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The Church Controversy
THE MINISTRY OF WOMEN
How well I remember God's call on my life, and my unbelief that He would call a woman to teach! I argued with the Lord for quite some time (usually at about 2 a.m.), even quoting stern scriptures to Him.
"I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain silent" (1 Timothy 2:12). "Let women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak...." (1 Corinthians 14:34).
Despite all this quoting of Scripture to the Lord, the call was so strong that I had no choice but to obey, and began to teach. That initial call to teach in a small mountain town in 1977 has become an international ministry blessed of God.
Having previously been a Jehovah's Witness, my view of women was still, in 1977, highly colored by their misinterpretation of Scripture, even though I was saved in 1975. Many years down the road, I still encounter prejudice and misunderstanding regarding the ministry of women. The cults are curious in that they either stifle women (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) or elevate them too highly (Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science; Ellen G. White of Seventh-day Adventists). I searched the Word of God, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit to set matters straight, and this information is a result of that search.
GOD'S VIEW OF WOMEN
God created men and women equally and in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 reads,
"And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Male and female are therefore created in the image of God. Since we as males and females are created in God's image, we are a reflection of His nature. Not only is our God all powerful, but He is all merciful. Women, created in the image of God, often best reflect this part of God's nature.
WOMEN IN MINISTRY DOWN THROUGH THE AGES
Women are prominent in the Bible, and functioned in the ongoing drama leading to redemption and restoration.
Eve was the mother of the human race. She was never inferior to Adam in nature, but she failed to submit to his headship as her husband. "Headship" and "subjection" or "submission" DO NOT translate "superior" and "inferior". We as women need to remember that.
Miriam was a prophetess and song leader (Exodus 15:20,21), yet how many women lead the worship services today?
Deborah was a prophetess and judge in the nation of Israel (Judges 4:4), having the power of life and death over all others, including males.
Huldah was a prophetess who was prominent enough to be consulted by Hilkiah the Priest. She counseled King Josiah, and as a result, many reforms were brought about in the nation of Israel. (See 2 Chronicles 34:22-33).
WISE WOMAN OF TEKOA
2 Samuel chapter fourteen records that this wise woman of Tekoa was the instrument for saving the nation of Israel from needless bloodshed.
The book of Esther records how this faithful woman spoke up to save her people from genocide in the days of wicked Haman.
Abigail was a spiritually-aware woman who challenged David to answer his high calling from the Lord. (1 Samuel 25:20-31).
THE AVERAGE WOMAN IN ISRAEL
The average woman in Israel was not a dowdy housewife. A careful reading of Proverbs chapter 31 indicates that while she was effectively running her household, she was also involved in industry and ran a business. Women handled money and knew how to make a profit, and their husbands were proud of them!
WOMEN AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
The prophet Joel foretold a time of great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on women. Joel 2:28, 29 records,
"And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
CHRIST AND WOMEN
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made no sex distinction in spiritual gifts and ministries. Galations 3:28 plainly says,
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
The promised Holy Spirit fell on all (Acts 2) and removed the distinctions for ministry. 1 Peter 2:5 shows we are all equally saved and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
"You also, as living stones, are being
built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to
offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through
Jesus Christ." Revelation 1:6 refers to all believers and
makes the same promises to all, "and He has made us to be a
kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory
and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
1 Corinthians, chapter 12, lists the various spiritual gifts. Notice verse 11 which shows that these various gifts are given to each one individually as He wills.
"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills."
The Holy Spirit wills these gifts to women as well as men.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE TROUBLESOME SCRIPTURES ON WOMEN?
1 Corinthians 11:13-16 reads,
"Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (NAS)
The first phrase we notice is "Judge for yourselves". Paul is saying "pay attention to the culture of your country" or "decide on a local basis". Paul has just previously been talking about the interdependence and subordination between partners. 1 Corinthians 11:11 & 12 read,
"However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God."So, although a woman, or more specifically, a wife, is in submission to her husband, no inferiority of nature is implied, and in the body of Christ, we are all to submit, one to the other. Ephesians 5:21 says,
"...and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
Notice that Paul makes it clear that a woman's covering is her hair. Therefore we should not feel obliged to wear a head-covering while functioning in church. However, if it is the custom of the country to do so, then we should.
Verse 16, of 1 Corinthians 11 is interesting in that most translations are similar to the rendering in the New American Standard Version:
"But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no OTHER practice, nor have the churches of God."
However, on checking out the word-for-word translation of Greek into English, this verse literally reads,
"But if any man seem to contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." (The Renaissance New Testament, Volume 13, page 20).
Why insert the word "OTHER" to make it appear that the church universal was practicing veiling or covering women's heads? If that is the local custom, and the local church judges it to be necessary, then fine, but otherwise don't bother! No wonder Paul chides them for being contentious and flatly states, "we have no practice, nor have the churches of God."!
Bondage always comes from man-made rules, but liberty comes from Christ!
