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God's role for women in ministry
 

God's role for women in ministry

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What is women's role in the MInistry of Christ? Do we have a role? Are we to be seen and not heard? What does the bible say about this?

What is women's role in the MInistry of Christ? Do we have a role? Are we to be seen and not heard? What does the bible say about this?

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    God's role for women in ministry God's role for women in ministry Document Transcript

    • God’s Role forDoug Batchelor
    • Copyright © 2008 byDoug BatchelorAll rights reserved.Printed in the USA.Published by:Amazing Facts, Inc.P.O. Box 1058Roseville, CA 95678-8058800-538-7275Edited by Anthony LesterText design by Greg Solie • AltamontGraphics.comCover design by Haley Trimmer
    • A fter reviewing hundreds of appli- cations, a Fortune 500 company’s search for a new marketing directorhad been narrowed to just three candidates.The first person called for the final interviewwas asked just one simple question: “Whatis two plus two?” Surprised by the inquiry,she wondered if it was a trick question—butin the end, she answered “four.” The CEOthanked her for coming and ushered her outthe door. The next candidate received the
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr ysame question: “What is two plus two?” Shethought about it for a moment and replied,“Statistically, it is the number between threeand five.” Though more impressed with thisanswer, the CEO thanked her for comingand ushered her out the door. Finally, the lastcandidate to be interviewed was also asked,“What is two plus two?” Without pause, shereplied, “What do you want it to be?” She washired on the spot. In today’s culture, when it comes to mar-keting, absolute truth is a rare commodity.Morals are more often determined by popu-larity or political correctness than by the sim-ple truth. This is not how we should approachthe Bible’s teachings, no matter how sensitivethe lesson to be learned can be. When you consider that more than 60 per-cent of all practicing Christians are women,this dynamic between truth and popularitycan be especially volatile when exploring thesubject of women’s ordination. The questionof women’s roles in the church, and whetheror not they ought to be pastors and elders, isunder serious debate within many churches.Both sides of the argument stir strongly held
    • D ou g B atchel or beliefs—which is why I want to approach thistopic not only with great caution but, moreimportant, much prayer and humility.Laying the Groundwork A discussion about the Bible, men, andwomen in this culture leaves the door wideopen to impassioned and often false interpre-tations of biblical lessons, so I want to lay outa foundation of how we should approach thisissue together. We must each ask ourselves:What is my view of the Bible? Is it God’sWord, or is it just the thoughts of men? Doesit contain errors, and if it does, can we deci-pher those errors from what is true? For instance, many who advocate the po-sition that the Bible sees no difference at allbetween men and women in the church andthe family must often discard very pointedremarks from Paul’s letters, sometimes with-out any textual reason for doing so. Paul, theysuggest, made an error—but on what basis dothey come to that conclusion? Another question each Christian mustconsider is this: If the Bible teaches somethingthat I am uncomfortable with, will I still obey
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr yit? That is, are we as individuals the final ar-biters of truth? If we consider that we are theauthors of truth, we put ourselves on a danger-ous path. As Christians, we must resist fallingprey to our “instincts,” because the prevailingthoughts and value systems of the world caninfluence our thinking in unbiblical ways. Indeed, the most fundamental basis forChristians is that Christ says if we love Him,we will obey Him. We must stand for the truththat God has shown us in His Word. That’swhy I have written this booklet based on thefollowing principles: 1. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 2. When God’s people have been unfaithful to Him, negative consequences follow. With these ideals in mind, I firmly believewe can come to a biblical conclusion to justabout any doctrinal disagreement betweenpeople who love God.
    • D ou g B atchel or The Family and the Church At the end of Creation week, God not onlyestablished the Sabbath (Genesis 2:18, 21–24)but also the family (Genesis 2:1–3). And inthe last days, we will see Satan not only at-tacking those who remain faithful to theSabbath, but he will also strike at man’s mostintimate relationship—the family. In fact, thisbattle has already begun. Any victory by the devil in the war againstthe family is ultimately reflected in the church.The very survival of both society and thechurch leans heavily upon the family unit. Inthis unit, seen not only in God’s Word but alsoHis creation, we find a basic truth: Men arefathers, and women are mothers. As we shall see later, men and women arewithout question equal as humans, but they arealso entirely unique as creatures. They are notonly distinct sexually, but almost every other as-pect of their natures is different as well. I believethese differences should be apparent, main-tained, and even emphasized in everything, fromthe way we walk and talk to the way we workand dress. Men should never try to be women,and women should never try to be men.
