaustive list) in Eph. 4:7-12. [6] The apostle heads this list of gifts followed by the prophet, the evangelist and the pastor and teacher (Eph. 4:11). Paul begins the discussion of these gifts by pointing to the risen Christ as the One who bestows these gifts. In vs. 8 he says, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. The Greek word translated “men” in this passage is the plural of anthropos which is gender inclusive and refers to both men and women. If Paul had wanted to restrict these leadership gifts to men only he could have used the gender specific andras, which is the plural Greek word for man as male. He purposely uses language that makes it clear that the risen Christ bestows these gifts on both men and women.

Apostolic Christianity Includes Women

Many other women in both the Old and New Testaments functioned in leadership roles. The list includes Deborah, Huldah and Miriam in the Old Testament. The list in the New Testament includes, not only Mary Magdalene and Junia, but Phoebe, Priscilla and the women of Philippi who labored with Paul in the gospel (Phil. 4:3). Many commentators believe that Priscilla was actually the one with the leadership gift because Paul mentions her first although it was customary to mention her husband, Aquila, first (Rom. 16:3-5).
It should be noted that all of these women are presented in Scripture in a positive light. Nowhere is there the slightest hint that they were somehow functioning outside their proper roles. The Assemblies of God is, therefore, correct when, in its official position paper on women, it says;
The instances of women filling leadership roles in the Bible should be taken as divinely approved pattern, not as exceptions to divine decrees. Even a limited number of women with Scripturally commended leadership roles affirms that God does indeed call women to spiritual leadership.[7]
The evidence is overwhelming that women functioned in leadership roles including apostolic ministry in the New Testament era. Since the New Testament Church is the model, any church that limits the leadership gifts and callings of its female members, cannot call itself apostolic or New Testament. It has veered from the norm of the New Testament. “But,” some will ask, “what about Paul’s call for female silence and submission in 1 Tim. 2:11-12 and 1 Cor. 14:34-35?”

What About 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35?

First of all, these passages should never be used, as they commonly are, as a canon within the canon concerning the status of women in the Church. The many passages that show women functioning in leadership should be given equal status with these two passages. Secondly, the evidence is overwhelming that, in these two passages, Paul is addressing local, cultural situations that existed in Corinth and Ephesus. They are on the level of Paul’s admonition for believers to greet one another with a holy kiss and for women to wear a head covering when praying and prophesying. These passages were never meant to be guidelines for establishing a church order and excluding women from leadership roles in the Church.[8]
Concluding Thoughts
There is no question in my mind that this unholy marriage of the apostolic with maleness and power has weakened the church and damaged her influence in the modern world. This can be remedied and we can recover our voice and influence if we will do two things. Number one, we must give up the prideful pursuits of power and return to the model of "service" that Jesus so clearly presented to His followers. Secondly, we must fully and equally embrace the gifts and callings of the female members of Christ's body. Only then will the church be a fully functioning body through which the Spirit of the Lord will freely flow.


This article is derived from Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, available from Amazon, Kobo and at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.





[1] On several occasions throughout the history of the Church, Mary Magdalene has been called the “apostle to the apostles” because she was commissioned by Jesus to take the first news of His resurrection to the apostles. See Hans Kung, Christianity: Essence, History and Future (New York: Continuum, 1996), 123. See also Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans, The IVP Women’s Study Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 600.
[2] Susan Hyatt, In the Spirit We’re Equal (Dallas: Hyatt Press, 1998).
[3] John Chrysostom, “The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series I, 11:555; William B. Eerdmans, 1956). 35.
[4] N. Clayton Croy, “A Case Study in Translators’ Bias,” Priscilla Papers (Spring 2001): 9.
[5] James G. D. Dunn, vol. 38B of Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books), 894.
[6] This is certainly meant to be a sampling of gifts rather than an exhaustive list. Paul does not have a settled list of gifts, but lists different gifts in different letters. For example, in 1 Cor. 12:28 he presents a list of eight leadership gifts in which he includes the apostle, prophet and teacher but leaves out the pastor and evangelist. He then adds five gifts not listed in Eph. 5:11 to bring the total to eight.
[7] “The Role of Women in Ministry As Described in Holy Scripture: A Position Paper Adopted By the General Presbytery, August 1990,” Pentecostal Evangel (Oct. 28, 1990): 12-15.
[8] For a thorough treatment of this issue see Susan Hyatt, In the Spirit We’re Equal (Dallas: Hyatt Press, 1998).






