What Jesus did about Women
What is your initial thought when you see a woman standing in the pulpit?
If you are like most of us in the church, you ponder when the announcement about the women’s retreat will be over. If you are a conservative “charismatic” you might even start to rebuke a “Jezebel spirit” or look for a man standing nearby who is the woman’s “covering.”
Please take the following test which will reveal what you really think as you read the word in the middle column, decide either male or female to indicate the association that first enters your mind. (Indicate the initial gut reaction not what you believe you should think.)
If almost all your check marks were in the male column especially in relation to “real” ministry positions, then you are not alone. If you stopped to think about some of the positions, you may have thought of a woman who functioned in them, a miracle worker like Kathryn Kuhlman or a teacher like Joyce Meyer, and placed a check mark in the female column.
There were probably moments of stress about what you should think and mark. The truth is that we have deeply rooted prejudices, not based on what the scriptures really teach, that have affected our thinking. Let’s look at the scriptures and examine our views about the role of women in the body of Christ.
I was born again in a large conservative evangelical denomination that suffers from the same sort of multiple personality disorder that plagues a large part of the body of Christ in regard to women in leadership. All our mission offerings in that denomination were dedicated to women who had either touched the nations in powerful ways or who had championed the cause of mission work in the United States.
The annual foreign missions offering still carries the name of a powerful woman missionary to China whom the Bible would not shrink from calling an apostle. However, although she was allowed to teach and preach to the “heathen” men and women in other countries, she would not be welcomed into many pulpits of this denomination in the United States. Yet millions of dollars are raised for missions in her name each year.
What are we thinking?
As my Irish friend, David Matthews, often says, “We weren’t thinking, we’re Christians.”
Let’s think, for a change...
When the disciples, both men and women, were gathered together in the upper room on the day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came with tongues of fire falling on the heads of the whole community of believers, they were all empowered for the work of ministry. But alas, were there blue flames for the men and pink for the women to differentiate their roles in the church?
Were the women who spilled out of the upper room onto the street speaking in tongues and glorifying God required to do so silently? Or did they have to tell their husbands the phrases they were going to speak before they said them publicly? If you think this is absurd, know that it would seem like a good idea to many conservative biblical interpreters today!
Jesus fulfilled the Law and elevated women to equality.
The first sermon that Peter preached after he was filled with the Holy Spirit was taken from Joel 2:28. He said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet, Joel. In the last days I will pour out my spirit on all mankind, your sons and your daughters will prophesy...? How can this be; men and women both filled with the Spirit and both prophesying? Yes, the first “Spirit-filled” sermon ever preached espoused a doctrine based on the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of the word of an Old Testament prophet which pronounced women equal in function and power to preach the gospel in the last days. As far as I can tell, we are still in the last days and God is still waiting for a large part of the Church to get the message.
SO HOW DID WE GET HERE FROM THERE?
We got here by basing our theology on ancient rabbinical tradition and uninspired myth rather than correct biblical interpretation. These myths formed misconceptions which are carried on the wings of tradition today. The rabbis believed that God had planned for man to be complete apart from woman who was an afterthought, created because Adam couldn’t seem to find a helper from among the animals, even though we all know that a dog is supposed to be “a man’s best friend.” The Pharisees were not only anti-woman, they were anti-canine. They awoke each morning thanking God that they were neither a dog, nor a woman, nor a Gentile.
Translations of the account of the creation of woman indicate that she was taken from an insignificant and unnecessary part of Adam, his rib, reducing her role to that of a mere “riblet” in the plan of God. I suppose that 60’s pop singer, Ricky Nelson, had this scripture in mind when he wrote his hit, “Honeycomb.”
“Oh Honeycomb, won’t you be my baby well Honeycomb be my own
Just a hank o’ hair and a piece of bone and made a walkin’, talkin’ honeycomb...
What a darn good life when you got a wife like a honeycomb...”
It is too late to tell Ricky that the word often translated “rib” actually means “side” and indicates that she was not taken from an insignificant part of man. Could it be that God actually divided man in half creating her in God’s image just like he had Adam? She was not created to be the “little lady” but an equal helper called to stand alongside her man with the same mandate from God, “to cultivate the garden and to keep it.”
And the Hebrew word used for helper, “ezer,” is also used of God being our helper some 14 times in the Old Testament—not an insignificant source of help. In the Hebrew the man and woman are referred to as Adam and Adamah something like Adam 1 and Adam 2. It is only after taking Adamah from the side of Adam that God looked on His completed human creation and said “it was very good.”
I believe that Jesus would stand against our current tradition regarding women in leadership
The Greek philosophers have also taken much of the church captive with the idea that the woman was obviously inferior to the man in every way. Many of them believed that the love of a man for a man was much to be preferred to love between a man and a woman. When we chuckle, “Women, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them,” we are actually saying what the Greeks believed and what has become “gospel” to much of the church.