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr y Now, I am not a male chauvinist. I washdishes, change diapers, and make beds. In the1970s, my mother was a leading voice in thewomen’s liberation movement (now calledthe feminist movement) in North America.Very articulate and outspoken, she evenwrote an entire album of songs dedicated towomen’s rights. And like her, I firmly believethat men and women should get equal pay forequal work. My mother also left the movement be-cause it turned into something else. Shesaw feminism becoming more about angrywomen who wanted to be like men ratherthan attaining the rightful respect for beinga woman. And this is the feminism, albeitmore refined, that is pushing its agenda intochurches with a frightening degree of successtoday. Of course, I expect this influence in theworld. However, when it seeps into the bodyof Christ disguised as an “improvement,” itoften signals a very serious problem. This movement in our church is partly theresult of some Christians, who have an ear-nest desire to reach the world with the mes-sage of salvation, naively trying to increase
    • D ou g B atchel or their influence by adopting popular socialphilosophy. In an attempt to reverse the in-justice against women throughout the ages,they have allowed the feminist movementto push the church beyond voting rights andequal pay into the arena of unisex thinking. And by substituting a politically correctbut biblically inaccurate social philosophy astheir guide, they are inadvertently erasing anybiblical distinction between men and women.Often when an organization seeks to correctsome wrong policy, it overcorrects. I fear thisis the case of the church, which has a validneed to create more avenues for women touse their gifts of ministry. However, this needis being translated by some into a problematicdesire for women to be ordained as pastorsand elders.When Men Fail to Lead I should hasten to say that the blame doesnot lie with just the liberal feminist move-ment. In fact, the brunt of the blame must fallon indifferent and even lazy men within thechurch. They are failing to fulfill their roles asstrong, loving, and servant-oriented leaders.
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr yAs a result, women are naturally stepping intothe vacuum. Yet Isaiah 3:1–12 offers a sobering thoughtabout this scenario. “And I will give childrento be their princes, and babes shall rule overthem. … As for my people, children are theiroppressors, and women rule over them. Omy people, they which lead thee cause theeto err, and destroy the way of thy paths”(emphasis supplied). It appears that when men fail to lead asthey should, women and children fill the voidas a negative consequence. This often comeswith bad results, as was the case with QueenJezebel, who usurped her husband’s authority.(See 1 Kings 18, 19, and 21.) While in power,she severely persecuted God’s prophets. Notlong after, her daughter Athaliah took thethrone of Judah—a six-year reign marked bybloodshed and confusion (2 Kings 11:1–16). The Christian author E.G. White wrote,“The greatest want of the world is the wantof men—men who will not be bought orsold, men who in their inmost souls are trueand honest, men who do not fear to call sinby its right name, men whose conscience
    • D ou g B atchel or is as true to duty as the needle to the pole,men who will stand for the right though theheavens fall.”1 When men fulfill this mandate, when theyare spiritually strong and obedient to God,we find an outpouring of blessings. But whenmen do not obey God and are not spirituallystrong, whether they are weak, lazy, or cow-ardly, God responds in judgment by allowingan unnatural and unintended role reversal totake place. We can take this to mean that God hasclearly established men to be the rightfulleaders in the home, church, and society. Theword husband means “house-band,” becausemen are to be the head of the householdand bind their families together in the loveof Christ.God’s Love Equal for Men and Women We need to be clear about one thing be-fore moving forward. The value of men andthe value of women are perfectly equal in theeyes of God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek,there is neither bond nor free, there is neithermale nor female: for ye are all one in Christ
    • 10 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr yJesus” (Galatians 3:28, emphasis added). Thespiritual standing of every human being, re-gardless of nationality, class, or gender, is thesame. The ground at the foot of the cross islevel—women matter as much as men. This isabundantly clear from the life and ministry ofJesus and the apostles. For instance, Jesus taught women directlyand was ministered to by them. “Now it cameto pass … that He entered into a certain village:and a certain woman named Martha receivedHim into her house.” (See Luke 10:38–42.)He was also supported financially by women(Luke 8:3), and women were among the firstto accept the gospel (Acts 16:14, 15). Yet the fact that men and women haveequal rights and access to salvation does notnegate the need for submission to leadershipin the home or the church. Indeed, Jesus andthe Father are equal, yet Jesus submits to theauthority of the Father. “The head of everyman is Christ; and the head of the womanis the man; and the head of Christ is God”(1 Corinthians 11:3). Of course, men should be responsibleleaders in our home and churches, firm if