Monday, February 3, 2014

Don't Lose Your Focus

Do you know why a lion tamer uses a chair? Because the 4 legs in the face of the lion causes him to lose his focus and renders him powerless. The lion keeps going around and back and forth from one leg to the other; and because he is unable to focus, he is tamed by a much less powerful creature. Satan, a much weaker creature, wants to tame you and render you ineffective by  bringing countless distractions before your mind and robbing you of focus.

Jesus was very focused on His purpose and reason for being, and He dealt severely with that which would distract Him from that purpose. When Jesus explained to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and there suffer and die, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, telling Him this would not happen. Refusing to lose His focus, Jesus turned to Peter and said, Get behind me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men (Matthew 16:21-22). Jesus would not lose His focus!

Losing one's focus can be costly. I recall watching the 100 meter dash in the 1984 Summer Olympics and saw a stunning example of how costly it can be to lose focus. The number 1 and number 2 ranked sprinters in the world were in the race and all eyes were on them, for they were very evenly matched. The gun sounded and they raced towards the finish line. The number 1 sprinter was slightly ahead as they approached the finish line; but as they crossed the finish line the number 2 runner edged in front and won the race by the tiniest fraction of a second. I will never forget the announcer saying that just before runner number 1 crossed the finish line he looked to his side to see where his competitor was positioned; but in doing so it took something off his stride and allowed runner number 2 to edge in front. He lost his focus and it cost him the race.

Jesus exhorts Peter to not lose his focus. The above story reminds me of how Jesus, in John 20:22, exhorted Peter not to lose his focus by being concerned with what John would do. In this post-resurrection appearance, Jesus exhorts Peter to, feed My lambs! He also tells Peter about how he will die and concludes the exhortation with a focused command, Follow Me!  At this point Peter is distracted by John and says to Jesus, But Lord, what about this man? Jesus replied, If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me In other words, it is none of your business, Peter, what John does. You keep your focus on following me and doing what I have called you to do.

The business world has discovered the power of focus and in his excellent book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says that what separates great companies from good companies is that the great ones have found a focus, i.e., a purpose toward which they channel all their energies to be the very best they can be. Find your focus and don't lose it!

Paul succeeded because he refused to lose his focus. In spite of beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, weariness and persecutions, he never lost his focus. May our attitude for 2014 be like his as expressed in Philippians 3:13-14. In this passage Paul admits that he has not arrived, but then says, But one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul refused to lose his focus.

There will be distractions in 2014 that will come into your life to take you away from your purpose and reason for being. I exhort you and encourage you; don't lose your focus in 2014.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sarah Palin and the Hypocrisy of Secular Feminism

Why the Church Must Recognize
What God is Doing through Women Today

When Sarah Palin was vilely and viciously attacked by MSNBC host, Martin Bashir, the secular feminists were eerily silent, affirming once again that their political and social agendas trump any concern they may have for women. If they were really for women per se, they would have been the first to come to the defense of Palin who has achieved the sort of success that organizations like NOW (National Organization for Women) claim to advocate for women. She has served successfully as mayor of a city and governor of a state. She and her husband partner together in running a successful business and she was chosen as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate for the 2008 presidential elections.

This being the case, shouldn't the feminists be celebrating Sarah Palin? Why are they so glum about Palin? The obvious answer is that Palin does not fit into their secular, socialist, non-Christian worldview. She marches to the beat of a different drummer. She is a committed follower of Jesus Christ and she is prolife. She believes marriage is between one woman and one man and she advocates for personal responsibility and smaller government. All these things are anathema to the secular feminists and they have gone out of their way, not only to be silent when Palin is attacked, but to verbally attack Palin themselves.