SILENCE IN THE CHURCH!
Let's begin by quoting a troublesome scripture, 1 Corinthians 14:34 & 35:
"Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says, and if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." (NAS)At first glance, this scripture seems clear - women--keep silent in church! However, let's examine this scripture phrase by phrase. "Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak."
Okay women, taking this phrase by itself, we can stop greeting our friends in Christ as we enter the church building. We can stop singing, forget about vocal worship, never read a scripture aloud or pray on behalf of others, and on no account may we teach a Sunday School class!
In other words, put on a muzzle in the church ladies! Silence is silence! Now, even the strictest denomination does not enforce this phrase to the letter, because it obviously cannot mean what we just stated, although literally it may appear to say just that. God is not a God of confusion. He did not inspire Paul to tell women about head covering as a sign of submission (not inferiority) while she is praying or prophesying (clearly not silent endeavors!) in the church, and then nullify it later for we read in 1 Corinthians 11:5,
"But every woman who has her head uncovered while PRAYING or PROPHESYING disgraces her head..."
After stating these guidelines on audible practices, Paul did not then a few statements later order women to be totally silent! If women prayed and prophesied in the church, and they certainly did, then they were not silent, since praying and prophesying were done aloud. 1 Corinthians 14:3,4 states,
"But one who prophecies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation...one who prophecies edifies the church."
Exhortation and edification are a form of teaching, and this was done vocally in assembly, and women prayed and prophesied and edified the church. Since women were therefore NOT to be silent, what did 1 Corinthians 14:34 really mean? We must continue to the next phrase to get clarification,
"but let them (women) subject themselves just as the law also says..."
Aha! All this talk of silence has something to do with "the law". Notice I say "the law", small "l". Some Bibles say "the Law", big "L", inferring that this is God's Law to Israel. Not so, since nowhere in God's Law are women silenced. What law then is Paul talking about?
WHAT IS "the law"?
We must research and find out what law was in existence during Paul's time that silenced women. The search leads us to the Talmud and the oral law of the Jews.
Yes, it was the Jewish traditions and their law that silenced women with statements like,
"It is a shame for women to let her voice be heard among men." "The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness."
No wonder Jesus said the Jews had made the word of God invalid by their traditions! (Matthew 15:6)
INFLUENCE OF JUDAIZERS
Judaizers were present in the early congregations and were determined to bring the liberated churches back into Judaism and its bondage. (See Acts chapters 13 through 15). They obviously even attempted to bring Gentile congregations such as the Corinthians into the fold of Judaism, and silence the ministry gifts and offices of the women. Paul was often correcting such like ones. For example, in Titus 1:13,14, he says that those, "sound in faith" will "not pay attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth."
The Bible goes on to say in Titus 2:3, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good."
Yes, women did use their voices to teach! So, in fairness, we ask is it possible that Paul was quoting the Jewish Oral Law in 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 when he said these controversial words,
"Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the law also says, and if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for a woman to speak in church."
Since punctuation was added later, we must allow for this possibility, since Paul definitely was not quoting anything God ever said in His Law. Rather Paul seems to be stating the error and then correcting it. It strongly appears that verses 36-40 immediately following are a correction of this wrong view.
"Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized. Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner." (1 Corinthians 14:36-40).
It does indeed appear that Paul was correcting the "forbidding", not stating a new doctrine contradicting everything else he ever said on the subject of women!
WHAT ABOUT 1 TIMOTHY 2:12?
"But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet."
On the surface, this seems to be "the clincher" for silencing women in the church, and often this scripture is linked up with 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as related scriptures to silence women.
Should these two scriptures take precedence over all others concerning the ministry and gifts of women? Obviously not, and just as we took a close look at 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 35, let's also look closer at 1 Timothy 2:12.
First off, what is its context or setting? Paul is definitely addressing women, but what kind--all women, married women, single women, divorced or widowed women--which? Paul does not use the Greek word "Thelus" or "female", but uses rather, the Greek word "Gune" which means "wife" "woman" "specifically a wife". (Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 21, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).
Therefore, 1 Timothy 2:12 is written to wives, or married women. Does this mean then that only single women can teach? No, for teaching is not the subject of this portion of scripture, rather adornment is the subject. Let's read the full context from verses 9 through 12 of 1 Timothy 2:
"Likewise I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making claim to godliness. Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet."
On the subject of proper dress then, a wife would "quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness" from her husband. In the matter of dress, Paul did not allow a woman (wife) to "teach or exercise authority over a man, (husband), but to remain quiet." Paul was also honest enough to state that this was his word,--notice the phrase, "I want". He did not present this as a word from the Lord. (See also 1 Corinthians chapter 7, for an example of this distinction).
Interestingly enough, the exact Greek word used here for women to be "quiet" or "silent", is identical with the word for men to be "silent" in 2 Thessalonians 3:12,
"Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread."