    • D ou g B atchel or 11necessary but always kind. (Colossians 3:19says, “Husbands, love your wives and do notbe bitter toward them.” In studying the phrase“be not bitter,” I found the idea to be that aman should not treat his wife harshly, becauseit will eventually make her bitter.) Moreover, in America, “equal rights” doesnot negate the authority or leadership of so-ciety’s leaders. You have the same civil rightsas a police officer, but you are expected tosubmit to their authority. Likewise, equalityin salvation does not negate the God-estab-lished system of male leadership in the homeand church. “Children, obey your parentsin the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1,emphasis added). It is true that for far too long, men havemisunderstood the proper role of women inthe church, often treating them as second-class Christians. Because of this, many giftedwomen have been left without an arena inwhich to use their gifts. Perhaps this is whymany Christian women reacted to their un-fair status by following the “prevailing winds”of the world, ultimately desiring things thatGod forbids.
    • 1 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr y The fact is that the pendulum of the roleof women in the church has swung too far inboth directions. But where humans have failed,God promises victory, peace, and restoration.That’s why both sides in this debate need toseek wisdom and guidance from God’s Wordin order to grow in the unity of the faith. Finally, in considering women’s roles inthe church, remember also the broader ideaof ministry itself. There are role distinctionsin the church that are not in dispute. (See1 Corinthians 12.) You don’t hear the argu-ment that a man gifted in teaching is morevaluable than a man gifted in encouragement.The nature of a body is that different mem-bers perform different roles, yet each mem-ber is equal in importance. Different does notmean better or worse. So as we continue our study, please notethat this booklet is not designed to be an ex-haustive study on the subject of women’s ordi-nation, neither will it deal with every single ar-gument regarding women as pastors or elders.Rather, it is a simple presentation of “Thussaith the Lord,” which should always be ourguide in determining the truth on any issue.
    • D ou g B atchel or 1In the Beginning Let’s begin with Creation. It can be saidthat God made creatures in the order of theirvalue and complexity. First, He created thebase elements of earth, water, and air; then,He made vegetation and light. Next, He madethe birds and fish, and then land creatures. Finally, God made a man and, as the con-cluding act of Creation, a woman. We can takethis to mean that women are the most beauti-ful and complex creatures on the planet. Theyeven tend to live longer than men and usemore of their brains in concert. Note, God did not create the first man andwoman in the same way. He made the manfrom dust, but He made the woman out ofthe man (Genesis 2:21, 22). And while Godnamed the man, it was the man who namedthe woman. “This is now bone of my bones,and flesh of my flesh: she shall be calledWoman, because she was taken out of Man”(Genesis 2:23; see also Genesis 3:20). So God’screation process itself suggests a very distinctdifference between men and women. Later, after sin entered the picture, Godalso established a system of authority to
    • 1 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr ymaintain harmony in the family, the church,and society. It is a system in which man wouldlead. “Unto the woman He said … thy desireshall be to thy husband, and he shall rule overthee” (Genesis 3:16). The word rule means “togovern, or have dominion.” It is important not rush past this pivotalverse, as some have argued that the passagesregarding man’s leadership role reflect the bi-ases of a male-dominant culture. But noticethat the command in Genesis 3:16 comes di-rectly from God; it did not come from Moses,King David, Peter, John, or even Paul. It isGod’s own voice speaking. Likewise, it’s been said that we must disre-gard these passages because they were basedon ancient eastern traditions that don’t ap-ply today—after all, there were also laws re-garding slavery and polygamy in Bible times.That’s certainly true, but God never directlycommanded people to have slaves or multi-ple wives either. Rather, as Jesus said, it wasbecause of “the hardness of your heart [thatMoses] wrote you this precept” (Mark 10:5). We also need to back up a little and under-stand that the supporting role of women was
    • D ou g B atchel or 1established before the fall. (See 1 Corinthians11:7–9.) Eve was created to be Adam’s “helpmeet” (Genesis 2:18). Thus from the verydawn of Creation, the role of a woman is tosupport her husband.Women in Church Let’s now dive into a controversial but eye-opening passage that deals with women in achurch setting. Paul writes, “I desire then thatin every place the men should pray, lifting holyhands without anger or quarrelling; likewisealso that women should adorn themselves inrespectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold orpearls or costly attire, but with what is properfor women who profess godliness—with goodworks. Let a woman learn quietly with all sub-missiveness. I do not permit a woman to teachor to exercise authority over a man; rather, sheis to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first,then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but thewoman was deceived and became a transgres-sor. Yet she will be saved through childbear-ing—if they continue in faith and love and ho-liness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:8–15).