The well-known feminist, Gloria Steinman, for example, accused Palin, and women like her, of “selling out” the women’s movement. This statement, however, shows the smallness of Steinman’s thinking in that she would narrowly define the “women’s movement” in terms of her own organization and others like it. Much to her chagrin, there is a women’s movement taking place outside of NOW that Steinman and those like her would prefer to ignore. In the political arena it is happening with devout Christian women like Palin, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina and a host of others. That these women are either ignored or opposed by the secular feminists is why the National Organization for Women (NOW) should change its name to reflect who they really are. A more honest name and reflective of reality would be something like “The National Organization for Socialist, Secularist Women.”

This new women’s movement that the secular feminists so disdain is centered in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. The women of this new movement are discovering that Jesus Christ is, in fact, the great Emancipator of women through His life, death and resurrection. They are discovering that Jesus treated women with dignity and respect and welcomed them as His disciples. I recall speaking to a group of sad, depressed women in Bulgaria near the Macedonian border. They had been excommunicated from their church and physically beaten by their husbands because of their passionate commitment to follow Jesus. As they told us their story through an interpreter, there was much weeping. When it came time for me to speak I turned in my Bible to Luke chapter 8 and read about the women who had left everything to follow Jesus. I showed how these women traveled with Him from village to village and followed Him all the way to Jerusalem. I pointed out that Jesus did not tell them—even the married ones--to go home but allowed them to set their own priorities and make their own decisions to follow Him. “The most important thing anyone can do is follow Jesus,” I told them. As I spoke, those Bulgarian women saw Jesus’ acceptance and affirmation of them in a way they had never seen before and they proceeded to drown out my voice with their shouts of joy and praises to God.

Indeed, there was a large company of women who followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem and were there observing His crucifixion and burial (Luke 23:49, 55). It was one of these women, Mary Magdalene, whom He honored by appearing to her first after His resurrection and commissioning her to be the first preacher of the good news of His resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18). In other words, Jesus required that His male disciples hear the initial news of His resurrection from the mouth of a woman. He was obviously making a very important statement by that purposeful act.

The women of this new movement are also discovering that Paul, when understood in the historical context of his day, did not confine or restrict women, but showed great respect and deference for their gifts and callings. In the same way, John Wesley, when challenged as to why he commissioned ignorant laypeople, including women, to preach and teach, replied “Because God owns them in the saving of souls and who am I to withstand God.”
If the church had taught what the Bible actually says about women there probably would never have been a "feminist" movement. In her book, In the Spirit We're Equal, Susan Hyatt has documented how the roots of the modern feminist movement can be traced to devout Christian women and men in the 19th century who began a push for equal rights for women including the right to vote. This came at a time when it was controversial for women to even pray in public. These early "feminists" took the Bible as their guide and covered their activities with prayer. Over time, however, this movement lost its way and moved away from its Christian beginnings into secularism and materialism, and morphed into the modern feminist movement as we know it today.

It is time for the church-at-large to rethink its theology about women and their role in the church and society. But first, many will have to rid themselves of the fear of being accused of being influenced by feminism. "The chuch is too feminine," some will complain. This is the boogey bear that traditionalists use to try and intimidate churches and pastors from fully embracing the gifts and callings of their female members. This fear must be cast aside and the work of the Holy Spirit in both men and women must be fully embraced so that the entire body of Christ can be mobilized. This is of utmost importance for this new women's movement could well be the key for true revival in the churches of our land and the key to reaching the Muslim world with the good news of Jesus Christ.


Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is a board member of God’s Word to Women, an organization that is lifting the status of women around the world by teaching them their equal standing and status in Jesus Christ. His website is www.eddiehyatt.com. The website for God's Word to Women is www.godswordtowomen.org and www.icwhp.org

Friday, July 26, 2013

THE SPIRIT OF PYTHON

Recognizing the False Spirit
of Prophecy in the Church Today

Now it happened as we went to prayer, that a slave girl
possessed with a spirit of divination (Gk. python) met us . . .
(Acts 16:16).
In Acts 16:16, Paul and Silas encountered a young woman who prophesied to them through what Luke calls a “spirit of divination.” However, the Greek word from which “divination” is translated is python. “Python” was a word associated with prophecy amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans. Because it was so well known in the ancient Greco-Roman world, the original readers of Acts would have made an immediate association when they read the words “spirit of python.” Here is how they would have understood it.

