The Women Issue

The following message entitled THE WOMAN ISSUE is a study for those who truly desire to examine what Scripture says on a very controversial subject: the role of women in the Church. This would make a great bible study or forward the message to church leadership. We will be using The Law of Scriptural Interpretation: every Scripture must be interpreted in light of other Scriptures on the same subject; it must harmonize with all other verses used as we compare spiritual with spiritual, (1 Cor.2:13). Ready? Here we go!

I’m often asked my perspective on the role of women in the Church. My response? I think women should be silent…unfortunately, God does not seem to agree with me (Note to self: Serve God, but NOT as a consultant).

Many denominations forbid women to teach, preach, or even testify to the grace of God in their lives. Some groups may let women teach other women, but there remain legions of Jesus-loving women who feel a fire burning within themselves to share their relationship with God with anyone who will listen. Yet they are silenced by their denomination’s interpretation of the Scriptures, or by their manmade traditions.

Let’s take a look at the two verses typically addressed to support the interpretation that women are to be silent, 1 Corinthians 14:34-36; 1 Timothy 2:11,12. Paul was not expressing his own opinion in these two verses. Whose commands did he say he was expressing?

See 1 Corinthians 14:37,38. Was Paul a sexist, as some say? After all, he never married (1 Corinthians 7:25-40). He advises celibacy because of v. 26, the persecution of the church atthe time. Also, being single gives one the freedom to devote oneself entirely to God.

See Hebrews 13:4, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-10. If Paul was the President of the He-Man-Woman-Hater’s Club, or was an advocate that all ministers be celibates, he would have said so.

See Romans 16:1,2. Note the word “servant,” from the Greek, diakonos…deacon or deaconess, in English. Paul instructed the men and women in Rome to ASSIST her in her work.

See Romans 16:3,4. Priscilla is mentioned BEFORE her husband, something not typically done in Middle Eastern culture. Read v.6 about Mary, also a hard-working “servant” (deaconess).

See Romans 16:12, these two girls served the Body, too.

See Romans 16:13…referring to an important woman, or a hard-working servant to the Body?

In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul illustrates how marriage illustrates the Church. The Body of Christ being a lovely young woman, a living organism, not an organization, to be structured and departmentalized. This Bride is awaiting the day she can look into the loving eyes of her Bridegroom’s precious face, the Lord Jesus. He describes the Body, with its many parts, every one of them necessary for the good of the whole.

See Colossians 3:19…does this sound like a sexist Woman-hater?
When we read 1 Corinthians 11:13, at first glance, it sure looks like the Scripture intends for men to be “over’ women. Looks like it. But when we read 1 Corinthians 11:3, we see plainly that a man is head of but ONE woman, his wife! (Sorry, ladies, God’s plan, not mine! Read on…we’re about to discuss submission. I assure you, you’ll like it. God has only your best interests at heart).

See Ephesians 5:21. Here the Church is admonished to submit to one another. The Church gets hung up on v.22, “wives, submit to your own husbands” and v.23, “the husband being head of the wife, as Christ is Head of the Church.” We fellas tend to skim over v.25, however, the part about “giving ourselves up (dying)” for her. Gulp! Dying? Literally, if necessary. Most men would bravely say that they would lay down their lives for their lady. Ok, guys, you’ll die for her. Will you LIVE for her, too, laying aside the things that mean most to you for the sake of your marriage? See, marriage is a conscious decision to put to death “self.” No more “I, Me, or Mine.” You’re ONE flesh now. “You,” singular, are now “you,” plural. By “submission,” does the Scripture imply that we should lord over each other, or get along, in love?

See 1 Corinthians 11:3 in comparison to Phil 2:5-9. As Jesus did, it is an act of WILL to take a subordinate position for the good of the whole. A lesson for the Church: Submission = POWER! When we read Ephesians 2:4-6, we see that Jesus is not UNDER the Father…He’s at His right hand, EQUAL!

See John 17:21. Jesus prayed that the Church would be “one.” Do you see how the anti-woman interpretation BINDS instead of loosens the female segment of the Church? In John 8:32, Jesus declared, “And they shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Religion, literally interpreted means “a return to bondage.” Yes, it’s the traditions of man that make the Word of God of no effect (Mark 7:13).

See Galatians 3:28 and 1 John 3:2. No male or female? All of us referred to as ‘sons’ (translates as children, even adopted children). Are male children any more significant than females? Even in 1 Peter 3:6, though we see that Sarah obeyed Abraham, did she not have a right to speak her mind? Of course she did. She wasn’t his slave. Read Genesis 16:5,6. Did Sarai (Sarah) get her way? Yes.In fact, Chapters 16-21 are an account of their disagreement. And her husband gave in! In fact, in Genesis 21:10-12, God actually told Abe to listen to his wife.

See 1 Samuel 1. Hannah spoke her mind, too.

See 1 Samuel 25:32,33 and see how Abigail reasons with King David. You go, girls!