    • 1 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr y Here we discover Paul advising the youngTimothy on appropriate church life, offer-ing practical guidelines for structuring thechurch and choosing its officers, with quali-fications for each position. Paul also addresses women’s attire, re-questing that they avoid the appearance ofworldliness by dressing modestly and focus-ing on propriety, because “ostentatious dress,in the ancient world, sometimes could signala woman’s loose morals and independencefrom her husband.”2 Of course, these generalteachings are widely accepted in principle bymost churches, but what Paul writes next of-ten causes a serious stir. For women, Paul says, their role in wor-ship is to “learn quietly with all submissive-ness.” That is, within a worship gathering atthe church, a woman should remain quiet. Butwhat does he mean by quiet? Paul clarifies, “Ido not permit a woman to teach or to exerciseauthority over a man.” So this isn’t an absolutequiet, but rather “quiet” in the sense clearlydescribed—without teaching or exercisingauthority over men. This understanding is incomplete agreement with Paul’s discussion
    • D ou g B atchel or 1in 1 Corinthians 11, which is a passage thatdemonstrates women participated in prayerand prophecy in the early church.The Heart of the Matter To understand this limitation on the min-istry of women a little better, we need to clar-ify what the word teach actually means. First,it is clear this passage is in regard to spiritualmatters within the church. The epistle itself ispastoral in nature, providing instructions forthe church and appropriate conduct therein.Therefore, it doesn’t preclude women from oc-cupations that require instruction of or author-ity over men outside the church structure. But considering its usage throughout theScriptures, the term teach is used “to denotethe careful transmission of the tradition con-cerning Jesus Christ and the authoritativeproclamation of God’s will to believers inlight of that tradition.”3 Therefore, according to Paul, women arenot to exert spiritual authority over men. Thisisn’t limited to the husband and wife relation-ship, but rather encompasses all male-femalerelationships in the church.
    • 1 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr y The same sentiment is echoed in1 Corinthians 14:34, 35: “Let your womenkeep silent in the churches, for they are notpermitted to speak; but they are to be submis-sive, as the law also says. And if they want tolearn something, let them ask their own hus-bands at home; for it is shameful for womento speak in church.” In this passage, Paul alsotells the women of Corinth to learn in silence.(In this particular incidence, he is addressingthe proper evaluation of prophecies.) Many have argued that though Paul re-stricts women from teaching men, it wasbased entirely on cultural traditions that haveno place today. However, although it certainlyis important to understand the historical andcultural background of every Bible teaching,Paul simply does not leave room for us to dis-regard this passage in that manner. Why? After giving the restriction, Paulgives a timeless reason for it. “For Adam wasformed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12). HerePaul grounds his teaching directly to the cre-ation of all things, implicitly stating that menand women were created differently and havedifferent roles in the natural, pre-fall condition
    • D ou g B atchel or 1of humanity. Therefore, there is no room tosay this is a teaching for the Ephesians in theirtime and place in the world. The reality is that Paul often writes aboutthe roles and distinctions between men andwomen among other role distinctions. Forexample, in Ephesians 5 and 6, he calls onwomen to submit to their husbands and forservants to submit to their masters. Indeed,this passage follows another in which Paultalks about putting on the “new self ” in Christ(Ephesians 4:23, 24). It is the newly convertedman who understands the created order andis able to live in submission to God. Thus Paulnever abolishes roles; rather, he explains thatChrist has abolished any distinction with re-gard to spiritual position: We are each justi-fied by faith alone and are equally granted theright to be children of God.Not Just Women Some suggest that because there are gen-erally more women than men in the church,leadership roles should be divided accordingto those percentages. But by using this rea-soning, it would follow that in a family with