Prophecy Was Common Among Ancient Pagans

Prophecy was common among the ancient Greeks and Romans. One historian has said that the consultation of prophetic oracles was probably the most universal cult practice in the Greco-Roman world.[1] “Oracle” was a word used by the ancients for a message from the gods, i.e., a prophecy. Many regions had their own divinely inspired prophets or prophetesses who gave their oracles (prophecies) to a constant stream of seekers. Prophecy was also common in the ancient pagan and mystery religions. This is borne out by the Roman historian, Livy (59 b.c.a.d. 17), who describes followers of the pagan deity, Bacchus, who “as if insane, with fanatical tossings of their bodies, would utter prophecies,” and also describes devotees of the goddess Cybele as “prophesying in their frenzied chants.”[2]
That prophecy and the supernatural were so common in the ancient world is why there are so many admonitions in the New Testament to not be deceived; and is why Paul, every time he mentions prophecy, includes an admonition to judge, test and prove the genuineness of prophecy.

The Oracle at Delphi

The most famous ancient oracle (prophetic center) was at the city of Delphi in Greece and was known as the “Oracle at Delphi.” According to legend, the Greek god, Apollo, had slain a large female serpent--a python--at that site and the spirit of the python had remained. According to the legend, it now possessed the prophets and prophetesses who functioned there, “taking possession of their organs of speech moving and compelling them to give prophetic utterances.”[3] This was commonly known as the “pythian spirit” or the “spirit of python.” At the height of its popularity, the prophetic oracle at Delphi maintained three priestesses/prophetesses who offered advice and counsel through the pythian spirit to a continual stream of visitors including generals and government officials. This is the association the first readers of Acts would have made to Luke’s mention of a “spirit of python.”
One characteristic of the Oracle at Delphi—and all pagan prophecy—is that it was self-induced. Preceding their prophetic functions, the priestesses would go through ritual baths, sprinklings and animal sacrifices leading to a hyped and frenzied prophetic state. One ancient drawing pictured the prophetess in a disheveled, frenzied state as she gave forth her oracle. Other pagan religions used music, dance, contortions and sex orgies to work themselves into a prophetic frenzy. (Do we charismatics have our own rituals by which we work ourselves into a “prophetic” state?)

How We Open Ourselves to a Spirit of Python

In contrast, New Testament prophecy is not self-induced, i.e., it does not come forth at the initiative of the person prophesying. Paul is very clear in I Cor. 12:11 that the gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, are given as He [the Holy Spirit] wills. Although we can learn about how prophecy and Spiritual gifts function, it is dangerous to think that we can learn “how to” prophesy of our own initiative. This is, perhaps, why Paul allowed this situation to go on for “many days” before dealing with it and casting out the spirit. He did not have a “how to” list for dealing with such situations but was dependent on the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that when we begin to push ourselves into prophesying out of our own hearts, apart from the Holy Spirit, that we open ourselves to false spirits such as the spirit of python that possessed this young woman in Philippi.

Characteristics of a Spirit of Python

Luke uses “spirit of python” in regards to this slave girl probably because the spirit operating in her was like the one at Delphi. There is, of course, the possibility that she had actually been to Delphi and that is where she picked up this false spirit. It is important to note that what she said was true. Satan and demons have some knowledge and will reveal their “secrets” in order to impress and draw people into their destructive web. Only our God, however, is omniscient, i.e., all knowing.
Here are some of the traits of a spirit of python that are obvious in this narrative.
It loves to flatter.
The prophecy of this young woman was not given to encourage or affirm, but to flatter. We all need to give and receive affirmation and encouragement, but flattery is insincere and self-serving. So many today, including leaders, are so starved for affirmation and approval that they are vulnerable to the flatteries of a deceiving, python spirit. We must be so settled in God’s acceptance and approval that we are no longer susceptible to the flatteries of a false prophetic spirit. Beware of those who use prophecy to flatter and, thereby, gain advantage.
It demands attention.
This is indicated by the fact that she followed Paul and the others for “many days” continually giving forth her prophecy. Beware of those who use prophecy to thrust themselves into the limelight.
It loves to be seen and heard.
This is indicated by the fact that she kept putting herself at the center of attention. Note those who use prophecy to make themselves the center of attention.
It wants to be important.
This is indicated by the fact that she directed her prophesying to the leaders of this new movement. Beware of those who use prophecy to gain status with pastors and leaders.
There is often a monetary motive involved.
This young slave girl was raking in a lot of money for her masters. I am afraid this same motive is at work in the charismatic/prophetic movement today, usually in very subtle ways. I once saw a man, who probably had a genuine gift of prophecy, express his desire to pray for everyone who would bring a certain offering for his ministry to the front. As he prayed and then prophesied over each one, I saw women looking in their purses for money so they could go forward and get a “word.” I believe this man was opening himself to a false spirit—a spirit of python—by his devious actions.