See Ephesians 5:24. Read the phrase “in everything?” Christians, let’s resist the temptation to take an isolated text to build a doctrine. If what a spouse commands you to do is a sin, don’t do it (James 4:17)! We must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Filter that which is questionable through the Scriptures.

For those who are looking for a reason to leave their spouse, read 1 Corinthians 7:15 in relation to1 Peter 3:1-7. The ball seems to fall in the court of the one who considers themselves more spiritual to “win the soul” (mind, will, emotions) of the other by their godliness. The Greek word for submit is hupotasso, to submit oneself to another. Willfully!

In 1 Cor 16:16 and Ephesians 5:21,22, the disciples were encouraged to submit to one another. Submission does NOT equal slavery. They should try to please each other as much as possible, avoid disputes, contentions, divisions. Better to love than to be right.

See 1 Corinthians 14:34-36. In Greek, there’s only one word for “man”, none for husbands. Same with “woman.” One word; none for wife. Verse 34 is not referring to ALL women, just wives. See verse 35. “Let the wives keep silent in the assemblies…let them ask their husbands at home…”

See 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Paul is referring only to wives, referring to learning and asking questions (1 Cor 14:35;1 Tim 2:11). The Greek word to be used is gyne, meaning “wife,” not “woman.”

See 1 Corinthians 11:5. Was Paul so illogical as to tell girls they could pray or prophesy in the 11th Chapter but tell them to be quiet in the 14th?

See Acts 2:16-18 in relation to Joel 2:28. Sons AND daughters, it says!

See Acts 1:13,14. It refers to 120 PEOPLE in the upper room. Verse 14 specifically states that they ALL joined together, “along with the women” constantly in prayer. Upper room? It may as well have referred to aliving room, an auditorium…anywhere, including your next Christian assembly!

See Acts 10. Peter went to the house of Cornelius, upon the Lord’s instructions (v.19-20). Cornelius had been told by an angel to send for Peter (v. 4-6). Verse 24 says Cornelius ‘had called together his relatives and close friends.’ Do you suppose there were any females among his friends and family, too? Of course! The Holy Spirit showed up, Peter preached, and the whole crowd was water baptized, women, too. Sounds like quite a church service!

See Luke 1:39-42 and notice how Elizabeth prophesied. Mary does the same in v. 46-55. Also in Luke, read Chapter 2:36-38 about Anna, a prophetess.

See Acts 18:26. Some would say, “Well, ok…maybe a woman can teach ONE man but no more than one!” Really? That’s like saying it’s OK to steal one dollar, but not ten! Read Acts 18:26 again the three were gathered in His name! Two guys, one girl. They were BEING the Church, and not a stained glass window or padded pew in sight.

See Psalms 68:11. The Hebrew word translated “company” is feminine…it means “women.” Guess what, guysthe first to go tell about the resurrected Jesus? A woman evangelist (John 20:18)!

See 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. Wear a veil? Is it binding everywhere for all time? Paul does not say it’s irreverent or displeasing to God for a woman’s head to be uncovered. If he had, there’d be no escape from this command and, ladies, you’d have to cover up. When we read 1 Corinthians 11:3-7, we can see the cultural propriety as to why men take their hats OFF in our culture when entering a church. It’s cultural manners, not scriptural command, and we do this inside any public building. Well, we used to. Jewish men COVER their heads in synogogue. Muslims take off shoes. “Tradition!” The veil, or covering, referred to in these verses refers to the acknowledging of someone visibly present, a man’s ‘head.’ The women didn’t dishonor God by not covering her head, but her husband who was visibly present. The veil symbolized subjection. It’s why brides wear veils still today, even in our culture. So, in short, it’s: 1. not irreverant 2. not displeasing to God 3. the custom of the day, wise to abide by such for harmony’s sake 4. Paul’s appeal to naturalness in hair-style (maybe he liked long hair?)

See 1 Timothy 2:9,10 and 1 Peter 3:1-5 in light of today’s fashions. Fashion has a greater power than modesty. This basic principle is involved: don’t spend so much time on OUTWARD appearance…it’s your spirit-condition that matters! Don’t give the appearance of evil or cause another’s mind to wander into the gutter. Mature Christians can show their maturity by not condemning those who do not know better; set a godly example-don’t heap rules upon new disciples. A famous evangelist once said, “that first glance is ‘free’after that, we’re accountable.” Folks, don’t cause a brother or sister to stumble just because you think you look great in that certain outfit.

See Deuteronomy 22:5. Basically, a woman should be feminine whether in slacks or a dress. The bible doesn’t specify. Again, stay away from traditions that bind to rulesrather than to a relationship to God.

In closing, don’t let tradition or legalism get in the way of loving one another. Fact is, our focus is so much on maintaining order (crowd control) within the four walls of a “church,” we are inclined to forget that WE are the Church. Friends, we’re human BEings, not human DOings. Let’s BE the church; it’s NOT something you “do.” Frankly, all too often, we settle for appearing to be good “rule-followers” and prefer that all new converts give that same impression in our churches as an inadequate replacement for true discipleship. We can, and must, do better.