    • 0 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr ythree children, kids would be entitled to thelargest share of leadership! On the contrary, authority in churchdoes not come through a popular vote, butrather from the Word of God, which equatesthe spiritual authority of man over womanwith the authority of Christ over man. (See1 Corinthians 11:3.) Furthermore, wives should willingly ac-knowledge the headship of their husbands.“For the husband is the head of the wife, evenas Christ is the head of the church: and heis the Saviour of the body. Therefore as thechurch is subject unto Christ, so let the wivesbe to their own husbands in every thing”(Ephesians 5:23, 24). See also Titus 2:4, 5, and1 Peter 3:6 for even more about a Bible-cen-tered relationship. Paul also says pointedly that elders areto be husbands; that is, men: “A bishop thenmust be blameless, the husband of one wife”(1 Timothy 3:2). (Note: The terms bishop andelder are interchangeable.) “[Paul] did notsay that just any man could be a bishop, evenas in the Old Testament not just any son ofAaron could be a priest. The office has always
    • D ou g B atchel or 1been limited. The Christian leader Paul spokeof must be ‘blameless’ and married, ‘vigilant,sober, of good behavior,’ etc. There is a longlist of requirements that eventually eliminatesmost men and leaves only a very few eli-gible.”4 Women aren’t the only ones who areineligible to be elders and pastors; so are mostof the men! Of course, every Christian, male and fe-male, is called to minister in some capacity,but not in every capacity. “And He gave some,apostles; and some, prophets; and some,evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the workof the ministry, for the edifying of the body ofChrist” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).The Church Role of Women in the Bible What then is the role of women in Christ’schurch? The Bible is very clear that womenought to leap into ministry with both feet!Indeed, one of the greatest weaknesses in thechurch is the lack of women’s ministries trulyfocused on Christ and growth in the Word. Plus, throughout the Bible, women areshown as equal in the nature of their ministry.
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr ySeveral examples include Deborah, who wasa judge of Israel (Judges 4:4); Huldah andAnna, who were prophetesses (2 Chronicles34:22; Luke 2:36); Priscilla, who was activein evangelism (Acts 18:26); and Pheobe, whowas a deaconess (Romans 16:1). Women also played a prominent role inthe ministry of Jesus and ministry to Jesus(Matthew 28:1–10; Luke 8:3; 23:49; John11:1–46; 12:1–8). Further, no spiritual giftis limited to men in the lists in the NewTestament (1 Corinthians 12:27–31; Romans12:3–8; 1 Peter 4:8–11), and women were com-manded to edify the body of Christ, whichincluded teaching (Titus 2:4) and prophecy(Acts 2:17, 18; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5). As you can see, women have an incrediblyimportant role in God’s church throughoutthe ages. That hasn’t changed. However, eventhough men and women both serve the Lordin significant ways, we should not concludethat God has intended men and women tofunction in the same capacity. Yet just because 1 Timothy 2:12 explicitlyteaches that a woman is not to teach a man,women are nevertheless free to teach in many
    • D ou g B atchel or other ways. In fact, women are commandedto explain the gospel to everyone, includinglost men (cf. Acts 18:26). Within the church,women may teach women and children. Withmen in the church, women should discussspiritual matters in a manner that informsbut is not authoritative. This does not meanthat a man cannot learn from a woman’s con-duct or from a conversation with a womanand apply what he learns to his life. Rather,what it means is that the woman’s purpose intalking with a man is not to instruct him as aleader would. Of course, Paul’s limitation on women inteaching and exercising authority over menhas been challenged in other ways. Some sug-gest his words in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do notallow,” are his personal preference, but notsomething for the church at large. However,this undermines Paul’s apostolic authority; hecommonly spoke in the first person in direct-ing the church (1 Timothy 2:1, 8, 9). Otherseven contend that Paul was simply wrong,but this must be rejected on the groundsof the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture(2 Timothy 3:16).