Taking A Stand For Truth

Many churches in the modern charismatic/prophetic movement would probably have put this young woman on their prophetic team, for what she prophesied was accurate and positive. Discernment is lacking because, in this post modern world, the lines between true and false are being blurred and even erased. Some in the charismatic movement are tapping into New Age writings with the excuse that “all truth is God’s truth.” If this had been Paul’s approach he would never have confronted the python spirit and cast it out, for what was being said was true.
Taking a stand for truth is not always the most popular thing to do. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and thrown in jail because they distinguished between the true and the false and cast out the python spirit. Nonetheless, they refused to compromise and God sent an earthquake, physically and spiritually, and turned the situation completely around. God is looking for people who will stand for truth in this hour. As Jesus said in John 8:31-32, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

If you would like more information on discerning between the true and the false in the world today, get Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, REVIVAL FIRE: Discerning Between the true & the False, available on Amazon and at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html




[1] F. C. Grant, Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism (New York: Liberal Arts Press, n.d.), 33.
[2] Livy, Annals, vol. 11, trans. Evan T. Sage, LCB, ed. T.E. Page et. al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1949), xxxix.12.12.
[3] David Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 33, 354.

5 WARNING SIGNS THAT PROPHETIC MINISTRY HAS GONE AWRY

Lessons from a 16th Century Revival-Prophetic Movement
Prophetic ministry has great potential for blessing and building up the people of God. But when abused and misused, it has the same potential to trouble and destroy. In order to derive the greatest benefit from prophetic ministry, we need both the guidelines of Scripture and the lessons of history to point the way.
The following information is drawn from a document written around 1560 by Obe Philips, a leader in the 16th century Anabaptist movement that sought the restoration of New Testament Christianity. Philips was commissioned as an “apostle” in this movement and he commissioned others to this “office.” The document, entitled “Confessions,” describes events in Europe in the 1530s. From this document I have delineated 5 warning signs from their experience that can help us avoid the tragic mistakes that produced such great suffering and distress for them.
Warning Sign #1
When prophecy is used to enhance the status of a movement and its leaders
1517-1537 was a very exciting time for many Christians in Europe. A great spiritual reformation was under way and many believed that God was restoring the church to its original purity and power. Many believed that out of this restoration would come a great revival and harvest that would usher in the coming of the Lord and the end of the age.
In the midst of this end-time, revival atmosphere, individuals began to arise proclaiming themselves to be special end-time apostles and prophets endowed by God with miraculous power to usher in His kingdom upon the earth.
One of the most prominent of these “apostles” was Melchoir Hoffman, a powerful preacher and teacher who gained a large following. His status was further enhanced when a prophetess saw in a vision a large white swan, larger and more beautiful than all the others, swimming in a beautiful river. She said it was revealed to her that the swan was Hoffman and that he represented the fulfillment of God’s promise in Mal. 4:5 to send Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
Warning Sign #2
When prophecy becomes the primary means for determining the will of God
Another individual prophesied that Hoffman would be imprisoned for six months in the city of Strasbourg and, after that, his ministry would spread over the whole world. Based on the prophecy, Hoffman moved to Strasbourg where he began to preach and teach throughout that city.
The first part of the prophecy was fulfilled when the Strasbourg authorities arrested Hoffman and had him imprisoned. Philips says that he entered the prison “willingly, cheerfully, and well comforted,” convinced that the latter part of the prophecy would now soon come to pass.
While in prison, Hoffman wrote many letters which Philips says came every day describing “how his actions, his visions and revelations affected him.” One individual prophesied that at the end of his six month imprisonment, Hoffman would depart Strasbourg with 144,000 true apostles endowed with such miraculous power that no one would be able to resist them. Elated with such prophetic predictions, Hoffman vowed that he would take no food other than bread and water until the time of his deliverance.
