Tuesday, February 7, 2012

This is a great mystery but I am talking about Christ and His Church

It hit me the other day that what St. Paul speaks about in Ephesians 5 with regard to the relationship between husbands and wives and that of Christ and the Church is apt also for the relationship between pastor and the people he serves. Bear with me here.

Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands. Without love, wives react without respect. And without respect, husbands react without love. But the husband is to give his life, lay it down, regardless of whether he receives respect.

Now lets change the terms. Pastors are to love their congregations. Congregations are to respect their pastors. Without love, congregations react without respect. And without respect, pastors react without love. But the pastor is to give his life, lay it down, regardless of whether he receives respect.

Now before you think that I'm just repeated the sermon given at the last eleventy million call services. Wait. This is in fact what happened in the garden with Adam and Eve. Eve speaks when she shouldn’t and Adam doesn’t speak when he should. Eve wasn’t there, she wasn’t yet created when the Lord gave the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That command was given only to Adam. It was his duty in love for Eve, his wife, to tell and teach her that holy command. And so when Adam fails to speak, the consequences are monumental. He is responsible.

In terms of Ephesians 5, Eve does not respect her husband, Adam does not love his wife. For there they stood together, side-by-side, in the Garden in conversation with the serpent. Did God really say? it asks. He attacks the weaker vessel, the most vulnerable. Because she's a woman? No, she's weaker, she's more vulnerable because she was not there for the command. Only Adam was. Eve should have pointed to him for the certain answer. But she didn’t. She didn’t respect him and the authority he had been given by God.

And Adam isn't any better. For he is there with her while the serpent speaks. And he says nothing. He fails to act He fails to use his God-given authority to support and protect his wife from harm. He fails to love her, to give his life for hers. To put his neck on the line, instead of letting her dangle in the wind when he knew better.

When we, pastors, fail to use the authority God gave us to teach what God has spoken, the way a husband would teach and help his own wife, we fail to love our congregations. When we fail to love our people, they react without respect for the authority God has given. And without respect, we continue to act without love. But the pastor is to lead here. And we lead by loving them regardless of what they do, as we would our own wives, teaching them as we would our own wives, rebuking them as we would our own wives. Subordinating our need for respect to their need for love.

Perhaps this is why St. Paul says he's speaking about Christ and the Church. For the only missing element in the Ephesians version of the Table of Duties is the section on what pastors owe their hearers and what hearers owe their pastors. Perhaps they're combined with that of the husband and wife, Christ and his Church, pastor and his congregation. And maybe all those call service sermons were on to something and we dismissed them too quickly.


  1. This is a wonderful parallel on love and authority, and how they go hand in hand. If a pastor or a husband fails to love, he himself fails at living under Christ-given authority. It should not surprise him, then, that when he fails at loving the sheep, that the sheep do not submit to his authority, even as when a husband fails to love his wife, that she is not submissive to him as the husband.

    I did have one question: When Adam failed to speak, are you speaking of Genesis 3:6 when he was with Eve? When Eve spoke in Genesis 3:3, the only sensible answer as to where she got these words, seems to be from her head, her husband Adam, as the first one to speak God's Word to another.

  2. I'm sorry for the lack of clarity. Yes, Adam did teach the command of God to his wife, Eve. Although, he may have added to it, given Eve's response to the serpent. However, when Adam was with Eve while the serpent questioned her, Adam said nothing. He was silent. He failed to act. He failed to love her. Because He didn't repeat the Word and use the authority given to him by God, because he didn't continue to teach. That was my point. Adam taught her, once. But he didn't continue to teach her that Word, even amid trial and temptation, when, in fact, she needed that teaching most.

  3. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one. Here is my puzzle.

    First, like Peter Bender, I've never bought the argument that Eve's "addition" to the command not to eat ("nor touch it") was sinful. Bender argues that it was Adam's injunction to his wife to not even draw near b/c God had commanded not to eat. If you can't eat it, what's the good in touching it? Or, perhaps this is just a fuller version of the command. This happens all the time with parallel stories in the Bible: we don't assume they contradict, we assume they harmonize. So, I don't think we can hang a lot of weight on that peg.