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr y Even though we can conclude that a wom-an should not assume the office of a pastoror elder within the church, it is clear thatwomen are important to the church and doimportant things. The woman who fulfills therole God established for her is not inferior inany way to a man; rather, she is acting as agodly woman.A Powerful Influence in the Church While it is abundantly clear that womenare not to be pastors or elders, because do-ing so would place them in a leadership roleover men (1 Timothy 2:11–14; 1 Corinthians14:34, 35), there are other things that womencan and should do. Their ministry revolvesaround support, service, and ministry towomen and children. For instance, women can teach otherwomen. “The aged women likewise, that theybe in behaviour as becometh holiness, notfalse accusers, not given to much wine, teach-ers of good things; That they may teach theyoung women to be sober, to love their hus-bands, to love their children, To be discreet,chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to
    • D ou g B atchel or their own husbands, that the word of Godbe not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3–5). Therefore,mature Christian women are to discipleyounger women, teaching them to exerciseself-control, to be affectionate to their ownhusbands, to correct their children wisely, tobe restrained in their passions and desires, tobe modest, and to be upright in character. Further, women should minister with theWord to other women. In Acts 21:8–11, Philipthe evangelist has four unmarried daughterswho minister in this way. While some pointto this passage as evidence that women canbe pastors, the context shows differently. Paulstayed with Philip and his family and wasministered to, but when God wanted to revealsomething to Paul prophetically, He did notuse any of Philip’s daughters. He used a maleprophet from another city to instruct Paul. Women can also share the gospel in a pri-vate context. For instance, Priscilla and Aquilashared the gospel with Apollos privately. Itwas a team effort, but it is clear from the pas-sage that Priscilla took part (Acts 18:26). I be-lieve the Bible allows that women can sharethe gospel with a man in a non-public setting
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr yif the opportunity presents itself, as long as: 1)it is done with the husband’s permission; 2) itis done discreetly; and 3) it is done in a waythat avoids the appearance of evil. Women should also be involved in sup-porting roles in the church and mission-ary work. Philippians 4:2–4 says, “I beseechEuodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they beof the same mind in the Lord. And I entreatthee also, true yokefellow, help those womenwhich laboured with me in the gospel, withClement also, and with other my fellowlabour-ers, whose names are in the book of life.”Servants of the Church Even though the Lord has chosen manywomen to serve as prophets through the ages,He has never hinted that a woman should beordained as a priest. Pastors and elders, ofcourse, are roughly the New Testament equiv-alent to the Old Testament priests. Pastorsand elders lead out in communion, whichis the New Testament equivalent of offeringa sacrifice—a role that was performed by aman. And while many priests were prophets,no women prophets were priests. Amram
    • D ou g B atchel or and Jochebed had three children—Miriam,Aaron, and Moses (Exodus 7:1; 5:20). Allthree were prophets, but only the boys servedas priests. Of course, women have served a vitalrole in the church from the very beginning,but men were assigned the role of churchleadership. The apostles were all men, thechurches were started by men, the Scripturewas written by men under inspiration, andthe churches were led by men. This does notmean that women are less capable of teachingthan men; it simply means that God createdus this way. Perhaps by spending more of ourtime understanding God’s purpose in creat-ing this structure, we’ll find lasting satisfac-tion—rather than trying to find it by buckingagainst the teachings of God’s Word. Romans 16:1, 2 says, “I commend untoyou Phebe our sister, which is a servant ofthe church which is at Cenchrea: That ye re-ceive her in the Lord, as becometh saints,and that ye assist her in whatsoever busi-ness she hath need of you: for she hath beena succourer of many, and of myself also”(emphasis supplied).
