Women’s role in the Bible – Part Two Women’s Role in the Church

 As I said in my last posting, there are so many misconceptions about women’s role in the Bible.  We know there are women heroes such as Ruth, Naomi, Deborah, Esther, Mary mother of Jesus and so many more. But these heroes do not show what the Bible really says about who women are and how they should act.

Two of the biggest misunderstood passages of the Bible about women are1 Corinthians 11:3 about women being submissive and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 about women’s role in the church.

Today I am addressing the role of women in the church.

The debate about gender roles in the church is one of the most volatile issues in the Christian church today.  Some believe that woman have the same “rights” to lead and teach in the church as men, and some believe that women are to be totally subservient to men in the church and that they are only allow to teach other women and children.

My conclusions that I present here will be controversial.  Many denominations and other churches may not agree with me.  I am presenting what I feel the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart to be His meaning of what the Scriptures say about women’s role in the church.

Let’s address what I believe to be one of the most misunderstood and misused passages in the New Testament relating to women in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

34 Let your women remain silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak. They are commanded to be under obedience, as the law also says. 35 If they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

In the Corinthian culture, women were not allowed to confront men in public. Apparently some of the women who had become Christians thought that their Christian freedom gave them the right to question the men in public worship. This was causing division in the church.

In addition, the women of that day did not receive formal religious education as did the men. Women may have been raising questions during the worship service that could have been answered at home without disrupting the church service. Paul is asking the women not to flaunt their Christian freedom during the worship service. The purpose of Paul’s words was to promote unity, not to teach about women’s roles in the church.

So the whole issue for us today is that Paul was addressing a cultural issue not a theological one.

The question of what can and should women do in the church goes much deep than what Paul is saying.

In today’s world where women have much more visibility and authority than women of Paul’s time.  This brings up a whole new set of questions.

First, let’s address the issue of preaching.  Can a woman be allowed to preach in a church service?  In my opinion, yes.  Two messages from Paul make it quite clear that women have the authority to preach.  It is clear from 1 Corinthians 11:5 women prayed and prophesied in public worship.

1 Corinthians 11:5

but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is the same as if she were shaved.

It is also clear in chapters 12 – 14 that women are given spiritual gifts and are encouraged to exercise them in the body of Christ.  Women have much to contribute and participate in worship services.

1 Corinthians 12:7

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for the common good.

Paul does take for granted that women will pray and prophesy in public Christian worship.  And we must understand that one of the forms of Christian prophecy was akin to what we today would call a sermon, delivered by a Spirit filled preacher convinced he or she was passing along a message from God.

Luke 2:36, 38

36And there was Anna a prophetess…38 Coming at that moment she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Simeon and Anna instantly and independently recognizes Jesus as messiah. Anna begins to preach: “She came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Both are quicker than Mary to comprehend who Jesus is.

Anna really was the first woman preacher to tell of Jesus….

Also John 4:1-42 tells of the Samaritan woman at the well…. She became an evangelist to her own people…

Preacher does not equal Pastor:

In ancient Jewish culture women were almost second class citizens as we would term it today.  Men were dominate over women, based on Old Testament teachings.

Jesus lifted up women to a higher position in His life than what other Jewish women were accustom to.  Through the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John about Jesus’ life compared against the customs of the Old Testament practices, Jesus’ treatment of women clearly stands out.

Jesus’ group of followers included several women, who helped provide financially for the needs of the group.  Men and women traveling together in this fashion as coworkers in a teacher’s ministry would have been scandalous to many, but Jesus apparently saw nothing wrong with it. 

There are many instances in the Bible that shows Jesus trying to put men and women on the same level.  Luke tells in close succession Jesus’ controversial Sabbath healings of a crippled woman and a man with abnormal swelling of his body. (Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6)

There are two parables; the lost sheep and lost coin (Luke 15:3-10), and the mustard seed and yeast (Luke 13:18-21); each presents parallel analogies with one man and one woman as the leading characters.

At the very least, Jesus wants to relate and appeal to both genders equally.  Nevertheless, despite all these remarkable advances over His culture, Jesus never promotes full-fledged equality between genders.

The Gospels unequivocally depicts Jesus as an authority figure instructing others on how to live.  He has an inner core of His three closest follower; Peter, James, and John.

Mark 5:37 He let no one follow Him, except Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.”

These in turn form part of the twelve Apostles, the next circle of leadership moving outward from Jesus Himself.  Then come a larger group of followers, which grows and shrinks depending on the circumstances, who can be called simply disciples.  Only among this group do we find women.

1 Corinthians 11:3

But I would have you know that the head of the woman is the man, the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.

The principle behind Paul’s words is submission.  Submission is a key element in the smooth functioning of any business, government, family or church.

God ordained submission in certain relationships to prevent chaos.  It is essential to understand that submission is not surrender, withdrawal, or apathy.  It does not mean inferiority, because God created all people in His image and all have equal value.

1 Corinthians 11:7-12

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. The man is not from the woman, but the woman from the man. The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man….11 Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord. 12 For just as the woman came from the man, so the man comes through the woman, but all things come from God.

God created lines of authority in order for His created world to function smoothly.  This holds true for the family and the church. After all we as Christians make up the “body of Christ” which is the church.

1 Timothy 3:1-5

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the office of an overseer (pastor), he desires a good work. An overseer then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach; and one who manages his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to manage his own house, how will he take care of the church of God…”

Note it says “the husband of one wife…” doesn’t exclude unmarried men from becoming a pastor or a widowed leader from remarrying.

Paul has made it quite clear that the leader must be male.

One could be completely faithful to 1 Corinthians 11:5 (see above) by allowing woman to preach, while at the same time insisting the leaders of the church are all men, and the authority to preach is a delegated one, with the governing board as the ultimate body of human leaders to whom the entire church is accountable (including preachers.)

I believe that the Bible says woman are not prohibited from any kind of teaching role except those that exercise authority, namely, senior leadership.  So women can teach Sunday school, direct the Christian education department, do youth ministry, worship ministry, evangelism work, community ministry, and counseling ministry.  Virtually anything except be “in charge.”

Joel 2:28

28 And it will be that, afterwards, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.

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