Purpose of this Session
The area of women in ministry has long been one that has caused controversy and discussion. Certain scriptures, particularly in the Pauline letters appear to bar women from certain roles in the life of the church. However, a broader look at women and ministry in the Scriptures reveals a much more liberated picture.
We will be considering the Scriptural proof contending for a definite, sanctioned and anointed place for women to minister within the Body of Christ. Realising that a position contrary to this is strongly held by some, we nevertheless choose to take the stand that there is neither male nor female in Christ, but a new creation, and that as such, women are validated in their anointing and leadership callings in Christ Jesus and to His Body.
In the following lessons we will consider some general arguments for women in ministry, and discuss the contentious scriptures that have often been used to banish female ministers from their place of anointed leadership. We will also consider the conditions Scripture places on those who are called to positions of responsibility and authority in the Body of Christ.
We will consider some of the exceptional women who displayed devotion and courage throughout scripture, and without whose ministry the world would have been sadly robbed.
A General Discussion regarding ministry
“The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host.” (Psalms 68:11 AMP)
“There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 AMP)
Throughout the ages women have been subjected to unfair predjudice that has restricted them from areas of service they were both trained and anointed to operate in. A broad view of Scripture indicates that there is a vital place for female ministers, within the context of male headship. This male headship is not one that seeks to control or limit, but rather protect and promote, bringing each and every ministry to fullness and fruition in the Body of Christ.
It would seem strange that Jesus would lament the lack of labourers available for the harvest (Luke 10:2) and then sweep away the large percentage of His potential workforce, banishing them from significant ministry.
Equally, to argue that ministers such as Elizabeth Fry, Marie Woodworth Etter, Amy Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, or more recently Anne Graham Lotz, Cindy Jacobs, Joyce Meyer or Marilyn Hickey and others, are in disobedience to the will of God seems absurd. The clear endorsement of their ministry to the Body of Christ, evidenced by souls saved, people healed of sickness and disease, and the upbuilding of the Body of Christ for the work of the ministry as spoken of in Ephesians 4:11, demonstrates that the Father is placing His hand upon them and using them to glorify His Son. Surely if they were acting contrary to the guidelines of Scripture this could not be the case.
Some would relegate a woman’s ministry to the crèche or the home, or merely to gatherings of other women, yet God has chosen to raise many female ministers to global profile, and used them to establish significant and influential ministry organisations that are affecting millions of people for the gospel. How can this be explained if, as some contend, women should remain silent in the church? Has God made a mistake, or have we in our interpretations of Scripture?
As Kevin Conner asks in his book, ‘The Church in the New Testament’, “The Holy Spirit would not anoint women to contradict the Word He inspired if women were to keep absolute silence. The Spirit and the Word agree.”
Later in this session, and in the light of the whole of Scripture, we will consider the two Scriptures that have often been the cause of much discussion concerning the place of women in ministry.
The creation of ‘Adam’
Before we proceed we are going to consider briefly God’s order as revealed in Eden, before the fall. In this we discover man and woman as an equal partnership, as co-regents of creation, yet in divine order and function.
Adam was created first, and took the place of responsibility and headship in the relationship. The woman, created from the side of Adam (indicating that she was to stand alongside him, not under him!), was formed as the helpmate, companion, a suitable counterpart and completing partner for her husband (Genesis 2:18).
There is no indication at all of inequality in this relationship and the scriptural description of this primary couple. There is however a divine order and clear roles which they were to respectively fill in order to fully represent their Creator, and establish His Kingdom on the earth.
Interestingly, until after the fall, both were called ‘Adam’ (meaning simply man-kind), Adam himself named his wife Eve, meaning mother of all living, after the fall.
“God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind (adam) in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth. So God created man (adam) in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27 AMP)
This complimentary couple, who together displayed the full image of God in the earth, shared the same name, the same image, the same call and mandate, the same command to rule and subdue, yet both had their respective place of priority and order within the relationship.
Adam was created first, and held the place of responsibility to protect, provide, lead and nourish his wife. The man is the head, whilst the woman is like the heart of the relationship. If either is missing or out of order, the whole body ceases to function. The head is no more important than the heart, nor is the heart able to function without the head. Both are equally important and vital, yet have distinctive functions.
Eve was Adam’s aid and helpmate. She was created to help, surround, protect and succour the man.
The fact that the woman was created for the man (1 Cor 11:1-16) did not imply a position of subordination, but rather of co-equality, with each having distinctive functions within the harmony of relationship.
This was the divine order of relationship in creation.
After the fall
After the fall we find a different picture. Positional dynamics now come into play, flowing from the ambitious and jealous heart of satan, the deceiver.
Usurping authority over her husband, Eve led the couple into disobedience. Adam, as the head, was held responsible for this, but all have since paid the price for their folly.
Resulting from the fall, the women is placed in subjection to the man:
“… and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
(Genesis 3:16 KJV)
Some expositors consider this verse to mean that the woman would desire her husband’s place of authority, taking his rule away from her, but that this would be denied.
The dynamics of creation and harmony had now changed. No longer were the happy couple working together as one, and their roles were marred and perverted. This fallen order and unnatural dynamic has led to extreme prejudice against women on the one hand (as satan unleashes his own fear of the promised messiah coming through the women upon her), and on the other hand, a vicious fight to overturn the order of creation where women are seeking to be and act like men, and men like women. It is confusion on every side!
This confusion is rendered powerless through the cross of Christ. In Him we are freed from the struggle to assert ourselves, and in obedience to His Word and Spirit, rediscover the blessing of stability and confidence in our sexuality and the roles He has given us in our stewardship of the earth.
In Christ we are told that there is neither male nor female, but a new creation (Gal 3:28). This restores the order of Eden. They were named by one name, and were called to fulfil one mandate. Nevertheless, within relationship, they maintained distinctive roles. These roles are affirmed in the letters of Paul. The man is the head of the home, the women the helper and the heart (1 Cor 11:3,7; Eph 5:22-33).
This order does not subjugate or relegate the woman to inactivity or silence however. Within the context of obedient ministry to Christ, both are responsible and able ministers of the Spirit, and together man and woman are the representatives of Christ in the earth. Both are his mouthpiece and instruments of salvation.
In the context of ministry within the church, as long as a woman is properly aligned within her own home, under the care of her husband (if she is married), not usurping authority (even is she is more gifted), and is under the male covering of a local church there is no limit placed on her. Some may choke at this last statement, but in reality, all ministries are called to be in subjection and accountable to a local church. It matters not if you are a man or a woman, if you intend to exercise authority, you must place yourself willingly under authority. The only practical way to actually do this is through the instrument of the local church authorities instituted by Christ.