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr y The word translated servant is the Greekword diakonos (dee-ak’-on-os). It literallymeans “to run on errands; an attendant,a waiter at tables or in other serving du-ties.” The word in the masculine gender,diakoneo(s) (dee-ak-on-eh’-o), appears inthe New Testament about 68 times and istranslated as “serve, minister, administer.”Every time but five, the word refers to the of-fice of a deacon that can be held only by men(1 Timothy 3:8–13; Acts 6:1–7). I bring thisup because some say that Phebe held the officeof a deacon. She did not. She was a servant, ahelper around the church, and she succoured(assisted, helped, or was hospitable) to manysuch as Paul. In 1 Timothy 5:9, 10, we learn, “Let not awidow be taken into the number under three-score years old, having been the wife of oneman, well reported of for good works; if shehave brought up children, if she have lodgedstrangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet,if she have relieved the afflicted, if she havediligently followed every good work.” I haveturned us to this passage because it gives thequalifications for a widow considered worthy
    • D ou g B atchel or of regular support by the local church. She wasto have a history of good works, have been afaithful mother, hospitable to strangers, andwilling to serve fellow Christians in humbleways. In short, she was to have a history ofdiligent labor for the Lord. One such exampleis Tabitha, or Dorcas, found in Acts 9. Shemade clothes for many of the believers; shewas a woman with a true servant’s heart.Embracing Our Roles F. B. Meyer said, “I used to think that God’sgifts were on shelves one above the other andthat the taller we grew in Christian charac-ter the more easily we could reach them. Inow find that God’s gifts are on shelves onebeneath the other and that it is not a ques-tion of growing taller but of stooping lower.”Remember, it was Mary Magdalene—whowas content to kneel at Jesus’ feet—who wasalso honored to be the first to see the Lord af-ter His resurrection and share that good newswith others (John 20:17). Submission is the putting of oneself underthe authority of another. It is an act of humil-ity, something that both men and women in
    • 0 G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr your churches should practice much more.Within the church, Paul teaches that womenought to submit to the authority of men inthe church. But this must never be an excuseto foster inequality. Christ submitted to theFather, yet He is equal to the Father in worthand essence. Therefore, submission is aboutorder, not value! At the same time, there is a tremendousproblem of ignoring the clear statements ofScripture in respect to the role of women inthe church. Christians who sweep aside plainstatements of Scripture as outdated traditionsor local customs are building on a founda-tion of shifting sand. Soon every other Bibletruth will be in danger of sliding away, sothat even the Lord’s Supper, baptism, andmarriage will one day be mere ancient tra-ditions that no longer apply to a politicallycorrect world. We should not undermine theScriptures so easily. The fact of the Bible is that there is not asingle example of a woman being ordained asa priest, pastor, or elder. Indeed, Jesus onlyever ordained men. Was He just conformingto the popular customs of the day? Well, the
    • D ou g B atchel or 1truth is that in His time, most of the paganreligions had women priests. Moreover, thenotion that Jesus confined Himself to follow-ing the traditions of His day is completely op-posite of His teachings. He said, “Why do yealso transgress the commandment of God byyour tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). Jesus laiddown His life in defense of truth, irrespectiveof popular trends. We should always be will-ing to do the same. When the Lord made woman, it was thecrowning act of His creation. So this isn’tabout honor or pride or our social standingbefore humans. It’s about following the plainteaching of the Bible. Interestingly, the Bibleuses a woman as a symbol of His preciouschurch. “Husbands, love your wives, just asChrist also loved the church and gave Himselffor her” (Ephesians 5:25). In Scripture, wefind the greatest success comes to the churchwhen she humbly embraces her role to serveChrist in saving others. Before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, theapostles were striving for higher position andarguing among themselves about who was thegreatest. The Holy Spirit was poured out on
    •  G o d’s Rol e for Wom en in Ministr ythem only after they humbled themselves andresolved to accept the calling God had placedupon them. I know the Lord wants to showerHis Spirit upon His people again, but first wemust turn away from the politically correctteachings of the world and with the mind ofChrist humbly submit to the clear teachingsof His Word. Special thanks to Pastor Richard O’Ffill for his invaluable and insightful contribution to this book 1 E. G. White, Education, p. 57. 2 Douglas Moo, “What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men? 1 Timothy 2:11–15” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1991), p. 182. 3 Douglas Moo, ibid., p. 185. 4 S. Lawrence Maxwell, “One Chilling Word,” Adventists Affirm, Spring 1995, Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 41.
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