Six months passed, however, and he was not released. More time elapsed and he found it necessary to break his fast. Hoffman eventually died in prison, a very disillusioned man. Philips says,
Everything that he so boldly professed from the prophets and prophetesses, he, in the end, found it all falsehood and deception, in fact and in truth; and he was so deceived with all their visions, prophecies, commission, dreams, and Elijah role that my heart today feels pity for his on account of this distress of his soul. (Philips, 221).
Warning Sign #3
When prophecy is preoccupied with images, numbers, and symbols
Prophetic dreams and visions flourished in this movement. These dreams and visions predicted many remarkable things related to the establishing of God’s kingdom and the destruction of the wicked. Much of this information was given in symbolic form which had to be interpreted by those who were “spiritual.” Philips says,
One came dragging a wagon without wheels, another wagon had three wheels, one wagon had no shaft, some no horses, some no recognizable driver, some had but one leg, some were lepers and beggars, some wore a tunic or a cloak with a lappet of fur. All this they could interpret for the brethren in a spiritual sense (Philips, 211-212).
These prophecies, dreams and visions predicted remarkable successes for the people of God, including a super-empowerment of the Spirit by which they would be enabled to overcome the wicked and establish the kingdom of God in the earth. In his very moving account of these matters, Philips says,
Now when these teachings and consolation with all the fantasies, dreams, revelations and visions daily occurred among the brethren, there was no little joy and expectation among us, hoping all would be true and fulfilled, for we were all unsuspecting, innocent, simple, without guile or cunning, and were not aware of any false visions, prophets, and revelations. (Philips, 213).
Warning Sign #4
When those prophesying are not open to testing and/or correction
During this time, two new apostles arrived in Philips’ home town of Leeuwarden. They declared that they had been commissioned to the apostolic office with such signs, miracles and workings of the Spirit that words failed them to describe it. They also declared that, “In a short time God would rid the earth of all shedders of blood and all tyrants and the godless” (Philips, 216).
Philips says that they frightened the people so that no one dared speak against them for fear they would be speaking against the commission and ordination of God. “For we were all guileless children and had no idea that our own brethren would betray us” (Philips, 216).
Sign #5
When prophecy becomes a replacement for the Scriptures and common sense
The tragic end of this prophetic movement came when, based on dreams, visions, prophecies, and supposed angelic visitations, a number of these visionaries claimed that God had designated the city of Munster as the New Jerusalem and from there the kingdom of God would spread through all the earth. Philips says, “Some had spoken with God, others with angels—until they got a new trek under way to Munster.” Based on the prophecies and supposed visions, they went to Munster and took the city by force from the Catholics who controlled it and renamed it New Jerusalem.
The Catholics, however, quickly regrouped and regained control of the city. They wasted no time in inflicting a terrible slaughter on those apostles, prophets and their followers who believed they were setting up the kingdom of God on the earth.
This whole fiasco resulted in widespread persecution of all Anabaptists who were hunted down, imprisoned, hanged, burned, and drowned. Philips later lamented his role in the extremes of this movement. He wrote,
It is this which is utter grief to my heart and which I will lament before my God as long as I live, before all my companions, as often as I think of them. At the time that I took leave of those brethren, I had warned Menno and Dietrich and declared my [apostolic] commission unlawful and that I was therein deceived. I thank the gracious and merciful God who opened my eyes, humbled my soul, transformed my heart, captured my spirit, and who gave me to know my sins. And when I still think of the resigned suffering which occurred among the brethren, my soul is troubled and terrified before it.
Conclusion
This 16th century prophetic movement highlights the need to “test the spirits” and to “judge” prophetic utterances according to the Scriptures. For the most part, these were sincere, seeking people who suffered much pain, grief and even death because they neglected this Biblical admonition. May we learn from their example and not repeat their mistakes.