Men are therefore under the same command as women to have a quietness about them as befits God's servants. Neither are to be silent in church.
We have already shown from previous references that a woman was not silent or quiet in church, so this is not referring to church, but to the matter of a woman dressing to please her husband. After all, married women, we should seek to please our husbands in the matter of our dress. Paul specifically used the Greek word "anayr" which is an individual male or husband.
We should consider our husband's taste in clothing. My husband detested the dowdy clothes I wore as a Jehovah's Witness, and asked me to "brighten up" my wardrobe, which I was glad to do to please him. Unmarried women can please themselves within the godly guidelines of modesty. Women are not automatically subject to or submissive to every man, but to their husbands. Nowhere are all women told to be subject to all men. This enslaving teaching is not inspired of God! Ephesians 5:22 says,
"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.".
Those wishing to have further insight on 1 Tim. 2:11-15 might wish to read ''I Suffer Not a Women'' by R & C Kroeger (published by Baker Book House.) They present the possibility of a misstranslation of an obscure verb used only in this scripture.
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Consider the wide range of ministry women enjoyed in the New Testament.
Acts 18:18 mentions a ministry team Paul and Silas traveled with, namely Priscilla and Aquila. Priscilla was mentioned first, indicating her stature on the team. Acts 18:26 records Priscilla (first) and Aquila (secondly) explaining doctrine to Apollos,
"and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately."
Shame on the King James Version translators for reversing the order of the Greek words to give Aquila first mention! We do find male bias among translators, down through the ages, unfortunately.
Phoebe is called in Greek, "diakonos" or "deacon". Why do Bible translators use the word "deacon" when the scriptures refer to men (20 times), and yet when the same word applies to a woman, suddenly the translation becomes "servant" or "helper", or even the invented word "deaconess". Phoebe was a "deacon" or "minister" the same as the men. Obviously, Phoebe was not silent. (See Romans 16:1).
Who ever heard a sermon preached that mention Junia? Could it be because the woman Junia was an APOSTLE?! Romans 16:7 reads,
"Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."
Yes, Junia was not only an apostle, but "outstanding among the apostles". Shame on the male bias of translations changing the femine "Junia" to the masculine "Junias".
DAUGHTERS OF PHILIP
Mention is made in Acts 21:9 of the four
daughters of Phillip who were prophets in the church. Hardly
a silent position!
EARLY CHURCH HISTORY
In the Vancouver Sun of Saturday, March 22nd, 1980, there appeared an article entitled "Photographs evidence early Christian Women were priests, bishops". The article refers to the following items:
A first Century fresco in a Roman catacomb which depicts seven women priests celebrating the Eucharist. Later paintings of the same scene, according to Dr. Irvin, have changed the women to men.
A Fourth Century catacomb fresco, also in Rome, that shows a woman being ordained by a bishop. A mosaic in Rome's Church of St. Praxedis, made as early as the Fifth Century or as late as the Ninth, of the head of a woman wearing a coif (indicating she is unmarried) and bearing the inscription "Theodora Episcopa", or Bishop Theodora.
Dr. Irvin, who was a photographer for the Biblical Archaeological Institute at Tubingen University in Germany, reports that the post-cards sold of Theodora have a dark shadow that falls on the upper left corner of the mosaic, rendering the words "Theodora Episcopa" illegible!
Dr. Irvin furthermore believes that she has the proof that women from the First Century, and possibly as late as the Ninth Century, had full clergy status. We women seem to have had a rocky time of it since the early days of the church!
WHAT SHOULD OUR ATTITUDE
AS WOMEN BE?
I believe the time is at hand for women to rise up and be all God intended us to be! We can be handmaidens of the Lord like Elizabeth, the mother of John (see Luke 1:6; 39-56), or Mary the mother of Jesus, or Anna, an elderly intercessor in prayer (Luke 2:36-38). Remember that it was Mary of Bethany who was the only one who comprehended Christ's death and burial in advance! (Matthew 26:12).
Our ministry may be to assist our husbands in their ministry, giving them all the support and prayers we can muster. However, some of us have been directly called of God and appointed by Him to serve in the body of Christ.
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11,12).
Yes, some of these calls do go out to women, and we need to be prepared to enter a life of service to the Lord. Sometimes this service is harder due to male prejudice, but we can always have the victory in Jesus Christ. I thank God that when he called me, He also supplied a husband willing to support me and work shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the ministry to the cults.
Although I doubted the Lord would do it in the beginning, He has opened doors into virtually all denominations, Bible Colleges, and the media and has used us many times to break down the bars of prejudice against women ministering. To God be the glory for the things He has done!
So women, the choice is ours--we can either be relegated to the background and never realize our full potential in the Lord, or we can step out in the power of the Holy Spirit and take our rightful place in the body of Christ.
In closing, I'd like to quote Psalms 68:11,
THE WOMEN WHO PROCLAIM THE
GOOD TIDINGS ARE A GREAT HOST!