Paul stated it this way: “ For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Cor. 4:17)
Again, in Acts 20:26-27 Paul stated, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”
Paul declared the whole counsel of God everywhere he went. He was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it was the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
Some have come to the conclusion that the New Testament should be divided into two categories: Gospel and Doctrine. The contention is made that the Gospel is for unbelievers, while Doctrine was given to the church. Such a division of Scripture is superficial and the product of wishful thinking from prejudiced minds. The term “doctrine” simply means teaching. Thus, any instruction in the New Testament, whether in connection to the life and teaching of Christ, or any teaching of the apostles is a matter of doctrine (teaching). When Paul states that he is not ashamed of the “Gospel of Christ”, he is referring to all of the teaching that came through Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). Like Paul, we should not be ashamed of any teaching that came through Christ or His apostles (John 16:13).
Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, went on the public record regarding the subjects of modesty (1 Tim. 2:9), long hair (1 Cor. 11), who can teach in the assemblies of the church (1 Cor. 14), the rules regarding Christian marriage (1 Cor. 7), and many other spiritual teachings. The church should not be afraid that people might pick up a Bible and read what God has revealed on these subjects, nor should the church be afraid for unbelievers to hear these topics addressed in her assemblies. If God did not want his people to teach on these subjects, He would not have charged the church to declare them to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Paul’s writings on the hair, in particular, cause many members of the Lord’s church to squirm in their pews when it is taught upon. Many feel the subject should not be addressed in public assemblies and only on limited occasions outside the pulpit. Two preachers (who have since left the Lord’s church) told me as a young man that they never taught on the hair publicly and it should only be addressed privately. I question how much either preacher ever taught the truth on the hair privately because both preachers later publicly stated they did not believe it was wrong for a woman to cut her hair. I wonder when it became okay to speak publicly on 1 Corinthians 11 for either of these men? It seems that the only thing not allowed to be taught publicly out of 1 Corinthians 11 is the truth.
Question: Why is it allowable for women to teach publicly through action and word that it is okay for women to destroy God’s symbol of authority (1 Cor. 11:10), but those in favor of honoring God’s symbol must do so privately? Why must the church cower from defending 1 Corinthians 11 when error is freely taught?
Granted, as with any Bible subject, wisdom must be used when addressing the issue. When Paul stood before the Areopagus (Acts 17), he did not try to convert the heathens that day on the topic of the hair; there were other issues of greater importance on that day. When trying to convert an unbeliever, matters of salvation should be addressed before matters of Christian law. Having said that, matters of Christian Law should not be avoided if questions concerning them arise after matters of salvation have been addressed. Though we often think that addressing the subject of women having long hair will scare people away from obeying the gospel, there have been several noted cases where the truth on the hair (and the church standing for it) was the tipping point in converting individuals. The same has also been the case with other doctrinal issues such as the cup. We have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to any Bible subject. We must confidently teach the truth in love at all times (Eph. 4:15).
Before closing, one other scenario needs to be addressed. Some brethren feel certain subjects (such as the hair, ect.) should never be addressed at large meetings such as the New Years Meeting or the Fourth of July Meeting because unbelievers might be present.
First, there is a difference between teaching on a subject and taking a “pot-shot” at a subject or a group of people. As with any subject, the teacher’s responsibility is to teach on the subject (2 Tim. 2:2, Eph. 4:15), not merely mention or talk about a subject. Scripture teaches, reproves, corrects, and instructs in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). When performing any of these four roles – teaching, reproving, correcting, or instructing – teachers and preachers must use Scripture to accomplish the task.
Secondly, it is my personal opinion that we need to reconsider the purposes of our “big meetings”. Annual meetings such as the New Years meeting and the Fourth of July meeting are primarily for the benefit Christians and do not work well as evangelistic outreach meetings. When outsiders attend, few if any (including the leaders of the hosting congregation) are able to identify the unbeliever in the crowd and as a result the visitor walk away unnoticed.
In many ways, inviting an unbeliever to an annual meeting is like inviting your neighbor to a family reunion where they don’t know anyone. Family reunions are put together for the sake of family members who have not gotten to see each other in a long time. Brotherhood meetings are much like family reunions: brethren travel from all across the country to see and worship with brethren they have not seen in a long time.
It seems that the nature of an assembly should dictate the type of teaching for the occasion just as it did for Paul at the Areopagus (Acts 17). Does the crowd consist mainly of believers or unbelievers? When a teacher stands before a crowd of unbelievers, he needs to address topics that will convict the unbelievers and make them want to obey the gospel. When a teacher stands before a group of brethren, the teacher should address issues that brethren need to hear – issues such as Christian living and dangers facing the church. It makes no more sense to urge an audience of believers to obey the gospel in baptism, than it does to urge an audience of unbelievers to rededicate their lives to Christ. Whether before believers or unbelievers, the truth must be spoken in love and Scripture must do the teaching.
In closing, teachers should always consider its audience, utilize wisdom and love when teaching, and never be ashamed of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). May God bless the cause of Christ and may the gospel continue to reach the hearts of Christians and sinners alike.
P.S. For those who are interested in knowing more about Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding the hair, I have provided an audio version of my sermon on the subject.