This article is also been derived Eddie’s book, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

THE MOTHERING HEART OF GOD


Feminine Images of God in Scripture
It was Mother’s Day and I asked the congregation to describe with one word a mother’s love. People began to shout out words like “unconditional,” “enduring,” ”strong,” “faithful” “never ending,” etc. I then commented, “What you are describing sounds like God’s love.” I went on to ask, “What is the source of this kind of love? Is it fleshly? Is it merely human? I then proceeded to show that, because woman, as well as man, was created in the image and likeness of God, that a mother’s love is every bit as much an expression of the heart of God as is a father’s love.
This is clear from Genesis 1:26-31 where God created both the man and the woman in His image and likeness. That both were created in God’s image and likeness is borne out by the fact that the word translated “man” in Gen. 1:26-27 is adam, a gender-inclusive word that means “people” or “humanity.” The Hebrew word for man as male (ish) is nowhere to be found in this account. That this is about the creation of humanity, and not the first male, is confirmed by the Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), which translates adam as anthropos the Greek gender-inclusive word that includes both sexes and also means “people” or “humanity.” In addition, the pronouns used of this adam in the succeeding verses are all plural, clearly indicating that this account of creation is about “them,” and not “him.”
This is important to understand for, throughout history, it has been taught that only the man bears the full image of God. For example, the famous church father, Augustine (354-430) wrote, “The woman herself alone is not the image of God whereas the man alone is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman is joined with him.” (S. Hyatt, In the Spirit We’re Equal, 53).
This sort of misogynist thinking has continued in the church to the present day. Although often unspoken, the idea quietly prevails that only a man or a father can fully and adequately represent God. This is unfortunate for it has provided an opening for pride and arrogance in Christian men and feelings of inadequacy and defectiveness in Christian women. This erroneous and phony idea of woman’s defectiveness is really the basis behind the faulty interpretation of Paul and the exclusion of women from roles of leadership in the Church. It is an idea that needs to be purged from the thinking of every truly born again saint of God.
The point I am making here is that both male and female are created in the image and likeness of God. Although in the fall this image has been diminished and marred in both male and female, it has not been erased. A mother’s love, therefore, is as much an expression of God’s love as is a father’s love; and this is borne out by the use of feminine and “mothering” images of God in Scripture.
Mothering Images of God in the Old Testament
In Deut. 32:18 God chided His people because they had forgotten the One who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth (NKJV). This verse is obviously picturing God as giving birth and this mothering image is even more stark when we realize that the word “fathered” is a gross mistranslation of the Hebrew word chiyl, a word that carries the meaning of “writhing in labor pains.” The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, commenting on this word, says, "This verb expresses the writhing movements of labor contractions" (vol. 1 of, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 270). The use of “fathered” by the NIV and the NKJV is not just a poor translation, but a bad translation and shows the obvious bias of the translators. This entire verse is a stark mothering image of God in labor pains giving birth to His people. The NRSV has a good translation of this passage, which reads, You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. This is clearly a female/mothering image of God in His relationship with Israel.
Isaiah 66:12-13 is another Old Testament passage that pictures a mothering God. A picture is first painted of a re-born Jerusalem as like a mother providing nourishment for her infant children and bouncing them on her knees to cheer them up. This is expressed by the word dandled in vs. 12, which means to "please" or "amuse." The final summary statement of verse 12, however, shows that it is God doing all this in and through Jerusalem. And God summarizes it all by saying, As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you. This is clearly another Old Testament mothering image of God.
Then there is the name by which God revealed Himself to Israel, El-Shaddai. Some Hebrew scholars point out that Shaddai is likely derived from the Hebrew word for "breast" which is shad. Perhaps this is why, as vol. 2 of the Wordbook of the Old Testament points out, that the traditional Jewish/rabbinnic analysis of Shaddai has been that it is a compound word composed of the relative "she" and the word for "enough" or "the one (she) who is self-sufficient." If this is the case then Psalm 91:1, which uses El-Shaddai and translates it as the "Almighty" pictures God as like a nursing mother who nourishes and sustains her infant child with her own life.
Jesus Uses Mothering Images of God
Jesus used a feminine/mothering image of Himself when He compared His deep concern for His people with that of a mother hen for her chicks (a rooster would just not work here). As He wept over the city of Jerusalem, He lamented,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