    Second, I'm quite befuddled about what to do with Adam's silence. I like what Fr. Braaten says here and others have noted it as well. But I wonder. . . why isn't this made a big deal of in the NT where Paul talks about Adam and Eve? I don't think this is a part of classic Christian exegesis - but I am willing to be proven wrong.


  4. I've said before that Eve's adding a few words to the command are not sinful, but they do indicate a sort of Pharisaic guarding of the Law. Also, they are not a "con-fession" of the command; it does not say the same thing. If we are called upon to confess, and we say something other or different, it may not be sinful in itself, but it is still a step removed from the given words themselves. Those are two thoughts I've had.

    Pr. Timothy Winterstein

  5. I think Paul alludes to this in 1Corinthians 7 and 14 when he gives the order of creation and then says that women should learn in silence. At the end of 1 Corinthians he admonishes the congregation to "be men." I think this is his way of saying, if you women are to learn in silence that means you men need to be speaking up. So speak up. Do your duty. If you don't know anything, learn it, etc.

    Regarding the addition to the command in Eve's response. I agree that it makes total sense to stay away from it. But it also points out how the serpent could call into question the teaching more easily: Surely you won't die if you just touch it. Did God really say that? Nevertheless, it is Adam who should have spoken from authority at that point, and Eve should have respected that authority, turning to Adam for corroboration.

  6. Eh....I still want to hear this bit about Adam's responsibility to speak at this point in some father or Lutheran divine. I'm very chary of anything new. I mean, if Adam "isn't doing his job" then didn't he sin first and not Eve? How is "not doing your job" not a sin?

    Fr. Winterstein: Again, I think it's tough to say that she added anything to commandment. We just can't know that. Maybe the full command was not recording in Gen 2 - just as the full details of the creation of man are not recorded in Gen 1.


  7. Well, she is said to sin first because she did. When asked, "Did God really say?" she didn't turn to her lord, and say, well did He? But Adam failed too. He didn't speak when he should have spoken. They both sinned. Eve first. But Adam is held responsible for all of it: For through one man, Adam, came sin . . . .

  8. If Adam "failed" then he sinned. And that came before she ate the apple. I think you need to argue for a tertium quid, not sin, not ~sin, but "failed." And I don't think that will wash.

    He is not held responsible for "all of it" - See 1 Tim 2.

    Fathers? Lutheran Divines on this?


  9. Point taken.

    In his Lectures on Genesis, Luther puts Eve's sin before she eats. The sin is in her believing the word of the serpent instead of the Word of God. The eating is the outward manifestation of the sin already committed in the heart.

    "And this also reveals Satan’s cunning. He does not immediately try to allure Eve by means of the loveliness of the fruit. He first attacks man’s greatest strength, faith in the Word. Therefore the root and source of sin is unbelief and turning away from God, just as, on the other hand, the source and root of righteousness is faith. Satan first draws away from faith to unbelief. When he achieved this—that Eve did not believe the command which God had given—it was easy to bring this about also, that she rushed to the tree, plucked the fruit, and ate it. The outward act of disobedience follows sin, which through unbelief has fully developed in the heart. Thus the nature of sin must be considered in accordance with its true immensity, in which we have all perished. Now follows the disclosure of the sin together with its punishments."(AE 1:162)

    However, I've not checked the Fathers or other Lutheran Fathers to see how they have handled this. It seems I have some homework to do.

  10. That's a good Luther quote, and certainly how Gerhard and other Lutheran dogmaticians have taken it. But that doesn't refer to Adam. If Adam was there listening in and failed to contradict Satan, would not he have been the first not to believe?

    The fact that the NT never goes there causes me to think that of late folks have put way too much weight on "who was there with her."



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