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Women in the Church
How many times are women ministers put down and not accepted in the church? How often is the scripture quoted “women are to be silent in the church”? How many people refuse to heed the word of the Lord simply because it comes from a woman? Perhaps one of the most prejudiced statements that I have ever heard made by someone is “there is no place in the Bible where you can show me where God told a woman to preach”. Perhaps this is a phenomenon that is only found in the western world where “people have forgotten how to hear the voice of God”. It is certainly not something that is as widespread in other parts of the world to the best of my knowledge. Hopefully by the end of this lesson I will be able to clear up some of the confusion surrounding this.
Much of this school of thought comes from just a couple of scriptures. The most prevalent one is found in 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Therefore let me address this first before going any further.
I would like for you all to think a moment about the customs of that time. During this time the women’s role was primarily in the home, overall they were not educated. In many ways they had no knowledge except what the husbands had taught them. Paul commanded the women to keep silent in the churches but this was to avoid confusion that could be brought about by the women asking things that they should have asked their husbands. If a woman asked a question that she should have known from her husbands teaching then she wasn't being obedient unto her husband. A woman is supposed to go to her husband first with any sort of dilemma simply because he is the head of the household. If a woman brought up something in church that should have been dealt with at home, then if could cause problems. In this case it was better that a woman should be silent in those circumstances.
If we are to hold to that one scripture and take it as literal as some people try to make it then women should not be allowed to pray, or to lead worship, or to sing, or to minister, to teach Sunday School classes, or to even speak once they enter the house of the Lord. We must remember the customs of that time and use the wisdom that the Lord gives us now in order to understand the word of the Lord. Also please note that Paul stated “as also stated the law”. This was referring to the Torah as was the custom of the time.
If you look at these scriptures in context of the rest of the chapter you can see that Paul was addressing items that were causing confusion in the Corinthian church. As we will see below in other scriptures Paul obviously did recognize some of the women and their role in the church leaderships. Now let us begin by looking at some the various ways God has used a woman throughout the Bible. Also let us not forget that in 1 Corinthians 10:11 we are reminded that the things that happened were written for us to learn by so that is what we must do
In Judges 4 we find that Deborah was a prophetess and judge and she led the children of Israel. She assumed a leadership role for the Lord. She sat under the tree and rendered judgment unto the people. She went out to battle with Barak. She was in an authoritative role. It is also interesting to note that Barak would not go to battle unless Deborah went with him. Here we see a classic example of a man not stepping up to do as he should have and because he didn’t God used a woman to do so.
Another example is in the book of Esther. We find that she was in submission to her husband yet she broke the rules and went before her husband without being summoned. She was obedient to do what would save her people. Because she was willing to be used of the Lord, she was an instrument that God used to deliver his people from the treachery that had been planned for them.
In Exodus 15 we find that Miriam was called a prophetess and she led the women of the children of Israel in dances and music, worshipping the Lord for delivering them from the snares of Pharaoh. Would this have not been an example of a worship leader?
Other prophetesses mentioned are Anna, found in Luke 2:36-38 and Huldah mentioned in 2 Kings 22:14-20. Both were recognized and known for their works. In Joel 2:28 we find that in the latter days the Lord will pour out his spirit upon all flesh, sons and daughters shall prophesy. Women will have the calling to prophesy in the latter days as well, this is made abundantly clear.
In the book of John when Jesus arose from the tomb who was the first person to see him? Mary Magdalene saw him before he even ascended and he commanded her to go and tell his disciples of him going to the Father (John 20:17). He told her to go and tell of his resurrection. Is that not spreading the gospel? As we have been studying in the various offices we see the office of an evangelist is to spread the news of the death and resurrection of our Lord and what did Mary Magdalene do? She told of his resurrection. Definitely sounds like an evangelist at work to me.
In Acts 18:26 we see where when Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos speaking in the temple about Christ, they took him and explained the way more clearly. It doesn’t say Aquila taught him alone, it says they. This mean both of them took and taught him. Based on this we see Priscilla was a teacher.
In Romans 16:1 we can see where Paul instructed the Roman church to aid Phebe in whatsoever she needed. Remember from our lessons on offices in the church the Greek word for deacon was diakonos, this is same word that is used here for servant. By this we know Phebe was a deaconess.
Another example I would like to make you aware of is the second epistle of John. It is addressed to the elect lady and her children. While we do not know exactly who this lady is we do know that in the times of the New Testament often the students of a teacher were addressed as his/her children because of their nurturing of their minds. While it could have been literally a lady and her children it also could have been to a teacher of the word and referring to those who she was instructing. He is giving her a warning against welcoming those who would teach false doctrines.
One other scripture I ask you to remember is found in Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
By these examples we can see that women have always had a role in the work of the Lord. Regardless of what people choose to accept, God is no respecter of person when it comes to who he calls to do the work that he has laid out.
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