In another instance, found in Luke 15:8-10, Jesus tells a parable of a woman who searched diligently until she found a coin that had been lost. This is one of three parables all presented together to teach God’s care for that which is lost. This parable is sandwiched between the parable of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in the fold and went out searching for the one that was lost, and the parable of the lost, prodigal son who returns home to a loving father who welcomes him home with great fanfare and celebration. We all agree that the shepherd and the father in the other two parables are meant to represent God. So why are we so slow to accept that the woman who diligently searched high and low until she found the missing coin is also a representation of God diligently seeking for that which is lost?
I think it is also interesting that Paul describes his own concerns for the Thessalonians in mothering terms. In his first letter to this church he describes his concern for them as being like that of a nursing mother." He writes,
Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her children. (I Thess. 1:6-7).
The Inadequacy of Human Language to Define God
We must remember that all human language of God is metaphorical and analogical. God is spirit and He transcends all human attempts to categorize Him in terms of gender and sexuality. Words like father, judge, king, shepherd, etc. are metaphors that tell us something of what God is like; they are not words that describe His essence or being. Images of God as father are more numerous in Scripture than those of mother, but only because in the fallen culture of the day, where the father held the authority and ability to provide, he provided a better representation of God and His authority and ability to provide for His people. Nonetheless, God warned his people to not reduce him to the image of anything in creation, whether man or woman, mother or father.
In Deuteronomy 4:15, for example, God reminded Israel that when He spoke to them from Mt. Horeb they did not see any form. Based on this fact, He then commanded them not to make a carved image to represent Him in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal, etc. (Deut. 4:15-19). Isaiah expresses this same idea of God's magnificent transcendence by saying, To whom then will you compare God? What image will you compare Him to? (Isaiah 40:18). Then, in Isaiah 40:25, God Himself says, says, To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” As the popular worship chorus written to be sung to God says, “There is none like You.”
In spite of this very clear command, Christian art throughout history has depicted God as a male. Michaelangelo’s famous painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is typical. He depicted God as a bearded male with obvious Italian features; influenced, no doubt, by the fact that he was Italian and was painting for an Italian pope. But, before we are too critical of Michaelangelo, we should pause to consider if we too have not been guilty of domesticating and reducing God to “our” image and, thereby, making ourselves a god with whom we are comfortable.
This idea of the transcendence of God is expressed in the revelation of God to Moses as the "I Am," which is the simple Hebrew verb "to be," like the English "I am." Moses, talking to the Being who was speaking to him from the burning bush, asks who He is--what is Your name? Who will I tell the children of Israel has sent me to them? God's response was "I am that I am." Tell them that "I am" has sent you. In other words, when God looked at all His creation there was nothing to which He could compare Himself that would to justice to who He is. The most profound thing He could say about Himself was simply, "I Am."
God Transcends Fatherhood & Motherhood
Interestingly, my parents never taught me to look at them to learn what God is like. For my parents, God was “other than” what they were and they pointed me to the Scriptures and prayer to get to know God. Jesus too taught that earthly parents—both father and mother—are poor, inadequate representations for who God is.
For example, Matt. 7:9 in the NKVV has Jesus saying, Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone. “Man” is not an accurate translation, for the Greek word is anthropos, which is the gender-inclusive word, best translated here as “person” or “parent,” which is how the NLT and the NRSV translate the phrase. Jesus goes on to say, If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.
Jesus says that the love of the most caring earthly parents, when juxtaposed alongside God’s love, appears as evil. This shows that neither a human father nor a human mother can adequately represent God and His love. This means that the only thing we learn from caring parents is “how much more” does the God whom we worship and serve care for His children.
Conclusion
My point is that we have sold ourselves short in setting up a “father’s love” as the real representation of the heart of God. This is not true. Although male and father images of God are numerous in Scripture and Jesus taught to pray Our Father who art in heaven, there is more than adequate Scriptural evidence to say that women too can represent God for women too were created in His image and a mother’s love is as much an expression of the heart of God as is a father’s love.

by Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt
www.eddiehyatt.com
dreddiehyatt@gmail.com