Even women buy into this when they say, “God chose me for a calling because no man would accept the call.” But God does not create second best. If God calls and gifts you, it is because He chose you, not because He couldn’t find anyone else to fill the position.
W DID JD?
What did Jesus do? Jesus fulfilled the Law and elevated women to equality. Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their house (Luke 10:38-42). While Martha was consumed with the preparation of meals for Jesus and His entourage, Mary sat as Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching. Jewish religious tradition forbade women to sit at the feet of teachers and learn, but Jesus refused to send her to the kitchen. Instead, he praised her for choosing the “better part” and assuming the role of a disciple. This was a radical departure from religious tradition and foreshadowed a new order for the church.
Jesus challenged tradition once again (Luke 13:10-17) when He called a woman who had been crippled by a spirit for 18 years to the front of the synagogue and healed her. Women normally sat behind a screen at the back of the synagogue and were not allowed to be seen during the men’s worship or teaching times. Jesus turned heads when He brought the woman into the middle of the worship and teaching session. He healed her on the Sabbath and then He pronounced her “a daughter of Abraham.” Rabbinical teaching called men “sons of Abraham,” but until this moment, no rabbi had ever referred to a woman as a “daughter of Abraham.” Paul picked up on this new standard of equality in Galatians 3:7 writing, “Those who are of the faith are sons of Abraham.”
It is no coincidence that the first evangelist to Samaria was the gentile woman at the well, or that it was Mary Magdalene who took the message of the resurrection to the male disciples.
In His parables of the Kingdom, Jesus portrayed God as a woman who put leaven into bread and as a woman who was looking for a lost coin. All of this flew in the face of legalistic tradition, and I believe that Jesus would stand against our current tradition regarding women in leadership, too.
The apostle Paul has often been unjustly accused of being anti-woman in his teaching. Much of what has been taught to us in the modern church about the role of women is based upon misunderstandings of what Paul wrote. This has had the effect of reversing the advances that Jesus initiated for His church when He sent the Holy Spirit to empower men and women at Pentecost. This idea dates back centuries. If it had been up to some of the early church fathers like Tertullian, Christian women today would be wearing burqas. Tertullian later saw the light about women in ministry during an early charismatic revival of his era.
Many pastors stood against giving the vote to women in the early 20th Century by misapplying Paul’s teachings. They thought it would be unscriptural, since they thought Paul in I Timothy 2 seemed to be telling all women for all time not to attempt to teach men or take authority over them.
When we look at so-called “problem” scriptures such as I Corinthians 14: 34 which seem to prevent women from speaking or I Timothy 2: 12 which seems to indicate that women could be “funnels of deception,” we need to look at the Rosetta Stone of Paul’s teaching, Galatians 3:28, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek...male nor female.” The Bible is always consistent, and difficult passages should be interpreted in the light of those that are clear. When Paul states that there is “neither male nor female... in Christ,” he is saying that men and women are equal in the church and gifted for any role in it by the Holy Spirit. Paul is drawing us back to the Garden of Eden when men and women were “in the image of God” as we are all now in the image of Christ being transformed from glory to glory.
WHAT ABOUT NOW?
With the outbreak of revival comes the opportunity to believe what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28. Jesus Christ’s calling is not based on ethnicity, social status or sex. In revival women such as Aimee Semple McPherson, who founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, are initially catapulted into the forefront of the outpouring by virtue of their gifts just like on the day of Pentecost more than 2000 years ago.
When passion for His presence cools and changes to a passion for position, the same women who pioneered the revival are gradually moved off the stage by the imposition of manmade rules and regulations. Ordination moves from being a recognition of gift to an award for jumping through a series of hoops to prove oneself to man. These rules remove the Holy Spirit’s prerogative to hand out gifts to those of His choice.
70 plus percent of the seats in a church are filled by women who are not allowed to exercise their leadership gifts
If it is true that 70 plus percent of the seats in a church are filled by women who are not allowed to exercise their leadership gifts, how can we possibly be strengthened by “what every joint supplies”? We have taught women to question rather than to receive the calling of God. Is every woman called to be a pastor? Is every man? Is one more gifted or called than another because of their sex? No. “In Christ...what counts is the new creation.” (Gal. 6:15)
It is time to realize that we have been conditioned to look at roles in the church through filters of prejudice rather than how the Holy Spirit sees us. If we are to win the world to Christ, scales must fall from our eyes, and we must re-evaluate our view of women in ministry and leadership. The world is waiting - and so is Heaven - for the Church to adopt the biblical standard of equality.